My Bookish Ways

Excerpt: Radiant (The Towers Trilogy) by Karina Sumner-Smith

Read on for an excerpt of RADIANT (Book 1 of the Tower Trilogy) by Karina Sumner-Smith, out September 23rd!

Curled in a concrete alcove that had once been a doorway, Xhea watched the City man make his awkward way through the market tents, dragging a ghost behind him. Magic sparkled above his head like an upturned tulip, deflecting the heavy rain and letting it pour to the ground to trace a circle in the puddles at his feet. He was, of course, watching her.

It was not his attention that had caught Xhea’s notice, nor his poor attempt to blend into the crowd, but the ghost tethered to him with a line of energy more felt than seen. The dead girl couldn’t have been much older than Xhea herself—sixteen, Xhea supposed, perhaps seventeen—and she floated an arm’s span above the man’s head like a girl-shaped helium balloon.

Radiant Cover (2)For fifteen minutes the man had circled, pretending to shop. As if a City man had any use for reclaimed nails, half rusted and pounded straight; for prayer flags, or charms of electrical wire and bone. What was it, Xhea wondered, that made the ghost-afflicted wait for the darkest, rainiest days to seek her out? She snorted softly, a sound without care or pity. They didn’t want to be seen with her, that was the truth of it, as if her very presence left a shadow that wouldn’t burn away.

As she waited, Xhea tied a coin to the end of a braid of her hair with a bit of tattered ribbon. The coin was an old and dirty thing she’d found in the abandoned shopping corridors that wound beneath the Lower City. Once it would have bought her bread, cigarettes, a warm place to sleep. Now it was nothing but a bit of shiny metal that watched with the pressed eyes of a dead Queen, its only magic a sense of the past that hung about it like the faint scent of something sweet.

She had started braiding another length of dark hair before the man made the decision to approach. He walked toward her with his head down, as if a slumped posture might make him any less conspicuous, as if half the market didn’t watch him go. He came to stand before her narrow shelter and stared without speaking, the heavy rain falling between them like a beaded curtain.

Xhea eyed him in silence: his polished shoes, dotted with water; the neat line of his jacket; the monogrammed cuffs that peeked from his jacket sleeves. Only the clean cut of his tailored pants was marred, and that by the slow curl of his fists within the pockets. He straightened, pulling himself upright as if to get every intimidating inch from his average-sized frame.

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Plague World (Ashley Parker #3) by Dana Fredsti

plagueworldPlague World by Dana Fredsti (Titan Books, August 26th, 2014)-(Warning: This assumes you’re caught up with the series. If not, there may be minor spoilers ahead for previous books.)

For two books now (Plague Town and Plague Nation), Ashley Parker has been dealing with, and battling, the plague, and the zombies they spawned, like a champ, and Plague Nation was especially harrowing for Ashley and the gang. There was a helicopter crash, an ambush, and perhaps the worst part for Ashley, Gabriel was captured at gunpoint. He and Ashley were just starting to explore their new relationship, and the possibility of a way to control his condition. Needless to say, Ashley is desperate to get him back. To make things even worse, Dr. Albert was taken by the same people, and the possibility of a vaccine for Walker’s Flu lies with him. The current incarnation of the vaccine can actually cause people to become the walking dead, but it’s a starting point for a cure, and now that the virus has become airborne, it’s more important than ever before that they recover Dr. Albert. Luckily, Ashley is a Wild Card (she’s immune to the zombie virus and after she contracted it and fought it, she came out of it with some pretty awesome “heightened” abilities), and most of her team are Wild Cards as well. Now, they must make their way to San Diego to hopefully rescue Dr. Albert, for them to have any hope for a cure to a disease that has now spread throughout the world.

Ashley is back in all her snarky glory, but in Plague World, although she hasn’t lost her considerable sense of humor, she’s a more subdued, introspective Ashley than she was in previous books. She misses Gabriel, she worries that Lil will just get worse without medication, so finding appropriate meds is a priority, and the new guy, Griff, seems determined to get his hands on Ashley, whether she consents or not, and she doesn’t trust him. He’s got some kind of angle, and she’s certain it’s more than just getting in her pants. So, the team is off to San Diego to find out who is at the bottom of unleashing Walker’s Flu and perverting the DZN’s (Dolofonoitou Zontanous Nekrous, or “killers of the dead”) existence for their own nefarious means.

Plague World is the 3rd and last in Dana Fredsti’s smashing zombie series, and although it’s a bit bittersweet, she brings things to a satisfying conclusion and the journey to get there is horrific, sometimes funny, and always awesome. Most of the story is told by Ashley, but in Plague World, there are interludes that take place in different parts of the world where the plague is just taking hold, and it serves to heighten the terror of an already awful situation. Fredsti has a lot of fun with her use of San Diego’s Balboa Park, which is a former naval based turned national park, and as always, her fight scenes are fantastic. Give Ashley a sword, and she’ll cut a swath through the undead that’s a mile long, and as gruesomely gleeful as some of the fight scenes are, the body count is taking its toll on Ashley and the rest of the group, especially after the considerable losses they’ve suffered.

This book is darker than the previous two, and it doesn’t get much darker than in the final pages, when Ashley comes face to face with a person from her past. I don’t want to give anything away, but suffice it to say that Ashley is taken to a very, very dark place, and the experience would cause many to lose their minds. Yeah, it’s that bad. Dana Fredsti is a fantastic storyteller-you’ll blaze through this in one or two sittings, because the action rarely lets up, and it’s just good. If you’re a zombie fan, or just a fan of spectacular horror, this should be a go-to series, and I envy anyone that gets to read this series back to back. Plague World was worth the wait, though, and I’ll follow Dana Fredsti anywhere. I’m very much looking forward to what she’s got in the works next.

A few SFF Kindle deals to kick off the weekend!

All under $5, and all awesome! Be sure to double check the price before you click that BUY button, though (just in case.) Also, note that DEAD WITCH WALKING, the first book in Kim Harrison’s Hollows series is FREE, so if you haven’t discovered this fantastic urban fantasy series, now’s the perfect chance!

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Catching up with Lucy A. Snyder, author of Soft Apocalypses

Lucy A. Snyder is one of my favorite authors and not only does she have a new writer’s guide out, SHOOTING YOURSELF IN THE HEAD FOR FUN AND PROFIT, but she’s also just released a brand new story colletion, SOFT APOCALYPSES, and she’s kindly stopped by to talk about the new books, and more! Please welcome her back to the blog!

lucyasnyderLucy, you’ve got two new, and very different, books out, SHOOTING YOURSELF IN THE HEAD FOR FUN AND PROFIT (a writer’s guide) and a story collection, SOFT APOCALYPSES. Personally, what are a few of your favorite stories in SOFT APOCALYPSES?
The book contains my story “Magdala Amygdala”, which won the Bram Stoker Award. I think that it’s one of my best short stories. But my personal favorites were the ones that were a whole lot of fun to write.

There’s “Repent, Jessie Shimmer!” which, as you might guess from the title, features the heroine from my urban fantasy trilogy. In this story, Jessie and her familiar Pal go back down south to lend Miz Devereaux a hand, and in the process Jessie gets into a whole passel of trouble. It’s a fast-paced adventure tale, and Jessie fans and zombie fans should enjoy it.

And speaking of zombies, there’s “Tiger Girls vs. the Zombies,” which was originally supposed to appear in the anthology Redneck Zombies From Outer Space, but that book has been delayed, and so it’s actually debuting in Soft Apocalypses. It’s completely gonzo, and it takes place in the universe of my book Installing Linux on a Dead Badger, so if you liked that brand of geeky zombie humor, that story should be just your thing.

There are also a couple of stories that were both fun to write and were the first times I’ve written in particular genres. “Diamante and Strass” is a post-apocalyptic rock-and-roll science fiction Western. And “The Leviathan of Trincomalee” is my first steampunk tale. Steampunk has been criticized for not having enough “punk” in it, so the young protagonist in “Leviathan” is both rather rebellious and embodies the do-it-yourself ethos.

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Ben Peek chats with me about his new fantasy, The Godless

Please welcome Ben Peek back to the blog! He kindly stopped by to talk about his brand new fantasy, THE GODLESS, which just came out this week!

benpeekCongratulations on THE GODLESS…tell us more! What inspired you to write this big, bold fantasy novel?
Thank you.

As for the inspiration, I began it after I had just gone through a particularly bad stretch of my career. In the space of a year, I had gone through two agents, lost a deal, and some other stuff, all of which left me with the question of if it was time to give up writing or not. It’s not an amazing story – a lot of authors go through it, sadly, and some hang it up, and some don’t. During the time I spent deciding if I was done, I went back to the books that had gotten me into writing, the things I read while I was a teenager, growing up. A lot of these were fantasy books from the eighties and nineties – Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, David Gemmell, Lynn Abbey, Raymond Feist, David and Leigh Eddings, Terry Brooks, R.A. Salvatore and the various TSR books he wrote, and so on and so forth. I can’t say that all of them were good books, but as I looked through all those old paperbacks I had, all these memories came back, and my mind started to turn over the ideas for a fantasy novel. I did not, at first, think I should write it – I mean, a fantasy series is probably not the wisest way to slowly ease back into your career, but the ideas just kept hanging around. I remember being up in Darwin for a friend’s wedding and drifting around in a car daydreaming about immortals fighting. And I had this idea for a world in which the gods lay dead on the ground, and I could see a giant wall that ran the length of one in the mountains, and armies marching to it, and after a while, I thought that since it wasn’t letting go, I’d do it. I’d write this fantasy book and see where I was at the end of it.

I don’t know that I planned to sell it, or that I thought it would sell, but I basically sat down and wrote out of the love I had for those old books and memories, and the end product was THE GODLESS.

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All of these Hugo Award winners are under $5 on Kindle!

The Hugo Award winners were announced on Sunday, so I thought it might be fun to gather some under $5 deals together. The first section are all winners, and I also gathered together some nominees (Best Novel only) that you can also get at a steal. A few are short stories, novellas, etc, that are priced accordingly. I think a couple of the nominees come in just a smidge over $5, but not too much. I went alll the way back to the 50s on these, so you’re sure to find some great classics as well as some new favorites. Enjoy!

Note: You can find Ted Chiang’s 2009 Hugo winning story “Exhalation” in Eclipse Two, which is only $.99.

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Giveaway: Spells at the Crossroads by Barbara Ashford

Spells at the Crossroads is an omnibus of two of my very favorite books, Spellcast and Spellcrossed, and if you haven’t discovered this series, now’s the perfect time! I’ve got one copy of Spells at the Crossroads to give away, courtesy of DAW (US only), and I’ll pick a winner on 8/29. Good luck!

Maggie Graham was having a very bad summer. First, she lost her job. Then the bathroom ceiling in her Brooklyn apartment collapsed. That was when Maggie decided it was time to run away from home for awhile. On the road to Vermont for her weeked away, she impulsively took the exit for a town called Dale. For some reason, the area felt familiar, especially the big white barn she passed on the way to town.

What came next was the biggest adventure in Maggie’s life. Her experience as an actor landed her a job in the summer stock company of the Crossroads Theatre, housed in that same white barn, but none of her professional credits could prepare her for the magic that happened on this stage. Or for the theatre’s unorthodox staff, especially its moody and mysterious director.

That staff and stage will soon become family to Maggie, but all the magic in the world might not be enough to keep them safe—with threats ranging from interfering board presidents to imprisonment in the realm of Faerie….

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Chimes at Midnight (October Daye #7) by Seanan McGuire

chimesatmidnightChimes at Midnight by Seanan McGuire (DAW)-Seven books in, and the awesome keeps going with Chimes at Midnight. You’d think Toby would get some time to enjoy herself a little with Tybalt, but alas, duty calls, and this time it’s in the form of the Queen of the Mists, who seems to be supplying goblin fruit to changelings. This is a recipe for disaster, since goblin fruit is highly addictive and fatally destructive. When Toby confronts the Queen about it, the Queen does something, well, horrid to Toby (don’t want to give away too much here), but as a result, she finds herself in a race against time, or else. Luckily, there’s evidence that the Queen’s claim to the throne might not be totally on the up and up, but that means that Toby and the gang will have to find the rightful heir. Easier said than done. However, with a little help from the The Luidaeg, it just might be possible.

Seanan McGuire has an undeniable gift for story telling, and the Toby Day series remains a standout in the crowded UF bookshelf. This series hasn’t hit a false note yet, and it’s oh so easy to fall into each book and not come up for air until the last page. Every book in this series has been a little bite of awesome, but for me, Chimes brought things to a whole new level, in a few different ways. We learn a bit a lot about the previously msyterious Luidaeg (consistently one of my favorite characters), we get Toby and Tybalt awesomeness, and a diabolical foe in the form of the Queen of the Mists. I’m just about to finish up the next book, The Winter Long, and if you think the stakes in Chimes at Midnight were high, just wait!

Interview: Edan Lepucki on California, love after the apocalypse, and more

Edan Lepucki is a genuine phenomenon, and for good reason: first and foremost, with CALIFORNIA, she’s given us a very assured, excellent debut (trust me, it’s really good), and there was that awesome Stephen Colbert mention… She’s kind of a rockstar, and I’m thrilled that she took the time to answer a few of my questions! Please give her a warm welcome!

Edan-Lepucki-Author-PhotoEdan, congrats on the new book, CALIFORNIA, and also the amazing success you’ve seen with it right out of the gate! Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a bit more about yourself and your background?
Thank you so much, and thanks for your thoughtful review of California a few weeks back! I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember—since I learned to read, I suppose. Aside from my dancing skills (seriously, I challenge you to a dance-off!), I can only read and write. I have no other skills. In college, I enthusiastically double-majored in English and Creative Writing, and after I graduated, I worked at a bookstore in LA called Book Soup, and wrote short stories on my time off. I studied creative writing at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and after I graduated I started a novel. That one never sold, alas, so I wrote another one—California—to more successful results.

I was born at home in Santa Monica and raised in LA; I come from a large family of irrepressible showboats: divorced parents, step-parents, three sisters, and a brother—all of whom live in California. Aside from writing and teaching writing, I have also worked as a bookseller, a cheesemonger, and an SAT tutor (verbal only, obviously). I am the founder and co-director of Writing Workshops Los Angeles, a private writing school that offers small and rigorous classes from the comfort of the teacher’s home. I am married to a book-lover and whiskey-drinker named Patrick, and we have a delightful three-year-old son named Dixon Bean, as well as tiny white dog named Omar Little. Last year we moved from LA to the San Francisco Bay Area, to a town called Albany. It’s a bit sleepy for my taste, but it’s growing on me, and my god, the bread and coffee here is terrific.

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Catching up with Dana Fredsti, author of Plague World

It’s no secret that Dana Fredsti’s Ashley Parker series is one of my favorite zombie series out there (Plague World is awesome-trust me), and as always, I’m thrilled to have Dana back to the blog to talk about the newest installment, what comes next, and more!

Deadite-DanaDana, I’m very excited about Plague World! Will you give us a bit of a teaser as to what we can expect from Ashley and the gang?
Bad things happen. Plague World is definitely a darker book than the first two (although some pretty dark stuff does happen in both Plague Town and Plague Nation), with characters forced to make decisions that will ultimately change their lives … if they live to see the end of the book. (insert Bwahahahahah! Here). You can expect the same humor that runs through the previous books because that’s Ashley’s way of dealing with the world, but I put her through the wringer this time around. I also admit to having had way too much fun zombie-fying the International Houses and other parts of Balboa Park in San Diego. Readers will also get to see how the zombocalypse is affecting the rest of the world via the third person interludes and yes, I had a lot of fun writing those as well. There’s something cathartic about destroying the world a little bit at a time, y’know?

Er… did that sound too much like a super villain? No? Good .

Was it bittersweet for you to wrap up the Ashley Parker trilogy?
Definitely. Plague World was a very difficult book to write for a number of reasons, not the least being that my personal and professional life went through some major changes and upheavals last year. I think it’s fair to say that some of my personal pain is reflected in the emotional and physical pain Ashley goes through in this book. I also realized certain plot points could not be wrapped up with a happy pink bow around them. Nope, I had to break out the black ribbon and say a final farewell to characters I didn’t necessarily plan on parting with at the end of the trilogy.

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