Ebook Giveaway & Interview: Will Collins, Author of A Darker Shade of Sorcery

Everyone, please give a warm welcome to William Collins. He’s the author of The Realmers, a dark urban fantasy series, of which A Darker Shade of Sorcery is Book 1. Scroll to the bottom for info on the ebook giveaway!

If you could be an extra on a TV show or movie, what would it be and what would you be doing?

Awesome question. I’d love to be an extra in any sort of medieval or epic fantasy movie/tv show. I think it would be particularly fun to be the extra during a massive battle scene. I also think playing the part of an elf or orc would be an incredible experience.

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

All of the jobs I’ve had have been manual labour, so writing is a stark contrast, but far more enjoyable.

Who are some of your favourite book villains?

Oh, there’s many, often I like the villains more than I do the good guys. I’ll have to give a nod to Lord Loss, from the Demonata Sage and Tyler Durden from Fight Club; if he counts.

What 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?

Oh it’s definitely a creative mess. I can plan/brainstorm anywhere, but I always have to do the serious writing in my ‘author cave.’ I get into a zone and often write the first versions of my works very fast. I’d proably look like a mad man if I did it in public. J

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

H.P Lovecraft – Creator of the Cthulhu Mythos.

Katherine Kerr – Author of the Deverry series.

Terry Pratchett – I’m sure everyone knows who this is.

Ray Bradbury – Another very famous author, a master of short stories too.

Robert E Howard – Credited for creating the sword and sorcery genre, his most famous character is likely Conan the Barbarian.

I can’t decide where they would rank, but I’d be most fascinated by merely sitting at the table with all five of them and seeing them interact.

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?

Unfortunately, I haven’t met any other authors yet, although I’ve talked briefly with Darren Shan and Philip Reeve on twitter, but that doesn’t really count. J

The first time a fan gushed over my work was quite a surreal experience. It’s still surreal to me when readers reference the little things in their reviews, such as using the swear words I invented etc. It’s cool though, I haven’t experienced anything awkward. I myself would be the one to bring the awkwardness if I encountered a favourite author.

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 love side characters, they’re often my favourite characters in novels. My favourite side character in Harry Potter is Gilderoy Lockhart, who probably isn’t a character popular with many people, but I think he’s awesome. In my own works a few side characters appear to be liked by many readers, when I didn’t necessarily write them to be likeable, so that’s really interesting to me.

You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)? 

Can I cheat and jump on Luke’s back like Yoda?

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

You can find the first book in The Realmers Series, A Darker Shade of Sorcery.

Inside the Amazon page are links to book 2 and 3 in the series.

Book 3 was published recently, and I’m currently writing book 4. Meanwhile, I have a spin off set of novella’s that accompany the main series, the first of which has also recently been released. Here is Choo Choo Your Food, Book 1 of The Realmers Chronicles Book 1.

A second novella will be published within the next few weeks, and I’m halfway through a prequel novella for the main series too.

Thanks for having me, and I hope any who read this enjoyed it.

Places to Find William Collins

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Book Blurb for A Darker Shade of Sorcery

The lonely and grieving Evan Umbra is the newest Venator to enter Veneseron, the school for demon hunters.

A Venator is a wizard, a spy and a demon hunter rolled into one. They’re taught how to wield their sorcery and enchanted weaponry by orcs, elfpires and aliens alike.

Their missions range from battling monsters and saving countless lives in the multiple worlds, to the more peculiar, like wrangling killer unicorns and calming down drunken yetis. In their free time Venators enjoy goblin soap-operas and underwater bubble travel, but they also understand that every new mission they’re given could be their last.

Whilst learning how to manipulate the elements, summon creatures to fight for him and shoot Spellzookas, Evan encounters a dangerous rival and meets a girl who makes him feel nauseous; but in a good way. He makes the first friends he’s ever had in the carefree Jed and the reckless Brooke. Whilst Jed gets on the wrong side of a rival Venator, Brooke finds herself falling for the enigmatic demon hunter who brought her to Veneseron, not knowing he isn’t quite human. But it soon becomes apparent that Evan is more than just a Venator. Everyone wants to kill or capture him, from demons to Dark-Venators and even people he’s supposed to be able to trust.

Evan reckons he probably won’t survive his first year at Veneseron.

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GIVEAWAY!!!

Will Collins is offering up 3 ebook copies of A Darker Shade of Sorcery, open internationally! Do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: What country do you live in? Who is your favorite side character? Giveaway ends June 10th, 2017, midnight.

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Audiobook & Signed Book Giveaway + Interview: Brandon Bosse, Author of the Phillip Aisling Adventures

BosseTheDreamsOfPhillipAislingAndTheNuminousNawaaganEveryone, please give a warm welcome to author Brandon Bosse. Don’t miss the GIVEAWAY at the end of this post – signed paper copies and Audible.com/.UK copies of The Dreams of Phillip Aisling and the Numinous Nagwaagan. 

What’s next for Phillip Aisling?

Well that could be answered a few different ways. First, and what I’m most excited about, I am working with a team of talented UCSD students to create a virtual reality game called Phillip’s Lucid Dream Training.  It is based on the first and second books, so it will actually be a bit of a preview of book #2. In the game, the player takes on the role of Phillip, a young true Dreamer just getting started learning how to master his dreams with lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming and virtual reality go hand in hand because both transport you to a world that looks incredibly real, but you are aware that it isn’t real! A demo version will be coming out later this year for Google Daydream and a full version for HTC Vive later.

Next, the second book is underway titled The Dreams of Phillip Aisling and the Lessons of Lucidity.  In this book, Phillip begins training by the Dream Masters to learn how to fully take control of his dreams. I have taken your comments to heart that the story needs something more to draw the reader in, so expect the story to take an epic turn in book #2. I have tons of notes that I’ve been collecting as I’ve been doing research for the book over the years. I cannot wait to get them down into a book. It is just so hard to find the time to write between all the other projects I have going on!

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?

If I had to choose? Oh but why choose?! Why not be rescued by a supernatural alien who happens to be my own personal superhero?! Since my book is about interdimensional travelling via lucid dreams, I am imagining a being that has developed the ability to open portals to any point in time and space, which would be quite supernatural indeed. I imagine that this being would rescue me just as my eyes close as I prepare to accept my unfortunate fate and my spirit transitions back into the astral. By some unexplainable supernatural force I’m swiftly yanked back to reality by the interdimensional alien, pulled to safety within the hyperspace of infinite possibility. Or I suppose I could have just gone with a superhero. Superman. Yes, let’s go with Superman. He will do nicely. Come to think of it, he is a supernatural alien superhero!

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

My favorite movie of all time, The Matrix. I recently re-watched it again for the umpteenth time, but this time with a friend who had never seen the movie before. It brought back many fond memories of what it was like to watch it for the first time.

[SPOILER ALERT] Go watch the movie if you haven’t already! Come back and read the rest afterward!

There is a scene near the beginning where Neo is offered a deal by Agent Smith to “wipe the slate clean” in exchange for helping track down Morpheus, but Neo instead gives him the finger and demands his right to a phone call. Agent Smith responds, “What good is a phone call if you cannot speak?” and Neo’s mouth begins to seal shut as the lips inexplicably begin to grow together! When I first saw this movie I was really taken aback by this scene, as was my friend watching it with me for the first time. This is the first point in the movie where you realize some something really serious is up. It’s moments like that in the movie and many other ah-ha moments that make me want to relive it all over again for the first time.

What makes you fall in love with a story?

I love a story that has a misunderstood, goodhearted protagonist that has supernatural abilities. Remember the 1995 movie Powder? It featured a misunderstood albino boy who had telepathy and telekinesis and was taunted relentlessly by ignorant boys and eventually died by converting back into pure energy. I loved that movie and was very moved by it. I also loved Matilda. Her parents didn’t get her at all, but her teacher helped her realize the potential of her telekinetic gifts! Now that was a fun movie!

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

In no particular order, I would select the following 4 fantasy authors to join me on a magical quest:

J.R.R. Tolkien – because he practically invented the modern genre of magical quests! Although, he is a bit long-winded at times, which might get annoying after a presumed weeks long journey together, his ability to imagine fantasy worlds would no doubt prove more than useful.

Brandon Sanderson – First of all, Brandon has a cool name! Haha! He has impressed me many times with his prose in The Way of Kings and is a big inspiration for me as I set off on writing book #2 in my Phillip Aisling series. The fact that he’s roughly my age helps, too!

J.K. Rowling – Speaking of inspiration, Harry Potter was absolutely a huge influence on my book! Ms. Rowling’s knowledge of magical systems would be essential to solving any puzzles along the way.

Terry Pratchett – He seems like a happy-go-lucky, lighthearted fellow. His ability to imagine worlds rivals those of Tolkien and Lewis Carroll. I’d invite him just to add some much needed levity to the bunch!

Who or what are your non-writer influences?

I would definitely say that Rob Bryanton’s video, Imagining the 10th Dimension, was the most influential source I drew from when forming the ideas for dream magic in the book. It was in 2007 when I awoke from an unusually vivid dream and I had been watching YouTube videos about higher dimensions. I came to the realization that given the infinite probability space that exists in the theorized multidimensional hyperspace, then dreams are then glimpses into alternate positions therein. Now take that concept, and write a young adult novel about it. There’s 99% of the inspiration for The Dreams of Phillip Aisling.

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

I remember watching The Incredible Hulk as a kid and liking it, but the new movies are, well, incredible! There’s just something about how realistic CGI can make the Hulk that a body-builder with green body paint and purple spandex just doesn’t live up to, you know? Plus, the story line, dialog, and acting are more on par with what we’ve come to expect with modern movie production. As for reboots that I haven’t gotten into, sticking to the superheroes, I’d say that I really wanted to like The Flash reboot, but just couldn’t get into it. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have a lot of time to watch TV these days and so I’m very selective with what I’ll give my attention.

Cover art can be so important for a book, making or breaking sales. Will you tell us a bit about your book’s cover art?

I absolutely agree! A mistake some indie authors make is putting their heart and soul into their writing but then scrimp on the book cover. While I still agree that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, you still need a cover that grabs the attention and imagination of potential new readers. The cover is the first impression that either leads someone to invest their time into reading your book or not. My book’s cover was illustrated by the very talented Andres Cortes. If you want your best chance of getting a book cover you’ll absolutely love then I recommend you do what I did. Here is a blog article that gives away my secret to getting the perfect book cover.

As for how I came up with the scene for the cover, I knew it needed to capture the more important moment of the namesake of the book, ‘The Numinous Nagwaaagan’. In the depicted scene, Phillip is receiving his prized possession from the Oracle, an old Native American woman who’s dreams have shown her all she ever wanted to know of the future.

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

Well other than picture books from early childhood, like the Berenstain Bears, the first full length novel that I recall reading was The Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. It made me want to learn more about wilderness survival. I loved it!

You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)?

Nightcrawler from X-Men would be a great partner for any obstacle course! He has always been my favorite of the X-Men because his teleportation ability is awesome and he is always so compassionate. Of course having him with me would almost be like cheating considering he could simply teleport us both past any obstacle, but you did say I could invite any fictional character of my choice!

Thank you Susan for these fun questions! They certainly lead me down a few unexpected paths that have even contributed to ideas for my book series!

Book Blurb for The Dreams of Phillip Aisling and the Numinous Nagwaagan

BosseTheDreamsOfPhillipAislingAndTheNuminousNawaaganPhillip Aisling is just like any other boy, or so he thought. On the night of his 13th birthday he has a dream so vivid that he is convinced it was real! He soon learns that he has begun training with the Dream Masters. They practice lucid dreaming to be able to fully control their dreams, giving them immense power. But when his vivid dreams turn into nightmares he never wants to fall asleep again!

In his struggle to understand his remarkable dreams and prevent terrible nightmares, he finds The Dreamer’s Dictionary written to help young Dreamers make sense of their new powers. It begins with a very peculiar poem:

“Through the Gates of Dreaming come powers untold.

There are distant worlds for true Dreamers to behold.

You may not understand just what your dreams mean

Once you have broken through the barrier in between.

Each moment you sleep brings signs without number.

May this book bring meaning to visions of your slumber.”

The dictionary leads him to seek the guidance of the Oracle who gives him a numinous nagwaagan, or a magical dreamcatcher, to protect him from the draiths that are causing the nightmares. With the protection of the nagwaagan hanging above his bed, he is finally able to safely return to dreamland. But his struggle to learn to control his new powers has only just begun!

Join Phillip and his friends on an epic journey to learn how to become a powerful Dreamer. Explore the possibilities of where our dreams might come from. Are our dreams nothing more than glimpses into alternate realities within the multiverse?

Have you had a dream so vivid that you are certain it was real? Would you like to control your dreams? Maybe you too are a true Dreamer!

About Brandon Bosse

BrandonBosseAuthorBrandon Bosse is a computational cognitive neuroscientist, biomedical engineer, and visiting scholar at UCSD. He has worked in the field of retinal implants for the past 10 years, including prior work in Germany and Australia. During this time he wrote The Dreams of Phillip Aisling. He was inspired to begin writing the story after awakening from an unusually vivid dream in 2007. He is a Lucid Dreaming and Virtual Reality enthusiast and is also working on a VR Game called Phillip Aisling’s Lucid Dreams, where the player can learn lucid dreaming techniques while exploring Phillip’s dreamland.
Follow Brandon at facebook, twitter, and instagram to get regular updates about the VR project, the newly released audiobook, and the next book in the series!

Places to Find Brandon Bosse

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GIVEAWAY!

Brandon Bosse is generously offering up 2 signed copies of the paperback and 2 copies of the Audible audiobook (winners choose Audible.com or Audible.UK) of The Dreams of Phillip Aisling and the Numinous Nagwaagan. You can enter the Rafflecopter below or you can answer these questions in the comments: 1) Are you interested in the signed book or the audiobook? 2) What reboots have you enjoyed? 3) Please leave a way to contact you if you win. Giveaways ends March 1, 2017, midnight. Additionally, if you are interested in receiving a free copy of the book (including audiobook copies) in exchange for an honest review, you can contact Brandon through any of his social media.

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Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: Vicky Loebel, Author of Key to the Coven

LoebelSpeakeasyDeadEveryone, please give a warm welcome to Vicky Loebel! We chat about Wodehouse, spaceships, defying certain death, and plenty more! Don’t forget to check out the audiobook giveaway (available to Audible.com and Audible.UK account holders) below!

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?

If this is fiction, the person who rescues me from certain death is going to be (a slimmer, braver version of) me. But I’d love to have Spiderman, the ghost (Gaspar) from my book Speakeasy Dead, and Harry Dresden on my side. If this is reality and the jaws of a death look anything like a centipede, my superhero husband gets the job.

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

Anyone who knows me will rat me out as a huge fan of the 2015 Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie. I got my writing start by creating fanfiction based on the original TV series, and seeing the essence of the show captured on the big screen was a dream come true.  As far as books, if I could erase them from my mind every few years, I might not read anything but P.G. Wodehouse.

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

Writing is both the hardest and the best job because I spend every day confronting my best and worst qualities. Oh wait, I meant parenting is the hardest job. No, writing. Wait….

LoebelKeysToTheCovenWhat book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

I would love to see Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series made into any sort of game. The beauty of her books is that you can pick any of the characters and step right into their skin. So while everyone else was fighting to be Cordelia, Miles, and Ekatarin, I’d nip in as Ivan for the win.

If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?

Anything you say may be used against you in a work of fiction. And you’ll never even know.

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

I never wanted to tell stories. I wanted to live them – preferably as either an astronaut or an international spy, preferably riding a spunky American quarter horse. Eventually I accepted the fact that if I wanted adventures, I’d have to write them.

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

Alexander Dumas (Three Musketeers),  Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice/no zombies), Patrick O’Brian (Aubrey/Maturin series), and P.G. Wodehouse (Jeeves and Wooster). Jim Butcher is alive and I can’t really justify altering that to get him to my dinner table, so for the fifth author I’ll invite Sir Terry Pratchett whose audiobooks have brought me hours and hours of pleasure. Since I have no idea what any of them eats, I’ll arrange a big Tapas party where we cook dishes together in my imaginary gourmet kitchen.

LoebelVacationBrideCare 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 had the distinction of attending a science fiction convention and making small talk in an elevator by asking guest of honor Octavia Butler if she was there for the con. Yes, I loved her books. No, I had no idea what she looked like. She smiled graciously and said yes.

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

Where does Spiderman hang his webs when he swings down the street? Do slow zombies pose a threat to anyone who’s not too stupid to live? And why would you hide a perfectly good spaceship under water? Couldn’t you hide it in space?

Places to Stalk Vicky Loebel

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Book Blurb for Keys to the Coven:

LoebelKeysToTheCovenThe Road to Hell is Paved with Bad Intentions. Get ready for Keys to the Coven, a witty, tightly plotted, (adult) urban-fantasy/romance set in an original universe where karma is power, sex is karma, and it’s not who you know but whose soul you own that matters.*

To become a demon, you must die in complete and utter despair. Three hundred years ago, Max passed that test with flying colors and joined the afterlife resolving never again to have innocent blood on his hands. Now Max has been given the job of breaking a young witch’s family curse. But what she doesn’t know, what Max can’t bring himself to tell her, is that completing his mission almost certainly means her death.

When Felicity Woodsen inherits her mother’s coven, she learns each firstborn Woodsen daughter must become the consort of an evil-arch demon. Felicity’s only hope is to ally with the mysteriously charming Max. But is saving her body from one demon worth risking her soul with another?

Roxashael became a demon when his Roman captors sent his family, one by one to be devoured by lions. The lesson was clear: power is good; lots of power is better. Two-thousand years later, Rocky has power. He’s purchased hundreds of souls, and he’s created the Minsk Homunculus, a magic artifact that, by binding a human witch as his consort, turns him into an arch-demon and places him above the goody-two-shoes laws of karma.

Unfortunately, Rocky made a mistake. He fell in love with Felicity’s mother and in a moment of weakness promised to give up his demon-consort charm. Now Felicity’s mother is dead, the Minsk Homunculus is slated for destruction, and Rocky’s power as an arch-demon is about to end.

No demon can break a promise. If Rocky refuses to give up the Minsk Homunculus, he’ll become the lowest, most abject slave in Hell. But then, why break promises when they’re so easy to corrupt?

GIVEAWAY!!!

Vicky is generously offering up 3 audiobook copies of her book Keys to the Coven! The audiobook is available through both Audible.com and Audible.UK. To enter the giveaway, do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: 1)  Do you have either an Audible.com or an Audible.UK account?  2) Do you have an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment? 3) Leave a way to contact you if you win. Giveaway ends September 9th, 2016.

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Interview: Gary & George of Unsung Stories

HockingDejaVuFolks, please welcome the brains behind Unsung Stories, an indie SFF publisher based in London, UK. Unsung Stories publishes intelligent genre fiction – science fiction, fantasy, horror, speculative, steampunk, and importantly those works that blur the boundaries between these genres.

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/horror/scifi fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

So this turned out to be a vast question that we couldn’t really answer concisely at all. We’re both in agreement on the themes of the answer, as below, but given it’s a big question we figured it deserved a big answer.

George

Starting with an easy one I see! All narratives, contemporary SFFH, Homeric epics, Jane Austen and even The Daily Mail, are reflective of the society that created them and help shape history. So unicorns, dragons, the Cyclops, witches, changelings and more, have very specific functions beyond whether or not people believe they’re actually there. The same applies to Ebenezer Scrooge, Hamlet, Emma Woodhouse and Malcolm Tucker.

Demons and angels. Our aspirations and our fears. How we manifest these in art has changed, absolutely, but the reason why we do it remains as essential and indefinable as ever.

As to whether contemporary SFFH affects human cultures today? Of course! The how is more telling. One of the most pervasive SF narratives of recent times is Star Trek, which is at its core a utopia project. Sure, they’re knocking on the doors of the Heavens, and it’s about intrepid adventurers and individual acts of heroism, but the thesis is of humanity at its best. Reaching to the stars, embodying justice in a universally welcoming and productive society. Add a splash more hubris and tragedy and you’re getting back into the same territory as Homeric epics. Only this time Icarus has shields and inertial dampeners.

One idea I have is that we use different genres for different purposes. So science fiction is about exploring hypotheses for humanity. What our existence will mean when the fundamental state of humanity has changed. Gibson does this excellently, Haldeman’s The Forever War and countless others. It’s a sandbox for thought experiments, inherently philosophical at heart.

Fantasy has created vast explorations of history and the moralities of governance and action. We can transpose political realities into new environments and comment on and satirise them. There’s so much of humanity’s history to understand and fantasy lets us do that freely, calls on us to tackle political and sociological Gordian knots.

Finally horror might be the most introspective of the three. Sure, it’s about scaring people but it’s also based on what we are afraid of. It’s more than big rats, it’s the darkness and the void, our weaknesses and fears, our inability to protect what we love.

Obviously that’s three broad generalisations, and only offered as a springboard for thought. It’s a big question!

Gary

All of human history, all human life, is shaped by narrative; it’s how we fundamentally understand and process the complex, messy reality we find ourselves in.

I see that SFFH affects human culture today in some very profound ways. Speculative fiction as a whole has always been a wonderful way of exposing and exploring collective hopes, dreams, fears and nightmares.

Trends in science-fiction can accurately map entire cultures’ feelings towards the future – do we see utopia or dystopia ahead? Will technology set us free, or create new traps for us? Do we even believe in a future anymore? In turn, these narratives exploring these issues will inform how we think about ourselves and the way we live, and where we are going (or perhaps going wrong).

The horror genre is a place where our worst fears, anxieties and repulsions can be explored (and exploited). I think there are two camps of horror fiction, the cathartic ‘ghost train’ types of horror, where everything works out in the end, where the evil is defeated and mankind overcomes: fiction ultimately as a form of validation that the world is OK. 

Then there’s the other kind of horror, pioneered by Lovecraft and perfected by writers like Thomas Ligotti, where there is no victory, no catharsis, where the bad things win. This is my preferred model of horror fiction – not because I think life is hopeless or inherently ‘bad’, but because I think this kind of writing serves a useful function, to allow readers to face and explore difficult emotional topics.

We have a deep psychological need for monsters. Through storytelling we can turn an abstract fear into something physical that can be, at least potentially, defeated. Fear of the consumerist, mindless masses become zombies, aggressive male sexuality takes form in the werewolf, the ghost is a clear manifestation of past guilt/trauma, and so on.

With fantasy the enduring appeal of Tolkien and the LOTR films, the continued popularity of epic fantasy novels, the Game of Thrones phenomenon are all things that cannot be discounted. It would be nice if some mainstream fantasy was not based on the models established by Tolkien (Celtic/Saxon/Norse European myths, essentially). But there’s obviously some appeal to that kind of mythic setting that has a real appeal.

WhiteleyTheBeautyIt’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?

The invite list first: Iain M. Banks, Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett first of all because you need wise, nice and irreverent people to balance any debate. To stir the pot I’d add Hunter Thompson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Adam Roberts, Octavia Butler, John-Paul Satre and Charles Bukowski. That should provide enough knowledge, experience and strong-willed extroverts to ensure a healthy debate, right? Or at least an unforgettable evening. Actually, maybe add Imperator Furiosa as referee.

As for the books? I’d go with Ubik, The Trial and The Master and Margarita. Not because they are perfect bedfellows but the all fascinate and terrify me in equal measure. They all poke at the consensus of the ‘normal ‘state of affairs, be those philosophical, social or political. And they all leave you with very difficult questions.

Are strict guidelines for genres dead in today’s book market? Where does Unsung Stories fit in? 

Increasingly I’d say genre is being normalised, the distinctions eroded by audiences growing more sophisticated. We’re not the people who thought The War of the Worlds was real. Genre tropes are commonplace now and we are seeing an increasing number of crossover success stories both ways. Ishiguro is exploring genre in his work. Cloud Atlas was nominated for the Booker and the Clark and Nebula. Gaiman is an international sensation despite being massively Genre, even starting out in *gasp* comics. And of course SF and fantasy are all over TV and cinema. So it’s increasingly not about defining the lines between ideas, but the opportunities in how they interact.

Here at Unsung Stories, we love non-generic takes on genre. We want to give a home to writers who grab this opportunity with both hands. The people who don’t see rules or conventions, just the way their story is. Commissioning isn’t about if we can see a market, it’s about finding the stories we love, and know deserve to be published.

LangmeadDarkStarWhat now-dead author would you like to interview? What are some of the things you would chat about?

Philip K. Dick, probably. He’s the man who posited a Matrix-like reality decades before even Gibson started at it. Aside from writing some of my favourite books his take on reality fascinates me as much as it seemed to trouble him. Especially because he didn’t seem to have that layer of detachment from the problem academics do. So I’d talk to him about what his philosophies of perception and what it is he thinks we’re not seeing.

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

All of the bits that weren’t terrible, ideally. But if I had to pick one it would be The Sandman because it achieves so many different things. It’s a glorious collection of short stories, it’s a revelation for the potential of comics, it’s a vast indulgence of amazing ideas, it’s funny, it’s scary, it’s utterly heart-breaking in several places, and so much more.

In fact, if I could have just one page, I’d ask for Delirium and Death in the funeral procession from Worlds End. It might just be perfect.

Over the years, are the changes in society reflected in today’s villains and heroes?

One thing I find fascinating is the development of monsters in horror. After the explosion in the 1960s monsters abound, starting with the classics like Dracula, Frankenstein’s creation and werewolves. Then aliens are introduced, incomprehensible powers given physical form. Soon we’re creating new demons for cinema like Freddy and Jason, where they can be defeated but only temporarily. The step after is the one that grabs me though, where they all suddenly become human. Us. No more immortals, no masked killers returning from the grave. Teenagers. Your neighbours. Your children…

With SFF we’re beyond grimdark and sci-fi horror now as well. Bank’s Culture is full of stories that blur the ideas of who is the hero. We love Game of Thrones and Abercrombie because it’s not so simple to say who the hero is. We’re interested in the grey areas more these days, probably because we understand them better than the extremes of heroism or villainy.

So yes, absolutely. And watching how this growing canon of influences develops is something I find incessantly fascinating.

The other thing is post-apocalyptic fiction is huge right now, which works on the base assumption that we somehow failed as a race. As a result of technological developments in the last 20 years we have burgeoning global identities, a greater awareness of what is happening across the world. Maybe we’re coming to realise it’s not about heroes and villains, but about our collective responsibilities as a species?

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 Unsung Stories into the multimedia realm?

I think it will continue to evolve as it already has been. Ebooks are commonplace now for instance, and apps and enriched variants are going the same way. A lot of the most interesting examples I’ve come across have been games – Device 6 or Dear Esther for example – but that doesn’t mean it will all be games. What I will say, is I suspect the great ideas will come from writers/indies who create something as a labour of love. People in the industry are readers, gamers, fans, just like everyone else. So they’ll be there with everyone else when good things happen.

Unsung don’t have plans right now, but if we see an idea we like enough we’ll go for it. There’s no reason for stories to be limited to books any more (however much we love them). The crucial thing is to ensure the story works for the format. So, for example, rather than shoehorning a popular book into a graphic novel I’d want to see something written with comic format in mind. It’s about best serving the stories, after all.

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment where you were gushing over an author’s work?

I exist in a perpetual state of anxiety as a rule so that would mainly involve every conversation I’ve had with an author, ever. I’m also particularly bad at recognising people as we rule so my worst moments are the opposite kind where you talk to someone, usually spouting flawed opinions at great length, to then discover they’re Pat Cadigan, or someone like that. Things like that happen to me, so I operate the working assumption that my brain hates me.

That said, when I met Brian May I had a not-inconsiderable haircut myself and proceeded to compliment him on his hair. Not his music, charity work or career as an astrophysicist. His hair. I got the impression I wasn’t the first person to do that.

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

I’m not sure what it was called but there was something involving a mad professor taking a teenage boy to Jupiter where he had to play hockey with 20 metre tall bruisers. It’s the illustrations I remember more than anything. Something I remember the title of though, is either the Mary Plain books by Gwynedd Rae, or The Arabian Nights. That and poring over the Terran Trade Authority books in my primary school’s library.

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

We have our Unsung Live event scheduled for 20th October in Kings Cross, London. This is SFF storytelling, with readings from Simon Guerrier, Robert Sharp, Cassandra Khaw and David Hartley. We’re doing this because we couldn’t find any live-lit events for genre fiction and thought there should be at least one! Tickets are free, you just need to RSVP to secure a place at – www.meetup.com/unsung/events/224926265/. It was very popular last time so booking is advised!

We do have other things in the pipeline in terms of books, but nothing I can talk about yet. They’ll be good though, promise.

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Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: Matthew Davenport, Author of the Andrew Doran Series

DavenportTheStatementOfAndrewDoranFolks, please welcome Matthew Davenport. It’s a pleasure to have him on the blog today. I really enjoyed his book The Statement of Andrew Doran several months ago and jumped at the chance to pick his brain. Today we chat about dead authors, networking, side characters, and much more! Also, we have an awesome AUDIOBOOK GIVEAWAY for you all. Scroll to the bottom to check that out!

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

Not in any of my works. Sidekicks all have value to some degree. I try to keep to giving anything that I introduce value. So, if you meet a new character at the beginning of a story but don’t see him for a while, just hang in there, because it’s very likely that he’ll have a pivotal role in the end of the story.

A great example of this is in my Andrew Doran novels. Andrew…collects certain people in his travels. At first they are just a means to an ends, but somewhere along the way, Andrew finds value in keeping these people along as more than just tools, they become friends and allies in his battles.

Comparatively, my horror novel The Trials of Obed Marsh does this as well. Instead of collecting people in his travels, Obed Marsh has family and friends that you might meet near the beginning of the story, but it isn’t until the story begins to climax that you realize their true role.

I’m a firm believer that every name, object, or place that an author focuses on needs to have some sort of reason that it was introduced. If you’re just going to say “Look, an apple!” and never use that apple as a plot device, it has absolutely no reason being in your book. Cut out the fluff before your editor does.

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

My first two novels (Random Stranger and Stranger Books) didn’t have any research…at all. But they were fictional accounts completely based on character development. The little research I did was focused on mythical creatures and their evolutions through different cultural interpretations. While that sounds heavy, it really wasn’t. A quick Google search of “All the names Santa Claus ever had” gave me most of my research.

Alternatively, The Trials of Obed Marsh and both Andrew Doran novels demanded a heavy amount of research. All three are heavily influenced by both the eras that they take place in, and the works of H.P. Lovecraft. I wanted the horror and adventure aspects within Lovecraft’s stories to resonate with the true fans, and read everything that Lovecraft wrote (again, as I was already a fan), taking very extensive notes. Once those notes were done, I looked toward the expanded works. A lot has been added to the mythos since Lovecraft died, and I wanted the relevant pieces to make it into each of those stories as well.

On top of that, the eras that these stories were placed in made a huge change to the flavor of each story, and they needed to be right. The Trials of Obed Marsh was a 19th century sailing story. I didn’t want to just guess at what sailing culture was back then, or how the boats would circumnavigate the globe, so I studied up on how it was done.

With Andrew Doran, I wanted it to be a sort of history lesson that had nothing to do with history. Each chapter of the first book takes place in a new city in Nazi-controlled Europe. I sprinkled in facts explaining the states of those countries during those years, and then I added monsters.

As for how I decide what to research, I start writing my draft notes and if I don’t know how something was done, I start searching the web for everything I can on it until I feel I could hold my own in at least a basic conversation about the subject.

It helps to read…a lot.

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

First: Networking. Outside of my author stuff, I run Davenport Writes, LLC. It’s a company that offers publishing resources for authors. I offer consulting, freelancers (cover artists, voice actors, editors) and book signings for the local folks. The most powerful tool in any author’s toolbox is a handshake. The more people that you can tell about your books, the more people who are going to want to help you get your books out there. What I’ve found is that everyone wants to help you, but they can’t help you until they know about you.

Second: Live. Say yes to everything. Even if it doesn’t sound entirely fun. Once you’ve had the experience, it’s a tool in your toolkit for writing. If I have a friend that wants me to do something that I find unpleasant, that little bit of life I’ll be living will be material for the next story. That adds realism and realism makes great writing.

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

H.P. Lovecraft, Isaac Asimov, Arthur Conan Doyle, Terry Pratchett, and Douglas Adams. Let’s start with a serious dinner and end on the lightest. I feel like we’d also end drunk, and drunk with Douglas Adams sounds more fun than drunk with Lovecraft. *shiver* A drunk Lovecraft would be a terror I don’t think many are prepared for.

What do you do when you are not writing?

I manage Davenport Writes, LLC, read, watch horror/adventure movies, and enjoy my evenings with my wife.

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

The first full novel I read, and it wasn’t really a novel like what I read today, was an old book called My First Toolbox. The book was about a kid who purchased a toolbox with his allowance in order to build…something or another…and then he found he still didn’t have enough money to make whatever it was he wanted to make. That was when he learned that he could make more money by fixing all the neighborhood kid’s stuff. I read that in first grade, and I was more excited that I had completed such a huge book (not even 60 pages, I’m sure) than about the book itself.

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?

I guess this would depend on the types of obstacles. I’m not inviting some lanky author to some sort of duck and jump obstacle course. On the other hand, I’m leaving the shorties behind if I’m going to have climb or jump on anything.

…I take it back. Ralph Macchio. Why not?

And yes, libations. I never say no to libations. Celebratory Templeton Rye

DavenportTheStatementOfAndrewDoranThe Statement of Andrew Doran Book Blurb:

Dr. Andrew Doran has been out of touch with the major civilizations for quite a while. When an emissary from his Alma Mater demands his assistance, Andrew is in such a state that he has no choice but to help. The Nazis have taken the Necronomicon from Miskatonic University’s library. With it they could call upon every form of darkness and use the powers of the void to destroy all who stand in their way of unlimited power. For years Doran has been at odds with Miskatonic University. Putting his negative feelings aside, Andrew takes charge and heads straight into the Nazi controlled territories of Europe. Along his journey from America and into the heart of Berlin, the dark Traum Kult, or Dream Cult, has sent beasts from the void between worlds to slow his progress. This is adventure and monsters unlike anything the anthropologist has ever experienced, and only with the assistance of the trigger-happy Leo and the beautiful Olivia, both members of the French Resistance, does Dr. Doran have any chance of success. Nazis, zombies, wizards, and beasts roam the path before Dr. Andrew Doran. A sane man would flinch. Dr. Andrew Doran charges in.

DavenportTheTrialsOfObedMarshThe Trials of Obed Marsh Book Blurb:

Innsmouth was a corrupted and fallen town, consumed by its greed and controlled by the Esoteric Order of Dagon. In 1928, the Federal Government destroyed Innsmouth and the nearby Devil Reef based on claims made by a man who had visited the town.

Four years after the mysterious disappearance of Robert Olmstead, the man who sent the FBI to Innsmouth, his closest friend has discovered new evidence into the reality of what Innsmouth truly was: He has found the Journal of Captain Obed Marsh.

The journal paints an intense scene of a vibrant town and how one man’s good intentions can pave the way to Hell itself.

Or in this case…to Y’ha-nthlei.

What can test a man so intensely as to break him from his righteous path?

Only the journal can shed light on that.

Places to Stalk Matthew Davenport

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GIVEAWAY!!!

Matthew Davenport is generously offering up 5 audiobooks of The Statement of Andrew Doran and 5 audiobooks of The Trials of Obed Marsh. You’ll need an Audible.com account to receive one of these books if you win. You can enter to win either book or enter to win both! To enter, do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer the following in the comments: 1) Do you have an Audible.com account? 2) Which book (or both) do you prefer to win? 3) What’s the first book you remember reading? 4) Leave a way to contact you! Giveaway ends October 26th, 2015 midnight.

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Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: Nora Fleischer, Author of Zombies in Love

FleischerZombiesInLovePlease welcome Nora Fleischer to the blog today! We chat about zombies, Ben Franklin, pizza restaurants, and plenty more. Also, there’s a lovely GIVEAWAY at the end of the post, so don’t miss that! Also check out the interview with the narrator of Zombies in Love, Martin Wurst.

If given this tough choice, would you rather read only new-to-you books, or only reread the ones you have read up to this point?

This would be tough, but I’d go with the new-to-me books.  When I really like a book, I tend to read it over and over again, so I’ve got my favorites almost memorized!

Would you choose to live permanently in a fictional world, or visit as many as you liked but you couldn’t stay more than a few hours?

I can’t think of any fictional world I’d like to live in.  Could I have a time machine instead?  I’d really love to see Philadelphia in the late 1700s.  Maybe I’d even run into Ben Franklin!  And then I’d want to come home after a day or two for a shower and a meal that involved vegetables.

What now-dead author would you like to interview? What are some of the things you would chat about?

The author who springs to mind is Terry Pratchett, and I actually got to meet him once when he came to a local con.  I traded history book recommendations with him— I recommended a book on the history of the premade suit, and he suggested reading a book on Nelson and Napoleon.  It was just as wonderful as I’d hoped.

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

Generally, I’m the sort of person who enjoys experiencing her favorite things repeatedly.  I was sad when Mad Men was over, but I’ll enjoy it nearly as much seeing all the details that I missed the first time.

There have been only a couple of times where I thought a surprise plot twist was so perfect that I’d love to be equally shocked again.  The best example is Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game — not the twist at the end that everyone remembers, but the twist that happens midway through the book, which explains why Ender’s parents allowed him to be taken away.  (I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read it!)

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?

Well, in my most recently published book, the hero’s a zombie, and the more I pushed the details of his condition, the funnier the book got.  I’m very proud of a scene, for example, where a couple of zombies sit in a cemetery discussing their favorite body parts to eat. There’s a writer named Michael O’Donoghue who used to say that comedy was about danger— I totally agree with that.

Conventions, book signings, blogging, etc.: what are some of your favorite aspects of self-promotion and what are some of the least favorite parts of self-promotion?

I can do anything online but in person, saying to people, “I have written an awesome romance novel about smart people acting stupid and the hero’s a zombie and it’s very funny, would you like a copy” just freaks me out, man.  I know a writer who bought a T-shirt with his book cover on it.  I’m thinking of doing that and when people ask me what I’m up to, just silently pointing to the shirt.

Who are your non-writer influences?

This novel is inspired by my very favorite pizza restaurant in the world, Galleria Umberto, in Boston’s North End.  Like Alioto’s in this book, they make all their pizza in advance and serve it until it’s gone— but I changed absolutely every other detail.  No zombies at Galleria Umberto, promise.

Do you have any superstitions?

I’m afraid of heights, does that count?  It takes me a good long time to get myself down an escalator.

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

When I was a kid I decided I wanted to be a witch and I harvested a bunch of leaves from around the neighborhood and left them to dry in my closet so I could make potions.  As far as I know, none of them worked.

And I also wanted to be a writer with all my heart.

FleischerZombiesInLoveZombies in Love book blurb:

Jack Kershaw just wants to hold on to his new job at Lisa Alioto’s pizza parlor, and to keep Lisa from finding out that he’s a zombie. Jack learns that he and Lisa are in serious danger.

His second chance at life is the inadvertent result of a lab experiment by two graduate students. Winthrop University – a school which knows how to keep its secrets – will do anything necessary to conceal that someone on campus raised the dead. With the help of Boston’s zombie horde, can Jack and Lisa escape Winthrop’s sinister clutches?

Author Bio:
Nora Fleischer has a PhD from Winthrop University, and promises every word of this story is true. She lives in Minneapolis with her lovable husband Sven and children Wolfgang and Anastasia.  You can chat with her on twitter at @ZombinaNora, or look at her infrequently updated blog at norafleischer.livejournal.com. Or catch her on GoodReads.

GIVEAWAY!

Nora is offering the winner the choice of the audiobook version or the ebook version of Zombies in Love. To enter to win, do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer the following in the comments: 1) Do you prefer ebook or audiobook? 2) A way to contact you, please? 3) Do you have any superstitions? Giveaway is US only. Ends  Sept 7, 2015, midnight.

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Giveaway & Interview: Sabrina Zbasnik, Author of Dwarves in Space

24956853Dear Darklings, please welcome Sabrina Zbasnik to the blog. She recently released her novel, Dwarves in Space, this past April and it looks thoroughly entertaining! We chat about MST3K, Chaucer, Halloween, and plenty more. Also, we have a giveaway! Sabrina is generously offering 2 ebook copies of Dwarves in Space. Scroll to the bottom for details.

What now-dead author would you like to interview? What are some of the things you would chat about?

My first thought is Terry Pratchett but that wound’s still a bit fresh and I’d probably be a blubbering mess. And what would we talk about? Even just asking about the weather would be entertaining not because he has to always be on, but because his mind comes in all the colors including octarine.

Jonathan Swift would last as far as “Excuse me, I’d like to — ah!” as he chased me off the Ouija board with a rake.

I suppose if I interviewed Chaucer I could ask him where they buried his body and who killed him, but I’d need a lot more e’s at the end of words to make sense out of him. And then it’d all end in another bawdy tale about the woman from Bath.

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

If there was one show I could go all Eternal Sunshine with it would probably be Mystery Science Theater 3000. I was one of those tape sharers back in ye olden times who wore out the VCR so bad for some episodes I can quote nearly the entire movie. Jack Frost, The Pumaman, Prince of Space, and Quest of the Delta Knights in particular are tattooed across my cerebellum.

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

Variel would probably be the easiest. Just grab a Han Solo costume, cinch it up to fit a female waist and carry around fun sci-fi guns. Got to make sure to include her trademark cheek scar, but that’s easily done with makeup.

But the real fun one would be a character I haven’t technically published yet. She’s an orc named Zail and she’s more like the female version of Jayne from Firefly. There is no filter when it comes to her and she’s prone to finding the biggest weapon and carrying it around like a handgun.

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

All of Discworld and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. There aren’t a lot of options outside of that, sadly. Much like how the superhero genre has gone full grimdark, speculative fiction can have funny moments but it’s supposed to be super serious in the end. Horror, now horror can be funny. There’s a very fine line between scary and hilarious, which is one that I mine often in my hobby of making Halloween props.

But if fantasy/sci-fi can use green skinned aliens to show the human condition, and humor is supposed to hold a looking glass upon society’s foibles why can’t you have both?

Then we’d probably all break early because I got my tie stuck in the pencil sharpener.

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 probably really embarrassing, but that’s never stopped me. I use NaNoWriMo – the national novel writing month – to drag novels out of me. At this point I’m doing about three a year, but for my very first one, I was near my 50K words and took a minor break on twitter. I typed something musing about how I mistook Garmin for Neil Gaiman and wondered what would happen if he navigated for cars. As I crossed the finish line he responded “I’d get us lost.”

I may have squealed more over that than actually writing my first 50K words of a novel. Hell, I still do.

The funny thing is now every October I make posters for his All Hallows Read, which is actually something I should be working on now. Nothing says autumn, pumpkins, and haunted cemeteries like the summer sun setting at 10pm.

ZbasnikTinHeroWhat do you do when you are not writing?

Crafting Halloween, and I’m not talking the cute Hobby Lobby like gourds. I have so many skeletons they won’t all fit in my closet. The basement is full of ghosts, goblins, ghoulies, spooks, and tentacles. I carve all of my tombstones out of foam and hand paint them. I have one I made for Edgar Allan Poe that’s so popular many people think it’s real. You can see some of my yard here.

I also do a bit of painting but it’s been waning due to the whole three novels a year idea. At best I can get in a few trees before Christmas and maybe in March before the Halloween crafting season kicks in.

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

Does me asking Chaucer where he’s buried count? God, I could easier catalogue the stars in the sky. I still want to know why no one is bothered that the Ewoks would cook their food alive and still in clothes? That’s gonna smoke and taste terrible. Someone get the Ewoks a better chef who can do more than Storm Trooper tartar!

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

Go Dog Go, the definitive manual on canine transportation.

ZbasnikDwarvesInSpaceBook Blurb for Dwarves in Space:

Thousands of years after the jewelry’s destroyed, the sword reforged, the dragon ridden, and the indecipherable prophecy translated into a recipe for sugared biscuits, the dwarves turned to that final frontier: space. And along came the elves, orcs, gnomes, trolls, ogres, and those vermin-like upstarts, humans.

Dwarves in Space is Tolkien merged with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in a horrific transporter accident.

The Elation-Cru is not the flashiest ship, nor the newest, or even has all of its bolts attached; but she can fly. Well, sort of wade through space, and that’s when all the parts are working. She supports a sugar addicted dwarven pilot, an elven engineer, an orcish doctor, a silent djinn, and the lone human trying to hold the entire thing together with duct tape. Variel, the captain, has been hiding from a secret for the past five years and time’s finally run out.

When she goes against her common sense and fights to save her onboard assassin/renter from a job gone sour, she finds herself before an ex-colleague that knew her in her previous life as the Knight of the realm. The entire ship is sent on a mad dash across the universe — from a decaying space station, home to the wackiest species the galaxy has to offer, down to the Orc homeworld, which wouldn’t be so bad if Variel hadn’t spent most of her previous life fighting in the war against them. Chances of survival are nil and slipping fast.

Places to Find Sabrina Zbasnik

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Giveaway!

Sabrina is giving away 2 ebook copies of Dwarves in Space! So this giveaway is open international. Quick entry is to leave a comment answering the following question and leaving me a contact email: What is the first book you remember reading on your own? For additional entries, do the Rafflecopter thing below! Contest ends July 30th, 2015, Midnight.
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Interview & Giveaway: Kristian Alva, Author of the Dragon Stone Saga

AlvaDragonStonesEveryone, please welcome the most talented Kristian Alva. I have absolutely loved her Dragon Stone Saga and it was such a treat to be able to interview Ms. Alva, especially since she recently released her lastest book, Rise of the Blood Masters, Book 5 in the series. Please enjoy the chitchat below! The giveaway for a Dragon Stone Saga audiobook is at the very, so don’t miss that!

In your books, the themes of forgiveness and redemption occur more than once. Was that intended from the beginning, or is it something that snuck it’s way into the story?

It wasn’t intentional—but it did “sneak” into the story, and I’m glad that it did. In my own life, I’ve found that holding onto one’s anger was so much worse than just letting it go. I struggle with that aspect of my own life, so it’s a recurring theme in all my books.

What now-dead author would you like to interview? What are some of the things you would chat about?

Unfortunately, Terry Pratchett. He just passed away this week, and I was so upset by it. Good Omens is my favorite book.

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

My worst job? Waiting tables in a sports bar while I was going to college was downright awful. The money was good, which is why I stayed, but eventually the stress got to be too much. I can’t count the number of times some drunk college kid tried to grab me. That was almost 20 years ago, and I would never have the stomach to do it now.

Who are your non-writer influences?

I’m inspired by visionaries like Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. One was a marketing and design genius, and the other was an engineering genius. As a team, they built one of the most profitable companies in US history. They were both flawed individuals (as we all are), but so talented in their own right. I always wonder if either one of them would have had the same success if they didn’t have each other.

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 really enjoy communicating with my fans, especially the much older ones. For some reason, I get a lot of email from elderly folks, who have found my books on e-readers. Since the newer devices allow people to essentially make every book into a large-print edition, my books have found a whole new readership in older folks, and that makes me very happy. As for the most challenging aspect of my job, it would be juggling family and a full-time writing career. My kids are still young, so it’s tough to manage everything and still find time to sleep! I can’t remember the last time I was able to sleep 8 hours uninterrupted.

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

Hmm. That would be a tough one. Terry Pratchett, (who I mentioned above). I would love to speak with Albert Camus, even for a minute. Jack Kirby would be wonderful too (he’s an artistic legend from the golden age of comic books). J. D. Salinger might be interesting. Émile Zola, too (if I could speak French).

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?

Although I haven’t read the series in many years, The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan would be a great choice. A whole course could be structured around his books alone.

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?

I have had one or two instances of male fans contacting me through Facebook and being a little too forward (if you understand what I mean). I usually decline nicely, and tell them that I’m happily married with 3 kids. That usually solves the problem. For the most part, though, all my fans have always been wonderful.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Sleeping, eating, and wiping snotty noses.

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

I read voraciously as a child—even books that had adult themes. I remember reading East of Eden when I was about 11 and being shocked by the content. I do remember reading Charlotte’s Web at a very young age, and crying uncontrollably when Charlotte dies. That was tough to deal with at 8 years of age, even if she was only a spider.

AlvaDragonStonesGoodreads blurb for Dragon Stones:

Sequestered deep in the capital, the tyrannical Emperor Vosper weaves a plan to destroy all the dragons. He succeeds in driving them to the very brink of extinction. Only a handful of dragons and riders remain; living in exile in the desert. When young Elias Dorgumir finds a carved dragon stone in the forest, it brings empire soldiers to his doorstep, and puts Elias on the run with a bounty on his head.

With some help from his friends, Elias must escape the emperor’s wrath and try to make it to the safety of the dwarf caverns. Elias holds the key to the salvation of the dragon race. Is Elias strong enough to save himself and halt the evil that is spreading across the land?

Places to Find Kristian Alva

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GIVEAWAY!

This giveaway is for 1 audiobook in the Dragon Stone Saga. You MUST have an Audible USA account. I have listened to all but the latest in this series. They just keep getting better and better and the narrator, Adam Chase, is simply amazing! Just click on the Rafflecopter link below to be taken to the widget. Good luck!

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Around the Blogosphere January 2015

SandersonFirefightFirst, Brandon Sanderson’s Book 2 in the Reckoners series, Firefight, is out today! Hooray! And if you are an audiobook fan, here is a clip of the audio. MacLeod Andrews is quickly becoming one of my favorite narrators.

Audible Blurb: Newcago is free. They told David it was impossible, that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet Steelheart – invincible, immortal, unconquerable – is dead. And he died by David’s hand.Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life simpler. Instead, it only made David realize he has questions. Big ones. And no one in Newcago can give him answers.Babylon Restored, the city formerly known as the borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though.

Audio clip: https://soundcloud.com/audible/firefight

SandersonSteelheartAnd in case you missed Book 1, Steelheart, here is the Audible blurb: Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills. Nobody fights the Epics…nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them. And David wants in. He wants Steelheart – the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father.

Audio clip: https://soundcloud.com/audible/steelheart

Also, the BBC dramatized version of Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is available for a free listen for another week or so on BBC Radio 4. I gave it a listen over the holidays and found it quite fun. It has been some years since I read the book, so it was a good refresher. I especially liked that it had a lot of the music referenced in the book. Not being a music buff, I always had trouble imagining the sound track to the book, and now I don’t have to since BBC threw that in there.

I discovered Far Fetched Fables, the Audio Fantasy Fiction Magazine, over the holidays as well. Episode No. 37 has a short story by Scott Lynch, The Effigy Engine: A Tale of the Red Hats, narrated by Mark Nelson. This was an awesome way to spend my time. It was a great story and a decent narration. If you are a Scott Lynch fan (Gentlemen Bastards series) then you would enjoy the wit and humor and sometimes gruesomeness captured in this story.

19 Nocturne Boulevard is home to more audio drama, of several different flavors. I especially enjoyed the first few episodes of Warp’d Space Colonial Stories. The Deadeye Kid, a Western gunslinger tale, also looks interesting.

Finally, since it makes me smile: Talk nerdy to me……

 

My Book Loves of 2013

GaimanStardustHere is a post in which I gush about my favorite books of 2013. Out of the roughly 133 books I read this year, these are the ones that really stand out on reflection for one reason or another. Feel free to scroll until you see something interesting.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

A reread, and a read along. I love this book and the movie. Fantasy, a quest, coming of age. Loads of fun and happy ending.

MathesonIAmLegendI Am Legend by Richard Matheson

New-to-me author. Vampire/zombie book, but starts off 1970s California, a simple virus. Loved the science, the survivalism, the societal twist at the end.

Squatch with Turning Point
Squatch with Turning Point

Turning Point by Robert P. Snow

Murder mystery set in northern NM. Lots of fun, recognize lots of the places in the book.

CooperGhostHawkGhost Hawk by Susan Cooper

New-to-me author. A historical fiction about the early settling of America told through a Native American’s eyes. Done really well, fully engaging.

HaldemanForeverPeaceThe Forever War & Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman

New-to-me author. Great military SF. Awesome characters.

BearUndertowUndertow by Elizabeth Bear

Amphibious alien natives used as a workforce. Plus assassins. You can’t go wrong with that combination.

FremantleQueensGambitQueen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle

New-to-me author. Tudor historical fiction told from Katherine Parr’s point of view.

WatersPayingPiperPaying Piper by Ilana Waters

A children’s book, beautiful illustrations, excellent story.

Pico consented to pose with my book.
Pico consented to pose with my book.

The Shadow of the Sun by Barbara Friend Ish

This was a reread for me, and a read along. Still a damn good book even the 2nd time through, and dissecting it. High fantasy, swords & sorcery.

Smudge Cat as a book stand!
Smudge Cat as a book stand!

Shadow Chaser by Alexey Pehov

Book 2 int he series. Thieves, elves (black pointy teeth!), dwarves, gnomes, a quest.

FahyFragmentFragment by Warren Fahy

New-to-me author. A fun, modern-day beastie flick. The biologist in me loved this book.

Pico resting before dinner.
Pico resting before dinner.

The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham

New-to-me author. Epic fantasy that is different, heavy on the economics, various humanoid races.

SakurazakaAllYouNeedIsKillAll You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

New-to-me author. A short, excellent military SF with a twist.

HassonEmoticonGenerationCoverThe Emoticon Generation by Guy Hasson

New-to-me author. A fun collection of Hasson’s short stories. Some humorous, some creepy. All interesting.

ReichsBonesOfLostBones of the Lost by Kathy Reichs

New-to-me author. A later book in the series following the forensic anthropologist. Addictive.

CollingsBillyMessengerOfPowersBilly: Messenger of Powers by Michaelbrent Collings

New-to-me author. A kid’s book, but a good one. Adventure, magic, a quest. Lots of fun.

HearneHuntedHunted by Kevin Hearne

I love the whole Iron Druid series. I think I am all caught upon this series. Luke Daniels does an incredible job of narrating the books.

Pico was chasing the little green got my camera flash makes.
Pico was chasing the little green got my camera flash makes.

The Reason for Dragons by Chris Northrop and Jeff Stokely

New-to-me author. A graphic novel, modern-day, a nod to Don Quixote.

Claudie is an old, dilapidated kitty.
Claudie is an old, dilapidated kitty.

The Hero and the Crown & Sunshine by Robin McKinley

While Sunshine was a reread, The Hero and the Crown was my first read through. Both are excellent. Female leads, magic, companion war horse, and Death by Bitter Chocolate.

LynchRepublicOfThievesThe Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

The 3rd book in the Gentlemen Bastard series does not disappoint. Read this as part of a read along. Great series.

GabaldonOutlanderOutlander by Diana Gabaldon

A reread, but it had been nearly 2 decades. Excellent historical fiction with sex. Yep. Not just silly, light kissing.

Chilly day = Cat Nest (Pico, Heldig, Waffles, Smudge)
Chilly day = Cat Nest (Pico, Heldig, Waffles, Smudge)

Goblin Secrets by William Alexander

New-to-me author. This was an excellent audiobook. Kid’s book. Adventure, masks, goblins, theater.

CoorlimSkyPiratesOverLondonSky Pirates Over London by Micheal Coorlim

New-to-me author. These are fun, short stories set in a steampunk England. I’ve read 4 of the books so far and enjoyed this one the most.

ShowalterAwakenMeDarklyAwaken Me Darkly by Gena Showalter

New-to-me author. This is one of my naughty book secrets. Simple plots, fun characters, erotica element. Aliens, assassins.

Stout snuggling with the Nac Mac Feegle.
Stout snuggling with the Nac Mac Feegle.

Tiffany Aching books by Terry Pratchett (The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky)

All four were read this year as part of a read along, rereads for me. I love these books. They are my favorite Terry Pratchett novels, having a more serious bent than other Discworld books I have read.

BowmanTornFromTroyTorn from Troy by Patrick Bowman

New-to-me author. Another kid’s book and a great one for exploring Ancient Greece.

CoreyLeviathanWakesLeviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

New-to-me author. Well, I had read Daniel Abraham before this book, but Abraham writes this series with Ty Franck under the James SA Corey pen-name. Epic science fiction has never been better.

SchoonZennScarlettZenn Scarlett by Christian Schoon

New-to-me author. My inner biologist geeked out the entire time reading this YA SF.

HillTheHatchingThe Hatching by Liesel K. Hill

I know it’s a short story, but it was one of the best I read all year. Dragons. I won’t spoil it for you. Go read it.

Pico & Chupa
Pico & Chupa

Makers by Corey Doctorow

New-to-me author. Quirky, insightful, and fun. It follows these two tinkers for a few decades. Cutting-edge SF.

BensonBlackStilettoThe Black Stiletto books by Raymond Benson (The Black Stiletto, Black & White, Stars & Stripes)

New-to-me author. Addictive. 1950s superheroine, New York. Need I say more?

LornHopeForWickedHope for the Wicked by Edward Lorn

New-to-me author. I also read his Life After Dane, but I like the Larry Laughlin character quite a bit. Horror. Illegal substance level addictive.

BracewellShadowOnCrownShadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell

New-to-me author. 1001 AD Normandy, royal families. Excellent, excellent historical fiction.

Heldig will steal anyone's body heat...if they'll hold still for it.
Heldig will steal anyone’s body heat…if they’ll hold still for it.

The Wild Life of Our Bodies by Rob Dunn

New-to-me author. This nonfiction was incredibly fun. The odd, slightly embarrassing things I learned from it to sprinkle party conversations with…..

MimsHidingGladysHiding Gladys by Lee Mims

New-to-me author. A cozy murder mystery that I didn’t want to put down.

Tofu being used as a bookstand.
Tofu being used as a bookstand.

The Human Blend by Alan Dean Foster

More SF modifications for my inner biologist to geek out about. Excellent mystery, excellent SF, excellent characters.

Heldig & Tofu
Heldig & Tofu

Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan

Book 6 in the Wheel of Time series, and part of the massive read along of the series. Incredible ending to this particular book. Robert Jordan gets better with each book.

Waffles is always bathing. A very clean cat.
Waffles is always bathing. A very clean cat.

The Mongoliad by Neal Stephenson & crew

A very fun historical fiction set in the time of Genghis Khan. Luke Daniels was amazing as the narrator.

ScalziRedshirtsRedshirts by John Scalzi

Haha! A fun Star Trek parody. Wil Wheaton as the narrator was perfect!

Typical morning cat cuddle pile on the bed.
Typical morning cat cuddle pile on the bed.

The Legend of Broken by Caleb Carr

Another awesome historical fiction. Sorcerers, hunters, midgets, a pox, and a crazed ruler who needs to be taken down.

This is Heldig's 'nice kitty' face.
This is Heldig’s ‘nice kitty’ face.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

New-to-me author. This is Book 1 in the trilogy, and my favorite of the series. Steampunk, Austria, airships, a woman in disguise and in service to the crown.

I didn't catch Pico in a good mood.
I didn’t catch Pico in a good mood.

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls

Only Jeannette Walls can pull on my emotions as she does. Modern-day tale of two sisters trying to find some stability.

Chupa and Streak with a good book makes a decent cat pile.
Chupa and Streak with a good book makes a decent cat pile.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

New-to-me author. WWII female pilots and spies. One of the best WWII books I have ever read.

IgguldenBloodOfGodsThe Blood of Gods by Conn Iggulden

The 4th book in Emperor series tells what happens after Julius Caesar fell. Excellent series.

BernheimerPrimeSuspectsJim Bernheimer books (Confessions of a D-List Supervillain, Prime Suspects, Horror, Humor, and Heroes)

New-to-me author. Uh, yeah. You might of noticed that I listened to 3 of Bernheimer’s books in ~2 weeks. Yeah, addictive. Mostly SF. Go, read, enjoy.

I meant for this to be a more dignified pic, as I so enjoyed this book, but Pico refused to put his bath on hold.
I meant for this to be a more dignified pic, as I so enjoyed this book, but Pico refused to put his bath on hold.

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

I really should read beyond Book 2. Both Books 1 & 2 were excellent. Historical fantasy, or just straight up epic fantasy.

SilvermanGardensOfAmpheiaGardens of Ampheia by Joshua Silverman

A novella set in his Legends of Amun Ra series. Think Ancient Greece set on an alien world. Magic, armor, SF.

MunteanuOuterDiverseOuter Diverse by Nina Munteanu

New-to-me author. SF detective story. Lots of fun.

Stout wouldn't hold still for a pic!
Stout wouldn’t hold still for a pic!

The Aylesford Skull by James P. Blaylock

New-to-me author. Magic, steampunky, England, detective. Intrigued?

Toothless Waffles being used as a bookstand...again.
Toothless Waffles being used as a bookstand…again.

The White Princess by Philippa Gregory

Historical fiction, Elizabeth of York, the War of the Roses. Very good, easy to get into.

WillisBlackoutBlackout by Connie Willis

New-to-me author. Excellent time travel, WWII SF-Historical Fiction. Great characters, great plot.

AcevedoNymphosRockyFlatsThe Nymphos of Rocky Flats by Mario Acevedo

Vampire detective, nuclear weapons mill, and nymphos. Intrigued?

PoznanskyTwistedTwisted by Uvi Poznansky

A collection of her short fictions. Offers a darker twist to such things as the story of Job, working with clay, and elderly cats.