Friday, 26 February 2016

Q & A with James Collins

Sol Limitis
by James Collins 

367 AD - A battle-hardened soldier is sent to the frozen north of Britannia on a personal mission from the Emperor. Conducting a desperate investigation from a hostile garrison on the crumbling frontier of Hadrian’s Wall, Atellus must struggle to survive in a wild and lawless land torn apart by the death throes of an over-stretched empire.

Set in Roman Britain in 367 AD – a time when the far provinces are sliding out of the Empire’s control, and the division between ‘Roman’ and ‘Barbarian’ is almost non-existent – Sol Limitis (‘Sun of the Frontier’) is the prelude to a series of events which led to the historical ‘Barbarian Incursion.’

Atellus - a troubled campaign veteran and close friend of the emperor Valentinian - is sent to Britannia to investigate the disappearance of children from Aesica, a garrison fort on Hadrian’s Wall. Arriving in the midst of a frozen winter to a hostile reception, Atellus uncovers a plot that threatens the already-fragile foundations of the entire province. With the help of Calidus ,the Governor’s wayward nephew, and Aurelia, one of the Emperor’s senior spies in Britannia, Atellus must use all his skill and resilience to survive and help to thwart treachery and murder at the very limits of the empire.

A raw and uncompromising novel of action and intrigue in Roman Britain, Sol Limitis is a unique and immersive work set in a well-crafted and brutally realistic vision of the past.

ebook, 560 pages
Published February 8th 2016 by Ramora Publishing

Find it on Goodreads

Read It & Reap:  September 1, 2016

James Collins is an author, editor, freelance journalist and recovering archaeologist. Born in Stoke on Trent in 1979, he studied archaeology at the University of Nottingham and went on to work as an archaeologist in the UK and abroad. Tired of wallowing in muddy holes for a living, he survived various unsavoury menial jobs before catching his breath in the construction and renewables industries for more years than was healthy. He is currently working towards being self-employed and to be able to get paid for doing what he loves: writing. James also plays and teaches classical guitar and spends most of his spare time studying the Daoist arts.


Q & A with James Collins 

1. Tell us a little bit about your main characters.
Sol Limitis is set in late Roman Britain, at the end of the fourth century AD. 

Atellus is the main protagonist: he’s a veteran soldier, originally from Constantinople in the East but sent to Hadrian’s Wall on a personal mission from the Roman Emperor Valentinian. He’s disillusioned, weary and carrying the burden of a terrible tragedy within him.

Aurelia is one of the emperor’s senior spies in Britannia, entrenched within a privileged position in the British city of Eboracum, she falls upon hard times at the start of the book and tries to claw her way back to seek vengeance whilst maintaining her duty as an agent of the emperor.

Calidus is a coddled teen sent with Atellus to the Wall by his uncle who is the governor of Britannia. Hot-headed and eager, events soon scour the naievety from him as he realises the peril to his own life and attempts to aid Atellus and Aurelia in their mission to uncover the secrets behind the garrison of Aesica on the Wall.

2. Who designs the covers for your books and what is that process like for you as an author?
I’ve only just published my debut novel Sol Limitis, and I actually designed the cover myself for this. I had a rather specific image in mind before I came to even get anything down on the screen, so it was just a matter of sourcing some images and creating the desired effect. I wanted something that wasn’t a standard genre fiction cover, but was a little more introspective, something that conveyed the sombre majesty of the setting as well as the isolation and bleakness of the environment. I’m happy with the end result. The real challenge will be repeating it for the next part of the trilogy!

3. Describe your ideal writing spot.
Well, whilst recognising this as the start of countless bad habits: Definitely a good pub! A cosy warm pub on a cold evening, with a pint or three of well-kept ale, a comfy seat, a fully-charged laptop and a head full of ideas. And maybe a small bowl of chips for company.

4. What is the best advice you have been given?
Let it go! (predates Frozen….honest!) This applies to so many things in life, I’ve lost count. Easier said than done, though. This is a lifelong practice in its own right…!

5. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I oscillated between wanting to be a computer game designer and an actor. Writing was something I actively did from a very young age, and was a part of me, so it wasn’t something I considered aspirational so much. Now though? If I could earn a living from writing I would be a very happy bunny.

6. Which do you prefer: hard/paperbacks or ebooks?
I think both formats have their strengths and weaknesses. I love the feel of a paperback, the smell of it, the aesthetic appeal of the cover and the layout of the text inside, the feel of turning the pages, the changing heft of a book depending how far through it you are. And the ability to broadcast what you’re reading to others! And I appreciate the portability and convenience of e-books, the immediacy and availability. I’m currently reading books in both paperback form and e-book form, so I’m very diplomatic in that regard!

7. If you could have any supernatural power, what would you choose and why?
Hmmm…as I’m not a good flier (understatement) teleportation would be useful. Or the ability to fly – I’d be happy to do it myself, just not too comfortable about trusting a machine to do it for me!

8. What book are you reading now?
As much as I dislike reading more than one book at a time….I currently have a few on the go: two non-fiction books: Opening the Dragon Gate (a tale of modern Daoist magic) translated from the Chinese by Thomas Cleary and an instructional book on Daoist alchemical meditation called White Moon on the Mountain Peak by my teacher Damo Mitchell. I’m also reading  a work of Wuxia fiction (classical Chinese martial arts/fantasy) called the Deer and the Cauldron by Louis Cha, and The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (a fantastic example of epic fantasy.)





Thursday, 25 February 2016

Mercury Striking by Rebecca Zanetti

Mercury Striking (Scorpius Syndrome, #1)Mercury Striking by Rebecca Zanetti
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rebecca Zanetti is one of my favorite authors. She creates compelling, action-packed stories with well-developed characters that will have you on the edge of your seat and crying for more when it ends. Have I mentioned the swoon worthy Jax? He will have you wishing you were his leading lady despite the Post-Apocalyptic setting.

Jax Mercury has always been a fighter: first as a gang member, then as a solider in the military, now as a survivor of the plague, Scorpius. Scorpius has decimated the United States. Technology is down and those who survived the initial outbreak are struggling to stay one step ahead of the plague. Jax has made it his mission to help others. He commands the strong to care for and protect the weak. Lynn Harmony has been working on a cure, but she needs Jax's help. They both have skeletons in their closets and secrets they would like to keep. Can they work together to find the cure before it is too late?

Jax Mercury is a mysterious solider fighting a battle for survival not only for himself but others in his care. He is a fighter who has honed his skills, both on the battlefield and off. Lynn Harmony may be the only hope for mankind's survival if she can find the cure. Working together will be a test of dormancy, determination and trust. I thoroughly enjoyed this read even though at times I was either crying or screaming at the book...like that would make it better.

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Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Q & A with Alex Fedyr

Estranged
by Alex Fedyr 

Kalei hates touching. Especially if it is a hug. After all, her mother was killed by one.

Kalei was born and raised in Celan, the first city to have an Estranged problem. It was seventeen years ago when they appeared, and the citizens learned the hard truth: that it only takes a bit of skin-on-skin contact to turn their loved ones into corpses, or Estranged. No one really knows why some people turn and some people die, they just know that anyone touched is gone.

And Kalei wants them to stay gone. But, being a police officer in the city, she witnesses every day the damage done by Estranged. Black nails mark these harbingers of death. Seeking the high they get from every piece of skin they touch, the Estranged crush the lives of Celan's citizens with alarming ease.

They killed her mother for a high, and now Kalei wants to wipe them out of existence before they can seek another. But she can't. Only the Wardens are equipped to do so, and she will do anything to be inducted into their ranks.

But will they accept her now that she has turned Estranged?

Kindle Edition, 268 pages
Published September 12th 2015

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Read It & Reap:  February 4, 2016

About the Author:  
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Q & A with Alex Fedyr

1. Tell us a little bit about your main characters.
My main character Kalei isn’t afraid to do what she needs to in order to get things done. In practice, she can be a bit rash and impatient, but the other characters in her life, such as her husband Fenn, are great at reeling her in when she gets too gung-ho. Of course, then we have characters like Shenaia who throw gas on the fire. It’s fun to watch all these characters interact with each other.

2. Who designs the covers for your books and what is that process like for you as an author?
I design my own covers. I’ve always had a hobby with photography, and at the time I was putting Estranged together I didn’t like the covers I was seeing in my price range. So I decided to do it myself. This is typically seen as a major no-no in self-publishing, and for good reason. I’ve seen some perfectly good books ruined by amateur covers. But I had faith in my idea and so far it seems to have panned out. I’ve received a lot of compliments on the cover, even from the local retailers who have put the book on their shelves. It was tricky to get the right picture for Estranged. It has so many fantasy elements, and it’s a very urban, run down environment. But right now I live in a very suburban area, so I had to do a bit of exploring to find the right shots. It was a lot of fun putting it together, and I’m very proud of the result. That being said, as soon as I have the money I am going to start hunting for an artist that I can work with for the covers. I’ll still put together the final design myself, but I definitely want to see some great art adorning these books one day. Something that can capture the fantasy elements as well as the urban ones. The one faux pas I have run into with this current cover is that everyone looks at it and thinks it is a horror book. I am as far from a horror fan as you can get, so I didn’t have that in mind at all when I wrote Estranged. Still, there’s no fighting what people think, so I go with it and hope to have some better covers down the line.

3. Describe your ideal writing spot.
This is going to make me sound like a clichĂ©, but my ideal writing spot is basically a cafĂ© or somewhere equivalent. Reason number one: I have to get away from my house and its distractions. I play video games on my computer at home, so when I sit down in the chair my first thought is, “Forget work. Let’s play ALL THE THINGS!” Understandably, I have to extract myself from that in order to get anything done. So, in that sense anywhere outside my house with a flat surface to type on will do. Reason number two: the subtle background noise is always a boost to my productivity. I find it funny that an introvert such as myself is most productive when surrounded by the ambient sounds of other people, but there you have it. Reason number three: it always helps to bribe myself with a warm beverage. Bribing is the key to writing, folks.

4. What is the best advice you have been given?
“Just finish the shitty first draft.” This wasn’t delivered to me personally, it’s something I came across on the internet, but it has been pivotal to finishing Estranged. I used to be one of those authors who would agonize over every page, making each one perfect before moving on to the next one. I soon learned that this is counter-productive because developments would come along later in the story that would force me to go back and rewrite those pages anyway. Still, I couldn’t help but go over everything constantly, even though the book wasn’t finished yet. This advice helped me to realize that the most important part is finishing the book. Finishing the book doesn’t mean, “This is it. It is over. This book will forever be as it is now, for better or for worse.” Heck no. Estranged, and indeed most books you see published by the big five, has undergone some rather revolutionary changes since I penned that last line. Once the book is done I will have plenty of time to fix it. (As a new author, I don’t have the pressure of deadlines yet. Whoot!) I had a lot of fears to the contrary. I believed if I didn’t fix it now, then there would later be fundamental flaws that I would be unable to fix in editing, requiring a complete rewrite. But it turned out that with the right mindset and the right creativity, any plot hole can be fixed, and every character can be spruced up and redeemed from their once-dull beginnings. Given, I still have to put a lot of thought into the depth of my characters and their world to make sure they carry the story out in a solid manner, but so long as I am mindful of what I am writing about all that matters is getting that first draft done. I’m so glad I listened to that advice.

5. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Surprise, surprise, I wanted to be an author. I may not be a renowned author, but it’s still nice to check that box off the bucket list. I also wanted to be a CSI lab tech, or a Marine. Turns out math is a pain and the marines no longer waive asthma, so neither of those panned out. But it’s still nice to take those interests and weave them into my stories.

6. Which do you prefer: hard/paperbacks or ebooks?
I’m a technophile, so I always have an affinity for eBooks. The ability to have those huge honking books on hand to read no matter where I find myself is always glorious. It’s like being Hermione with that magical, bottomless bag. That being said, I still love physical books. It nice to sit down and hold something tangible in my hands, and it can often be a fun conversation starter. That’s one of the drawbacks of eBooks. I read a book over the course of a month on my kindle, and later when I was telling someone about the book, my husband was confused because he didn’t know we owned it. Of course, once I explained to him that it was on my kindle he understood. But it was sad to me because it meant that the entire time I was reading Who Fears Death no one around me had a clue it existed. It felt like I had done a disservice to the author because being seen reading a book can be a fantastic form of advertisement for them. And here I was hiding her fantastic book from the world. Long story short: hard copies are fun to show off, but a pain to lug around; eBooks make me feel like a wizard.

7. If you could have any supernatural power, what would you choose and why?
I am always torn between invisibility and flying. To fly would be such glorious, wondrous freedom. To rise above the clouds where not even gravity can hold me back. It would be fantastic. Not to mention, I could save a lot of money on plane tickets. But to be invisible could be a lot of fun. I could be a mischievous ghost, slyly grabbing a person’s pencil and making it “float.” I could tap them on the shoulder and make them spin around trying to see who is there. I could walk down the street and see what people do when they think no one is watching. If I am at a party and I say something embarrassing, I don’t have to bother with an excuse to run away. I can simply go invisible. Not only am I fulfilling a deep desire to turn invisible anyway, I am also making an excellent topic change as everyone flips out and tries to figure out where I went. Nonetheless, airplane tickets are expensive… I think I will go with flying.

8. What book are you reading now?
I’m a bit of a multitasker, so I’m reading two books right now. (I’ve been cutting back. I used to read eight at a time.) The first book is Breakshield by J.B. Rockwell. It has a great new fantasy world with plenty of action, but so far my favorite part is the little red fox Kitsune. If you ever read Eragon and found yourself wishing you had a dragon for a best friend, then you know exactly how I feel about this fluffy little fox. Kistune is the best. The second book I am reading is The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu. I’ve heard many great things about this book, and I was fortunate enough to be in the room when it won the Hugo Award. So I’m really excited to dig into this one. So far so good: I’m about thirty pages in, and despite the fact that is has much less action then I usually look for in a book, I am thoroughly hooked.  


Thursday, 18 February 2016

Q & A with Elizabeth Stephens

Population
by Elizabeth Stephens 

Lawlessness, violence and desperation are all that is left of the world following the coming of the Others. Abel exists only within the boundaries that her rules allow -- rules that she created to keep her alive. But when her best friend's daughter is taken by the Others, she can't keep playing by the rule book. Instead, she must begin a life defining journey that will test her survival techniques and challenge her ability to find what she has always feared: hope. 

Kindle Edition, 248 pages
Published April 15th 2015 by NubiTales 

Find it on Goodreads

Read It & Reap:  February 18, 2016


Though writing has been her unrelenting passion since the age of 10, POPULATION is Elizabeth’s first published novel. She has a repertoire of short horror publications under her belt and has worked as a political correspondent and travel writer across the US, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. She currently lives in Johannesburg with her boyfriend and Zurg, a fat cat who she casually stole from her neighbors.


Elizabeth joined Vantage Point Press (a subsidiary of Nubi Tales Publishing House) in 2014. Her book is the first adult fiction novel to be published by the indpenedent agency, which specializes in multicultural children's literature. Nubi Tales and Vantage Point Press strive to bring greater attention to authors and illustrators of color.


Q & A with Elizabeth Stephens

1. Tell us a little bit about your main characters. 
My main character, Abel, is a strong female protagonist of mixed Native American Indian/African American ancestry. Her world was destroyed at the age of 13 when the Others, an alien and predatory species, invaded Earth following the destruction of their own home planet. She's tough as nails, resourceful, and isn't in the least bit afraid to get dirty or challenge a larger opponent. Abel is ready to do whatever it takes to defend herself and those she cares about. That said, she’s certainly got her faults. Given that Abel has spent most of her life growing up in the stark world of Population, she’s untrusting, stubborn, and has both a loud mouth and a short temper, which gets her into trouble a lot.

Kane is the male protagonist of Population and he is everything that Abel isn’t. He’s cool, calm, collected and above all else, patient. He spares Abel when he could have killed her and gang violence brings them together in an unlikely alliance. Abel has to rely on him to survive and has to learn to trust him in order to get her best friend’s daughter back. Their relationship is one of the driving forces of my novel, and something I certainly hope readers also fall in love with.

2. Who designs the covers for your books and what is that process like for you as an author?
Amygdala Art (http://www.amygdaladesign.net/) is the cover artist for my book and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with her. I was put in touch with her via my publisher, Vantage Point Books, and was given full license to work with her directly on the design of the cover. I sent her a list of images and concrete thoughts on what I'd like to see reflected in the cover of my novel, as well as a general idea of the mood. What she sent me initially was more horror than I wanted to see. I gave her a very short list of corrections and within 48 hours she had returned to me the cover that you all now see. She is brilliant!

3. Describe your ideal writing spot.
On the couch while watching TV far too late at night for creative writing. For editing and more technical work, I sit at my giant desk in front of my giant computer during the day with a cup of hot coffee in reach at all times.

4. What is the best advice you have been given?
Do what makes you happy. F**k the rest.

5. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Quite a lot of things actually. For a while, I wanted to be a veterinarian, then I wanted to be a journalist, then a diplomat for the UN. Now I'm working for the UN, and writing in my spare time and I have a cat -- so all in all I think childhood Elizabeth would be proud of where future Elizabeth ended up.

6. Which do you prefer: hard/paperbacks or ebooks?
Paperbacks all the way! I love books with paper pages that I can bend when particular passages inspire me. Plus, as a communications consultant by day, I can't imagine anything I'd like to do less when I get home than open up a screen when trying to read.

7. If you could have any supernatural power, what would you choose and why?
Teleportation. While the idea of flying seems great, I travel a lot for work and that seems like it would take a lot of energy. Teleportation would get me from point A to point B with absolutely no delay. And if I forget something in Johannesburg when I'm traveling to Dakar, then poof! Just disappear back to my house for a second before reappearing where I'm meant to be.

8. What book are you reading now?
The Fall by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro -- best vampire book I've read since Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire series.



Monday, 15 February 2016

Strings by David Estes:Blog Tour+ Review + Giveaway

"A wonderful retelling of the Pinocchio story…I simply couldn’t put this book down."  Rysa Walker, bestselling author of TIMEBOUND


Strings Written by David Estes
Sometimes the strings that tie us down are the same strings that set us free. Sixteen-year-old Pia has always lived in a mysterious facility where mechanical strings control her existence. She plays apprentice to her father, Gio, in performing nanotech designs for the Company, and she soon suspects there are diabolical human forces behind the manufactured reality of her world. Though her childhood memories and the origins of the strings remain strangely elusive, she begins to find solace with the introduction of two unlikely friends: daring, irrational Sofia, and calm, tender Marco. As the truths of the past and present unravel together, Pia must find a way to free herself from her strings and escape the facility before facing the wrath of the unstable head of security, Mr. Davis. But to gain her freedom, she must navigate the dangers posed by Davis and by her suspicious new friends to find the real identity of the puppeteer. If Pia can succeed in revealing the secrets of the Company, she may very well find the independence she so desperately seeks. But in her controlled world nothing is as it seems, and the closer she gets to the truth, the graver the consequences.

Find it on  Goodreads
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About the author


David Estes is the author of more than 20 science fiction and fantasy novels that have received hundreds of thousands of downloads worldwide, including The Moon Dwellers, Fire Country, Slip, Brew, and his new SciFi Pinocchio retelling, Strings. He lives in Hawaii with his inspiring Aussie wife, Adele, rambunctious son, Beau, and naughty cat, Bailey. When he's not writing, you'll likely find him at the beach swimming, snorkeling, or reading under an umbrella.
StringsStrings by David Estes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! What a brilliantly crafted story David Estes has created in Strings! Who doesn't like retellings of beloved childhood stories? This is a fascinating futuristic twist on the cherished story of Pinocchio.

Pia is sixteen and lives with her father, Gio, in a mysterious compound. Together they work on nanotech projects for the Company. This is not the normal life of a teenager, but Pia is not like any other teenager. She and her father are tethered by strings attached to the ceiling of the compound. Their lives and everything they do are controlled by the Company. Pia has very little memory of her childhood...life before the strings. She lives a very structured, meager life with only her father and Fig, her tiny robot, as her only companions until one day everything changes. Sofia and Marco are new additions to Pia's life. She is able to spend time with them along with her regular duties. This brings a little joy to her otherwise dull existence. Can Pia really trust them? Can Pia trust the Company who has kept her and her father slaves?

Pia is one headstrong young lady who has had a rough childhood. She is a loving daughter who wants a better life for her father and herself. Pia will do everything in her power to make that happen. Is it better to have no hope or to have hope snatched away? This is a well written, vividly descriptive, action-packed story that you will not want to put down.

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Saturday, 13 February 2016

Q & A with J.K. Ullrich

Blue Karma
by J.K. Ullrich 

Water. It covers almost three-quarters of the planet, comprises more than half the human body, and has become the most coveted resource on Earth. 

Amaya de los Santos survived the typhoon that left her an orphan. Now she scrapes by as an ice poacher, illegally harvesting fresh water for an always-thirsty market. But when she rescues an injured enemy soldier, she's pulled into a storm of events more dangerous than any iceberg. After years of relying only on herself, she must learn to trust another...or risk losing all that's left of her family. 

Logan Arundson should be dead. After a mysterious attack destroys his military unit, he abandons his Arctic post for his native California, where droughts have made water a religion and a resource worth killing for. But when the water wars follow him home, he must face his frozen demons if he wants to save his town...and the girl he loves. 

Paul Hayes is heir to an empire. But being vice president of a powerful hydrology company isn't all gardens and swimming pools: he deals with ice poachers, water rights, and the crushing expectations of his CEO mother. His investigation into company sabotage and the miraculous appearance of a lake in a small California town lead him to a shocking discovery...and an impossible decision. 

Blue Karma is a story of choices and consequences, humanity and love. 

Kindle Edition, 238 pages
Published May 26th 2015

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Read It & Reap:  February 14, 2016



J.K. Ullrich likes to joke that she began writing environmental fiction at age six, when she won the local library's Captain Planet essay contest. In the ensuing 20+ years, she earned a B.A. in English and pursued a successful career in analytical writing, although fiction remains her true passion. She published her first novel, Blue Karma, in 2015. When she's not reading or writing, you can find her running on a favorite trail, jamming with a local cover band, or yelling at her baseball team.




Q & A with J.K. Ullrich

1. Tell us a little bit about your main characters.
Blue Karma follows three teenaged protagonists, but don’t expect the typical YA love triangle! The heroine, Amaya, is a tough and resourceful ice poacher. Orphaned and displaced, she doesn’t trust anyone easily, especially polar guards like Logan. But Logan has struggles of his own: drafted into service, he’s desperate to return home and save his small town from desertification. The town’s fate rests with Paul, heir to the powerful water company that controls the water supply. His involvement drags him from a life of privilege into a desperate, drying world where water is sometimes worth more than human life. The trio’s lives collide in a storm of harsh choices and uneasy alliances. I sought to create deeply flawed characters who would make a lot of mistakes, but ultimately learn from them.

2. Who designs the covers for your books and what is that process like for you as an author?
At present, I design my own covers. After hundreds of hours immersed in words, it’s refreshing to switch to a visual medium. I have some background in art, and the wealth of open-source rendering tools available online make it easy to convert my mental picture into a digital one. For Blue Karma as well as my forthcoming book The Darksider, I used public license images and graphics effects software to create bold, simple covers that reflect the stark worlds in the stories. Photorealism works for sci-fi, but my third book will be a historical fiction novel set in the tenth century, so designing that cover will be a fun challenge.

3. Describe your ideal writing spot.
As an independent author who must fit her literary efforts in the margins of a full-time job, I don’t have the luxury of being choosy about writing venues. My writing spot is a mental space, not a physical one. I’ve learned to jot down paragraphs anywhere I can snatch a few spare moments. However, my husband and I just moved to a new home that affords me a dedicated office/studio, so ask me again in a few months and I might have a favorite spot after all!

4. What is the best advice you have been given?
“Wear sunscreen”? Thanks, Mom! I can’t actually think of a single superlative piece of advice I’ve received over the years. Growing up, my parents did have a guiding principle for me: “follow your interests.” I chased my curiosity into lots of crazy places, but they supported me wherever it led. That approach let me evolve into a creative, passionate individual, and I’ve continued to abide by it as an adult. It keeps life adventurous!

5. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I went through dozens of vocational fantasies, from paleontologist to police detective. Anything adventurous and intellectual appealed to me. But I always aspired to write books, no matter what profession I chose. In that respect, being an author is the only career ambition I’ve nurtured consistently throughout my life. Publishing my debut novel last year realized a goal twenty-five years in the making. But I don’t see it as a destination achieved, just a important milestone on a continuing journey.

6. Which do you prefer: hard/paperbacks or ebooks?
I have tremendous affection for print books. The texture of pages, the scent of ink, and the weight of words is irreplaceable. I resisted e-readers for years until my now-husband—a voracious reader and Kindle devotee—bought me one as a gift. Now I love having an endless supply of books when I travel, as well as the ability to acquire a new one at the touch of a button. My biggest complaint about e-books is the inability to share them with family and friends. Part of the joy in books is passing them around for discussion! Today my reading is split about evenly between formats, but I still purchase select titles for a curated library of favorites.

7. If you could have any supernatural power, what would you choose and why.
Teleportation! Imagine how much more writing time I’d have if I didn’t have to waste precious hours stuck in traffic. Plus I could research any exotic story locale with ease…or just get away from my daily routines and let a new environment inspire me.

8. What book are you reading now?
The Terror, by Dan Simmons. A literal “chiller” about polar explorers stranded in the Arctic and hunted by a phantom creature, it seemed like ideal winter reading. Simmons is one of the few popular authors I’ve encountered who has found success in multiple genres. Since my next project is historical fiction, I wanted to see how a seasoned writer worked the transition.



Thursday, 11 February 2016

Demorn: Blade of Exile by David Finn

Demorn: Blade of Exile 
The Asanti Series #1
by David Finn 

Obsessed with her lost lover, Demorn seeks vengeance for the destruction of her home world, Asanti. She remembers the Fracture event that tore apart reality and is haunted by dreams of Firethorn, the magical fantasy dimension where her girlfriend was assassinated.

Stranded with her brother in the dark, dazzling future city of Babelzon, Demorn sells her burning sword and her pistol to the highest bidder, doing missions for the Innocents, a Clubhouse of mercenaries and assassins based deep inside the city.

On a Club mission Demorn uncovers a terrifying conspiracy of multi-dimensional, corrupted gods hiding in plain sight, infecting the timeline. Torn apart from the Innocents and forced to flee into the Grave Dimension filled with undead hordes, Demorn must face the horror of a reality virus gnawing on the bones of the universe itself, an Ultimate Fate destroying alternate dimensions and worlds.
Demorn, the ultimate mercenary, exiled and far from home, must risk everything in a dark quest for something bigger than a bounty if Babelzon and the Innocents are to be saved…

DEMORN: BLADE OF EXILE is Book One in The Asanti Series.

Kindle Edition, 318 pages
Published December 4th 2015

Find it on Goodreads
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Read It & Reap:  July 28, 2016

Q & A with David Finn

1. Tell us a little bit about your main characters.
Demorn is the lead character in DEMORN: BLADE OF EXILE and DEMORN: CITY OF INNOCENTS . Demorn is a dimensional-sliding assassin and the leader of the Innocents, a Clubhouse of mercenaries based in the future city of Babelzon. She is one of the last survivors of the world of Asanti, which has been ripped apart in the Fracture Event which tore apart most of reality, scattering it into pocket dimensions and dooming much of it the reality virus of Ultimate Fate.

In her chest is embedded a ruby heart which contains Xalos, the Sword of Justice. Demorn is blessed by the Goddess Adolin Mars. This burning katana of purple fire emerges from Demorn's chest when called upon and she uses the sword to rain down her version of Justice upon her enemies and prey.

She has wielded this holy blade for almost ten years. Demorn is a gambler and light-hearted and sarcastic, but she harbours great compassion for those she loves. She is not perfect and her own debts and mistakes in life and love catch up to her at times!

Against her will and whilst trying to resurrect her dead girlfriend, Demorn is dragged into a battle for the survival of both the Innocents and Babelzon, against the same forces which led to the destruction of Asanti and much of reality years before...

Smile is Demorn's brother, who she is very close to. Since crash-landing on Babelzon as they fled the ruin of Asanti, Smile has been seriously physically damaged in the crash and later at the hands of scientists who seized him- Demorn has rescued Smile from their clutches and he resides mostly in the ruins of their damaged spaceship to which he is connected. Smile is now part virtual reality AI and assists Demorn in her missions for the Innocents.

Alex is an extremely deadly and beautiful friend and rival of Demorn, and she both assists Demorn on some mercenary missions and is one of her chief rivals for many a cash bounty!

Kate is Demorn's ex-girlfriend, who was killed some years ago in the fantasy dimension of Firethorn on what should have been a romantic holiday for the both of them. Demorn managed to extract part of Kate out of this dimension, but Kate is now an actress/model who is hustling for reality TV roles after her series got cancelled.

Part of Kate's soul died in Firethorn and their relationship suffered and ended in Babelzon, which Demorn feels responsible for. Demorn is obsessed with trying to resurrect Kate in the fantasy dimension as she believes this will rekindle their broken romance in the regular world. Most of her friends disagree!

She is one of the last survivors of the world of Asanti, which has been ripped apart in the Fracture Event which tore apart most of reality, scattering it into pocket dimensions and dooming huge sections of the universe to the reality virus of Ultimate Fate.

2. Who designs the covers for your books and what is that process like for you as an author?

The covers for both of my books in the Asanti Series, DEMORN: BLADE OF EXILE and DEMORN: CITY OF INNOCENTS have been done by Deranged Doctor Design and I honestly cannot express enough just how happy I am with their work. They provided covers based on some loose but detailed ideas I gave them, and I am very pleased with their work. I gave them room to move and they exceeded my expectations. I will be using them again for Book 3 in the Asanti Series, DEMORN: SOUL FIGHTER.

3. Describe your ideal writing spot.
I have an office at home which I do most of my writing in. I do move around the house and we have a nice shaded balcony with a lovely collection of plants which I find relaxing to write in as well. I make notes for the series constantly on my phone through out the day and in transit, but I like relative peace and quiet to write in. I often play soft electronic music without any words as I find it relaxing and stimulates my imagination.

4. What is the best advice you have been given?
I remember hearing Matt Fraction say something along the lines of "Stop daydreaming, just write!" which I find very helpful - it's amazing what avenues open up once you start typing. Also, remembering to keep the action coming nice and fast for the reader and the plot moving along is important advice I received early on and still try to follow.

My editor is a great sounding board and source of clarity for the whole story and she provides excellent book-specific advice.

5. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A writer, after I quickly realised I wasn't close to pro level in either tennis or cricket!

6. Which do you prefer: hard/paperbacks or ebooks?
I prefer reading novels and comics on my ipad through the Kindle or comixology app. I also have a large comic book collection in both trade paperback and hardcover which I love and I do read when i have a chance, but most of my reading is done on the train commute at the moment. I do love sitting down at home though with one of my big comic omnibuses and reading along!

7. If you could have any supernatural power, what would you choose and why?
Tough question! As a comic and fantasy fan, this is a conversation I have had with myself before! I've always thought it would be cool to be telepathic or to fly, but I also love the powers of Wolverine, specifically his healing ability and claws!

I guess it would be to be a telepath or have the maxed out healing factor AND the claws. I'm obviously a highly trained martial artist as well in this scenario. :)

8. What book are you reading now?
I am reading two books at the moment, "Levons Night" by Chuck Dixon and "Heavens Prisoners" by James Lee Burke. I really enjoy and recommend both books.




Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Q & A with Michael Bronte: Porchball

Porchball
by Michael Bronte 

We had just come off one of the most memorable years in American history. Our boys were dying by the thousands in the jungles of Vietnam and the war protests were rocking our world. The assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy rocked it even more. Our cities were being torn apart by riots, and then 1969 slung off ‘68 like a skater in a roller derby.

The Mets and Jets won their respective titles in 1969, two unbelievable victories almost impossible to imagine. Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, Ted Kennedy and Chappaquiddick happened in 1969, as did the SDS campus takeovers at Columbia and Harvard, along with the Charles Manson murders. Most memorably, our boys were still coming home from Vietnam in body bags, and the new President Nixon talked peace while the hippies stoned themselves out on pot and LSD while positioning the counter-culture as the alternative to “The Establishment.”

Brownie wrote his own history in 1969: he smoked his first joint, and got laid, both of those momentous events taking place in the sun and the mud at Woodstock. He also matriculated at Alliance College in Schenectady, New York, in September of that year, the unrest of the times serving as a confusing backdrop for an innocent teenager growing up in a not-so-innocent era.

There was no war in Schenectady, but people died, and Detective Michael Gravachevsky watched it happen. A fraternity house cook at Alliance fronted the evil crime network Gravachevsky had run into head-on, and here the lives of two boys from the Berkshires in Massachusetts, Brownie and his best friend Badge, become inextricably tangled in Dandy Don’s web of crime, bribery, depravity, and degradation. One of the boys takes the high road, the other doesn’t. From professors to ballplayers to strippers, Dandy Don ruins the lives of everyone he touches.

Porchball is a book that that deals with loyalty, betrayal, and deception, all twisted together as the characters’ lives are funneled into a single situation where the only common goal is to stop Dandy Don at all costs. Ultimately, it’s the code by which the game of Porchball is played that rises above all other of life’s principles. When a fraternity brother explains that no one cheats at the game, Brownie doesn’t quite understand. The answer is quite simple: “Everyone is taken at their word,” says the fraternity brother, “and everyone does the right thing.” 

Paperback, 295 pages
Published May 29th 2015 by Createspace



Read It & Reap:  August 25, 2016


Michael Bronte is a graduate of Union College in Schenectady, New York, and George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and lives with his wife of 36 years in Gaithersburg, Maryland. "All of the heroes in my novels are everyday people," says Bronte. "Any of them could by your next door neighbor. None of us really know what we're capable of until the time comes for us to reach beyond the boundaries of our everyday lives. Remarkable feats of courage are performed everyday, by everyday people. It's amazing."

​ As a young teenager I remember reading paperback mysteries under a huge oak tree outside my parents’ neighborhood grocery store in Dalton, Massachusetts, a small town located in the heart of the Berkshires. I can recall pulling a book from the rack and getting locked in to those novels as the fragrant summer breeze of Berkshire County tried to turn the page before I was done reading it. I don’t know why, but I was greatly affected by a book titled The Fan Club, by Irving Wallace. When I was done reading it, I can still recall thinking that someday I’d be able to write a book like that on my own; I knew I could do it.

Well, the idea stayed dormant for over thirty years while I did what I thought I should have been doing for a living (looking back, it all seems so trivial sometimes) until I rekindled my infatuation with writing novels. Now, many years after that, and many mistakes and many failures later, there are five Michael Bronte novels available. They are: The Dealership, Presidential Risk, Porchball, The Tenth Caller, and Lost Friday.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5524392.Michael_Bronte

Q & A with Michael Bronte

1. Tell us a little bit about your main characters.
 The main characters are two teenaged young men who are entering their first year of college in the year 1969 amid the turmoil of the Vietnam war and all of the antiwar/hippie protest movements of that time.  It is essentially a coming of age story for both of them.  The main character named Brownie (Wallace Brown) feels the dual pressures of conformity to the Establishment and how he was brought up, as does his best friend Badge (Mark Badger).  One takes the high road, one does not, and both become inadvertently but inextricably tangled in a vile web of deceit and degradation cast out by an organized crime drug dealer named Dandy Don who works as a fraternity house cook on the campus of Alliance College.  Both young men are torn between the emotional tug of loyalty to each other as they find themselves going in separate directions, while trying to define their own direction in the very mixed up world of the late 60s where the traditional values and spiritual norms of previous generations have been shattered.

2. How long have you been writing, and when did you first consider yourself an author?
 
Really good question.  I've been writing for 20 years, but really didn't consider myself an author until fairly recently.  I always believed that my material was good and that the plots worked, but I considered my interest in writing more of a hobby than anything else.  It was my family that convinced me to put the books out and to self publish them, which I resisted for a long, long time, feeling that unless I was able to secure an agent and be picked up by a publishing house, I was not a legitimate author.  It took me a long time to realize that many (and I am tempted to use the word "most" here) of these so-called experts were no better a judge of a good, well written book than I am.  In other words, I came to the very arrogant belief that it was a very elite club where people who don't necessarily know their ass from their elbow (this is your ass, this is your elbow) are paid to say "no."  I also believed that a legitimate author needed to have multiple products out there, otherwise I would not consider myself an author, but a flash in the pan.  Last year I put my books out there and I am suffering through the multiple opinions of reviewers, but for the most part, the reviews have been quite favorable.
     I now consider myself an "author" and on top of the five novels I have out, I will be putting out more as I march forward.  I've come to believe that lot of being good, and a lot of being an author is a matter of opinion.  I have to believe in myself and hold on to my opinion that I can write.  You may not like my material, but you can't say I'm not a writer.

3. What do you see as influences on your writing style?
 I like to use realistic language and have my characters come from everyday circumstances.  If the f-word offends you, then you probably won't like my books, but in my life and where I came from, that's how people talked.  I don't think the use of gratuitous profanity is good writing, but if a real life character would use coarse language, then the dialogue should be that way.  Gritty settings, nefarious characters, border line honesty, all of that lends to flawed characters you can pull for in their struggle between good and evil.  I like to put characters into settings where it would be very easy for them to slide to the dark side, whatever the dark side would be for them.  I like characters that always seem to wrestle with their own internal struggles, whether it be confidence, honesty, loyalty, integrity, etc., the reason being that without this internal struggle there's no occasion to rise to, if that makes sense.  My heroes are just everyday guys and gals.  Flawed characters: I guess I read that somewhere.  I think Nelson DeMille does that really well.  Usually such characters are real smart-asses, just another way to cover up their own insecurities.

4. What was your inspiration behind Porchball?
A good part of my growing up years were in the 60s and 70s, and as I look back on those years it's almost impossible for me to believe anyone could have grown up during that time without some real value conflicts.  I mean, as a young person you saw everything that was taught to you by your parents kind of dumped out like old toys out of a toy box and stepped on, or torn apart.  So what was right?  Was it what your parents and your teachers taught you, or was it right to rebel against all that and go in the opposite direction and redefine your own morality.  It was a real struggle of the time, and I though I wanted to write a book that illustrated this from a middle class point of view, again, the everyday people point of view.  Lower class people had a lot to rebel against.  Upper class people gave in to the popularity of the anti-Establishment movement, but most of them turned out to be sell-outs, in my opinion.  The middle class could have gone either way, depending on how they developed their own inner beliefs.  That's the message behind Porchball, and depending on which way you swung, the experiences of those times formed the basis of how you would live the rest of your life.

5. What do you do to unwind and relax?
Cook, write, have sexual fantasies about large appliances.  Just kidding.  I was a baseball player in my younger years and I like the sport a lot.  I also play guitar, although I've come to realize I'll never be Jeff Golub (look him up).

6. If you could be any supernatural creature, what would you choose and why?
Hmmm.  Supernatural means beyond the laws of nature.  As such, I think I'd like to be King Kong because I think he can probably eat whatever he wants.  The downside is that I don't think there are a lot of Queen Kongettes out there.

7. What book are you reading now?
My wife bought me two books by Rick Atkinson about World War II and I'm reading The Guns at Last Light which is about the war in western Europe.  Like the 60s, this was an even more amazing time.  Talk about some shit going on....




Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Seal Woilf Hunting by Terry Spear

SEAL Wolf Hunting (Heart of the Wolf, #16)SEAL Wolf Hunting by Terry Spear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What could be better than a book about Seal Special Forces...maybe one with a wolf shifter who is part of a Seal Special Forces team? Definitely! SEAL Wolf Hunting by Terry Spear delivers with an action packed romance that you will not want to put down.

Paul Cunningham is home from a tough mission. He is looking for a little down time before the next mission comes calling. Too bad his fellow pack mates have other plans for him. Paul is not thrilled to be part of a bachelor auction despite the worthy cause. Lori Greypaw has had feelings for Paul since they were cubs. When her grandmother wins Paul in the auction, Lori knows her grandmother has more than home improvement on her mind. Will this time together show Paul that staying state-side has its benefits?

Paul is one sexy wolf shifter who is part of a special Seal team comprised of all shifters. He is a born leader who loves helping others and the thrill of the mission. Lori teaches martial arts. She is a loving grand-daughter and helps the pack as much as she can. Nothing like close quarters to add to the sexual tension. Will Lori and Paul give in to their desires? This was another enjoyable read by Terry Spear. I look forward to the next one.

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