Saturday, December 27, 2014

Author Interview: Gustavo Florentin (The Schwarzschild Radius)

I'm stepping away from the paranormal today to feature the contemporary thriller,  The Schwarzschild Radius, set in my fair city. When Rachel's sister goes missing, the 18-year-old Columbia University student falls into a violent underworld of child pornography, snuff films, and other horrific crimes. In searching for her sister, Rachel finds herself in the crosshairs of a killer who "auctions the deaths of young girls in an eBay of agony." This book is not for the faint of heart, with trigger warnings galore, but it's getting some terrific reviews, and worth a look if you like exciting but unsettling reads.

You can visit author Gustavo Florentin over on his website, connect with him on Facebook. And look for the giveaway at the end of the interview -- it's for a $50 Amazon gift card!

Tell me about The Schwarzschild RadiusWhat inspired you to tell Rachel’s story?

The Schwarzschild Radius had its genesis decades ago when I attended the Bronx High School of Science. I met so many brilliant young people there and a few years later I thought it would be a good idea to write a story about some geniuses who solve a mystery using their wits. 

What type of world is the New York City that you have created in the book? Is it similar to the NYC we know, or are there certain elements that you created? 

The New York City in the book really exists, though it may not be something most people are familiar with. The abandoned subway tunnels, for instance, go back to the Civil War, and there really are people living in some of them. They are called “mole people." (Ed note: For those interested, there's a great book from the early 90s, about the homeless that live in the abandoned subway tunnels, The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath NYC

What drew you to writing thrillers?  

I started out reading the classics when I was young. Later, I came to admire devices like plot twists and surprise endings. There are many more of those in thrillers than in The Brothers Karamazov, for example. I really liked The Day of the Jackal. Forsythe combined research, suspense and a beautifully elegant writing style into a blockbuster and that book really set the bar for me. 

Many of the reviews for this book focus on how frightening and dangerous the world is that Rachel dives into. And that the “monsters” are real rather than paranormal creatures make it all the more horrific. Is it difficult to write “human” monsters? How do you get into their heads?  

I can identify to some extent even with the bad guys, but at some point, I simply have to use a lot of technique. These antagonists are SO evil that it’s hard to get into their skin. I find that making them intelligent and at times reserved is more effective than making them act over the top all the time. That would get tiresome and the evil would lose its impact. 

You have a fascinating, very technical day job! Is it tough moving between engineer and writer? How do you balance the two? 

One has nothing to do with the other, it’s true. Sometimes when I’ve had a really stressful day I have to unwind before writing by listening to music or playing the violin for a while. When you’re doing one job, you really have to forget the other. Needless to say, I would rather be writing than solving IT problems. 

Now that The Schwarzschild Radius is released, what is next for you?

I’m working on my next thriller, but I find that marketing The Schwarzschild Radius takes more time than I thought it would. Marketing is not something you give much thought to when you start writing. I don’t really care for self-promotion, but it’s a reality of the writing life. My new novel is a political thriller where the main character is John McKenna, the detective in The Schwarzschild Radius. I needed someone with his background and he fit the bill perfectly, so that saved me the trouble of creating a new protagonist. 

Do you have any writing rituals?

Yes, I tend to read first. I’m usually reading four or five books at a time and I’ll read a chapter of each to get into the groove. Then I’ll read what I wrote yesterday, then I’ll start writing my day’s quota, which is 500 words during the week and 1000 to 1500 words on the weekends. It’s a tough regimen between my day job, marketing The Schwarzschild Radius and having a  life. 

Where is your favorite place to write?

I do all my writing on a home-made lapdesk in front of my fireplace. I have a really nice office which I use for my engineering work, but when I quit for the day, I don’t go back in there. 

What inspires you to write?  

I like originality. I’ll always look for an original premise and I have to be able to condense it into a great pitch under 30 words. Above all, the idea has to move me. I have to get the feeling that this story HAS to be told. Only then can I commit a couple of years of my life to writing it. 

What 5 books are on your bookshelf right now?

It’s all over the map. Money Shot, by Crista Faust, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, The Snow Leopard by Peter Mathiessen, Hollywood by Gore Vidal and an Agatha Christie collection. 

What do you recommend people see/read/hear?

Well, certainly if you’re into fiction and drama, immerse yourself in it. Find an inexpensive playhouse and see plays whenever you can. Read history, classics and the modern works. I watch a lot of foreign films on Netflix. Get a feel for what’s been done, so when you get an idea, you’ll know if it’s worthy. 

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Monday, December 22, 2014

Waking the dead

SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER. I have both a Walking Dead and Tainted Blood spoiler after the jump! You have been warned! 

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 

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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!