Interview & Giveaway: Martha Reynolds, Author of Best Seller

ReynoldsBestSellerFolks, please welcome Martha Reynolds to the blog today. We chat about every day inspiration, self-promotion, tasty food, famous folks, and much more. If you’re interested in the giveaway, scroll to end. Enjoy!

How does modern pop culture influence your work? Do modern cultural references date a piece or add touchstones for the reader?

I try to limit my use of pop culture references when I write a story set in present time. It’s not that I don’t want it to be relevant, but I’ve read books with too much name-dropping, and yes, it dates that book (and out-dates it, too). At the same time, some things can’t be ignored – like the prevalence of cell phones and the way people interact with each other.

Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?

The important thing is not to lose the reader with these mundane occurrences! Life as it happens can be vital to a story, and if there’s meaning in what is routine, then I’ll weave it into the plot. If it helps the reader to understand the character, then it’s important.

Who are your non-writer influences?

I’m influenced by everything around me, so it could be the woman in front of me in the grocery checkout line, or the guy who serves me my coffee at Starbucks. When I’m out among people, I tune in for inspiration – it’s all around me.

ReynoldsChocolateForBreakfastWith the modern popularity to ebooks, a book is no longer limited to a specific genre shelf. It is now quite easy to label place an ebook in multiple genres (i.e. YA, Fantasy, Horror). How do you see this affecting readers? Have you been inadvertently lured outside your reading comfort zone?

Ultimately, I think it’s beneficial to readers. I mean, who wants to read only thrillers or only chick lit? And yes, I’ve read books that have multiple genres (paranormal romance, Christian fantasy) – if the book is well written and compelling, I’m on board.

In this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?

I still don’t like self-promotion. Maybe it’s the way I was raised, but I’m uncomfortable with it (even though I know I write good books – there, see? I did it – a little). But it’s necessary. So when a reader sends me a message or posts a kind review, I connect. It’s important.

The most challenging side of self-promotion is being different. Standing out among the thousands of other books – finding the line or blurb or title that will make a new reader click.

ReynoldsBitsOfBrokenGlassWhat does your Writer’s Den look like? Neat and tidy or creative mess? Can you write anywhere or do you need to be holed up in your author cave?

Well, I’m not going to take a picture, so you can guess. Not neat. Piles of books – on the side shelf, on the floor. I’m looking at my thesaurus (even though I use the online version), the Chicago Manual of Style, and a pile of novels I keep meaning to bring to my library or donation bin. I write in a little alcove at the top of the stairs, on a regular desktop computer with a giant monitor (my poor old tired eyes).

If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table?

Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, William Faulkner, and Flannery O’Connor.

What would they order?

Ha! Great question. Okay.
Hemingway would order oysters (with their strong taste of the sea).
Fitzgerald would order a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings, then ignore the food and just drink wine.
Rawlings would most definitely NOT order venison! She’d opt for the vegetarian entrée of ratatouille.
William Faulkner wants salmon croquettes (his favorite food), made with canned pink salmon, crushed Saltines, minced onion, and dill pickle relish. Very 1950s Mississipppi.
And Flannery O’Connor would skip the meal and go straight for dessert – in her case, peppermint chiffon pie.

ReynoldsChoclateFondueCover art can be so important for a book, making or breaking sales. What cover art has caught your eye, that you found stood above other books?

I’m not sure if you want examples, but strong contrast really pops. I’m thinking of The Hunger Games – you know the black background, white lettering, and the gold mockingjay pin on the cover? And Catching Fire and Mockingjay worked also.

Cover art can be tricky. What might work on a traditional hardcover book in a bookstore might be illegible in a thumbnail viewed on a tablet.

What do you do when you are not writing?

I read. So many books, not enough time! I take walks for some quiet time, where my mind is open to new ideas and inspiration. And, of course, the house doesn’t clean itself. Laundry, cooking, cleaning.

Side characters can make or break a story. What side characters have you enjoyed in other works? What side characters in your own work have caught more attention than you expected?

Oh, let’s see. Ron and Hermione in the Harry Potter series. Sofia in The Color Purple. George Emerson in A Room with a View (and Charlotte Bartlett, too).

In my own novels, Erika Stangl in Chocolate for Breakfast had quite a following (several readers wanted a book just from her point of view). Camille in Bits of Broken Glass, and possibly Andrew in Best Seller.

Synopsis of Best Seller

Set in New England at the time of the American Bicentennial, BEST SELLER is the poignant story of a displaced young woman struggling to figure out who she is within the context of her hometown and the carefully masked dysfunction of her family.

“Everything can be fixed by writing a check.” Words to live by for Robin Fortune’s wealthy father, until he can’t buy her way back into college after she’s expelled for dealing pot. Now he chooses not to speak to her anymore, but that’s just one of the out-of-whack situations Robin’s facing. At nineteen, she feels rudderless, working in a diner by day and sleeping with a buddy from high school by night – all so strange for her because she was always the one with the plan. While her college friends plotted how to ensnare husbands, she plotted a novel, which she scratched out into a series of spiral-bound notebooks she hides in the closet. But now, there’s nothing. No vision, no future, no point. In fact, the only thing she feels she has to look forward to is that her favorite author, Maryana Capture, is paying a visit to the local Thousand Words bookstore. Robin surmises that if she can convince Maryana to help her get her novel published, she’ll finally get herself back on track. Except that life never takes a straight path in this intensely satisfying coming-of-age novel.

ReynoldsBittersweetChocolateAuthor Bio

Martha Reynolds ended an accomplished career as a fraud investigator and began writing full time in 2011. She is the author of five novels, including the award-winning Chocolate for Breakfast (her debut novel), Chocolate Fondue, Bittersweet Chocolate, and the Amazon #1 bestseller Bits of Broken Glass. Best Seller is her latest release. Her essays have appeared in Magnificat magazine.

She and her husband live in Rhode Island, never far from the ocean.

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The Gathering Storm, Part I

JordanGatheringStormBannerWelcome everyone to Book 12 of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. You can find the schedule to The Gathering Storm over HERE. Everyone is welcome to join us!

This week,  Sue at Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers is the host. You can catch Eivind, our WoT encyclopedia, in the comments.  Stop by Liese’sl at Musings on Fantasia. There’s plenty of cool non-spoilery fan art.

Once again, sorry for posting late. The last four weeks have been super intense for me and I was a vendor at this big weekend show and just simply came back exhausted physically and socially.

This week, we covered the Prologue-Chapter 6. Spoilers run rampant for this section and all previous books below!

1) Rand has sent a message to Tuon via a released damane, but it seems that it might be some time before she hears of his invitation. Do you think that this delay will make a difference? Will the Seanchan be too distracted by the newly arrived Trolloc hordes and Rodel Ituralde’s army?

No matter how Rand sends a message to Tuon, I still think her connection to Mat will be key in making the much-needed peace. And Rand was an idiot for not taking the Seanchan hierarchy into account. I know he doesn’t have much experience with it, but he does have a lot of experience with various countries/races/beings at this point and could heeded the damane’s words about propriety, etc.

And, yes, I expect the trolocs and Ituralde’s army will slow the Seanchan down a bit. Already, the Seanchan are showing respect for Ituralde’s battlefield prowess.

2) We had only a short glimpse of the Forsaken in this section, but there were some tantalizing hints. Given Graendal’s thoughts about Demandred, where do you think he has made his base of operations? What do you make of Moridin’s issues with his left hand?

I keep looking at Mazrim Taim. I always picture him in black, rubbing his hands together, and snickering quietly to himself. He has an army, of sorts. But I also stumbled across an unmarked spoiler months ago that makes me think that Taim is not Demandred. My brain dead cells aren’t coming up with another possbility, though knowing the Forsaken, it will be someone incompetent and lacking team player skills.

In Book 12, we had some hints that Moridin and Rand were some how connected. Now they each have fidgety left hands. I fear we may be up for a Harry Potter moment at the end of the book, where Rand has to actually die in order to kill the last vestiges of the evil Moridin/Dark One. But then Rand will be resurrected for that happy ending.

3) The Prophet finally met his end, but not before we got to spend a little time inside his highly disturbing mind. What do you make of his vision of the Dragon? Do you think that his death will remove the Dragonsworn as an organized force?

Oh, I forget what Masema was rambling on about before Faile shoved something pointy into him. I was a little surprised that Masema was taken out so easily, with very little lead up to it. I was not surprised that he believed that Perrin had to be taken out.

Since the majority of the Dragonsworn were forced into this mad army, I expect we won’t see a major force of them again. There may be a few that feel the need to keep the ‘dream’ alive and try to build some messed up church with very strict rules in Rand’s name later. And there may also be several thousand folks who feel Rand owes them something for the evil done in his name. I would be more worried about those folks.

4) We see Egwene go through some serious changes this week, as she realizes why the Aiel laugh at pain. Do you think that she is correct to think that Elaida’s rule would come to an end soon even without her own efforts? What do you make of the severe disruptions that are occurring in Tar Valon: are they worse than the ones we are seeing elsewhere?

I think Egwene’s demeanor and thoughtful comments are pushing things along. Yes, given time, Elaida would dig her own grave. But there is this looming time limit with the end of the world scheduled to happen in a few months. So someone has to move things along in order to have time to tack the Tower back together long enough to do some badassery fighting against evil…instead of innocents and other well-meaning folks.

That whole scene with the dungeon cell going all gooey was extremely disturbing! Still, I don’t think this is any worse than the ghost city that swallowed part of the caravan that was with the circus party a few books back.

5) Poor Aviendha is off counting tiny seeds whilst running across country. Can you offer any suggestions about what she has done wrong in the eyes of the Wise Ones?

I think this IS the final test. Yes, I believe it is fuckery by the Wise Ones to test Aviendha’s patience, mettle, and problem solving skills. Have you ever done that blanket test with your dogs? You take a blanket or towel, toss it over your standing dog, covering their head and see how long it takes them to get out of it. It’s suppose to be an intelligence test. Most of my dogs can toss it off within 5-20 seconds. But I did have one dog who would simply lie down and go to sleep.

I think all this BS from the Wise Ones is the blanket and they are counting to see how long it takes Aviendha to get out from under it.

6) We finally touch base with Gawyn in his efforts to disrupt the rebel siege. Can you think of anything that might make him finally see sense and join the rebel cause?

Well, I think if Gawyn saw Egwene’s breasts while she ordered him to join her side, he would do just that. ;)

But that isn’t likely to happen in the waking world any time soon. So I think he needs to see the bad guys do some truly bad guy things, like killing kids, squelching puppies, peeing in churches, etc. Gawyn has a head on his shoulders, but he also has a very loyal heart. So he needs something to slap him upside the head to break that loyalty.

7) Cadsuane and a few other Sisters are trying to get information out of Semirhage. Do you think they have any hope at all of succeeding, or will we have to endure many more creepy stories about how she can do truly diabolical things to peoples’ bodies?

I believe Cadsuane is correct. Physical torture would not undo Semirhage. She would just catalog her own reactions, noting what was of interest. And the silly psychological torture they are running isn’t going to do it either. So I look forward to seeing what Cadsuane comes up with to break Semirhage. What would break Cadsuane? Perhaps the threat of infinite boredom. I wonder if there is some large ter’angreal that would hold someone in stasis with no input from the world and yet leave their mind to spin in circles? Hmmm…Stasis Box anyone?

Squatch being cute.

Squatch being cute.

Other Tidbits:

Did I hear that right? Ituralde’s first love was a soft-handed prince with a jeweled sword grip? Ituralde is turning out to be one of my favorite side characters. I could go kick this bejeweled prince in the arse for him.

Can’t Rand use the Power to make a flaming left hand, or one out of glass or mist? Perhaps that takes more concentration than the poor lad has at the moment.

Faile swears her folks to secrecy over killing Masema. Oh, yeah, right. Like keeping secrets from Perrin has worked out so great so far!

May I slap Rand? He doesn’t want Semirhage tortured because she has a vagina? If the Dark One can pull the gender swap, surely the most powerful Aes Sedai can come up with something along the same lines!

Revenge of the Simians by Thomas Weston

WestonRevengeOfSimiansWhy I Read It: I enjoy stories about animals evolving to the point where they can collectively compete with humanity for supremacy.

Where I Got It: Review copy via Audiobook Monthly (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: If you have been searching for a grittier version of Planet of the Apes or The Rats of NIMH, check this out.

Narrator: David Dietz

Publisher: Thomas Weston (2014)

Length: 5 hours 55 minutes

Author’s Page

Francine and Wayne work at a medical research facility. Their jobs pay the bills, keep them fed, and suck their souls away. They are the ones to work closely with the experimental & experimented on animals – feeding them, cleaning up after them, and strapping them down for further tests and injections. Meanwhile, the upper crust of the research facility loan out their militarized experiments to the military, who in turn, run covert ops that bring about political chaos in chosen cities and countries. If that alone were not enough to keep the readers entertained, Thomas Weston takes the story a step farther when the simians start thinking for themselves, organizing, and challenging the authority of humans.

This story started off strong, with Fran and Wayne sympathetic to the apes they worked with but also feeling they were trapped in their current jobs due to financial burdens. Plus we had little snippets of the various military uses the apes were being put to. Then there are also the apes themselves, sporting names like Ishtar, Marduk, and Emond. They have character, desires, motivations. We also have some immediate bad guys that are great to hate on, such as some of the lead research scientists who are sadists when it comes to their simian experiments.

Even though the story is speckled throughout with various conspiracy theories and political commentaries, I was able to set those aside for the story. Many of the characters stayed true to their motivations throughout the story, except for Francine and Wayne. They went from sympathetic to highly selfish to chaotic evil and the transitions weren’t particularly clear. While there are a fair number of female characters in this story, by and large, they are being led around by the males, instead of making independent decisions and actions. There is a notable exception late in the story with Francine, but the whole scenario stretched the creditability of the story (if I go into detail, I give way part of the ending, so I won’t).

While I really like the plot idea of apes taking over the world, I felt that the main research facility sported too few of the simians to get the job done. Perhaps if the author had expanded the numbers in some plausible way, this would have made the final outcome of the novel plausible. Also, the apes use a kind of biowarfare towards the end and the idea that the humans wouldn’t catch on in time to control or even outright stop such an outbreak was not believable.

Overall, it is short enough to be a fun, gritty read for those who enjoy this niche science fiction. However, if you are looking for a great piece of literature to hold up and say, ‘Hey, it really could happen!’, this is not it. If you are easily insulted, then do note that the main characters sooner or later hit on nearly every major group that you can insult – woman, homosexual, democrat, republican, etc. I think this was done to reflect the small-minded nature of many of the characters and are not necessarily a reflection of the author’s views on the world. I don’t know if you will be cheering for anyone by the end of the book, but it was the same for me with Brave New World, one of my all time favorite classics.

The Narration: David Dietz did a good job of narrating this tale. He had to come up with a variety of ape voices, in both male and female, while keeping them all distinct. I am sure the ape voices put a lasting bur into Dietz’s voice.

What I Liked: Basic plot; book cover for Kindle edition; good set up for story; decent ending in general.

What I Disliked: Some of the characters changed too quickly without enough of a reason given; the women were definitely secondary to the male characters; the plot made some big stretches towards the end so that the story was unbelievable in certain places; the audiobook cover (very dull).

Interview: Fred Staff, Author of The Bass Reeves Series

StaffYoungBassReevesDear readers, clap your eyes together and on the screen to welcome author Fred Staff to the blog. His books, Young Bass Reeves and Bass Reeves, Lawman, are about the first Black US Marshal west of the Mississippi. Join us as we chat about famous authors, Bolivia, history, and more.

Are minions/sidekicks just throwaway devices in a tale? Can they become more? Do they need to become more?

I hope that every character in my stories are there for a purpose.  In fact, there are always at least three people in a story that are key elements  My first book ROCHA’S TREASURE OF POTOSI had a terrifically powerful side kick that the protagonist depended on for advice and protection.  There will be a sequel to the Rocha book and his sidekick will be the protagonist in it.

My Bass Reeves Trilogy had so many real and famous people in it that a book could have and/or has been written about them.

SERGEANT GOLDSBY AND THE 10TH CAVALRY is also filled with real people who played an important part in the development of the west.  Its sequel THE OTHER GOLDSBY, CHEROKEE BILL will have many of the same characters, plus some other notorious people from the time.  Most all of my characters have ties with many people who deserve their own story and a large per-cent already have.

Who are your non-writer influences?

Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Abe Lincoln, Gandhi, Now you should ask why and the answer would be that they stood their grounds on things that they thought were right and had the nerve to put forth great effort for what they believed in.

StaffARocha'sTreasureOfPotosiWhich ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

There are too many to list.  I spend most of my reading in research and seldom have the time or energy to just sit down with a specific book and read it from cover to cover.

In my experience, some of the best fiction is based on facts and history. How do you build your research into your fictional works?

I spend nearly as much time in research as I do in writing.  I am an old history teacher and my goal is to expose people to historical events as accurately as possible and at the same time entertain them.   I have written nothing that could not have happened in the time that I was writing about.  I love to write dialog and if an event took place there surely was some communication leading up to it or after it happened. This is where the fictional part comes to play.  No one was there taking notes, so I do my best to try and convey what the people would have said in this situation.

If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

Mark Twain, Robert Service, Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, and John Steinbeck.  I am sure there would be plenty of liquid refreshments.  I would think that some rare beef would be involved and possibly a fish dish.  Capote would probably want to order separately.  I don’t think there would be a vegetarian in the bunch.

StaffBassReevesLawmanIf you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in historical fiction, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank,  several books by Teddy Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, Animal Farm, The Grapes of Wrathpoems by Robert Service, For Whom the Bell Tolls,  To Have and Have Not, The Godfather, All Quiet on the Western Front, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and Of Mice and Men.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Waste my time.  I love good conversation with people that are smarter than me.  I feel that you should never stop learning.  I read and watch the news daily.  I read historical articles.  I live in Bolivia so I like to take in the sights that are so unique to the area.  It is a different world and culture and the exploration of even minor things is very enlightening.  I am now involved in the making of a video about Potosi, Bolivia.  This was the source of a tremendous amount of wealth for the Spanish Empire.  My first book got me into its history.  The video will consist of three approximately 30 minute segments.  The project is designed to be used in the classroom as well as for history lovers.  It will cover The Rich Mountain (El Cerro Rico) or The Mountain That Eats Men, depending on whether you were one of the 8 million killed in the mines or one of the nobles and church leaders who lived the life of luxury provided by the unlimited wealth that flowed from the mountain for over 300 years.  It will cover the over 60 churches that were constructed there in the 15th and 16th century.  We will do an in-depth visit to the mint that produced the legendary amount of silver that could have built a bridge from Chile to Spain   This city was the largest city in the Western Hemisphere and on top of that, is at an elevation of 13,450 feet. The early engineering triumphs here are amazing, yet few know the story.  The project will be a positive source for history, sociology, geography and Spanish classes.  The mine still operates and there is also some danger involved in the making of the video, because we will film inside and there have been recent cave-ins.  I see this as a great adventure as well as my being able to leave something to students that they will never be able to experience.

What are the top 3 historical time periods and locations you would like to visit? 

The Wild West 1865 to 1910.  The Colonial and the Civil War period.  Roman times and Greece. I know that is more than you ask for but as a history teacher there is so much I would really liked to have seen.

Places to Stalk Fred Staff

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Knot in Time by Alan Tucker

Book, beer, cat - I'm good to go.

Book, beer, cat – I’m good to go.

Why I Read It: A fun time-travel romp, why not?

Where I Got It: Won a copy from the author (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Like your time travel to have cool tech, aliens, alternate endings, and maniacal spiders? Then check this out!

Publisher: Mad Design Inc. (2012)

Length: 302 pages

Series: Book 1 Tales of Uncertainty

Author’s Page

Dare (short for Darius) is a 19 year old high school drop out working as a janitor when he is first approached by the Keepers, who are there to keep time running smoothly. First contact doesn’t go so well, and even second and third contact don’t go so well. But eventually, Dare is swept up into a space ship with time traveling capability. M’sang, a rather enormous hamster alien, takes on training Dare, along with the ship’s artificial intelligence, Kim. After some hard knocks in the training ring, Dare is sent on his first mission with some cool gadgetry. And then he runs up against Hope, who is working for another team of time travelers, and she doesn’t hold back.

As the adventure continues, we end up on a future moon that has a small but tenacious population in a sprawling base. For a while, Dare isn’t sure who to trust – Have M’sang and Kim been using him, misleading him? Is Hope right in her efforts to preserve a thread of time she considers to be the right one? To add to his confusion, Lauri, a bio-engineered young lady, enters the mix, along with her substitute father figure, Dr. Lansing. The moon base takes on a deadly personality when a genetic experiment (Hans, a rather large and very intelligent, nearly indestructible spider) is let out to play. Plus there’s all those hamster aliens wanting to invade the base. Yep, Dare has plenty of knots to untangle.

I had a lot of fun with this book. Dare often tosses out quips and references to 80s and90s movies, making little cultural touchstones for the readers. He’s a likeable kid, even if he does come off as too much of a good guy at times. But this feeds into his naivete as he always falls for the damsel in distress. The book pings back and forth from humor to action to mystery to occasional violence. It’s a good balance insuring the reader is never bored or feels the need to hurry through a section to get back to the good parts.

The time travel element is well done, being mostly used as a mechanism to tell the story and not getting hung up on the physics behind such a possibility. The characters were easy to connect with. The bad guys had enough variation that some I wanted dead in horrid ways while others I sympathized with a bit. I especially liked M’sang, his gruffness, his ability to toss Dare around the martial arts room. The mental image of Dare being thrown down by a large, irate hamster gave me the giggles more than once.

There’s only a few females in this novel (Kim, Hope, Lauri, any others?) and two of the three are very attractive. In fact, was one a sex worker early in her career. My one criticism is that I would have liked to see a greater variation in the female characters, as we do with the male characters. Over all, a very entertaining read and I definitely look forward to reading more works by this author.

What I Liked: The big hamster has got some serious moves; Dare was a fun POV for the story; maniacal Hans!; good balance of action, humor, and serious moments; the cover is stunning.

What I Disliked: There are few female characters and they are first introduced as hot, sexy things and later get to be a little more.

What Others Think:

Reading Teen

 Play Time With Emilah Thicke

Rosie Writes

Read For Your Future

Dark Taste of Rapture by Gena Showalter

ShowalterDarkTasteOfRaptureWhy I Read It: I have enjoyed other Alien Huntress books.

Where I Got It: Review copy from the publisher (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: If you enjoy heavily armed sexy alien half breeds, check this series out.

Narrator: Sebastian York

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2014)

Length: 11 hours 39 minutes

Series: Book 6 Alien Huntress

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 6, it works fine as a stand alone.

Our two heroes of the story, Noelle Tremain & Hector Dean, each have deep, dark secrets and these secrets keep them separated for much of the book. They first meet at AIR (an acronym for the organization that hunts down misbehaving aliens on Earth) boot camp – Noelle is a trainee not expected to graduate and Dean is a bald, badass instructor who gives her no quarter. While we get a little time at boot camp, the story then jumps ahead several months to where Noelle is graduated, badged, and on the streets kicking ass. A prominent businessman dies in a nasty fashion and Noelle and Hector are paired up to fight evil, the kind of evil trafficking in slaves.

This was another fun romp in the Alien Huntress series. The bad guys deserved a messy end, the good guys were sassy and dedicated, the tech was fun, and the sex scenes were sizzling. For much of the book, Noelle and her gal pal Eva provide plenty of snarky comedic relief. Everyone needs a friend like Eva who will tell you when you’re an idiot and threaten to smash the face in of anyone else who says it. Plus, she’s rather petite and travels well in a duffel bag. ;)

Hector Dean has plenty of hang ups. His childhood was pretty gritty and he carries the guilt of having killed other children when he lashed out in pain, anger, and despair as a kid himself. Oh, and he has very sensitive arms. Yes, he has this wee little issue of setting things ablaze and turning people to ash whenever he feels a strong emotion, such as anger, fear, arousal. So he hasn’t really made time with the fairer sex. For years now I have believed that male virginity was a highly under rated quality in our society and I very much enjoyed how Showalter employed this aspect of Dean’s character.

Noelle comes from a rich family, and one that has dismissed her as frivolous and useless (except as a trophy daughter) for years. Her decision to become an AIR agent and work for a living, of course, deeply embarrasses much of her family. She too has her secrets and one of them concerns her ability to withstand painful torture with a smile and snarky remark.

The plot was fun, with Dean & Tremain closing in on the slavers, and then losing them again, only to come close yet again. In fact, it somewhat mirrored their own burgeoning relationship. As one moves forward, the other pulls away, and so forth. The draw between the two is palpable, creating plenty of tension for the reader. My one little criticism concerns Hector and his supposed lack of creativity when it comes to having sex without using his hands or arms. Let’s say Hector started thinking about girls when he was 15 and let’s say he is in his mid-20s for this book. Well, he’s had 10+ years to consider how to pleasure a woman and/or himself. Yet, he is rather daunted by how to go about this in the book, at first at least. He’s a planner, always considering possibilities, so I would think that he would have imagined how to get to business. And if he couldn’t imagine it, well there are plenty of videos out there.

But once we finally get Noelle and Hector locked in a room together, sparks do fly. Don’t worry readers, Showalter doesn’t leave you feeling unsatisfied with this book.

The Narration: Sebastian York did a very good job. He had several characters, some with accents, to pull off and they all came across as distinct.

What I Liked: Cool fancy tech; aliens and their powers; the sexual tension between the main characters; Eva’s stalwart friendship; the sex scenes.

What I Disliked: It was a little unbelievable that Hector had not figured out how to do the deed without using his hands and arms; the image on the cover seems to have odd proportions to me, especially in the upper arm to lower arm ratio.

What Others Think:

Red Hot Books

RT Book Reviews

Fiction Vixen

Lost In Literature

Ramblings From A Chaotic Mind

Interview & Giveaway: Anika Arrington, Author of The Accidental Apprentice

ArringtonAccidentalApprenticeFolks, please give Anika Arrington a warm welcome. She’s here to chat about her book, The Accidental Apprentice, and plenty of amusing things, such as Firefly, great food, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, and the need for sleep.If you’re interested in the giveaway, scroll to the bottom.

From your own writings, are there any characters you would like to cosplay?

Madame Falstead would be fun, with her wicked cane and crazy red hair. I’m even the perfect build if a bit taller than she is. There are aspects of her character that are slightly autobiographical as well, so I think slipping into her shoes for a day would be rather comfortable.

What reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

Well, I’ve loved both of the Sherlock Holmes reboots. Downey Jr. and Cumberbatch both do incredible things with the character, and their Watsons are equally brilliant. Honestly, I now want to go watch the first episode of Sherlock season 3 just thinking about it. So stinking hilarious!

As far as remixes not working, while nothing specific jumps to mind besides Disney’s Maleficent (which wasn’t awful or anything), I’m not thrilled with the modern trend of bringing a story back around to make the bad guys merely misunderstood. I think every writer who has studied at least a little understands the value of having an antagonist that people relate to or sympathize with, but that doesn’t make them the good guy. If you are willing/capable of killing people or destroying civilizations to get what you want, then you are a bad person. And I like stories where the good guys win. Maybe not in the way you expect and not without loss and sacrifice, but the bad guy is the bad guy and the good guys (while not necessarily perfect) need to win in the end.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you chose to do?

I am a mom of 6, so if I wasn’t writing I know my time would fill up quickly, and that would be just fine with me. I toyed with the idea of going to culinary school to become a pastry chef, but I don’t think the hectic world of the professional kitchen is for me. And I love physics, but my brain doesn’t hold onto formulae in the way that’s required to play with the cosmos. My list of interests goes on for miles, actually, but the only thing I have ever been able to stick with and play with is the written word. Although I was rather good at charcoal drawing. . . .

As a published author, what non-writing/reading activities would you recommend to aspiring authors?

That is a trick question as all activity relates to writing or reading in some way. But in the spirit of the question: Cook!! Or at the very least, Eat!! Make it a truly visceral experience every time you sit down to a meal. Take in the scents and pick them apart in your head. Savor the mouth-feel of every bite. Let the flavors move you. And then when you sit down to the page let that same act of observation permeate every scene. A huge part of the “show-don’t-tell” aspect of writing is just taking observation to the next level. I am still learning and struggling to apply the concept, but all close observation feeds creative endeavors. Walk in a natural setting, and notice the smallest details of the life around you. Watching cloud shapes. Go to museums: art, historical, natural history, science. Listen to music., with a careful ear for melody, harmony, and lyrics. And love people. Engage with your family, co-workers, neighbors, and friends as often as possible, and I don’t mean on social media. Listen to people. Listen to the way they talk as well as what they say. Learn how to read between the lines so that your characters will never have to say insipid things.

FreemanMechanizedWhat were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

Ha, if anything my kid self knew it better than my adolescent and early adult self did. I memorized stories at the age of three and one of my parents favorite party tricks was to hand me a book and let their friends stare in awe as their three year old “read” herself a story. I would draw pictures and make up the stories that went with them. And I have always told myself stories in my head at night to put myself to sleep. I was pretty nerdy from the get go, but in a fairly out-going way. I was 6th grade student council president, lead (or at least I tended to have the most lines) in the school plays, and I spent my recesses in the library’s non-fiction section reading books about sharks, spiders, how to draw horses, whatever struck my fancy. And my kid self really wanted to be a doctor until I realized I am one of those people that can’t handle blood.

If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

Root beers and hot chocolate all around for Samwise Gamgee, Charlotte Doyle, Meg and Jo March, Neville Longbottom and The Weasleys, and Anne Elliot from Jane Austen’s Persuasion. (Hey, I’m a writer. I never said I could count.)

What do you do when you are not writing?

Did I mention my six children? The oldest is 8 years old this month, so yeah. . . . I love to be in the kitchen if my previous response didn’t make that evident. I love listening to baseball on the radio during the season (Go D-backs!). Watching it on tv makes me mad, no idea why. And I do like going to the movies. I don’t get to the theater as often as I would like, but that’s what Redbox is for, right? There are even things that I don’t do with my time that I miss, like going to art museums, concerts, practicing the piano and Japanese. As a parent (mom or dad) you give up things to make sure the family runs smooth. Oh and sleep, I miss sleep.

Side characters can make or break a story. What side characters have you enjoyed in other works? What side characters in your own work have caught more attention than you expected?

I’ve always been of the mind that the side characters are where it’s at. Wash from Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” series was my favorite. In fact, nearly every time Alan Tudyk appears on screen his character ends up stealing the show for me. Neville Longbottom is my favorite character from the Harry Potter series, particularly the way Matthew Lewis played him in the films. He grows so much and develops as a character in really great ways, you just can’t help cheering for him in the end.

As far as The Accidental Apprentice goes, Crispin stands out as a sneaky B-character who runs off with most of the scenes he’s in. He’s so funny and tenacious and I just want to ruffle his blonde curls. I’m looking forward to making him a point of view character in the sequel.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

Barring anything unforeseen, I will be at the Chandler Author Walk in Chandler, Arizona on November 21st. I’ll be selling and signing copies of The Accidental Apprentice and Mechanized Masterpieces: A Steampunk Anthology. I’d like to add a few more, but we’ll see. I’m hoping to start work on Accidental’s sequel in January. And of course, any events I am attending can be found on my website, www.anikasantics.com.

The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington

The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington

The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington

Find Arrington on the web: Website | Facebook | Twitter

The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington

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