Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Author Interview: H.D. Smith (Dark Awakened)

H.D. Smith had me at “demon.” 


I am in the plotting phase of two new books and both are about demons. And I have a demon in the Hell’s Belle series (good old Bertrand) that is slowly becoming my favorite character to write. So, these days I am obsessed with demons.

Now, add in that H.D.’s heroine works for The Demon King, and, just like your boss, he doesn’t offer dental. Needless to day, I am in book love and thrilled that H.D. is going to hang out with us today.

(By the way, there's a Rafflecopter giveaway at the end of the post. Enter to win both books in the Devil's Assistant series, and a $75 Amazon gift card!)

Tell me about Dark Awakened (Book 2 in the Devil’s Assistant series).
Dark Awakened picks up right where Dark Hope left off … in the elevator with Death!
Claire has just walked away from the Devil’s protection … to live free or die … but unfortunately she can’t avoid the Bounty Hunter sent to return her to Purgatory, or her fate in being “the girl” in the prophecy.

What’s a typical work day look like for a devil’s assistant?
Claire doesn’t spend much time in the office in book 2, but in book 1 her duties included processing “early retirements” (HR inside joke for calling a human’s debt due), handling maintenance’s requests for dental (no one gets dental), and passing along bad news from senior leaders at the company (like the IRS audit the VP of Finance refuses to report).

Did you work as an assistant? Okay, what I really want to ask is, did working as an assistant spark the idea for the series? (Was your boss a devil?) 
Well … I’ve never worked for the Devil, but my last boss was known for his willingness to handle employees on a plan (read about to be fired), he had horns that someone gave him as a joke after the third firing (before my time at that job) … of course when he read an early version of book 1 he couldn’t stop hearing my voice as Claire … so of course I told him he was “The Boss” :)

Can you tell us a little bit about Claire and her powers?
Claire is twenty-one. Her life was interrupted five years ago when the Devil called in her mother’s debt, which apparently she’d inherited. At the beginning of book 1 Claire thinks she’s just an unlucky human, but after a trip to Purgatory, her powers are awakened and she starts learning who she really is. By the end of book 1 she has unbound her powers and is able to use astral projection, a bit of touch magic, a form of persuasion, and null spells (almost any spell that is directly cast on her). She can also see through most veils and with the help of an embedded translator, hear and read almost anything as English. Her powers change in book 2, she gains a few new skills and enhances her existing powers in new and exciting ways.

Death is a character in your book. Can you tell us about him? And what’s Claire’s relationship with him?
Claire gets really bad news at the end of book 1. Although Death is cursed to love another, he has the ability to make her feel loved. She has the ability to remind him of his lost love … not exactly a relationship made in Heaven, but something they both need … or so she believes, which is why she agrees to let him hide her from the Devil. Unfortunately that doesn’t work out very well for either of them. 

Now that Dark Awakened is released, what’s next for you?
I have four books planned in the Devil’s Assistant series. Originally it was going to be a trilogy, but there is a very strong “4” theme in the books, and I always wanted to write four books for this series (one for each contender). I have started reworking book 3 (major rewrites ahead after editing books 1 & 2), and I have a plan for book 4. In between all of this I’m working on a new edit of my novellas. I learned a lot editing Dark Hope and I want to show my earlier works some of that love :) While my main focus is four books for the series, that doesn’t mean I won’t revisit the world again … you never know which character may get its own book.

Do you have any writing rituals?
Not any rituals, but I absolutely CANNOT “plan” a book … it is the kiss of death if I try to outline. I usually have a game plan and I go from there … pantser here, all the way! 

Where is your favorite place to write?
My day job occasionally means my “office” is onboard a cruise ship … which isn’t as exciting as it sounds (trust me) … during my downtime (what little there is) I have been known to lounge around on deck 4 with my feet up and my laptop open writing as the ocean waves float by. Back in the real world, my favorite place to write is at my sit-stand-treadmill-desk (google it … it is the most awesome thing ever).

What inspires you to write? 
I get these crazy stories in my head and I’m compelled to archive them for future generations ;) … seriously, I just like telling complicated stories that could twist in on themselves at any moment and implode … or unwind in a way that is pure magic. 

What 5 books are on your bookshelf right now?
I almost never have real books anymore. Most of the ones I have are from a conference last year … I’m an audiobook-a-holic … I love audiobooks. I’ve just started reading (listening to) the Imp series by Debra Dunbar. I have an absurd number of audiobooks on my “shelf” … according to audible the count is 979, 271 of which are from this year … I listen at 2x speed, always buy my credits in bulk, and absolutely love the new “professional narration” option when you purchase ebooks that have an audiobook available.

What do you recommend people see/read/hear?
I hear the Devil’s Assistant series by HD Smith is awesome ;)
Some other favorite audio series to consider are:
 - Jane Yellowrock series by  Faith Hunter
 - Jane Jameson series by Molly Harper
 - Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews
 - Elder Races series by Thea Harrison
 - Guild Hunter series by Nalini Singh
 - Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh
 - New Species series by Lauren Dohner
 - Elemental Assassin series by Jennifer Estep 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 15, 2014

Author Mix Tape: Ashlynne Laynne's Progeny Playlist

Music is a huge part of my writing—songs can inspire a mood or a scene or even a character. So I love learning about what other writers are listening to. 

Last month, Ashlynne Laynne introduced us to her Progeny series. I am thrilled she came back to share a Progeny mix tape for the release of the Blood Bewitched, the fifth book in the series. She gives us the scoop on the music that inspires her writing. 

Today I am beyond thrilled to share some of the songs that have both influenced and inspired me while I’ve been writing my Progeny Series. My musical choices are much like most things in my life—eclectic and varied. I was a songwriter and poet before I ever got the inclination to write a novel. I have written lyrics for pop, rock, and crossover country music. Yes, I said country.

*Shauna Rousseau fun fact: Shauna’s favorite singer is Adele.

1. Collide by Howie Day. This is Ascher and Shauna’s song. I first allude to it in The Progeny the first time the couple makes love. Ascher despises most things contemporary, but he is learning to bend. Having a young wife has been good for him. They share their first ever dance to this song in Blood Bonds. It was also mentioned in Blood Bewitched.

2. Bring Me to Life by Evanescence. This is one of my favorite songs and it really speaks to the way Shauna brings Ascher out of himself. The poor guy was engaged seal to a full-blooded vampire that he abhorred. It was only after he met Shauna that he felt his heart and really began to live a fulfilled existence.

*Ascher Rousseau fun fact: Ascher’s favorite musical decade is the 80s.    

3. These Are the Days by Van Morrison. There is a very touching scene in Blood Promise where both Ascher and Shauna sing this song. Shauna listened to this type of music growing up when she visited her grandmother Amy, and Ascher, of course, was a man when it was made. It was a unique scene to me because it shows that even though there are decades of age difference between the two of these characters, they still connect on a deep, spiritual level that has absolutely nothing to do with a physical attraction.

4. Justify My Love by Madonna, S&M by Rihanna. I actually listened to both of these songs on a continuous loop while writing this hot scene from Blood Promise. Mr. and Mrs. Rousseau have quite the naughty time while Madonna is playing. I love steam with my romance and enjoyed writing this scene between the couple. Besides the obvious, this scene also had significance. It was the beginning of a power shift in the couple’s relationship and the start of Shauna’s journey into the next phase of her life. Those who have read the books will know exactly what I mean.

*Ashlynne fun fact: I love Bruno Mars. He appears on every playlist. His music is new but harkens back to an earlier time when things were a bit simpler. His voice can be raw and gritty, but also incredibly soft and sweet. This mix of tones makes his sound truly unique.

5. You Can Leave Your Hat On by Joe Cocker. This song was an inspiration to me while writing Ascher’s little striptease scene in Blood Bewitched. I have loved this song since I saw it on 9 ½ Weeks. It always elicits thoughts of someone stripping for the person they love.

6. Gorilla by Bruno Mars, Unfinished Sympathy by Massive Attack. There is a really heated hot scene between our hero and heroine in Blood Bewitched, and I listened to a loop of these songs while writing it. As I mentioned above, Bruno Mars songs are either rough and raw or smooth and soft. Gorilla is primitive and primal with the drum beats and naughty lyrics. My iPod is full of Mr. Mars and his wonderful music. I first heard Unfinished Sympathy in the movie Sliver with Billy Baldwin and Sharon Stone. Again, this song screams uninhibited sex and wild abandon. I’m sweatin’ just thinking about it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Excerpt: Escape from Area 51

I love the idea of aliens. I love the idea of Area 51 even more. (In fact, the Hell’s Belle’s Blood Ops base is at Area 51. The aliens are just a cover story to hide the paranormal entities.) 

I love that the Nevada airport is filled with alien keychains and giant blow up alien heads. I even loved that 90s teen soap Roswell! 

So, yes, I love aliens. And there’s a book series for that! 

Escape from Area 51 is the third book in The X+Y Files series by Wayne A.D. Kerr.  This middle grade adventure is billed as X-Files for kids, with characters Xander and Yzzie the kid-friendly version of Mulder and Scully.

And I have an excerpt! 

But let's start with the description.
A trip to the top secret military testing base, commonly known as Area 51, was a dream come true for UFO obsessed Xander Bookman - until a strange voice invaded his thoughts. Could the voice really be coming from a joke telling alien, named I-pod, who desperately needs help to escape from the most secure site on the planet?
Of the many who tried, only one man had ever successfully breached the heavily guarded facility. A brilliant Soviet spy managed to the impossible, but he never made it home. One got in; zero got out.
Until now...
Join Xander and Yzzie on their most daring adventure yet.
And now, for all you knock-knock joke lovers, meet Escape from Area 51!


 “I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be human,” I-pod said. “All your emotions, especially love and hate - these concepts are very confusing to my kind.   For several years, as I scanned those minds that I could get into, I believed that emotions distracted humans from reaching their potential.  So much time and effort is spent on pair bonding, finding someone to love, seemed so inefficient to me.  But then something strange happened.  Every morning one of the guards would come to work and tell everyone that he came into contact with, what he called the joke of the day.  I was amazed at how much joy they got from this.  They’d laugh and so would he each and every time he told it.  But to me they were just words strung together.  He told a hundred dumb blonde jokes and stories about people or animals that walked into a bar, but I just didn’t understand the humor, until one morning.”
‘What happened?’
“He repeated a knock knock joke, that his son had learned in school the day before.”
‘I like knock knock jokes…’
 “Here’s the joke that taught me the meaning of funny,” I-pod said.  “Knock knock..”
‘Who’s there?’ Xander responded.
‘Atch who?’
“Bless you. I’ll come back when you’re feeling better,” I-pod said.
‘Good one,’ Xander chuckled. ‘A bit of a groaner, but funny.’
“I know,” I-pod told him, “but it awoke a part of my brain that I didn’t know was there.  At first, like all the other jokes I didn’t get it.  Then a few days later, one of the other guards sneezed, and it clicked.  Atch who, achew, Atch who, achew repeated over and over in my head.  I laughed for the first time.  The rest of that day I replayed every joke he’d told in my mind.  That was one of the most enjoyable days of my life.  Once I understood humor, the other emotions began to make sense to me.” 
‘I sometimes mess up the punch line when I tell a joke,’ Xander admitted. 
“I know 4,091 jokes,” I-pod said,  “including over a hundred ‘why did the chicken cross the road’ jokes.”
‘To get to the other side…’ Xander couldn’t help but think of old the punch line.
“’Egg’xactly,” I-pod responded. “But, do you know why the duck crossed the road?”
‘I don’t know.  Why did the duck cross the road?’
“Because it was the chicken’s day off,” I-pod laughed.
‘Chicken’s day off. I get it.’
“Why did the turtle cross the road?”
‘I don’t know,’ Xander said. ‘Was he racing the chicken or a rabbit, maybe?’
“Good guess, but no cigar. The turtle crossed the road to get to the shell station,” I-pod laughed again.
Xander giggled out loud.  ‘I know one you may not have heard.  Do you know why the one-armed man crossed the road?’
“No, why did the one-armed man cross the road?”
‘To get to the second-hand shop.’
“Second-hand shop,” I-pod repeated. “To get a second hand!”
I-pod’s laughter rang through Xander’s mind.

“Thank you Xander, now I know 4,092 jokes,” I-pod told him.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Cover Reveal: Song of Blood and Stone

Check out this gorgeous cover for Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope (designed by James T. Egan at Bookfly Design), which officially releases January 13, 2015. And...I'm featuring an excerpt! I am really digging the selection. AND...there's a Rafflecopter giveaway to boot! 

Here's the scoop on the book:
Between love and duty lies destiny 
Orphaned and alone, Jasminda is an outcast in her homeland of Elsira, where she is feared for both the shade of her skin and her magical abilities. When ruthless soldiers seek refuge in her isolated cabin, they bring with them a captive – an injured spy who steals her heart. 
Jack’s mission behind enemy lines nearly cost him his life but he is saved by the healing power of a mysterious young woman. Together they embark on a perilous journey straight into the heart of a centuries-old conflict. 
Thrust into a hostile society, Jasminda and Jack must rely on one another even as secrets jeopardize their bond. As an ancient evil gains power, Jasminda races to unlock a mystery that promises salvation. 
The fates of two nations hang in the balance as Jasminda and Jack must choose between love and duty to fulfill their destinies and end the war.


Jasminda led the way, the light from her lantern reflecting off the snow, now knee-deep but swallowed up by the surrounding darkness. Jack leaned heavily on the walking stick as each step became more difficult than the last. Pausing to catch his breath, a coughing fit struck him, leaving red splatters on the pristine white.

When he straightened, he found her staring at the blood on the ground. Almost immediately, the warm hum of Earthsong rippled through him.

“Save it,” he advised. “I’m all right.”

She scowled. “You are not all right. You are worse than when you arrived. Stop being such a fool.” The buzz of Earthsong continued for a few moments before she turned and stomped away.

For hours they battled the storm, their progress arduous. Strong gusts of wind blew against them, sometimes knocking them on their backs and forcing them to stop until the gale calmed some. Icy blasts whipped through Jack’s coat, freezing his fingers until he could no longer grip the walking stick and had to leave it behind.

“Let’s stop here for a moment,” Jasminda shouted, pointing to a notch in the rock wall just big enough for two people. Underneath the rocky overhang, the snow stood only ankle high, and the sidewalls protected them from the worst of the wind. They crouched down together, shaking from the cold. She took his hands in hers and rubbed, bringing some feeling back into them. In the flickering lantern light, worry etched a frown on her face.

Jack rallied, drawing whatever inner strength he could into his depleted limbs. A small hum of Earthsong tickled at his wounds, but he could sense her weakening. He cracked his knuckles and tried to fashion his frozen face into a grin.

“Now’s not the time to grow lazy.” He wasn’t sure she could understand him over the chattering of his teeth, but she nodded and they stood. At a groaning rumble overhead, they looked up. Something large shifted and slid. He moved forward to see what was happening, but she grabbed him by his coat and pulled him back. Her eyes were huge circles of fear as everything around them started to shake.

With a violent boom, an avalanche of snow slid down the mountain obliterating the path that they were on. The motion pushed them back against the wall as sheets of snow and ice crumbled away and slid off the mountain in front of them. Beneath their feet, the ground convulsed, knocking them off-balance. Jack fell forward into the rioting rush of snow.

Where he’d expected his hands to hit the ground, they hit nothing. He reached out frantically, grasping for purchase as his weightless body plummeted into the darkness blanketed by the cold wet pressure all around him.

Check out Leslye Penelope at her website, Twitter or Facebook.

Don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win a $40 gift card to Amazon, Barnes & Noble or iTunes!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Trailer Reveal: The Letting

So I’ve never done this before!

Today I am hosting my very first trailer reveal. I am pretty stoked since I love book trailers, and this one is terrific.

Here’s the scoop on The Letting

What if the Devil doesn’t know he’s the Devil? 

This is the question Veronica “Ronnie” Billings poses to Phoenix, her sworn enemy, the leader 
of the Peaceful Revolution, and the one she loves. 

Kidnapped by Phoenix’s rebels, Ronnie learns how wrong she has been. She had no idea that her patriotism was wasted on a corrupt government. Ronnie was proud to be a Leader; taking hundreds of harvested girls to the Letting facility. After all, she was saving them from future Couplings and bringing them to the safety of the New World. Or so she thought… 

Confused, Ronnie realizes the only way to discover the truth is to trust her heart. Together, Phoenix and Ronnie devise a plan to stop their corrupt government and preempt the dangerous rebel coup which is approaching. But when their plan goes awry, will Ronnie be strong enough to save Phoenix, her country, and herself?

Author Cathrine Goldstein is also a New Yorker, and a playwright. Hilariously we have both worked with the uber-talented Haskell King.

The Letting comes out on December 15. (You can always pre-order!) Visit Cathrine at her website, Twitter or Facebook

Monday, December 1, 2014

Spotlight on C.A.K.E.

Apoplectic that Mad Men is over? A slice of C.A.K.E. should help.

A collection of five erotic stories, C.A.K.E. is set in the high stakes world of advertising, where the employees play just as hard as they work. The series is definitely seductive. Here’s a teaser: “If those two digits caused this much pleasure, what would two hands bring.” 

See what I mean?

Grab it at Amazon!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Author Interview: Jessica Robinson (Undead Obsessed: Finding Meaning in Zombies)

Jessica Robinson's Undead Obsessed: Finding Meaning in Zombies tackles the confluence of zombies and our fears of science. Examining zombies through the lens of popular culture, and mixed with interviews from experts in various scientific fields, Undead Obsessed attempts to crack the code of what makes our attraction and repulsion to zombies such a favorite past time. I am thrilled she took a few minutes to talk about her book and our fascination with these rotting reanimated corpses. 

You went on kind of this epic journey to research this book—visits to water treatment plants and university veterinary medicine labs to learn about pathogens. How did you decide what you wanted to include in the book?

The original inspiration for the book came from watching an episode of The Walking Dead when the living characters have to get a zombie out of a well.  It made me curious about how pathogens travel through water, hence the visits to the treatment plants.  Then, I decided I should probably know exactly how pathogens behave, so the visit to the vet lab.  The more I learned, the more questions I had, so the more places/people I had to visit.  It was a so much fun!

What zombie movie influenced you the most?

This is actually a really hard question to answer because every movie influenced me in a different way.  Although, without Night of the Living Dead, my obsession would have never started.

How did you connect our fear of zombies to fear of science? How are they connected?

Well, it took some thought and looking at a multitude of films.  I think the puzzle pieces really fell into place while watching World War Z and how science played a role in that, then going back and looking at the other films.

Science or scientists are in practically all zombie films in one form or another—and it’s usually not a very flattering role.  They are usually portrayed as mad scientists, and like zombies, they are focused on achieving their goals (whatever those might be) without regard for human lives or morals.

These weird pandemics are kind of in the zeitgeist, between the recent ebola scare to the enterovirus outbreak. Do you see similarities in the way the public reacted to these scares, and the way you envision a reaction to a zombie outbreak?

Absolutely.  The fear of an epidemic usually comes way before the facts.  We convince ourselves that the illness will be the downfall of society and instantly start pointing fingers at people to blame, and those people are generally scientists.  Instead of preparing for the worst, we just blame it on others.  Much like the zombie apocalypse in these films, it catches us unprepared and unaware, so most of us are killed or turned into the undead.  By working together, that’s when things can truly get accomplished.

I generally poo poo the idea of zombies becoming a real thing, but then spot a news story about some weird disease, either unexplained or caused by some chemical compound (bath salts!) that does something shockingly awful, and rethink my “rational” thought. Do you think zombie-ism is possible in our future? 

I think it depends on how you define “zombie.”  If you look at it from a traditional sense—a corpse that is reanimated—then no.  But if you look at it as someone who becomes mindless and is driven by impulse and base desires, then yes.  As you mentioned, we’ve already seen this type of behavior.

Over the past few years, the popularity of zombies has just exploded in pop culture. What do you think is the reason for this sudden fascination?

I’ve been trying to figure this out, and I’m not really sure.  Monsters go through cycles.  A few years ago, it was vampires.  Before that, werewolves.  At the moment, zombie are the monsters du jour.

Your zombies are usually found in your YA fiction. What made you decide to write a non-fiction piece? Was the process different for you? Would you do another non fiction piece?

I’ve always wanted to write nonfiction about zombies, but I never knew what I wanted to write.  When inspiration hit, I had to get it down on paper.  Undead Obsessed is actually my second nonfiction book dealing with horror films.  My first one was Life Lessons from Slasher Films.  I would absolutely do another nonfiction book.  I’m just waiting for inspiration to hit.

The process was much different because I was looking at it from a different perspective.  For my YA books, I look at ways in which people can survive the undead.  In this book, I look at ways in which the undead can be created and how science plays a role in that creation.

Now that Undead Obsessed is released, what’s next for you?

I have another YA book coming out in January.  It is the sequel to The Appeal of Evil, and it is called Dealing with Devils.  Currently, I’m working on the third book in this series.  No title yet.  I have a middle grade book coming out in April/May called The Ifs Return.  It is the sequel to The Ifs.  After that, I plan on doing another YA zombie book.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Not really.  I just squeeze it in when I can.

Where is your favorite place to write?

At home.

What inspires you to write? 

The voices in my head won’t shut up until I get their story down on paper.

What 5 books are on your bookshelf right now?

Crap!  I can only think of two!

What do you recommend people see/read/hear?

Whatever interests them and makes them happy.