Saturday, August 25, 2012

Guest Post & Giveaway: Character Interview and Samaire Provost

I am pleased to welcome Samaire Provost, author of Mad World: Epidemic, which released on July 28th, 2012.  She is here today to give us a character interview with one of her principal characters, Alyssa, who will share a little information on her life and what is happening in her world.

The Black Plague is ancient history. It killed 100 million people nearly seven centuries ago, halfway around the world from the technologically advanced research center at Stanford University. Scientists there have recently begun examining samples of bone marrow from plague-infected corpses unearthed in Europe. All the necessary safeguards are in place. What could go wrong?

Alyssa and Jake are away with their class on a highly anticipated year-end trip to Broadway with their senior acting class when all hell breaks loose at home. Traveling back, and trying to find their families, they encounter deadly results. Riots are breaking out. People are being evacuated. And they have no idea what's happening to their families.

Horrific ordeals, heart-pounding tragedy, and chance encounters harden them for what lies ahead. Faced with tormenting decisions, they're forced to follow their instinct for survival at any cost - even when the cost is a heart-wrenching decision of life or death.

A harrowing adventure of frightening discoveries, horrifying confrontations and narrow escapes in Epidemic, the first installment of the Mad World series.
Find out what's got everyone so terrified.

Character interview: Alyssa

Hi Alyssa, thanks for being with us today. How are you doing?
I’m doing okay. Better than I was when we first got to California after our NYC Broadway trip was cut short.

What did you think when you first heard of what was happening back home in Fresno?
I was freaked out. I mean, what’s the chances of a national emergency happening right in your own backyard? I was so worried about my family my stomach hurt the whole way home. It was a very surreal moment. The first of many.

Did you draw on any inner strengths to survive the weeks after you returned home?
Omg, yes. I don’t think I’d have been able to survive without my friends, Jake, Caitlyn, Emily, Conner and DeAndre. They were my strength. I also stayed strong for my mother and brother and grandparents. I needed to find them. It kept me going. Also, the will to live is very strong in me and my friends. We counted on each other so much in those first weeks, and afterward too.

What’s this I hear about you and Jacob Hill?
*smiles* Jake’s the best. I flirted with him freshman and sophomore year. Junior year we had more classes together, so that was cool. We were together in Acting for two years. I actually did a scene with him junior year where we kissed! That was awesome, but I was so nervous. Then in senior year, we became closer friends. And when this plague emergency happened, it just threw us into survival mode. There’s something about knowing you could die any day that makes you want to let the other person know how you feel.

Do you think the crises you all went through damaged you? Had an adverse impact on your mental health or anything? Pushed you to the edge and over it?
No. I think what we went through made us better people. Hardened us for what lies ahead. We just did what we had to do. But the skills and experiences we went through will make it easier for us to continue to survive. I don’t think it warped any of us. I think it helped us grow up fast and mature, and now we are badass! But it was at a terrible price….

Tell us about that, Alyssa. How do you feel about what happened?
I never wanted anyone to get hurt. None of us did. It was awful that those things happened, but we had to survive. Sometimes you have to survive at all costs. But it’s not something I’m proud of. I wish it hadn’t had to happen that way. But it did. It is what it is.

Every now and then I think back to what we lost, about everything that happened. I get teary eyed. But life has to go on. We’re doing the best we can, believe me.

We know that. And we will follow your story to the end. We’re with you all the way. Thanks for talking with us today, Alyssa. And good luck with Jacob.
Thank you.

Author Biography
Samaire Provost lives in California with her husband and son.

Her love of paranormal stories, odd plots, and unique tales as well as the works of Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Susan Cooper, Madeleine L'Engle and Stephen King has deeply influenced her writing. 

Mad World : EPIDEMIC her first novel. The second in the series is entitled "Mad World: SANCTUARY"

One lucky reader will win one of four signed copies of EPIDEMIC.  Open internationally.


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Friday, August 24, 2012

Book Review: The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner

by Scott Gardner
Release Date: August 7, 2012
2012 Razorbill Canada (Originally published by Allen & Unwin in Australia in 2011)
Soft-Cover Edition; 208 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-14-318212-2
ASIN: B0082477KC
Genre: Fiction / Young Adult
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

4 / 5 Stars

** Winner - Older Readers Book of the Year 2012 - Children's Book Council of Australia **

When Aaron gets a job at a funeral home, he surprisingly takes to it. But there are dark secrets hidden in Aaron’s subconscious. He experiences dangerous bouts of sleepwalking and recurring dreams he can’t explain: a lifeless hand, a lipsticked mouth, a man,
a gun... Can he piece the clues together and figure out the truth of his past?

My Thoughts
The Dead I Know is one of those easy-to-read books where the chapters are short and the story seems deceptively simple and then you suddenly realize there is nothing simple or easy about what you are reading.  I was drawn into this world of death where life is grim and gritty, and into a mystery that unfolded slowly and carefully, almost like peeling away the layers of an onion.  
The image of the onion stayed with me throughout the novel as I couldn't come up with an alternate analogy that seemed to fit so well.  When we are first introduced to Aaron, he is about to be apprenticed at a funeral home and his appearance is that of one who has taken care to hide himself from the world.  He is taken to a barber shop to get a haircut and a shave and it is the first instance where this taciturn young man begins to open up and speak as he falls under his boss's allure.  And although I knew very little about Aaron and there was something mysterious about him, I couldn't help but like him right from the beginning. To be honest, I really had no idea what was going on during the first third of the novel.  But little things, like how Aaron took care of his sick mother and was meticulous about cleaning up after himself and how he responded to his boss's daughter made me like him even more.  There was something endearing and caring about Aaron.

That being said, there was also something really eerie that surrounded Aaron from the moment he was introduced and it definitely gave me the chills throughout the novel.  Aaron had these horrible nightmares which caused him to sleepwalk and as the novel progressed, you began to get a glimpse of what was going on but were helpless to stop it.  You get drawn into Aaron's world as it falls apart and as he learns more about what is going on and the onion peels apart.  The background of Aaron working at a funeral home is sometimes cathartic for Aaron, as weird as that sounds, but at the same time, it is also one of the reasons as to why Aaron finally fell apart and had to face the reality of his past.  I found the whole setting to be rather fascinating.  You know, dealing with the dead helps you face the living and the real world.  A real juxtaposition.  

The writing is rather simple and the chapters are short which helps with the pace of the novel, and I read the whole thing in a couple of hours.  Although there wasn't a lot of detail, I think the lack of detail was almost more chilling as it left a lot to your imagination.  If you've read the book, just think about the motorcycle accident scene and I'm sure you understand. There was also a sense of detachment in the beginning as if we were seeing things through the eyes of how Aaron saw the world, which became less detached as the novel continued.  Interesting writing technique that has a way of drawing you in. 

The Dead I Know was a deceptively simple read that was anything by simple.  Character-driven and told from the viewpoint of a teenage boy who life is falling apart around him, it's a raw and grim look at a young man who had the courage to grasp at the straws that were given to him and to face a past he had locked away.  Some readers may find the scenes gruesome or bothersome as it does take place in a funeral home and includes many of the details you would expect to read in such a setting, but I found the style of writing to be somewhat detached so it didn't bother me too much.  

Author Biography
Scot Gardner has written several critically acclaimed novels for young adults. His debut novel, One Dead Seagull, was followed by White Ute Dreaming, a powerful story of first love, mates, and a yellow dog. His third novel, Burning Eddy, was shortlisted for the CBC Award and the NSW Premier’s Literary Award for Young Adults. Gravity was also shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award in 2007. The Dead I Know was published by Allen & Unwin in Australia in 2011; it is the first Scot Gardner novel to be published in Canada.
Monday, August 13, 2012

Guest Post: Finding Your Inner Muse

Finding Your Inner Muse 
You know those days where everything seems to click? Your writing is completely in sync and you feel like you could hammer out an entire book by lunchtime. You feel invincible and unstoppable. You feel inspired. You’ve tapped into your inner muse and you’re holding on for dear life because you don’t know when your muse will visit again. So how do you find your inner muse?

1.     Reach out to the people that inspire you the most – So much of our writing, whether we realize it or not, is influenced by our relationships with people that move us. When you’re feeling uninspired call up a friend or mentor that you look up to and just talk to them. It doesn’t matter if you’re explaining your struggles, letting them guide you, or just listening to a story they have to tell that resonates deep within you, the interaction alone can be enough to spark creativity.

2.     Get outside – Mother Nature has a magical way of tugging at our heartstrings, and sometimes you can tap into your muse by quite literally stopping to smell the roses. Take time to appreciate the world we live in and all that it has to offer. Nature has the ability to touch each of our five senses uniquely, and each sensation can offer a different outlet for our muse to grasp hold of.

3.     Read – Immerse yourself in different types of literature. Blogs, books, poetry… it doesn’t matter what it is so long as it’s something you identify with. Words have a way of reaching out and touching us, coaxing us into submission to our inner inspiration. Sometimes it’s a particular character that suddenly causes the pieces to fall into place, other times it’s a single sentence that makes everything click.

4.     Make time to do the things that make you happy – It’s important to always carve out time away from work to focus on things that make us happy. It can be spending time with a loved one, going sailing, or taking a day trip to our favorite city. When we are happy we are inspired.

5.     Work out – Get your blood pumping! Go for a run or hit the gym for a class. Not only are you doing something good for your body, but working out also gives you a chance to clear our mind of any stressors you’ve been hanging onto. Plus, a healthy body breeds a healthy mind.

While you can never force your inner muse to appear at your command, you can do different things to be more receptive when she does come around. Don’t let frustration and negativity bring you down when you’re struggling with a bout of a lack of inspiration. Instead cultivate a positive, healthy outlook and soon you’ll find yourself awash in creativity.

Author Bio
Nancy Parker was a professional nanny and she loves to write about wide range of subjects like health, Parenting, Child Care, Babysitting, nanny background check tips, etc... You can reach her @ nancy.parker015 @

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Guest Post & Giveaway: Nancy Holzner

I am pleased to have Nancy Holzner, author of one of my favourite urban paranormal series, Deadtown, who is here today to discuss Annwn from Welsh mythology.  Fans of the series will know that the author draws on a lot of Welsh mythology in her stories and its fun to see how she weaves those strands together in very interesting, and unique, ways.  For those of you who are new this series, you are in for a treat, but I would start with Deadtown, the first novel in the series.  Here is a summary of her newest novel, Darklands, just released July 31st.

They call it Deadtown: the city’s quarantined section for its inhuman and undead residents. Most humans stay far from its border—but Victory Vaughn, Boston’s only professional demon slayer, isn’t exactly human…

Boston’s demons have been disappearing, and Vicky’s clients are canceling left and right. While fewer demons might seem like a good thing, Vicky suspects foul play. A missing Celtic cauldron from Harvard’s Peabody museum leads her to an unwelcome conclusion: Pryce, her demi-demon cousin and bitter enemy, is trying to regain his full powers.

But Pryce isn’t alone. He’s conjured another, darker villain from Vicky’s past. To stop them from destroying everything she loves, she’ll have to face her own worst fear—in the realm of the dead itself.

Annwn and the Darklands

My Deadtown urban fantasy series features Victory Vaughn, a shapeshifter who kills other people's demons for a living. In Darklands, the fourth book in the series, Vicky travels to the realm of the dead in a race to stop an old enemy from regaining his full powers.

The Darklands are loosely based on Annwn from Welsh mythology. In its original depictions, Annwn was not a place of death and suffering. On the contrary, it was a realm of eternal youth, pleasant weather, and abundant food. Time passed differently there, as travelers discovered when they returned home greatly aged after spending a mere couple of weeks in Annwn.

Some sources located Annwn on an island. According to the poem Preiddeu Annwn ("The Spoils of Annwn") King Arthur led three ships full of warriors on a raid into Annwn—but only seven men returned. Whether those who stayed behind succumbed to the pleasures or the dangers of Annwn, the poem doesn't say. Those who escaped carried out a magical cauldron—and this stolen cauldron becomes central to the plot of Darklands.

Other sources locate the entrance to Annwn underground. (I use this tradition in Darklands; at the full moon, a doorway into the realm may be opened inside a shallow cave known as The Devil's Coffin.) Sometimes, it was possible to wander across the border into Annwn by going too deep into the woods. In the First Branch of The Mabinogi, the great medieval collection of Welsh myths and legends, a Welsh prince named Pwyll learned this when, on a hunting trip, he gets separated from his party and effectively poaches on land belonging to Arawn, lord of Annwn. To make up for trespassing, Pwyll must switch places with Arawn for a year and a day, taking on Arawn's likeness to rule Annwn and defeat Arawn's enemy. The fact that he doesn't sleep with Arawn's wife during his time there makes Pwyll Arawn's fast friend for life. (Although Arawn's wife must have been deeply confused and more than a little annoyed!)

In Darklands, Arawn is a minor god and the source of the realm's magic. He is a stern but fair ruler. The rules of his realm must be obeyed, yet he tries to protect his subjects. He has forbidden demons from entering the Darklands, creating a massive range of enchanted mountains on the border between the two realms. After Arthur's theft of his cauldron, he also closed the borders to the living, so Vicky has to use her wits to find a way in—and it's far from a sure thing that she'll be allowed out again.

Eventually, medieval Welsh depictions of Annwn shifted to make it less of a parallel world and more of a realm of the dead. In the poem Cad Goddeu ("The Battle of the Trees"), Annwn is a frightening place filled with tormented souls and monstrous creatures. Still, many sources distinguish between Annwn, a place of rest for departed souls, and Uffern, the realm of demons. (The word Uffern comes from "inferno.") I follow this latter idea—the Darklands are a way station for departed souls, a place where they spend time before being reincarnated or regenerated. Not all souls find their way there, and it is not a place of punishment. It is a place of strong magic that follows its own rules, its own time.

Welsh mythology is incredibly rich in stories and symbols, and I have fun mining its depths for materials I can incorporate into my Deadtown stories. Annwn is a fascinating place, and I loved exploring it in Darklands. I hope you'll explore it with me!
DARKLANDS, the fourth novel in Nancy Holzner's Deadtown series, is now available. For information on Nancy and her books, visit her website. You can also find Nancy on Facebook and Twitter. And visit her Kickstarter page to find out about her plans for a Deadtown prequel!


Nancy Holzner grew up in western Massachusetts with her nose stuck in a book. This meant that she tended to walk into things, wore glasses before she was out of elementary school, and forced her parents to institute a “no reading at the dinner table” rule. It was probably inevitable that she majored in English in college and then, because there were still a lot of books she wanted to read, continued her studies long enough to earn a master’s degree and a PhD.

She began her career as a medievalist, then jumped off the tenure track to try some other things. Besides teaching English and philosophy, she’s worked as a technical writer, freelance editor and instructional designer, college admissions counselor, and corporate trainer. As Nancy Conner, she writes how-to and reference books on topics ranging from classical mythology to using Office 2010.

Nancy lives in upstate New York with her husband Steve, where they both work from home without getting on each other’s nerves. She enjoys visiting local wineries and listening obsessively to opera. There are still a lot of books she wants to read.

One lucky reader will win their choice of Deadtown, Hellforged, Bloodstone, or Darklands

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