Vacation Reads Blog Tour – Week 2

This week’s Vacation Reads Blog Tour features four new titles, including interviews with the authors, book blurbs, and more.  Check for more information at the Vacation Reads web site and don’t forget to leave comments at at least one of our participating blogs (see Vacation Reads for the full list), as well as on the site itself, to enter our drawing to win prizes that include copies of our authors’ books, and more!

   

AETHER AGE ANTHOLOGY, edited by Brandon Bell
 
A past remade…

Take flight on airships, balloons, and wooden rockets. Soar with winged
hoplites, exiled princesses, explorers and philosophers.  Witness the struggle
for equality, freedom, and power like you never have before.

Explore a history transformed and travel into the heavens to discover what
awaits the civilizations of Humanity in…

Tell us about this anthology, Brandon.  What was it like for you to work as editor?

Aether Age: Helios was my first crack at working as editor.  By the time Aether
Age grew into something almost ready to open to submissions, Chris Fletcher made
the offer for me to co-edit the anthology, probably on the basis of my
involvement to that point, coupled with what he knew of me as a writer.  Being a
decent writer does not equal a decent editor, but I’d also done the guest post
on M-Brane outlining my ideas about what makes a good story, so Chris must have
believed he had enough data about what kind of editor I might be to feel some
confidence.

I’ve read interviews with editors that I respect and blog posts by writers
discussing their experience in magazines and anthologies.  Writers sometimes
feel betrayed by the inclusion of another story, or otherwise compromised due to
an inclusion, exclusion, or lack of editorial vision.  And depending on the
lens, Chris and I could look either terribly unpromising or a potential win —at
least in the matter of a diversity of views: two white guys (ah, hmmm), a gay
guy and a straight guy (oh, could be interesting), a non-christian and a
buddhist (really?).  All these are just details, though.  Diversity was never
even a discussion we had, it just happened.  I’m happy on this point: we have a
nice balance of female to male and a great world-spanning contributor list.

Ok, but what about the stories? 

Yes, that’s what matters. I won’t name names, but I find reassurance that the
tale I liked least during our reading period has grown into one of my
favorites.  Story, well told, trumps the most jaded of reader expectations. 

Our guiding editorial principle was simply to cover the range of time envisioned

with interesting tales that varied in tone.  We didn’t want a bunch of dark
stories or only stories that dealt with swashbuckling and adventure.  Though AeA
has all that. 

Some of the stories are not ‘my type of tale’.  Not the sort of thing I’d
typically read.  And I’m really happy about those stories.  I know a book like
Aether Age, so difficult to blurb or explain, is going to be a hard sell for
readers of a more romantic or mainstream bent, but I wish I could put it in the
hands of exactly that reader.  There’s just enough darkness, danger, and
adventure to make the gentle moments and so very human relationships echo in the
way that only seems to happen when a set of stories are presented as facets of
their own history.

We all love superstars.  Having a superstar in AeA would help sell copies, for
sure.  Well, we didn’t get the literary equivalent of U2 or The Beatles.  And
that is good.  If you are like me, you’ve had that pet band you know and love
that just never attained the household name-recognition of the superstars.  The
Mars Volta, The Tragically Hip, Arcade Fire, Portishead… notwithstanding my
Canadian readers for whom a couple of these ARE huge bands, down here in Texas
these are the good stuff that no one seems to know about. 

Maybe we have some future superstars in our midst among the AeA table of
contents.  We certainly have writers who are widely published and making names
for themselves.  But for now, here’s the short story equivalent to the 
‘educational mixtape’ you might put together in the hopes of pulling your
hopelessly misled buddies away from Lil Wayne and Justin Beaber.

In that same spirit I present to you The Aether Age: Helios.  For your enjoyment
and edification.


THE KULT by Shaun JeffreyThe Kult – People are predictable. That’s what makes them easy to kill.

Tell us about yourself, Shaun.
 
My name’s Shaun Jeffrey, and having grown up in a house in a cemetery, it’s
pretty safe to assume I was never going to be writing love stories, and perhaps
goes some way to explaining my attraction to the dark side of the literary
spectrum. 
 
I’ve been writing on and off for around twenty years, and it never gets any
easier. But then that’s all part of the challenge and the fun. If it was easy,
everyone would be doing it, and while everyone may have a story to tell, not
everyone can tell it.

Now along with cover pictures, I think taglines are important. They sum up the
story in as few words as possible and hopefully entice readers to buy the book.
Or at least to give it more than a passing glance. ‘People are predictable.
That’s what makes them easy to kill.’ That’s the tagline to my novel, The Kult,
which is a fast paced serial killer story that contains a mix of horror, crime
and mystery.

Is it true that it has been optioned for a movie?

The book was optioned at the end of last year by Gharial
Productions, and shooting on the film begins in September.
www.gharialproductions.com.  It will be interesting and exciting to see my story
brought to life, a story that award winning author Jonathan Maberry called ‘a
bumpy ride through nightmare country’. I have two other novels available,
‘Deadfall’ – when the dead won’t stay dead there’s going to be hell to pay. And
‘Evilution’ – humankind is about to change.

Details of these and any other projects can be found on my website:
www.shaunjeffrey.com and sample chapters and my previously published short story
collection ‘Voyeurs of Death’ can be read for free at
http://www.scribd.com/document_collections/2519626


BASED UPON AVAILABILITY by Alix Strauss

What is your book about, Alix?

Based Upon Availability delves into the lives of eight seemingly ordinary women,
each who pass through Manhattan’s swanky Four Seasons Hotel.  While offering
sanctuary to some, solace to others, the hotel captures their darkest and
twisted moments as they grapple with family, sex, power, love, and
death.  Trish, a gallery owner, obsesses over her best friend’s wedding and
dramatic weight loss. Robin wants revenge after a lifetime of abuse at the hands
of her older sister. Anne is single, lonely, and suffering from
obsessive-compulsive disorder. Drug-addicted rock star Louise needs to dry out.
Southerner-turned-wannabe Manhattanite Franny is envious of her neighbors’
lives. Sheila wants to punish her boyfriend for returning to his wife. Ellen so
desperately wants children, she’s willing to pretend to be pregnant. And Morgan,
the hotel manager— haunted by the memory of her dead sister—is the thread that
weaves these women’s lives together.  

In this an utterly original read, I try to ask and answer the age-old question; ‘what happens behind closed doors’ while
examining the walls we put up as we attempt intimacy, and inspecting the ruins
when they’re knocked down. 

Alix Strauss
Journalist/Author
www.alixstrauss.com

NATIVE VENGEANCE by Julie Achterhoff

Julie Achterhoff is the author of three books, Native Vengeance, Quantum Earth,
and Deadly Lucidity. They are paranormal thrillers. She grew up reading such
authors as Stephen King and Dean Koontz, which influenced her own writing. She
has been writing since childhood, scaring her teachers with her horror stories.
Reading has also been a great influence on her. Her books can be found on
amazon.com in regular form, and now on Kindle for $3.19 a piece. They can also
be purchased from the publisher at allthingsthatmatterpress.com. You can read
parts of her books on BookBuzzr.

Why did you become involved in your particular genre?

I just love scary stuff! It’s exciting for me to write stories that will scare
people and make them wonder if something like that could really happen. When I
was a kid I read every scary book I could get my hands on. I loved H.P.
Lovecraft and others that kept me up at night. I enjoy creating characters who
are strong, yet also vulnerable, so the reader can relate to them throughout the
story. I also enjoy writing a strong storyline that will keep readers engrossed
until the very end. I also like adding a romantic element in my books. I think
that gives them a little spice. I believe that thrillers are the most
interesting books. They can really get to you!

Read more about these, and other great titles at Vacation Reads.

Vacation Reads Blog Tour

During the month of July I’m participating with several (30!) authors in a group blog tour called Seasonal Reading.  In July, we’ll be featuring sets of different books that will make great reads for the lazy days of summer.  Each weekend, we’ll offer great prizes, including copies of the featured titles, promotional items, and more! 

1. Each weekend, we will be offering great prizes, including copies of the featured titles, promotional items, and more!  To enter the drawing, please leave a comment on one of the blogs AND on the master site at Seasonal Reads.
 
2. BONUS DRAWING: If anyone features any of our titles on their blogs and send us the link (in the comments section), they will be eligible for a second drawing, to win more of our great prizes. 
 
Winners will be notified in early August. 

 
ALSO: If anyone features any of our titles on their blogs and e-mails us the link, they will be eligible for a second drawing, to win more of our great prizes.

Winners will be notified by e-mail.

* * *

ALIEN DREAMS, by John Rosenman
http://www.johnrosenman.com

Captain Eric Latimore leads a four-person crew to Lagos to investigate a previous team’s mysterious disappearance. Once there, he discovers that an ominous alien presence is invading their dreams. Each member of his crew has the same dream–huge, seductively beautiful “angels” speak to them telepathically.

The creatures strand his crew on the planet and only Latimore can free them–if he survives.

What is different about ALIEN DREAMS, John?

I think Alien Dreams stands out from other space operas because I tried to open myself to and expand the vast conceptual possibilities of the genre.  Captain Latimore faces a unique threat to his crew on the planet Lagos: beautiful but deadly angel-like aliens who invade their dreams.  To save his crew, he must not only change into a gigantic angel himself, but mate with their ravishing queen for thousands of subjective years.  I believe this erotic scene breaks new ground, as does the hero himself, who is not one but two: a silent  brother exists within his mind and ultimately tries to take over.  Finally, Latimore must travel across the universe and do battle with a cosmic Gatekeeper for control of the universe.  In such areas, I try not only to explore new dimensions but to illuminate what it truly means to be human.

* * *

UNSEELIE, by Meredith Holmes
http://www.meredithholmes.com

When Alfhild was a little girl, her grandmother called her a fairy princess and told her all of her favorite tales.

She’d never imagined they were real.

Anxious to avoid the swarming reporters and ghoulish souvenir hunters who won’t leave her alone when her brother Gulliver is tried and acquitted for multiple murders he almost certainly committed, a grown up Alfhild changes her name to Lorelei and flees Louisiana to the sanctuary she inherited from her grandmother, the ancestral home in England.

All is well until she wakes one morning to find a naked man in her rosebush.

And the games begin . . .

Can you tell about your book, Meredith?

I fell in love with urban fantasy by accident–one day I saw a card in a local metaphysical shop, one of those blank jobs that you fill out for random occasions, when you forgot a birthday or need to send a thank you note and don’t like what the mainstream card shops have to offer (you can only deal with so many dancing bunnies and softly flourished flowers, after all).  The card had a picture of a autumn-colored man clad in green velvet and wearing a crown of dark leaves.  A story sprang into my head about him and I called him Cadfael.  By that night, I had the first six chapters of Unseelie written (in their earliest, raw form); Alfhild, Cadfael and Du had taken off and were running away with my plot and the twists and turns of the Unseelie and Seelie Courts were just pouring out into the digital pages.  I blithely called it a romance but within a few more chapters, I realized no, it was urban fantasy, a genre I’d shunned as a fantasy purist… Well, fool me!  Now that is my genre of choice when I write and I’ve expanded from faeries to include demons, witches, and creatures of all sorts.

* * *

IVAN AND MARYA, by Anna Kashina
http://annakashina.com

Every Solstice, every year, a young girl dies to prolong the life of a madman.

Every Solstice a hero tries to stop them…and dies.

But this is Ivan’s year. Though his brothers plot his death, and the villagers
whose daughters are dying warn him not to interfere, Ivan the Fool is determined to stop the sacrifice.

With the help of the immortals, gotten by sympathy, force, or guile, Ivan
believes his love will save the beautiful Marya from herself.

Where did the idea for IVAN AND MARYA come from?

I felt that Russian fairy tales have not been explored enough in fiction, and
they have so much to offer to a writer and a reader.  I built on a most
classical one, but also did something different with it.  My story is told from
two points of view — Marya, who is on the side of ‘evil’, and Ivan, who is on
the side of ‘good’, and the contrast between the two creates shades of depth
that amazed me when I was working on the story.  It was a pleasure to write,
and I constantly had this feeling of revelation, as if I am not making this up
but uncovering yet another layer of a fascinating world.  I also did my best to
make it as authentic as possible, down to the details of the Russian Solstice
celebration, an ancient tradition that is very much practiced today.

* * *

CHOCOLATIER’S WIFE, Cindy Lynn Speer
http://www.apenandfire.com

Tasmin, William’s wife to be, was chosen by a spell, as all wives and husbands are chosen. It’s a nice, tidy way to find a reasonable mate for almost everyone. Unfortunately, Tasmin is from the North, a place of magic and strange ritual, and William is from the South, where people pride themselves on being above that kind of insanity.

William doesn’t seem in a hurry to send for Tasmin, for which none of his family blame him. After all, she’s a barbarian. She, on the other hand, would like to know what’s keeping him. When he’s framed for murdering his patron, Tasmin takes matters into her own hands. She’s gotten to know William from his letters. He’s not a murderer and she’s going to help him prove it.

Someone out there doesn’t like him and is beginning to dislike Tasmin almost as much, and that someone isn’t at all averse to making sure William and Tasmin aren’t around long enough to celebrate their wedding.

Tasmin, of course, has other plans.

Are you a full-time or part-time writer?  How does that affect your writing?

I am a part time writer… like everyone, I’m juggling a lot of delicate porcelain plates… one for writing, one for work, one for family, one for fencing.  It splits your focus… but it also gives you a lot of great ideas and experiences to pull from.  Would I like to be a full time writer?  For certain.  But I think that being forced to go out and talk to people every day, being exposed to life, enriches me and therefore will, hopefully, be reflected in my work.  So, in that way, it affects things positively… in the whole productivity issue, well… sometimes things are not so positive.

* * *

COMPOSING MAGIC, Elizabeth Barrette
http://ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com

Composing Magic: How to Create Spells, Rituals, Blessings, Chants, and Prayers guides you through the exciting realm of magical and spiritual writing.  Explore the process of writing, its tools and techniques, individual types of composition, and ways of sharing your work with other people. Each type of writing includes its history and uses, covering diverse traditions; plus step-by-step instructions, finished compositions, and exercises.  Intended for alternative religions, but it can be generalized to others or used by fiction writers to create background tidbits.

Why did you write this book, Elizabeth?

I spotted a gap in previous material — I have a knack for doing that.  Pagan/magical books tell people to write their own rituals, spells, etc. but rarely give any guidance on doing it.  Writing books tell people how to write in general, but there were no specific guides for magical writing and not many for spiritual writing.  I’m good at figuring out how I do what I do and then explaining it to other folks so they can work through the steps.  It wasn’t until the reviews came in for _Composing Magic_ that I realized this is a rather rare skill — most of them mention how clear and doable the instructions are.  So now I’m trying to make more use of this skill.