Sunday, March 30, 2014

Book Spotlight: Horns by Joe Hill

Noswaith dda, Beardies!

The BBC would like to apologize for the next announcement.

'Tis I, Jessica, here with my first ever review on The Bearded Scribe, and I'm truly excited about it. I decided to start with one of my favorite stories because it's very easy for me to discuss. I picked up this book because I love Stephen King and, being bored and carrying around 50 cents, saw his son's book Horns at a Helping Hands store. It was about a week or so before I even opened this book. Frankly, it scared me. I don't like reading about anything dealing with the Devil except The Bible. Even then, I get shaky and uncomfortable. I started reading on a night my daughter—not even two at the time—was running a high fever and needed constant rocking. I was so exhausted, and my brain was fried, so I grabbed the first book I could reach and started reading. Well, I couldn't stop. She fell asleep around three in the morning but I couldn't stop. I rocked her all that early morning and most of the next day just reading with my mouth gaping at this beautiful, heartbreaking novel. I cried just as hard as my daughter had been by the time we finished up Joe Hill's Horns. Right now, as it happens, I'm up with my five year old who is sick. She's playing Final Fantasy V with her dad and watching me write.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Author Spotlight: Rick Chiantaretto—Complete with Interview (A Bearded Scribe Blog Tour)

About the Author:
I've often been accused of having done more in my life than the average person my age but if I were completely honest, I'd have to tell you my secret: I'm really 392.

So after all this time, I'm a pretty crappy writer.

I have two books published and a bunch half written (when you have eternity, where's the reason to rush?). I've been favorably reviewed by horror greats like Nancy Kilpatrick, and my how-to-write-horror articles have been quoted in scholarly (aka community college freshmen's) papers.

I enjoy the occasional Bloody Mary, although a Bloody Kathy or Susan will suffice.

Mostly, I just try to keep a low profile so people don't figure out who I REALLY am.

Connect with Rick Chiantaretto:

The Interview:
Autumn Jones: Which book introduced you to speculative fiction?
Rick Chiantaretto: Hi Autumn. Wow, you’re asking me to go back a very long time. I’m pretty sure the answer to that question would have to be The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree, but there are many I could name. I loved Roald Dahl’s The Witches and Matilda, and while he is known for being a children’s author, I found his books magical, with a touch of darkness. As I’m googling these titles now, I’m glad to see they are often included in speculative fiction categories!

Autumn Jones: Do you have an all-time favorite book? What about it makes it your favorite?
Rick Chiantaretto: The Forbidden Game by LJ Smith would have to be it. I have owned so many copies of this book. My sisters and I would read and re-read them until their pages would fall out, and then make our mom drive us to the nearest Barnes and Noble to pick up a new copy. Julian’s race, his love for humans, and that insanely awesome ending have influenced many of my characters and plotlines. I know it’s a YA novel, but I can still pick it up and fall into the world LJ Smith creates in this series, and feel like I’m at home.

If you want a “love conquers all” story, The Forbidden Game is unlike any other.

Autumn Jones: Your main characters had distinct personalities and traits. Are they pieces of you? Were there any actual events or people that inspired any bit of the plot or characters in Death of the Body?
Rick Chiantaretto: I learned from my first novel, Façade of Shadows (now out of print), to not base characters on people you know. My editor for that book often circled entire scenes in red with the notation: “Characterization. YOU know why this person did such-and-such, but don’t forget your readers DON’T.”

Character motivation, because of my experience with that editor, became a big thing for me. I find that basing characters off real life people results in a flat character, because you don’t have to examine and pick apart the character’s flaws and virtues (or, if you do, that person ends up pretty angry with you at the end of the day!).

That said, all of my characters have traits I wish I had. I wish I had Nicholas’s confidence (and body! Ha). I wish I had Edmund’s wit, curiosity, and insider knowledge. I wish I had Xia’s loyalty and fierce ability to love without condition. I wish I had Linda Rose’s darkness… oh wait… maybe I do!

The actual story and plot was derived from two dreams that were so vivid and fit together so perfectly I couldn’t help but write them down (although I probably wouldn’t have needed to. I can still remember them clearly). I think Book Two will have a lot more of that ethereal dream/reality feel as we visit some of the other levels (hint hint).

Autumn Jones: After devouring Death of the Body, I pictured you locked away in a dark room, listening to Gregorian chants, and furiously scribing the next book onto a yellow legal pad for some reason. Instead of letting my overactive imagine run wild, tell me about your writing process.
Rick Chiantaretto: How did you know!? I have the monk robe and everything! And just to answer the question I know everyone is asking: Yes, I am naked under there…

Okay, okay. Actually, I tend to prefer to write in silence, but if I do have any music on, it’s usually Native American flutes (which I feel would bring in the same sort of feel as Gregorian chants).

I usually also write at night, and love to write while traveling (that airplane engine hum is the perfect static white-noise, but I’ve found I have a hard time writing in a car).

Usually I’ll just sit in the dark a bit, until the shadows start to take on a life of their own.

Remember that fog scene? I wrote that at 2 in the morning, and when I looked up and caught my own reflection in the glass of a nearby window, my heart skipped a beat. It was completely dark except my white face, illuminated in the glass because of the light of my laptop screen. That became the inspiration for the look of the “other people” who meet Edmund in the fog… translucent… backlit… hollow. You know what I’m talking about ;)

Autumn Jones: Did you initially set out to write a trilogy or was it something that evolved during the writing process?
Rick Chiantaretto: Oh this is funny. I actually had it planned as a series of seven (one book for each level). I think the readers will appreciate that I won’t draw it out that long, ha!

Seven was a little more than I wanted to bite off, especially if it turned out no one liked the series. I didn’t want to get stuck writing 7 whole books for three psycho crazy readers who might actually kill me or lock me in a room (you’ve read Misery, right?) if I had to abandon the project.

But a trilogy ended up working out. I had already planned how to access the 7 levels… and it was with the Three Deaths (Body, Spirit, Soul). So now, instead of writing one book per level, I’ll write one book per death. It was a good compromise, and it FEELS right. I wanted Death to be the star of the book anyway, so it ended up making better sense to lay out the books this way.

Autumn Jones: If there were 7 levels of existence (and I’m not saying there isn’t for the record), which one would you chose to live in/on and why?
Rick Chiantaretto: I’m super excited for Book Two, because I think the level of the spirit, the energumen’s realm, really resonates with me. It’s a dark place, filled with strangeness and magic that is very different, very cool, and very wicked.

It’s also a place that is completely from my waking imagination (it wasn’t inspired by the dream that the book is based on, but is the part that I had to create consciously to fill in the missing pieces that made sense in the dream but not in the waking world. I guess you could say that the dream came from my imagination anyway, but I don’t look at it that way, oddly enough).

I think it’s pretty cool that the most solid, urban, and realistic pieces of the book came from a dream, while the most dreamlike and ethereal pieces came from my waking mind.

Autumn Jones: What’s the best advice you could offer someone who’s looking to become a writer and publish their work?
Rick Chiantaretto: I love this question, and it is the answer that I got sitting at a table not 3 months before Death of the Body went to print: Publish now.

If you have a finished manuscript, what are you waiting for? Don’t wait for the big publishing contract that will offer you millions of dollars and movie rights. Those contracts are going to authors who already have a following, who were successful with a smaller press or in the indie market. Only a tiny tiny fraction of people get the opportunity to work with a big press without proving themselves FIRST.

And, you’re losing out on money, sales, and readers.

It is so easy to publish your work. Check out Kindle Direct Publishing and Createspace, sign up for accounts, and get yourself out there.

Stop holding back. Let the readers decide if your work is “good enough.” Stop judging it yourself (‘cause it will never be good enough for you).

Go. Publish. Now. (But hire a good editor).

Autumn Jones: What project(s) are you working on at the moment? And any sneak peeks into what’s going happen in Book 2 and/or 3 that you're willing to share?
Rick Chiantaretto: I am working on Death of the Spirit (Crossing Death #2). After that I’ll start Book 3, and then I have quite a few other projects planned, but don’t know in which order I’ll write the other projects. I have sort of my “quintessential” haunted house story bouncing around in my brain (which will probably be the first book written after the series), as well as an urban fairytale story about a female detective whose friends and family start dying around her in fairytale fashion.

As for peeks into Book 2, I think I’ve already shared plenty (probably too much!).

Autumn Jones: What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?
Rick Chiantaretto: You know what? I get people commenting all the time on the relationship between Edmund and Xia. I’ve had reviews and emails that say things like “Well, that relationship was pointless,” and “I won’t read the rest of the series because it’s OBVIOUS they won’t end up together” (emphasis mine).

I’m a little surprised no one bothers asking any questions around that subject, so I’ll answer a couple of those for you.

First: If you’re mad at me for that relationship, be prepared to be even more mad by the end of Death of the Spirit.

Second: Yes, the relationship is important. In fact, it is central and core to the story.

Third: Just because you can’t see HOW something will work out, doesn’t mean it WON’T, although maybe in a way that is different… maybe Edmund and Xia’s “happily ever after” isn’t typical (is there ANYTHING normal about the Crossing Death series?).

Four: Trust me, and stick with me. The ending… you, relationship doubters, will want to get there.

Autumn Jones: Seriously though, when will you be back in Utah so we can get together, eat a Café Rio salad (or burrito, whatever), drink some Jack Mormon coffee and have you tell me what the heck is going to happen to Edmund?
Rick Chiantaretto: I’m so mad I didn’t know you were in Utah before this! I think my mom would kill me if I didn’t come home around Christmas time. While I can’t promise with absolute certainty, there is a good chance I’ll be around in December.

I can’t wait to have coffee with you! I’ll bring Edmund so you can ask him some questions. But a word to the wise: be careful which spoon you choose to stir in your cream and sugar; something about that makes Edmund a little sensitive.

The Interviewer:

There was once a girl named Autumn Jones. She was born on Easter Sunday in a tiny, shoreline town in Michigan. Autumn’s formative years were spent in and around the greater Grand Rapids, Michigan area. With a father in radio broadcasting and a former 4th grade teacher for a mother, communication and reading were a way of life. Books were not only a fun, free adventure, but a great way to learn about the world outside of small-town, Michigan, too.

After graduating from high school, Autumn ventured out west to Utah where she found wide open spaces, new faces and room to make her big mistakes. She worked for a year to establish residency and then attended Utah Valley State College (now Utah Valley University). After two years there, she transferred to the University of Utah where she graduated with a degree in Political Science and Communications. Autumn was planning an adventure to law school when she met the love of her life and decided to follow a different path that included marriage, government work, and having 3 children in 3 years.

Having once aspired to be the next great American author, these days Autumn’s favorite form of writing involves limited characters in social-media formats. Her sarcastic take on daily life as a mother and government employee is a creative exercise that keeps life exciting. During much of her late teens and early twenties the majority of her reading included books like Methods and Models: A Guide to the Empirical Analysis of Formal Models in Political Science. After having her first baby, her book log was full of things like In a People House. These days, she is reading anything she can get her hands on—from trashy novels like 50 Shades of Grey to YA Dystopian series like The Hunger Games. Autumn has a varied love of literature. Stories that entertain, provoke thought, and transport her to another location are a criteria these days.

When she’s not at work managing the office affairs of a child advocacy center (Employee of the Month, March 2010), driving carpool, and running a busy household, Autumn can be found curled up with her Kindle and surrounded by half a dozen books in various stages of read. Autumn is an avid fan of dramatic, prime-time television shows, musical theater, overpriced coffee, and sushi.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Book Spotlight: The Orphan & the Thief by ML LeGette (An 'I Am A Reader Not A Writer' Tour)

orphan tour

Cheers, Beardies!

There are few books that have stumbled into my inbox that make me think, "Damn! That's a great title!" The Orphan and the Thief was one of these and, upon seeing its marvelously creative and beautiful cover, I knew I had to read its premise. But don't worry, Beardies—while I love outstanding covers and think they really enhance a book's appeal (after all, why put a cover on them at all if not to entice?), I do not judge a book by its cover. If anything, I judge a cover by its book. (Some covers really do their book little service, no?)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Book Spotlight: Too, Too Solid Flesh by Nick O'Donohoe

Guten tag, Beardies!

I'm back!

Sorry I was gone so long, Beardies. I promise I wasn't just slacking off in my pajamas! Aside from the typical student shtuff, I've been working on rebuilding my blog and just launched the first episode of my online serial story with Zombie Pop—The Zombvenger!. Take a dash of zombie tropes, add some superhero shenanigans, mix with high-camp adventure, and you get Zombvenger!

Enough about me, though. We're here for the books.

It's like Nick O'Donohoe read my mind with Too, Too Solid Flesh. I saw this book at my favourite used book store in Regina, and I had to have it. As many reviewers have said, "It's robots and Shakespeare! Why not?"

But that's not why I chose to spotlight it. I've been noticing a lot of books that are based in someone else's universe, or with someone else's characters, especially with elements of the Sherlock Holmes mythos entering the public domain. As a fanfiction writer, I really don't have an ethical problem with this. But there are ways to write in someone else's universe that truly stand out from the crowd, and this book is one of them. I thought it was important to spotlight this book for this reason.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Book Blast: Circles in the Stream (Avalon: Web of Magic # 1) by Rachel Roberts (An 'I Am A Reader Not A Writer' Tour)

Circles in the Stream (Avalon: Web of Magic #1)
Three very different young teens, Emily, the shy one, Adriane, the outsider, and Kara, the power shopper, are all drawn to a secret place deep in the woods where they discover a portal to another world. Wondrous animals have emerged from the portal, desperately seeking the magic that will keep them alive. Though the animals are peaceful and good, what follows them through the portal is twisted and evil and bent on destroying them all.

The Fairimentals have chosen these three fourteen-year-olds to protect the magical animals. To save them and their world, the girls must overcome their differences and band together. They begin a perilous quest to discover Avalon, the lost, legendary home of magic, little knowing the terrible dangers they will face along the way.

Author Rachel Roberts
Avalon authorRachel Roberts adores magic, adventure, animals, and music. Rachel is an devoted campaigner with animal rights and protection of wild places organizations. Rachel’s has been reading ever since she could first carry a book and enjoys getting lost in a fantastic story. Rachel has been a writer as well as a editor her entire career. Rachel says the majority of concepts for her stories and characters appear on lengthy hikes. She brings a little notepad, just for jotting down thoughts. Afterward at her house Rachel builds on the ideas together with feline friends, Attila and Raider. She also is in love with music, playing the piano, flute, as well as learning to play guitar.

Avalon: Web of Magic is Rachel’s very first series of novels.

You can earn magical badges and win amazing prizes like signed posters, t-shirts, bracelets and plushies of your fav Avalon animals by:
a. Signing up (email is used only to notify you if you are a winner)
b. Uploading pics of your bonded animals to Emily’s Pet Palace
c. Comment and Rate other Mages’ pics and invite your friends to join.
The more you upload and participate, the more badges you earn.
Complete your collection by finding the final two rare Avalon badges for a chance to win the special grand prize of a Kindle Fire!
Sign Up here

book blast button

Blast Giveaway

$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 4/2/14

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Book Spotlight: Death of the Body (Crossing Death, Book 1) by Rick Chiantaretto (A Bearded Scribe Blog Tour)

Good Day, Beardies!

I was driving home from work the other day, rocking out to a little Bruno Mars on the local radio station. All of the sudden, the music turned to static and, in what seemed like incredibly slow motion, a car pulled out in front of me to turn left but stopped in my lane. I was driving the speed limit, which was 50 MPH for this particular strip of road, and all I could picture in my head was me T-boning this car. As I was slamming on my brakes and swearing under my breath, the car realized I was about to plow into him and he moved out of my lane, continuing on his way. The music came back on shortly thereafter, and I continued down the road toward my house. Normally, I would consider this an average daily commute, but after reading today's Spotlight, Beardies, I was freaking out. I'm still not fully convinced demons weren't somehow involved in this situation. Anyway, you guys, I cannot rave enough about this book! Let's get to it, shall we?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Author Spotlight: Ellie Di Julio—Complete with Interview (A Bearded Scribe Blog Tour)

About the Author:
Ellie Di Julio is a nomadic writer currently living in Hamilton, Ontario with her Robert Downey, Jr. lookalike husband and their three cats. Between nerd activities like playing Dungeons & Dragons or watching Top Gear, she enthusiastically destroys the kitchen and tries to figure out what it's all about, when you really get down to it. She also writes urban fantasy novels riddled with pop culture references and sexy secret agents.

Her first novel, Inkchanger, could easily be considered Forgotten Relics #0, and as such, rewards readers of the rest of the series, sort of like watching Thor before The Avengers. Her second novel, Time & Again with Kyeli Smith, has nothing to do with super powers or secret agents but is very cool nonetheless.

Connect with Ellie Di Julio

The Interview:
Joshua Allen Mercier: Which book introduced you to speculative fiction?
Ellie Di Julio: I actually didn’t know what it was until I’d published one and drafted another. The definition seemed so vague, and everyone talking about it seemed to already know. I felt a little left out. Reaching back, though, knowing that it’s basically any fantastical fiction and includes SFF, I’d have to tap Goosebumps as my first spec-fic. RL Stine 4 lyfe.

Joshua Allen Mercier: Do you have an all-time favorite book? What about it makes it your favorite?
Ellie Di Julio: *groans* I’m so bad at this question! And once you start writing books, people ask it all the time. If I’m defining “favorite” as the book I’ve re-read the most often, then let’s go with Night Watch by Terry Pratchett. I cry every time, and Vimes is my spirit animal.

Joshua Allen Mercier: Which author and/or book inspired you to start writing?
Ellie Di Julio: Hard to pin down. I grew up with a librarian dad and English teacher mom, so literacy was always important in our house; I have a rare distinct memory from childhood of “writing” my own books in blank ones Mom would bring home from school. As an adult, though, I will always point to Francesca Lia Block (fairytale magical realism) and Terry Pratchett (humorous worldbuilding). They’re the two authors that consistently inspire me to keep writing, if only so I can meet them in person one day.

Joshua Allen Mercier: What would you say is the most important lesson all writers should learn?
Ellie Di Julio: Get it out. You can edit a shitty page, but you can’t edit a blank one, you know? I get so many folks telling me they “want to write a book” and then follow it up with excuses. The best thing you can do for your writing—and your sanity—is to wordvomit it all out, then start cleaning it up. Butt in seat.

Joshua Allen Mercier: As an aspiring Fantasy author trying to shop his first manuscript, could you tell me what made you choose to self publish?
Ellie Di Julio: Impatience and control issues? Well, that’s certainly part of it, but I do legitimately believe in self-pub as the next expansion of the industry, and I want to be part of it. It’s not that I’m too proud/cowardly to shop a manuscript (though fear is in there somewhere); it’s much more that I love the idea that authors can put out the story they want to tell without a lot of gatekeepers and naysayers. The caveat, of course, is a lot of dreck is self-pubbed, but I’ve read some incredible work (like that of LeighAnn Kopans and Johnny B. Truant) from this new avenue, which bolsters my faith in the medium.

Joshua Allen Mercier: Of the entire publishing process, what would you say is the most difficult aspect to endure?
Ellie Di Julio: I’m getting better at taking critiques, which is almost always the top of any writer’s list. You should’ve seen me when I got the beta reads for Inkchanger, oh god. Now that I’ve built up a (somewhat) thicker skin, though, the number one most difficult thing I have to endure is cash shortage. There isn’t much money in self-pub at my stage of the game, and things like artwork, editing, and promotion have price tags. I’m much more likely to have a meltdown because I can’t afford pay someone to work their magic than I am to lose it about a bad review. Having to constantly make concessions and half-ass or forego aspects of professional publishing is heartbreaking.

Joshua Allen Mercier: Was there a specific place (or combination of places) that inspired the description of Cora's dream house?
Ellie Di Julio: It’s essentially an amalgamation of the houses I lived in during my college years, plus the little comforts I’d want in my own someday-house. Who doesn’t want a slick kitchen, a book-lined living room, and a dedicated art space?

Joshua Allen Mercier: Do you have a favorite character (to write) from your series? If so, what sets them apart the others?
Ellie Di Julio: While Cora is lots of fun and is drawn heavily from myself, Jack is my secret favorite child. He’s broken but trying to heal, which gives him a lot of depth. At the same time, he has a wild-child past and a white-knight complex. There’s a lot to dig into.

Joshua Allen Mercier: What project(s) are you working on at the moment?
Ellie Di Julio: I’m eyeball-deep in wrapping the first (incredibly awful) draft of Forgotten Relics #2, as well as working on the monthly flash fiction for the newsletter crew. I’ve had a few collaborations floated out to me, but I’d rather not speculate on that until there’s something to actually say. Also, I’m toying with writing a serial based on the adventures of my parents in high school. There’s wedding-dress-wearing teens in graveyards with skulls, y’all.

Joshua Allen Mercier: You've collaborated on another title with Kyeli Smith. How did the two of you meet, and what was the collaboration process like for you?
Ellie Di Julio: Oh, geez. So, Kyeli and I met when we were both still working as life coaches (I know, I know). I was stalking her all over the internet, and vice versa, and we got to be online friends, then I made the trip down to Austin to hang out in person in 2011. We instantly bonded. Calls every other week, SXSW visits, inside jokes – the lot. Then after I’d published Inkchanger in 2012, she came to me to ask if I’d help her finish a NaNoWriMo book from three years before. A car accident had ruined her shoulders, arms, and hands, so she couldn’t type; she had basically a 30 page outline, but she needed someone to collaborate with to get the book done. I love Kyeli, and the story was fascinating to me, so of course I said yes.

Collaboration isn’t something that comes naturally to me, especially in creative projects, because I have an overdeveloped sense of control. But because Kyeli and I have such good communication skills, it went much smoother than I anticipated. We had a few back and forth conversations to annotate the outline and discuss creative direction, then I wrote the entire draft myself. She got a pass at changes, I took another, she got the final, then viola! It took us about three months. The entire experience changed my perspective of collaborating with other authors, and Kyeli is over the moon to have Time & Again whole and out in the world.

Joshua Allen Mercier: I'm not sure of the topic or in what capacity, but would you consider writing a guest post on The Bearded Scribe at some point?
Ellie Di Julio: But of course!

Joshua Allen Mercier: How do you take your coffee?
Ellie Di Julio: Ice cold (but no ice), full of cream and sugar. I realize this is coffee blasphemy, and I care not.

Joshua Allen Mercier: As a coffee addict, the fact that you drink coffee—regardless of how bastardized—is a plus in my book. (Makes it seem as though I keep a book of coffee drinkers, no? Perhaps I do, perhaps I don't. Mwahahaha!) Anywho...What's your favorite color?
Ellie Di Julio: Blue. No, green! *is flung off the bridge*

Joshua Allen Mercier: Is there anything else that you would like to share with The Bearded Scribe's readers that I did not ask you (and you wished I had)?
Ellie Di Julio: I’m sorry, I can’t hear you—I’ve been flung off the bridge.

The Interviewer:
Joshua Allen Mercier is the Founder and Executive Editor of The Bearded Scribe, a blog dedicated to the broad genre of speculative fiction. He is a writer, a coffee addict, a self-confessed linguaphile and philologist, a proud bibliophile, and an unrepentant Grammar Nazi. He is also a professional mixologist (a darn good one, thank you very much!) with over twelve years of cocktail-slinging experience.

Joshua is currently working on two manuscripts simultaneously: half his time is spent doing the re-edits of his first manuscript, The Assassin of Aldarhaij (The Aesiranyn Saga), and the other half is spent dabbling with an untitled book of a new Urban Fantasy series.

When he is not working on the blog or writing, he enjoys singing, cooking, and spending time with his family. Joshua lives in the Atlanta area with his partner, Jeremiah, and their two chihuahuas, Bailey and Chanel.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Book Spotlight: Visible (Ripple Series, Book 4) by Cidney Swanson

Salut, Beardies!

Although I’ve never been an athlete, I’m a lifelong lover of Olympic sports. Every Olympic year, I seem to fall in love with some new sport in which I’ll never be able to actually participate, and follow it with rapt attention…until I get distracted by a book. Such was the case a couple of weeks back, when a new email pinged into my inbox just as I was starting to decide that I should abandon all other pursuits and take up slopestyle snowboarding.

But who needs a snowboard when you have a book? The email that distracted me contained news of our pal Cidney Swanson’s return to the world of the Ripple Series, and that news drove the Olympic dreams right out of my head! No sooner was the book safely on my Kindle than snowboarding was forgotten—no doubt saving me much humiliation and a hundred broken bones, not to mention a fortune in hospital bills—and today’s Book Spotlight was born.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Book Spotlight: The Transmigration of Cora Riley (A Forgotten Relics Novel, Book One) by Ellie Di Julio (A Bearded Scribe Blog Tour)

Bonjour, Beardies!

When Ellie Di Julio approached me about a blog tour to promote her title, The Transmigration of Cora Riley, I was drawn in by the amazing cover. Yeah, yeah... I know you should never judge a book by one, but it captivated me to read the premise, and I was sold. Magic, a soul-searching quest, and a trip to the Underworld; what could be better?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Book Blast: The Boxcar Baby

Boxcar Baby

The Boxcar Baby by J.L. Mulvihill

Born in a boxcar on a train bound for Georgia. At least that is what Papa Steel always told AB'Gale. But now, fifteen years later, the man who adopted and raised her as his own is missing and it's up to AB'Gale to find him. Aided only by a motley gang of friends, AB'Gale train hops her way across the United States in a desperate attempt to find her papa and put her life and family back the way it was. Her only guide is a map given to her by a mysterious hobo, with hand written clues she found hidden in her papa's spyglass. Here is the Great American Adventure in an alternate steampunk dystopian world, where fifteen-year-old AB'Gale Steel learns that nothing is as it seems, but instead is shrouded in secrets and mysteries ... and that monsters come in all shapes and forms.
The Boxcar Baby is the first book of the Steel Roots series.

Praise for The Boxcar Baby

“Miss AB’Gale Steel, is a pure spitfire girl, full of strong-minded grit, who draws strength out of adversity, and endures hardship by bracing herself against self-pity.” – Jorie Loves a Story
“One thing I really loved about this one was it was fast paced and moved quickly. Mulvihill did an amazing job making realistic characters.” – Bee’s Knees Reviews
“J.L. Mulvihill is quite a talented writer and I think she has such a creative mind to come up with this Steampunk Southern American Adventure.” – Book and Movie Dimension
The Boxcar Baby Excerpt

I have always loved the sound of the train whistle, especially when I hear it from far away; the moaning echo across the valley gives it a sorrowful sound like a Piper bird calling for its mate. Sometimes I can imagine the sound is a mournful spirit seeking its long lost love. Sad as it may sound, it calms me when I hear it at night and lulls me to sleep, or wakes me peacefully in the early morning. Every two weeks when I hear the train, I know it’s time for Papa to come home. But one morning about five weeks ago, Papa didn’t come home.

I’m pretty sure my Granny is going to ask me to go to New Joplan to look for Papa. I don’t really mind going to New Joplan, the city is way jigin’, but I’ve never gone to the city alone before, and I’m sure there’s creepers there. Of course Granny will have it all worked out for me to stay with a friend of hers, but I will still have to go it alone. I need to go, though, because I have to find out what happened to my Papa. We ain’t heard from him or the railroad since Papa left for work last; he usually works a few weeks on and a couple weeks off, but this time he’s been gone longer than ever.

If Papa doesn’t come back, I can’t say what will happen to Granny and me. Granny and I waited four weeks for Papa but when he still hadn’t come home we got worried. Granny decided maybe we should go on into Jasper and sell the eggs and milk like we usually do when Papa comes home. So we hitched up the ponies and loaded the cart up and head into town.

AuthorAuthor J.L. Mulvihill: Born in Hollywood and raised in San Diego, CA, J.L. Mulvihill has made Mississippi her home for the past fifteen years. Her debut novel was the young adult title The Lost Daughter of Easa, an engaing fantasy novel bordering on science-fiction with a dash of steampunk, published through Kerlak Publishing. The Boxcar Baby, the first novel of her Steel Roots Series, was released by Seventh Star Press in the summer of 2013.

J.L. also has several short fiction pieces in publication, among them "Chilled Meat", a steampunk thriller found in the Dreams of Steam II-Of Bolts and Brass, anthology (Kerlak Publishing) and "The Leprechaun’s Story", a steampunk urban Fantasy found in the anthology, Clockwork, Spells, & Magical Bells (Kerlak Publishing)

J.L. is very active with the writing community, and is the events coordinator for the Mississippi Chapter of Imagicopter known as the Magnolia-Tower. She is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Gulf Coast Writers Association (GCWA), The Mississippi Writers Guild (MWG), as well as the Arts Council of Clinton, and the Clinton Ink-Slingers Writing Group.

BookBlast Giveaway

$100 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 3/31/14

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Book Blast (with Excerpt): Death of the Body (Crossing Death, Book 1) by Rick Chiantaretto (A Bearded Scribe Blog Tour)

I grew up in a world of magic. By the time I was ten I understood nature, talked to the trees, and listened to the wind. When the kingdom of men conquered my town, I was murdered by one of my own—the betrayer of my kind. But I didn't stay dead.

I woke to find myself in a strange new world called Los Angeles. The only keys to the life I remembered were my father’s ring, my unique abilities, and the onslaught of demons that seemed hell-bent on finding me. Now I must learn who I really am, protect my friends, get the girl, and find my way back to my beloved hometown of Orenda.

I watched in disbelief as blood seeped through my fingers and dripped, thick as syrup, to the ground. I heard each drop thud against the ground beneath me. The echo in my ears beat louder than any drum. For the first time in my ten years of life, I cursed the connection I had with the planet. I cursed it for its betrayal. I cursed it because, with every drop of blood that spilled, the planet felt my pain and mimicked my screams with its own bleating sound that bounced around inside my already spinning head.

My legs were weak and my knees buckled but I didn’t dare let my hands loosen from around the wound in my stomach. I caught the weight of my fall with my face. I rolled onto my side in order to breathe. Pain surged as the ragged edges of my wound rubbed together. I felt every last severed nerve. They were all on fire.

Blood poured quickly. Worse than seeing it, I could feel it, hot and sticky in a pool beneath me. My stomach retched but it would hurt to throw up so I tried to force down the feeling. Bile came up anyway. I turned my head and choked it out. The rusty taste left in my mouth was so sour it made my eyes water. I cried uncontrollably, feeling ashamed of myself.

I wished for the comfort of my mother and father. I longed for the company of my two best friends. It was ironic that I’d just had a conversation about death with them a day ago.

As I lay sobbing on the ground, the thought that I was going to die became more and more real. Already my blood was soaking back into the earth that I loved so much. I thought of the lessons that taught me not to fear death. I had been taught that death was a return to the larger conscious mind that is nature. This awareness made my people who they were and gave us our unique gifts.

I was afraid anyway. The thought of dying was much more terrifying now than when it was taught to me by the Elders.

The Elders. The Elders who were either dead or enslaved. The Elder who betrayed us all and who did this to me.

Rage: pure, blazing, and blinding in its fury. I was too enraged to even notice that I could feel anything besides pain. Rage boiled inside me as blood boiled from my stomach and I realized it was based in two other emotions: hate and disbelief.

Then something cold and wet hit me between the eyes. I rolled onto my back and stared into the dark and threatening clouds. Another something hit the back of my hand, and I lifted it (was my arm always this heavy?). A drop of rain mingled with my blood.

I had never experienced rain before. It never rained here—at least not in my lifetime. Rain was for when the world was angry, when its powers had been abused and the balance of life had been disrupted.

But wasn’t I angry? And wasn’t I connected to the planet? Didn’t I understand its moods and feelings? Why wouldn’t it then understand me? In my delirium this seemed to make sense, and the large flash of lightning that then split the sky seemed to confirm my thoughts. The flash was blinding, and I didn’t have enough energy to be startled by the fact that my vision remained nothing but the same bright white light.

I shivered as cold crept into me; it didn’t help that I was lying in a chilling pool of blood. The rain picked up. I was nearly soaked through, but was too weak and numb to move. At least the pain was starting to slip away. I could only imagine how blue my fingertips must have looked. They felt like ice.

After the pain was gone, the fear began to fade. All the tension in my body went with it. Cold as I was, I started to feel strangely comfortable. I could feel the earth beneath me, supporting me, soft and gentle. My mom used to hold me like this.

When I realized the rage was slipping, I cried out. I wanted to keep it alive within me. I wanted to be angry and upset. I wanted to be angry because feeling an emotion—any emotion—was better than accepting death.

As the rage faded further, I thought I heard distant laughter. How could anyone be happy now? How could they laugh as I lay here, a mangled mess? It took me a minute to remember that just because the earth could feel my pain didn’t mean everyone else could too—especially not the outsiders.

Their voices were getting louder and nearer. When they suddenly stopped, I heard a gasp. Mustering the last of my strength, I reached toward the voices.

“Please,” I tried to say, but it came out as barely more than a groan.

“Get a doctor!” a woman’s voice commanded. I felt slight vibrations through the earth as somebody ran away. The woman who spoke came over and kneeled next to me. I wasn’t too far gone to feel surprise. I imagined I was a frightening sight. I expected her to keep her distance, so my eyes widened when she took my hand in hers. She was warm, but trembling.

“What did this to you, child?” Her voice shook but was full of compassion and concern.

“Magic.” I couldn’t tell if I actually said the word or just thought it.

As I repeated the word over and over in my mind, the rage dissipated and the light began to dim. A part of me was upset that I’d let the rage go but I was too exhausted to call it back. I welcomed the darkness now. The woman at my side was saying something but her words made no sense to me. Far easier to hear was the heartbeat of the earth. I wanted to soothe the earth’s tremors caused by the pain and fear it felt for me, but I couldn’t. As my breathing slowed, memories of the past day flashed into my mind. They were of the events that led up to my death, when all this started. It seemed like a lifetime ago. Who would have known it would only be one long day that would lead me here, lying on the ground, spilling blood?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

New Project Manager

Hello Beardies,

Passion, dedication, and hard work often go unnoticed and under-appreciated in everyday life, but such is not the case on The Bearded Scribe.  Since its inception a little over two years ago, our blog has grown, matured, and its scope and focus widened.  With its ever-growing scope, however, so grows the demands of its dedicated and busy Executive Editor—yep, that's me!

Shortly after its founding, I could no longer ignore the insight and passion of Ms. Elizabeth Norton, one of the blog's biggest fans and heralders, and so I asked her to join the team. Not much longer after that, Beardies, I had to acknowledge Elizabeth's dedication, passion, and hard work by asking her to join the Editorial Staff as my Assistant Editor.  I'm honored that she accepted.

The time has come, yet again, to acknowledge the hard work and passion of another dedicated Contributor, and today I have an exciting announcement—exciting for me, and hopefully for the subject of this post.  After weeks of planning (and still more to come), the Editorial staff has grown.  Our very own Autumn Jones has agreed to take on the title of Project Manager.  She will be working closely with Elizabeth and me, helping to organize the various tours featured on the blog.

I hope you all will join me in thanking and congratulating her! :)

And, in the meantime, you can learn more about our very own Autumn Jones in our quaint-but-insightful interview below.

One-on-One with Project Manager Autumn Jones...

Joshua Mercier: When did your love affair with books begin?
Autumn Jones: My earliest memories involve books and reading so I guess you can say I have always loved books. There are so many photos of me as a small child surrounded with books, someone reading to me, or me curled up with my nose in a book. I’m eternally grateful to my parents and elementary school teachers who encouraged and shared their love of reading with me.

Autumn's Grandmother reading The Big Red Apple to her.
Joshua Mercier: Which Speculative Fiction title was the one that got you hooked to the genre?
Autumn Jones: It’s a toss-up between The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or A Wrinkle In Time. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the first book I remember reading multiple times, so if I had to pick one, I guess that’s the winner.

Joshua Mercier: Do you have an absolute favorite speculative book?
Autumn Jones: That’s kind of like asking me which of my children is my favorite. I also have a hard time hammering down a favorite because it seems to be changing all the time. Currently, I’m digging The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer.

Joshua Mercier: An absolute favorite non-speculative title?
Autumn Jones: Again with the favoritism?! Hmmm. Either The Great Gatsby or To Kill A Mockingbird.

Joshua Mercier: A favorite author?
Autumn Jones: John Steinbeck. Jane Austen. Beverly Cleary. Stephen King.

Joshua Mercier: I've met one of the four of the above—as a Maine-iac, can you guess which? LOL!
Anywho... The Bearded Scribe is all about Speculative Fiction, which encompasses several sub-genres. Which sub-genre(s), would you say, are your favorite(s) to read?
Autumn Jones: Dystopian, hands down, is my favorite. I also really enjoy urban, dark and epic fantasy. I especially enjoy those genres when they are in a YA book.

Joshua Mercier: I know you're a television & movie fan, too. What are some of your favorite speculative shows and movies?
Autumn Jones: I’m a huge TV junkie. In my teenaged years I loved The X-Files. I watched Lost from the very beginning all the way to the disappointing ending. I may or may not also have a strange obsession with Twin Peaks and Quantum Leap. As far as movies, I’m borderline ashamed to say, I watch Minority Report on a regular basis.

Joshua Mercier: Nothing wrong with Minority Report. And I, too, am an X-Filephile.  (I should trademark that nickname!)  Besides reading and film, what are some of your other hobbies?
Autumn Jones: I love to cook and enjoy experimenting with new foods and flavors. I’m also pretty crafty. Maybe I should have just said Pinterest is my hobby.

Joshua Mercier: I know you're a voracious reader...I'm curious—are you are writer, too?
Autumn Jones: If you count mommy blogging for a few years and keeping a journal then, yes. Otherwise I’m just a big wanna-be who jots down ideas but never follows through. If I were to be a writer I’d want to write my semi-fictional, autobiography (because one should never let the truth get in the way of a good story). The working title is, How Working for the Government Ruined My Life and Other Happy Tales.

Joshua Mercier: If you could have dinner with three people—dead, alive, or any combination—who would you choose and why?
Autumn Jones: What will be served at this dinner? That would be helpful to know when picking. I will just assume you can pick between beef, chicken or fish, like a classy wedding. Um...Lee Harvey Oswald because I NEED to know if he was the one who killed Kennedy or if there were others involved. Former President Gerald R. Ford because I want to know about the whole Nixon pardon thing and other questionable decisions he made while serving as president. He’s also from my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, so maybe we could gossip about that. It would be fun to argue about our political differences, because nothing makes a dinner party more enjoyable than contentious, political arguments. Lastly, Tina Fey, which I don’t think needs any explanation. I love her. We’ll also need someone to lighten up what is kind of a heavy, borderline-boring-to-most party.

Joshua Mercier: Who is your favorite literary hero/heroine? Why?
Autumn Jones: I’m on Team Katniss right now. I dig The Girl on Fire. Yeah, she can be whiney and can’t make up her mind about boys, but I try and be a little forgiving given the whole Hunger Game survival x2 thing. Maybe it’s the brooding revolutionist in me, but I can really relate to Katniss and her rebel rousing ways. She’s fearless, loyal, family-centric, intelligent,0- and a survivor.

Joshua Mercier: Favorite literary villain? Why?
Autumn Jones: Police Inspector Javert from Les Misérables. Poor, poor Javert. He’s the kind of character I love to hate. He’s obsessed with Jean Valjean and so in love with justice and being right. While being the world’s #1 stalker, he turns a blind eye to all the good Valjean has done and lingers over the bad. Poor Javert just can’t reconcile his own feelings of justice and mercy after Valjean spares him on the barricade. That ultimately leads to Javert ending his own life. To me, Javert is the perfect antagonist around.

Joshua Mercier: It's rather funny you mention Javert.  According to Elizabeth, and referring to the Musical, I sing a mean rendition of his hit, Stars.  But enough of that.  Is there a book or story for which you'd like to re-write the ending? What is it and how would you re-write it?
Autumn Jones: I’m a sucker for a happy ending. I’d re-write most books that have terrible, tragic endings to make them happy, for sure. (I’m looking at you Veronica Roth…cough…cough…Allegiant…cough.)

Joshua Mercier: Do you have anything else you'd like to share with the readers that I have not asked you?
Autumn Jones: Ummm…I don’t think anyone cares about my usual Starbucks order (venti, skinny cinnamon-dolce latte) or the color of my car (blue). I’m pretty sure no one will care that I spontaneously break out into show-tunes either. So, I think we’re good here. Thank you!
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