Author Q&A: Craig Schaefer (of the Daniel Faust series)

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We are super-honored to have an author Q&A with Craig Schaefer, who writes the Daniel Faust, Revanche Cycle, and Harmony Black series (links below in author bio section). Mr. Schaefer is one of our FAVORITE authors at the MacHalo group and blog, so we couldn’t be more delighted that he said YES to our request. We HIGHLY recommend all of his books.

The Daniel Faust series is gritty urban fantasy about the seedy paranormal underworld.

The Revanche Cycle is epic fantasy with tons of betrayal and intrigue, witches and corrupt politicians.

Harmony Black is secret government groups fighting paranormal crime with a heavy dash of conspiracy and magic thrown in.

So let’s get down to it.

Q: Which of your series would you recommend new readers start with?

A: I’d love for everyone to start with the Revanche Cycle, because that’s my personal favorite, but I’ve learned (the hard way) that a lot of urban fantasy readers have no interest in epic fantasy — which is the main reason the Faust/Harmony books are my bread and butter while the Revanche books…aren’t.

For UF readers, I’d suggest starting with the Faust series, specifically with The White Gold Score. While it’s technically book 1.5, beyond a couple of references it pretty much stands alone, and it was written much more recently. Every writer evolves (or should evolve) and I’d like to think I’m a much better writer today than I was when The Long Way Down came out, so it makes for a better introduction to my work.

Also, it’s a novella, so if you hate it, at least you didn’t waste much time on it.

Q: What is your favorite series and/or character you have written?

Favorite series? The Revanche Cycle, hands down. Favorite character? Ooh, that’s a lot tougher. That definitely changes with my mood. If I had to narrow it down to a core few, though? Renata Nicchi, the “ordinary barmaid” who shows the world what “ordinary” people are capable of, has to top the list. Jessie Temple, constantly at war with the forces of darkness both outside and within herself, and mostly winning. Nessa Fieri – gleefully and unrepentantly wicked, capable of immense cruelty and ferocious love – rounds out the top three.

Also, honorable mention for cannibal fashion designer Fredrika Vinter. Freddie’s scenes (along with her long-suffering BFF Halima) are always so much fun to write. (“Naturally, dahling.”)

Q: ✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans) wants to declare her undying love for Daniel Faust and is a huge fan. She wants to know if there will be a Jessie spinoff and if Harmony Black and Daniel Faust will ever have a crossover with both characters being featured in a book?

No current plans for a Jessie spinoff. Jessie is a really tricky character in some regards; I’ve never shared this before, but one of the earliest very-partial drafts for the first Harmony Black novel (it ran out of steam around five chapters in) had her as the POV character instead of Harmony. The problem can be summed up by the scene in HB where she and Harmony endure a psychic parasite’s nightmare vision and she says, “That’s what it’s like in my head all the time.”

She’s funny and fierce, but that’s partially a shield to keep her friends from seeing the stuff she has to fight to keep a lid on, every waking moment of the day. This is a woman who was raised by a serial killer and forced to participate in her father’s crimes, without any kind of a moral compass until she was rescued in her early teens. Throw in the occult contagion from the King of Wolves and, well, it’s a lot easier to write about her from a slightly removed perspective; going first-person could take things from “just dark enough” to “way too dark” in a hurry.

Yes, there will absolutely be a Harmony/Faust crossover at some point. There’s already sort of one coming up in next year’s Wisdom’s Grave trilogy, where both characters make important appearances, but in a supporting-cast role. I really want to do a crossover that’s all about the two of them, I just haven’t figured out the best way to write it yet. Considering some people only read one of the two series, and I try to keep them as stand-alone as possible for that reason, I have to really think about what I can do with it plot-wise and which story elements I can resolve in a crossover that some readers might not be interested in picking up.)

(I will say, whether Harmony and Daniel make peace at last or not, you know we’re gonna see their respective teams square off and go a few rounds. I’m not a big fan of superhero tropes in general, but sometimes you just have to see who would win in a fight…)

Q: Several of us have noticed you write amazing female characters. They are strong, independent, no “damsels in distress.” Is this a conscious effort on your part or do you just naturally have an affinity for bad-ass females? 😊

Thank you so much! Yes, it’s a very conscious effort. As a writer and a feminist, positive representation is really important to me. Note that “positive” doesn’t mean “only positive character traits.” I don’t set out to create flawless, all-powerful Mary Sues, because that’s just as bad as wilting damsels in distress; both reduce female characters down to playing pieces and plot coupons. God save us from “kick-ass heroines” whose entire personality is 1) spunky/snarky and 2) they know kung fu, which is often exactly what Hollywood foists off on us.

My aim (I don’t always get it right, but I try) is to write female characters with authentic voices, inner lives, strengths and flaws. Which is really the standard we should all expect of any character of any gender, in all of our media, so the simple fact that it’s notable proves why it’s so important. It shouldn’t be extraordinary, it should be the baseline.

Ultimately, I write about the women in my life. No, I don’t hang out with murderous witches or mob bosses (as far as I’m willing to admit in public), but the heroines and villainesses of my fantasy novels draw their roots from the real women around me – from their struggles, their triumphs, their hopes, fears and joys. They’re my inspiration.

Q: Do you have any plans for a new series or book you can share with us?

This coming January will bring the first book of the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy, a special event crossover between all of my existing series. Fresh from the pages of the Revanche Cycle, Nessa and Mari – reborn as college professor Vanessa Roth and police detective Marie Reinholt – find each other once again in modern-day New York. Just like hundreds of times before, they’re cursed to meet, fall in love, and die, reenacting an ancient and forgotten fairy tale. But things are a little different now: someone’s spoiled the plot.

Forewarned of their fate, Nessa and Marie have one chance to break free, find the source of their curse, and demand justice. This time, they’re writing their own ending.

My initial outline notes described the trilogy as “a rock and roll road trip to the edge of the multiverse, with black magic and bullets.” The first book is with my editor as we speak; it’s arguably the darkest thing I’ve ever written, and absolutely isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste, but the trilogy is a passion project of mine so it had to get written.

Q: How long do you see your current two series running?

The Faust series will probably run twenty books or so, but the series outline has a lot of wriggle room so it can grow or contract based on what the fans want and how its momentum feels. (Yes, I know how it all ends. The final scene of the final book is already written – I wanted to have a goal-post of sorts to keep me focused – though it’s doubtlessly going to get a full rewrite by the time we actually get there.)

The Harmony series is more open-ended. I’ve got three possible ways to wrap the series up, and I haven’t decided which one I like best yet. I’d say we’ll see at least five more books, and we’re nowhere near properly setting up any of the three endings. My readers know I’m a big fan of playing the long game…

Q: Are we going to get more from the Revanche world – and anytime soon? Any little spoilers you can share?

I don’t know if we’ll ever go back for a book set exclusively in the Revanche setting, but I can tell you (and you heard it here first) that book two or three of the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy will definitely see our antiheroines taking a jaunt back “home.”

Maybe I can share two tiny spoilers. One: Hedy will be back. The Mouse is her mother’s daughter, and when the Owl needs her most, she’ll be there. Two: two particular characters from the final chapter of Queen of the Night will not be in it. They earned their ending, and they really did live happily ever after, or at least as happy as a contented life with the person you love can be. They are the only two characters I consider officially out of my keyboard’s reach. They won.

Q: What are a couple of your favorite books and authors?

If I had to pick an all-time favorite author, I’d have to go with Elmore Leonard. An absolute master of his craft, in the vein of two of my other favorites, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Amazing dialogue, lean and stripped-down prose, all three wrote purring and sleek engines of fiction. I’m nowhere near that good, but if I keep working hard, someday I might get close.

I also have to give a shout-out to an author I’ve only recently discovered and I’m eagerly plowing my way through her back-catalog. Mo Hayder is a top-notch crime/suspense writer, and her book “The Devil of Nanking” is amazing. It gave me the same goosebumps I got from reading “Silence of the Lambs” for the first time. Dark, sinister, depraved…you know, all the stuff I like.

Cold Spectrum, book four in the Harmony Black series, is released on October 31, 2017.

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Craig Schaefer’s books have taken readers to the seamy edge of a criminal underworld drenched in shadow (the Daniel Faust series), to a world torn by war, poison and witchcraft (the Revanche Cycle), and across a modern America mired in occult mysteries and a conspiracy of lies (the Harmony Black series).

Despite this, people say he’s strangely normal. Suspiciously normal, in fact.

Schaefer lives in Illinois with a small retinue of cats, all of whom try to interrupt his writing schedule and/or kill him on a regular basis. He practices sleight of hand in his spare time, though he’s not very good at it. His home on the Web is www.craigschaeferbooks.com.

Craig Schaefer on Amazon.

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Guest Blogger: Author Q&A with Stacey Marie Brown!

We have our very first guest blogger, Jessica, who scored an author Q&A with Stacey Marie Brown. Jessica is a member at the MacHalo group at Goodreads and she is awesome. So, without further ado, here we go!

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Stacey Marie Brown is an independent writer of urban fantasy/paranormal romance, but to me she is The Abolisher of Mundane Chores (cause that’s a thing!). She’s the reason I’ve ignored dishes, laundry, and sometimes sleep. Tying three series (Lightness Series, The Collector Series, and Darkness Series) together into an even larger story, she has introduced readers to strong female leads, lovable friends and sidekicks, hot men, magic, and lots of fast paced adventure. Her latest book (that will keep me awake – again) is Fall of the King, She carved out some time to answer a few questions and let me geek out and pick her brain. The fabulously badass ladies of Dust Off Your MacHalo gave me a place to share what I’ve learned. Here’s what Stacey had to say.

Jessica: I’m just going to dive in here and say the release of Fall of the King is right around the corner (like, days away! I’m a little excited for this! Questions. Right.). What are you able to share about this installment? How will it fit into the rest of the series? Will we see some old friends?

Stacey: Oooh, I don’t want to spoil the story, but Lars has finally met his match. And it will be a dual POV. You will see a different side to him…a more vulnerable side. I think some who may have not liked him before are going to see the man underneath. The true Lars.

We will definitely be seeing old friends! With every book in the Lightness Saga, I am tying in the Darkness and Collector series for one final bang! Lars is book 3, the next book is the FINAL one in all three series!!

Jessica: The world you’ve created and woven into 3 different series is vast and layered, with intersecting characters, all affecting each other. Did you know ahead of time which characters would be connected and that they would all be part of a bigger story?

Stacey: No! I was dead set against combining the series at first (why you can read Collector Series or the Darkness Series first), but as the story progressed, they decided for me. And it made sense that their paths would all eventually cross.

Jessica: Once you’ve come up with one of your badass story ideas, what’s your writing process like?

Stacey: I really wish I could say I have one. I get my butt in a chair and write. I do a very basic outline and mostly write as I go, so it takes me longer than some other authors. I have an acting/directing background and they play in my head like a movie. I’m just there to tell their story.

Jessica: There is mythology and lore themes in your books. Do you have to do a lot research? What inspires your mythology?

Stacey: I do enough research for me to understand and know the story, but then put my own twist on it…. or, I make it up completely. That’s what’s so awesome about fantasy. You can play with myths and legends.

The Fall of the King (Lightness Saga #3) is released on October 12, 2017.

It’s a steal of a deal for only $0.99 to pre-order now at Amazon.

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From Goodreads:

Stacey Marie Brown is a lover of hot fictional bad boys and sarcastic heroines who kick butt. She also enjoys books, travel, TV shows, hiking, writing, design, and archery. Stacey swears she is part gypsy, being lucky enough to live and travel all over the world.

That’s all for now, folks. Stay tuned for more from Jessica.

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Everything You Never Knew You Didn’t Want to Know About Shelly!

 

This is a blog about me. Perhaps you’ve wondered about the people behind the blogs (probably not). This will give you a peek at one of the members of the MacHalo team. It’s probably more than you wanted to know, but I’ll try not to be too morbid and negative. I share this because hopefully there might be one person out there who needs to hear it and will know they are not alone. Here is someone who is flawed and sad sometimes and kooky and far from what society says is “normal.”

#1: I have depression and anxiety.

I’m what they call “high-functioning” about 95% of the time, but I have gone through some rough periods over the years, starting at puberty. Puberty is a horrible, lonely time, even if you are surrounded by friends. I can still remember it and remain sympathetic with teenagers, especially females. I can’t say how it is for males, obviously, but menstruation and getting breasts and ALL THE FEELINGS and not knowing who you are, but refusing to accept that anyone else older than you might be able to help. Thankfully, I found drama and choir. I don’t want to scare my parents if they should ever read this, but if I hadn’t stumbled on theater and singing, I don’t know if I would be here right now.

Invisible diseases suck. Anxiety affects 18.1% of Americans and only 36.9% of those suffering seek treatment. Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. The leading cause of disability is the U.S. for ages 15 to 44 is Major Depressive Disorder and is more prevalent in women than in men.

For me, it is vital to find ways to distract yourself and learn to redirect negative self-talk. Never make plans to harm yourself. Never give up. You are not alone!

2017 Invisible Disabilities Week is October 15-21.

And so, moving on to something more uplifting; literally.

#2: I have had out of body experiences.

Now, I won’t go into too much detail because people think this subject is way too woo-woo and there are a lot of skeptics out there. I will just say that I have been sober and lucid and my soul, consciousness, energy, whatever you want to call it, rose from my physical body, which remained in bed, and floated around the room. My first reaction was that I felt pure joy and wanted to shoot straight up into the stars. But I couldn’t get through the wall! I would get in and then snap back into my body, go out, get stuck again, and snap back in. I am guessing that the physical wall made me think of my physical body, so I went back to it.

What ended this particular experience is that I became aware of a presence in the room with me and I looked in the corner and there was a male sitting on the floor, watching me. I did not recognize him and he showed no emotion. He was just watching my nonphysical body wandering about the room. Well, it freaked me out bigtime, so I snapped back in my body a final time, looked right to the corner, and of course, nothing was there! I ended up lying in bed and eventually fell asleep. Cool experience, right?! I thought so. There is more out there than we are usually aware of!

#3: I am fat.

I have struggled with my weight since puberty. I think maybe I was uncomfortable with my changing body and hid out in my room and didn’t exercise and started eating too much. I lost a lot of weight after high school off and on, but have always gained it back. I’m guessing part of it is in connection with the depression and anxiety.

I know that I am an awesome person. I realize this. But, the fat seems to have dug its way in deep this time. Which is me saying I am having the hardest time trying to lose it. I lost 40 pounds before I went into the Army, so I know I can do it. I just have motivation issues and don’t care. I want the pizza, the champagne, and exercising sucks!

People probably judge me, but whatever. I’ll lose it when I’m ready, I guess.

So, fat people, REPRESENT! We aren’t gross or dirty or slobs or lazy. We may sweat more, but hey, that’s what showers are for!

With those heavy topics out of the way, I’ll close with some fun little facts about myself…because I know all two of you are dying to know.

  • I’m left-handed.
  • I’m a proud Hufflepuff.
  • Lestat from The Vampire Chronicles was my first book boyfriend and I really wanted him to come turn me into a vampire so freaking bad. (You may remember this from my vampires blog that was posted soon after we started!)
  • I still use a pay-as-you-go phone so can’t Instagram or do anything smartphone fancy people do.
  • I am not domestic, hate cooking and cleaning house, and suck at crafts!
  • I moved to a state where I didn’t know ANYONE (no friends or family) for a job and I’m very proud of how brave I was/am!
  • My favorite music is anything by School of Seven Bells, Cocteau Twins, Beastie Boys, Sigur Ros, Porcupine Tree, Grimes, and lots of others. British new wave is still a thing for me!
  • Reading is my main pleasure in life. I like fantastical things, paranormal, magical, out of this world plots. It’s my only escape, usually.

Finally, even though I tend to have a negative outlook, I actually have a lot of love and kindness in my heart and am very hopeful. I complain a lot and can be very pessimistic, but that is my way of venting. My true heart still hopes for a happy ever after and wishes the best for everyone!

So maybe another one of our team will volunteer next time to do a similar blog. It wasn’t planned. I think I just needed to get some stuff out. But, maybe they will. We shall see.

Until next time!

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Q & A with Author Pippa DaCosta!

Hey guys, guess what?!? Scorpion Trap released today!!!

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Once upon a time I was a newbie blogger. I had a dream of some day getting the chance to talk to the most amazing authors of our day. I would just get to sit and bask in the glow of their genius. I never thought that I would actually get the chance this soon. Or that it would be with the amazing Pippa DaCosta! It was better than I could have expected. So you should all go buy her book to say “Thank You For Being So Awesome!” I’m only kind of kidding. Scorpion Trap is the fourth book in the series, so you really should buy the first three too.

Okay, I’ll stop rambling now. Here is just a bit of insight into the brilliance that is Pippa DaCosta:

Abby: In See No Evil you blew our minds with your visions of the Duat. What exciting new world building can we expect from Scorpion Trap?

Pippa DaCosta: Scorpion Trap takes Ace and Shu out of their comfort zone and dumps them in Egypt. I absolutely loved writing the location. If I can squeeze any of my personal experience into my books, I jump at the chance. I went to Egypt many years ago and visited some of the sights mentioned in Scorpion Trap. Who would have guessed that over ten years later the taste, the heat, and the smells, would all find their way into Ace’s story. But as for the little nuggets of ‘fantasy’ world building, it’s difficult to say without drifting into spoiler territory. I can say that we learn more about Isis, her past, and how the gods must have lived long ago. One of my favourite aspects of Ace’s world is how he talks to the magic of the old world through ancient buildings. We see a lot more of that in Scorpion Trap too.

 

Abby: Rumor has it that we will get to see more of Curtis Vance. Is this true? Is there a chance The Heartstone Thief will be the start of a new series?

Pippa DaCosta: I love Curtis. I think he’s one of the nicest anti-heroes I’ve written, which is saying something! The Heartstone Thief took a long time to write compared with my other series’. The world building and the story arc are vast but because of the foundation already in place, there is definitely potential to continue the story into more books. I did deliberately leave a few little threads dangling with the hope that I could go back to the series later. I can’t say when a sequel will happen, but I have a new notebook (I buy a new notebook for every new story) and my notes in place, so I do hope that I can return to Curtis Vance sometime this year.

 

Abby: Speaking of things we can expect to see in the future, we have a few hopeful ideas. Will we get to read more Science Fiction from you? What are the chances that there is a delightfully violent vampire series bouncing around in your mind?

Pippa DaCosta: Okay, well, clearly you’re reading my mind as I have a little secret project I’m working on that is a scifi AND fantasy mash-up, and it has vampires (and shifters and fae – because if I’m going to put vampires in space then I might as well throw everything else in there too). It sounds as though that will deliver pretty much everything you want. If you’re after more scifi such as Girl From Above (as are the many, many readers who email me weekly!) then I really can’t make any promises. I would love to continue writing in that world but the characters all went through such a steep character arc that I don’t think any new plot idea could better the existing four books. If a new idea comes along – as it sometimes does with old characters – I’ll jump at the chance to go back to Girl From Above. So yes, new books coming, with vampires and space (whoo hoo!), but probably no new books from any existing scifi series’.

 

Abby: Which of your characters has the most unpublished back story? Can you share any details with us?

Pippa DaCosta: It has to be Shukra – the demon sorceress from the Soul Eater series. Cursed to Ace’s side (kinda like his reluctant sidekick – don’t ever tell her I said that) she has masses of backstory. We know her as the blackest soul Ace has ever hunted in Duat. A soul so black, so evil, that he personally tracked her down. That’s bad, with a capital B. There’s a little mention in Serpent’s Game (book #5 – currently in the first draft stage) where Ace explains his first official job as an investigator for hire. One of Shukra’s demon-pals decides to lord it over medieval London. Shukra tries to warn her old drinking buddy but it doesn’t go well, and ultimately we end up with the Great fire of London (it’s interesting to note that Ace doesn’t come out of that job all squeaky clean either 😉 ). Shukra has been tamed a bit since then, but she has so much backstory that she could almost have her own spin-off series – if villains were allowed to have their stories told. Unfortunately she has a black soul for a reason. I don’t think her backstory would have a happy ending!

 

Abby: It isn’t easy to write morally ambiguous characters that readers will not only find believable, but will champion as well. Yet, I believe that all of your main characters are like this while still being vastly different. What’s your trick to balancing the haunted with the monster?

Pippa DaCosta: I write very close to the ‘acceptable’ line when it comes to anti-heroes, especially for urban fantasy which often centres around a heroic wise-cracking main character. As soon as I began this writing journey, I knew I wanted to do something different with the genre. I wanted to dirty it up, make it real. Muse was the first of my characters to really walk that line between heroic and gritty. Her being half-demon gave me some leeway to play with her darker side. Something as simple as sleeping with two of the male leads in the first book of a series. That just doesn’t happen in urban fantasy. She has since been called the Jessica Jones of urban fantasy, and I think that’s true, especially considering her abusive past. No doubt about it, when we join her in Beyond The Veil #1 Veil Series, she’s about as screwed up as they come. To make a character feel real, as an author, it’s my job to build them up, give them layers. Those layers turn them from cardboard cutouts into real people. If they’re too good or too bad for no apparent reason, then that’s not going to be interesting or entertaining. I need to give the characters reasons, motives, for being as they are. They each need a killer backstory and a weakness. Muse has a lot of power, but she’s crippled by her past. Akil is a fantastic villain, but it’s not until the second book in the series (Devil May Care) when we see him at his lowest, that we really begin to feel for him. Stefan starts out heroic, but it quickly goes wrong. Curtis Vance from the Heartstone Thief isn’t just a thief, he’s had to survive on the streets, later being picked up by a whore-house madam – his past is perhaps the most tragic of all. Every main character has depth to them, a reason why they are who they are, and it’s often brutal because life isn’t all fluffy bunnies and rainbows. By the way, fluffy bunnies and rainbows have no place in urban fantasy unless they’re mutant bunnies and rainbows with rabid leprechauns waiting to chew off the hand attempting to steal the gold.

 

Abby: Now for a critical question. We need you to settle one of our oldest debates. Who is better Team Akil or Team Stefan? Please note that I’m Team Stefan, and I’m greatly outnumbered. I would appreciate all the help I can get. 😉

Pippa DaCosta: Ugh, this is a tough one. Oh my gosh, yah know what, I love Akil. Who wouldn’t, right? BUT, Stefan goes through hell in the Veil series. Literally and figuratively. He fights every single step of the way. He only ever wanted to be the good guy. He never asked for anything, just the chance to prove himself. Besides Muse, he has the most incredible story and for that, I think I’m team Stefan. Still, Akil. Yah know. Akil is what he is. Complicated and yet simple at the same time, devilish, bad… so very bad and yet alarmingly good – or was it all for his own machinations

 

Abby: Possibly the most important question you will ever be asked about your writing. At least in my opinion, because weapons are important. If you lived in one of your worlds, what would be your signature weapon?

Pippa DaCosta: Oh, if I had to pick an existing weapon, it would be Alysdair from the Soul Eater series. That sword is epic. It EATS SOULS. Dude! C’mon. But if it’s my random choice, probably a crossbow. I’ve dabbled in archery (and fencing). Swords are too predictable and all up-in-your-face slashy, plus a gun beats a sword. So I’m going with a crossbow. You don’t have to get too close to use a crossbow. And some throwing knives tucked down the boots. You can never be too careful.

 

Abby: Since you told us anything goes, would you say tequila or vodka is better for inspiration?

Pippa DaCosta: Ah-ha, this is where I prove that I’m the exception to the rule that authors drink copious amounts. I don’t drink alcohol (that one time at London Book Fair shall not be mentioned). Or, perhaps, what I should say is that I’m an impossible lightweight. One whiff of tequila and I’ll be asleep on the table, or the floor, I’m not fussy. So neither would be great for inspiration. At least, not for me. Although I do sometimes get ideas from dreams, so there is that. *Ace says vodka.

 

Abby: Lastly, I feel the need to warn you that I’m mostly asking this just because the other MacHalos didn’t think I would. But it needs to be asked. Would you say that you were born awesome, or were you genetically modified post-birth to mass produce written pieces of glorious scrumptiousness?

Pippa DaCosta: Definitely genetically modified. I blame my genes. I’m part gypsy, part Irish, part Jewish. Lots of parts make a very unusual whole. That sounds so wrong, but you get the idea.

 

A very special thank you to Pippa for agreeing to answer a few questions for us! And to all the MacHalos who contributed to these interesting questions.

 

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Q & A with Author Juliette Cross

Warning: Sucky vampire puns ahead. Proceed at your own risk.

I’m a huge fan of the new series, Vampire Blood, by Juliette Cross. When I found out there was a chance to sink my teeth into an ARC,  I couldn’t get my greedy little hands on it fast enough. I loved the first book in the series, The Black Lily, which was loosely-based on the Cinderella fairy tale. The Red Lily is a Little Red Riding Hood re-telling and does not disappoint.

I was ecstatic to find out our blog would be scoring a Q&A with Juliette. Apparently, she and I both have a sanguine outlook on the future of the series and are about neck and neck in our appreciation of vampires in general.

So pull up your coffin – perhaps a Bloody Mary or two – and let’s get down to the bloody Q&A already!

But first, a bit about the book…

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When Red falls for the Big Bad Wolf…

The Black Lily resistance needs a larger army if they are to defeat the vampire monarchy. In order to do so, former lieutenant and traitor to the vampire Crown, Nikolai must seek help from the red-hooded temptress he needs to avoid at all costs. The secret he carries could prove dangerous for her if she gets too close…even though keeping her close—very close—is the only thing on his mind.

Sienna will do anything for the Black Lily, and when Nikolai asks for her assistance to gain the trust of the commonwealth, it’s the last thing she wants to do. The thought of leaving her woods and her wolves behind is terrifying…not to mention the danger being with Nikolai poses.

Shelly: I saw your Top 5 Vampire Movies list for USA Today (well done, by the way!), but how about a favorite vampire book?

Juliette: Oh, wow. Hard to pick just one. I love Lara Adrian’s Midnight Breed series. Book 1, Kiss of Midnight, is amazing. I also ADORE the vampires in Nalini Singh’s Guildhunter series. I’ve had a crush on Dmitri for like forever. And I’m dying for Viper’s book coming out in September. And to this day, Richelle Mead’s young adult Vampire Academy is still one of my absolute favorite series ever.

Shelly: How long do you see the Tales of the Black Lily series going? Or how many might you have sketched out now? When I re-read book one, I saw several potential stories that I had missed before. Ryker, Marius’s cousin, the vampire who was with Sienna’s grandmother (that could be a really good story) are the ones that stood out the most. Any hints or teasers you can share?

Juliette: This is a fantastic question. 😉 So, I can tell you there will be four books in the series surrounding the Black Lily. Will there be more? Not sure, but I’ve got a million ideas and tons of secondary characters who need a love story. 😉 I can give you a little hint about book 3. The White Lily is scheduled for release on October 23rd. Our hero will be the vampire duke, Friedrich, and if you think about the title, you’ll know which fairytale I’m retelling this time.

Shelly: What book do you think is under-rated or under-appreciated?

Juliette: Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters Trilogy, specifically book 2 Son of Shadows (one of my favorites). Marillier has a large fan base but few people I know have even heard of this series. It’s so beautiful, the writing and the stories.

Shelly: Who/What is your spirit animal or mascot?

Juliette: A cat, perhaps. Quiet and unassuming but always watching. And a bit of an attitude at times. Lol.

Shelly: How do you decide on the names of your characters?

Juliette: For each fantasy world I create, I tend to think of a specific culture that has the tone I want to convey in their race. For example, most of my vampires have a Romanian or Russian name, conveying a cold, dark beauty. And the humans tend to have English names, representing a civilized, proper people. But sometimes, I stray because it’s more about the character specifically than the culture. Like Sienna, which means “red-orange color” like her hair and the name originated in Italy. And Queen Morgrid. She needed a villainous name. I borrowed from the evil Morgana of Arthurian legends and twisted the name to fit her.

Shelly: Is there a particular scene that was harder to write than others? (From this series or others)?

Juliette: Pretty much every sex scene. I try to balance the emotional aspect with the physical, and this isn’t easy to do. Of course, I tend to write very dark scenes as well, borderline horror, I suppose. You might think these would be difficult to write, but it’s rather the opposite. My muse runs wild while writing these. Kind of a cathartic experience.

Shelly: On average, how long does it take you to write a book?

Juliette: Well, THE RED LILY is my twelfth published book, and I’ve gotten much faster over time. Now, it takes on average three months to write a full-length book and edit it with beta feedback.

Shelly: What advice would you give your younger writing self?

Juliette: Don’t you ever give up, woman.

 

The Red Lily release date is (this Monday!) June 19, 2017. You can stake your claim to this sizzling romance at the following places:

Amazon

B&N

iBooks

Kobo

Entangled

Goodreads

About Juliette Cross:

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Juliette lives in lush, moss-laden Louisiana where she lives with her husband, four kids, and black lab, Kona.

Multi-published author of paranormal and urban fantasy romance, she loves reading and writing brooding characters, mysterious settings, persevering heroines, and dark, sexy heroes.

From the moment she read JANE EYRE as a teenager, she fell in love with the Gothic romance. Even then, she not only longed to read more novels set in Gothic worlds, she wanted to create her own.

Connect: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Amazon | Goodreads | Newsletter

 

 

7ya8izz

Q & A with Ashleigh Zavarelli

When I saw A. Zavarelli had a new book coming out and that it was going to be a dark adult fairytale retelling of Beauty & the Beast, I was literally salivating at the idea. If you haven’t read anything by her yet, you are truly missing out. The characters she creates are utterly captivating.  When the offer to get an ARC copy of Beast came through my e-mail, I jumped on the opportunity like it was the actual cover model in the flesh being presented for my grabby hands. 

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Because I also follow Ashleigh on her Femme Fatales facebook page, I requested an author interview for our blog. But because I am a boozy bitch, I thought I would throw in some margaritas to set the tone. Shots of Jameson were on the menu in honor of her Boston Underworld series, but let’s be honest, a few shots in and this interview would devolve into virtual hugging and professing my undying love for both her and her characters.
*cough* Ronan *cough*
So, margaritas it is.
Pour yourself one, or whatever you have handy, and join us for a round as I ask all my burning questions.


C: Your prior romantic leads have been a billionaire bad boy and members of an organized crime syndicate. What should your readers expect from the leading man in Beast?

A: The leading man in Beast is more of an anti hero than anything I’ve ever written before. He is harsher than most of my male leads, and doesn’t have as many redeeming qualities. But I think that when readers learn about his past, it will explain many of his actions. I can’t say too much about him without giving away spoilers except for that he is a highly intelligent recluse with a sinister side.

C: You have described Beast as a contemporary twist on traditional fairytales. What inspired you to make the leap into creating stories about a twisted ever after?

A: I just really like the idea of dark fairytales. The twisted relationships and the light and dark sides that many of these traditional characters seem to have. A big inspiration for me was the show Once Upon a Time. I liked that they took traditional stories and turned them on their heads, shaking up everything we thought we knew about the characters.

C: You create playlists for your books and sometimes even list them in the books so it is clear that music provides a way to direct your creative thoughts, but if you could only choose one song from your Spotify Playlist  Beast (Twisted Ever After #1) to capture the overall feeling of Beast, which would it be?

A: Oh this is a such a hard decision. There are so many songs from my Beast playlist that I adore, but if I had to choose one it would be I Know You by Skylar Grey. This song perfectly sums up Isabella and Javier’s relationship and the emotions between them.

C: Your books have dark themes and the characters are frequently put through hell. How do you prepare yourself to write the thoughts and feelings of the characters? And when you are done, what techniques do you use to prepare yourself to come back to the real world?

A: It’s honestly one of the hardest things for me. I get into that mindset and once I’m there I don’t want to come back out because I’m afraid of losing momentum. I tend to live on a rollercoaster of emotions myself while writing these books. There’s always a huge high when it’s over but then I have to sit back and process everything afterwards and it takes me some time to recover before I can start on the next book. I do get emotionally involved with the characters, so it’s always a little bit sad to let them go.
When I finish a book, I find that just taking time to do things I didn’t have time to helps me the most. Watching my favorite shows. Reading books I want to read. Visiting with friends. I don’t have a lot of time for these things when I’m writing so I basically just go back to being a part of the real world for a while and that really seems to help.

C: What has been your favorite book to date?

A: This is a hard one as well, but I think I’d have to say Reaper. I loved his character and had so much fun getting into his mindset. There are always some characters I connect with more than others and for me, he was the one I could really relate to.

C: Now, as I mentioned, the MacHalos did a buddyread of the entire Boston Underworld series so if I don’t take this opportunity to ask you some things about those books, the extremely bloodthirsty ladies over there are likely to set my head on a spike. They’ll enjoy it, too. They’re a bunch of freaks like that. You would adore them. Anyway, could you tell us a little bit about what inspired some of your and our favorite scenes from the series?

A: LOL well we can’t have your head on a spike! This is starting to feel like a Game of Thrones episode…
As for the inspiration for some of the Boston Underworld scenes, I’ll talk about a couple that I hear often about from readers and explain how they came about.
The one I always tend to hear about is the scene in Reaper with Ronan and Sasha next to the dead body. This one was really quite easy for me. I just sat back and thought about the most taboo things that could occur in this situation between them, and this was the first to pop into my head.
(SPOILER ALERT)
What could be more twisted than Ronan losing his virginity to Sasha after he murdered her boyfriend and is still covered in his blood.
To me, this really spoke of the level of emotions that had been brewing between them for some time. And there were zero fu#%s given at that point. It was going to happen then and there.

Another scene I hear about is the tattoo scene in Ghost. I love this one because this is the ultimate expression of Alexei’s Alpha side coming out to play. He wants the world to know that she belongs to him and he will protect her. The inspiration for this was pretty simple as well and came about through my research of the Russian mafia.

C: In Crow, there is a crucial moment when Lachlan and Mack are really enjoying a few drinks of tequila. It was one of the hottest scenes that didn’t actually include sex that I’ve ever read. In the least creeper way I can possibly put this, please tell me more about that scene!

A: Ha! Well I will take that as a compliment, with a shot of tequila please!
Honestly, this scene was inspired by a teaser that I came across while browsing stock photo sites. It was just a hot graphic and I kept thinking how can I put this into a book? And the rest was all Mack and Crow. It felt different and I just went with it. That scene was one of my favorites to date that I’ve written.
It didn’t hurt that I love tequila and limes either.

*Disclaimer – Ronan is in my top five book boyfriends of ALL time. I cannot be rational in my thoughts about him. I had to defer to someone else’s favorite scene in this book because I couldn’t even begin to narrow it down to just one.
C: In Reaper, Ronan is training as a child and he is expected to cross a pit on a narrow plank to get to his father. Was this something you created entirely in your beautifully terrifying brain space, or did the inspiration for it come from one of the mildly creeptastic documentaries you like to watch?

A: LOL, well my brain is a pretty terrifying place. But… this one was actually something I stumbled across in my research. And not even a creepy documentary either, just something I found on the dark inter webs. So this is a technique that has really been used before, and the psychology of it really resonated with me. For Ronan to feel that trust towards someone who should have nurtured him and then to be betrayed so badly was something that I felt really helped to explain part of his fractured personality.

C: Ghost was a particularly difficult story for some because of the hell that Talia lived through prior to Alexei rescuing her, but that revenge torture scene with Boris and Dmitri was epic.
(I tried to warn you, we really are a bloodthirsty group)

At what point in the story did you decide Dmitri’s fate would be settled by a date with Karma?

A: This is actually funny and I’m glad I get to talk about this scene because it makes me laugh every time I think about it. But originally, this was not part of the story. It was only after I sent the story to my critique partner Rose that she started giving me some much needed whip cracking.
In all honestly, the very first beta draft I sent out of Ghost was much milder. I had been holding back a lot because I was afraid of venturing into such dark territory. But Rose told me very bluntly to quit being such a baby and write the story as it was meant to be written.
So I did.
I fixed things. And at her suggestion (and reminder that readers in general can be quite a bloodthirsty group) she told me I better damn well bring back Boris.
So I did.
And therein lies the incomprehensible value of my beta readers, who have given me a swift kick in the pants on more than one occasion.

C: In Saint there is this awesome scene when you realize just how well Rory gets Scarlett. In the hotel room preparing for the masquerade, Rory presents Scarlett with her choice of weapons, which includes a set of bladed stilettos. Guns, throwing knives… I get it… but how did you come up with the bladed stilettos? That is just amazingly badass.

A: This was hands down one of my favorite scenes to write. Who doesn’t want to be as badass as Scarlett? I know I do. And all the weapons he offered up were so much fun to research. The bladed stilettos were something else I stumbled across on the dark web and just knew it was love at first sight. How could I not put them in there?

C: Speaking of Saint, there seemed to be some people that felt you may have gone too far with Scarlett’s character, and I can assure you, not one of the crazies in our reading group thought that for even a second, in fact Scarlett was our favorite leading lady of the series. Has there ever been a time when writing that you felt like maybe you did take a character too far?

A: I am always terrified that I am taking every character too far in some way or another. I think that fear is natural, but I have had to learn how to push past it. My characters are not all molds of each other and I think it would be rather boring if they were. I love flawed characters. I love to write them. And people are never one hundred percent of anything. They are messy and broken and we all carry around their own baggage. Those are the characters that I like to write, and my only saving grace is that there will always be some readers out there who might resonate with them.

C: As I might have mentioned, I have an undying and possibly unhealthy love for Ronan, but who is your favorite leading man? Which female do you most connect with?

A: My favorite leading man is definitely Ronan. He is so childlike and broken that I can’t help but feel protective of him. He will always have my heart.
And the female character that I connected most with was Scarlett.
Hmmm… now that I think about it, they are probably my two craziest characters.
What does that say about me? 😛

C: You have said that you plan to revisit the Boston Series at some point, and I’m sure you have some more twisted fairytales up your sleeve, but what is up next in your writing lineup?

A: I do plan on writing Nikolai’s book next to wrap up the Boston Underworld series. And I also have Storm and Booker’s story to write as a spinoff. But before I write either of those I actually have a contemporary romance that I’ve been working on. It’s something lighter than what I usually write, but every once in a while I like to do something a little different.

C: Finally, what is the one thing you would like your readers to know about A. Zavarelli?

A: I would like my readers to know that they are my rockstars!
Honestly, I couldn’t do what I do without them. To have people who love my stories is beyond anything I ever could have imagined and it still blows my mind every day.
So thank you for your support. It really does mean the world to me.
XOXO
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To learn more about Ashleigh’s general awesomeness please see her author page. Click HERE for my review of Ashleigh’s new release, Beast.

Thanks for joining me for a drink!

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