Friday, July 5, 2013

Interview: Esther Wheelmaker

I am pleased to welcome Esther Wheelmaker, author of Gravely Inanimated, the first novel in the Zombiepunk series.  Released in March, the novel tells the tale of an England invaded by zombies, and Lucy, her attention captured by two young men, whose secrets make her wonder which is more dangerous, the zombies or the men who are capturing her attention and perhaps, her heart?  Check it out!!

Extra, extra, read all about it: Zombies Invade London!

It has been thirty years since England was plagued by zombies. Humans fear for their lives while the dead kill the living.

By the cover of night, a man known only as Aeron hunts these creatures. On one foggy evening he finds Lucille Knight's life in jeopardy and Aeron's interest is instantly peaked when he saves the young lady.

But Aeron will have competition when Lucy meets Lord Garrett Ashdown, son of the Inventor, Earl Thomas.

Lucy is drawn to the masked man and equally mysterious Lord. With one concealing his true identity and the other hiding a ghastly secret, she does not know which one is less dangerous.

Will she be able to be with the man she chooses when she learns the awful truth?

Interview with Esther
1) To start off, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?  How did you become interested in writing steampunk?
I went to the Steampunk World Faire last year because it looked interesting and while I was there I just fell in love with the whole concept. Especially after I heard Kady Cross and some other authors speak about their books. It was an amazing experience and after meeting the band V is for Villains I was even more inspired to get into this genre.

2) Can you tell us a little about your novel, Gravely Inanimated? What is it like to create your own world?
My “elevator speech”: A love that’s formidable, revenge that must be taken and a Voodoo Queen that roots fear in the hearts of the innocent; all while zombies eat people. :grin: 

Creating my own world is like playing God. Hahaha. For this genre it required a mass of research. I love the Victorian Era though so I already understood that end. The zombies were all new to me. But after I looked into the lore surrounding the creature it actually became lots of fun. There was tons I could do with them; add the voodoo and I felt like there were endless possibilities. 

3) What inspired you to write Gravely Inanimated?  How much research was involved in the writing?
I can not tell a lie. It’s all my brothers fault. A pointed out the zombie trend forming and like lots of guys he likes zombie best. I use to hate them until I wrote Gravely Inanimated. But the versatility I could use with the genre was something I couldn’t pass on.

The research included finding out more about voodoo and zombies mostly and of course I had to read some Steampunk books to get an idea of how it’s formed. I love research though so it was so much fun (and I of course got a little obsessive) to do.

4) What was your greatest challenge while writing this novel? What is the message in this novel? 
I also write The Last Witch Series, which has sex and such so it’s more of an adult book. Taking that out and making Gravely Inanimated for young adults was a tad different. But I think it came out amazing. 
Actually, this book does have a big message behind it that developed more as I wrote the book. I believe the message of prejudice is apparent. I loved being able to incorporate that and hope it teaches some teens how to be more tolerant of others.

5) Who was the most fun to write about?  Which character presented the biggest challenge? 
The character I loved writing was Lucy. She is feisty, curious and very stubborn. Being able to show strength through a woman in this time period was so much fun.

I think the most difficult character to write was Garrett. I wanted him to be a strong male lead but also have a sensitive side to him. Writing males can sometimes be difficult for me since I know the female mind best. It was a terrific journey and I think he turned out just right.

6) What are 3 things that are 'must haves' when you write? Do you have any writing rituals?
I hate being bothered while I’m writing so I’d rather do it alone in my room. I also like to burn insence while I work. Lavender for calm scenes and something like Dragon’s Blood when I write fight scenes. For a third…I have to have the internet. If I can’t research while I write I’ll tend to get pissy since it can stop my scene from moving forward.

As for writing rituals…Some wine during is always a plus. ::Grin::

7) Can you share with us any projects that you are currently working on or plans for the future? What can fans expect next from you?  Are there other genres in which you are interested but haven't yet explored?
At the moment I really want to work on the second book in the Zombiepunk series, begin the fourth book for the Last Witch series and finish an erotica novella involving demons for Sizzler Edition. Buuuuut, I’m a little overwhelmed at the moment with all the panels I am doing for six or seven conventions I’m attending.

I’m playing with the title Hopeful Darkness for the second Zombiepunk book. What I want to do is delve more into the lives of some side characters that need more attention. 

Right now I don’t think I want to take on any new genres I haven’t written yet. I’m pretty content with the paranormal romance and steampunk I’m working on.

8) Favorite authors? Role models?
The writer that helped to open my eyes to the idea writing is Tamora Pierce. She created a world unlike any I have ever seen and of course had a really strong female role I had yet to read about. This was during my tween years. Other authors I love are Kim Harrison, Christopher Moore, Kady Cross, Jeaniene Frost, Henry James, Shakespeare and many others. I tend to look at all of them as my role models.  

9) What do you like to do when you are not writing? What is your ultimate luxury?
Writing is my passion and pleasure so I do look at it as an ultimate luxury, buuuuut I love to travel. I just went to Paris for christmas last year and not only did I get to go to an amazing place it does inspire more ideas for my writing. 

10) Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers?
Read my book! Just kidding. I would like readers to know that I write from my heart. You may not agree with everything in my stories but they are sometimes based on my own life experiences. There is a lot of truth behind every book I write and the best way to find out about me is to read them.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Review: Midnight at Marble Arch by Anne Perry

Midnight at Marble Arch (Thomas & Charlotte Pitt, Book #28)
By Anne Perry
Release Date: April 9th, 2013
2013 Ballantine Books
Hardcover Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-345-53666-2
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

The horrifying rape and apparent suicide of Catherine Quixwood, wife of a wealthy merchant banker, falls outside the new jurisdiction of Special Branch head Thomas Pitt, but so pervasively offensive are the rumors about the victim that Pitt quietly takes a hand in the investigation.

Yet even with the help of his ingenious wife, Charlotte, and his former superior, Victor Narraway, Pitt is stumped. Why did high-minded, cultured Catherine choose not to accompany her husband to a grand party on the night of her demise? Why did she dismiss all her servants for the evening and leave the front door unlocked? What had been her relationship with the young man seen frequently by her side at concerts and art exhibits? And what can be done to avenge another terrible crime: the assault on Angeles Castelbranco, beloved teenage daughter of the Portuguese ambassador?

As an ordinary policeman, Pitt had once entered London’s grand houses through the kitchen door. Now, as a guest in those same houses, can he find the steel in his soul to challenge the great men of the world with their crimes? The path to the truth takes him in deeply troubling directions, from the lofty world of international politics and finance to his own happy home, where his own teenage daughter, Jemima, is coming of age in a culture rife with hidden dangers.

My Thoughts
Midnight at Marble Arch is the twenty-eighth novel in the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt novels.  I have been a huge fan of Anne Perry since I first discovered her years ago, and have read every single one of her novels because I could immerse myself in the time period that she describes so well and feel like I was there.  She is also able to take complex topics from the time period and make you understand how people from the Victorian era would possibly react and think about the situations and help you understand the era a little bit better.  With this novel, I don't quite feel like Ms. Perry hit her mark however, although rape is a tough subject with which to deal, and it felt like the characters had a much too modern feel in their thinking as opposed to the thinking of the time period.

What I liked:
As always, the twists and turns of Anne Perry's mysteries are always great.  Just when I think I have everything figured out, there is always that one last twist that makes me wonder how I missed that one little clue; I may have figured out who the players were, but not necessarily the reasons why and that irks me, but the fact that after all of these mysteries and I can still be kept on my toes is quite interesting.  

The relationship between Charlotte and Pitt, while more modern than most, is quite interesting to see. While Charlotte tends to have a lot more freedom than most women in her era, there are little things that are evident that show that Thomas is still head of the household and I find that quite interesting.  I especially liked how Thomas and Charlotte are dealing with a more rebellious teenager and two children who are much more curious about the cases that surround them every day.  It should be much more interesting in the future to see how Thomas, especially, deals with a very curious Jemima, especially if she takes after Charlotte more and more in the future.  I see some very interesting developments int he future and some very amusing ones too.

Narraway and Aunt Vespasia are still favourites of mine and I like the growing interest between them.  This relationship should also prove to be interesting, especially as Narraway doesn't know what to do with his time and is struggling to deal with a forced retirement.  

Some of the issues I noticed:
I really didn't buy into Thomas being brought into the investigation as I didn't see how Special Branches had anything to do with the investigation at all.  It seemed pretty thin as to what amounted to nothing more than a police investigation and your usual drawn-out court battle that seemed more par for the course of a Monk novel than a Pitt novel.  What I did notice was all of the references to the Boer War and I could see what future novels might have in store for us and I can't wait to see what investigations Pitt might be doing with regards to that development.  But for this one, I sort of was one the side of the Home Secretary and felt that Pitt really had no business being involved in the case.

While I applaud Anne Perry for discussing the rape topic during the Victorian era, I'm not sure she quite succeeded in showing us twentieth century folks exactly what it would have been like during this time period. There were definitely glimpses of hostility against women, and women's reputation being ruined because she did something to bring it one, and there was definite gossip about one girl who must have been a slut and nothing about the man, but I don't think it was enough.  During a time period when even showing an ankle was cause for gossip, I can't even imagine women discussing it during a luncheon or tea and quite candidly at that.  And considering the chauvinistic attitude of the men during this time period, I would have thought that opinion towards Catherine would be rather low and that common thought would be that she brought it on herself.  And even though I imagine there were many enlightened people during this time period, I'm not sure how many would spoken out about it as even today it is such a controversial topic that many women are afraid to go to the police and press charges.  I can't even imagine what it would have been like during this time period when most policemen were asked to go to the side door so they would not been seen at people's houses.  I felt like too much of twentieth century thought was in this novel and wanted more controversy which is how it would have been.  A trial like that would have raised the ire and interest of most of London I am sure.  Thankfully, today, we are much more enlightened.

Midnight at Marble Arch was an interesting novel due to the controversial subject of the mystery, although I did feel like the mystery was too easily solved despite the nice twists and turns involved.  I felt quite strongly that the reasons for involving Pitt were not believable and the mystery could have easily left him out and revolved around Knox, Narraway, Vespasia, and others.  This novel felt more like a lead-in towards the Boer War and some interesting developments that were going to happen in the future.  Despite all of this, and the Monk feel to the novel, I still enjoyed it, and was glad to see that Anne Perry was still not afraid to tackle the controversial topics, topics I hope she continues to tackle in the future.  
Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Guest Post: Wendy Knight

I would like to welcome Wendy Knight, author of Feudlings, the first novel in the Fate on Fire series, featuring a seventeen-year-old girl who is living a double life, one as a simple teenager trying to graduate high school, another as a powerful sorceress and her people's last hope in an ancient war.  While released in March, I have just had the chance to read this novel and it definitely had me captured right from the beginning.  Look for my review soon, as well as the second book in the series, Feudlings in Flames, to be released August 1st.   Take a look!!!

Nothing makes a new school suck worse than discovering the guy you’re in love with is your prophesied nemesis.

Ari is the most powerful flame-throwing sorceress ever, and her people’s last hope in an ancient war.
But she’s also a seventeen-year-old girl, and in her free, not-hunting-nemesis times, she jumps from school to school, trying to figure out regular people her own age and pretending she’ll get the chance to graduate.

Shane lives a double life. He goes to school and masters the art of popularity, hiding the fact that he has a fate with a slim chance of his survival. He’s destined to end a 300 year-old war by killing or being killed. He knows he’s hunted by a powerful enemy who’s not afraid to die. Only problem? He has no idea who that enemy is.

When Ari shows up at Shane’s school, angry and sullen and determined to keep him at arm’s reach, neither of them realize they are supposed to be killing each other, not fall-ing in love. Until Ari does realize it, and she almost dies – by Shane’s hand.

Strong Female Characters
by Wendy Knight 

Since I was teeny tiny, I have always loved strong female characters. I remember being so disappointed when the heroine had to get rescued time after time in all my favorite princess movies, and then in a lot of the stories I read. Now that I’m a mother to two little girls (and an adorable little boy, but he’s got lots of strong male characters to idolize), I wanted them to see that girls can be strong, too. Luckily, lots of movies and books are onboard with my idea (it was totally my idea. They just didn’t know it yet), but when I started writing I wanted to stay true to my belief, so in my head I created a mega-strong female main character.

Ari is unstoppable. She’s the most powerful sorcerer/warrior/assassin ever. She doesn’t get saved in my story, she does the saving. And I love it. The surprising thing is how easy she was for me to write, because I’m small and pretty whimpy and I am pretty much afraid of my own shadow. So every time I put Ari in a situation, I would think to myself, self? What would you do here? I would answer that question and then I would have Ari do the exact opposite.

It was so much fun, and while I was writing Ari’s stories, I was stronger myself. When I was in situations where I would be terrified and feeling pretty small and mousy, I would hear her sarcastically telling me I’d be fine. And she was always right.

About the Author
Wendy Knight was born and raised in Utah. She now spends her time driving her husband crazy with her many eccentricities and enjoys chasing her three adorable kids, playing tennis, watching football, reading, and hiking. Camping is also big: her family is slowly working toward a goal of seeing all the National Parks in the U.S.