Tag Archives: romance

Speak of the Devil blog tour

After considerable wrestling with the wily computer, I present to you, my dear reader, an interview with the lovely (darn it, another one) Shawna Romkey, author of the very recently published Speak of the Devil. I just love the book to pieces – I’ll admit that I may have some slight bias, since I did have the privilege of editing it, but I will remind you that tends to involve reading the book eight or more times (and I’m still not sick of it), so it must be darn good.

Ms. Romkey is, of course, another lamentably gorgeous author. sigh

Author Shawna Romkey

Author Shawna Romkey

See what I mean? I really don’t know how I manage to get all the good-looking authors, though, because I’ve seen some authors out there who are definitely not pretty, so I guess I must just be lucky!

Speaking of pretty, here’s the cover of Shawna’s Speak of the Devil – and oooooh, is that cover model pretty!

Speak of the Devil Cover

Speak of the Devil Cover

Mmmmm-Mmm! And then I go and feel all awkward because that boy’s probably around the same age as my son. sigh

Now, what we’ve all been waiting for – the interview (previously scheduled to appear April 8th before the damned Internet started refusing to let me connect for more than ten seconds at a time)…

The Interview 

MR: Hi Shawna! Come on in! Sorry about the mud – just be glad we’re not on a back road or you’d sink up to your car doors in the stuff. What would you like to drink? I’ve got Irish Breakfast Tea, this weird Peppermint Ginseng, plain Peppermint, hot cocoa, mint hot cocoa, coffee? Oh, don’t mind Himself… He probably heard the kettle whistling. 

SR: Hot cocoa is great. Thanks!

MR: Your book, Speak of the Devil was released by Crescent Moon Press on March  15th. Now, I’ll admit to being a little biased about how awesome the book is, since I had the great pleasure of editing it and I still want to read it again and again, but if I’m stoked about its release, you must be completely ecstatic! How does it feel to have your book out there in the world?

SR: It’s exciting but kind of nerve wracking at the same time. I’m like a lot of writers and kind of shy when you get down to it. When I first bought my Kindle copy and started reading it I had a minor panic attack, like, “Oh my God. Anyone can just read this now!” It was kind of scary.

MR: You knew I was going to bug you about this… but a little birdy told me that Speak of the Devil has a sequel! Now, I know, no author really wants to say too much about a book before it’s finished, but for those of us eagerly awaiting that sequel already, could you give us a teeny-tiny little hint?

SR: I’m nearly ready to submit the second book to my publisher, so I know how it all goes down.  The Devil Made Me Do It is the next book in the series and is the middle child. This is the Empire Strikes Back, so to speak, but I say the demons strike back. Things don’t go well for our dynamic couple duo, and Lily is taken to a very dark place.

MR: You’re also very active in Indy books for the Kobo, aren’t you?

SR: I am. I run the website www.trindiebooks.com which promotes eBooks for Kobo. There are a lot of sites out there that promote to Kindle, but I believe other than Kobo.com itself, I was the first to start up a Kobo eBook promo site.

MR: You grew up in Missouri, didn’t you? How similar is the setting from Speak of the Devil to the area where you grew up? 

SR: Exactly similar. I base the setting on a lot of my old stomping grounds. Old schools, old neighborhoods, everything.

MR: You live in Nova Scotia, now – my grandmother came from Antigonish and I’ve been told it’s a lovely area. How did you come to move there? 

SR: It is very lovely and parts of Nova Scotia are very similar to Missouri. Just not the big ocean part. My husband is from here, so that’s how I got to know this part of the world.

MR: Here’s me being terrifically nosy, but I do *love* a good romance – how did you and your husband meet?

SR: Oh God. We actually met online, but not like a dating site or anything. We were both posting comments on the same website. Well I was writing posts and he was reading them. He started sending me messages, and I ignored him because I thought he might be a creepy stalker, but eventually he wore me down.

MR: You’ve met Himself, and of course Little Man has been trying to get “pretty lady” attention (yes, yes, you said hi already, silly boy), so you can see my own writing gets frequently interrupted! You’re a mom of two yourself, so I’m sure you can relate – how do you find time to write on top of all that *and* teaching?

SR: *waves to Little Man* Hi there!  Well it isn’t easy. With Speak of the Devil I had the good luck, which seemed like bad luck at the time, to get laid off. It was the year my son started kindergarten (or primary as they call it here in Nova Scotia), and I was home all day by myself. I figured I should put the time to good use and take advantage of the time I was given because I could have gone back to work any day. Now I’m back part time teaching, so I still have every other day where I’m home alone to get work done. If I do go back to teaching full time, I’ll still have summers.

MR: You’re also an active member in several romance writers’ groups – does having a group of authors you can talk to about writing on at least a semi-regular basis help keep you on track?

SR: I think having a writers group is imperative. I’m in the RWA Atlantic Canada chapter and we meet monthly and have education sessions, guest speakers and workshops. All of that helps, but also talking to other authors regularly, asking them to like, tag and share your book, doing reviews for each other, all of that is critical. I tried to publish my books by myself for 20 years and it never happened. Within 2 years of being in a group I got a contract. I had no idea how to submit and who to submit to, and these women did and know their stuff and aren’t afraid to share it.

MR: Have your friends and family been supportive of your writing?

SR: They have. I mean I’ve been doing it since I was 5 now, so they are just kind of used to it. They used to ask me about it more often but as the years went by and nothing ever happened with it, I got cranky about being asked, “So are you still writing?” I think they just kind of let me do my thing. And my writing isn’t for everyone. It’s YA paranormal, so it’s not the kind of thing my parents would be interested in or my aunts and uncles, so getting them to read and critique would be brutal for us all. But my sister loved the book and is very enthusiastic about it. My brother is a loser but I think he finally bought a copy to look at. :p

MR: I understand that you’ve had your work published before, even while you were in college. What was your impression of the publishing process this time around with Crescent Moon Press?

SR: Well what happened in college was just college handbooks and student projects. Nothing was really really published until this one.  This was all new to me, but very exciting. Filling out a cover art sheet and getting an editor assigned to me. All that was soooo exciting and all a bunch of firsts for me. The process was longer than I thought it would be, but CMP takes their time and gets it done. I’m very happy with the end result.

MR: I really do love the concept behind Speak of the Devil. You did an excellent job in developing the characters into people the reader really cares about, but I think your work really shines in that it makes the reader care about even the ‘villains’. During the writing process did you have to remind yourself that they’re people too, and have motivations that seem right to them, or did they develop that way naturally?

SR: That comes into play a LOT in the second book. With this first book, I didn’t want there to be definitive lines as to who is good and who is evil. I think in reality, evil people have some good things about them and good people have a dark side. I didn’t want them to be flat. Here’s goody goody #1 and here’s the guy twisting his evil mustache #2. In the second book, I wanted to explore that further and the devil actually becomes a character in the series. I’ve heard it sad said that villains are heroes in their own story. No one walks around all “bwahaha, I’m the bad guy!” If they’re doing something evil, they think they are justified to do so. With Lucifer I had a little too much fun trying to figure out what his justification was. I tried to do that in Speak of the Devil, too, give the angels a reason to fall.

MR: Your main character Lily’s love life isn’t exactly one I would wish on anyone – she has some real disasters and a lot of angst to deal with after her friends die. I understand that you went through some similar trauma in your teens, and I know several teens who are coping with similar losses. Do you have any advice to offer to help get them through?

SR: The week my book came out there were three news stories on US news about car accidents that had ended up killing close to 15 teens in total. It’s heart breaking. When you’re young you think you’ll live forever, but dead is dead. The loss doesn’t go away. It doesn’t just get better. It’s always there. I mean, even now, nearly thirty years later I’m still thinking about the car accident in high school that took my friends. I’m still writing about it. It still affects me. As far as advice, I don’t know. I guess I’d say, live your life. Make it worth it. I know they wouldn’t want me being depressed forever or doing anything stupid. They’d want me to be happy, so try to do that however you can. For them, if you have to.

MR:On the other hand, she certainly has some yummy “problems” to deal with! I love the dishy cover model for Speak of the Devil – how close is he to how you see Luc?

SR: I didn’t picture Luc’s biceps to be that big. He’s clearly been working out. I pictured Chord Overstreet from Glee, so shorter, blonder hair. But the cover is great. His face really works, and his crazy hair.

MR: You are definitely a social media maven – could you give us some links to find your books, and you, online?

SR: I have tons of links. They can all be found on my website, but here are a few:Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  | Pinterest  |  Goodreads | Amazon Print

MR: I’ve really enjoyed talking with you, Shawna! You’ve really worked hard to make this book shine, and I enjoyed editing it immensely. I already bought my paperback; it’s right there on the shelf! I hope that Speak of the Devil does well for you, and continues to do well as the series progresses and more people discover your books. 

SR: Thank you so much. I hope you get assigned a new book to edit soon, about a demon fighting girl who gets taken away by the biggest baddie of them all!

 

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Filed under editing, interview, writing

The Grave Winner cover reveal

Today I have the great pleasure of having Lindsey Loucks over to my virtual kitchen for an interview about the cover reveal for her fantastic book – The Grave Winner. I’ll admit to being very slightly biased, since I did edit The Grave Winner for Crescent Moon Press and I completely fell in love with the book. Ms. Loucks herself is enormously entertaining and a delight to work with. She really worked her tail feathers off to make sure that her book was polished up! Of course, like all of “my” authors, Ms. Loucks is entirely too pretty (why do I get all the pretty people? why can’t I get a homely cuss so I don’t feel quite so dowdy? *sniffle*)…

Author Lindsey Loucks

Author Lindsey Loucks

What a brat – she even has good hair! Sigh. Well, enough of my whining, right? She also happens to have a completely awesome cover for her book, The Grave Winner, which will be coming out on May 15th. I have to say that the artist really captured what I thought the main character would look like – absolutely a fantastic job, no questions!

The Grave Winner Cover Art

The Grave Winner – Cover Art Revealed!

Fabulous, isn’t it? I love this cover!

Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…  the interview!

MR: Hi Lindsey! Come on in! It’s finally nice out, but I don’t dare set out lawn chairs, they’d just sink. Mud season in Vermont. It’ll get worse before it gets better, of course. Would you like some tea? Nothing fancy, just Irish Breakfast Tea…. Or… What is this? Peppermint Ginseng? Yerk. Must be Himself’s. Ah. Plain Peppermint too… Coffee? Oh, don’t mind Himself. He wanders through whenever he hears the magic word–‘tea’.

LL: Hi Melissa! I would love some Irish Breakfast Tea. You have a gorgeous kitchen. Hi Himself! *waves*

MR: Okay, your cover reveal for The Grave Winner is today, and I’m pretty excited! I loved editing your book, and can’t wait to get my mitts on the final product. You must be much more excited than I am!

LL: I am excited and more than a little nervous! I’ve started losing sleep about the whole thing. But sleep is silly, anyway.

MR: I understand that you wrote The Grave Winner in 2010 – it’s been a long process. What did the process look like from your end?

LL: Yep, I started writing it in May 2010. I was working on a YA Sci-Fi (which needs a major rewrite) when the title The Grave Winner leaped inside my head. I had no idea why someone would win a grave, so I scratched my head and thought about it for a while. Then Leigh, my main character, started whispering to me and would. Not. Leave. Me. Alone! Surprising, huh?

So, I started writing her story. It took about six months to finish the first draft and then another year of editing before I felt confident enough in the story to test the query waters. Several requests and even more rejections later, I had three offers from small presses. Crescent Moon Press was the obvious choice for me because 1. they publish e-copies and print, 2. they have amazing covers, and 3. they used the most exclamation points in their offering email, which proved they were the most excited about my story. I haven’t regretted my decision to go with CMP at all. Plus, they have awesome editors! *points at me and grins*

MR: *Blushes* Do you have more books in the works? Like a sequel to The Grave Winner? Hint! Hint! Seriously – I can’t wait to see what else you’re doing!

LL: Well, after what Leigh went through, she stopped talking to me for a while. I can’t say I blame her. But there’s much more to tell, and she knows it, so she’s gradually speaking to me again. I’m about a third of the way through the typed version of the sequel, but there’s more of it scattered through my notebooks. I just have to piece it all together, but I wish I had more time to do it!

I’m also about a fourth of the way through a sexy ghost story in space. I love blending different genres!

MR: You have another book coming with another publisher, don’t you?

LL: I do! It’s called Salt in the Cupboard, which will release soon from Entangled Publishing. It’s actually only a novella, and I’m nearly finished with the editing stage.

When Leigh would only give me her middle finger, I saw an open call for romantic horror novellas on Entangled’s website. Since that’s right up my alley, I had to do it! That may be why Leigh started talking to me again. I think she was a little jealous I was talking to other characters!

MR: I have to say I’m really excited to see such a talented author’s work taking off like this, Lindsey. Of course, I’m also wildly jealous, but I’ll keep that mostly to myself! *grin* How long have you been writing, would you say?

LL: Since I was eight? That sounds about right. My parents bought me my very own desk, and I just thought that was the coolest thing ever. Sitting down at it filled me with such excitement! Blank paper and pencils piled on top of it put me in a happiness coma. The desk is long gone but the urge to write isn’t.

MR: I’ve noticed that a lot of “my” authors started writing pretty young. About when did you decide to go from writing for fun and relaxation to working towards writing with getting a book published in mind?

LL: Not until I finished that YA Sci-Fi book that needs a major rewrite. I wrote it the summer before The Grave Winner. I knew very little about writing “rules” and I knew even less about publishing, but I thought that YA book was ready to be published yesterday. Looking back at that story reminds me that it really wasn’t. But it sure did teach me A LOT! One thing that it taught me was that I could do better, and if I did, signing a publishing contract would put me into another happiness coma. I had to try!

MR: Did you get a lot of encouragement and support for your writing from friends and family?

LL: Some of them, yes. Others, no. Some are more supportive now that it’s actually happening. One of my forever best friends gave me the courage to write that YA Sci-Fi book. She even suffered through reading the whole thing! If I didn’t write that book, I wouldn’t be here today. So I owe her a lot. Another of my forever best friends went to the graveyard with me so I could get the setting just right. I love these people.

Another person I know, upon hearing that I wanted to be a published author, said, “Good luck with that.” I’m not even kidding.

My BF couldn’t even get through the Sci-Fi book because the main character annoyed him to no end. He used to always tell me that I should write literary fiction or picture books or funny books or anything other than what I wanted to write. Now he just tells me, “You’re doing so good.”

MR: Oooh, speaking of which, this is my ‘Coming through, I’m a nosy person!’ moment – how did you and your significant other meet? I love these stories *so* much I can’t help asking.

LL: It’s a drama-filled soap opera that fueled the idea for a play I wrote in high school! Okay, this is how it went down. My best friend and I had an epic crush on my BF’s best friend. I put anonymous Valentine’s Day gifts on his front porch to declare my secret love. My friend would slip notes through the slits in his locker. He thought he had some kind of crazy stalkers, and it didn’t take him long to find out who it was. Yay. I was totally embarrassed, of course, but that didn’t stop us to continue tormenting him with the zeal of a Justin Bieber fan girl.

Through some weird turn of events, we were both invited to his birthday party. Smart move on his part. How do you stop stalking behavior? Befriend the stalkers! So my best friend and I were beyond excited, but we had to play it cool.

At the party, I sat next to a guy from out of town who I’d never met before. He was the drummer in my crush’s band, but that was all I knew. As we sat there, he kept showing me pictures of recent concerts he’d gone to and cracking me up with every bizarre thing that fell out of his mouth. He was strange in a just-like-me sort of way, and he had the prettiest green eyes I’d ever seen. And that smile…wow.

A new girl moved to town shortly after the party and stole my crush’s heart. I was super sad and more than a little confused about my feelings for the drummer boy on the couch. I’d just met him, but there was obviously something there. I hung up my stalker gear and decided to pursue that possibility like a mature high school student. We’ve been together for almost two decades. Oh, and I found out that he ate my anonymous Valentine’s Day gift I left for his best friend all those years ago!

MR: I just love the beginnings of a romance! I absolutely love Leigh’s love life in The Grave Winner, by the way. Of course, I love a lot about Leigh. I love her kickass attitude and her fashion sense and her taste in music, too! How much of Leigh’s character reflects your own likes and dislikes?

LL: There’s quite a bit of Leigh in me. We listen to the same music, we both like the gothic/punk look (though Leigh has the courage to take it much further than I do), and we love with all our hearts. The big difference between us is that Leigh says what’s on her mind and she’s not afraid to push people around when they need to be pushed. I don’t like conflict at all and will do most anything to avoid it.

MR: Leigh goes through some seriously creepy adventures. I have a few I’m pleading the fifth on, but do you have any of your own that you’d be willing to share?

LL: Well, take a look at the gorgeous cover. See that spider web? It’s there for a reason. I haaaaaate spiders with a passion, so naturally they had to crawl through this story.

MR: Leigh’s story plays out in a town she not-so-affectionately refers to as Krapper, Kansas. Other than being completely flat, Krapper sounds a good bit like small towns all over the place, including Hardwick, Vermont! How much of your own home town shines through into Leigh’s town?

LL: A great deal of it. The town where I grew up is Krapper, right down to the graveyard down the street from the video store. That store isn’t there anymore, though. Leigh’s house is structured just like the house I grew up in, minus the basement. I needed a traditional town where untraditional people, such as Leigh and her best friend Jo, would feel like outcasts. My home town was perfect for that.

MR: Hey, that’s another thing you share with Leigh – learning to play the electric guitar! Those are mine over on the wall. I’m trying to learn ‘rock’ guitar after teaching myself TAB so I could play Moonlight Sonata and such for Little Man. Yes, yes, I mentioned you. He says ‘hi’ and is trying to cadge a smooch from ‘pretty lady’, so don’t mind him too much. *grin* How far along have you gotten with learning to play the guitar?

LL: I will happily give Little Man a kiss! *smooch* That’s so awesome that you taught yourself TAB! I’m learning to play through a Playstation game called Rocksmith. *hangs head in shame* I haven’t played since last summer, though. Why can’t there be thirty-six hours in a day instead of a measly twenty-four?!

MR: We tend to be a pretty musical bunch around here. When I’m writing it can be pretty noisy in here because my writing playlist tends to be a bit wild – a driving beat keeps me typing fast! What kind of music did you listen to while you were writing The Grave Winner, or do you listen to music while you write?

LL: I envy those who can listen to music while they write since I love music, but I have to have absolute quiet. Even if my cat complains that his belly is empty, it takes me from my train of thought. My cat hasn’t learned that my writing time equals his nap time, not hungry time!

MR: I love the cover, by the way – that’s just like I imagined Leigh! What was your first reaction to the cover of The Grave Winner? Who’s the cover artist?

LL: When I saw the email from Crescent Moon Press with a subject line that said ‘Grave Winner cover art,’ I stopped breathing. What if I hated it? What if I liked it?  What if I loved it so much I started crying? I’d been waiting for that moment for a long time, after all. I was at work in the school library at the time, and I quickly glanced around to make sure no one would see me open it in case I did cry. Then I opened the email and gasped. There was Leigh, just like I’d imagined her, sitting on tree roots in a graveyard. It was absolutely perfect. I didn’t cry, probably because I repeated to myself over and over, “Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry.” I replied back in all capital letters how much I loved it.

The cover designer is Liliana Sanches, aka the Princess of Shadows. She’s a genius and a wizard. I sent her a gushing thank you through Facebook when I got home from work that day.

MR: When will The Grave Winner be available and where will we be able to find it online?

LL: Release day is May 15th. It will be available as an ebook and in print from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and probably other places that I don’t know about yet.

MR: Are you planning on paperbacks too? Will you be having book signings? Will there be signed copies available online too?

LL: It will be available in paperback! I’ll probably have book signings at some point. I should probably look into that. There will be signed copies floating around during contests and other fun book release events, like my blog tour which starts May 20th.

MR: How can people keep up with developments? 

LL: My website is here. My blog is there, too. I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

MR: I’m so glad you took the time to stop by and have a chat with me, Lindsey! Really, I’m delighted to have played even the small part of editing The Grave Winner, and I can’t wait ’till it’s available for sale so I can “keep” Leigh nearby and go back to reading about her adventures when I need a Leigh fix! You did an excellent job of painting her character with words, and it has been a true pleasure to get to know you as well. I have to say that I’ve been delighted to brag to family, friends, colleagues and the unsuspecting blog browsing public that you’re one of “my” authors.

LL: That’s so sweet, Melissa! You played a huge part in making The Grave Winner all shiny and readable. Thank you so much for inviting me to your lovely virtual kitchen!

That was such a fun interview! I really do like doing interviews, so expect more of them folks! *grin* And, for being such good folks and reading this far I’ll even take pity on you all and give you The Grave Winner‘s blurb so you’ll have an idea of what I’m so excited about!

Leigh Baxton is terrified her mom will come back from the dead — just like the prom queen did.

While the town goes beehive over the news, Leigh bikes to the local cemetery and buries some of her mom’s things in her grave to keep her there. When the hot and mysterious caretaker warns her not to give gifts to the dead, Leigh cranks up her punk music and keeps digging.

She should have listened.

Two dead sorceresses evicted the prom queen from her grave to bury someone who offered certain gifts. Bury them alive, that is, then resurrect them to create a trio of undead powerful enough to free the darkest sorceress ever from her prison inside the earth.

With help from the caretaker and the dead prom queen, Leigh must find out what’s so special about the gifts she gave, and why the sorceresses are stalking her and her little sister. If she doesn’t, she’ll either lose another loved one or have to give the ultimate gift to the dead – herself.

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Filed under editing, interview, writing

Alternative Booker Awards

Seumas Gallacher went and did it again – he has graciously honored me by tagging me for an Alternative Booker Award. Personally, I think this is a ploy to get a peep at my personal bookshelves, but… at least as far as books go, I’m a bit of an exhibitionist, so he’s in luck. The idea is to mention five of your favorite books – preferably without going all literati and pretentious – and then tag 5 other bloggers with this delightful award. Now, choosing only five books is going to be completely impossible for me, so bear with me, you’ll just have to cope with several series!

My newest favorite series on my ‘keepers’ list is by Sean T. Poindexter, and because it’s new and I haven’t mentioned it before I’m going to natter on about it, because I tend to be a little enthusiastic about finding a new favorite. The Dragon’s Blood Chronicles – thus far I’ve read books 1 and 2 – The Shadow of Tiamat and The Will of the Darkest  respectively, are simply wonderful. I would seriously go all fan girl on this poor fellow, so it’s probably good that he’s far, far away. No, I don’t go in for going fan girl because an author is ‘cute’ (although… he is kinda cute), I go fan girl for authors who can write a damned good story. Nothing’s sexier than brains, good vocabulary, and creativity. I’ve already started pestering the poor man about when book 3 is coming out and was treated to the news that there’s a spin-off series coming along as well, which delights the hell out of me. Brains, vocabulary, creativity, and productivity too? What? Oh. You want to know what the books are about? Silly you.

The books center around Megan, a young woman who is entirely average – which I love. She’s fairly pretty but not fall-all-over-yourself gorgeous. She’s got a job she cares about that she’s actually qualified to hold… That’s a pet peeve of mine – characters with jobs their degree wouldn’t qualify them to get. She’s not rich. She doesn’t drive a faboo car. She has realistic insecurities about her appearance but doesn’t hate herself. She thinks her roommate is prettier – or at least hotter – than she is. She’s had past relationships that were lousy, and past experiences that were awful, but she’s not completely destroyed by them. She has a boss she thinks is cute but she hasn’t asked him out. She has a friend who is a complete bitch (oh, come on, we all have at least one). In short, she’s ordinary. I love that because that lets the reader identify with the character even when she’s thrown into extraordinary circumstances.

One of those extraordinary circumstances is hitting a motorcyclist with her car. She’s banged up, but he ought to be dead – and isn’t harmed in the least. He’s rich as Croesus, tall, dark, handsome… and a dragon. What I love about Garrett is that for all those wonderful things he isn’t the least bit charming. He isn’t ‘smooth’ with words, and he doesn’t know how to express his feelings. For me, that’s just about perfect – I, for one, can’t stand a hero who is “perfect” and romantic and all that. Love, in my opinion, isn’t about smooth talk, flowers, candlelight, and dancing. I find “romance” a silly thing for the most part. Love is about how you really feel – and how you continue to feel – when ‘the chips are down’. If your love doesn’t survive all hell breaking loose in your lives it wasn’t really love to start with.

Now, I’m not going to spoil the story for you, except to say that loving a dragon may very well be the definition of all hell breaking loose. Meg is targeted by vampires, as is Garrett, and Meg’s considerably more special than she appears to be. I will say that the plot is exceptionally well done; the ‘minor’ characters and their sub-plots are absolutely essential to the story and Mr. Poindexter develops their characters extremely well. The sex scenes are hot without being disgusting and tawdry or heavily laden with purple prose and ridiculous euphemisms. Better yet, they’re accurate for sex with a… um… well-endowed fellow. I’m sorry, folks, this may be blush-inducing, but unrealistic sex scenes in which the man is well-endowed and they go ‘all night’ are insanely stupid – there’s some wear and tear involved and you’re going to be walking funny and sore as hell the next day, plainly put. The fight scenes are dead-on accurate in choreography and physics (given that there are dragons involved, of course). That’s another pet peeve of mine – fight scenes that just couldn’t possibly work that way make me skim and roll my eyes at an author’s lack of research.

Next on my list is David Eddings’ Belgariad and Mallorean  series. I adore epic fantasy and these series are an excellent example of how it should be done.  Of course, Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series is also exceptionally well-done epic fantasy.  For both authors, however, I really only like these series and I’ve never been able to get “into” their other work.

I love funny fantasy, so competing for the ‘funny’ slot are Piers Anthony’s Xanth series and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. Of the two series, Discworld is considerably cleaner – I begin to worry that Mr. Anthony’s just a touch pervy. Mr. Anthony has, of course, produced several other series, most of which are even more ‘questionable’ than Xanth;  sex is fine by me, pedophilia isn’t, so I’m not going to recommend any of his other series.

I love science fiction, particularly space opera, and again I have competing favorite series. Lois McMaster-Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga and Sharon Lee & Steve Miller’s Liaden Universe are my picks, and both have gotten Hugo nominations for the 2012 installments of their series – at least on my ballot. Yes, I get to vote on the Hugos this year. Much as I love Lois’s Vorkosigans, I really can’t get into her other books like Spirit Ring; they’re just not as well done and not as engaging.

My last category of absolute keepers are “my” authors. I’m probably biased, but I think that Justin Macumber (A Minor Magic), Lindsey Loucks (Grave Winner), Shawna Romkey (Speak of the Devil), Cindy Young-Turner (Thief of Hope and Journey to Hope), Jody A. Kessler (Death Lies Between Us), Diane M. Haynes (Rift Healer and Sirocco), Rusty Fischer (Reanimation Reform School among others), Denna Holm (Soul of a Warrior), and Wendy Russo (January Black) are putting out some of the best new books out there. Better yet, most of those books are either going to be series or already part of a series, which means there’s more to read! 🙂 Now, you may over-rate my bias here and think that I love them just because I’ve edited some of their work, but the truth of the matter is – that makes me that much more certain that these are really good books! Think about it; I’ve read these books several times over and I absolutely adore them and will read them again and again. That says something, right?

And, because it’s my blog, I’m also going to mention that I adore Neil Gaiman, David Weber, Larry Correia, and Eric Flint. Just because I can. 🙂 I read a lot, okay?

The five people I’m tagging with Alternative Booker Awards of their own – mostly because I want a peep at their bookshelves:

Shawna Romkey

Lindsey Loucks

Wendy Russo

Jody A. Kessler

Cindy Young-Turner

Just can’t wait to see their favorite books!

 

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Wendy S. Russo and January Black

I have with me today, in my virtual kitchen, the very talented Wendy S. Russo, author of January Black, which was released January 15th. Those of you who follow my blog already know that I had the very great pleasure of editing this book for Wendy and for Crescent Moon Press, her publisher. From that perspective, I can certainly say that this is an excellent book well worth not only one read, but several. Wendy’s giving away one $10 gift card and one delightful LiberTea mug just like mine each day of her book’s blog tour – names to be drawn from comments on that day’s blog tour posts, so be sure to post comments on all of them if you’re really hankering for an awesome mug or extra book-buying budget! Additionally, I’ve been very sneaky and hidden a link to a special bonus excerpt of January Black. If you find it and click on it, the password is “matty”. Comment there and you’ll be in the running for an autographed paperback copy of January Black. I’ll post my interview with Wendy first, then pictures, so that my earnest readers won’t be distracted by either the gorgeous cover or lovely author.

MR: Hi Wendy! Good to see you. Just scrape the worse of the snow off on that bristle thing on the porch. You look chilly, let me get you that cup of tea I promised. Sorry about the weather. You’re a transplant like me, but you had the good sense to move south. How do you like Louisiana?

Wendy: Yes, I’m a transplant from Wyoming. I miss the mountains, but I love Louisiana. The weather. The people. The food. I’ve been all over America and I can say that there’s…  As Wendy tracks Mr. Robitille as he walks through the room, her voice trails off. …nowhere quite like Louisiana.

MR: Don’t mind Himself. He wanders through whenever there’s tea on. I met him here in Vermont. Where did you meet your husband, Robert?

Wendy: Powell, Wyoming. Robert and I were in a few classes together at Northwest College…Magazine Production and Drugs and Human Behavior. He was a Creative Writing major, and I was graphic design, so having those two classes together was a sign, if you believe in signs, which I really don’t. But it gets a little stranger. Rob is from Long Island. His best friend from high school, Dave, just happened to have an aunt who teaches psychology at NWC. Robert was on his way to UC-Berkeley, but hadn’t established residency yet. Dave says, “Hey, Powell’s a fun place,” so Rob stopped to get his general education credits out of the way. So, it was that tenuous connection that led us to meeting at all. And I’m not done yet. NWC is a two year college. I changed majors after my first year, so when I met Rob during my third year there.

And yeah, no. After all that, I’m still not a “signs” person.

The next question people usually ask is “how did you end up in Louisiana?” Rob’s cousin Jeff was an LSU student. He said, “Come down. Nice weather. Friendly people. Awesome food.” And he wasn’t lying.

MR: Your blurb says you’ve been writing for quite some time. When did you decide that you wanted to ‘get serious’ about writing? 

Wendy: By serious, do you mean committed enough to complete novels? Or masochistic enough to put myself through the arduous process of writing query letters/blurbs/synopses, researching and contacting agents/publishers, enduring 18-months of rejection by form letters and non-response before finally catching an acquiring editor’s attention?

I wrote mostly poetry before 1997, when I completed my first novel. It was the first of a Star Wars fan fiction trilogy and in hindsight, it’s bad. Well, my friends will tell you that the story is good, but the craft is sloppy.

January Black was the first story that I felt sure enough to pursue publishing, and it wasn’t until three separate beta readers came back and said, “You need to send this to a publisher.”

MR: Do you have other books in the works?

Wendy: I have 2 series, one with a companion book so that’s seven books and no real timeline for completion.

First, there’s Nick Jackson’s error. It’s New Adult Science Fiction with elements of alternate timeline and nanotechnology. The subject of the story is a 19-year-old DJ with Asperger’s Syndrome and stolen tech in her brain. The narrator character is her best friend Sam, who endures her abuse and hides her from various bad guys who are willing to kill her to get the tech from her.

That story has a Paranormal companion featuring Fenghuang, a Chinese fire god, who in this story has taken up residence in the nearby Wind River canyon and has been tampering with history.

The second series is The Choir Boys, which is New Adult Paranormal. It was started as a sort of Three Musketeers meets the Matrix with Angels as the bad guys. It’s evolved somewhat, but there are Angels, Fallen, ghosts, and humans, and hopefully I can take it somewhere interesting.

MR: I have to say that I really enjoyed editing January Black. You write a good story, and I love science fiction that has a well-done political ‘what if’. What brought you to explore the theme of what liberty really is? 

Wendy: The banking collapse in September 2008. I was thinking at the time that there’s nowhere to go. A few hundred years ago, when our ancestors were unhappy with the state of affairs in northern Europe, they left. They boarded boats and they started over. Now, I have Native American ancestry, so I don’t mean to ignore that their colonization destroyed a way of life on this continent. But… those people did something, went somewhere, to escape the cycle of tyranny of the European empires. And as the financial system crumbled, looked at a map of the world and wondered, where could you do that today?

The American consumer accounts for 20% of the global economy. Think about that. We represent only  4.5% of the population on this earth, but when our economy falters, the world’s economy takes a hit. Industries all over the world see less business, production goes down, employment goes down. The whole world is connected now. Unless you take yourself completely out of civilization, endear yourself to a primitive tribe and leave behind ties and conveniences, there’s no place on this earth left to go.

Anyhow, I was working on another story entirely when NaNoWriMo rolled around. I took an image from another WIP, a boy standing in an overgrown garden, and wrote a story about a kingdom where liberty was so taken for granted, the people didn’t even know they lacked it.

MR: I like that you explore how the government can control what the populace knows by controlling what is taught in schools. How concerned are you about revisionism in modern textbooks? 

Wendy: It concerns me, but my husband and I view it as a teaching opportunity for our son. It’s one thing to teach a child to read, to teach him how to separate the pieces and understand what’s being said, but skepticism of what he reads and the compulsion to research more and form his own opinion, that’s much harder and much more important. If, by the time that he’s in high school, he knows the difference between an answer that is “right” and an answer that is “correct,” I’ll be very happy. The question and answers won’t matter so much.

MR: I also like the romance between Matty and Iris. Matty strikes me as a decent boy and a gentleman, the kind of boy I’d hope my daughter would fall in love with. Do you know any boys like Matty? 

Wendy: Matty reminds me of my cousin Zach. Very smart. Independent. Loving, polite, and perhaps a bit socially awkward. In writing Matty, I wanted to present the teenage boy honestly.  I was terrified that I got teenage boys all wrong, but my husband put that down quickly. He also flatly told me not to touch Matty’s errant libido or the hints at masturbation, no matter who wanted me to change it. Matty really is the kind of boy I hope my son becomes.

MR: I recently posted pictures of actors and actresses who might fill the roles of characters in the book I just finished. Do you have any actors and actresses in mind when you think of your characters?

Wendy: There’s a scene in Blade 3 where Hannibal King, played by Ryan Reynolds, chucks a vampire pomeranian out of a high rise and it lands somewhere in the lower levels of the building. When Triple H’s character asks where his dog is, Hannibal responds,” Have you tried the lobby?” THAT Ryan Reynolds sparked King Hadrian.

When I started writing, Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” was being overplayed on the radio, and Matty’s frantic girlfriend took the form of a girl with curly blonde hair.

Matty actually doesn’t have a specific face attached to him. If I were to thrown a name out…Jesse Eisenberg?

MR: Writers tend to be readers too – what do you like to read? Any favorite authors?

Wendy: I {heart} Neal Stephenson, but he’s a tough act to aspire to be like someday. I also love Kate Evangelista, Marie Sexton, Hildie McQueen, Christine Ashworth, and Sean Poindexter. It’s an honor to be associated with them.

MR: What kind of reactions have you had to your writing from your friends and family?

Wendy: The response from friends and family has been incredibly positive, but they’re friends and family. *shrug*

I was blown away to learn that my husband finished reading it. Like I said, he used to be a Creative Writing major, and he’s got a very critical eye when it comes to literature. The first “final” draft he couldn’t get even three chapters into because of the errors in the manuscript. So, when he told me a few months ago that he finished it, and that he liked it, I was completely stunned. And felt like I won the lottery.

MR: I listen to a great deal of music when I’m writing. What are your favorite songs to write to? 

Wendy: It depends on the story I’m writing. With January Black, there was a lot of Taylor Swift, Dream Theater, Glee Soundtrack, and some stuff that my then 2-year-old son insisted we listen to. He’s got good taste in music. His playlist included The Who’s Baba O’Reilly and Sam Tsui’s “Lady Gaga Medley.”

Virgo’s playlist has Kesha and Lady Gaga, and lots of drum machine. The Choir Boys’ list has Breaking Benjamin, All American Rejects, and Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.

MR: Now, I understand that you’re giving away some lovely gifts for folks who comment. A branded coffee cup just like this one – without the tea in it, obviously! – and a $10 gift card are up for grabs, and I’ve sneakily hidden a link here in your interview to an excerpt of January Black – you’ll be giving an autographed paperback to one of the people who comment there as well, correct? 

Wendy: That is correct. There will be daily drawings, so more than one opportunity to win as long as you keep leaving comments on the tour’s posts.

MR: It’s been wonderful having you here, Wendy! I hope that when you do write another book I’ll get to edit that as well.

Wendy: Thank you, Melissa. And if I get another book accepted by CMP, I’m going to insist that you be my editor. I’ll wait in line if I have to.

First, the gorgeous cover:

January_Black_Cover

Just so everyone can stop taking my word for it; “my” authors are entirely and unfairly attractive people – a picture of the gorgeous Wendy S. Russo herself:

WendySRusso

I still claim it’s unfair that all my authors (not just the ladies – even the guys are, for cryin’ out sakes) to be better looking than I am, but that’s life, isn’t it? Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without a sneak peak at the awesome LiberTea mug you might win:

LiberTea

Being an honest person by nature I’ll admit that I cropped this out of Wendy’s photo – my own LiberTea mug is currently in need of a wash due to having been emptied just now over the course of our delightful chat… and my kitchen, while homey and comfortable, isn’t nearly so pretty as the lovely counter this mug is sitting on. I’m leaving out the quiche because it’s making my stomach grumble and I’m trying to lose weight. I figure it’s a good thing Wendy didn’t picture it with a delectable pastry or I’d be ringing a peal over her head for tempting my poor self beyond the bounds of self-constraint.

January Black blurb:

Sixteen-year-old genius Matty Ducayn has never fit in on The Hill, an ordered place seriously lacking a sense of humor. After his school’s headmaster expels him for a small act of mischief, Matty’s future looks grim until King Hadrian comes to his rescue with a challenge: answer a question for a master’s diploma.

More than a second chance, this means freedom. Masters can choose where they work, a rarity among Regents, and the question is simple.

What was January Black?

It’s a ship. Everyone knows that. Hadrian rejects that answer, though, and Matty becomes compelled by curiosity and pride to solve the puzzle. When his search for an answer turns up long-buried state secrets, Matty’s journey becomes a collision course with a deadly royal decree. He’s been set up to fail, which forces him to choose. Run for his life with the challenge lost…or call the king’s bluff.

Wendy Russo’s Bio:

Wendy S. Russo got her start writing in the sixth grade. That story involved a talisman with crystals that had to be found and assembled before bad things happened, and dialog that read like classroom roll call. Since then, she’s majored in journalism (for one semester), published poetry, taken a course on short novels, and watched most everything ever filmed by Quentin Tarantino. A Wyoming native transplanted in Baton Rouge, Wendy works for Louisiana State University as an IT analyst. She’s a wife, a mom, a Tiger, a Who Dat, and she falls asleep on her couch at 8:30 on weeknights.

The January Black book trailer can be found by following the link – it’s gorgeous, of course. Now… Did you find my sneaky link to that excerpt? I hope you did! Remember, the password is “matty” – without the quotes, of course. Post a comment here, post a comment there, and check out the other blog tour posts for today and comment there too! Good luck to you, and particularly good luck to Wendy as well as my heartfelt congratulations on the publication of her wonderful novel.

You can find her book on Amazon  as a Kindle ebook, and she’s currently discussing a print run with Crescent Moon Press, her publisher.

You can also find Wendy through all sorts of social media…

On her blog, on Facebook, on Google+, on Twitter, and of course on Goodreads.

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Something Romantical

Today is our nineteenth wedding anniversary. I should write something romantical. That’s what I told myself when I started to write today’s blog post. The problem with that is that after nineteen years much of the romantic nonsense has been forcibly knocked out of your head by the events that come along with nineteen years of living life.

So, to be completely factual and analyze our situation, Himself has been by my side through nineteen years of my life – longer than my mother and father combined, even longer than my dear grandfather did. When Little Man was born with so many ‘anomalies’, he loved our boy and stuck by me. When I had necrotizing fasciitis he refused to sign a DNR. When all hell broke loose five years ago he stood by me despite pressure to divorce me. He supports my writing fairly enthusiastically. He tolerates my moods (I’ve been informed that this is going above and beyond by more than one person). He tolerates my acquisitive nature when it comes to books, wigs, shoes, makeup, clothing, furniture… um… okay everything. He eats my cooking; I’m still not sure if he likes anything I make besides red beans & rice, but I know he doesn’t like pasta or meatloaf, but he’ll still eat them if I make them. He puts the toilet seat down. He doesn’t laugh at my jokes, but thinks I’m funny when I’m being dead serious. He does like quite a few movies I like. He watches Dr. Who with me. He likes country music, but will put up with my techno and punk ‘writing’ music for hours at a time without complaining until it’s actually becoming physically painful for him. He puts up with my night shift schedule since it’s the job I could get ‘in my field’. He cares about my health – probably more than I do. Of course, I care about his more than he does, so fair’s fair. He still seems to think I’m at least vaguely sexy – 19 years and 150-ish pounds later, that’s not bad all by itself. ‘Course, I think he’s still pretty cute his-own-self, and he still has the nicest butt I’ve seen.

Now, that may not seem all that romantic to a lot of people. We’ve never been on one of those supposedly romantic dates (or any dates, for that matter, not even during our less than three months of ‘courtship’) with candlelight (not a good idea to have lit candles and children) and flowers (he gave me flowers when the kids were born and he brought me a rose bush for Mother’s Day). We don’t watch romantic movies together – mostly because he makes fun of my crying at the soppy bits to keep himself from crying. He doesn’t get me snazzy boxes of chocolate for Valentine’s day – he brings home big horkin’ Hershey bars to keep in stock just in case I get a migraine, though.  I think our way’s better, personally.  I guess I like him being himself every day rather than presenting me with out of character niceness on special occasions.

For all that, we might do the ‘date thing’ (seriously, we have never been on a date) for our 20th anniversary. Not this year, though. This year we have an IEP meeting for Little Man and then I’m going to have to crash because I have to work tomorrow night too.  But – and there’s always a song… ‘If that’s not love, what is?’

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Courtship in the Swamp

So what, exactly, gave our Crandal the idea that the neighboring lord’s daughter would want to marry him? Was it merely that he and the girl’s father were on the same side in the civil war and they were neighbors, in a display of lordly oblivion to the actual wishes of the young woman in question? Did she lead him on, flirting with the neighbor boy for practice while waiting for bigger fish to fry? Would she have been surprised, even horrified, that Crandal had the expectation that she would marry him, or would she have known all about it and viewed it with amusement and disdain?

Since Sashira needs to be an incredibly horrible and heartless individual to support plot points, I’m leaning towards making her a heartless flirt with a distinctly mercenary bent. How obvious should it be to others? How oblivious should Crandal be? I think he should be completely oblivious and in full-on courtly love with the girl. It’s just a nastier thing to do to the poor boy. He’s going to be having an irredeemably awful time of it in Smuggler’s Pursuit, though, so why not throw something else at him?

I sometimes think that half of writing this novel is finding nasty things to do to already-benighted characters. The charm of that is in allowing my overactive and evil imagination to run wild. It’s a far safer occupation for that particular beast than setting it free in public, of course, a service for which all the world should likely thank fiction most heartily.

Speaking of the sort of things my diseased imagination has in store for these characters, how crazy will the convoluted form of feudalism on this swampy world make our Melia? Worse, she’s an Amazon, how will she react to women being even potentially traded around like currency in some sort of land-grabbing board game? What reaction will she have to the concept of droit de seigneur? Just in being from Amazon the concept of ‘women’s liberation’ won’t have crossed her mind any more than an American middle-class white man from 1930 would grasp the concept of ‘men’s liberation’ that is just beginning to really take root on Amazon. She would certainly have roughly the same reaction as any American to feudalism, though I do note that some of my fellow Americans don’t seem to have nearly that level of psychic dissonance with other versions of totalitarianism, even though in practical application those forms of totalitarianism have certainly led to essential serfdom for the largest part of the population so afflicted.

Sophocles, and of course Maggie, having had first-hand experience with the American government as a totalitarian system as well as with many and varied other forms of totalitarianism in their long lives won’t be particularly all that shocked by feudalism. While it’s somewhat Trekkie and Whovian of me, they may actually be more offended by arms dealers interfering with the development of the society on its own.

Naturally, Sophocles hates the idea of the serfs being defenseless against the depredations of the nobility, but Melia may not be as horrified since it is only in the last hundred years on Amazon that people other than the Warrior Caste were allowed to own weaponry, as the Warrior Caste served as both army and police force until the Annexation. Having this to look back on in her own world’s history, particularly the essential serfdom – though not direct connection to any one Warrior – of large swaths of her own world’s population, would she disapprove of much about feudalism other than the actual ownership of the serfs and the abuses directed toward women? After all, her grandmother, aunt, and cousin are Warrior Caste and she could have been herself if she’d cared to take that path. I think, given Melia’s choice to refuse the honor, that she would disapprove of the feudal system setting up the nobility as protectors of the serfs even in ideal conditions.

How will Melia react to Crandal’s courtship of Sashira? How patient will she be with his reactions once the full-scale of his humiliation is revealed to him? Melia is a bluff and hearty individual with little time for – or inclination toward – sentimentality. She has a driving urge towards justice, of course, but not out of a sentimental sense of what is ‘fair’ by any means. In practical terms, she has a very set idea of the rights of human beings (and, with a nod to our Maggie, the rights of ‘derivative beings’), and will fiercely defend those rights, but she doesn’t much care for touchy-feely ‘well it’s only fair’. She firmly believes in equality under the law rather than preferential treatment under the law. Feudalism is going to tick her off for that alone, but she certainly has no time for Crandal’s moaning that the girl he’s formed a tendre for doesn’t love him back, nor for his concepts of courtly love. I imagine her reaction to his fumbling attempts to compose a ballad to his lost lady to be more Simon Cowell than second-grade music teacher.

On the home front –

Little Man goes back to school today, and while he was deeply displeased with the idea of waking up at the normal time and getting dressed in school clothes instead of play clothes (easily distinguishable by the presence of ankle-foot orthotics), he does seem to be pleased at the prospect of going to see his friends, particularly since Wednesday is ‘farm day’. Nearly anything can be made palatable by a visit with bunnies and llamas and cows (oh my!).

Teenager actually did his chores. I haven’t noticed any news flashes claiming that hell has actually frozen over.

Himself is still on vacation, so he’ll be at loose ends today without Little Man to play with. I’m guessing he’ll have a nice day watching the Roku – and be bored out of his mind by the time the afternoon rolls around, if not before.

As for me, two days of work coming right up, so I’m hoping for better weather than is currently being predicted!

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