My Bookish Ways

Early Review: Spellcrossed by Barbara Ashford

Spellcrossed by Barbara Ashford
DAW/June 5th, 2012
Kind thanks to DAW for providing a review copy


But when Maggie Graham freed Rowan Mackenzie to return to Faerie, she took the first step toward her new life as director of the Crossroads Theatre. A hectic new season of summer stock leaves her little time to moon over the past. She has to balance the demands of her interfering board president and a company of actors that includes bewildered amateurs, disdainful professionals, a horde of children, and an arthritic dog. And while Maggie yearns to give others the kind of healing she found at the Crossroads, even she recognizes that magic must take a back seat to ticket sales.

But magic is hard to banish from the old white barn. Memories lurk like ghosts in the shadowy wings and the unexpected is as time-honored a tradition as the curtain call. And when the tangled spells of Maggie’s past turn her life upside down, it will take more than faery magic to ensure the happy-ever-after ending she longs for….


Hand me a book by Barbara Ashford, and the world around me just falls away. Seriously, things get neglected…laundry, dishes, etc, you get the idea. Spellcast had me spellbound, and Spellcrossed was no different. The ending of Spellcrossed was very bittersweet so I was anxious to dive back into the wonderful world of musical theatre and Faerie magic. Maggie Graham has settled in as director of the Crossroads Theatre. Well, as much as you can “settle in” with this bunch. The Crossroads gang keeps her on her toes constantly, and she misses Rowan so badly it hurts. The theatre is doing well, although getting used to not having the helping hand of Rowan’s magic is sorely missed. Little does Maggie know, the routine she’s worked so hard to settle into, is about to be upturned in spectacular (and of course, magical) ways.

Told in Maggie’s witty voice, Spellcrossed wraps you in warmth like a favorite blanket. Think you have absolutely no interest in musical theatre? I certainly didn’t think I did, but this series changed my mind. Ms. Ashford is a thespian herself, so the lady knows of what she speaks, and it shows! Her talent lies in not only making Maggie a fully developed character, but also giving each person in the supporting cast completely realized roles as well. She’s also very adept at creating tension and holding it without losing her readers, and manages to make the ins and outs of putting together a musical stage show utterly fascinating. Lots of loose ends from Spellcast are tied up in Spellcrossed, but to give those away would be, well, letting the magic out of the bag! Speaking of magic, the love between Maggie and her theatre family is gently and sweetly woven throughout each production of the Crossroads theatre, and is the “magic” that she has to offer the cast in Rowan’s absence. From an utterly charming production of Annie (including an aging Sandy and a gaggle of orphans) to the ethereal Into the Woods, Faerie magic and the magic of musical theatre intertwine seamlessly to create a read worth savoring, and it’s a summer stock season that you won’t soon forget. I can’t recommend this series highly enough!

Guest Post: A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand

A Bad Day For Voodoo
by Jeff Strand

I’m Tyler Churchill. Not too long ago I had this insane adventure, with car chases and body parts coming off and everything, which I wrote about in the book A Bad Day For Voodoo. It’s not my job to say that it’s the best book ever written, but I will say that if you don’t read it, the following conversation will definitely take place:
[You're walking down the sidewalk, whistling the merry tune of your choice. Up ahead you see a friend.]
YOU: Hi, friend!
YOUR FRIEND: Hi, you! Crazy party last night, huh? I’ve never seen anybody eat that many pretzels without getting a drink of water!
YOU: And who brought the rhinoceros? I kept thinking “Whoa, somebody is gonna get tusked!” but nobody did, which is good because it would have been funny at the moment of impact, but not so funny once we got into the screaming and bleeding and ambulances.
YOUR FRIEND: Were you there for the ritual?
YOU: What ritual?
YOUR FRIEND: You’ll find out. [His or her expression darkens, and he/she gives you a wicked smile.] Oh, yes, you’ll find out.
YOU: Seriously, what ritual? There was a ritual? Where was I?
YOUR FRIEND: When the time is right, all will be revealed.
YOU: C’mon, tell me what the ritual was! You can’t just throw something like that out into the conversation and then not give answers! Tell me! I need resolution! Resolution!
YOUR FRIEND: I was just kidding. We were all sitting around playing Words With Friends on our phones. Somebody played “rhinoceros” on a triple-word score, which was pretty ironic. Actually, I played “rhino” first and they added “ceros.” So what did you think of A Bad Day For Voodoo?
YOU: That new book? I didn’t read it.
[Several onlookers gasp.]
YOUR FRIEND: Excuse me?
YOU: I said I haven’t read it.
YOUR FRIEND: You…you…you haven’t read A Bad Day For Voodoo?
YOU: No. That’s okay, isn’t it?
YOUR FRIEND: Okay? Okay? Don’t you understand what this means? It means that you’re not cool!
YOU: But that’s not possible! I do cool things all the time!
YOUR FRIEND: It doesn’t matter! This is the book that will define our generation! If you’re ever on a game show and the host says “For twenty thousand dollars, please give us the definition of your generation,” you could hold up A Bad Day For Voodoo and win the twenty thousand dollars!
YOU: But…but…but…but…but…but…but…I thought it was just a silly book!
[Your friend shakes his or her head and sighs.]
YOUR FRIEND: No. It is not.
SOME GUY WHO ALSO HAPPENS TO BE IN THE AREA AND IS EAVESDROPPING ON THE CONVERSATION: You really haven’t read A Bad Day For Voodoo? Wow. I heard that those people existed, but I never thought I’d see one outside of a zoo.
YOU: You don’t have to be a jerk about it.
YOUR FRIEND: Yes, he does.
YOU: Oh.
YOUR FRIEND: I never knew you were so uncool. It’s like our whole friendship was a lie.
YOU: You’re making too big of a deal out of this.
YOUR FRIEND: Do you see all of those weird-looking colorful waves that are coming out of people’s eyes?
YOU: Ack! Yes! What are those?
YOUR FRIEND: Those are waves of judgment. Everybody is judging you. This will follow you around for the rest of your life.
YOU: No! I don’t believe you!
[You get hit by a car.]
YOU: Ow! Ow!
YOUR FRIEND: That’s what happens when you don’t read A Bad Day For Voodoo. Bad luck follows you everywhere. Watch out for that circular saw blade.
YOU [quickly ducking]: Aaah! That circular saw blade almost took my head off!
YOUR FRIEND: And you’ll need your head to read A Bad Day For Voodoo! Do you understand now?
[A monkey jumps out of a tree and starts punching you in the neck.]
YOU: I understand! I understand!
YOUR FRIEND: Your coolness meter is running out quickly, but there is still time to replenish it! Run to a bookstore or an internet and buy A Bad Day For Voodoo! Hurry, before it’s too–
[The earth begins to crumble around your feet.]
YOUR FRIEND: Oh no! It’s too late! The world needed your coolness! It’s the only thing that kept us from being all dystopian and stuff!
[Zombies--fast or slow, your choice--show up and start eating people.]
YOU: What have I done? What have I–
[Suddenly you wake up screaming.]
YOU: It was all a dream! Only a terrible, terrible dream! In fact, the book A Bad Day For Voodoo doesn’t even really exist!
SOMEBODY (YOU’RE NOT SURE WHO): Yes, it does. It’s just not out yet. But it will be in June 2012. And you’d better buy it, or the next time you wake up screaming, Effie Trinket will be drawing your name for tribute.
YOU: Then I shall mark my calendar, or better yet, pre-order a copy of A Bad Day For Voodoo right now!

See? You may think I made all of that up, but I assure you that my only concern is for the safety of the world. And even if you don’t care about the world, you should read about the time that my history teacher Mr. Click falsely accused me of cheating on a test, and my friend Adam got a voodoo doll of him, and I jabbed it with a pin during class, and things went wrong, wrong, wrong!

My girlfriend Kelley, who is smarter than both of us combined, also got caught up in the whole thing, and you will not believe the kind of stuff that happened. It’s crazy! I mean, we ran into this one family who…well, you don’t want spoilers, but it was one messed-up family.

Oh, the book is my completely true story, but the publisher put the name “Jeff Strand” on the cover, because of some sort of ransom demand. Just ignore that.

Okay, so, you know what to do, right? Awesome. See you in June.

Thanks so much to Sourcebooks Fire and Jeff Strand! Be sure to keep an eye out for Part 2 of the tour!

About A Bad Day for Voodoo:
When your best friend is just a tiny bit psychotic, you should never actually believe him when he says, “Trust me. This is gonna be awesome.”
Of course, you probably wouldn’t believe a voodoo doll could work either. Or that it could cause someone’s leg to blow clean off with one quick prick. But I’ve seen it. It can happen.And when there’s suddenly a doll of YOU floating around out there—a doll that could be snatched by a Rottweiler and torn to shreds, or a gang of thugs ready to torch it, or any random family of cannibals (really, do you need the danger here spelled out for you?)—well, you know that’s just gonna be a really bad day …
“Jeff Strand is hilariously funny and truly deranged.” —Christopher Golden, author of When Rose Wakes
Purchase A Bad Day for Voodoo: Amazon | B&N

About Jeff Strand:
JEFF STRAND lives in Tampa, Florida, and doesn’t believe in voodoo. But he still thinks you should carry a doll around, go up to people you don’t like, and chuckle while you jab it with pins, just to make them squirm. Poke around his gleefully macabre website at

Interview (& Giveaway): Lisa Shearin, author of All Spell Breaks Loose

I’m so excited to have the lovely Lisa Shearin back on the blog as part of her tour for All Spell Breaks Loose, the brand new installment in the Raine Benares series! Also, I’ve got one copy of All Spell Breaks Loose up for grabs for one lucky winner, so be sure to check out the details at the bottom of the post!

Lisa, the 6th novel in your Raine Benares series, All Spell Breaks Loose, just came out! Did you have any idea when you started the series that it would be so successful, or that there would be this many books?
The sixth book of the Raine Benares series—All Spell Breaks Loose—is the culmination of a storyline that began in 2007 with Magic Lost, Trouble Found. The action contained in those six books cover a mere three-month period in the lives of Raine and her friends. Three months. It’s hard to believe. When I look back over the entire series, I think one of the biggest surprises for me was that the Saghred storyline extended into six books. I had expected three books max. But the characters kept growing, and they and their stories took on a life of their own. There was no way I could stop after only three books. I had to find out what happened.

Did you always want to be a writer? Can you tell us a bit about your journey?
I’ve been writing since I could put words together to form a sentence, and I have made up stories in my head for as long as I can remember. I was bitten by the novel bug in college. I was in a local bookstore and couldn’t find anything that I wanted to read. My roommate got tired of hearing me gripe about it, and asked why didn’t I just write my own? That’s what got me started, and I’ve been going ever since.

We’d love a bit of a teaser about All Spell Breaks Loose if you’re game!
Hmm, a teaser. Just that all of the plots, sub plots, and intrigues will be brought to a very satisfying conclusion. Oh, and there’s full frontal nudity by a particular character with no shame.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
I think that reading Mary Stewart’s Merlin novels got the ball rolling for me. Her prose is just jaw-droppingly gorgeous. I read those books and said to myself: “I want to do THAT!” David Eddings and Raymond Feist were also big influences for me, especially for the Raine Benares series. Raine & Company were born from me wanting to do something as fun as Eddings and as action-packed as Feist.

What do you love most about writing fantasy?
That the sky is the limit. If you can imagine it, write it, and make it believable for your readers, then there’s nothing you can’t put on the page.

If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be, and why?
Jim Butcher’s DEAD BEAT (a Harry Dresden novel). I very rarely re-read books, but I’ve made an exception for this one. If I was on a desert island and could take one book, this would be it. It’s just so much fun.

What are you reading now?
At the moment I’m reading NOCTURNAL by Scott Siegler, MONSTER HUNTER ALPHA by Larry Correia, and LEGEND by David Golemon. I generally have more than one book going at any given time and bounce back and forth between them depending on what I’m in the mood to read. Oh, and waiting for the next Harry Dresden book to come out.

When you manage to find some free time in your busy schedule, how do you like to spend it?
Reading, reading, and trying to catch up on my sleep (if I can stop reading).

I saw that you have retired racing greyhounds! Will you tell us a bit about them? What do you love most about the breed?
Actually, personality-wise, greyhounds are very much like cats. My husband and I first saw greyhounds at the Renaissance Faire that our fencing group would perform at. We also saw a greyhound when we were doing fencing demonstrations at the Biltmore House in Ashville, NC. When we found out that there are so many retiring from the race tracks that need homes, we just had to adopt some. Greyhounds are the sweetest dogs! Derek and I would like to move out into the country so that we could foster dogs that have just come off of the race track and are looking for their forever homes.

What bit of advice would you give to struggling writers?
Believe in yourself, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t write, and never give up your dream. And read everything you can get your hands on.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!!)?
I’ve just completed a proposal package for an urban fantasy/supernatural thriller/comedy series. I have the series premise written, as well as the synopses for the first three books, and finished the final sample chapter last week (for a total of six). This project is just pure fun. I can’t wait until I can talk about it.
Keep up with Lisa: Website | Twitter | Facebook

1. You MUST fill out the form below (lots of chances for extra entries!)
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of All Spell Breaks Loose by Lisa Shearin to 1 winner.
3. Giveaway is open to US ONLY (No PO Boxes!)
4. Must include a valid email address with your entry (no need to leave it in the comments, just include it when you fill out the rafflecopter form)
5. You must enter on or before 6/9/12
6. Giveaway book courtesy of Ace
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Interview: Frank Wheeler Jr., author of The Wowzer

Please welcome Frank Wheeler Jr. to the blog! Frank is the author of the brand new noir thriller The Wowzer and was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Also, don’t forget to snag a copy of the book (details below)!

Frank, your first novel, The Wowzer, just came out at the beginning of May! Congrats! Did you always want to be a writer? Can you tell us a little bit about your journey?
Thanks, Kristin, I’ve been consciously working toward publishing a novel for something like fifteen years. But I’ve always been a storyteller. For as long as I could write, I wrote short stories. When I got into college, I started thinking more seriously about writing. Fortunately, when I returned to school some years later, I met the right people, who gave me enough criticism, but allowed me enough leash, and I was able to complete a draft of a novel.

How did you celebrate when you found out The Wowzer would be published?
I was very excited when we got Thomas & Mercer’s offer to publish. My wife, I remember, literally jumped up and down for a second. I think we had dinner some place nice that week. Mostly, the feeling you get from that knowledge of impending publication is the celebration. It offers something that is so hard for writers to come by: independent verification. Someone else sees the quality in your work. You produce the best work you can, and hopefully, you believe in your own work. A lot of people aren’t going to get it. But when someone does, it feels great.

The Wowzer has been described as “hardboiled, country noir.” Would you tell us a little bit about it?
“Noir” is a funny word. It’s a mood, rather than a genre. I’d agree that the book is “hardboiled country noir,” but that “noir” part almost doesn’t seem appropriate for Jerry, the main character. I asked my agent once if we could market the story as featuring a “lighthearted, murdering protagonist.” Not sure how many people would know what that is, though. Here, context is what makes the novel “noir.” THE WOWZER is about a little fish in a big, polluted (read: corrupted) pond. He doesn’t mind that it’s polluted. It wouldn’t occur to him to prefer otherwise. He has no overarching sense of Justice, or Right and Wrong, he only knows that he must be aware of these things because they are important to others. Really, he just wants to enjoy himself, make a little money, get in some good bowling, keep close to his girlfriend, and not rock the boat. If that means murdering some folks here and there to keep his little world safe, well, no sense crying over spilled milk, right?

When it comes to the violence in your writing, do you consider anything “off-limits”?
No. Well, ultimately no. Again, context is important. If the level or type of violence doesn’t fit with the scene or story, then I’ll rewrite the violent content.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
I’ll go from broader influence down to specific. Stephen King taught me how to develop characters. Ernest Hemingway has this amazing, rough-edged minimalist prose that’ll leave rope burns on you. James Lee Burke’s usual protagonists (Robicheaux and Holland) are mirror opposites of THE WOWZER’s, but his minor characters gave me insight into reptilian-brained criminal mentality. And Patricia Highsmith helped me find ways of realistically, yet sympathetically, portraying a sociopathic protagonist.

I read that you’re also a college teacher. Was it hard to find time to write while also juggling a teaching schedule?
Sure. And when I wrote the first draft of THE WOWZER, I was in grad school. So add classes on top of that. Fortunately, I had the ability to carve out the time I needed. And it’s helpful, too, if you can’t sit down and write it from beginning to end. You need time between writing sessions to work the story over. Let it steep some in the pot.

Is there anything in particular that helps you write, gets the creative juices flowing?
Coffee. Listening to music. I took piano lessons, or rather, was made to take piano lessons when I was a kid. I didn’t keep up practicing (much to my regret now), but it instilled in me a deep love of classical music. I don’t often listen to music with lyrics when I write, but sometimes I’ll cherry-pick a certain song for a certain mood I want to convey. In the novel I’ve been working on recently, I listened to Hank Williams’ (Sr.) “Cold, Cold Heart” over and over because it lent just the right melancholy and earnestness. Sometimes I just have to get up and go for a walk to work something out in my head, though.

When you’re not busy writing or teaching, how do you like to spend your free time?
Free time? Oh, right, I remember what that is. When I come across the rare nugget of free time, I try to find a balance. My wife and I are both avid movie fans, and also enjoy relaxing with a good book. But I always make sure to carve out time to work on my fiction.

You’ve lived in Minnesota, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Maryland, and Nebraska (whew!). If you could pack your bags and go anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?
And don’t forget my birthplace, Memphis, Tennessee. That’s what it can be like for a preacher’s family. Actually, my wife and I have been trying to move to where her family is settled, near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. So I guess we’ll add that to the list, too.

Do you have any advice for struggling writers?
I’m not the best person to take advice from. Most of the advice I’ve followed has been very specific to my situation in a given moment. Probably the best single piece I heard, that I’ve carried with me through every writing project, is that at first, you can’t see mistakes in your own work (and I don’t mean just typos). You need others to read your work so you can get an objective view of it. So that means you need to find a trusted reader, someone whose opinion you completely respect. And not someone who just gives compliments. Taking criticism is a very important part of the process. It’s about finding your blind spots. That was tough for me to learn, but it’s made a lot of difference.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!!)?
I’ve got another novel that’s in the final stages of revision. It’s in a similar genre to THE WOWZER, but the setting is very near where I grew up in Nebraska. The dialect is plain-spoken Midwestern. Other than that, I’ve got short stories and reviews popping up every now and then.

As for THE WOWZER, I’ve been working on a sequel. We’ll see what happens…
Keep up with Frank: Facebook | Twitter
Purchase The Wowzer: Amazon | B&N

About The Wowzer:

Deep in the Ozarks, county sheriff’s deputy Jerry cracks heads on behalf of both local law enforcement and local drug traffickers. Sometimes people get hurt; sometimes they get dead — either way, Jerry gets the job done. The roles of deputy and enforcer would seem contradictory, but the sheriff himself is in charge of both operations, so Jerry isn’t troubled by such moral dilemmas. That is, until he starts thinking about getting out — then things get complicated fast. His girl Maggie flees the state after discovering the secrets of Jerry’s past, and Sheriff Tom Haskell starts dragging his feet about paying Jerry his cut of the drug money. Is Haskell reluctant to lose his top muscle, or is he plotting to take out the man who knows his dirtiest secrets? As a turf war between traffickers builds, Jerry decides it’s time to settle things once and for all, and damn the body count.

Giveaway: Storm (The Elemental Series #1) by Brigid Kemmerer

About Storm by Brigid Kemmerer:

Becca Chandler is suddenly getting all the guys–all the ones she doesn’t want. Ever since her ex-boyfriend spread those lies about her.

Then she saves Chris Merrick from a beating in the school parking lot. Chris is different. Way different: he can control water–just like his brothers can control fire, wind, and earth. They’re powerful. Dangerous. Marked for death.

And now that she knows the truth, so is Becca.

Secrets are hard to keep when your life’s at stake. When Hunter, the mysterious new kid around school, turns up with a talent for being in the wrong place at the right time, Becca thinks she can trust him. But then Hunter goes head-to-head with Chris, and Becca wonders who’s hiding the most dangerous truth of all.

The storm is coming…

1. You MUST fill out the form below (lots of chances for extra entries!)
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of Storm by Brigid Kemmerer to 1 winner.
3. Giveaway is open to US ONLY
4. Must include a valid email address with your entry (no need to leave it in the comments, just include it when you fill out the rafflecopter form)
5. You must enter on or before 6/9/12
6. Giveaway book courtesy of Kensington Teen
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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June 2012 New Releases!

Here are the new releases for June! Enjoy!

June 5th, 2012:
Blackout by Mira Grant (Scifi/Horror/June 1st) | REVIEW
Blue-Blooded Vamp (Sabina Kane) by Jaye Wells (UF)
The Bandit King by Lilith Saintcrow (Fantasy/June 1st)
A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand (Fantasy/June 1st)
Grim by Anna Waggener (Fantasy/June 1st)
Spellcrossed by Barbara Ashford (Fantasy) | REVIEW
Undead and Unstable by Mary Janice Davidson (Paranormal)
Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill (Horror)
Alexander Outland: Space Pirate by GJ Koch (Sci-fi) | REVIEW
Kiss the Dead by Laurel K. Hamilton (UF) 
Sworn in Steel by Douglas Hulick (Fantasy) 
Live and Let Drood by Simon R. Green (UF) 
Vengeance Moon by Lee Roland (Paranormal) 
Monument 14 by Emily Laybourne (Dystopian YA) 
Silver by Rhiannon Held (UF) 
Amped by Daniel H. Wilson (Sci-fi) 
Kop Killer by Warron Hammond (Sci-fi) 
Broken Universe by Paul Melko (Sci-fi) 
Redshirts by John Scalzi (Sci-fi) 
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Mystery)
Midwinter Blood by Mons Kallentoft (Mystery)
Ice Cap (Jackie Swaitkowski Mysteries) by Chris Knopf (Mystery)
Blood Kin by MJ Scott (Fantasy)
Hex Appeal by P.N. Elrod and more (UF anthology)
The Spirit War by Rachel Aaron (Fantasy)
The Craving by Jason Starr (Thriller)
Shadow and Bone by Leah Bardugo (YA Fantasy )
Accidentally Dead, Again by Dakota Cassidy (Paranormal)

June 12th, 2012:
The Taken by Vicki Pettersson (UF) | REVIEW
For Darkness Shows the Starsby Diana Peterfreund (YA Fantasy) 
The Third Gate by Lincoln Child (Thriller) 
The Shadowed Sun by NK Jemison (Fantasy)
The Fear by Charlie Higson (YA Horror) 
by Carsten Stroud (Thriller)
Serpent’s Kiss 
by Melissa de la Cruz(Fantasy)
The Vindico 
by Wesley King (YA Fantasy/Adventure)

The Demands by Mark Billingham (Mystery)

The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli (Mystery)

June 19th, 2012:
The Golden Lilly by Rochelle Mead (YA UF) 
The Reckoning by Alma Katsu (Fantasy)
Survivor by ZA Recht (Horror) 
Bonefire of the Vanities (Sarah Booth Delaney Mysteries) by Carolyn Haines (Mystery)
Forged in Fire by JA Pitts ( UF)
Wicked Business by Janet Evanovich (Mystery)
This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers (YA Dystopian)
The Risk Agent by Ridley Pearson (Thriller)
A Bad Day for Mercy by Sophie Littlefield (Mystery)

June 26th, 2012:
Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch (UF) 
Hunter and Fox by Philippa Ballentine (Fantasy)
Chasing Magic by Stacia Kane (UF) 
Tempest’s Fury by Nicole Peeler (UF)
Tallula Rising by Glen Duncan (Thriller)
Changeling by Kelly Meding (UF)
Blackhearted Betrayel by Kasey MacKenzie (UF)
Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost (Paranormal)
Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel (YA Fantasy) 
Tarnished by Karina Cooper (Paranormal/Steampunk)
Suited by Jo Anderton (SciFi)
Cannibal Reign by Thomas Koloniar (Thriller)
The Stranger’s Magic by Max Frei (UF) 

What new books are you jonesin’ for this month?

Interview: Alex Grecian, author of The Yard

The Yard by Alex Grecian is out today and I was lucky enough get Alex to answer a few of my questions about his new book (of course), what inspires him, and other fun stuff, so please welcome Alex to the blog!

Alex, you had a successful advertising career. What made you take the plunge and write a novel?
My son was born. I was, frankly, miserable in advertising and I realized that I didn’t want my son to grow up and settle in any way. I wanted him to go after whatever he really wanted in life and I wanted him to feel like anything is possible. The best way to make sure of that was to do it myself, so he could see it happen (if I was lucky). My wife believed in me and supported me all the way. And we got Penguin’s offer for The Yard eight years to the day after I quit my advertising job, so my son’s old enough to understand what’s happening and what it means.

How did you celebrate when you found out The Yard would be published?
I took my family to dinner at the best restaurant in this area and bought their most expensive bottle of champagne.

Also I got a cell phone.

The Yard takes place in the 1800s. What fascinates you the most about that time period?
Victorians were in love with science. Even illiterate street sweepers stayed up-to-date with the scientific advances of the day. By that point in time, they’d discovered germs, fingerprinting, color photography, etc. But, at the same time, they were deeply superstitious and locked into outdated ideas about class and custom. It was an entire culture that was trying to believe contradictory things about itself. That makes it a rich period in history to write about. An almost unending treasure chest of interesting story ideas.

What kind of research did you do for The Yard?
I bought and read every book I could find about the time period, studied train schedules and maps from 1889, went to Victorian-era homes and museums to look at furnishings and appliances up-close. For six months, while I was finishing the book, I wouldn’t read or watch anything that wasn’t set in Victorian England. The upside was that I had entire seasons of Breaking Bad and Mad Men waiting for me when I finished The Yard.

Do you plan to write more books featuring The Murder Squad?
Yup. I’m hard at work on the sequel, called The Black Country. In it, the three main characters from The Yard travel to a small village in the Midlands where a family has disappeared and a human eyeball’s been found in a bird’s nest. It’s a bit spooky. I’ve got a third Yard novel all worked out and I can’t wait to get to it, too.

You also wrote a very successful graphic novel series called Proof, featuring John Prufrock a special-agent-sasquatch. What were some of the biggest differences in graphic novel writing and novel writing?
I enjoy both. Writing a graphic novel is harder for me because of the formatting restrictions. Each chapter is twenty-two pages long and ends with a cliffhanger. If I’m writing a bit of dialogue, I have to stop after every two or three lines to indicate the next panel, which gives the entire process a sort of staccato rhythm that I find counter-intuitive. But the advantage is that I have to do less research. The artist is co-creating the story with me and is responsible for the imagery, so it’s nice to be able to lean on him or her.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
The first book I can remember loving and reading more than once as a kid was Dickens’s Great Expectations. I think it had a profound effect on me. But I loved the Sherlock Holmes stories, too, and Tarzan and Dracula. (Edgar Rice Burroughs was clearly a big influence on me, since Proof is really just a reversal of Tarzan: an ape-like creature is raised by humans and discovers he doesn’t really fit in anywhere.) When I was quite a bit older I read John Irving’s The World According to Garp and decided I wanted to have T.S. Garp’s lifestyle (or parts of it, at least) when I grew up. He stayed at home with his children, wrote books and cooked dinner for his family every night. I’m a big fan of crime fiction: Ross MacDonald, John MacDonald, Raymond Chandler, Donald Westlake, Lawrence Block, etc. Probably the biggest influence on me, though, is Graham Greene, my favorite writer. We named our son after him.

If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be, and why?
Probably The Great Gatsby. I know that book’s fallen out of favor recently, but the themes are incredibly accessible. I know that’s the reason some folks look down on it now, but that book was a revelation to me. I read it over and over in high school and college the way some kids read Catcher In the Rye. (But maybe I’d choose The Quiet American. Can I have two books?)

What are you reading now?
I just started rereading Richard Stark’s Parker series. I’m halfway through The Man with the Getaway Face right now. And I’m reading a lot of Victorian research material. And reading Hunger Games at bedtime to my son.

When you’re not busy writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
I read a lot. I’m a film buff. I travel. I help my son, Graham, build Lego models. I cook.

What is your tarantula’s name?
The tarantula actually belongs to Graham, and it took him a long time to persuade us to let him get one, but we’re warming up to her. I’ve let her crawl on me once now. Her name’s Rosie and she just molted again. She’s getting bigger all the time.

What’s one piece of advice that you would give to a struggling writer?
Stick with it. I just read a great quote the other day: “Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” – Anonymous.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!!)?
I’ll be in Houston, Phoenix, and Kansas City, among other cities in June. Please come and see me talk about The Yard. I’m not especially afraid of public speaking, but I’m deathly afraid of speaking to empty rooms.

Keep up with Alex: Website | Twitter
Purchase The Yard: Amazon | B&N

Giveaway Winner: By the Blood of Heroes

I’ve got a giveaway winner to announce today! Thanks to everyone that entered and congrats!

By the Blood of Heroes by Joseph Nassise

Update 5/30 (alternate chosen): Jennifer Vice Metz

*Winner was chosen by Rafflecopter, has been notified via email, and has 48 hours to respond with their mailing addresses. Thanks again to everyone that entered!

Interview (& Giveaway): Cassie Alexander, author of Nightshifted!

I’m so excited to have Cassie Alexander on the blog today! Cassie is the author of the brand new urban fantasy, Nightshifted (which is awesome-feel free to check out my review) and she was kind enough to answer a few of my questions! Also, she’s offering an awesome giveaway (a copy of Nightshifted and the coolest syringe necklace), so be sure to check out the details at the end of the post!

Please welcome Cassie to the blog!

Cassie, you’re a nurse with an obviously crazy schedule! How the heck did you find the time to write Nightshifted, your brand new urban fantasy?
I’m pretty rabid about protecting my time, and making the most of the time I do have. I haul my laptop around with me everywhere, and am willing to write in ridiculously small periods of time — I’m writing this on a short plane flight right now, in fact.

I will admit though, that having official deadlines and the whole getting paid to write thing makes it easier to go offline ;).

What was your favorite part of writing Nightshifted? Your fave character to write (besides Edie)?
Oooh, that’s tough. There’s a lot of favorite parts — there have to be, or no one would ever finish writing a book, ha. Probably the end, when everything came together and I knew that I was going to pull it off. If you write like I do, until you reach the end, you’re never sure you’re going to nail it.

Secondarily to that, I send everything to my alpha reader, Daniel. And doing his round of insightful edits is my second favorite time in the process. He’s got a good gauge as to whether the book is going to work or not. And actually, I really enjoy the editing process — making things better has a much faster reward-return cycle than just coming up with the 1st draft words.

My favorite character is probably Dren, because he’s an asshole, and those are fun to write. Basically any time I can have a character on stage who is a psychopath I’m pleased, because they have their own very obscure reasons and rules and answer to no one. My editor at St. Martin’s, the lovely and awesome Rose Hilliard, has had to tell me to make people nicer before, which I do because I know she’s right, but I’m sad about it, ha.

When you started Nightshifted, did you already have plans to write a series?
No. I was aware of the market, in that most people writing urban fantasies write in series, I knew it would be expected of me, but I didn’t have an entire series in my head yet. But by the time I got to the end of it, I knew what would happen next for the next several books, because the characters took on lives of their own. I did try to write Nightshifted as a solid standalone book though. I know readers don’t like to be left hanging.

What’s your fave paranormal creature?
(Author stares out the window on the plane thoughtfully for a bit.) That’s hard. I like a lot of the mythology for the obscure ones, like manananggal from the Philippines, etc. I’m torn because a lot of things I’m into aren’t particularly paranormal, (while still being mythological to me) because people are still worshipping them — I’m very into Santa Muerte and Erzulie right now. Santa Muerte shows up in Shapeshifted in a big way.

What are some of your favorite authors or novels?
I love old science fiction, I love Zelazny, Bester, and I recently read all of Cordwainer Smith’s work…like everyone else I’m a crazy huge have-half-the-book-memorized fan of Dune — there’s actually a small Dune shout-out in Nightshifted, if anyone else can spot it.

Other than that, I’m pretty eclectic and whatever I like is whatever I read last week ;). I’m a bad reader in that when I love a certain book I don’t always chase all the other books in the series down, or even other books that that author has written — I just try to keep out a wide net out at all times.

What’s on your nightstand right now?
Stiff by Mary Roach — a friend at work just lent it to me ;). And The Pillars of Hercules, by David Constantine, which is awesome.

If you weren’t a nurse and a writer, what would be your next career choice?
It would be very hard for me to find something I liked to do more than either of those. I enjoy autonomy and high stress. I’ve done a ton of other jobs and not enjoyed them, discovering the hard way that being a travel agent and accounting are not for me. I’d probably fall back on my elementary school choice — large animal vet.

When you do manage to find some downtime, how do you like to spend it?
I usually try to see friends. With working nightshift and every other weekend, it’s sometimes hard to be social, so I schedule out writing-dates and lunches as often as I can. Super-sick-in-bed downtime, I watch enormous quantities of Dr. Who on Netflix.

Quick! Name something that makes you laugh out loud!
My husband. In a good way. He has a strong sense of the absurd, and he amuses me like no one else can.

If you could pack your bags and travel anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
New York City :D

Is there any advice that you would give to a struggling writer?
Keep on keeping on, and keep your eyes on your own page. All you have control over is honing your own skill and your own rate of production. Social media’s great for us author-introverts, because it lets us know that we’re not alone…but it also makes it very easy to compare your career path (or lack thereof) with other writers. If what you’re seeing online depresses or frustrates you, get offline and keep writing.

Anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects, events, or anything at all (fave curse word, guilty pleasure, etc)?
Ha — my fav curse word you’d find out quickly if we conversed long enough. Guilty pleasure is Etsy….omg so much Etsy. I would be so sad if they put up a firewall up at work — it’s what gets me through a slow night!
Keep up with Cassie: Website | Twitter | Goodreads
Snag a copy of Nightshifted: Amazon | B&N
Add Nightshifted to Goodreads!

By Lost Apostle at Etsy

1. You MUST fill out the form below (lots of chances for extra entries!)
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of Nightshifted by Cassie Alexander to 1 winner AND Syringe Necklace (see picture at right)
3. Giveaway is open to US  and Canadian addresses ONLY
4. Must include a valid email address with your entry (as long as you leave it in the Rafflecopter form, you’re all good)
5. You must enter on or before 6/2/12
6. Giveaway book and necklace courtesy of Cassie Alexander/Necklace by Lost Apostle
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Sizzling Summer Releases

I don’t know about you, but here in Texas, it’s already getting HOT, and there are plenty of summer releases coming up to help you beat the heat! This is by no means an all inclusive list (I’ll do that in my June/July/August releases posts) but highlights some titles I’m especially looking forward to. What books are you excited for this summer?

Spellcrossed by Barbara Ashford
Amped by Daniel Wilson
Blood Kin by MJ Scott
The Taken by Vicki Pettersson
The Fear by Charlie Higson
Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch
Chasing Magic by Stacia Kane

This Dark Earth by John Hornor Jacobs
Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues by Diana Rowland
Geekomancy by Michael Underwood
God Save the Queen by Kate Locke
Kitty Steals the Show by Carrie Vaughn
Blood Before Sunrise by Amanda Bonilla
Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz
The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires by Molly Harper
The Wanderers by Paula Brandon

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake
Freak by Jennifer Hillier
The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent
Chosen by Sable Grace
Romeo Spikes by Joanne Reay
The Iron Wyrm Affair by Lilith Saintcrow
The Constantine Affliction by T. Aaron Payton
Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig
Endgame by Ann Aguirre

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