Author Interview: Dan Jolley

Hey there bookworms! I took part in another blog tour for Dan Jolley’s trilogy. With aliens and genetic mutations in the series, the Gray Widow Trilogy encompasses science fiction, urban fantasy and superhero fiction. The covers for this series were done by Dark Horse Comics artist John Nadeau.

About the author:   Dan Jolley began writing professionally at age 19. Starting out in comic books, Dan has worked for major publishers such as DC (Firestorm), Marvel (Dr. Strange), Dark Horse (Aliens), and Image (G.I. Joe), and soon branched out into licensed-property novels (Star Trek), film novelizations (Iron Man), and original novels, including the Middle Grade Urban Fantasy series Five Elements and the Urban Sci-Fi Gray Widow Trilogy.

Dan began writing for video games in 2007 and has contributed storylines, characters, and dialogue to titles such as Transformers: War for Cybertron, Prototype 2, and Dying Light, among others. Dan lives with his wife Tracy and a handful of largely inert felines in northwest Georgia, and enjoys connecting with readers via his website (www.danjolley.com) and on Twitter (@_DanJolley).

And now for the moment you have all been waiting for ….. the interview 😛

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

  1. How did you start writing?

If you mean, when did I start writing in general? That would be, I’d say, eight or ten minutes after I learned to read, honestly. I’ve always made up stories, as far back as I can remember, and as soon as I figured out how to put words on a page, I started writing them down. (Brief aside: I didn’t go to kindergarten, and when I got to first grade, I couldn’t read. At all. I mean, I knew the letters of the alphabet, but I didn’t know how they fit together. So, for the first, I don’t know, two or three months, I was in the slowest “reading group” in my class. Then, one day, kind of in a huge epiphany, all the letters and words just *clicked*, and from one week to the next I got bumped up to the fastest “reading group.” I’ve never looked back.)

If you mean, when did I start writing professionally? That happened when I was nineteen and still in college. I met a girl in a video game arcade, asked her out, and subsequently got introduced to a few of her friends who were professional comic book artists. That connection led to my first writing contract. I didn’t actually get any money for that contract, because the company went under before they could pay me (or publish the story), but not long afterward I landed another comic book job that ended up providing a couple of terms’ tuition. I still write comic books, but over the years I’ve branched out into licensed-property novels, movie novelizations, original novels, and video games. I’m really not picky *what* I’m writing. As long as I’m writing *something*, I’m happy.

  1. Who is your favorite author?

It changes as I get older. I grew up reading Louis L’Amour westerns and Larry Niven hard sci-fi, and for a long time, they tied for my top spot. L’Amour and Niven eventually lost out to Dean Koontz, and later Koontz got thrown over for John Sandford, and I’d say lately my favorite is Jim Butcher. I don’t know. I’m about to start reading James S.A. Corey’s Expanse novels, so we’ll see what happens.

  1. What goes into your writing/planning process?

There are two general schools of thought about writing, especially writing novels, often referred to as “Plotters vs. Pantsers,” as in “people who carefully plot out a story” vs. “people who fly by the seat of their pants and make up the story as they go along.”

I’m the opposite of a pantser. I outline relentlessly. I usually use the twelve-point skeleton advocated by Christopher Vogler in his book The Writer’s Journey, expand that into a fairly beefy outline, and refer to that outline constantly as I’m writing a novel. It gets even more granular when I’m working on a comic book or a video game, since the space constraints on those are sort of draconian, and I’ll actually draw out a diagram in a big sketchbook that lets me visualize the whole story before I ever start in on the script.

A big part of this is that basically when you sign a contract with a publisher to create something for them, with the understanding that they’ll be paying you for this creation, they want to know what it is they’re paying for. So even if I weren’t already naturally inclined to plot everything out before the actual fingers-to-keyboard gets started, I’d have to anyway. No publisher anywhere is going to pay you if they don’t know what your story’s going to be.

  1. What do you like about reading?

When you become a writer, you can’t help but look at entertainment in a different way from what you used to. I can still enjoy a good movie or TV show or game or book, but every second that I’m taking it in, watching or playing or reading, I’m *analyzing* it. “How did the writer achieve that effect?” and “Wow, that’s powerful characterization, I’ll have to remember that technique.” and “Hey, there’s the break between Acts 2 and 3.”

So I never read a hundred percent for pleasure anymore, but at the same time, when I do read something great, it’s like my education as a writer continues. I never want to stop learning or stop trying to get better. Reading these days is part fun, part job research, but I’m fine with that.

  1. Where is your favorite reading spot?

I’ve got a nice comfy recliner in my office, set up across from a TV with my PS4 hooked up to it. That’s where I do all my reading and gaming.

  1. What words of advice do you give to the readers of your book?

Well, since GRAY WIDOW’S WAR is the third book in the Gray Widow Trilogy, I would advise readers to get their hands on the first and second books first. (I realize that comes off as shameless self-promotion, but the fact remains… if you just start with the third book, you’ll be kind of lost.)

GRAY WIDOW’S WAR is Urban Science-Fiction, and if it were a movie, it would definitely be rated R. It’s about a group of humans who, unbeknownst to them, become subjects in an extraterrestrial weapons experiment that alters their DNA and turns them into military combat archetypes—Reconnaissance, Infantry, Interrogator, Medic, etc.

The story concerns how this process affects these people, not just physically, but also mentally and, especially, emotionally. It centers on a young woman named Janey Sinclair, whose life has been marked by tragedy after tragedy, and her decision to use her “Augmentation” to try to prevent other people from experiencing the same kind of pain and anguish that she has. The real question becomes—even as she has to deal with issues such as bloodthirsty shape-shifters, mind-controllers, and huge armored aliens—can Janey ever truly heal herself?

The Gray Widow Trilogy involves some superhero tropes, but it dives pretty quickly into science-fiction and horror, and doesn’t shy away from sexuality. So, I would say, if you’re looking for a stupendously badass female protagonist, some emotional roller-coaster rides, and a heaping helping of horrifying violence, you’ve come to the right place. If, on the other hand, you normally watch Merchant-Ivory films and think the “Drama in Real Life” segments of Reader’s Digest are too stimulating… proceed with caution? I guess?


That wraps up another author interview! Make sure to check Dan Jolley out on Twitter and go see his website. And read his trilogy people! It’s pretty freakin sweet 🙂


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Author Interview: J.L Mulvihill

Hey bookworms, I joined a book tour and decided to do an author interview! This author is promoting her new Steel Roots Series.

About the author:  A California native born in Hollywood, J.L. Mulvihill has made Mississippi her home for the past seventeen years. Her debut novel was the young adult title The Lost Daughter of Easa, an engaging fantasy novel bordering on science-fiction with a dash of Steampunk, published through Dark Oak Press in 2011. The sequel to this novel is presently in the works.

Her Most recent novel, The Boxcar Baby of the Steel Roots series, was released in July 2013 through Seventh Star Press. Steel Roots is a young adult series based in the Steampunk genre and engages the reader into a train hopping heart stopping adventure across America. Book 2, Crossings released December of 2014.

She is also the co-editor of Southern Haunts; The Spirits That Walk Among Us which includes a short story of her own called Bath 10, and a fictional thriller involving a real haunted place. Her poem, The Demon of the Old Natchez Trace, debuts in Southern Haunts part 2, Devils in the Darkness.

J.L. also has several short fiction pieces in publication, 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 Clinton Ink-Slingers Writing Group.

And now on to the author interview that I conducted with her!

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

1. How did you start writing?
I have been writing short stories and poems for as long as I can remember I just never saw myself as a writer so I never did anything with them. One day I had a very queer dream about being chased through the woods by a giant spider. That bizarre dream turned into my first novel, The Lost Daughter of Easa, which sold out at DragonCon in 2011 at its debut. I have been seriously writing ever since.

2. Who is your favorite author?
I have way too many favorite authors but I can tell you the authors that have influenced this series is L. Frank Baum who wrote The Wizard of Oz books and Laura Ingalls Wilder who wrote The Little House On The Prairie series. Some other great authors I admire would be Robert A. Heinlein, Mike Resnick, Terry Brooks, Nevada Barr, Ramsey Campbell, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, David Blalock, Kimberly Richardson, Michael West Alexander S. Brown and Stephen Zimmer and. Those are just a few of my favorites like I said I have so many it really is hard to pick.

3. What goes into your writing/planning process?
If I am writing a novel and/or series I plan out at least an outline of plot points. After that, I just go with it because I want the story to be as free and organic as possible. I do tend to do a lot of research of places, people, and things. Though I am writing fiction, I try to make the story as real and plausible as possible. Of course, there are no children eating trolls living in America, as far as we know but if you do your research you will find it is very possible that a carnivorous race of beings could very well have crossed the ocean hidden on the boats with the immigrants and settled down in caves and eventually abandoned mines in the United States.

4. What do you like about reading?
I like reading all genres as you can tell by the wide variety of authors I like. Any kind of a book that can take me away on an adventure either on earth or in space I love. Any kind of a book who can take me through a mystery and engage me in the game of who done it I enjoy greatly. Any story that can send shivers down my spine and quicken my heart with anticipation thrills me. Any kind of a book that can make me think about the world around me and the possibilities of what is and what could be amazes me. So, I pretty much like reading just about anything as long as it holds my interest which it will if written well.

5. Where is your favorite reading spot?
I don’t have a particular reading spot just anywhere quiet where I can immerse myself into the story. A good cup of tea and a cuddly blanket in my easy chair of my office is good. I do a lot of driving so Audiobooks work great for me as well, especially if it is a large series of books, for instance, The Game of Thrones series got me across the country and back.

6. What words of advice do you give to readers of your book?
Never stop reading because it opens the minds and feeds the soul. If you want to write then read everything you want to write about and then write your version of a story. Also, pay attention to your characters but they are so real and sometimes they will lead you down a better path of the story than you had planned on. Always be true to yourself and don’t jump on the bandwagon. Enjoy the adventure and find yourself along the way.


That’s all for this author interview! Feel free to answer some of the questions yourself in the comments below because I would love to know 🙂

You can find J.L Mulvihill on Twitter and Facebook.

Talk to you later bookworms.


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Author Q&A: First to Die by Alex Caan

Hola Bookworms.

Today, I have the honor of doing a Q&A with author Alex Caan! He wrote First to Die and this is a part of his book’s blog tour.

Here is a blurb about the book:

SOMEWHERE IN THE CROWD IS A KILLER 

Bonfire Night and St James’s Park is filled with thousands of Anonymous protesters in a stand-off with the police. When a cloaked, Guido Fawkes mask-wearing body is discovered the following morning, Kate Riley and Zain Harris from the Police Crime Commissioner’s office are called in.

The corpse has been eaten away by a potentially lethal and highly contagious virus. The autopsy reveals the victim was a senior civil servant, whose work in international development involved saving lives. Why would anyone want him dead? 

THEY WILL STRIKE AGAIN 

As the research team looking into the origins of the deadly virus scramble to discover an antidote, first one, then another pharmacist goes missing. Meanwhile, a dark truth starts to emerge about the murder victim: he was an aggressive man, whose bullying behavior resulted in the suicide attempt of one of his former staff members.

AND TIME IS RUNNING OUT . . .

With thirty lives potentially at stake, Kate and Zain have their work cut out for them. Can they find the two missing pharmacists in time, or will they too end up dead? 

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AUTHOR INTERVIEW

Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

I’m definitely a believer in plots. I do my free thinking beforehand, come up with my characters and my ideas, crucial scenes. I love letting my imagination take me places, but when I’m writing I need a structure. More than anything it helps prevent writer’s block.

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

Shutting off the voices. Sometimes every good and bad review is in your head, acting as a barrier to writing. There’s a constant voice saying ‘you’re rubbish’ or ‘this won’t be as good as the last one and you will be found out’. The key is to try and ignore it and keep writing.

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

I read all the time, but I’m a very slow reader so I don’t read many books, but I like to take my time to really enjoy the ones I do. My all-time favorite authors are Graham Greene and John Le Carre, I think they capture the human condition so perfectly it’s awe-inspiring. But there are so many other authors that I love. I need to make a list really.

What is your take on the importance of a good cover and title?

I think it’s crucial. When you’re looking for your next read you have literally thousands of choices, and most books will have recommendations, positive and negative feedback, more or less marketing and promotion. So crucially what will make one stand out beyond the other is the title and cover, and then the premise and blurb. But title and cover are all about the purchasing impulse, not the content. Eventually, it’s what inside those covers that will drive how a person feels about the novel.

Which book inspired you to begin writing?

Honestly, I can’t remember. I was a voracious reader as a child, and remember 8 year old me telling all my family and teachers I wanted to be a novelist. It took me a long time but I eventually did it.

And that’s the end of our interview. Thanks for tuning in readers 🙂 and I think you should go out and buy Alex’s book! You can find it on Amazon and Goodreads!

Also check out this book by author Holly Tierney-Bedord called The Port Elspeth Jewelry Making Club, a thriller/mystery novel about a group of women who form a jewelry club and become unlikely sleuths.

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Here is a US buy link: https://www.amazon.com/Port-Elspeth-Jewelry-Making-Club-ebook/dp/B07DFTDNXY

A Canada buy link: https://www.amazon.ca/Port-Elspeth-Jewelry-Making-Club-ebook/dp/B07DFTDNXY

And a UK buy link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Port-Elspeth-Jewelry-Making-Club-ebook/dp/B07DFTDNXY


Book Highlight and Author Interview: No Turning Back

Here is another book highlight for a fantastic book called No Turning Back by Sam Blake! This is the third installment in the series.

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Synopsis: Orla and Conor Quinn are the perfect power couple: smart, successful and glamorous. But then the unthinkable happens. Their only son, Tom, is the victim of a deliberate hit-and-run. 

Detective Garda Cathy Connolly has just left Tom’s parents when she is called to the discovery of another body, this time in Dillon’s Park, not far from where Tom Quinn was found. What led shy student Lauren O’Reilly to apparently take her own life? She was a friend of Tom’s and they both died on the same night – are their deaths connected and if so, how?

As Cathy delves deeper, she uncovers links to the Dark Web and a catalogue of cold cases, realising that those involved each have their own reasons for hiding things from the police. But events are about to get a lot more frightening . . .

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

I’ve always need a basic framework to work to – I need to know where a book is going or I find it very hard to start. With No Turning Back I had lots of bits of plot but I wasn’t sure how they quite connected, so I took the advice of a writer friend of mine Alex Marwood and ‘wrote the stuff’. She sometimes writes forty thousand words of a story to find her way into it. I had a deadline looming so I literally wrote my way into the first draft – LOADS changed in subsequent drafts but I had the words on the page. With crime some level of plotting is essential – for me at least- so I leave the right markers in the story as I write.

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

For me it’s getting the first draft done, getting off the blank page. Sometimes you have a very clear idea of what the story I about and it’s just a matter of finding the time to get the story written (a whole challenge in itself), but sometimes you’ve not got a clear path. With the first book you really do have the luxury of time to get it right, once you are under contract, the pressure mounts and you have to get it done – but equally your book is going to hit a book self and you need it to be the best work that it can be.

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

I wish I read more (I spend a lot of time, professionally, reading new writers books and that takes a lot of time) I love Karin Slaughter, Lee Child and Michael Connolly; of Irish writers I love Liz Nugent’s and Catherine Ryan Howard’s books. I look forward to every one of Jane Casey and Alex Barclay’s. I recently read CL Taylor’s The Fear and that was excellent. I love a book that packs a punch at the end and leaves you thinking.

What is your take on the importance of a good cover and title?

Title and cover are VITAL to sell a book. I run an event where I read about 300 submissions and after that many, a good title really stands out. It’s the same for the reader, there are so many books to choose from and a good title and a cover can tell you so much about the promise of a good book. I’ve loved my covers and I adore the title of the first in the Cat Connolly series, Little Bones. It was called The Dressmaker for many many years and we had to change it for publication but it took several inflential people hours and hours to try and come up with something. Nothing was working and then out of the blue one of the directors at Bonnier (my publisher) came up with Little Bones. I’ll be forever indebted to her – it’s the perfect title, and so obvious when you have it!

Which book inspired you to begin writing?

I’ve always written, I loved creative writing in school, but the book I love most is Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Rebecca is one of the most sophisticated psychological thrillers ever written, and I’ve discovered, on the shelf of every female writer I know. Before domestic noir was a thing, du Maurier took us, and the new Mrs de Winter, to Manderley, to a house steeped in its ever present, but deceased mistress Rebecca. Multi layered, this is my favourite book of all time, it’s a thriller and a romance and has twists that make it utterly unforgettable. I collect first editions, and I holiday every year yards from Frenchman’s Creek. I just love it!

 

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Book Highlight and Author Interview: Depths of Night

I was asked to partake in a book tour! Woohoo, this is the second one I have participated in and the book looks amazing. I am here to give you a highlight of the book and an author interview so here we go!

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Synopsis: 

After a harrowing end to a long sea journey, the famed northern warrior Ragnar Stormbringer and a force of warriors step ashore in the lands of the Petranni, a tribal people known for their workings in silver and gold. The search for plunder takes a sharp turn when homesteads, villages, and temple sites show signs of being recently abandoned.

When it is discovered that the Petranni have all taken refuge within a massive stronghold, Ragnar and the others soon fall under the shadow of an ancient, deadly adversary. Wielding his legendary war axe  Raven Caller, Ragnar finds his strength tested like never before.

Sounds great eh? I interviewed the author and here is what he had to say!

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

The author of the book is Stephen Zimmer and you can find him on Twitter as @sgzimmer !

Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

I am a mix between those two approaches.  In writing my various series, I came to appreciate the importance of having a sense of direction and destination.  I never want to write myself into a corner, and I do want to know where I am headed in a story.  This requires a core structure in advance, in terms of a basic outline.

At the same time, I do not want to constrict myself in the instance that a great new idea pops up in regard to new subplots, twists and turns of the core plot, or new characters.  I like to be able to give my stories room to breathe during the creation process, so I do not plot or outline to the point where I don’t have any room to maneuver if new elements strike me in the process.

I have found that this balance works very well for me, both in writing series and also in the creation of stand-alone tales such as Depths of Night.

 

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

The hardest thing about writing in today’s world is handling the many hats that need to be worn on a regular basis.  A writer has to dedicate a lot of time to marketing, publicity, the business end, appearances, and many other things beyond the actual creative process.

These areas can be very time consuming and sometimes exhausting, and the writer must find ways to make sure that the creative path continues forward and is not too inhibited by all of the other things involved in a writer’s world.

 

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

I love to read!  I am currently reading Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.  Heinlein is a favorite author of mine, but other favorites include J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Clive Barker, R.A. Salvatore, Paulo Coelho, Guy Gavriel Kay, David Gemmell, Robert E. Howard, and many others.  Reading engages the imagination like nothing else and I think that it is very important for writers to set aside some time for reading on a regular basis. You always learn something about writing from reading!

 

What is your take on the importance of a good cover and title?

In today’s flooded market, a good cover and title are extremely important.  Every week there is an enormous number of new releases, so you do not have long at all to catch a reader’s attention.  A good, catchy title, coupled with a strong cover, can help to gain the interest of a reader to consider buying your book.

I should also mention that a good cover requires more than just eye-catching artwork. A good cover involves skillful design and layout, including the section of title fonts and their placement.  A cover designer that is adept with both art and layout is worth every penny to a publisher or indie author who self-publishes.

 

Which book inspired you to begin writing?

My mother read the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien when I was just seven years old, and she followed that with buying me a boxed set of the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis in paperback.  I credit all of these incredible books for being the foundation of my inspiration to start down the path of storytelling and speculative fiction.  These powerful novels opened my eyes to the incredible possibilities of fantasy literature and I never turned back. 😊

Thank you for having me as a guest today at Breakeven books!

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Book Highlight: Rats, Mice, ​and Other Things​ You Can’t Take To The Bank

Hey guys, so I have received 2 copies of this book Rats, Mice and Other Things You Can’t Take To The Bank by Leslie Handler. I will be hosting a giveaway with the other copy starting next week! For now, I will be giving you a highlight of the book.

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About the Book: From an award-winning syndicated columnist comes a collection of essays – sometimes nourishing, sometimes passionate, sometimes humorous, and always relatable. Read this book if you are feeling sad. Read this book if you need a good chuckle. Read this book so that you never ever feel like you’re alone.

In one of the essays, the author summarizes her embarrassment for not being supportive of her husband. She writes “When your sad, you get the kind [of tears] that roll down your cheek flowing freely.They drip down your collar and snot up your nose. No. These were different. These were tears of shame and embarrassment…These were tears that didn’t want to puddle or roll. These were the tears that didn’t want to come out at all but couldn’t help themselves as they reluctantly dripped sideways into the hairline instead of following gravity down the face. These were my tears.”

These essays shine light into the soul and leave it wide open for all to see. This gifted storyteller is a keen observer of her own human nature and is not shy about sharing it. Part memoir, part essay collection, Rats, Mice and Other Things You Can’t Take to the Bank is written with both wit and charm. It will take you on a ride from finding a mouse in the house to a mortgage crisis. It’s so engaging that you may just find yourself wondering how your own personal stories ended up in it!

About the Author: Leslie is a 2015 Society of Newspaper Columnists award winner. She’s an international syndicated columnist with Senior Wire News Service and a frequent contributor to WHYY and CityWide Stories. She freelances for The Philadelphia Inquirer, ZestNow, and BoomerCafe, as well as blogs for HuffPost. Leslie currently lives smack dab between Philadelphia and New York City with husband Marty, dogs Maggies, Hazel, and Ginger, a collection of fish, said husband’s cockatoo who she’s been trying to roast for dinner for the last 33 years, and a few occasional uninvited guests. You may follow her blog and read published essays at LeslieGoesBoom.com.

She also donates a portion of her book sales to the National Alliance on Mental Illness so buy her book and support a great cause!

Click on the image below to check out her book on Amazon!

Best seller findings, jewelry beads, gemstone beads, pearls, glass beads, tools and much more.

 

Book Highlight: The Mark of Wu – Hidden Paths by Stephen M. Gray

Congratulations to Stephen M. Gray on the release of his book The Mark of Wu – Book One: Hidden Paths. I am currently reviewing this book that was sent to me by Ingram Publisher Services. It is good so far and I am halfway through. Sometimes life gets in the way and stops us from reading. If only we could read all the time 😛

Anyway back to the book highlight!

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Description:

Hidden Paths, the first novel in The Mark Of Wu series, opens in 519 B.C., as the Spring and Autumn period of the Eastern Zhou dynasty devolves toward Warring States Period. 

The Emperor’s grip on the feudal states is over. Brutal rivalries, both new and old now rule, and military dashes lay waste to those who are unprepared. Some men are driven by pure evil, and States either gain power or die.

State of Ch soldier Yuan stands on his chariot, reining in his eager team of horses, anxious for a chance to unleash his rage on the invading Wu barbarians in the battle before him.

Author Bio:

Prior to becoming a serial novelist, Stephen M. Gray worked as a corporate attorney on complex litigation. Early in Gray’s career, his travels to Asia fuelled a thirst to learn about China’s history. His extensive research into the teachings of Sun Tzu for application in today’s business world led to his fascination with 6th Century BC China. There Gray discovered folklore about the abuse of power and privilege and the noble effort of a few brave warriors who fought against tremendous odds for their survival. Hidden Paths is Gray’s first of five books in The Mark of Wu novel series.

So far the book is good and I look forward to sharing my full review with you bookworms!

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Book Highlight – Star City by Edwin Peng

So I have been sent a book call Star City by Edwin Peng for free to review. I am doing a book highlight first before I finish the book to give everyone a little taste of this science fiction adventure and to give you a little insight into the author by sharing an author interview!

It isn’t every day you read a debut novel that you know will be just the beginning of a successful career, but with Edwin Peng’s Star City (Evolved Publishing, December 4, 2017), it’s clear from page one that this book is something special. Star City is more than just a world-shaking sci-fi adventure for YA readers, with a dash of romance and a super cool alien race who happens to love blueberries. From Peng’s unique take on human/alien first contact, to his diverse cast of characters, and a protagonist with strong ties to her STEM roots, the book feels lively and well thought out on every level.

Synopsis: Eighteen year old Emma Smith is exactly where she wants to be: she’s headed to the University of Nebraska with a full scholarship to, and on top of that she’s been selected by the U.S government to participate in an exclusive medical research project. The project, as it turns out, isn’t an average college internship. Emma has been selected as a student ambassador to liaise with the Ba’ren, an alien race that has recently made contact with Earth in order to share medical technology. The project will kick start Emma’s biomedical engineering career, as well as give her a chance to interact with this mysterious alien race she – and all of humanity – are very curious about.

Unfortunately for Emma, her Ba’ren counterpart, Sepporinen, has very little interest in her humanity as a whole. He is most excited about the opportunity to explore and mine the asteroids of Earth’s solar system, but is compelled by his government to take part in the research project. As the two work together, they begin to draw closer, and form a friendship – and perhaps more. In the meantime, they discover far more is at stake with their project than what their respective governments have let on. Political and cultural clashes between the humans and the Ba’ren intensify, and Emma and Sepporinen must risk everything to help maintain the fragile peace between their two species.

Star City is the best kind of YA – it encourages readers to enjoy the story, and yet to think beyond its pages. Fans of Rick Yancey, Melissa Landers, and Claudia Grey Alexandra Bracken will gravitate towards this series, and will be so glad that they discovered Edwin Peng, a debut author we’ll certainly be hearing more from.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

What inspired you to write Star City?

Edwin Peng: I have always loved YA, so that’s the genre that I always knew I would write. I really hope that my fandom shines through, but at the same time that my novel is  different than what’s currently out there. The other thing that inspired this novel was my experience in the highly competitive Early Entrance Program at California State University, Los Angeles. I was 13 when I went to college, which is a little bit out of the ordinary (to say the least!). Some of the very smart, very driven, and very geeky characters in my novel are loosely based on that experience.

Why did you choose to set the book in Nebraska?

Peng: I moved to Lincoln, NE five years ago. I are to love this state and its people. One of my favourite books is Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. There are enough books – not to mention movies and TV shows – set in New York City or Los Angeles. I believe there should be more novels set in “unpopular” places such as Nebraska.

What do you hope readers will take away from this novel?

Peng:  My hope is that Star City provides pertinent social commentary and challenges the average YA reader’s preconceptions while still delivering a funny and exciting story. The most obvious theme of the Ibook is the need for peaceful relations with other cultures. In our increasingly connected world, we must be much more understanding and tolerant of others.

Why was it important for you to feature a diverse set of characters in the series?

Peng: Traditional publishing, especially within the young adult genre, has a long history of excluding marginalized groups, both in their fiction and for real life readers and authors. In the rare instance that a young adult novel features minority/lower class/LGBT+ characters, they are often stereotyped and/or whitewashed on the cover or movie adaptation. The Star City series fights for diversity with many, non-stereotypical characters, who readers from marginalized groups can identify with.

When you’re not writing, what do you do?

Peng: I am a postdoc doing materials engineering research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Some of the alien technologies in Star City actually are inspired by the research I’m doing!

Connect with Edwin Peng at www.edwinpeng.com, on Twitter @edwinPeng88, Facebook, and Instagram @edwinpeng88.

Star City can be purchased on Amazon:

Disclaimer: All copy was provided by Smith Publicity and they own the rights to the materials provided.

I hope to talk to you bookworms soon about this one when I am finished it.