Friday, March 27, 2015

Book Review: SILK by Chris Karlsen

Contest lovers should read to the bottom. Not only is there a Rafflecopter giveaway but the author is giving away one Kindle copy of SILK for each tour stop, including this one!

Historical fiction is tough. You have to research your time period within an inch of its life. Readers that are sticklers for details happily call out your errors. I’d love to write a historical fiction, but I am positively frightened of it. So kudos to Chris Karlsen for braving the choppy waters of this genre. 

SILK has two stories running concurrently that eventually cross paths. We open with William, a wealthy aristocrat, member of the House of Lords, friend to Queen Victoria, and an insatiable appetite for kink. When his current paramour is accentually killed during an intimate act, the power from that taste of blood proves so tantalizing that William decides to perpetrate non-accidental deaths.

Set in the middle of the Jack the Ripper panic, which has whipped neighboring Whitechapel into hysteria, Inspector Rudyard Bloodstone and his partner are tasked with solving their own peculiar murders taking place outside the British Museum. As the defiled bodies of working class women pile up, the Inspector has his hands full trying to solve this crime without setting off a city wide, Ripper induced panic.

When William gets involved in a copycat killing, he and Bloodstone cross paths, beginning a fascinating cat and mouse game between the two. 

SILK was a bit of a slow start for me, but once the story got going, it grabbed me. While William is revealed as a killer at the start of the book, we are left on pins and needles about his motives for the other murders. He picks up a woman he at a remote train station, will he kill her next? There were several moments in the book that left me breathless. 

There were also bits that slowed down the captivating story. For example, the stiff romance that bloomed between a widowed seamstress and Bloodstone didn’t do much to further the plot, and I skimmed over those moments. There was also a fascinating historical element to the book that Karlsen worked into Bloodstone’s backstory. While I appreciate what the author was doing, and I agree it was fascinating, I felt like it brought the story itself to a halt. 

Quibbles aside, the story is fascinating and I even found myself rooting for William until his final monstrous act. I love villains that are layered enough that you can find ways to sympathize with them. Just like I love imperfect heroes, and Rudyard was certainly that. He came down on the right side of the law, but his personality was as chilly as the serial killers he chased.  

Fans of books set in Victorian England, or of the BBC series Ripper Street (I'm a fan), will enjoy this one.

Check out Chris Karlsen's website, buy SILK from Amazon. Don't forget to leave a comment on this post if you'd like to win a Kindle copy! 

And you can enter a Rafflecopter give away (includes a Kindle copy of SILK, swag bag & a $10 Amazon gift card):

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a free Kindle copy from the author for the purposes of reviewing.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

HB3 Update!

Hell’s Belle fans will be happy to hear that I made terrific headway on my pre-outline outline for Book 3. 

I know, weird, right? A pre-outline outline?

This is basically where I decide the major plot points, as well as identify the characters I need to carry the these plot points forward. It looks like our favorite surviving characters are back: Nina, Frankie, and Max, of course. Darcy and Matty return, and Casper too. Chuck will probably turn up a time or two, simply because the Beta Vamp really grew on me. Dr. O returns in this book, but we probably won’t catch much of him until the end. And, of course, our favorite demon Ami Bertrand is back pulling everyone’s strings. 

Plus, I am introducing a new, pivotal character. He’s a doozy, and I am crazy excited to write him. 

Nina and Casper are going to go through a major upheaval in this one. I know, how much more crap can I throw at Nina? But just like I needed to off a certain character in Tainted Blood so that Nina could grow as a character, this is the next step in her development.

Action lovers will be happy to hear that it looks like the action sequences are back in line with the original Hell's Belle. The crew knows exactly what's going on and what they need to do. So this time, it's all in the execution. 

Here's a playlist of music kept me going while I worked it all out.  Let me know how you feel about the tunes! 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

I’m still here! And other odds and ends...

Since I've been busy as a beaver, here's a pic of a beaver dam that I took last summer!
Good news! The new paranormal romance is off to the publisher. I am taking a minute (seriously like a minute) to breathe and then kickstarting Hell’s Belle 3 plus working on the outline for a new PNR that I hope to sell. It’s going to be a slight genre departure for me, so I am kind of excited to work on it.

Add in the day job, and my schedule was hellish this winter. I am a bit exhausted. But I’ve loved every minute that I’ve been writing, and spending more time with my characters daily has been really amazing. It simply drives home that I would love to write full time.   

Since I've been slammed, I have been neglecting this blog a bit, as well as my fellow compatriot authors. I hope to remedy in the coming weeks. I have book review coming next week, and hopefully, I can get back in the swing of the author interviews. And I have a new adventure on tap that I will announce soon-ish. (When I am through the testing phase -- I am okay with tech stuff if I have the time to devote to playing with it, and I am carving out the time now!)

So, it’s all good. I’m still here!

Oh, by the way, did you know I have a mailing list? Sign up if you want book updates, freebies, and sneak peeks at stuff I am working on! (By the way, I don't sell names. You guys are mine, all mine!) 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Cover Reveal: A Question of Counsel

It's been a while since I've done a cover reveal and this one is very pretty! (Keep on scrolling for a giveaway at the end of this post!)

A QUESTION OF COUNSEL, a fantasy romance by Archer Kay Leah, is releasing on May 25.

Here's the description:
Life hasn't been easy for Aeley since she arrested her brother, and her role as a political leader leaves her feeling isolated and lonely. Days before her brother's trial, she meets Lira, a quiet and modest scribe who makes Aeley want more than just a professional relationship.
When she attends the trial and leaves with a marriage contract, Aeley doesn't know what to do. She must choose one of two brothers, marrying into a family she doesn't know. Then she discovers that Lira is part of the same family—a sister to Aeley's suitors and the family's disgrace. And not at all opposed to an intimate relationship.
Except random acts of violence against her people test Aeley's ability as a leader, and a web of lies and deceit threaten not only her chance at happiness, but her life...

You can pre-order from the publisher, Less Than Three Press

Find Archer online at her website, Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Giveaway Time!

Win 2 $10 Amazon gift cards during the cover reveal party!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, February 27, 2015

Soul Storm mix tape

I am thrilled to have Ann Gimple back on the blog today; this time she's sharing a folk- inflected mixtape for Soul Storm, her series of three apocalyptic novels. Psychologist Dr. Lara McInnis has an uncanny ability to read the future. Trevor Denoble is the drop-dead gorgeous Brit (with powers of his own) who loves her. With the world as they know it on the brink of anarchy, they'll need all of their power, and the trust of each other, to stay alive.

Ann explains:
My taste in music is eclectic, but I’m an old folkie at heart. Love the old rock and roll too, like the Rolling Stones and The Band and Jerry Garcia. I picked the above songs for two reasons: Lara and Trevor’s love is a lynchpin for the series, and the series takes place in a precarious pre-apocalyptic world that’s rapidly sliding into anarchy.
I just knew all those old protest songs would come in handy someday, and here we are!
Indeed! It's a great mix of songs--go on and give it a listen!

You can hang with Ann on The Internets over at her website, blog, and on Facebook.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Author Interview: R.S. Mellette (Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand)

Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand is an enchanting upper middle grade novel that will make you believe in the power of magic. 

Here’s the official blurb:

"E = mc2 is no longer the most powerful force in the universe. Your wand is." Twelve-year-old Billy and his best friend Suzy Quinofski didn't mean to change the universe. Billy, a quantum physics prodigy, just wanted to find a way to help his hoarding, schizophrenic mother – and maybe impress a coven of older girls in high school. Suzy, his intellectual equal, wanted to help her friend and cling to her last remnant of childhood, a belief in magic. Together they made Billy a real, working, magic wand, and opened a door to the Quantum World where thoughts create reality, and all things – good and bad – are possible.

Author R.S. Mellette’s career trajectory spans film, television and theater, in addition to fiction writing.  He worked on Xena! Let me repeat that: HE WORKED ON XENA! 

I am thrilled he agreed to join us today to introduce us to the smartest kid in the universe!

(By the way, there's a Rafflecopter giveaway at the end of this post. Xena fans for sure will want to check it out.)

Tell me about Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand.

This book is the story of a 12-year-old kid, Billy, who is into quantum physics, and his best friend, Suzy Quinofski, who is into microbiology.  Together they make a real, working, magic wand… but have no idea how to use it.

I've tried to make this a science-fiction book for the whole family.  I can't wait to find out from readers if they feel that I've succeeded.

What inspired you to tell Billy’s story?

There were a lot of little things that inspired Billy's story, which is to say, if fans read or hear different stories, don't fret.  They are all true.  One of the things that got me started was spending time in the Science-Fiction section of bookstores.  They are packed with vampires, werewolves, witches and wizards.  Don't get me wrong, I love those stories, but they aren't sci-fi. 

My inner 12-year-old got into a huff about it, so I started thinking, "if you want witches and wizards in the Sci-Fi section, then have them come from a scientific source."

About that time, the movie The Craft reran on TV.  It's a great movie to watch on a rainy day, or a late night.  This time, my inner 12-year-old asked me why I didn't hang out with girls like that coven when I was their age.  I laughed.  "Yeah, like those girls would give you (me), a kid totally into science, the time of day."

The idea of a science nerd like me having a crush on a coven of witches joined with my desire to see more Science in the Science-Fiction section got the creative juices flowing.

Can you bring us into your world a little bit? Billy and his best friend “made” a magic wand. How does the real world change for them? 

For one thing, they get two new friends from the Quantum World.  It turns out that Billy knows a ton about quantum physics, but it's aware that beings live in that reality.  Where we are mostly mass, with a tiny bit of energy, they are mostly energy with a tiny bit of mass.

It turns out that Billy's wand opens a connection between these two worlds, which have had a symbiotic relationship as long as life as existed.

When Billy first uses the wand all he wants to do is escape the ridicule and bullying from the entire school, so he disappears.  For real, totally, disappears from the universe.  That scares him so badly that he and Suzy use the wand sparingly from then on.  They only have a vague idea how it works, and are a little freaked out by the power of what they have made.

In writing this book, I think I've spent more time asking myself, "How would our world change if we could make real magic?"  It then gets more complicated when that power is in the hands of kids.  Still, I approach the question from an adult perspective.  This isn't a "silly" book.  I hope it will make the reader think as much as I have had to.

How did they pull off creating this wand? What was the “science” behind it?

That's the question of the first half of the book.  Let's see if I can explain it without giving away too many secrets.

Einstein tells us that Space and Time are connected, and that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.  But… paired quantum particles – which, when you change the spin of one, the other one changes its spin instantly – change their spin faster than a single could move from one particle to the other.  So, something is able to break the universe's speed limit.  That's all real science.

Billy puts all of that together, to figure out that there are multiple timelines, so many that pretty much anything you can think of exists somewhere in an alternate time/space connection.  He thinks that something locks us in our linear time, and if he can break that link, he can create magic, which he defines as "seemingly unrelated cause and effect."

Suzy figures out what the key is that locks us in our timeline.  Billy then figures out how to use that to create magic.

Billy’s mom is mentally ill (specifically schizophrenic). How does this effect Billy’s world outlook?  

Billy wishes more than anything that his mother would be "normal."  It is a big driving force in what makes him want to create magic.  Later, he learns that her paranoid belief that the neighbor's yard gnomes are spying the family is actually true and that the universe is a much more complex place than he ever imagined.

You’ve worked a great deal in film/television/theater. How different is the experience of writing a novel from these other mediums? 

The biggest thing about writing a novel is that there's no crew.  I have to make all of the decisions about clothes, hair, makeup, props, sets, etc.  I don't want to do all of that.  I just want to say, "Int. Billy Bobble's Room – Day" and get on with the story. 

Plays, for either stage or screen, are like an orchestra score.  It's not the finished product, the performance is.  Novels are the final version, so they require as much energy as making a movie or staging a show – not just writing the script.

What skills from TV/film writing did you use while writing Billy Bobble? Anything you had to completely throw away? 

What I had to throw away?  The word "suddenly."  That's used in screenplays all the time, but in a book if you say, "suddenly" such-&-such happens, then it's no longer sudden.  When I cut the word, the reader gets the shock value that I'm looking for.

Of course, the basics of storytelling doesn't change – and that's a major part of all writing.  I would have to say that my acting training comes in handy with dialogue.  Having performed words by Neil Simon, David Mamet, Shakespeare, etc., and having written plays for stage and screen, where dialogue is the major way of getting the story out, it helps a lot when writing novels.  I know dialogue is a difficult thing for a lot of novelists, so they try to avoid it.  I revel in dialogue.  I hope my readers do, too.

Do you have any writing rituals?

For the longest time, I was a catch-as-catch-can writer, stealing time whenever and wherever I could.  Often during my day jobs.  I used to love showing up to a temp job with a notebook and hear, "oh good, you brought something to do."

Now, I write more at home.  When I need to build up the energy to write, I'll watch something I like on TV, like Dr. Who or anything by Aaron Sorkin.  Good writing gets me excited to do my own.

Where is your favorite place to write?

My office at home.

What inspires you to write? 

Mostly boredom.  If my mind isn't entertained, then it starts to entertain itself – which I then write down.  I know that's counter to my good writing comment above, but that's life.  It's complicated.

What 5 books are on your bookshelf right now?

This sounds like a shameful plug for my publisher, but it's the truth, anything from Elephant's Bookshelf Press.  I just finished Battery Brothers, which I recommend to anyone, but especially writers.  The first chapter of that book should go into a how-to textbook.  It's brilliant.

Cat Woods just edited a collection of short stories for EBP called Tales from the Bully Box, and I can't wait to dig into that.  I'm also looking forward to her novel in 2015.

I've also gone through the first two books of the Maze Runner series, a few Artemis Fowl books, a couple of Percy Jacksons, etc.

I'm also reading a lot of biographies of artist from the 16th century for another project.  So I go from kid-lit to stories about Popes and their courtesans, it's a bit of a mind trip.

What do you recommend people see/read/hear?

Whatever they enjoy. Become an unabashed fan of whatever makes you happy.  When you've learned everything about it, you can make something like it that makes you just as happy – and that will make other people who like what you like happy, too.  That might lead you to making a living at something you love – and that can make for a great life.

You can find  R.S. Mellette on Goodreads, Twitter and Facebook

Here's the giveaway details:
1st Prize- *signed* copy of Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand
2nd Prize- Season two of Xena: Warrior Princess
Open to US only; Ends 2/25/15

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, February 9, 2015

Death Rejoices Mix Tape

You guys remember by love for Touched by AJ Aalto? Well, there’s a new book in the Marnie Baranuik Files out: Death Rejoices. Not only death rejoice, but readers too! (Oh, Karen, want some chicken to go with your corn?

Here’s the official blurb: 
Marnie Baranuik is back, and this time, the Great White Shark of psychic investigations has “people skills” and a new assistant who seems to harbor an unhealthy curiosity about Harry, her revenant companion. Together, they’ve got a whole lot of questions that need answering. Is an ancient vampire hunting in Denver? Who is stalking Lord Dreppenstedt? How do you cure a slipper-humping bat, ditch an ogre, or give a demon king the slip? And what the hell was she thinking, swearing off cookies?
Teaming up with her sexual nemesis, Special Agent Mark Batten, and their long-suffering supervisor, Gary Chapel, Marnie discovers that vampire hunters aren’t easy to rescue, secrets don’t stay buried, and zombies sure are a pain in the ass to kill.

I asked AJ to share a Death Rejoices mix tape with us, and it’s a wild one! Where else can Rob Zombie play footsie with Kool & the Gang but in Marnie’s wonderfully warped mind?

(Note from AJ: Yes, this book had a strange blend of music genres. But Marnie Baranuik is a strange gal. She makes no apologies. WAY HEY AND UP SHE RISES!)

AJ, one never needs apologize for Irish sea shanties!

Head over to AJ’s website, or find her on Goodreads. Join me in stalking her on Facebook and Twitter too!