A Halloween-y book excerpt

Cassandra Page:

In the spirit of Halloween, and ghost stories, today at Aussie Owned and Read I shared the inspiration for the seance scene at the start of “Isla’s Inheritance”.

Originally posted on Aussie Writers:

Once upon a time, when I was in my late teens, my party trick was seances. I know that sounds kind of weird, but it’s true. We used to improvise an ouija board, use a (clean) scotch glass as the focus, and then have at it. And for some reason, whenever I was touching the glass, it would glide around the board like an ice skater on a rink — even if I wasn’t really paying much attention.

Halloween HopI’m pretty sure my friends thought I was pushing the glass around, although they never accused me of it. And although I wasn’t doing anything deliberately, I sometimes wondered if there was something subconscious going on, because I often “heard” the word reply in my mind as the glass started spelling it out.

During one particularly freaky incident, one of the guys taking part had brought along what he claimed was a…

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Review: ‘Cassandra’ by Kerry Greenwood

Cassandra

On Mount Olympus, Aphrodite, the goddess of love, yawned. Even perfection can become tedious. “My lord,” she called to Apollo, “Sun God and brother. Let us play a game with mortals — my power against yours.”

And so Cassandra, the golden-haired princess cursed with the gift of prophecy, and Diomenes, the Achean with the healing hands, become puppets of the gods. Their passions are thwarted, their loves betrayed, their gifts rendered useless for the sake of a wager between the immortals. Doomed, magnificent Troy is the stage, Cassandra and Diomenes the leading players in this compelling story of the city’s fall. Both have found love before, and lost it. Will they find each other in the light of the burning city?

And, if they do, can their love survive the machinations of malicious gods and men?

I originally bought this book — because of the name, obviously — about 15 years ago. Because I’ve been on an Ancient Greek kick lately, I decided to re-read it.

Both Cassandra and Diomenes are healers who’ve had close encounters with gods early on in their lives. Cassandra and her twin, Eleni, are given the gift of prophecy as small children, while Diomenes becomes a healer after his life is saved by Glaucus, healing priest of Asclepius. During his illness, Thanatos, god of death, blesses him.

Maybe these blessings are what made the two the target of Aphrodite and Apollo’s wager. The gist of the bet is that Aphrodite believes she can get the two together, while Apollo is determined to keep them apart. Posiedon and Athena weigh in, wanting to see Troy destroyed in the process (although Posiedon later changes his mind). The whole thing gets very messy, as you can imagine.

We don’t see much of the gods in the book, just in the occasional page of dialogue at the end of a chapter. Mostly, what we see is the poor mortals, struggling with the twists and turns their lives take. Both Cassandra and Diomenes find love elsewhere and lose it, but to me the greater tragedy was the fall of Troy itself. Compared to the culture of the Acheans (Greeks), Troy as Greenwood writes it was a beacon of progress and good behaviour, where women were given equal rights and the gods were offered sacrifices of herbs or precious goods rather than blood. Greenwood takes some liberties with the original myth, so the ending isn’t quite as horrific as it could have been — there is at least a little bit of hope there.

One thing I’d forgotten between readings is just how much sex there is in this book, both hetero and homosexual. For the most part that’s fine with me, although fair warning: if you want a “clean” read this isn’t it. ;) Also, during some of the war scenes the inevitable rape and treatment of captured women as slaves is quite confronting. A lot of it happens “off camera” but still, Greenwood doesn’t pull any punches.

The other thing that’s quite chilling about this retelling of Troy is Greenwood’s portrayal of Achilles: he is an insane psychopath, far and away the worst of the Greeks. It particularly struck me given I just read The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller not long ago, which is a much kinder portrayal. It’s interesting to see such different takes on the same character.

Cassandra is the second book in a trilogy, but stands alone; I’ve never read the other two. If you like gritty, “realistic” historical fantasy, this may be the book for you.

Four-and-a-half stars


Post-release buzz

IslasInheritance-CPage-MDThe last ten days — since Isla’s Inheritance was released into the wild — have been crazy good. I’ve been overwhelmed with support, especially from family and friends, but also from the writing community on Twitter. If you’re a writer just starting out, I strongly recommend getting on Twitter and tapping into the wonderful support network there. Look at the #amwriting hashtag as a place to start finding people.

The book tour ended yesterday and was really successful. (I can’t speak highly enough of Xpresso Book Tours if you’re organising some promotion.) Thank you to everyone that took part, whether it be by hosting or entering my giveaway!

I’ve tried to avoid turning into one of those crazy people that sits there refreshing Amazon to look at her book ranking, but I did notice (ahem) that on Amazon Australia Isla’s Inheritance cracked number 17 on the young adult sci-fi, fantasy and magic ebook charts the day after it released. I only grabbed screenshots the night before, though, when it was at #28:

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Seeing it nestled in beside some big names gave me a big, cheesy grin — and I have all of YOU GUYS to thank for that!

If you’ve read the first book and are wondering when the sequel, Isla’s Oath, comes out, the answer is that it’s scheduled for release on 22 January 2015.

In the meantime, if you liked Isla’s Inheritance, I’d be grateful if you considered leaving a review at your reviewing site of choice — you know, if you wanna. ;) You can leave reviews anywhere from Goodreads to Amazon, Barnes & Noble to the Turquoise Morning Press page. The links to the various pages are here.

No pressure. I love you either way.

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Interview: Stacey Nash, YA sci-fi author

Today I’m thrilled to have one of my favourite writers and human beings on the planet here with me on the blog — it’s the lovely Stacey Nash! You may remember her from such reviews as my one on Remember Me four days ago. Stacey’s second book, Remember Me, came out on 1 October, which makes her and I release month buddies. To celebrate, I’m giving away two copies of the first book in her series, Forget Me Not — details below.

Welcome to the blog, Stacey!

For those that haven’t read Forget Me Not, the first book in the Collective series, how would you describe the world you’ve created?

The world of the Collective series is one where super-advanced tech exists, like devices that allow cloaking, telepathy, and teleportation. This tech has actually been around for a very long time, but it’s kept hidden from the general public by a secret group whose sole purpose is to keep everything in the world on the right path. That group, the Collective, believes too much power in too many hands is not a good thing.

The Collective kind of reminds me of the Illuminati crossed with that Will Smith movie Men in Black (only without the sense of humour). Can you tell us a little more about how they work?

That’s a great description of the Collective and they are very loosely based on the Illuminati. (I love a good conspiracy theory!) Remember Me takes a much closer look at the Collective than we got to see in Forget Me Not, and from a different angle too. The Collective honestly believe that they’re doing the right thing. That with the type of technology available, society would fall into a power-grabbing mess and left to its own devices would not function effectively. It would be an all-out massacre, with no order and every man greedily overthrowing every other to come out on top. So the Collective not only suppresses knowledge of advanced technology from the public, they use it to maintain order.

Remember Me is told by both Anamae, the main character from the first book, and her best friend Will. Tell us a bit about them.

Anamae is one of those girls who are so tenacious no one can keep her check, and god help anyone who tries. She’s seventeen and has been through a tough time. Her mother has been missing for a very long time, and her dad faced some life-threatening issues during book one. With no other family, she realises she needs to fight back for what’s right.

As for Will, he’s one of those characters that finds his way into everyone’s heart. He’s a little overbearing at times, but he’s got a kind heart. He’s been in Anamae’s life since they were in grade school together and he’s not about to take a back seat now that they’re fighting for their lives.

Forget Me Not originally came out with a small press, which subsequently collapsed. What do you know now that you wish you knew then? What advice would you give to writers just starting out in the business?

I don’t think anything I know now would have changed my decisions back then. I didn’t blindly sign with that small press. I researched them thoroughly before I did so. I checked them out on Editors and Predators, Absolute Write Water Cooler, Google, and everywhere that I could. I even spoke with authors I knew who were signed with them. And staff — I spoke with staff too. Everything was really happy there, and everything checked out. I guess I’d tell other writers to make sure you do all that before signing, but be aware that publishing in some ways is a gamble. You just can’t predict what will happen and there are bad publishers out there amongst the good. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Make sure you remember that and you’ll be more wary.

What other projects are you working on? Can we expect to see a third book in the series sometime soon?

I’m working on a few projects right now. There are four books in total planned for the Collective Series and book three has gone off to my publisher, so hopefully there will be more news on it soon. My current project is a prequel to the series. Set long before Anamae was born, it’s told by her mother and essentially it is Annie’s story. Which is an exciting part of Collective–Resistance history. I’ve also got a new series in the pipelines which I’ve been madly working on. It’s quite different to the Collective books, with slightly older characters and a contemporary setting. I hope to be able to share some news on it soon as well.

Giveaway

Enter for a chance to win one of two Forget Me Not ebooks!

About Stacey

Stacey Nash writes adventure-filled stories for Young Adults in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres. She loves to read and write books that have a lot of adventure, a good dose of danger, a smattering of romance, and KISSING! Hailing from the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, she loves nothing more than immersing herself in the beauty and culture of the local area.

HarperCollins | Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest

Stacey Nash


Review: ‘Hounded’ by Kevin Hearne

Hounded

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old — when in actuality, he’s twenty-one “centuries” old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power — plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish — to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.

I finished this last month, but hadn’t quite gotten around to writing a review (I guess I’ve had other things going on lately — dunno!). I’d heard Kevin Hearne’s name on Twitter, and since I love urban fantasy I thought I’d use my monthly Audible credit to download the audiobook of Hounded.

I found it a little hard to get into at first. Some of that was the voice actor; the guy is good but all the previous audiobooks I’ve listened to had smexy British voice actors, so it took me a little while to adjust. Maybe because of that, I was really aware of just how much exposition there is early on in this story. The book is told from Atticus’s point of view, and he likes to interrupt a conversation to provide us a little backstory, or an explanation of druidic magic. It felt a little heavy on the tell rather than the show.

The characters are fun, although Atticus is a little bit of a male Mary Sue (a Mary Stu?) — he’s pretty much perfect. Handsome, powerful, unique, and all the hot goddesses want to sleep with him. He’s also meant to be 2100 years old but, even in his thoughts, sounds like his claimed age of 21.

However, for me he was redeemed by his sense of humour and loyalty to his best friend, Oberon. Oberon is a wolfhound who communicates with Atticus via telepathy. He is very literal, and absolutely hilarious. Far and away my favourite character … although the Morrigan was also pretty awesome. I liked Granuaile too. Actually, I liked most of the characters, despite Atticus’s immaturity at times. (The wedgie scene made me cringe. Dude, you were born BCE — act your age!)

The story follows events in Atticus’s life as Angus Og, the Celtic god of love and Atticus’s lifelong enemy, finds out where he is and starts to send minions after him. It doesn’t help that people who are ostensibly on Atticus’s side tend to complicate his life too. The story was fast-paced and kept me interested, and like I said, it was very funny. Just don’t expect anything deep from this book; it definitely fits into the “read for entertainment” category.

Four stars


‘ENCHANTED LOVER: Tales of Everlasting Love’ boxed set

ENCHANTED-3d-lg2ENCHANTED LOVER: Tales of Everlasting Love

Seven Novels of Mystical, Magical and Paranormal Romance

I asked each of the seven authors in this boxed set about the supernatural “critter” in their story. Here’s what they said.

PARAMOUR by Margaret Ethridge (ghost)

Two men: one living, one dead, and both vying for her love. Camellia Stafford has never been alone in her room. For twenty years, she’s been engaged in a fierce power struggle with her bedroom’s previous tenant, Frank DeLuca, the ghost trapped in the light fixture above her bed.

Margaret on PARAMOUR: One of my favorite childhood memories is of the time my mom and I snuggled in her bed on a cold, gray day and watched an old black and white movie called The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Like Lucy Muir, I fell in love with the ghost of Captain Daniel Gregg. Not long before I started writing Paramour, I watched that old favorite again. But this time, the bit when Anna told her mother that Captain Gregg used to visit her when she was a little girl and they had been friends stuck with me.

How cool would it be to be pals with a ghost? What if she grew up with that ghost in her room. Would she have fallen in love with him like her mother did? I also liked the idea of a tortured young hero trapped between worlds. When I was young, we had the coolest light fixtures in my bedroom. They were these old 60’s chic gold cones that could be adjusted directionally.

Light

I remember spending hours staring up at that fixture, daydreaming. What better place to snare the man of my dreams? And that is how handsome, young Frank DeLuca came to be trapped in the light fixture above Camellia Stafford’s bed.

ENTRANCED by Maddie James (time travel, reincarnation)

Jack and Claire set out on a wild search through time, not only for the resolution to a powerful attraction between them, but also for a historical artifact that holds the key to their future happiness — the coveted silver-plated chalice made from Blackbeard’s skull.

Maddie on ENTRANCED: My story, Entranced, possesses the supernatural element of time travel, and not necessarily a supernatural character. Unless you could call the severed head of the pirate, Blackbeard, a supernatural character. For you see, once Blackbeard was beheaded, it was important to secure his skull, to take back to the authorities as proof of his death. Pirate lore says that it was hung from the bowsprit of a ship, and then lost forever.

But not in my book…

MYSTIC THUNDER by JC Wardon (witch, mystic)

Millennia of tempestuous ancestral history forewarn Rayne Cavanaugh to hide her ability to communicate with ghosts. But when the nephew of the man she just can’t resist goes missing in the mountains of Mystic Waters, West Virginia, she must decide between self-preservation and love.

JC on MYSTIC THUNDER: Rayne and her two identical sisters all have different inherited mystical gifts. Rayne is of The Devine, which means she is able to cast and conjure spells, but they each have another gift which manifests before they learn of this particular ability, and Rayne’s is to see and talk to ghosts.

She flees to Mystic Waters, West Va., to hide from the notoriety she’s suddenly exposed to in LA, but what she finds when she gets there is a man whose nephew is missing, and a ghost who insists she follow him into the dark reality that someone has been murdering young men for years on Mystic Mountain. She must chose between protecting herself and helping the man she is falling in love with, while conscious of the three-thousand-year-old curse that warns all Cavanaugh women to never fall in love.

RUNNING OUT OF TIME by Cheryl Norman (time travel)

When Stacy Webber travels to Germany for her best friend’s wedding, she loses more than her luggage and purse. She lands in a different time, fifty years ago, with no idea how to return to her world.

Cheryl on RUNNING OUT OF TIME: Stacy wears an old silver necklace with a tiny charm of a wishing well. Her landlady and friend Dorothy loans it to her to wear on her trip to Germany, a flight Stacy dreaded because of her history of anxiety attacks. But she soon learns the charm was crafted by a gypsy in West Germany decades earlier and holds a magical power — one wish. She has to decide whether to use its power to return her home safely or to save the life of Sgt. Bradley, a GI with whom she falls in love.

TIMELESS by Jan Scarbrough (psychic, ghost, reincarnation)

When Beth Abbott receives a surprise inheritance from her birth mother, she travels to the family’s nineteenth century mansion in Old Louisville, KY, now a bed and breakfast. There she meets the resident ghost, a little girl whose crying not only scares, but also intrigues guests.

Jan on TIMELESS: James Van PraaghJohn Edward, and Theresa Caputo the Long Island Medium, are well-known psychic mediums and part of our popular culture. Believe them or not, they all bring messages of love from the spirit world.

When I was presented with the original cover of Timeless and the idea of writing about a child ghost, I needed a character that could communicate with the ghost. Enter Jeff Halstead, the hero and my reluctant medium. Years ago, I met a real medium named Dale Epley at a “psychic faire”. When I discovered she taught continuing education classes at night, I took a couple. Later, I attended her workshops and meditations at her home, and occasionally scheduled readings. I’ve learned many things from Dale over the years, and like the high-profile mediums, she brings messages of love and hope.

MAN OF HER DREAMS by Cat Shaffer (dreams, parallel times)

Jessi Flint has a perfectly good life with a successful business and the perfect man. So, he’s only in her dreams…until her flaky assistant goes to a New Age fair and Jessi suddenly begins receiving gifts with love notes signed by a mysterious Damian.

Cat on MAN OF HER DREAMS: Jessi Flint has a perfectly good life with a successful business and the perfect man. So he’s only in her dreams…until her flaky assistant goes to a New Age fair and Jessi suddenly begins receiving gifts with love notes signed by a mysterious Damian. Still, the last person she expects to see when she arrives back home in Michigan for her high school reunion is her mystery man. She finally decides to go with the flow after her mother expresses her delight with Jessi’s fiance, her best friend and closest cousin both go ga-ga over Damian and she finds herself falling head over heels for the man of her dreams.

ALMOST MAGIC by J.M. Kelley (magic, witch, gifts)

When it came to Vivian Burroughs’ unique connection with nature, her grandmother always said, ‘Mediocrity may not burn as bright as a firecracker, but it seldom blows up in your face.’ But the old woman never advised her on what to do when a sexy new neighbor stokes the flames of attraction.

JM on ALMOST MAGIC: Burroughs women have always been a little different, and the residents of Essex Woods, Pennsylvania are all too aware of their unique history. The tradition of weird continues with Vivian, who can (kind of, sort of) bend nature to her will. Vivian just wants a little normalcy in her life. Something that’s hard to come by when all the single men in town know that the words normal and Burroughs never go hand in hand. So what’s a (slightly) magical gal to do for a date and maybe a mildly enchanted happily ever after?

Jack Riley might not be the one to ask that question, but Vivian sure can picture him as the guy with the answers. But Jack is dealing with a not-so-normal life of his own. When your dead wife won’t stay dead and you’re pretty sure your daughter can read your mind, who has time to woo the town’s favorite (maybe, could be) witch?

Giveaway

Enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card or a set of seven print books from the authors’ backlist.

Release Date: October 7, 2014
Category: Romance > Paranormal
Length: Seven full-length novels, Boxed Set
Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press
ISBN: 978-1-62237-340-6
Retail Price: $5.99
Ebook Price: $0.99 (Special Promotional Price)
AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | IBOOKS | KOBO | SMASHWORDS


Five Places Books Have Made Me Want to Visit

toptentuesday

Okay, first off, I know today is Monday. But I have stuff scheduled on the blog for tomorrow, so I figured I’ll post this one a day early. I could pretend it was timezone confusion, but who am I kidding? ;)

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is one I didn’t want to miss: places — fictional or real — that I really want to visit because of books I’ve read. I’ve mostly gone fictional, because although there are real places I really want to see, most of them aren’t because I read about them in a book.

Pern (Anne McCaffrey)

This is an old favourite, and I know I’ve blogged about it before, but I’d love to go hang out in Anne McCaffrey’s world of dragons that the lucky few get to form life partnerships with. Who wouldn’t want a lifetime friend who loves and supports you, and coincidentally can breathe fire, fly you around and teleport? Yes please! Obviously Pern has its downsides, facing extra-terrestrial attack by hungry organisms that eat everything — but hey, not everywhere is perfect!

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New Orleans (Anne Rice, Charlaine Harris, others)

I’m not sure if Anne Rice started the trend of writing urban fantasy set in New Orleans, but she was the first writer I read that used it as a major setting. These days it certainly seems to be a popular setting for vampire and voodoo fiction in particular. I’d love to go there some time. And try all that fabulous food.

Hogwarts (J. K. Rowling)

Because castle. And dining room with sky ceiling. And teleporting food. And magical forest. And familiars. And magic wands. And broomsticks. And griffins. Sure, the whole Death Eater/Voldemort thing is a bit of a downer, but still, the castle would be so interesting. I mean, who hasn’t wanted to stay in a magical castle?

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Valdemar (Mercedes Lackey)

This one is also a sentimental favourite from when I was a teenager, and for many of the same reasons. It’s a medieval fantasy setting with a magical police force (a knightgood of sorts) whose purity of heart is guaranteed by deity-given magical horses that lifebond in the same way the Pernese dragons do. Also, if you travel south from Valdemar you might find the Tayledras, who live in another magical forest and have bird familiars. Awesome.

Discworld (Terry Pratchett)

The Discworld is one of the most fabulous, ridiculous fantasy settings out there. The world itself has a huge sense of irony, I think — it’s medieval fantasy but with a sense of humour. Of course, I’d probably get killed fairly quickly in a ridicilous fashion, but that’s the price you pay…

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