I’m ridiculously excited to have the lovely AM Dellamonica on the blog today! Alyx is the author of Indigo Springs (you may read my review, if you’re curious), and the brand new Blue Magic, and she graciously agreed to answer a few of my questions!
Please welcome Alyx to the blog!
Alyx, your first book, Indigo Springs, was published in 2009 and your newest book, its sequel, Blue Magic, just came out! Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? What made you take the plunge and write your first novel?
You know, I really did. I was writing Doctor Seuss-inspired doggerel when I was five. I switched from prose to poetry early, but there’s no time that I can remember when I wasn’t trying to tell stories.
My very first novel attempt was a 40-page hand-written something I tried to write in grade four–it was essentially an attempt to write a legend about how the Vancouver Aquarium came to exist. (In my defense, I was ten.) I was inspired by the fact that Gordon Korman had published a book called THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING AT MACDONALD HALL in 1975, at the age of twelve. He had five years on me, but I figured, if he can do it, I can do it.
I had a few false starts on other novels throughout my teens. I remember it was a big deal the first time I wrote something longer than thirty pages. Then when I went to university, I focused on short fiction and the occasional play, because I had papers to write and shows to perform in and I was falling in love, too, all of which distracted me from any attempt to achieve novel-length focus. But as soon as I had my degree, I took a job working graveyard shift at an answering service for minimum wage, and started a horror novel, writing at work in the wee hours when there were almost no client calls to deal with.
The best that can be said for the book I wrote that year was that it was better than the Vancouver Aquarium novel. That, and I finished it. It had its good points and it taught me a ton, but but I had plenty more to learn.
Go back to when you found out Indigo Springs would be published. How did you celebrate?
It was a Tuesday night and I had choir practice (I used to sing alto in the choir now known as Out in Harmony www.outinharmony.org ), which meant I was making dinner for two other choir friends. I kept it to myself until my wife Kelly came home, and then we told them, and then we went to rehearsal and told everyone else. After that, all I remember is a lot of jumping up and down and hugging and screaming.
What do you love most about writing fantasy?
Just about everything! I especially like to think about the nature of the miraculous. In a world where you can heal the sick or make someone fly or cause flower petals to appear from thin air, or whatever, what then becomes impossible? And if you get it, does it mean anything, or is it just an expression of better magic?
Do you have any unusual writing quirks?
I’m not sure if you mean in my prose or in my work habits. One thing that’s a little odd about my body of work is that though most of my published fiction is fantasy, I consider myself an all-genres author: I have a mystery novel I’m marketing now, I have gotten grants for literary fiction, and I have a fair body of published SF stories. It’s a nice quality to have as a writing teacher – I don’t have to specialize, and so many of my UCLA Extension Writers’ Program classes bring together authors working in all genres, too. This always adds so much richness to each group!
In terms of my work habits, I am a “get up at the crack of dawn, every single day,” type of writer. I’m at a cafe at 6:00 a.m. every morning and I write fiction there until 8:00 a.m.
What are some of your favorite writers or novels?
I am madly in love with the prose and plotting of Tana French. I think Michael Bishop is a god. My favorite urban fantasy series is the Bloodhound Files by DD Barant. Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August has one of the most beautifully written opening chapters I’ve ever read. I reread Minette Walters’ The Shape of Snakes every year. Ditto Neal Stephenson’s eco-thriller, Zodiac.
If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
Today’s answer would definitely be Eric Larsen’s The Devil in the White City. I am currently jonesing for a good true crime book and this is the best one I’ve ever read. Though that vastly oversimplifies what TDIWC is.
Tomorrow’s answer might be entirely different, or it might be something by Tana French. I’ve been eyeing FAITHFUL PLACE again.
I love the beautiful photos that you’ve taken and posted to your blog. What’s one of your favorite subjects to photograph?
I’m currently chasing birds with a 24x zoom camera. I’ve always loved birds (I write about them a lot!) and in Vancouver, the showcase bird that’s easiest to find is the Great Blue Heron. They’re low hanging fruit in one sense: beautifully colored, big, and not terribly shy. If they’re fishing, they’ll let you get stunningly close to them. But they’re so spectacular I keep taking new shots.
I read that you’re also a foodie. Any particular faves?
I spent most of this past December in Italy, and two of the most unexpected things I encountered, foodwise, were salt cod and persimmons. I had expected the former to have a tough texture and a salty feel, and had no idea someone could hydrate it to an indistinguishable-from-fresh state. As for the persimmons in Sicily, I crave them now. There were some in the stores in Vancouver when I got home, but they weren’t as fresh; they were good, but it wasn’t the same. I don’t know yet if I can get that amazing persimmon experience at some other point in the growing season, but I look for them every day.
One of the things about the persimmons–they’re sweet, and quite soft, and they looked a lot like tomatoes but with an odd button top–was that in the produce markets in Palermo, they glowed like they had a microfragment of the sun within them. This photo doesn’t do them justice.
If someone were to visit you in Vancouver for the first time, where would you take them?
I often take writers to our glorious, beautifully designed public library (www.vpl.ca) because I have so much civic pride about how gorgeous it is. I’ve taken friends and family and students to the Sun Yat Set Classical Chinese Garden (http://www.vancouverchinesegarden.com/) for much the same reason. I am a shocking coffee snob, especially since Italy, and so I drag people to the cafes that make the good stuff: Revolver, 49th Parallel, Wicked, and Trilussa.
Imagine you could pack your bags and go anywhere in the world tomorrow. Where would you go?
Very possibly, back to Sicily. Very possibly, forever. But I’ve seen so little of the world I’d be hard put to choose.
I also read that you teach online courses through the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. What advice would you give to struggling writers?
Take our classes! We have a huge faculty, all pros working in publishing or the film industry, and there is really a class for everyone. It’s all online and I’ve had people from Australia, Sweden, the U.S. and Canada all at the same time.
Seriously, though, off the cuff writing advice often comes down to a standard set of tips: don’t give up, write every day, seek feedback and act on it, learn to revise, submit your work to the market rather than shoving it in a box in the closet. To this I’ll add: self-knowledge never hurts. Know what you’re passionate about and write about it. Try to understand your character strengths and weaknesses, and discuss them honestly. Part of reading fiction is the question “What would it be like to….” If you know the answer–what would it be like to hang-glide? What would it be like to survive a heart attack?–answer it as fully as you can.
But you don’t have to go with off the cuff! Whenever I think out some aspect of writing, I put it up on my blog under “Resources for Writers.”
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
I will be reading and signing at Powell’s Books in Portland on May 5th, and may have more tour dates soon. My blog at alyxdellamonica.com will have the latest… as soon as I figure out what that latest is.
Indigo Springs by A.M. Dellamonica
Publisher: Tor/Nov. 2010
Indigo Springs is a sleepy town where things seem pretty normal . . . until Astrid’s father dies and she moves into his house. She discovers that for many years her father had been accessing the magic that flowed, literally, in a blue stream beneath the earth, leaking into his house. When she starts to use the liquid “vitagua” to enchant everyday items, the results seem innocent enough: a “’chanted” watch becomes a charm that means you’re always in the right place at the right time; a “’chanted” pendant enables the wearer to convince anyone of anything . . .
But as events in Indigo Springs unfold and the true potential of vitagua is revealed, Astrid and her friends unwittingly embark on a journey fraught with power, change, and a future too devastating to contemplate. Friends become enemies and enemies become friends as Astrid discovers secrets from her shrouded childhood that will lead her to a destiny stranger than she could have imagined . . .
Indigo Springs, small town and host to a river of magic that flows under the house left to Astrid Lethewood after her father dies, is the setting for most of this intriguing and odd fantasy. Astrid, her step brother Jacks, and best friend Sahara all move into the house, creating a tense threesome that sets the stage for the complex relationship between the three, and a powder keg for the sparks that are inevitable when the “magic” is discovered, or in Astrid’s case, “rediscovered.” A sense of the eerie is conveyed early on, and you get a big taste of what’s to come, since the book starts out with Astrid being kept in an underground bunker as Sahara and her newly discovered cult run rampant, leaving death and destruction in their wake. Will Forest is the hostage negotiator sent to get the full story as to how this terror started from the nearly mad Astrid, so, immediately, I needed to find out what was going on. The author sets the stage perfectly, and the transitions between Will’s first person chapters, to the third person chapters that tell the story of how this all started, will have you turning the pages pretty quickly.
Astrid is not your usual fantasy heroine. In fact, her near constant uncertainty and desperation to keep the enigmatic and selfish Sahara around will leave you wanting to grab her by the shoulders and shake her. Sahara isn’t your typical “villain” either. Her progression from rather manipulative, selfish, friend to Astrid to magic addicted cult leader is scary to watch, but her transition is not all that surprising, given the events leading up to the “flood”. You see, vitagua, a blue, viscous substance flows under the house, and is the source of pure magic. In the right hands, it can be a source for good, but in the wrong hands, well, you know where this is going, right?
Astrid is startled to discover that she has the ability to control vitagua, and absorb it into her body in order to imbue items that have “sparkle” with power. It’s pretty obvious from the get go that Sahara wants this power also, and she’ll do just about anything to get it, but Astrid’s destiny is not hers. You may think that Jacks was just thrown in to provide some tension between the friends, but he’s much more than what he seems at first. I really liked how, when the revelations come, you can immediately see all the clues that led up to it, but some are pretty subtle. Indigo Springs is a wonder of a read, and I loved how the author wove contemporary and traditional fantasy elements together to create what was, for me, an entirely original experience full of magic, family secrets, and a small town caught in the grip of a magical infestation with the power to destroy humanity. Ms. Dellamonica’s writing flows much like the river of magic she writes about, full of promise, lush, sometimes yearning, always suspenseful. I found I wanted to know much more about Will Forest, and wanted to see good things happen for Astrid, too. I can’t wait to see where the author takes us in the next book, Blue Magic!
Death Message (Tom Thorne #7) by Mark Billingham
Publisher: HarperCollins/Sept. 2010
Tom Thorne series
It’s carried by police officers to your door—the last words anyone ever wants to hear: The Death Message.
Detective Investigator Tom Thorne is receiving messages of his own: photographs of murder victims sent to his cell phone. Thorne doesn’t know who’s sending the grisly pictures, who the victims are, or why he has been chosen—but he knows a dead man when he sees one. Ensnared in an investigation that threatens to confound his judgment and destroy his career, he must track down a fiendishly elusive killer before time runs out. Because the slayings are somehow connected to the most terrifying psychopath he has ever encountered—and the blood trail is about to cross into Thorne’s personal life.
Death Message is the 7th novel in the Tom Thorne series and joins Tom as he’s thrust into a series of revenge killings with mob ties. The problem is, Tom is receiving pictures of the victims on his phone and at first has no idea why this killer feels the need to get so personal. As he and his colleagues get deeper into the case, and the body count rises, Tom begins to realize that someone else might be involved, someone he put away a while back. This psychopath may be pulling the killer’s strings, and be the puppet master in something farther reaching then Tom and his team could have imagined.
Tom Thorne is one of my favorite British detectives, and I always enjoy these books. Death Message was no exception, and the fascinating look at the British gang underworld had me turning the pages. It does take a while to build, but once I was invested, the ride was totally worth it. Aside from the myriad ins and outs of this frustrating case, Tom is also juggling his relationship with fellow cop, Louise Porter, and his friendship with pathologist, Phil Hendricks. Things with Louise might be getting a bit stale, and it doesn’t help that she seems to be confiding in Hendricks more than Tom. I adore Tom, but as usual, he ends up doing things according to his instincts sometimes, instead of procedure. More often than not, this yields results, but usually ends up in some sort of disciplinary action, or unintended consequences. Tom is a complex character but tends to keep things very internalized, much to the consternation of his friends and lovers. He always gets the job done, though, and cannot let evil go unpunished. Quite a few of Mark Billingham’s villians have been absolutely deplorable, but you’ll find yourself sympathizing with this one, and his motives for revenge are heartbreaking. Twists and turns abound, and this one wraps up rather surprisingly! If you like your procedurals full of rich characterizations and fascinating cases, this series is for you, and be sure to keep an eye out for my review of Bloodline, the next book featuring Tom Thorne!
I’ve got 4 giveaway winners to announce today! Thanks to everyone that entered and congrats!
Alexander Outland: Space Pirate by GJ Koch
Congrats to Carmen Pinzon (Update 5/4: alternate winner chosen)
White Horse by Alex Adams (2 copies)
Congrats to Deb Carroll and Michele Bodenheimer (alternate/updated 5/2)
Earthseed by Pamela Sargent
Congrats to Shadow Kohler
*All winnners were chosen by Rafflecopter, have been notified via email, and have 48 hours to respond with their mailing addresses. Thanks again to everyone that entered!
Here are the new releases for May! Lots of good books out this month-happy reading!
May 1st, 2012:
Final Sail (Dead End Jobs) by Elaine Viets (Mystery)
Fun House (John Ceepak Mysteries) by Chris Grabenstein (Mystery)
Getaway by Lisa Brackmann (Mystery)
Cropper’s Cabin by Jim Thompson (Mystery)
Black Dawn (Morganville Vampires) by Rachel Caine (YA)
Bound to Me by Jocelyn Drake (Paranormal)
Bad Blood by Lucienne Diver (Paranormal)
Nightmare City by Maynard Sims (Horror)
The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin (Fantasy)
The Wowzer by Frank Wheeler, Jr. (Horror)
The Impossible Cube by Steven Harper (Steampunk)
By the Blood of Heroes by Joe Nassise (Fantasy/Horror)
Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris (UF)
The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry (YA)
Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins (YA)
Silence by Michelle Sagara (YA)
Chicory Up: The Pixie Chronicles by Irene Radford (Fantasy)
Caine’s Law by Matthew Stover (Fantasy)
The Black Opera by Mary Gentle ( Fantasy)
Sword and Blood by Sarah Marques (Fantasy)
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (YA)
Life Guards in the Hamptons by Celia Jerome (UF)
The Anatomy of Death by Felicity Young (Mystery)
Powers by James Burton (Fantasy) (May 2nd)
May 8th, 2012:
City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare (YA)
Broken Illusions by Ellie James (Paranormal)
Lady, Go Die! by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (Mystery)
Struck by Jennifer Bosworth (YA)
May 15th, 2012:
Snatched (Novella) by Karin Slaughter (Mystery)
A Patch of Darkness by Yolanda Sfetsos (Paranormal)
Railsea by China Mieville (Fantasy)
As the Crow Flies by Craig Johnson (Mystery)
Bloodman by Robert Pobi (Mystery)
May 22nd, 2012:
Nightworld by F. Paul Wilson (UF)
Dark Magic by James Swain (Fantasy)
Zombie Island by Lori Handeland (Horror)
Shadow Bound by Rachel Vincent (Paranormal/UF)
Nightshifted by Cassie Alexander ( UF)
Last Call for the Living by Peter Farris (Mystery)
A Tree of Bones by Gemma Files (Horror)
Destroyer of Worlds (Kingdom of the Serpent, #3) by Mark Chadbourn (Fantasy)
A Dark Anatomy by Robin Blake (Mystery)
Don’t Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman (Mystery)
May 29th, 2012:
The Janus Affair by Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine (UF/Steampunk)
A Blood Seduction by Pamela Palmer (Paranormal)
Strangeness and Charm by Mike Shevdon (UF)
Night’s Engines by Trent Jamieson (Paranormal/UF)
Tatooed by Pamela Callow (Mystery)
All Spell Breaks Loose by Lisa Shearin (Mystery)
Ninja Versus Pirates Featuring Zombies by James Marshall (Horror)
The Yard by Alex Grecian (Mystery)
Bleeding Out by Jes Battis (UF)
Darkness Becomes Her by Jaime Rush (Paranormal/UF)
The Yard by Alex Grecian (Mystery)
Cursed by Benedict Jacka (UF)
Darkness Becomes Her by Jaime Rush (Paranormal/UF)
When Passion Lies by JK Beck (Paranormal)
Dark Frost by Jennifer Estep (YA)
Damnation for Beginners by Alan Campbell (Fantasy) (May 31st)
The Providence Rider by Robert McCammon (Mystery/Horror) (May 31st)
The Lost Ones by Ace Atkins (Mystery) (May 31st)
Changeling by Philippa Gregory (YA Fantasy)
No Safety in Numbers by Dayna Lorentz (YA Horror)
Waiting for Midnight (anthology) by Merrie Destefano (Fantasy)
Nice Girls Don’t Bite Their Neighbors (Jane Jameson #4) by Molly Harper
Publisher: Pocket/Feb. 2012
Jane Jameson series
Kind thanks to Pocket for providing a review copy
Just as Jane Jameson’s unlife seems to be stabilizing, fate sinks its fangs firmly into her butt. Despite her near-phobia of wedding planning, her no-frills nighttime nuptials to her sexy boyfriend, Gabriel, are coming along smoothly. That is, until she turns a fatally wounded teenage acquaintance, and the Council pronounces her responsible for the newborn vamp until he can control his thirst.
Jane’s kitchen barely holds enough Faux Type O to satiate the cute teen’s appetite and maintain Gabriel’s jealous streak at a slow simmer. As if keeping her hyperactive childe from sucking the blood out of the entire neighborhood isn’t enough to deal with, the persnickety ghost of Jane’s newly deceased grandma Ruthie has declared war on the fanged residents of River Oaks. Suddenly choosing monogrammed cocktail napkins and a cake she can’t even eat seem downright relaxing in comparison.
Tensions inside the house are growing…and outside, a sinister force is aiming a stake straight for the center of Gabriel’s heart. Most brides just have to worry about choosing the right dress, but Jane fears that at this rate, she’ll never make it down the aisle for the wedding all nice girls dream of…
REVIEW (This is #4, and while there aren’t any spoilers, if you haven’t started the series, you can check out my review of Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs)
This review will be short and sweet, but that’s only because it’s #4 in the series, and I loved it just as much as the previous 3! Jane is settling into life with her vampire boyfriend Gabriel at her ancestral home, River Oaks. Things are good for Jane, but of course, if you’re familiar with this series, you know that Jane can’t stay out of trouble for very long. There’s a wedding on the horizon, and of course Jane isn’t expected to get through it without being set on fire, targeted for death, or similar disaster. True to form, Gabriel is attacked, Jane’s Grandma Ruthie is haunting River Oaks, Jane has a new vampire childe to take care of, and a wedding to plan (bring on the taffeta revenge!) All in all, it’s business as usual in Half-Moon Hollow.
I love this series, and the laughs come often in this installment. Reading these books is very similar to literary comfort food. I’m always happy to spend lots of time with Jane, Gabriel, and the gang at River Oaks. Molly Harper is wonderful at writing about the foibles of family (even of the non-blood related type), the pitfalls of being undead in a small town (where everyone knows your business), and always infuses these books with a healthy helping of heart and plenty of romance. Fans of Stephanie Plum will eat this series up, and of course, I highly recommend it!
As a special treat for my paranormal romance/romance readers, I’ve got the lovely Sandra Hill on the blog today! Sandra was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, and I have 3 copies of The Norse King’s Daughter up for grabs, courtesy of Avon Books, so be sure to check out the details at the end of the post!
Please welcome Sandra to the blog!
Sandra, you’ve written more than 30 novels (whew!), of which your Viking series is phenomenally popular, and the first book of your brand new Deadly Angels series just came out! The main character, while a Viking, is also a vampire angel (so awesome), which is a bit of a change of pace. What made you decide to dive into the world of vamps and angels?
Well, it’s nothing new for me to take my Vikings in new directions. Consider the time-traveling Navy SEALs. I’m not giving up on my historical, contemporary or time travel novels, but I wanted to try some new paranormal category. I thought about Viking vampires, but something in me resisted dark Dracula types. Mine had to have some saving graces. Thus, angels.
I write romantic humor, and one of the best humor devices is to place characters in circumstances in which they are not comfortable. A vain Viking having to sport fangs? A wild Viking being turned into an angel? The possibilities for humor are endless.
Did you do any particular research in regards to the world building for the Deadly Angels series?
I could write a doctoral thesis on all aspects of Vikings, but I needed to research angels, demons, the Seven Deadly Sins, the mysterious element of the number seven in the Bible, those kinds of things. But in the end, my demons and my vampire angels are purely my creation.
You worked as a journalist and feature writer for many years before becoming a fiction writer yourself. What made you decide to finally take the plunge and write your first novel?
I’ve always been an avid reader. Once when I read an early Jude Deveraux historical, it was so good that I said, “I wish I could write a book like that. Then years later, when I read a Constance O’Day-Flannery time travel book, the lightbulb went off in terms of humor possibilities and I said, “ I can write a book like that.”
I loved looking at the gorgeous pictures of your family on your website! How has having a large family influenced your writing?
I’m always getting ideas for humor from my husband and four sons, none of whom think I’m funny at all. Like the one son, when he was sixteen years old, and his girlfriend gave him a pair of boxers that said “No, no, no!” but in the dark said, “Yes, yes, yes!” I can’t tell you how many times my sons or husband have done something, then asked, “This is going to end up in one of your books, isn’t it?”
What are some of your favorite novels or writers?
Mary Balogh, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Rachel Gibson, Trish Jensen, Beverly Lewis, Loretta Chase, Charlaine Harris, Deborah Smith, etc.
If you could read a book again for the first time, which one would it be?
GONE WITH THE WIND, the first romance novel I even read, at age twelve. I’m not sure I’d like it so well this time around. I think that’s why I resist rereading it.
What’s on your nightstand right now?
Nalingi Singh , Robyn Carr, and J.R. Ward.
I read that you love to collect antiques. What’s one of your favorite pieces?
Roseville pottery. And I have a passion for antique 19th century paintings. More than anything, I love a bargain.
It’s obvious that your readers are very important to you. What’s your favorite part of meeting readers and getting reader mail?
I love knowing that my books touch readers in some way, and, frankly, it was a revelation to me how much humor is needed and cherished in this stressful, turbulent world.
Do you have a fave tip on romancing a Viking Vampire Angel?
Just be in the right place at the right itme, then brace yourself. These are Vikings, at heart, and they do the pursuing. Expert lovers, they were reputed to be. Readers often ask me, “Where can I find me one of those Vikings?” My answer is “They are all around you. You just need to look closer.”
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
KISS OF PRIDE is the first book in my Deadly Angels series. It will be followed in December by KISS OF SURRENDER, where my vangel becomes a Navy SEAL. Then, next June, the vangels move to Louisiana, where my vangel meets the formidable Tante Lulu from my Cajun series. Plus, I’m working on a female pirate historical.
For more information on KISS OF PRIDE or any of my other books, check out my website or visit me on Facebook at Sandra Hill Author.
Last night was an exciting night for many writers of mystery and suspense! The 2012 Edgar Awards were announced, and I thought I’d bring you the scoop! Here are the nominees (I listed only books here, but provided links to plays and TV nominees),and the winners:
Best Novel Nominees:
The Ranger by Ace Atkins: Amazon | B&N
The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino: Amazon | B&N
1222 by Anne Holt: Amazon | B&N
Field Gray by Philip Kerr: Amazon | B&N
Gone by Mo Hayder: Amazon | B&N
And the winner is…Gone by Mo Hayder!
Best First Novel Nominees:
Red on Red by Edward Conlon: Amazon | B&N
Last to Fold by David Duffy: Amazon | B&N
All Cry Chaos by Leonard Rosen: Amazon | B&N
Purgatory Chasm by Steve Ulfelder: Amazon | B&N
Bent Road by Lori Roy: Amazon | B&N
And the winner is…Bent Road by Lori Roy!
Best Paperback Original Nominees:
The Faces of Angels by Lucretia Grindle: Amazon | B&N
The Dog Sox by Russell Hill: Amazon | B&N
Death of the Mantis by Michael Stanley: Amazon | B&N
Vienna Twilight by Frank Tallis: Amazon | B&N
The Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett: Amazon | B&N
And the winner is…The Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett!
Best Fact Crime Nominees:
The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars by Paul Collins: Amazon | B&N
Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard: Amazon | B&N
The Savage City: Race, Murder, and a Generation on the Edge by T.J. English: Amazon | B&N
Girl, Wanted: The Chase for Sarah Pender by Steve Miller: Amazon | B&N
The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Imposter by Mark Seal: Amazon
And the winner is…Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard!
Best Critical Biographical Nominees:
The Tattooed Girl: The Enigma of Stieg Larsson and the Secrets Behind the Most Compelling Thrillers of our Time by Dan Burstein, Arne de Keijzer & John-Henri Holmberg: Amazon | B&N
Agatha Christie: Murder in the Making by John Curran: Amazon | B&N
On Conan Doyle: Or, the Whole Art of Storytelling by Michael Dirda: Amazon | B&N
Detecting Women: Gender and the Hollywood Detective Film by Philippa Gates: Amazon | B&N
Scripting Hitchcock: Psycho, The Birds and Marnie by Walter Raubicheck and Walter Srebnick: Amazon | B&N
And the winner is…On Conan Doyle: Or, the Whole Art of Storytelling by Michael Dirda!
Best Short Story Nominees:
“Marley’s Revolution” – Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine by John C. Boland
“Tomorrow’s Dead” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by David Dean
“The Adakian Eagle” – Down These Strange Streets by Bradley Denton
“Lord John and the Plague of Zombies” – Down These Strange Streets by Diana Gabaldon
“The Case of Death and Honey” – A Study in Sherlock by Neil Gaiman
“The Man Who Took His Hat Off to the Driver of the Train” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Peter Turnbull
And the winner is…”The Man Who Took His Hat Off to the Driver of the Train” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Peter Turnbull
Best Juvenile Nominees:
Horton Halfpott by Tom Angleberger: Amazon | B&N
It Happened on a Train by Mac Barnett: Amazon | B&N
Vanished by Sheela Chari: Amazon | B&N
Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby: Amazon | B&N
The Wizard of Dark Street by Shawn Thomas Odyssey: Amazon | B&N
And the winner is…Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby
Young Adult Nominees:
Shelter by Harlan Coben: Amazon | B&N
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson: Amazon | B&N
The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackall: Amazon | B&N
The Girl is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines: Amazon | B&N
Kill You Last by Todd Strasser: Amazon | B&N
And the winner is…The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackall
Mary Higgins Clark Nominees:
Now You See Me by S.J. Bolton: Amazon | B&N
Come and Find Me by Hallie Ephron: Amazon | B&N
Death on Tour by Janice Hamrick: Amazon | B&N
Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry: Amazon | B&N
Murder Most Persuasive by Tracy Kiely: Amazon | B&N
And the winner is…Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry!
Fated (Alex Verus #1) by Benedict Jacka
Publisher: Ace/Feb. 2012
Alex Verus series
Kind thanks to Ace for providing a review copy
Alex Verus is part of a world hidden in plain sight, running a magic shop in London. And while Alex’s own powers aren’t as showy as some mages, he does have the advantage of foreseeing the possible future—allowing him to pull off operations that have a million-to-one-chance of success.
But when Alex is approached by multiple factions to crack open a relic from a long-ago mage war, he knows that whatever’s inside must be beyond powerful. And thanks to his abilities, Alex can predict that by taking the job, his odds of survival are about to go from slim to none…
There’s a blurb on the front of Fated by Jim Butcher, and I’ll admit, it went a ways toward me reading the book. Don’t get me wrong, the book sounded great, but Benedict Jacka is a new author, so it definitely helped. That said, Fated is a bit like the Dresden Files, but really only in the fact that Alex Verus is a wizard, or mage, and Alex’s voice is is a similar mix of easygoing and tightly coiled power. Alex is a diviner, able to see the many possible outcomes and paths of a situation. Usually. He’s not all-powerful, but he’s pretty darn powerful, and he’s done his best not to cross paths with the Council, running a magic shop in Camden Town, in London. Staying under the radar has done well for him, but when various mages (Light and Dark), come to him seeking his services, he finds himself back under the very thumb that he escaped years ago.
The author packs quite a bit of storytelling into just under 300 pages, and does it very effectively. I liked Alex immediately, and found his power fascinating. There’s some mild tension between Alex and his friend Luna, who’s carrying a very powerful curse, and she’ll turn out to be a valuable ally in the battle to come. And there will be battle. There’s a powerful artifact that more than a few powerful mages want to get their hands on, and they’ll use any manner of coercion, arm twisting, and just plain nastiness to get Alex to snag it for them. The main group of Dark mages that Alex deals with are really just plain mean, and I found myself wishing that Alex could just kick ‘em in the mouth. Multiple times. With feeling. It doesn’t help that Alex is carrying around a little baggage of his own, having been at the mercy of a Dark mage himself when he was younger. Yeah, the Dark mages like to keep slaves, er, helpers, and they’re extremely cruel about it. Can you say torture chambers? So, you can understand why Alex isn’t too keen on “helping” any of these guys out. On the charming side, we’re also introduced to some really neat creatures, and the world that the author has created is definitely one I’ll want to visit again. Fated is a strong start to what looks to be a magical series!
I’m thrilled to have Shawntelle Madison on the blog today as part of her Coveted tour! She was kind enough to answer a few of my questions we’ve also got a copy of Coveted up for grabs, so be sure to check out the details at the bottom of the post!
Please welcome Shawntelle to the blog!
Shawntelle, you’re a web developer and have held a variety of jobs (I’ll grill you on those soon). What made you decide to take the plunge and write Coveted?
I already had a literary agent at the time, and a book on submission, so this story idea had been running through my head for a while. I could’ve sat on my hands and waited but Natalya started talking to me so I went ahead and got to work. It was a fun ride!
How did you celebrate when you found out Coveted had sold? Was there cake? Happy dancing? Squeeing? Any combination thereof?
When Coveted sold I remember my family going out to eat to celebrate. We had a great time at one of my favorite restaurants. I think I had a very delicious slice of cheesecake that night. I’m diehard chocolate cheesecake fan.
During the phone call with Jim my literary agent, I was so cool and excited about it. It was when I called my crit partner—the first one I told afterward—that I broke down in shock. I finally realized that I’d sold a book. Little ’o me.
Can you tell us a little bit about Coveted?
Coveted is about Natalya Stravinsky, a werewolf with a holiday trinket hoarding obsession whose life changes when her ex-boyfriend returns to town to save the South Toms River pack. Even though Thorn left five years ago, they still have strong feelings for each other.
How long did it take you to write Coveted?
This story came out pretty fast. I track my word count and according to my records this book took about five months to write.
I imagine balancing a job, a full writing schedule, and a family, is hard! How do you do it?
It’s very hard and tiring actually. At first I could balance it all, but now I depend heavily on tracking everything through Microsoft Outlook. As I get emails with things to do, I have to mark them or things fall through the cracks.
In your bio, it says that you’ve held a variety of jobs, including fast food clerk, programmer, and webmaster. What would you say your least fave of the bunch was?
My least favorite was my job as a fast food clerk. I was a horrible clerk. At the time, I had the memory of a goldfish. Give me a set of numbers/order of food and I often forgot. I worked at a chicken place (no need to give the name of that establishment) and went home smelling like freshly fried chicken. At first it was kinda cool. At the end of a week it got on my nerves. I wasn’t as good as the other clerks and I wished I would’ve applied at a local clothing store instead. For some reason I’m really good at folding clothes and arranging displays.
I read that you like cheesy horror movies. For you, what is the best of the worst?
The best of the worst is Night of the Creeps for me. It came out in the eighties. When it comes on television, I’m compelled to watch it for some reason, but it’s just so campy. I mean the deadly creatures are like these fast moving slugs/leech thingies. It is rather disturbing to see them run about and enter people—but then there are a bunch of scenes which make the horror aspects less scary. I say keep a dark tone like Halloween and you’re golden.
I see you’re also an anime fan! Who’s your favorite character?
This interview doesn’t have enough room for that answer. I’ve watched so many! I’d say right now the characters that keep coming back to me is from a series I really enjoyed. It was the Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse, from the Fullmetal Alchemist series. I ate up those episodes like candy!
What’s something that makes you laugh out loud?
What gets me laughing every time is the dead parrot sketch from Monty Python. Hilarous! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vuW6tQ0218) “It’s an ex-parrot!”
If you could pack your bags and travel anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go, and why?
I’d do a European tour. I’ve wanted to do that for the longest time. I’ve never left the US actually. Does seeing Canada from Detroit count?
What advice would you give to struggling writers?
Never, ever give up. Persistence and perseverance are the key. Write with passion and hunger. Cause when you aren’t hungry to get that agent or make that sale, you’ve already hung up the towel.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us (guilty pleasures, fave ice cream, anything at all)?
Favorite ice cream flavor is chocolate chip! Jelly Belly Jelly Beans are the beginning and ending of everything—except for coffee and popcorn flavor. Who thought those tasted good? I’d love to know!