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Friday, August 31, 2012

Comic Review: Criminal Macabre: The Iron Spirit [Hardcover]

Criminal Macabre: The Iron Spirit [Hardcover]
Writer: Steve Niles
Artist: Scott Morse
Cover Artist: Scott Morse
Genre: Action/Adventure, Crime, Horror
Publication Date: September 12, 2012
Format: FC, 32 pages; HC, 9" x 12"

A haunted veteran leads monster hunter Cal McDonald to a creepy subterranean military base where mad-science experiments were conducted on US soldiers.

Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) takes his occult detective into a new collector’s format with Eisner winner Scott Morse of Pixar and TR!CKSTER fame!
*Printed as an oversized hardcover in a deluxe format.

*A perfect introduction for new readers!

“Steve Niles has beaten up his main man, broken him down and now stands on the precipice of reinventing him with a conflict on the horizon that portends to be nothing short of epic.” —Newsarama

I love Criminal Macabre for its snarky humor, but this one was much different from the rest. There was a little humor, because Cal McDonald is a bit of an ass on a good day and becoming recently dead hasn’t improved his outlook, but the story itself is about guilt and loyalty and how far someone will go to make things right.

The story is very well done and I liked the use of an old fashion typewriter font because it added to the secret government files and projects aspect of the story. The art work is very minimal and consists mostly of sketchings and watercolors in somber earth tones. While this does fit the ghost story mood, I personally didn’t find it aesthetically pleasing. At the end the artist, Scott Morse, talks about why they choose this type of medium to tell this story and it gave me more appreciation for the comic as a whole.

I enjoyed the story and the hauntingly beautiful tale.

3 1/2 “possessed” Sheep


Steve Niles is best known for works such as 30 Days of Night, Criminal Macabre, Simon Dark, Mystery Society, and Batman: Gotham County Line. He is credited among other contemporary writers with bringing horror comics back to prominence. Steve got his start back in Washington, DC, through his own Arcane Comix, where he began writing and publishing comics and anthologies in the mid-eighties. Monster hunter Cal McDonald continues in the Criminal Macabre series from Dark Horse (Criminal Macabre Omnibus Volume 2 has just been released), as well as in stories currently being published by Steve’s own Bloody Pulp Books. Steve is writing a new 30 Days of Night series for IDW, with Sam Kieth illustrating. 30 Days of Night sparked renewed interest in the horror genre and was released in 2007 as a major motion picture. Steve resides in Los Angeles with his fiancĂ©e Monica, two dogs, four cats, and Gil the tortoise. While there’s no crawlspace, there is a questionable closet in one corner and no one is quite sure what is hidden in there . . . but we have an idea.

Award-winning storyteller Scott Morse has authored over
twenty graphic novels, including Soulwind, Ancient Joe, Strange Science Fantasy, and the Magic Pickle series for children. His story work in film includes Ratatouille, WALL-E, Cars 2, and Brave. He lives in northern California with his wife and children, building hot rods and wreaking havoc of all kinds.

Cal McDonald saw his first dead body when he was eight years old—setting the tone for the rest of his life. A pill-popping, alcoholic degenerate, Cal teams up with his ghoul associate Mo’Lock to spiral around the sin-infested streets of Los Angeles in his possessed Chevy Nova, battling a growing horde of monsters. After losing one friend after another to his cases, Cal is slowly being pushed over the edge. A looming war between man and monster is coming, and Cal and his army of the undead are ready to blast every single werewolf, demon,
occultist, and vampire back to hell!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sheep Book Review: Stygian's Honor

Stygian's Honor, by author Lora Leigh, is the 27th edition in the Breeds saga. When you have a storyline that's been going for this long, you have to bring something new to the table every book or you're going to loose your audience. This is the third book in the series that I've read, and unfortunately I'm bored already! How are the long term fans staying with this?! I have no idea.

Window Rock, Arizona, is the last known location of Honor Roberts, who vanished when she was just thirteen. It was her only sanctuary from the Breed research that would surely have ended in her death—one such insidious experiment should, indeed, have killed her. That she lived is both a miracle—and a great mystery.

Stygian’s mission is to find Honor Roberts, no matter the cost. Now, with the help of Liza Johnson, assistant to the chief of the Navajo Nation, he is closer than ever to his goal. But will the discovery of Honor Roberts mean the destruction of the mating heat that has developed between Stygian and Liza?

After the last installment in this series, Law's Justice, I should have known better, BUT like the sucker I am I gave this writer another chance. This story was so hard to get into, and that's if you can even say there was a story to be found here. This story had so few redeeming qualities about either of our lead pair, which only added to the frustration of the experience. Stygian is overbearing, controlling, angry all the time, growling left and right, plus let's not forget the "hissy fits" he has over and over, all of which is topped with being pushy beyond belief. Good undead lord, this man needs some serious counseling! Liza tells the guy over and over NOT to push his way of doing things into her life but what does he do? He pushes. Again and again, the guy won't give her even a second to breath. I found that particularly irritating. Plus Liza's character lacked so much power despite supposedly being some undercover agent with battle skills. Liza must have missed a few courses at the Navajo training camp.

It's not often I'll say this next part so prepare yourself now: this story had too much sex. Yup, I said it. Anything of value in the plot is overshadowed by the constant sex going on between these two, which happens at the most random times. But low and behold they always seem to find a bed! Blah. I actually skipped over these parts. Me. Skipping over the romance. *hangs head* That's how much there was.

Leigh also really needs to get an editor. There were so many misspellings it was positively flabbergasting and she used the wrong word so often that I wanted to throw a dictionary at her. Look, I've got an editor for a reason and I just write the review. If I had to write a whole book Kalpar would first of all kill me, but you can bet your booty I'd have multiple people checking that puppy over for any and every little thing.

The only saving grace here were the parts with finding out who Honor Roberts really is, why the bad guys wanted to kill her, is she still alive, and when will Giedon find his mate. That was it. Sure more building for the next book and missing pieces of the puzzle are clearly stepping in to try and fit but at this point I don't care. When everyone else who's missing gets together then maybe I'll read that book. But all this rehash over and over with mating heat men and ladies who lack a backbone are ticking me off. This book and frankly the series is not for me.

Getting 1 and 1/2 Sheep

Bloggy Award Nomination! Vote for I Smell Sheep

Guess what? I Smell Sheep was nominated for a Bloggy Award! It is for Katie's hilarious review of Waterborne by Katherine Irons which you can see in whole here

Here is the blurb posted on the Bloggy site:


I Smell Sheep: Waterborne

If you like undersea adventures and dreamed/thought you were Ariel growing up (ok I totally did) then you'll enjoy this tale. It's chock full of an imaginative underwater world that's both vivid and breathtaking. Sometimes it's better down where it's wetter. Zing!"

These two barely know each other and all of a sudden they are jumping in-between the kelp sheets. Wow dude, buy me a crab dinner first at the very least, mmkay?"

Click HERE to go vote (scroll down to the bottom for voting) for I Smell Sheep! If we win we will have a give away celebration of Sheepy stuff like coffee mugs, mouse pads and shirts! Ohhhh, myyyyyy!

Let the herd be heard!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Book Review: Scattered Ashes by Scott Nicholson

Scattered Ashes by Scott Nicholson

A collection of Scott Nicholson's best short stories from 2001 to 2008, including three original new works and an afterword.
Exclusive introduction by Jonathan Maberry
Art by M. Wayne Miller

Timing Chains Of The Heart
Dog Person
The October Girls
Sung Li
Silver Run
InThe Family
The Night Is An Ally
Work In Progress
The Endless Bivouac
She Climbs A Winding Stair
The Meek
The Weight of Silence
The Hounds of Love
You'll Never Walk Alone
Sewing Circle
Scarecrow Boy
Last Write

Little rant on why you should read horror
I have always been a fan of the horror genre and I know what some of you are thinking…”yuck! Gross! I don’t like horror!” Somewhere along the line the horror genre got a bad rap because of all those slasher movies like Saw or Hostel. The horror I grew up with, which still exists by the way, wasn't about the gore. Not to say there wasn't gore sometimes, but it was about watching people just like you and me doing disturbing things in response to extraordinary situations. The horror aspect comes when you realize that, given those same conditions, you might do terrible things too. It is about watching others find that dark place and realizing you have one too, as well as understanding the “monster” and sympathizing with it. Scott Nicholson can write good old-fashioned horror in the form of a traditional ghost story or an urban legend, and he does that in Scattered Ashes, a collection of thought-provoking, spine-tingling short stories that remind me of the Twilight Zone or Tales from the Crypt.

I enjoyed every one of these stories and wish I could tell you about all of them! But that would take a while so here are a few of my favorites.

The Meek. This story is about zombie Sheep…enough said!

“The herd was closer now, stampeding into Wadanetta, a hundred haunted bahs bleating from bottomless mouths.”

Dog Person was probably the most moving of all the stories. The ending isn’t what you expect, but then again it is. Sorry for being so vague, but I don’t want to spoil.

Murdermouth is a zombie tale from the POV of the zombie.

Last Writes is a clever ghost story set in a lighthouse and stars a well-known historical horror writer.

The Weight of Silence is a murder story with a twist at the end you don’t see coming.

Silver Run will remind you of the train engineer ghost story everyone heard growing up and what happens to ghosts when the world moves on.

Another thing I really enjoyed was the section at the end where Scott talks about the inspiration of each short story. Nice little touch that creates a connection with the author. And I just got to say, the cover ROCKS! It depicts the first story Timing Chains of the Heart.

Scott is a master storyteller and with the ability to put those words on paper. I haven’t read a Scott Nicholson story I didn’t like yet. Might be time for you to give horror a chance.

4 1/2 "spooky" Sheep

SharonS (edited by BAK)

The many faces of Scott
Scott Nicholson
Author Scott Nicholson has written 15 thrillers, 60 short stories, four comics series, and six screenplays. He lives in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, where he tends an organic garden, successfully eludes stalkers, and generally lives the dream.

Nicholson has written hundreds of songs and poems and was a musician in a former life. a newspaper reporter, he won three North Carolina Press Association awards. He's had the usual collection of odd jobs: dishwasher, carpenter, painter, paranormal investigator, baseball card dealer, and radio announcer. Now he haphazardly trades words for magic beans and uses "haphazardly" as often as possible while decrying the overuse of adverbs.

Entering the digital era with a vengeance, Nicholson is releasing orginal titles and collections while conspiring to release interactive books in the near future, building audio files, video, and collaborative fiction projects. He also launched eBookSwag to embrace the future of free ebooks.

Nicholson won the grand prize in the international Writers of the Future contest in 1999. That same year, he was first runner-up for the Darrell Award. He studied Creative Writing at Appalachian State University and UNC-Chapel Hill. He has been an officer of Mystery Writers of America and Horror Writers Association and is a member of International Thriller Writers and inaugural member of the Killer Thriller Band.

Unfortunately, they never taught him to write: he had 105 rejections before his first story sale and over 400 before he sold a novel. He hasn't learned much from his mistakes but thinks he'll probably improve with practice. If nothing else, he's become a better liar.

His website features author interviews, articles, and fiction excerpts. Bad relationship advice. Humor. Gardening tips. Subliminal tricks to sell his books. That sort of thing.

Winners for Zoe Winters and Kimberly Kinrade Kindle Fire Giveaway:

Winners for Zoe Winters and Kimberly Kinrade Kindle FireGiveaway:

The winners are as follows:

First Prize: Signed copies of Zoe Winters’ and KimberlyKinrade’s books (all the books pictured above): Alexandra Z. (email addy startswith “vair”)

Grand Prize: Signed copies of all books plus an Amazon Giftcard for $200 (to purchase a Kindle Fire or whatever the winner would preferinstead.): Valerie L. (email addy starts with “just.v”)

Blogger Prize: (the blogger with the most comments on theirpost): Signed copies of all books: Gracen Miller (Road to Hell blog)

If you didn’t win but thought books from either of ourauthors looked good, then please support them and their work! Information againfor the authors and where to find their books is below:

Learn more aboutZoe Winters's Preternatural Series here:
Book 1: Blood Lust

Book 2: Save My Soul

Book 3: The Catalyst

Book 4: Life Cycle
Dark Mercy (novella)

And more about Kimberly Kinrade's ForbiddenSeries here:

Book 1: Forbidden Mind
Book 2: Forbidden Fire
Book 3: Forbidden Life (coming Oct. 2, 2012)

About Zoe Winters

Zoe Winters writes quirky and sometimes dark paranormal romance. Herfavorite colors are rainbow and clear.
To receive updates on new releases from the author, send an email to:zoewintersbooks AT gmail DOT com with "Subscribe" in the subjectline. Newsletters go out only when there is an actual new release or a bigcontest. Your inbox will not be cluttered, newsletters won't go out morefrequently than once a month, and you may unsubscribe at any time.
You can visit the author at:
Be sure also tovisit for some fun supplemental material.

About Kimberly Kinrade
Kimberly Kinradewas born with ink in her veins and magic in her heart. She writes all thingsparanormal and fantasy, including award-winning young adult and children'sbooks.

Also visit to participate in a fun fan-based site with swag and info on allthings paranormal. You even get to be a secret agent!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Book Review: (ARC) Immortally Yours by Angie Fox

Immortally Yours (Monster M*A*S*H #1) by AngieFox

No one patches upthe incoming wounded like Dr. Petra Robichaud. Recruited by the gods for heruncanny medical skills, she’s the best M*A*S*H surgeon in the army. Along witha nosy guard sphinx, vegetarian werewolf, and other paranormal paramedics, shebandages soldiers who are built like Greek gods (literally). But when one sexyimmortal ends up on her operating table—half dead and totallyto-die-for—Petra’s afraid she’ll lose her patient and her heart…

Commander Galen ofDelphi is one gorgeous but stubborn demi-god. When his spirit tries to slip outof his fatally wounded body, Dr. Petra has to slip it back in—unwittinglyrevealing her ability to see ghosts. Now that Galen knows her secret, he’sconvinced she’s part of an ancient prophecy. If the oracles are right, Petracould lead Galen’s army to peace. And if he seduces her on the way to hell andback? Heaven knows—all’s fair in love and war…

This is an action-packed, fun paranormal romance. If youliked Angie Fox’s Demon Slayer series, then you are going to be pleased withthis one too. Immortally Yours is the first book in Fox’s M*A*S*H series, andlike most series debuts it has some growing pains. The first third of the bookis spent trying a little too hard to be funny, but after that the humor becomesmore realistic. The world-building isn't overwhelming and I really liked theclever and fresh premise for the series. Once the story starts buildingmomentum and the action picks up, I was invested in the characters and enjoyingthe ride.

The New Gods, a more hip and progressive group, havedeclared war on the Old Gods and the two have been fighting for over 700 years.As long as neither side gains the upper hand the fighting is contained inLimbo, a red flat wasteland, and the humans on Earth have no idea of what isgoing on. If one side does gain an advantage, then there will be naturaldisasters on Earth. Most reviewers have been emphasizing the Greek gods in thestory, but the war involves past gods and goddesses from many differentmythologies. However, our smexy hero Galen is a Greek demi-god. To help in the war the old and new gods are allowed to recruit people from Earth with supernatural origins, like vampires, werewolves, and Fae. Thereluctant heroine, Petra, is a half-fae doctor from New Orleans and wasrecruited by the New Order Army to help patch up the soldiers at a M*A*S*H unitin Limbo. While this seems like a great opportunity, there is one catch, youhave to serve in the army for the rest of your life or until the war ends.

Galen is Greek demi-god perfect. He is loyal,trustworthy, compassionate, and sexy as hell. Angie deviates from the normalPNR formula of a woman helping the emotionally damaged hero believe in himselfand trust love by having Galen be the emotionally stable one and he has tofight tooth and nail to make Petra believe in him and the prophecy. Yeah, youcan’t have a story about mythological creatures and not have a prophecy. Petrahas the forbidden ability to see and talk to the dead, but if the gods knew they wouldkill her. There's a quirky set of secondary characters thatincludes Petra's roommates: the brooding vampire, Marius, and a werewolf namedRodger who has a wife and pups back home he will never see again, but myfavorite is Jeffe. He is a Sphinx and is in charge of watching over therecovery room. He's a nice enough guy, just don’t let him trick you intoanswering a riddle. While the overall tone of the book is humorous Angiedoesn’t forget that war is also about fallen and the families torn apart whenloved ones must serve. No one wants to be in the M*A*S*H unit and it is easy tofall into despair, but that is where hope comes into the story in the form of asix pack of abs, a prophecy and love.

The M*A*S*H unit follows the news on PNN, Paranormal News Network so Angie has created a PNN website for fans to enjoy. Be sure to check it out here

3.5 “wailing and hair pulling” Sheep

SharonS (edited by BAK)

Book #2 comes out Feb 26, 2013
Even during a truce, Dr. Petra Robichaud has her hands full as the M*A*S*H surgeon to an army of warring gods—especially when Medusa herself turns up pregnant. Petra has no idea what to expect when a gorgon’s expecting, but she won’t let it turn her to stone. As the healer-hero of an ancient prophesy, it’s Petra’s job to keep the peace. But as the lover to a warrior demi-god, she knows how impossible some jobs can be…
Commander Galen is sexy, strong, and sworn to lead his team to hell and back. But when he announces to Petra that he can no longer risk her life for his love, the doctor is on her own…Until a mysterious new entity—in the form of a hot-blooded male—enters the picture. Can he be trusted? Can he be resisted? Meanwhile, an oracle delivers another prophesy that places Petra back on the frontlines with the man she may be bound to for eternity—in love, or in war…

Angie Fox

Angie Fox is the New York Times bestselling author of several books about vampires, werewolves and things that go bump in the night.

She claims that researching her stories can be just as much fun as writing them. In the name of fact-finding, Angie has ridden with Harley biker gangs, explored the tunnels underneath Hoover Dam and found an interesting recipe for Mamma Coalpot’s Southern Skunk Surprise (she’s still trying to get her courage up to try it).

Angie earned a Journalism degree from the University of Missouri. She worked in television news and then in advertising before beginning her career as an author. Angie enjoys making up fun quizzes and thinks you should take one right now.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sheep Interview: Paranormal Romance Author C. J. Ellison

Would you go to a hotel that catered to Paranormal creatures? You know:
Vamps, Weres and Wizards...Ohhhhhh myyyyyy...
Yeah, me too! Author C.J. Ellisson writes the Vampire Vacation Inn series, and the third book Big Game came out this year. So let's go check in (see what I did there?) with C.J. and find out some interesting things. (And by that I mean talk about vampires and sex, duh!)

Sharon: Hello CJ! Welcome to the Flock…drink some Kool Aid and eat some moon pies and let’s talk Vampires!
Katie: Now we're talking!
C.J.: Thanks for having me, ladies! *drinks the kool aid* Woo-hoo, let’s get started!

Sharon: You are a new author to me, so could you tell me and the Flock a little about your Vampire Vacation series…and where Katie can get reservations?
Katie: And phone numbers.
C.J.: The series is set in an isolated region of Alaska, above the Arctic Circle. Picture a fully self-contained seasonal resort for vampires and other supernatural critters. A place where they can take their everyday masks off and be themselves. Spooky and sexy all at once, right?

I don’t blame you, Katie, I’d like to go, too!

The first book starts out with a murder. Our loving couple who run the resort tries to find the killer without upsetting the ongoing sexual fantasies of their guests.

Sharon: Why Alaska?
C.J.: It seemed like the perfect location for vampires. When I thought of it as a seasonal spot during the long winter nights, I wondered why no one else had set a vampire story there yet. When I posted my work on for feedback, one of my reviewers pointed out that someone had -- 30 Days of Night, a graphic comic later turned into a horror film, was set in barrow (which was where my inn was originally located).
Sharon: Is your series more PNR, mystery or the perfect balance of both!
C.J.: I’d love to say it was a perfect balance, but the true PNR fans will notice there is no actual romance in the book, just lots of sex. Apparently when categorizing a book that detail matters ;-)

By romance guidelines, I couldn’t have a happy husband and wife. I’d have to break them up and bring them back together, creating conflict in the series between them for it to be labeled a true romance.

I’m not a cookie-cutter mold type of writer, so I ignored the standards and wrote the story I wanted. It’s part mystery, adventure, intrigue, has some humor and dark parts, and sex. The first book has more sex than the other two in the series, but it’s still there.

Katie: Who's your dreamboat vampire and why?
C.J.: Hmm… I’d have to say Jean Claude from the Anita Blake series. More so in the earlier books than when she started collecting men, but he’s definitely at the top of my list!

I like him for his understated sexuality and control. He waits as long as it takes to win Anita and he accepts her for who she is, no strings attached.
Sharon: Got to agree with you, all that long dark curly hair! *swoon*
Katie: No strings? Well how about handcuffs?
C.J.: Are you quibbling over the handcuffs? I’m not so sure I would!

Sharon: Can the books in the Vampire Vacation series be read as stand alones?
C.J.: I think so and I’ve had some reviewers read them out of order, too. The first book really is sex heavy. I find readers either love it or hate it. Book two and three are told in a different manner, from multiple points of view, and the overt sexuality associated with Vivian in book one is watered down when we’re in other POVs.

Each book does have its own adventure, even though a larger over-arcing storyline is hinted at and builds through each book.

Sharon: Katie, this is the second time she has mentioned all the sex in book 1… I am starting to think there might be a lot of sex in the first book…;)
Katie: *note to self: get first book*
C.J.: LOL! Love you guys! Yeah, I mention it often because no matter how many times I do, I still get readers that are shocked at the sexual content. Personally, I think they must be living under a rock to not know what is in so many bestselling vampire series.

Sharon and Katie doing Shocked faces


Sharon: Are there any supernatural creatures you plan on introducing into the series, like mermaids or Fae or Thor…there should always be Thor, just saying…

C.J.: Agreed! There should always be a Thor. In my mind Rafe kind of looks like Thor, but a bit more rugged.

There are werewolves in the series and mention of witches. In the last book I introduce wizards, who are not born with magic like a witch would be, and shifters, beings that can change into any animal.

I’ve debated on whether or not to have multiple species of Were animals, and I might down the line. A novella I’m writing with Boone Brux this fall will combine her grim reaper world with mine. We plan on sending her new reaper to my inn to tangle with some of the resident vampires while she reaps some ghosts on the property. I’m really looking forward to that one!

Katie: Is there such thing as "too much" vampires? I mean really?!
C.J.: I’d say that is up to the reader, wouldn’t you? I know I got tired of the alpha vampire, alpha were, alpha male whatever who comes on strong and the semi-strong heroine who falls for him and his line of alpha-ness. I think the beauty of lots of authors and tastes means we’ll always get to find something interesting to read!

Sharon: You know what happens in New Orleans doesn’t stay there <G>. I intercepted a facebook status about AAD that implicates a certain vampire author, beads, and men…got anything to say <G>?
Katie: And before you answer this just know that I will be at the Vampire Ball in New Orleans so I need all the deets on where to go!
C.J.: LOL! Holy crap was that fun! We started calling it “objectifying men” when we went out cruising the streets. Buy some cheap beads, holler til you lose your voice, and throw the plastic bits at good-looking men. Damn, my kind of town!

My camera ate some of the best shots (bleeping piece of crap!), but one reader got one of me and this totally hunky French guy named Roman. I was at least 15 years older than him, but he was so freakin hot I couldn’t have cared less. I swear, when I get that picture it’s going up at my desk.

The entire atmosphere made me feel sexy and desirable. Young guys wanting to talk to us even if they didn’t have a snow ball’s chance in getting lucky with any of us? Man, it was heaven. I could go on and on about those magic nights objectifying young men… ahh… so awesome.

Sharon: You go girl! *secretly hating CJ for getting to go, and crying on the inside because I couldn’t*
C.J.: Come to Savannah, Sharon! And you too, Katie! I’ll be there and I would LOVE to party with you both. If there isn’t a party going on, I make one. Yup, I’m that dedicated to having fun when I’m finally allowed to leave my computer. ;-)

Sharon and Katie doing objectifying men faces

Sharon: Was this your first time to AAD and would you recommend this event to other authors and readers?
C.J.: Yes, it was my first AAD event and YES I would recommend it to both. I’m going back next year and I hope to go back every year Stella will have me. It was so different than RWA or any other convention I’ve been to. Some of them were very writer-centric, which is okay, but this one was totally focused on readers.

Readers are why we write. To chat and hang out with people who love the same stuff we do? Who appreciate the fictional characters we fall in love with in not just our own series, but other series as well? Priceless! Picture the best book club meeting you could ever imagine, then multiple it by like a thousand.
Sometimes we talked books, just like a regular meeting, but other times we just talked. You’ll find that the people who read books with open-minded philosophies regarding sexual orientation, love, and religion are very similar to you when the cards are on the table. I can’t even say that about the real book club I’m in at home.
Sharon: I have been trying to decide which con at attend next year and I think you just made up my mind J
C.J.: Woo-hoo! I’ll buy you a drink, my dear. We’ll chat and have a blast.

Sharon: What is the nerdiest thing you own?
C.J.: Hmm… nerdy, that’s such a personal opinion, you know? Cause sure as sh*t we all felt super cool when we bought whatever it was. I was at an ICON back in college at SUNY and bought some Star Trek holograms. Which I think my husband still has in frames somewhere. Or maybe the Dr. Who action figures I bought a few years ago? *shrugs* I embrace my nerdiness like Sheldon from Big Bang. It is what it is, so why quibble?
Sharon: We encourage nerdiness around here…I have the delux Optimus Prime and BumbleBee transformers on my desk as well as a Thor hammer (not the fun one, but a nerf one)
C.J.: Way cool! I think I bought my husband a Picard Borg action figure. Wonder what he did with it…

Sharon: Which Disney Princess’ life would you like to live?
C.J.: Oh God, I’m not sure. I’m really not a “the hero must save the day and save me” type of chick. I really liked Mulan. She was kick ass with the sword. I think I wouldn’t mind having her mad skilz.

Sharon: lol! That is the one I liked most, too. Good choice.
C.J.: Let’s bring plastic swords to AAD 2013. When they dress up for the Elemental Ball we’ll go as sword wielding kick-ass chicks. LOL!
Sharon: OMG, I can bring the swords! Really…see? I have Gumdo swords too!

Katie: What's the best way, in your opinion, to catch a vampire?
C.J.: I think that would depend on what you’re hoping to catch. I met this incredible man, John Edgar Browning, who discussed the “real” vampire lifestyle prevalent in New Orleans and other cities. He had so much knowledge on the topic it was fascinating simply spending time talking with him.

I’m not saying that’s my thing, but I respect that everyone has a right to choose to live how they want (as long as it doesn’t hurt others, kids, or animals).
Now, if you mean the PNR kind…. Hmm… the protagonists in those books don’t seem to do anything to get that lucky! They seem to be either in the right place at the right time, or were somehow destined to be with the vampire.
Damn, I really have no good advice on that one—sorry!
Sharon: That’s okay, Katie is pretty good with a net <G>
Katie: And a tranquilizer gun. *evil laugh*
C.J.: Oh! I bet both of those will come in handy on my mission to objectify men in Savannah. The men there are a more… umm… sober…. species of men then what we found on Bourbon street. They might need some extra persuasion rather than plastic beads and cheap booze. Bring them both, Katie!

Sharon and Katie show mischievous hunting faces

Sharon: Is there anything coming up you would like the readers to know, appearances, releases, where you hide the Girl Scout cookies?
C.J.: That’s funny because my daughter actually is a girl scout! I’m going to be in Bouchercon in early October, which is a mystery convention held in Cleveland. Then I’ll be at the Anne Rice Vampire Ball in NOLA, hopefully partying with Katie!
Sharon: *stomps feet* I wanna goooooo!
C.J.: We’ll bring you back pictures of us both cozying up to hunky vampire guys.

To answer your question regarding releases, I’m finishing up a manuscript right now that is near and dear to me. I’ve never written a contemporary erotic romance before and I have no idea how well it will be received. My alpha readers are loving it, but I worry they are just being super nice.

The book is called VANILLA DOM and it may be out this fall. Depends on which publisher I decide to sell it to. I’ll be sure to keep you posted!

Sharon: I don’t mind vanilla, but a little hot fudge sauce is nice <G>
Katie: don’t forget the whipped cream…it isn’t a dessert till there is whipped cream…
C.J.: Agreed! I do have a scene in the novel with chocolate covered strawberries… yummy.

Rapid Fire
Grab onto the closest vampire and GO!

Sharon: Deli or bakery?
C.J.: Deli. Unfortunately I’m gluten free.

Katie: Guitar solo or Saxophone solo?
C.J.: Guitar

Sharon: Underground or underwater?
C.J.: Umm… To do what? If it’s making love I’d say underground. That whole “do it in a pool” idea is grossly overrated.
Sharon: I was talking about exploring…gosh! Seems like everything goes back to sex with you <G> (Shhh…I was totally talking about sex, good call)
C.J.: LOL!

Katie: Boxers or briefs?
C.J.: The combo – boxer briefs! Love those tight things.

Sharon: *high fives*
C.J.: Damn skippy. Tight is good.
Sharon: I am amazed! I thought I was the only one who said Damn Skippy! Wesley Snipes kicks ass!

Sharon: Coke or Pepsi?
Sharon: YESSSSS! Finally. I knew you were cool, even though you never did say where you hid the Girl Scout Cookies….
Katie: BOO! HISS!
C.J.: LOL! I stepped into a private battle there, eh? Sorry, Katie!

Katie: Swimming or Jogging?
C.J.: Jesus, neither. But damn, if I HAD to pick one to get in better shape (ugh) it would be swimming. God did not build big-busted women for them to run in comfort.
{Sharon and Katie have no idea what that is like.}

Sharon: M&Ms or Skittles?
C.J.: M&Ms. Is there really any contest? I mean really—they are chocolate, people!!
Sharon: *shakes head in agreement* Do you like the new pretzel ones?
C.J.: L Can’t have them due to pretzels have gluten in them. Are they Good? Please tell me no, they suck.

Sharon and Katie showing sucking faces

Katie: Hot poker or Brass Knuckles?
C.J.: LOL! To beat the sh*t out of someone? Holy cow, that is a funny question. Hmm… The hot poker will give you more reach, but you also run the risk of burning yourself, too. Think I’ll go with the hot poker. Always better to keep your enemy at a safe distance.

Sharon: Suffer in silence or scream like a banshee?
C.J.: Depends on what it is. I’d say mostly it would be suffer in silence. Of course, if it’s something my children have just destroyed I’m going to go with scream like a banshee.

Katie: Sexy highlander vampire or Sexy biker vampire? (this is a win/win question!)
C.J.: Agreed! It certainly is! Damn, the highlander will have that awesome accent and possibly be in a kilt… possibly naked underneath.… the biker will have tatts and possibly be dark n sexy… I’ll go for highlander vamp.

Sharon: Basket of flowers or Basket of Carnivorous plants?
C.J.: LOL! I’ll go with the basket of flowers, please. We’ve had carnivorous plants and my kids managed to kill them all. So depressing.

Thanks so much for visiting and rubbing our noses in the awesomeness that was ADD <G>.
C.J.: LOL! Hey, you all did your research ahead of time and saw the pictures. I was simply confirming that it was awesome.

Thanks so much for having me – it was an absolute blast!

About the Author:
C.J. Ellisson, author of contemporary fantasy and erotica, lives near DC with her husband, two children aged 11 and 9, two Staffordshire Bull Terriers and a young cat she's newly allergic to. After spending most of her working life dealing with real estate - either as a sales manager in wholesale mortgage banking, a corporate trainer, a Realtor, or as a property manager - she's now writing full-time and happy for the first time in years. Writing has become her passion and to find people want to read her stories feels like a dream come true.

Download the first half of Vampire Vacation here

And the first half of The Hunt here

you can also find these on CJ' website

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Spellwright, by Blake Charlton

So to begin, I'm not really sure what to think about this book. There are a couple of original ideas and some of them are executed well, but some aren't. In addition there are a lot of ideas in this book that stray very little from fantasy tropes and made for somewhat tedious reading. Overall it left for me a very neutral impression about the book. Not something I hate, but not something I particularly liked either. Let me try to explain.

The story follows a series of events centered around Nicodemus Weal, an apprentice wizard at Starhaven, one of the academies of magic in Charlton's world. Magic is divided into a series of languages that only a select number of people see, and even then these spellwrights have to be taught the language's vocabulary and grammar to be able to see the language. Basically a spell consists of paragraphs of text of the magical language it's written in and if, for example, you wanted to make a magical wall you'd craft the wall out of paragraphs of the magical text. However people who didn't know the language you were using would run into the magical wall but wouldn't be able to see the text it's made of. Overall I thought it was an interesting idea and a novel take on magic.

The reason I explained how magic works in Spellwright is because Nicodemus is a cacographer, someone whose touch can gradually corrupt and misspell magical text. Now this may not seem a big deal but when a misspell can potentially explode in your face it can be downright dangerous to be a cacographer. In addition to their more fantastic abilities, cacographers are what we'd call dyslexic and very often don't even realize when they're misspelling words, even mundane ones. The author himself is dyslexic and it offered an interesting view into how hard it can be for someone with dyslexia in our text-driven world. Unfortunately this is where my problems also began with the book. (Sorry, spoilers.)

Basically when Nicodemus was a child his parents "gave" him his cacography through a magical artifact. If Nicodemus is holding the artifact then he can cast spells with absolute precision, but without it he has a very good chance of misspelling by accident or his touch corrupting the spell he's casting. The major problem I have with this is that Nicodemus becomes obsessed with retrieving the artifact and "completing" himself, even though there are plenty of cacographers who were just born that way and have no convenient artifact to "cure" them. Nicodemus himself, among other characters, state that there's nothing wrong with being a cacographer and they should use their disability to become stronger rather than be discouraged. Nicodemus even calls himself a hypocrite for telling other cacographers to accept who they are while searching for his own magic cure and it becomes very hard to sympathize with him. By the end of the book I seriously want to punch him a couple of times.

Another problem I had with the book, and this kind of extends to other fantasy novels as well, is how generic it was in some respects. Yeah, Charlton added his own elements, but the story's still about a chosen one who was in a couple of vague prophecies and will be instrumental in saving the world from a demon apocalypse. It's a fantasy trope that's been used time and time again and is just as worn out as the team of heroes going on a quest related to a magical artifact. In many respects Spellwright does not bring anything new to the table and suffers as a result.

Overall, I'd say it's an okay book, just somewhat poorly executed. Considering that this is Charlton's first book it definitely shows room for improvement and I hope that Charlton's later books get better as he continues to hone his skill. My final big issue, though, is that Spellwright is the first of a series of books that Charlton is planning on writing, although I have no idea where the series will end. And this is where Kalpar gives his unsolicited advice for aspiring authors.

"But Kalpar!" my readers are probably saying, "You yourself couldn't write a book to save your life! What gives you the right to give advice on something you yourself cannot and have not done?" Well, listen, I've read several books that were the first book by the author and were also the first of a series and here's what I noticed. Some of those books were bad, some were okay, but none of them were great. Your first book is going to be rough around the edges because you're still developing as an author and finding your voice. Even with my favorite author ever, Terry Pratchett, his first Discworld book The Colour of Magic is kind of rough in places. If the first book of your epic fantasy series still has that sort of unfinished character, then some readers may not be interested in finding out what happens with the rest of the series. So my advice is this: for your first book, just have some fun. Find an idea you like and run with it, don't worry about making a huge series. Develop your voice as a writer and then write your epic fantasy series. Maybe I'm just full of hot air but I definitely feel that it might help a few authors.

For a first book, Spellwright is fairly good, although I really hope Charlton addresses Nicodemus's hypocrisy in future books. If any of the concepts sounded interesting or you like mysteries then feel free to peruse it but be aware of its heavy use of tropes.

- Kalpar