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Author Spotlight: B.R. Kingsolver

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Today I’m happy to welcome B.R. Kingsolver, author of the post-apocalyptic urban fantasy Chameleon Assassin, here with Ultimate Fantasy Books blog tours.

Question: Tell us a little about yourself.
Answer: I grew up in Santa Fe, The City Different, in the Land of Enchantment, surrounded by writers, artists, myths, and folklore. I’m a passionate lifetime skier, and our house was seventeen miles from the nearest ski basin.

After living all over the US and exploring the world — from Amsterdam to the Romanian Alps, and Russia to the Rocky Mountains — I trade time between Baltimore and Albuquerque. I have an eclectic education in history, social sciences, nursing, and biology and a Master’s degree in business. I’ve done everything from painting houses to working as a newspaper editor,  making gold and silver jewellery,  to programming computers.

I currently spend my  time writing and working with computers while living nine blocks from the harbor in Baltimore. My main job is servant in residence to a very demanding cat.

Q: When did you start writing, and why?
A: I tried to write a novel when I was fifteen. It was terrible and I was so sure I was a poor writer that I never tried again until five years ago. Now, in my professional life, I’ve worked as a business and technical writer and editor for a long time, but I didn’t try to write fiction. Then five years ago, my partner and I were discussing self-publishing and I mentioned that I had a story I thought would sell. She pushed me to write it, so I did.

Q: What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
A: Chameleon Assassin, the first book in a series by the same name. The second book in the series, tentatively titled Chameleon Uncovered, is about half written and should be published early in 2017.

Q: “Welcome To My Worlds”: Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
A: The book is set 200 years in the future. Environmental pollution and climate change have drastically altered the world, and several nuclear wars have damaged the environment further. The book is set in Toronto, but the climate is like south Florida is today. Major parts of the world are so hot and dry that they’re uninhabitable.

As a result of all this, large businesses have taken charge and governments are basically organs of the corporations. There are four main tiers in society, the corporate bosses, those who work for the corporations, a small set of independent business people, and the desperately poor. Many of the poor are mutants.

Q: Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
A: The main character is Elizabeth (Libby) Nelson, a tall (6’2”) 25-year-old mutant who owns a small business as a security consultant. Her main business, though, is as a burglar and assassin. Libby’s main mutation is that she is a chameleon. She can essentially become invisible by blending into the background. She can also psychically project an image or illusion of herself as being anything she chooses. Very handy for a thief.

Libby’s mother is a madam, and her father was a cat burglar and assassin before a fall crippled him. So she’s had an unusual childhood, to say the least. She’s kick-ass, takes no sass, but dishes it out. She’s irreverent, snarky, and has a cutting wit and nasty temper.

She’s also a bleeding-heart altruist who gives a lot of her money away and is fiercely protective of her friends and those who can’t protect themselves.

Q: A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
A: I envisioned the character of Libby almost a year ago, but didn’t know what to do with her. I was in the middle of writing an epic fantasy/quest novel this past August when I had a story idea for an urban fantasy\dystopian sci-fi  novel and realized it was the perfect story for Libby. I stopped writing the epic fantasy novel in the middle of a battle and wrote the first four chapters of Chameleon Assassin before I went to bed that night.

Where to find B.R. Kingsolver:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Goodreads

For special deals and news about new books, sign up for B.R. Kingsolver’s newsletter.

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Chameleon Assassin:
Libby is a mutant, one of the top burglars and assassins in the world. For a price, she caters to executives’ secret desires. Eliminate your corporate rival? Deliver a priceless art masterpiece or necklace? Hack into another corporation’s network? Libby’s your girl.Climate change met nuclear war, and humanity lost. The corporations stepped in, stripping governments of power. Civilization didn’t end, but it became less civilized.

There are few rules as corporations jockey for position and control of assets and markets. The corporate elite live in their walled estates and skyscraper apartments while the majority of humanity supplies their luxuries. On the bottom level, the mutants, the poor, and the criminals scramble every day just to survive.

Chameleon Assassin is available at Amazon | Add to Goodreads


Book Tour: Rise of the Queen

Today I’m happy to welcome Aoife Marie Sheridan back to the blog with her new book, The Rise of the Queen. First, I was able to do an interview with Aoife, so you can get to know a little more about her, including what books she loves and what she’s most passionate about lately!

1. How did you get started in writing?
I had read somewhere a statement that had me putting pen to paper. Being an avid reader I could never get enough, so when I read this statement “If there is a book you always wanted to read but couldn’t find it, then write it” and so I did. I started in 2012 writing my first book titled Eden Forest and since then I haven’t stopped. In total I have released five books and have two more written, and loads started.

2. Who is your favorite character?
At the present moment Abigail Thornton from The Demon Series. She’s a teenage alcoholic who hunts demons and has a horrible background, so she’s intense and tough to write which I enjoy.

3. Who is your favorite author?
I have several Maria V. Snyder, Kelly Armstrong, Charlaine Harris, Julie Kagawa, Dan Brown, Suzanne Collins, really I could go on all day. Just so many.

4. Where do you usually write?
In my study, it was one of the first rooms we did up when we built our home. It was something I had dreamed of and feel very lucky to have such a beautiful space to write in.

5. Do you listen to music while writing? If so what?
I do have different play lists for different stories, but I will only play at an emotional scene, or a kickass scene basically wherever the emotion is high. But normally I wouldn’t play music.

7. What books have most influenced your life?
Poison Study, by Maria V. Snyder. It’s what got me hooked on fantasy books.

9. What are you passionate about these days?
My baby girl firstly 🙂 [Kyra sez: Congratulations!] Writing, reading, photography and also love watching Paranormal, Dusk Till Dawn, The Walking Dead, The Big Bang Theory and Games of Throne.

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The Rise of the Queen:
FROM AWARD WINNING AUTHOR AOIFE MARIE SHERIDANThe final Instalment of the Saskia Trilogy.

Sarajane struggles with her separation from Tristan as she moves towards the heart of Saskia to defeat Lucian. But her journey isn’t easy. She encounters The Forsaken, zombies and fights to recover her true form. But with Marcus beside her and the help of Willow she makes her journey to her final destination but nothing is as it seems.

Verona and Mirium try to understand why their visions are gone, what Prudentia is up to? and find Sarajane. All the while Tristan and Verona are at war with each other, and politics makes each decision difficult with Morrick.

Loved ones will be lost, decisions will be final, and all betrayals will rise to the surface.

Step into Saskia for the last time.

Available at Amazon

About the author:
Aoife Marie Sheridan has loved reading from a very young age, starting off with Mills and Boon books given to by her grandmother. Her love for romances grew, by the age of 14 she had read hundreds of them.Aoife has a passion for writing poetry or in her eyes her journal entries. It was something she did throughout her teens and into her twenties. Aoife won first place for two of her poems and had them published at a young age of just nineteen.

Aoife’s first book Eden Forest (Part one of the Saskia Trilogy) took first place with Writers Got Talent 2013. Aoife continues to write tales of fantasy and romance.

To find out more about Aoife Marie Sheridan you can visit her at:
Amazon | Facebook | Website | email | Blog | Goodreads | Twitter | Google Plus | Linkedin | Pinterest
Subscribe to Aoife Marie Sheridan’s Mailing List


Author Spotlight: G.A. Rael

Today I’m happy to welcome G.A. Rael, here on her blog tour with Ultimate Fantasy Books to introduce us to her new book, Boy Meets Witch (The White Cat Chronicles #1):

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.
A: I live in New England, but I originally hail from the South. I’m a practicing witch and all my stories involve magic in some form or another! I primarily write PNR and urban fantasy.

Q: When did you start writing, and why?
A: I’ve honestly been writing for as long as I can remember. There have always just been stories in my head that I had to get down on paper, and I’m not really sure how not to write at this point!

Q: What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
A: My current series is The White Cat Chronicles, and I’m editing the third book, A Wedding and a Funeral for release around Christmastime!

Q: “Welcome To My Worlds”: Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
A: The White Cat Chronicles is set in a world where creatures from pagan myths and Biblical prophecy find a way to coexist while the humans around them are none the wiser.

Q: Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
A: Locke is the one who tends to stand out most. He’s the main character’s familiar, a cat demon and he’s never quite what he seems. Then there’s Harper, a reluctant witch who grew up as a faith healer and is just trying to figure it all out. Dennis is probably one of my favorites as the series progresses. He’s an anal-retentive lawyer who isn’t all he seems, either, and he keeps Darren on his toes.

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Boy Meets Witch (The White Cat Chronicles #1):
Harper Adams is a witch on the run–from her past as a faith healer turned accidental arsonist, and from the power she’s kept locked away her whole life. She thinks she’s finally found a place she can settle down and call home in the picturesque town of Cold Creek, Vermont, but a mysterious white cat who may or may not be bent on taking the curvaceous witch’s soul has other plans. Harper’s compassion gets the best of her and earns her an unwanted reputation as the town miracle worker as well as the ire of sexy veterinarian and militant atheist, Darren St. Clair.Cold Creek’s residents have a few supernatural secrets of their own, and Harper will have to face the destiny that led her to the last place a witch in hiding needs to be–that is, if Darren doesn’t have her chased out of town with a pitchfork-wielding mob before she gets the chance.

Available at Amazon
Add to Goodreads

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About the author:
Hi there!I’m a practicing witch and author of paranormal romance, fantasy and magical realism. I’m also a firm believer that the things that go bump in the night deserve their happily ever afters, too!

When I’m not writing, you can find me watching campy horror films with my husband and our menagerie and hiking in the woods in beautiful New England!

Want updates when I publish a book? Join The Coven (PNR & Fantasy Newsletter.)

Visit G.A. at:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon


Author Spotlight: Tiffany Current

Today I’m happy to have author Tiffany Current on the blog, to introduce us to Hannah Clark, the main character in her upcoming YA paranormal romance novel My Maker’s Keeper.

1. What is your full name? Is there anything significant about your name?
My full name is Hannah Clark. There’s nothing significant about my name. My mom just has a thing for palindromes, which is why she named me Hannah.

2. How old are you? 18.

3. Tell us about your family. What do you like and not like about them?
There’s just my mom and I. Well, my dad too, but he left us about six months ago. Apparently, there was some amazing excavation that he couldn’t say no to. So he chose work over us. But I still have my mom and she’s great. She’s fun, grounded, and always tries to force me out of my shell.

4. Who was your first kiss, and what did you think of it?
My first kiss was with Brandon Anderson. It wasn’t great. Maybe it’s because we were more friends than anything else. But it left me wanting more — something real.

5. What is your occupation?
I’m just a regular high school student.

6. What are your best and worst qualities?
Um, worst qualities, how much time do you have? I’m self-conscious, clumsy, and awkward in social situations. Those are probably my top worst qualities. As for best qualities, I think I’m nice and honest. Well, I used to be honest, but I can’t reveal everything nowadays.

7. What quality do you value most in a romantic partner?
Loyalty.

8. What is your favorite thing to do?
I know it’s lame, but I like to read books.

9. What is your greatest fear?
Being found out for what I really am.

10. What is your most treasured possession?
My dad’s personal book collection. After he left, I claimed it as my own. As much as I hate to admit it, it’s my way of staying close to him.

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My Maker’s Keeper
Hannah Clark used to be an ordinary girl. She used to be a lot of things. Until she was bitten.Five months ago, Hannah woke up in the middle of the woods as a vampire. She didn’t know how it happened or who turned her. She just knew she wasn’t safe in her hometown anymore.

Fort Wayne was supposed to be her fresh start. Her chance to finish high school without any other incidents. But then she met Jackson. Their attraction was instant and awakened something deep inside of her. Her thirst for blood.

Things only got worse when her maker, Lucas, came to town. He might have been sexy, but he was one dangerous vampire. And if Hannah wanted to keep Jackson safe, she had to protect him from Lucas’ ravenous ways. Even though she found herself excited by them.

But Lucas wasn’t there for her. Something sinister was happening in town. Vampires were going missing, and if Hannah didn’t want to be next, she had to work with Lucas to solve the mystery. But could she trust him? Or should she trust Jackson? She had to make a choice—and her life might just depend on it.

My Maker’s Keeper on Goodreads

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About the Author:
Tiffany Current earned her Bachelor’s degree in dramatic writing from Drexel University. Her first book, the self-help relationship guide How to Move in with Your Boyfriend (and Not Break Up with Him), was published by Turner Publishing in 2011.Tiffany writes paranormal romance, young adult, urban fantasy, and self-help books. In her spare time, Tiffany enjoys reading books, watching trashy action movies, and eating chocolate.

Where to find Tiffany:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads


Author Spotlight: C.L. Hunter

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Today I’m happy to introduce C.L. Hunter, the featured author from the Paranormal, Fantasy, Dystopia and Romance Readers, Writers and Reviewers group on Goodreads. C.L. is the author of the spicy paranormal romance Your Soul Was Made For Mine and the upcoming sequel, My Soul Belongs To You.

Your Soul Was Made For Mine (Soul Mate Series #1)
In her romantic erotic fantasy Your Soul Was Made for Mine, author C. L. Hunter magnificently weaves a tale of loss, pain, romance, and electrifying thrills that will keep you captivated until the very end. When their lives converge in Ireland, Nolan and Emmalyn will never be the same as dangers appear from Nolan’s past and the lovers unravel astonishing secrets together. With their union guided by an angel, each new discovery takes them to places, events, and ecstasies they could have never imagined possible.

Available at:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo

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About the author:
While on a trip to beautiful and mysterious Ireland, the characters from C. L. Hunter’s romance novel, Your Soul was Made for Mine, appeared to her in dreams. They did not leave her even after she returned home from the enchanted island. Once she started writing their words, Hunter couldn’t stop until the entwined relationships and mysteries of Nolan and Emmalyn were completely revealed. The author now shares their erotic tale with you.C. L. Hunter lives in Florida with her husband, autistic son, and their Irish water spaniel named Brody. She also has two grown daughters and two amazing granddaughters.

Website | Facebook | Google+ | Twitter | Goodreads


Weird Western Roundup I

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Here’s a look at a few more of the books and authors in the Weird Western StoryBundle.

Idyll (Idyll Trilogy #1) by James Derry

First off, several days ago I posted an interview with Walt Starboard, the main character in Idyll. I had just started reading the book and didn’t have much to say at that point except that I was hooked. Last night I finished it, and wow. Riveting book, and I’ll just say that nothing is the way it appears. The combination of western-style adventure and a science fiction tale of settlement on a far-distant planet work perfectly together.

About the book:
Idyll is a rugged planet—a new, simpler start for some 10,000 settlers who have fled Mother Earth. But a strange ‘plague’ of contagious sleep has devastated their Settlement, sparked by a mysterious mantra called the Lullaby.

After a three-year quarantine, Walt and Samuel Starboard set out from their ranch on a mission to cure their comatose mother and find their missing father. For days they ride through a blighted landscape: deserted cabins and gravestones and the ruins of towns destroyed by fire. Just when the brothers are about to give up, they stumble upon a second pair of survivors, two beautiful and determined sisters.

Miriam and Virginia Bridge offer new hope, but they also present new problems. Stirrings of emotion and shifting priorities threaten to set the brothers against each other. Can Walt and Samuel overcome years of festering resentment, or will their rivalry tear them apart before they can reunite their broken family? And will any of them survive the revelation of who—or what—unleashed the Lullaby on their home world?

About the author:
James Derry has been writing or drawing stories since the day his parents let him borrow a ballpoint pen. That’s when he created his first magnum opus in blue ink: a comic-book parody of Ghostbusters called ‘Roastbusters.’ Hey, he was ten.

He studied art in college, and eventually his aspirations shifted from being an illustrator to being a graphic designer. He returned to writing ten years ago after meeting his wife. He currently resides in Atlanta and spends large chunks of his free time working on (and reworking) a variety of fiction projects.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

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West of Pale (Dead West vol. 1) by J. Patrick Allen

I read this well before hearing about the StoryBundle, and really enjoyed it. The gentle setting, the countryside of post-Civil War Missouri and its communities of German settlers, makes a wonderful contrast with the creepy horror of the monster stalking the countryside. The story of Charlie, a young boy whose father was killed by the demon, and the world-weary monster hunter he recruits to help him, and their adventures through the frontier on the path of this monster that materializes through water, is engaging, suspenseful, and enjoyable.

About the book:
Six-guns, blazing hooves, and the horrors that stalk the night.

Everyone brought something from the old country. Grandfather’s watch, and grandmother’s china; great-grandfather’s folklore, and great-great-grandmother’s fairy tales. What is never discussed, however, are the undying characters of the folklore: nix and fairy, goblin and vampire, dragon and eldritch things who all came to America’s shores in time with the rhyme of their tales.

After Charlie’s father is murdered by something impossible, he discovers a letter that leads him across the wild west. The man who wrote the letter promised to help, if things went wrong.

And things could not go more wrong. His father’s murderer is on his trail, materializing from lakes, rivers, and stray pools of water. He will not rest until Charlie has joined his father…

Dead West: West of Pale is the first book in J. Patrick Allen’s Dead West series. This novel picks up right where his Pulp Ark New Pulp Awards (2016) nominated short story, “Dragonfly Shadow,” left off (featured in 18thWall Productions’ From the Dragon Lord’s Library: Volume One).

About the Author:
J Patrick Allen grew up exploring the American West with his family. He climbed mountains, fished, camped, visited the family cattle ranch, and explored a castle. Author of the Dead West series, JP writes about the monsters we take with us. Every other week you can listen to JP on the Rocket Punch Radio podcast on iTunes and TuneIn, where he and his friends hold round table discussions about all things geeky. In 2016 his story Dragonfly Shadow was awarded Best Short Story from the Pulp Ark New Pulp Awards. When he’s not hard at work he and his wife can be found curled up with a beer and a book or game.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

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Flash Gold Chronicles I-III by Lindsay Buroker

If you read my Reading Roundups at all, you may have noticed a lot of books by Lindsay Buroker. She’s one of my favorite authors, and I was really excited to see books 1-3 of her Flash Gold Chronicles included in this bundle. I also read this series before finding out about the bundle, and it’s a lot of fun. Set in the Klondike Gold Rush, it features all the great stuff you expect to find in a Lindsay Buroker book: danger, adventure, magic mixed with steampunk, appealing characters, snappy dialogue, explosions, and a touch (or more than a touch) of romance.

About the book:
A half-breed tinkerer who’s been an outcast her entire life.

A mysterious sword-wielding stranger on the run from the law.

A family secret that people are willing to kill for.

All Kali McAlister wants is to build an airship and escape the frozen Yukon where she was born. But the secret her alchemist father left her with, a magical energy source called flash gold, has put her in danger. Everyone from con artists to gangsters is hunting her down, and now a tight-lipped man with a sword has come into her life, offering to help. Kali is used to taking care of herself, and is about as trusting as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs, but when her enemies threaten to overpower her, she may have no choice but to join forces with the mysterious man.

Set in the Yukon’s gold-rush era, this collection contains three adventures of action, magic, and romance:

Flash Gold
Hunted
Peacemaker

About the author:
Lindsay has early memories of convincing childhood friends, pets, and stuffed animals to play the roles of characters in her worlds, so it’s safe to say she’s been making up stories for a long time. She published her first novel, The Emperor’s Edge, in December of 2010 and has written and published more than 30 more since then.

When she’s not writing, she’s usually hiking with her dogs, skiing, playing tennis, or eating entirely too much dark chocolate (she only does one of those things truly well, and she will let you guess which it is). She grew up in the Seattle area and still visits the Pacific Northwest frequently, but after realizing she was solar powered, she moved to Arizona where she lives in the mountains north of Phoenix.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads


Next time I’ll take a look at Haxan by Kenneth Mark Hoover and A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files (still reading as fast as I can so I can tell you what I think!). Remember, the Weird Western StoryBundle is only available until Sept. 8, so don’t miss out on this great collection of books at a great price!

Weird Western Spotlight: Judith Tarr

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photo credit: Lori Faith Merritt

 

Welcome back for another look at the authors and books in the Weird Western StoryBundle. Today I’m really excited to welcome Judith Tarr. If you’ve been reading fantasy since the 80s, her name is almost certainly one you recognize, and her newest novel, Dragons in the Earth, is making its debut in the bundle. I just read Dragons in the Earth, and it’s a lovely book. Contemporary fantasy set in the desert around Tucson, Arizona [where, it turns out, Ms. Tarr and I are practically neighbors!], dipping back into ancient history and prehistory. Plus horses; horse-lovers will especially enjoy this book.

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
Hello there. I’m a native New Englander (from Maine, no less) transplanted to and flourishing in the Arizona desert. I moved here for my health and stayed because it’s home.

2. What drew you to writing weird westerns? What do you enjoy about it?
I didn’t actually set out to write a weird western. I wanted to write something about horses (since I live on a horse farm) and about Tucson, where I live, and of course about magic because both horses and Tucson are made of it. I ran a Kickstarter and wrote Dragons in the Earth, and planned to publish it with Book View Cafe, the authors’ cooperative. Its official publication date is September 20th.

Then Blair, the curator of the Weird West bundle, asked me if I had anything on that theme. And I had this, right then, being prepared for publication. So I sped up the process a bit, and here it is. It’s a heart book, a book about where I live on multiple levels. It’s a love song to the land I live in.

3. What particular flavor of weird western is your book that’s in the Weird Western bundle? Science fiction, fantasy, horror, other, none of the above, all of the above?
It’s contemporary fantasy. Also, a horse story. And it has dragons.

4. “Welcome To My Worlds”: Tell us a little about the world of your book.
As I said above, it’s the world I live in. We call it Tucson Magic. This country has been inhabited for at least 14,000 years. The land I live on has stone rings set there by the old people, two to three thousand years ago, to catch water and nourish whatever would grow there. They’re persisted because in the desert, unless someone comes through with a bulldozer and blades it flat, whatever you put down stays where it is for thousands of years.

That’s magic. So are horses. And I’ve always felt that dragons sleep under the mountains. They definitely play in the air above them.

I wrote about that. I set it in the Tucson I know, with a few changes for the story’s sake. The ranch exists, though it’s a combination of two separate places. The horses…well. Maybe they do. Maybe they’re only in dreams.

5. Where can we find out more about you and your books?
The best place to start is my author page at Book View Cafe.

 

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Dragons in the Earth (Horses of the Moon #1)

Dragons sleep in the earth here.

Claire is barely scraping a living on her friend’s ranch near Tucson, Arizona. She looks after the long-abandoned horse facility, makes occasional attempts to resuscitate her academic career, and pays the bills, more or less, with her skills as an animal communicator. Those skills don’t always let her say the tactful thing to the human with the checkbook. Sometimes she has to tell the truth.

After a particularly unfortunate session, Claire gets one last chance to keep her home and her livelihood. A small herd of horses needs a place to live and a person to care for them.

But these are no ordinary horses. They represent an old, old breed, the rarest in the world, and they protect an ancient and terrible secret. And something is hunting them.

The ranch is a perfect sanctuary. The powers that live on and under and above it can protect the horses—if Claire can control them. But first she has to control her own abilities, and learn to believe in herself.

Excerpt:

Dragons sleep in the earth here.

I feel them. Sometimes I see them—in my head, in dreams, in the hunched shapes of mountains curled around the flattened bowls of the valleys.

They’re always there. I’m always aware of them, but sometimes the awareness sinks down deep, till I can almost forget them.

That day, for example, when I’d finally had enough of failing to make a living.

I don’t exactly live at the back of beyond, but a mile and a half of ranch road and a pair of dry washes can keep the worst of the city folk at bay. Unfortunately, my client was desperate. A phone consult wasn’t enough. She needed to see me in person. Now. Immediately.

She cruised past the long-empty horse pastures in a hot-pink limo, parked herself on my weather-worn deck, and brandished her fashion accessory.

Somewhere under the hot-pink dye was a teacup poodle. He knew exactly what he looked like, and he was not even remotely happy about it.

“Dorrie says you’re the best,” said the owner of the arm he was draped over. No human emotion could penetrate the Botox mask, but her voice had a raw edge. “I need the best. Bruno hasn’t been himself, and he won’t talk to anyone. He bit his masseuse. His astrologer says there’s no cosmic reason for him to be so difficult. Will you please ask him—”

I’d had a bad morning. One of the swamp coolers had died with a puff of smoke and a smell of something burnt and electrical, and it might be October but it was still ninety degrees in the afternoons. I needed that cooler.

I also needed this appointment, or there wouldn’t be any money to pay for the cooler repair. I braced myself to nod and look sympathetic and tell the client what she wanted to hear.

The dog under the pink fluff looked me in the eye.

There weren’t any words. There seldom are. I have to translate.

“He says,” I said, “that all that’s wrong with him is you. Dye him pink one more time, and he’ll bite you harder than he bit the feelgood-hands lady. He wants to be a dog. You want a handbag, he says, get one that’s dead already.”

When I snap and say exactly what the animal is saying to me, sometimes their captors start screaming. I got slapped once.

This one fixed me with a flat, hard stare. “Bruno loves me,” she said.

No, he doesn’t. I bit my tongue to keep from saying it aloud.

Bruno sank his teeth into her arm.

That shocked a shriek out of her. The limo driver had a first-aid kit and paramedic’s training, which was a good thing. Bruno had strong jaws for a tiny dog, and teeth like needles.

They roared off in a cloud of dust. I stood on my front step, with the heat already coming up, and my bank balance no happier than it had been before.

About the Author:
Judith Tarr has written historicals and historical fantasies and epic fantasies, contemporary fantasy and science fiction. She has won the Crawford Award, and been nominated for the World Fantasy Award. She lives near Tucson, Arizona with an assortment of cats, a blue-eyed spirit dog, and a herd of Lipizzan horses.


Kyra sez: Don’t miss out on Dragons in the Earth and a bunch of other great Weird Western books available at a great price from StoryBundle through Sept. 8. In the meantime, Fantasy Book Critic and Horror World are holding giveaways where you can win a free bundle! The giveaways run for a few more days, so don’t delay if you want to enter.

Finally, a roundup of links to features and interviews with the Weird Western StoryBundle authors can be found on bundle curator Blair MacGregor’s site, so be sure to check those out.


Guest Character Interview: Walt Starboard

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Continuing our look at the books and authors in the Weird Western StoryBundle, here’s author James Derry interviewing Walt from his western-science fiction novel Idyll. And he’s even brought with him a sketch he made of Walt! Take it away, James:

Walt Starboard is a settler on the planet Idyll. His ancestors travelled there in search of a simpler life, free from the dependence on technology that they believe crippled society—and the human spirit—on Earth.

Unfortunately, a mysterious syndrome of ‘contagious’ sleep has decimated the Idyll settlement, and now Walt has spent the last three years in quarantine with his brother Samuel and his bedridden mother on their lonesome ranch. Desperate to find a cure for their mother—and to find out what happened to their father—Walt and Samuel are finally venturing away from their homestead in search of answers.

1. What is your full name? Is there anything significant about your name?
Walt Cygnus Starboard. Yes, quite significant. When our forebears left Mother Earth, they gave up their traditional surnames and took on new last names based on the roles or their quarters on the starship Marathon. It was a 600-year trip that required a great deal of sacrifice. Relinquishing their surnames was more symbolic than anything, but it represented a break from the Terran way of doing things—and a new commitment to our cause. I’m just glad my ancestors didn’t live near Marathon’s poop deck! Ha ha. That’s a nautical joke. Marathon didn’t have a poop deck. Sorry, it’s a fairly serious topic.

2. How old are you?
I’m twenty-three.

3. Tell us about your family. What do you like and not like about them?
My father Josiah is… or was… the best rancher in Glenn County. After the Lullaby hit, he traveled to the heart of the Settlement to find out what was being done about it. But he hasn’t returned yet. That was three years ago. My uncle was a doctor, but he died. My mother was infected with the Lullaby, so I’ve been doing my best to care for her. My brother Samuel… he’s good with the animals.

4. Who was your first kiss, and what did you think of it?
A gentleman doesn’t talk about that. Trust me, I’ve had my share of female… interests… females who… Fine. I’ll level with you. In my youth, I focused on my studies. Then the Lullaby hit, and I’ve been living in quarantine for three years. If it wasn’t for the epidemic, I’m fairly confident I’d be married to a beautiful, charming lady by now.

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image copyright James Derry

5. What is your occupation?
I was training to be a county doctor. When I was young, I wanted to run the ranch. But I suppose that duty will fall to my brother. Or perhaps I could do both. It’s all moot at this point. Right now, we’re struggling to stay clothed and fed.6. What are your best and worst qualities?
I like to think I’m fairly intelligent. And disciplined. And neat. And cool and collected in a bad situation. And keen at shooting and riding. And admired by my peers. My brother says I talk too much, but he hardly talks at all.

7. What is your most treasured possession?
Uncle Warren’s pharm-garden. It grows the pharms that keep Mama alive, despite her coma. I don’t know what we would’ve done without that.

8. What is your greatest fear?
That my mother will die before we can find a cure for her. When my father left, he entrusted me (and Samuel) with caring for the ranch—and that included, in my mind, keeping Mama safe. She was infected on my watch, and now I have to do everything in my power to reverse that one moment of stupidity and neglect—and to make sure she doesn’t die from it.

It’s been three long years, taking care of her… feeding her, bathing her, treating pressure ulcers. Sometimes I wonder if she knows what’s happened to her. If she dreams of us. If she wishes that I’d let her die… Can I level with you again? Sometimes I’m not afraid of Mama dying. Sometimes I think my greatest fear is that my father will return, and he’ll see what we let happen to her.


To find out more, shop for Idyll as part of the Weird Western StoryBundle, available until September 8. Or check out author James Derry’s blog at james-derry.com.

Kyra sez: I’ve just started reading Idyll, and even though I’m only about 10% in so far, I’m hooked. Westerns and the challenges of settling a far distant planet just naturally seem to go together.


Weird Western Spotlight: Gemma Files

Gemma-FilesToday I’m happy to welcome Gemma Files, another of the authors in the Weird Western StoryBundle, here to introduce herself and her character Chess. First, let’s find out a little more about Gemma:

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in England, but have lived almost all of my life in Toronto, Canada (I say “almost” because, as should be obvious, I am currently still alive). My parents are both actors. I have a BAA in Magazine Journalism from Ryerson University, and a few years ago I was amused to note that almost everything technical I learned while getting it is now hopelessly obsolete. I spent roughly nine years working as a film critic, during which period I also taught screenwriting and film history at two different vocational schools. Other jobs I’ve held include security guard, essay-writer for hire and floor attendant at Lovecraft, Toronto’s most upscale sex shop.

2. When did you start writing, and why?
I’ve written throughout my life, but aside from placing a poem with Cricket Magazine when I was eleven, my professional writing career probably began when I was twenty-five—I was covering the publication of a new all-Canadian horror anthology called Northern Frights, let slip to the editor (Don Hutchison) that I also wrote scary stories, then sold him one for Northern Frights 2. That sale led to me writing “The Emperor’s Old Bones” for Northern Frights 4, the story for which I later won a 1999 International Horror Guild Best Short Fiction award, which in turn led to the publication of my first two short story collections (Kissing Carrion and The Worm in Every Heart). It’s been uphill ever since.

3. What drew you to writing weird westerns? What do you enjoy about it?
Okay, so: it’s 2009, and I’ve just spent a year being intensely depressed in the wake of my son’s Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis, which just so happened to coincide with me losing my primary teaching job. During this period, the only thing I’ve been able to write has been fanfiction, specifically for the James Mangold remake of 3:10 to Yuma, which means I’ve already done a lot of research on the post-Civil War era, making me fairly familiar with all the necessary western tropes and jargon. One day, I tally the word-count of everything I’ve written during the previous year and realize it comes to more than 100,000 words—enough for a novel! The next thing I know, I’m using my historical knowledge to hammer out the first seven chapters of what will become A Book of Tongues.  As luck would have it, meanwhile, 2009 is also the same year that Sandra Kasturi and Brett Savory formed ChiZine Publications, and started asking all their friends—me included—if we were working on books. So before I’d even finished writing the book, I already had a publication contract. Three books later, the Hexslinger series was finished, and I’d moved on to a whole new phase of my writing career.

4. What particular flavor of weird western is your book that’s in the Weird Western bundle?
The Hexslinger series takes place in an alternate version of of the wild west where people occasionally randomly “express” as natural magicians—hexes—whose powers often seem to be dictated by their skills, cultural backgrounds and/or personalities. Reverend Rook, for example, can literally preach magic—he quotes applicable Bible verses, which appear in the air around him, then bring about whatever he has in mind. For men this tends to happen during moments of extreme stress or pain, and for women, around adolescence; the reason hexes haven’t taken over the world as yet, however, is that they literally can’t work together, because their constant desire for more power drives them to suck magic out of each other like vampires. During his own expression, which happened while he was being hung for murder, the Rev was touched by a malign entity, Ixchel, who later revealed herself as a hex-ghost/dead goddess from Mictlan-Xibalba, the Mayan-Mexica underworld. She wants to bring back her pantheon, re-instituting a Blood Engine system in which power is paid for by human sacrifice, and what she offers for the Rev’s help in bringing this plan to fruition is to make it possible for hexes to cooperate without being driven to prey on each other…which is something the Rev will do almost anything to bring about, because he knows his lover Chess is a hex just waiting to happen.

5. What do you like about your characters?
Well, frankly…they’re all kind of terrible people: villains, monsters, anti-heroes at best. And those have always been the sort of characters I’ve found myself drawn to, possibly because they lend themselves best to the sort of blood-soaked high drama black magic gay porno horse opera A Book of Tongues and its sequels turned out to be. I guess that ever since I first saw Star Wars, complicated evil with hints of redemption has always been my aesthetic—I’m definitely a Sith, not a Jedi. Which isn’t to say there are no slightly less soiled characters at work here, but part of this project was always trying to turn the most familiar Western tropes inside out, and I like to think I’ve mainly managed to do that.

6. Where can we find out more about you and your books?
My pro site is http://musicatmidnight-gfiles.blogspot.ca/. I’m also on Twitter (@gemmafiles), Facebook and Tumblr.


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And now, Chess:

1. What is your main character’s full name? Is there anything significant about it?
The main character of the Hexslinger series—which starts with A Book of Tongues—is probably Chess Pargeter, around whom most of the action centres. He certainly has the most interesting character arc. As for something significant about his name, well…it turns out he doesn’t actually know his entire name, mainly because his mother never told him it was short for something else. He eventually finds out, but not ’til Book Three.

2. How old is he?
When A Book of Tongues starts, Chess can’t possibly be more than twenty-five years old—I think I had twenty-two somewhere in the back of my mind when I wrote it, probably because of that line from the Bo Diddley song “Who Do You Love?” (I’ve got a tombstone hand and a graveyard mind, I’m just twenty-two and I don’t mind dyin’)—though again, he’s not really sure, because he doesn’t know his own birthday. He’s pretty young, either way.

3. Tell us about his family. What does he like and not like about them?
Chess grew up without any idea of who his father is, mainly because his mother—“English” Oona Pargeter—is a low-rent San Francisco prostitute who’s far more interested in alcohol and opium than she is in her own son, aside from the section of his life where, having figured out he was gay, she tried her best to pimp him out to whoever was interested. Chess stole a gun from a Pinkerton agent and left home to join the Confederate army soon after. Though he says he doesn’t feel anything for her but contempt, I think he’s lying.

4. Who was his first kiss, and what did [he] think of it?
Chess uses sex to get a lot of what he wants and thinks of it mainly as a mode of exchange, since that’s how he was first introduced to the concept; he’s frankly far more embarrassed by emotional intimacy than by anything physical. That being said, I think the first kiss that meant anything to him probably came from Reverend Asher Rook, who he first met when Rook was serving as an army chaplain during the Civil War.

5. What is his occupation?
Chess is a former soldier turned outlaw, enthusiastic and fiercely loyal right-hand man to the Rev, who expressed as a “hex”—a natural magician—at the tail-end of the War, right in the midst of being hung for desertion and the murder of a superior officer, the latter charge being a crime Chess actually committed. Chess was the one who later suggested the Rev start robbing trains and stage-coaches in the first place, so it only makes sense he became the Rev’s lieutenant as well as his lover. He’s blissfully unaware that part of the Rev’s attraction to him comes from Chess also being a potential hex, though as yet unexpressed.

6. What are his best and worst qualities?
Chess is described at various points during A Book of Tongues as a “pocket-sized Satan,” a “wild boy” and an “unrepentant sodomite and murderer,” all of which is absolutely true. His best quality is probably his commitment to the Rev, but his total refusal to feel guilt over his own nature or actions had lead him into a whole lot of trouble over the years, not to mention taking its toll on those around him. He also holds grudges.

7. What is his favourite thing to do?
Clear even split between sex and shooting something, mostly, though he slowly begins to see the value of defending the weak against impossible odds, if only for the pleasure of spitting in some hellaciously more powerful being’s eye. A lot of what Chess does is dictated by sheer contrariness, which can be petty or weirdly admirable, depending on context.

8. What is his greatest fear?
Imprisonment. Being left behind.

9. What is his most treasured possession?
At the time of A Book of Tongues, Chess’s most treasured possessions would probably be either his guns—he wears two at all time, holsters slung cavalry-style for easy cross-drawing—or an ear-bob the Rev bought him, silver inlaid with turquoise, shaped like a Hospitaler cross. He doesn’t care much about anything else he owns, though he favours fast horses and natty clothes, often dressing all in purple just to piss people prejudiced against the “frilly” off with his sheer vicious sense of style.


Kyra sez: I haven’t gotten to Gemma’s book yet, but I’ll be sure to add my thoughts on it when I do. If you want to check it out for yourself along with a bunch of other great weird western books, the Weird Western StoryBundle is available now through Sept. 8.