Audiobook+ Giveaway & Interview: Terry Maggert, Author of Heartborn

MaggertHeartbornEveryone, please welcome Terry Maggert to the blog today. I really enjoyed his suspenseful YA angel novel, Heartborn. A big thank you to Jess at The Audio Book Worm for setting up this book tour. Swing by the tour page to catch more interview, reviews, giveaways, and guest posts. If your interested in the giveaway (and who wouldn’t be?), scroll to the very bottom to learn how to win an Amazon GC, an audiobook copy of Halfway Dead by Terry Maggert, or a bluetooth speaker. On to the interview!

*Author’s note: these are great questions, and it’s high time someone considered my feelings about draconic issues.

Would you rather have a dragon, or be a dragon? 

Have, and my reasoning is purely selfish: I want to experience the majesty of having a dragon as a friend– think of the things it would lead to. Never search for a parking space. Avoid the DMV forever. No pesky TSA, or the need to check your broadsword before you board a cruise. Those are all things of the past. Additional fun: Think of the speaking engagements. “Terry and Banshee, thank you for being here. Could you tell us a little about your”—

“ROOOOAAAAARRRR.”

“Banshee would like me to tell you to never give up on your dreams. Did someone say there was an open bar?”

I’m don’t see a downside to this. Ever.

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

I could blather on about some obscure French film but that would just be posturing. In film, it has to be Star Wars because I was nine years old and it was the closest thing I’d ever seen to my dreams made real. I was a little boy when the Apollo missions went to the moon; I’d stand in our front yard (I’m from Florida) and watch those enormous rockets blaze upward and it was like I was onboard. If that doesn’t kindle your imagination, nothing will.

For books, it has to be The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey. It is, and will always be my first printed love. I’ve bought, re-bought, and bought them again because I wear them out. Seriously.

If you were sent on a magical quest which other 4 fantasy authors would you take with you?

This is EASY. Magical quests are always filled with things that have tentacles and fangs and whatnot. So, as follows:

Larry Correia (GUNS!).

Jim Butcher (KNIVES!)

Ursula K. LeGuin (Diplomacy/Magic)

And, there’s an up-and-coming British writer named J.K. Rowling who, I’m told, might be able to contribute magic systems and *possibly* finance the whole mission, although we’ll have to see if her books become popular. I’m pulling for her.

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

As a writer and history prof, this question brings me great shame. Among the numerous classics I *should* have read by this stage in my life, I think the most important one is Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. He was an emperor who found time to write. I should find time to read it, in between eating cookies and goofing off. Oh, and I need to re-read Frankenstein because my love for monsters has been like a fire in my imagination.

To sum up: Yes, I feel shame.

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

This is one of the most hotly contested subjects I’ve ever discussed at author events; it’s much like arguing about the greatest baseball player or singer or whatnot.

*Author’s note: my choices are Ted Williams and Freddy Mercury, respectively.

But, on to the topic at hand:

For sci-fi, I say start deep in the past. Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs are an absolute must. They led to the explosion of what we call genre fiction, and thus, we have the golden era. I’d say, given twelve books in SFF?

  1. Journey to the Center of the Earth, Jules Verne
  2. John Carter of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs (the origin of Star Wars!)
  3. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. LeGuin
  4. The Passage, Justin Cronin
  5. Startide Rising, David Brin
  6. American Gods, Neil Gaiman
  7. A Spell for Chameleon, Piers Anthony
  8. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
  9. Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
  10. Sunshine, Robin McKinley
  11. The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkein
  12. Dune, Frank Herbert

Of course, we will now let the arguments begin.

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

This is actually one of my high points. I was signing at LibertyCon this summer, and paired with Todd McCaffrey for an autograph session. Some points to know:

He is the son of my favorite writer, Anne McCaffrey.

He now writes my favorite series.

I’ve carried a copy of Dragonsong with me for more than 35 years.

I brought my tattered old book with me (given to me by my buddy Tim when we were kids), and Todd didn’t just sign it (he’s an incredibly nice guy), but chatted with me about his mom and their books. Aside from my parents, the McCaffrey family is the longest relationship I’ve had in my life. Here is the evidence:

Terry Maggert's favorite book.

Terry Maggert’s favorite book.

Then, for my fanboy moment, he signed MY dragon book, Banshee, which is dedicated as follows: “To Tim, who gave me Anne, who gave me dragons.”

I was, and am, giddy.

Terry Maggery with Todd McCaffrey

Terry Maggery with Todd McCaffrey

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

Let’s consider this for a moment, based on something I say as a history professor. “The good old days weren’t very good.”

I love things like dentistry, clean water, and air conditioning. With that in mind, if I’m going to visit the past and have a return ticket, I say:

Stonehenge. I MUST know who built it, and why.

Machu Picchu during its peak. Can you imagine a city in the clouds?

Paris in the 1880s— Ain’t no party like a Parisian Belle Epoque Party cuz a Parisian Belle Epoque Party don’t stop. The art. The culture. The intrigue. The wanton alcoholism and nudity. It’s all there.

You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)? Will there be a tasty libation involved?

We will run and drink mead, as the Gods intended. And by we, I mean, “Me, Leif Ericson of the Norsemen, and the Celtic warrior queen Boudicca, because I’m not just going to run that course, I’m going to WRECK it.”

AuthorTerryMaggertAbout Terry Maggert:

Born in 1968, I discovered fishing shortly after walking, a boon, considering I lived in South Florida. After a brief move to Kentucky, my family trekked back to the Sunshine State. I had the good fortune to attend high school in idyllic upstate New York, where I learned about a mythical substance known as “Seasons”. After two or three failed attempts at college, I bought a bar. That was fun because I love beer, but, then, I eventually met someone smarter than me (a common event), and, in this case, she married me and convinced me to go back to school–which I did, with enthusiasm. I earned a Master’s Degree in History and rediscovered my love for writing. My novels explore dark fantasy, immortality, and the nature of love as we know it. I live near Nashville, Tennessee, with the aforementioned wife, son, and herd, and, when I’m not writing, I teach history, grow wildly enthusiastic tomato plants, and restore my 1967 Mustang.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~Facebook ~ GoodReads

MaggertHeartbornSynopsis of Heartborn:

Her guardian angel was pushed.

Keiron was never meant to be anything other than a hero. Born high above in a place of war and deception, he is Heartborn, a being of purity and goodness in a place where violence and deceit are just around every corner.

His disappearance will spark a war he cannot see, for Keiron has pierced the light of days to save a girl he has never met, for reasons he cannot understand. Livvy Foster is seventeen, brave, and broken. With half a heart, she bears the scars of a lifetime of pain and little hope of survival.

Until Keiron arrives.

In the middle of a brewing war and Livvy’s failing heart, Keiron will risk everything for Livvy, because a Heartborn’s life can only end in one way: Sacrifice.

Fall with Livvy and Keiron as they seek the truth about her heart, and his power, and what it means to love someone who will give their very life to save you.

Audible        Amazon

JuliaWhelanNarratorAbout the Narrator Julia Whelan:

Julia Whelan has appeared in many films and television series, most notably ABC’s Once And Again. After receiving a degree in English and Creative Writing at Middlebury College and Oxford University, Julia began narrating audiobooks. She’s recorded hundreds of novels across all genres and has received multiple Earphones and Audie Awards. She is repeatedly named one of Audiofile Magazine’s Best Voices and was Audible’s Narrator of the Year.

IMDB ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ GoodReads

GIVEWAYS!!!

There are 3 different giveaways for this tour. You can enter any of them or all of them. These giveaways are hosted by The Audiobookworm and the prizes provided by the author. Enjoy!

Giveaway 1: A $10 Amazon Gift Card

Heartborn Audiobook Blog Tour

Giveaway 2: A Digital Audiobook Copy of Halfway Dead by Terry Maggert
Halfway Dead Digital Audiobook

Giveaway 3: Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

Mini Bluetooth Speaker

Labyrinth of Fire by Keith Robinson

RobinsonLabyrinthOfFireWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Fred Wolinsky

Publisher: Keith Robinson (2015)

Length: 9 hours 54 minutes

Series: Book 2 Island of Fog

Author’s Page

Note: I highly recommend reading Book 1 (Island of Fog) before reading this book.

Our hero kids (Hal, Robbie, Abigail, Darcy, Dewey, Emily, Fenton, and Lauren) from Book 1 continue on with new adventures in this tale. As they settle into their new homes and town in Miss Simone’s world, they also learn more about their abilities. Each will face challenges. There’s child-stealing harpies and dragons with a taste for human flesh. These shape-shifting kids will rise to the occasion!

Not all of the villagers are happy to have yet more shape shifters in their mist. The kids have to deal with some bullying and town politics. The centaurs want the humans to stop mining all together, but the mined ore provides energy for the human homes, making their lives easier. Miss Simone talks all the parties into allowing Dewey (who can shift into Centaur form) to be the one to decide after he has investigated the matter. This is the start of the missions the kids will be sent on to negotiate with the magical creatures and humans alike.

Our heroes are all around 12 going on 13 and love’s first blush is in the air. It was rather cute to see that in the midst of all the deadly serious events of the book. In Book 1, they really were just kids with school, play time, a few chores, etc. But in this book they are coming of age and adults are looking to them to make major decisions or take on actions that will affect many. The kids didn’t always do the exact right thing, but they all rose to the challenge. I was especially proud of how the harpies were handled. Totally did not see that coming! And it was harsh! That made the whole scene so much more powerful.

The whole book had a faster pace and more adventures than Book 1. I definitely enjoyed it more. We get to meet some of the first generation of shape shifters and through Dewey, we learn more about how the shape shifters were made. The dragons and their society were interesting to learn about. Plus there are these holes between the destroyed, polluted Earth and Miss Simone’s magical world that we learn more about. Fairies, wood nymphs, ogres, lizards of various types, and of course, a manticore! There was never a dull moment in this tale.

I received this book free of charge from the narrator in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Fred Wolinsky did a great job with the narration, keeping all the kid’s voices and the beasty voices distinct. When one of the kids shifts, Wolinsky somehow manages to make the shifter version sound very similar to their human voice, which was great. He even did a few little touches like making certain conversations sound a bit different to indicate it was mindspeak and such.

What I Liked: The cover art; the kids are growing up; the harpy mission; dragons!; the centaur dilemma; manticore!; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I really enjoyed this one!

What Others Think:

 

Torch Under the Blanket Books

Giveaway & Interview: J. J. Sherwood, Author of The Kings Series

J.J. Sherwood  AuthorFolks, please give a very warm welcome to J. J. Sherwood, author of Kings or Pawns, Book 1 in the epic fantasy series The Kings. She’s kindly given us a very fun interview. Also, don’t miss the iRead Book Tours link to more interviews, guest posts, reviews, and giveaways! Don’t forget to check out the giveaway, linked at the end of this post!

Would you rather have a dragon, or be a dragon?

Definitely human—then I’d still get the benefit of flying and fire and all that wonderful dragoness without the downsides—you know, dragon slayers and lack of fingers and being an awkward size.

Unless I could be a dragon who could turn into a human. That’d definitely be the winner.

It’s time for you to host the book club. Who do you invite (living, dead, fictional, real)? And what 3 books will you be discussing?

Alexander the Great—I mean, I’ve had a crush on him since I was a kid and he could be there so I could oogle him with a proper excuse. Next, John Quincy Adams—he swam nude in the Potomac River every day so that pretty much clinches him as fascinating. And St. Francis of Assisi—he was the first Italian poet, stripped naked in the middle of the town square when his father demanded he return the money he stole for a poor church. He was a definite eccentric, and also as a bonus, was supposedly dashing…

Ok, so we would read no great intellectual masterpiece like Shakespeare or A Tale of Two Cities: I think we’d just discuss the Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. It’s my favorite series and you can’t just read ONE. That’d be a crime.

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

Superhero and he would be Spiderman. And as he whisked me away into the sunset he’d make a dreadful pun.

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

Hm. This is a thinker and while I gave myself a whole thirty seconds to consider, I came up with nothing. I think “affecting human cultures” is a strong phrase when compared with unicorn hunts. But I wish that we all had an excuse to spend a Tuesday night hunting dragons. So while I don’t see it affecting people’s actions in the grandest sense, I do believe it promotes inspiration and imagination across the world.

SherwoodKingsOrPawnsReality 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?

I think it’s extremely essential in fiction—especially in fantasy. We are often weighed down by the wonder of magic and fantastical creatures, so normalizing the world with a (brief) description of a lengthy travel coupled with a few choice “realistic” descriptions (not to mention a bathroom break or two), can go a long way to make the reader feel like they have both feet in the world. The key is to not make such mundane things boring.

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

Worst job: working as a cashier at a craft store. It was like grating my forehead against a cheese grater. I frankly can barely tolerate any actual paid work outside of writing. Except cleaning up other people’s messes. You will PAY me to scrub your toilet bowl and vacuum up cat fur? SOLD.

And that totally isn’t sarcasm.

No really. I’m serious.

If you were sent on a magical quest which other 4 fantasy authors would you take with you?

Oh boy oh boy. Nancy Varian Berberick—beautifully poetic, Jonathan Stroud—clever and funny, Mark Lawrence—original and funny, and Margaret Weis—one of the primary reasons I write high fantasy today!

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

Well, I use to want to be a lawyer. Or go into politics. You know, something where I could argue all day long. Now that I’ve gotten married, I think a house wife would about do the trick, too.

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?

Generally I find interviews to be a challenge. I mean, the ones that ask me the standard twenty questions. Sometimes I feel like stabbing my eyes out with a pencil when I’m asked “where were you born?” for the 50th time. This one, however, has been a blast.

But the thing I love most of all is the cosplaying we do for the series at conventions. Not only do we have the opportunity to meet new people, but we get to stalk around in fantastical armor while we do it.

Don’t miss out on more interviews, guest posts, reviews, and giveaways on the blog tour

SherwoodKingsOrPawnsBook Description for Kings or Pawns:

J.J. Sherwood’s debut novel KINGS OR PAWNS: THE KINGS, BOOK 1 is the first in a high fantasy epic series sure to please fans of both the science fiction and fantasy genres.

The year is 8994 P.E., and the city of Elvorium is corrupted—rotted to the core by the machinations of depraved politicians. With his father dead and the country facing a rebellion, Price Hairem becomes the king of the elven world of Sevrigel in one of its most turbulent points in history.

Young and daring, Hairem is determined to eradicate the corruption festering in Elvorium’s self-serving and all-powerful council, which thwarts his best intentions at every turn. But Hairem’s problems are far more sinister¬—and deadly—than merely political. The loyal members of the council are being savagely murdered by an assassin loosed within the city—an assassin whose brutality knows no bounds. Outside of the city, the Lord Saebellus wages a vicious rebellion against the capital. He has been thwarted thus far by the brilliant General Jikun, and Hairem is certain that the general can crush Saebellus.

But instead of continuing the campaign against the warlord, the council orders Jikun’s army to be split, sending him on a mission that furthers only their own wealth and power. Jikun knows that the council’s demands will leave Elvorium vulnerable to an attack from the formidable warlord. Although Saebellus has been recently defeated, he is far from vanquished. As corruption and death threaten to tear the city apart from within, the rebel Saebellus seizes the opportunity to lay siege to Sevrigel’s eastern capital and unleash his most powerful weapon yet: a demonic beast that neither weapon nor magic can kill. With the elven world crumbling around him, Hairem is grasping for his own power to fight against the forces that threaten Sevrigel.

Will Hairem overcome the council’s scheming and duplicity? Can General Jikun defeat the warlord Saebellus? Will this be the war that finally brings Sevrigel to its knees? KINGS OR PAWNS offers action, intrigue, mystery, and suspense—a thrilling story that will leave readers hungry for the sequel, Heroes or Thieves, to be published in February 2016.

Buy the book:  Amazon   Barnes & Noble

J.J. Sherwood  AuthorAuthor’s Bio:

J.J. Sherwood lives in Ohio with her husband and four near-identical cats. KINGS OR PAWNS is J.J.’s widely anticipated debut novel, and is the first book of The Kings quartet. The series is set in the high fantasy world of Aersadore, home to hundreds of characters who all clamor for J.J.’s attention. To learn more about the trials and tribulations of General Jikun and King Hairem, visit StepsofPower.com. J.J. Sherwood will be at the tenth Fandom Fest Comic Con in Louisville, Kentucky this coming August 7th-9th.

​Connect with the author:  Website   Twitter   Facebook  Goodreads

Giveaway!!!

Prizes: ​Win 1 of 20 copies of Kings or Pawns – print or ebook (mobi or ePub) (USA & Canada). Just click on the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

iRead Website new logo

Interview: Kelly Michelle Baker, Author of The Waters of Nyra

BakerTheWatersOfNyraVol1Folks, please give a warm welcome to author Kelly Michelle Baker. We spend some quality time talking about one of my favorite things – biology! But we also chat about some of my other favorite things like Harry Potter, fantasy authors, Ken Follett’s World Without End, and plenty more. Enjoy!

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

Books are time capsules. They often reflect the era in which they were written. If Tolkien were to compose The Lord of the Rings today, would it be different? Maybe not the core messages, but the setting and characters might have subtle 2015 traits vs. the 1930’s and 40’s. Hobbits shaped a world far outside Middle Earth. It’s become an almost tangible piece of civilization, still pervasive over 60 years later. Tolkien’s an outstanding example, but far from alone. Take Harry Potter. The boy wizard turned non-readers into bibliophiles and put adults in the children’s section of Barnes and Nobel. Everyone knows Harry. It’s been almost 20 years since The Philosopher’s Stone was first published yet it’s the gift that keeps on giving; an upcoming stage play, a spin-off film franchise, bonus publications by Rowling through the online interface Pottermore, etc. Fans are just as jazzed as ever (myself included). Where we’d be without Harry is hard to envision. Personally, I think the explosion of young adult readerships would be a bit paler. Cash-cows like Twilight, The Hunger Games, Divergent, Unwind, and The Maze Runner would exist but, without flying on Harry’s coattails (or Nimbus 2000), be far less lucrative.

If you were sent on a magical quest which other 4 fantasy authors would you take with you?

1) David Clement-Davies. I went with him on a Kickstarter quest once, but perhaps one day we can do something more exciting. He too writes about dragons. David has one of those lyrical voices caught between prose and poetry, and he can play it out through animals. He weaves dark worlds and darker psychologies. There’d be no journey’s end without him. He’d know the magic, but more importantly, the enemy’s next move.

2) Clare Bell. First, she’s a stone’s throw from where I currently live, so I wouldn’t have to travel much out of my way. Second, she’s a biologist, sustainability advocate, and an animal fiction writer—in other words, who I want to be when I ‘grow up.’ Together, we’d go on a paleontological dig for prehistoric felines.

3) Brian Jacques. If anyone knew warriors, it was Brian. He also had a knack for describing mouth-watering feasts. He’d be in charge of swords and snacks.

4) Patricia C. Wrede. She knows dragons as well as quests, but more importantly, she knows humor. On a magic journey, I’d need someone to keep my spirits up. Patricia’s a bucket of laughs and lemon-water (read Dealing with Dragons for clarity).

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

The only reboot I know well is the The Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire. The books were dense, but clever enough to warrant multiple readings. They work because they pay homage to the source material, but not at the expense of the story or characters. They can exist on their own without relying on constantly winking at the reader. I can’t stand that. It’s like a bad movie with no creativity, using celebrity cameos to garner box-office success. I can’t think of many books relying on such crappy hand-tricks, but that’s mostly because I avoid reboots. Still, good-retellings are out there. I hope to find them.

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

I’m a biologist! Writing doesn’t pay the bills (and for a long time, neither did biology). I’m currently working on the water crisis in California, but I hope to get back into wildlife ecology in the next few years. For my master’s I studied coyote diet and how it varies between season and location in the San Joaquin Valley. Coyotes have a bad rep but are extraordinarily important to human-modified ecosystems. If I could devote myself to preserving North American predators (and biodiversity in general), I’d be pleased as punch! As much as I love fantasy, nothing is more astonishing than the world we already live in. It’s more than worthy of our curiosity and exploration.

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?

To be honest, I hate advertising myself. I don’t mind other people doing it, but from me, it comes off vain and needy. I go through a cold sweat before putting anything up on Facebook or Twitter. I spent fifteen years keeping my manuscript a secret. Now when I hear my dragon’s name on another’s tongue, I have a little flip-out (like they’ve just read my mind). I’m slowly getting better, but it’s an adjustment. What I find difficult is telling strangers that I’ve made something worth looking into, but having no idea if that’s true. If I’m reaching a Watership Down fan, then yes, they should read my book. If they like teen-paranormal romance, they might hate it. Finding my target audience is challenging because animal-fiction is going through a dormant stage, at least for older readers. But this inspires me to write something new and peddle The Waters of Nyra when I can.

BakerTheWatersOfNyraVol2If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

Caris from World Without End (Ken Follett) and Alexandra from O Pioneers! (Willa Cather) would be on either side of me. Though separated in time (1300’s vs the early 20th century), they are young people struggling for their dream career, fighting the oppressions of their sex, heritage, and social standing. Hell-bent on a singular source of happiness, Caris and Alexandra abandon the niceties of comfort and deeper relationships (romantic or otherwise) which wait on the fringes of their ambition. Life begets choices. As a millennial who graduated just in time for the economic recession, I can identify. I’ve been running a race and not quite getting ‘there,’ leaving much of what I love on the road. It’s a timeless battle, and one to which billions can relate.

Beyond these two would be Theo Decker from The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt). In literature, we too often see characters who play their best cards in spite of bad hands. Theo is dealt bad cards and then cheats. Yet we root for him. He’s a good person, even when he’s swindling, even when he’s using, even when he’s betraying his friends. How can we possibly love him? Because, like Caris and Alexandra, he is us. He screws up. Badly. But he learns. His ethical 180’s are slow and arduous, but life is like that. I followed him through hundreds of pages and it still wasn’t enough. I want to know what he got up to after the final paragraph.

Across from Theo sits Morgra from The Sight (although as a wolf, she might need special accommodations). Morgra is one of the great villains of literature, although few have heard of her. The best baddies aren’t baddies, or at least they didn’t start out that way. Some are borne from injustice or trauma. Morgra is no exception, however, whether she was transformed by circumstance or an innate hostility is never answered, not by the heroes, not by her. She’s the ultimate enigma. We hear her thoughts in a few chapters but she’s still impossible to decipher. I love characters like that, with self-belief that could either be true or entirely fabricated. At teatime, I’d take one last stab at trying to figure her out.

And finally, at the head of the table, would be Jean Valjean of Les Miserables. He is one of those rare characters who experiences his ethical turnaround at the beginning of the story, not three-quarters through. As readers and creators, it’s easy to forget that not all journeys twist at the ‘climactic battle.’ Valjean defies the formula. His story is about the after.  The generosity of people is often overlooked, especially since the selfless rarely wave their flags. Valjean would be the guest of honor because he would never ask for it, and serve as a reminder that the story doesn’t end with wisdom. Rather, it begins again.

Which favorite fantasy worlds would you like to visit and what would you do there?

Not gonna lie: Harry Potter. No elaboration necessary. You’ve read it. We all have. There’s a wonderful quote by Ms. Rowling: “All these people saying they never got their Hogwarts letter: you got the letter. You went to Hogwarts. We were all there together. Of course it happened inside your head, but why on earth should that mean it wasn’t real?” I went to Hogwarts with friends and strangers and look forward to dozens of visits.

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

That I fell in love with? The Grand Escape by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Sometime in early elementary school I was pushed (kicking and screaming) away from picture books toward intermediate-reader novels. None of them starred animals. As a misanthropic seven-year old, I started boycotting stories and turned to informative non-fiction. In doing so I became extremely learned in zoology. I begrudge nothing, as this may have resulted in my career in ecology. But it wasn’t until I discovered The Grand Escape, which stars cats, that I realized some authors were writing strictly-textual animal fiction. From there I hopped to Brian Jacques’ Redwall, Kenneth Oppel’s Silverwing, and really didn’t look back until I discovered historical fiction in my 20’s. More ‘mature’ animal fiction waned in popularity some ten years ago, thus getting The Waters of Nyra to the surface has been tricky. So I’m grateful to older readers who haven’t turned their noses up at talking dragons. The kids have been great, too!

You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along? Will there be a tasty libation involved?

I’d take my own brainchild, Nyra, who has a knack for evading death. This is partially because she has a lot of help. But in spite of personal trepidation and more self-doubt than any eleven year old should have, she’s moderately clever and resourceful. I’m neither fast thinking nor thrill-seeking, so I’d have to strap myself to someone much more tenacious: her. A tasty libation? I’d settle for root beer, but Nyra (being a dragon) would prefer cool water from Fitzer’s Reservoir.

BakerTheWatersOfNyraVol1Book Blurb for The Waters of Nyra, Volume 1:

Never an ordinary dragon, Nyra grew up forbidden to breathe fire or fly. Like her mother before her, she has only known a life of enslavement, held in thrall by mountain dragons, which need Nyra’s ripening wings to secure hunting for the future.

But at the cusp of her first flying lesson, new rumors whisper through the herd. Mother pursues friendships in forbidden places, blurring the once succinct enemy line. In a whirlwind of realization, Nyra uncovers a secret in plain sight, one thought unknown to her enslavers, and one putting her at the focal point of rebellion should it come into play.

And come it does, but through a terrible accident, killing the slaves’ last chance of escape. To survive, Nyra must conquer the sharp-ended lies cutting her future to ribbons and the war threading in their wake.

BakerTheWatersOfNyraVol2Book Blurb for The Waters of Nyra, Volume II:

After braving the ocean, Nyra finds herself incarcerated on the other side of the world. The would-be saviors are in the midst of civil war, and her presence enflames their rivalry. Caught by the Sorja herd, Nyra is held prisoner with Olieve; a Royal as garrulous as she is blind, neither friend nor foe, but essential to the young dragon’s escape. Yet even escape has little promise, as the opposing Raklisall herd has a poisonous outlook on Agrings, so potent it reawakens an old scandal of superstition and murder.

At the crux of deceit, scorn, and prejudice, Nyra must unearth new weapons in her natural repertoire and learn the identity of a mysterious hero. Only then can she return home, and at long last free her downtrodden kin.

Places to Find Kelly Michelles Baker

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Youtube

Vlog

Amazon

 

Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: James Livingood, Author of Pale Rider

LivingoodPaleRiderFolks, please welcome the highly entertaining James Livingood. I have had the pleasure of enjoying 3 of his stories (Pale Rider, Summer Sword, & Magic Factory). We chat about Brandon Sanderson’s works, supernatural creatures, Firefly, and plenty more. Also, don’t miss out on the audiobook giveaway at the end of this post!

Would you rather have a dragon, or be a dragon?

I would rather have a dragon than be a dragon. Popular media shows dragons as hording gold and the closest I’ve every come to that is having a “piece of eight” pirate treasure mounted in my office. I am not very materialistic.

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

I like the idea of a supernatural creature saving me from doom. Much of the current portrayal of superheros seem like “happy accidents”. They accidentally gain great power and now use that power for good. On the other side of that space aliens feel like deus ex machina. They can be anything the author wants because humanity has never met an alien. Furthermore, alien technology can be whatever the author wants. However, supernatural creatures are purpose driven which I find fascinating. They exist for a reason and that binding (then breaking) of rules is what draws me to fiction.

LivingoodMagicFactoryIf you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

Book: God Emperor of Dune

Movie: Flash Gordon

TV Series: Firefly

For me, the entire Dune universe came to a conclusion in the God Emperor of Dune book. Flash Gordon is something my family watched on a regular basis. The soundtrack was created by Queen and the movie was a cheesy type of fun. Finally, Firefly was well written and a pleasure to watch.

If you were sent on a magical quest which other 4 fantasy authors would you take with you?

Brandon Sanderson would be the guide, since he knows the rules. Kevin Hearne could provide jokes and positive attitude. Jim Butcher could be the brooding one in the back that comes up with a crazy plan. Finally, I could sacrifice Terry Goodkind to the lion / volcano / angry natives. After reading all 11 of the original Sword of Truth series, I ended up only liking one book.

Who or what are your non-writer influences?

There are a lot of them: family, friends, teachers. I’ve been lucky to have so many great people in my life that singling just one out is difficult.

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

My other job is playing with technology. Beyond writing, it’s the closest thing to playing with magic. Using universal machines to create anything and communicate anywhere feels very magical.

LivingoodSummerSwordCare to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

I once got into an awkward argument with Brandon Sanderson. I felt he wrote the exact same female characters better than Robert Jordan. He was humble and disagreed. However, I was in full fanboy mode and I kept pushing my point. It was very awkward.

Which favorite fictional worlds would you like to visit?

I am working my way through Scott Meyer’s Magic 2.0 series. I think it would be fun to visit a world that I could program like a computer code. Living in that world would be like the holodeck in Star Trek.

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

The first one I remember reading would be Where the Wild Things Are.

LivingoodPaleRiderBook Blurb for Pale Rider: Zombies Versus Dinosaurs:

“I am often left to wonder why a zombie, walking around in the sun, smells better than a pooping dinosaur.”

Two worlds collide in this action novelette. Zombies have destroyed civilization. Gasoline fuel is no longer an option, but humanity must find a way to survive. In response to trying to restore our way of life, we engineer franken-monsters. Because of their small brains and massive sizes, these beasts make quick work of farming and clearing land. These large creatures are immune to the zombie virus and perform excellently in loud conditions. They are easy to train. They behave like war horses, prone to help charge in and defend our livelihood.

In honor of the past, and to help build our future, we named these creatures dinosaurs.

Places to Stalk James Livingood

 

GIVEAWAY!
James is giving away 5 Audible.com copies of Pale Rider: Zombies Versus Dinosaurs! To enter do the Rafflecopter thing below OR answer the following in the comments: 1) Do you have an Audible.com account? 2) Please leave a contact email (I promise not to do anything evil with it) 3) Do you have an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment? Giveaway ends September 15, 2015, midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Giveaway & Interview: Martin Berman-Gorvine, Author of Heroes of Earth

Berman-GorvineAuthorEveryone, please welcome Martin Berman-Gorvine. He’s here to entertain us with a chat on Gulliver’s Travels, Awesomecon 2015, geeky arguments, Martin’s upcoming works, and much more! Martin has also generously offered up a giveaway, open internationally, so don’t miss that at the bottom of this post.

More and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, a PC game, a graphic novel. How do you see the publishing industry evolving to handle this trend? Any plans to take your works in the multimedia realm? 

It’s increasingly the case that books, movies, graphic novels, etc. are viewed as comprising a single profit-obsessed beast called “the entertainment industry.” The word industry for me conjures smoke-belching factories, and the convergence of every form of storytelling is regrettable in many ways because it erases healthy distinctions between different forms of high art and pop art—this at the same time that new, absurdly specific “genres” are constantly being invented out of whole cloth by crazed marketers (middle-grade paranormal suburban steampunk, anyone?)

But it would be hypocritical of me as a speculative fiction writer not to acknowledge that I benefit from not being shoved into the ghetto of low-brow, disreputable and dangerous art that science fiction resided in back in the 1950’s, along with comic books, or to pretend that I wouldn’t welcome a phone call from some sunglass-wearing, poolside-drinks-sipping Hollywood producer eager to put my eminently filmable fiction on the screen. It wouldn’t even cost that much thanks to digital graphics to depict the psychedelic biplanes zipping around a Quetzelcoatlus-descended dragon in my latest novel, Heroes of Earth.

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

I was a lonely, picked-on, self-pitying nerd (a term that had no positive connotations when I was growing up in the 1970’s and 80’s). When I was in eighth grade I wrote a satirical sociology of the junior high school I was attending, dividing my classmates into five castes: Averages, Toughs, Pseudo-Toughs, Brainy Averages, and Brainy Weirdos. The last of these groups was the one I saw myself belonging to: “These have even higher I.Q.s than Brainy Averages. They are usually wimps. They do not conform to any usual style of dress (unless they are Pseudo-Toughs) and are likely to become nuclear physicists, cellular biologists, or something like that. They are not usually dangerous except when you trip over them.” (See my blog athttp://martianperspective.blogspot.com/2013/03/guest-post-1980s-time-capsule.html for the whole thing). Arnold in Heroes of Earth is like that. There’s a lot of the young Martin in him, to be honest.

As you can probably guess, when I wrote about the “Brainy Weirdos” I already saw myself as a writer, and had done so for several years by that point, producing reams of poetry (especially haiku), short stories and essays. I was hooked on expressing myself that way from the moment in elementary school when I read aloud in class an Inspector Clouseau ripoff I had composed for an assignment and basked in the laughter of my classmates—and for once, they weren’t laughing at me.

Berman-GorvineSaveTheDragonsIf you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in science fiction literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

I’m a great believer in classics, and I would start with Gulliver’s Travels because for me the presentation of very different kinds of people and creatures, fantastical technologies such as the “project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers” at the grand academy of Lagado, and of course the underlying satire of human venality and violence are the very same things that draw so many of us to reading and writing science fiction. H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds established two of the major themes in science fiction and have never been exceeded in storytelling excitement. Alternate history classics such as Ward Moore’s Bring the Jubilee and Philip K. Dick’s flawed but brilliant The Man in the High Castle helped create an important subgenre and pave the way for Harry Turtledove’s novels and my own work, such as the British America in my novels Save the Dragons and Heroes of Earth. The works of the great women writers who overlapped with “Second Wave” feminism in the larger American culture, such as Joanna Russ’s The Female Man, Ursula Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven, and James Tiptree Jr.’s Houston, Houston, Do You Read? provided vital new perspectives. I would want to include the work of Robert Charles Wilson, who writes three-dimensional characters and ponders deep religious questions amid world-shaking events, notably in The Spin. Really I’d have a lot of trouble limiting the reading list, or fighting the temptation to assign my own work.

DanielsBraveNewGirlsCare to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

Oh gosh. At Awesomecon 2015 I got the chance to meet Amber Benson, the actress, filmmaker and urban fantasy author. I wanted to give her a copy of my book Heroes of Earth that I had with me, but I worried that would make me seem like some kind of freakily obsessed fan, or maybe an author nobody wanted to read, especially because there were staff hovering around to prevent the truly obsessed from bothering the “celebrities.” So I settled for giving her a bookmark with my books listed on it. If by some bizarre chance she ends up reading this, I still have the book I meant to give her, autographed and everything!

What do you do when you are not writing?

Reading, mostly history or speculative fiction. Cleaning up excretia from our five cats and one dog. Disregarding Petula Clark’s advice and falling asleep on the subway. Working at my day job as a newsletter reporter and editor.

Berman-GorvineSevenAgainstMarsWhat is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

I have these every day with my sixteen-year-old son Daniel. He asks me what I would do if I could travel in time—“and you’re not allowed to kill Hitler, Dad.” “Kill Hitler,” I say. His follow-up question is, “What superpower would you have, if you could have any?” I haven’t figured out the answer to that one, so I shift us over to a little light ontological debate. Sometimes he offers me some useful advice for my next novel—for example, when I told him about the philosophical problem posed by the existence of parallel worlds in Larry Niven’s short story “All the Myriad Ways,” where the main character decides to kill himself because free will is meaningless in a multiverse where all possible decisions have been made somewhere, he suggested a counterargument that made it into Heroes of Earth. When we finish talking he’ll go back to playing Skyrim and I’ll go back to such fun pursuits as reading about the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939.

Berman-Gorvine36Side 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?

Side characters can assume outsize importance in the hands of a skilled author. For example, I recently finished reading Erica O’Rourke’s Dissonance, one of the most intriguing and complex approaches I’ve ever encountered on a parallel world theme. The main character, Delancey, is something of a standard-issue young adult heroine in being a rebel and a misfit, though she’s no less appealing for that. Her older sister Addison is her foil for much of the novel, a goody-two-shoes and seemingly an untroubled snitch who starts to develop unexpected depths and nuances toward the end of the novel. I’m looking forward to seeing both girls’ characters develop in the sequel.

In my own work, Jo Purnell, who first appeared as the annoying kid sister of one of the two teenage main characters in my 2013 novel Save the Dragons, returns in a more central role in Heroes of Earth, and I can feel she is definitely demanding her own novel. She’s going to get what she wants, too, because I’m a little intimidated by a girl who can telepathically talk to dragons, out-think Albert Einstein and Roger Penrose in mathematical physics, effortlessly picture higher dimensions in her mind, is musically talented, and outspoken and willing to fight for what she believes in. The challenges she faces will have to be considerable to be worthy of her. But she may live to regret getting what she wants, because I’ve recently signed a deal for a four-book horror novel series with Silver Leaf Books—the first one, All Souls Day, is due out in February 2016.

Places to find Martin Berman-Gorvine

Twitter: @MeshuggeWriter

Giveaway: open internationally!

One autographed copy of Heroes of Earth! Enter the Rafflecopter below or you can do the following in the comments below: 1) leave a way to contact you; and 2) answer this question: What is a recurring or memorable geeky debate you have taken part in?

Giveaway ends in 2 weeks, Midnight August 9th, 2015.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Kill It With Magic by J. A. Cipriano

CiprianoKillItWithMagicWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Rebecca Roberts

Publisher: J. A. Cipriano (2015)

Length: 7 hours 4 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Lillim Callina Chronices

Author’s Page

Lillim has magic and attitude on her side… and not much else. A kidnapping has her facing off demons and vampires to get the kid back. But there’s more going on and an ancient dragon wants her to do his bidding. Lillim isn’t so amenable to that idea. And the dragon is about to find out.

This is a fast-paced urban fantasy with plenty of baddies, magical weapons, action, good guys with questionable personal agendas, and tough parenting going on. Lillim may currently be only 16, but she’s also a reincarnated badass from before in her mother’s days of power. This is one of the key things that really made this book work for me. She can be physically 16 – strong, quick, perhaps even cute – but she also has some memories from her past life so she has this knowledge base that assists with decision making. Often Lillim thinks and acts older than a teen and I could always point at that past life influencing her here and now to explain it.

Supernatural beings are every where in this book. I like that they fill a range in complicated motivations to simple grasps for power (or food). The werewolves are on the line of being bad guys or good guys, depending on whether or not Lillim can or chooses to help them out. Then we have some interesting vampires, one of which does some dumb stuff with a demon. There’s also the semi-aware magical weapons that are pretty cool. Toss in an ancient dragon and you have a very exciting, if somewhat wrecking-ball, party.

Lillim has this complex relationship with her mother that we learn in little snippets. I liked that it wasn’t a clear love or hate, but a twisted mix of the two. Lillim had to learn to fight badly behaving supernatural beings the hard way, usually by being tossed into a mess of them. But that tough love from her mom has made her the badass enforcer she is today. Lillim’s mom’s relationship with Lillim’s past-life self makes this aspect of the story all that more interesting.

The pace is very fast and there is always some action going on. In fact, if Lillim is taking a moment for reflection, she is usually reflecting on some past fight (her’s or her mother’s). So on occasion I did get some battle fatigue as one fight after another blended together. This is a very minor criticism as I enjoyed the book most of the time and it won’t hinder me from checking out Book  2.

I received this audiobook from the author (via his publicist) at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Rebecca Roberts made a very good Lillim Callina. She also had distinct voices for the other characters. On occasion, she had to come up with an interesting supernatural voice and she pulled those off as well.

What I Liked: The cover art; fast-paced urban fantasy; Lillim is strong and young but also has wisdom from a past life; plenty of baddies with a variety of agendas; magical semi-aware weapons; complicated relationship with her mom.

What I Disliked: Occasionally I got battle fatigue as one fight scene after another blended into each other. This is a minor dislike and won’t keep me from checking out Book 2.

What Others Think:

Musings of a Starving Author

Cathi Shaw

Borderlein Publishing