Monday, November 30, 2015

Author Spotlight: Linda Andrews

Picture 1. Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Linda Andrews and by day, I’m a scientist for a local water company and by night I write Science Fiction, Apocalyptic horror, and romance novels. I read pretty much anything genre fiction although my favorite are mysteries and romance, and I love zombies.

2. When did you start writing, and why?
I started writing when the paranormal line that I read from Harlequin was cancelled. At the time, I was commuting 90 minutes one way to my job and used to write on tape. Now, writing is a passion that I can’t give up. Every book is different and I learn something new.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
I write the Science Fiction because as I’m reading for my job, I encounter intriguing information that raises those important what-if questions. I write the apocalyptic/horror novels because I can kill lots of people and not have to worry about going to jail. Okay, not really (maybe a little), I consider them exercises in survival. If this happened, what would I do? And I write romances because I am a romantic at heart and like to give everyone a happy ending (if they deserve it)

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
My latest apocalyptic series is the Hadean series. It’s about the science we’re using to change our food forcing an evolutionary pathway for humanity and the planet.

5. "Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
Hadean is set in Phoenix, Arizona in the current times. I enjoy the challenge of setting books in the desert as so many resources the rest of the country take for granted, such as water, are not readily available. The stories follow a group of 6 people as they struggle to survive, but one of them is infected. Most reviewers consider it a bit like 28 Days Later and the Crazies.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
There’s Ellen who is a mother of 2. Her sister Rosa, who is a scientist working on figuring out what is going on and if there is a solution. Their cousin Raine who was a junior in high school when the world goes to pot. There is Drew who is a recovering drug addict, who has to put Ellen and her family above his addiction. There is Brent who is crazy but functional until he no longer is, this provides an inside look into the workings of the faceless masses who are infected. What I like about them, is that they don’t have any special skills and are just everyday people, who need each other to survive.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
Sometimes I like my characters so much I have a hard time torturing them, er, I mean writing their story when i know bad things are going to happen :D

More information and links for Hadean

Where to find Linda Andrews:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Reading Roundup November 2015

I've been doing a lot of reading lately and I promised a monster Reading Roundup post, so here it is, with lots of great books I recommend. There should be something here for just about everyone. If my reading keeps up at this rate, I should start doing these posts more often! Books are listed in the order I read them in. (Links go to Goodreads.)

To Whatever End (Echoes of Imara #1) by Clare Frank
I really enjoyed this. I'm always interested in fantasy with a married couple as the main characters, and To Whatever End fit the bill nicely. Cecily and Daro are trying to live a quiet life after fighting in a revolution that put a new king on the throne, then Daro is kidnapped by a corrupt magician/scholar for nefarious purposes, and Cecily has to draw on the help of their former comrades-in-arms to find and rescue him. Overall, I highly recommend To Whatever End to readers looking for an exciting, magical fantasy adventure where the roles are switched and the woman comes to the rescue of the man. (full review)

Witchfinder by Sarah A. Hoyt
A wild ride through a universe with parallel Earths, some of which have magic and some of which don't, some of which know about the others and some of which don't, some of which permit the use of magic and some of which forbid it on pain of death. Avalon is one of those where magic is permitted and that knows about other worlds, and Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater (in this Regency-inspired setting), has undertaken the illegal task of rescuing magic users who are in danger on other worlds. His quest blows up when he stumbles into a plot involving the throne of Avalon and sinister doings in Fairyland, a much more dangerous and terrifying place than the name suggests. The plot is intricate and non-stop, and I enjoyed the characters, trying to do the right things despite seemingly impossible odds. There's also a nice dose of romance, not obtrusive but enough to keep romance-loving readers happy. There's both a m/f and a m/m pair; normally, m/m isn't really my thing, but Mrs. Hoyt had me rooting for this couple to find their happy ending. Highly recommended if you're looking for intelligent and refreshingly original fantasy.

The Profiteer by Evan Asher
Light-hearted and enjoyable contemporary romance, with appealing characters and a balanced, intelligent look at the issue of the big outsider businessman moving into the small town.

Dragon Blood #1-3: by Lindsay Buroker
    Balanced on the Blade's Edge
    Blood Charged
By Lindsay Buroker, so you know it's awesome and lots of fun. This series is set in a new world (though it could fit in very well with the world of the Emperor's Edge series). A sorceress is awakened from a 300-year hibernation to find that magic is now forbidden in her land, which is under imminent attack by their centuries-old enemy. She teams up with a dashing military commander and, in later books, one of his pilots, a seemingly mad scientist who defected from the enemy, and other interesting, well-done characters to fight the enemy and discover magical secrets that threaten their country. I especially appreciate the more mature characters, established adults rather than green young 'uns just coming of age. Mechanical flight exists in this world and much of the books are airborne. I have my own issues with flying (white-knuckled terror, holding the airplane up by the sheer force of my will), so those parts were, um, especially exciting. A great new (maybe not so new any more) series for fans of Ms. Buroker's Emperor's Edge series.

The Thief Who Spat In Luck's Good Eye (Amra Thetys #2) by Michael McClung
Follow-up to one of my favorite books I've read recently, The Thief Who Tugged On Trouble's Braids. Amra and her sorcerer pal Holgren are back, undertaking a quest to find a magical city and claim the rich reward being offered, only to find themselves trapped in a web of magic and ancient plots being spun by the gods. Exciting and terrifying, and with a dose of romance that I always appreciate. Lots of fun.

Taboo (The Unfinshed Song #2) by Tara Maya
Continuation of the story started in The Initiate (reviewed here), magical fantasy in a setting based on Native American and other prehistoric cultures. As relations between rival tribes grow more tense, Dindi breaks taboos by seizing the chance to learn magic even after she's failed the required tests, and Kavio, while illegally teaching her, also has to find a way to save his people from trecherous enemies.

The Black Parade by Kyoko M.
I interviewed Kyoko M. quite some time ago and I'm not sure why it took so long for her first book, The Black Parade, to rise to the top of my TBR list, but it finally did, and am I glad. Fun story about angels, demons, and a woman whose calling in life is to help ghosts pass to the other side. Great characters, high stakes, exciting fight scenes, and an appealing romance. I also appreciated the respectful treatment of religious themes. Urban fantasy/paranormal isn't my usual reading, but I enjoyed this one a lot.

The Ravine by William Meikle
Dark, creepy, and intense western horror. Well-written in simple but evocative prose, featuring heroes both likely and unlikely who rise to the occasion, and really chilling (and gross) evil beings. I will probably never eat fish again after reading this. There are a few characters I wish could have had a better fate, but overall I found the story very satisfying. Highly recommended if you like some western in your horror, or some horror in your westerns.

Sweeter for the Pain by Evan Asher
By the author of The Profiteer (above), lightweight, enjoyable contemporary romance. Sweet-natured and a fun, quick read, though the mystery isn't very mysterious and the villain, to me, was pretty obvious. Nicole doesn't strike me as the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but I admired her willingness to go beyond the scars and gossip to see who Finn really is, and it was heartwarming to read about Finn learning to reach out and love again. Some spicy scenes but not explicitly detailed.

Operation Rubber Ducky by Cora Buhlert
Three weird and hilarious short tales of toy animals and evil aliens. Perfect when you want a fun, quick read.

The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson
Brandon Sanderson is one of the few traditionally-published novelists I still read, and this novella is a treat for fans. Highly original magic system, as to be expected from Mr. Sanderson, and an appealing, well-rounded main character, Shai, who uses magic to forge everything from paintings to souls. Really enjoyable read.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Author Spotlight: Emma Woods

Today I'm happy to welcome Emma Woods, author of YA dystopian fantasy Beasts and Savages:

1.Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm a small town girl from the Midwest, and the oldest of four. Our house was crazy most of the time, with kids playing everywhere, so when I wanted to escape, I'd find a quite place or slip to my room and read. I was a book nerd/marching band geek, and Girl Scout and wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. I went to college to become a teacher, but fate had other plans. I think if I would have taught, I may not have taken the initiative to write and publish, so in a way, I'm happy where I am.

2.When did you start writing, and why?
I'd like to think that writing has always been and interest, or even a hobby I've had for most of my life. Does that make me a  lifetime writer? I don't know, but I didn't decide to become a published writer until about nine months ago.

3.What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
I write mostly YA stories, because they are my favorite to read. I love writing because it is my escape. I have all these stories playing in my head. Why not write them down and share them with the world?

4.What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
My latest, and first, book series is The Beastly Series. Beasts and Savages is the first book in the series. The second book is in the works and coming along nicely, thanks to NaNoWriMo. It is due to be released on April 1, 2016. For the title, I plan to pick three of my best ideas and have a Twitter poll to let my readers pick it.

5."Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
The world in Beasts and Savages is one where women and men live in separate communities. The women's cities are highly controlled and full of technological advances. The men live in small villages in the wilds and rely on women for medications and offspring. When girls come of age, they change into beasts with the sole instinct to hunt, mate, and kill a boy. To keep order, hunts are staged twice a year and most girls only hunt once.

6.Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
Lea is a born and bred hunter, who endures changing into a beast for a few days once a month. When women are in full-on beast mode, their instincts take over and all sense of reason leaves them. They have one goal: to find a boy, mate with him, and then kill him. Lea is able to control her instincts better than most, and refuses to kill.  She also one of a few who remembers changings, which means that she remembers every agonizing movement of her teeth dropping, bristles pushing out of her skin, and sudden sensitivity to light and sounds. I like how she follows her moral compass and isn't afraid to ask hard questions.

Tanner is a green eyed sweetheart who doesn't have a clue. Lea is the first girl he's ever met, and he doesn't know how to treat her. He's a bit protective, strong, and isn't afraid to stand up for himself against other boys, but he does have a fearful respect for his father, Locke. He's known  as the obedient son. I like that even though he has feelings for Lea, he's not a push over. When he thinks Lea needs put in her place, he tells her.

Miller is a villain that we come to  understand. Maybe not like, but at least we learn why he's a villain. He hates Lea, and all women from the start, and does terrible things to her. At one time Miller and Tanner were friends, but the presence of Lea puts a rift in their friendship. I like that he has a back story, a reason for being evil, instead of just being mean because that's what he knows. But be warned, his reason doesn't mean you'll hate him any less.

7.A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
I wrote five endings to Beasts and Savages, and at the urging of my final beta reader, rewrote the one I had settled on again just 48 hours before I sent it to my formatting person to submit for publishing.

Beasts and Savages is available at:
Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Where to find Emma Woods:
Website | Goodreads | Facebook

Saturday, November 14, 2015

November 2015 Update: NaNoWriMo and More

Wow, we're into the middle of November, and I realized I haven't been updating much. So here's what's going on: I'm planning the next big revision of For the Wildings, book 6 of Daughter of the Wildings. I do this revision to fix major issues that have come up since the first big revision, either things pointed out by the test readers or things that have changed over the course of the series, or just mistakes I missed the last time around. After this comes a few rounds of fixing up, fine-tuning, and editing before the book is ready to go. Still can't say when For the Wildings will be ready for release; sometime in February, as a rough guess. It's longer than the other books, and with the holidays coming up I won't be able to put as many hours in.

I've also been reading a lot, and sometime soon I'll be putting up a monster Reading Roundup post. Tons of great books to recommend!

Finally, being November, it's National Novel Writing Month. I've done it and "won" it (I actually prefer to think of it as completing the challenge, since everyone who validates 50,000 words written in November is a winner) every year since 2009, and this year looks like it'll be no exception. I'm writing The Healing Tree (working title), an old unfinished novel set in the same world as Chosen of Azara, that I decided to take another run at since the characters wouldn't leave me alone and I love the idea of it. I used this awesome outling guide, Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker (pants - writing term, for writing without an outline or "by the seat of your pants") to plan it all the way through, and so far it's going pretty well. As of today, I'm at 28,165 words, out of a target of 50,000. The actual novel is probably going to be much longer.

The main problem I've run into with it is that Davreos, the male main character, is a very complicated character. I made some adjustments to him from how he was in the original version, but he keeps wanting to revert back to that instead of going with my changes. If I've learned one thing in 26 years of writing, it's that the characters are almost always right, so I've finally decided to just go with it.

Anyway, to give you a little taste of this new project (which will eventually be released for sale), here's the first scene. It's unedited, straight from my brain to my fingers, but I think it came out ok:

​ The wizard's screams died away in Davreos's ears. How could he still have the strength to scream so loudly? Davreos wondered. Or to even still be alive. Most of the enemies of the Empire or other subjects brought to Maikarsk's cavern for interrogation were dead by this point in their questioning. But somehow, that old man, nothing more than skin and bones and thin, ropy muscles even when he had first been brought to Maikarsk, had managed to survive this long and remain conscious enough to scream.

"Stubborn," the Inquisitress said, only a faint note of frustration and displeasure coloring her impassive voice. Davreos glanced at her, waiting for her next instructions. Her black robe, covering her from head to toe, hid all signs of femininity, all signs of individual identity, but her height, slenderness, and voice were unmistakeable. The Inquisitress's veiled face remained turned and bowed slightly towards the wizard where he was strapped to the table a little longer. Though her face was always veiled while she was acting in her duties, Davreos knew what she looked like behind the veil, and he could imagine the dark, tilted eyes narrowed in disapproval, the full lips frowning. "Useless," she said. "Finish him."

"Yes, my lady," Davreos said.

"And," the Inquistress went on, "be sure to remove his Source-token before you dispose of his body. It might be useful."

"Yes, my lady," Davreos said again.

The Inquisitress left the cavern. Davreos turned back to the wizard and prepared to lower the blade that would give the killing blow. Suddenly, the wizard's hand, which should have been bound with unbreakable chains to the table, seized the opening of Davreos's ragged tunic and pulled him down so that their faces nearly touched. Fear clenched Davreos's belly; how had the wizard's hand gotten loose? Had the bonds been insufficient? The Inquisitress would punish him if the wizard somehow got loose and escaped...

"I pity you," the wizard breathed against his face, his voice a nearly soundless tatter after all his screaming. "You could be so much more, so much better than this..."

Davreos froze. His heart nearly stopped. How did the wizard know of his most secret thoughts? Desires and ambitions that would see him tortured and killed this same way if the High Priest or the Inquisitress or, worst of all, Maikarsk itself became aware of them. He was a slave; that was his ordained role in life, and to hope for anything more was utterly impossible and forbidden.

"Silence," he said to the wizard, and pulled himself out of the old man's grip.

The wizard seized him again, this time grabbing his arm. He placed Davreos's hand on the small carved wooden pendant that hung from a chain around his neck, and folded Davreos's fingers around it. "Take this," he whispered.

Davreos had been ordered to take the Source-token anyway, which would contain power from whatever Source the wizard drew his power from, to sustain his magic while he was away from that Source. He pulled on it, intending to snap the chain, but instead, at his touch on the wooden pendant, power shocked up into him through his arm, warm and bright, with a golden-green glow that was more a feeling than a color. It filled him, the warmth and light almost unbearable in comparison to the power of Maikarsk he bore within him. It filled him until he thought he would burst; his jaw ached as his teeth gritted against the agony of it, biting back his own cries. He didn't dare make a sound; if he was weak against the subjects, he would be deemed useless and sent back to the worst jobs at the temple of Maikarsk. Finally the power seemed to gather itself and bury itself deep within him until it was no more than a faint glimmer.

He opened his eyes, which he had squeezed shut against the pain, and unclenched his hand from around the Source-token. Nothing but dust filled his hand. A cold bolt of horror pierced his chest; the Inquisitress had commanded him to take the token. But she was gone; perhaps he could tell her that the wizard had destroyed it himself.

Time to finish the job. He placed his hand on the blade again, then looked at the wizard. The old man's cloudy eyes stared sightlessly upward into the shadowy heights of the cavern, and his gnarled hand had fallen to lie limply at his side. He was dead, almost as though he had given up his life of his own volition. Davreos looked at the broken chain that had held the wizard's hand bound to the table. The wizard had had enough strength to break that chain and to hold on to his life until he chose to give it up. Why had he allowed himself to be taken prisoner at all, if he was that strong? Why had he surrendered his life instead of escaping? What had he hoped to accomplish with the useless sacrifice?

Stupid, he thought. The man had allowed himself to be defeated. Stupid and weak. Anyone that weak was worthy only of death.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Guest Character Interview: Nica S.T.A.T.Ic.

Last December I interviewed Sue Perry, author of the FRAMES series of speculative detective novels. Sue is back today with an interview with her private eye Nica. Take it away, Sue and Nica!

1. What is your full name? Is there anything significant about your name?
I'm Nica S.T.A.T.Ic. Correct, my last name is an acronym. My full name is Veronica Sheridan Taggart Ambrose Taggart Ickovic. My acronymic identity is constructed of family, first love, big mistake, ever hopeful (wishful thinking) revisit of first love, tragic true love. The last couple years of my life have been as stable as old dynamite, so I was happy to discover this acronym, this promise of no more disruption.

2. How old are you?
People are obsessed with age. Youth. Aging. Age differences. I'm not going to buy into that by answering this question. Let's just say I'm old enough to have learned some stuff and young enough to act on what I've learned.

3. Tell us about your family. What do you like and not like about them?
My family is full of lovely, interesting, supportive folks. Unfortunately they are all dead.

4. Who was your first kiss, and what did you think of it?
My first kiss was with Jenn, my best friend since third grade. Kissing seemed like such a big deal and we wanted to find out why. Our experiment did not enlighten us.

5. What is your occupation?
I recently started calling myself a detective and - amazingly - I got clients right away! Private investigator. We'll see how long I stick with it. I've had more jobs than all my friends, combined. But this one feels different. It feels right. And I need one that feels right.

6. What are your best and worst qualities?
I'm always willing to try something new - which makes me brave, if you squint at it right. Meanwhile, I get lost inside my head and distract myself at all the wrong times.

7. What quality do you value most in a romantic partner?
Best of all, I like it when he makes me laugh.

8. What is your favorite thing to do?
I can't remember how I would have answered this a few months ago but nowadays my favorite thing is to Travel the Frames, which as near as I can figure are other dimensions. It turns out there are an infinite number of Frames all around us in all directions, with all kinds of life, all living simultaneously in their Frames.

9. What is your greatest fear?
Among the fears I can face, my number one fear is boredom. Among the fears I don't dare acknowledge, my greatest is that Ben Taggart, my first and third ex-husband, will die of a heroin overdose.

10. What is your most treasured possession?
Now that I know about the Frames, I can't even think about an answer to this - makes me feel like a slave trader. What may seem like an object in this Frame could be a sentient animate being elsewhere. In just a few short months, I've been attacked by books, protected by a volcano, informed by a lawn chair, befriended by a pickup truck. And either saved or threatened by a cat. (It's hard to tell with cats.) I'll never again be able to think in terms of possessions.

The FRAMES series is a quartet of speculative detective novels.

Book 1, Nica of Los Angeles, is available now.
When rookie private eye Nica takes on a mysterious case, she enters a world of multiple dimensions called Frames, where buildings and lawn chairs can be sentient, a stray cat has great powers, books can be killers, and clouds can be spies. At home, Nica tackles missing person cases, while in the larger reality of the Frames she is swept into an escalating battle with stakes that could not be higher...

Book 2, Nica of the New Yorks, is coming soon.

Nica is available as an ebook and trade paperback from all the usual places on-line, including
Amazon | AppleBarnes&Noble | Smashwords

Stay in touch with Sue:
blogTwitterFacebook | Goodreads

Monday, November 2, 2015