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!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Author Interview: Rebecca Chastain (A Fist Full of Evil)

If you scan the suggested books on the Hell's Belle Amazon page,  Rebecca Chastain's A Fist Full of Evil pops up. Mixing humor with urban fantasy, her heroine Madison Fox is coping with her supernatural ability: seeing souls gives her the ability to fight evil.

Here's the official synopsis:

Madison Fox just learned that her ability to see souls is more than a sight: It’s a weapon for fighting evil. The only problem is she doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing.
On the positive side, her money problems are over, she’s possibly discovered her purpose in life, and her coworker is smoking hot. On the negative side, evil creatures now actively hunt her, and deadly experiences are becoming the norm.
When she thinks it couldn’t get worse, a powerful evil sets up shop at a local hotel’s video game convention, and it’s got its eye on more than the gaming geeks: it is hungry for Madison’s soul. Madison needs to become an expert illuminant enforcer overnight to save her job, her region . . . and her life. 

 I am thrilled that Rebecca is hanging out with us today to tell us more!  

Tell me about the world you have created in A Fistful of Evil.

Set in my backyard (Roseville, California), A Fistful of Evil is a lighthearted coming-into-power story of Madison Fox, a twenty-something everywoman tasked with protecting all the people in her region from evil creatures visible only to people like her—illuminant enforcers. Evil creatures come in all shapes and sizes, from adorable chinchilla-like imps to freakish spiky, scorpion-tailed vervet. But those are just your everyday evil creatures. Something much larger and more powerful has moved into Madison’s region, and her world is about to be thrown into chaos.  

We both write about supernatural creatures living amongst “normal” people. What draws you to that idea?

It’s a hobby, really. I’ve been playing this imaginary game with myself for so long, I don’t remember when I started. When I’m out in public, I make up stories for the people I see—why that woman is in such a hurry, why that man has a limp, what has upset the child who was perfectly fine two seconds ago. The stories usually involve some supernatural reasons, the more bizarre the better. A Fistful of Evil took those musings further, building an entire sub-world only the lucky (or unlucky) are privy to.     

Humor in writing is huge for me, and for you too! What draws you to humor in your reading and your writing? 

My writing aspirations have always been simple: I want to write books that leave people in a better place. Well, now that I said that, it sounds like a very complex goal! More plainly, I want to put a smile on readers’ faces, or better yet, get genuine laughs. I have certain authors I turn to when I’m in a rough emotional place or want a book that leaves me energized (Janet Evanovich and Katie MacAlister are great for this). I want to be that kind of author, the one readers grab when they want a pick-me-up read or a book they know will be fun.

Where do you find your story ideas and inspiration?

Usually in my toothbrush, sometimes on my elliptical machine, and occasionally from the absurd stories I cobble together in an attempt to mimic a dream and convince my body to fall to sleep faster.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I have routines, such as setting word-count goals for each session and turning on music, but I’m not sure if these qualify as rituals. My obsession with outlining might be evolving into a ritual. A single novel’s outline can be upwards of 40 pages long, include all subplots, main plots, motivations, arcs, timelines, and hooks, and then before I write each scene, I break it down into a smaller, more detailed outline. Since this greatly improves my daily word count, it’s become a compulsory.

Where is your favorite place to write?
My desk, without a doubt. It’s ergonomically set up, has all my notes, scrap paper, pens, places for my two drinks (I don’t know why, but I usually end up with two by the end of th day), and my vetted music (songs that won’t interrupt the creative flow). Within two steps is a blanket for when I’m too cold and my elliptical machine, which is a lifesaver when I’m stuck and need to move a bit to get ideas flowing again.

What inspires you to write? 


No, that’s a lie. I wrote for twenty years before seeing a penny. Money is just such a nice, believable reason.

The truth is far more sinister. I’m less inspired than I am addicted. Compelled. I don’t feel right when I go too long without writing. It’s desperation not inspiration. Once an idea takes root, it’s like a song stuck in my head: I have to get it out or it just repeats on a loop. 

What 5 books are on your bookshelf right now?

From my TBR bookshelf (which has only 18 books on it, so it obviously needs feeding):

Forgotten Truth by Dawn Cook (aka Kim Harrison)
The Gaslight Dogs by Karin Lowachee
Killbox by Ann Aguirre
Marked by Sarah Fine
The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas

Any recommendations of which I should read first?

What do you recommend people see/read/hear?

Read: Sunshine by Robin McKinley
Hear: Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog by Lisa Scottoline (the audio version is read by the author)

Want more Rebecca? Find her online at her website or Goodreads. And you can Facebook friend her or Tweet at her.