Starbound Blog Tour – Exclusive Zander Excerpt!

Hello dear readers! While some of you know, but others who are newer may not, is that I don’t just review books: I write them, too. And my fifth novel comes out on Tuesday! Today is my stop on the Starbound blog tour, and I’m going to share with you part of the first chapter from Zander’s point of view (a big change from the other four books in the Starstruck Saga). But first, a little about the book!

Spoilers for the first four books if you haven’t yet read them!

Home is where the heart is. Or maybe the pizza.

There’s no better feeling than being back home after a long week exploring the galaxy, though being abandoned by one’s friends and left to fend off a glitching evil robot spoils it. All that’s left is to settle back into life, preparing Marcy’s wedding and job hunting. If only mysterious midnight SWAT teams and crop-circle crafting-sessions weren’t constantly getting in Sally’s way.

When an old foe returns, and Sally is the only person on the planet to recognize it, it’s up to her, her sullen ex, and an overly-excitable FBI agent to save the planet. But first they have to get the president safely out of his favorite sushi bar without starting the war of the worlds.

It’s hard maintaining a long-distance relationship when your crush is light years away and thinks you died of old age, but that hasn’t stopped anyone yet. Sally must save the planet, the universe, and herself – though maybe she’ll take a nap first.

Preorder your copy here!

I’m so excited to share with you this new book. So much happens, so many reveals and twists, that I was actually terrified of showing my publisher! But the outpouring of love and great reviews shows us that we made the right decision. Sally’s going to blow you all away!

And Zander will too: part of the book is from his perspective. Which I can promise you is not what you would expect…

CHAPTER TWO

Interplanetary Sibling Rivalry, Now in Technicolor

Sisters.

You love them. You hate them. They love you, support you, and then, just sometimes, they just they twist you up in knots and stab you repeatedly with every trick they know, not limited to those in the book. And sometimes that knife is quite literal. It’s the cost of having family. Of having someone who will stick by you for no reason other than she shares some genes with you.

Or someone who will destroy you for no farshing reason.

Case in point: Just when I was feeling happy, ready to have a nice cup of tea and, I don’t know, enjoy the feeling of being clean for the first time in days, my sister disintegrated me. Well, technically, she teleported me to who knew where, just when I was going to ask about the flower-scented soap in the bathroom and if it was okay that I had finished the bottle. In that case, good thing Blayde got me out of there because things could have deteriorated fast.

But jumping me again to some other place so I couldn’t get back? That was stone cold. A jerk move if I had ever seen one, and boy, had I seen jerk moves.

The second  my cells started stitching themselves back together, they were ripped apart once again, and I was sent reeling back blindly through the vast emptiness of the universe. I couldn’t see where I was going, I couldn’t see where I had come from, and I couldn’t see anything at all since my eyes technically did not exist.

It was at times like these  I seriously considered buying myself a spaceship. Nothing fancy. Just something with a good faster-than-light engine or a warp drive, a place to keep my stuff and make my travels through the universe more scenic. And maybe, just maybe, having my own keys would stop Blayde from farshing kidnapping me.

But, then again, parking’s terrible. And I hear the gas prices are worse than ever.

Suddenly, I was back in one piece, the ground firm beneath my feet once more. Instinct kicked in before I had gathered my wits about me, automatically making sure all my limbs were still attached to my body, counting off the arms and the legs, fingers and toes, even as they spread into a pounce.

My own roar rang in my ears as I flew through the air, arms outstretched and hands ready to go for her jugular. My fingers were wrapped around her neck before the neurons had fired from my brain. Fury burned through my veins like a poison, corrosive acid in my blood.

Blayde sidestepped easily, letting me crumple on the ground beside her. I felt the heat as my face slammed into the metal floor, my nose snapping from the collision.

But she did not return the attack. Flipping myself over, I brought a leg spinning under her. I used my own momentum to jump to my feet, dropping my center of gravity and swinging around to lash out with a right hook. She caught it square in the jaw, a tooth flying off in the air and lodging itself in a nearby wall. She scowled, blood pouring out of her lip, but I could already see the white enamel growing back to fill in the gap in her mouth. A bruise blossomed and wilted on her cheek.

I swung to hit her again, but her arm flew out to grab mine, holding it easily in midair. I struggled to break loose from her grip, but her fingers were clasped firmly around my wrist, and I could barely move it. Effortlessly, she gave it a twist, ripping my arm from the socket and effectively reducing the number of punching elements by half.

She said nothing, cocking an eyebrow, as if waiting for me to start. So, I did.

“What the veesh do you think you’re doing?” I shouted as I struggled to break free from the titanium grip. She blinked then wasn’t there, and suddenly I was face down on the ground, hands pinned behind my back, a knee on the back of my head.

“Weak,” she snapped, anger dripping from her lips. “Look at you, you’ve grown weak.”

She had underestimated me. In seconds, I had thrown her off my back and pinned her down, my elbow pressing  on her windpipe. My useless arm dangled  by my side, but I hardly felt it. She only smirked, unperturbed by the decrease in air flowing to her lungs.

“I’m not weak,” I snapped back. “You’ve grown paranoid. Look at you!”

“We held up our end of the deal,” she hissed. “We were free to go. Nothing left for us to do on that dull excuse of a planet.”

“But you jumped us twice!” I pressed down harder, but she only rolled her eyes. She motioned as if to say  there was no way she could reply if she had no air. I hopped on my feet, watching her get back up gingerly. I tried to cross my arms but failed with the dangler.

“I thought you might jump right back,” she replied with a shrug, oblivious to what I meant. I shook my head. I mean, screw her; that’s the part I was furious about in the first place.

“What if I wasn’t ready to leave yet?” I snapped. “She was making us tea!”

“Can you even hear the words  spilling out of your mouth?” she asked, leaning back against a shelf casually. “Oh, tea, yes, let’s all sit around and drink tea with the Earthling. When would you be ready to leave? Huh? A day? A month? Next year?” “I—” I sputtered. But I couldn’t reply. There was nothing I could say.

I hope you’re excited to read more! And remember, every preorder entitles you to a special gift. Working with Jessica from Paperly & Co, she has created these stunning character bookmarks which I can’t wait to put in your hands. Sally, Zander, and Blayde come to life and will happily keep your page in Starbound or any other book of your choosing!I hope you’re excited to read more!

Learn more about the preorder gift HERE.

And while I’m in the US, I finally have media mail! Which means SIGNED BOOKS FOR EVERYONE!

We have a massive sale on all signed books, dropping the prices even more when you get multiple copies. AND every order gets the cute character bookmarks made by Paperly&Co!

Either message me or order through Bolide’s website to order. Only 3 days until Starbound hits the shelves! https://bolidepublishing.com/

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The Audacity

by Laura Loup

Ok, this is BY FAR the funnest and funniest book I’ve read this year! It’s a laugh fest that will have you in stitches. Turn the dial up on space operas to the max, and you’d have the Audacity.

Summary

May’s humdrum life gets flung into hyperdrive when she’s abducted, but not all aliens are out to probe her. She’s inadvertently rescued by Xan who’s been orbiting Earth in a day-glo orange rocket ship, watching re-runs of “I Love Lucy”. 

Seizing the opportunity for a better life, May learns how to race the Audacity and pilots her way into interstellar infamy. Finally, she has a job she likes and a friend to share her winnings with—until the Goddess of Chaos screws the whole thing up, and Xan’s unmentionable past makes a booty call.

Musings

I don’t even know where to start with the review. Do you like relatable main characters who are thrown into insane situations? Check. Do you love non-creepy, totally healthy, absolutely adorable men-women friendships? Check. Do you love mad, off the hook, oddball scenarios taken in stride? CHECK. This book has everything!

(Also, were you a fan of the lesbian purple goddess who just won the world cup? Um, this book has one. It totally predicted the world cup.)

The Audacity is a book written with so much love. Love to the genre; love to Douglas Adams; love to a chaotic universe and those of us just trying to live through it. That love oozes out of every page and gets you stuck like glue. May is one of the spunkiest characters I have ever read and I see so much of myself in her. And Xan, her crazy alien friend with Day-Glo hair and a ship which really shouldn’t be able to fly with him at the helm, is the BFF you always wanted to have.

It’s a fun book, a fun-loving book, and a loving-fun book. You’ve got love triangles here there and everywhere making shapes that should only be visible in the fourth dimension. Character growth which reaches peak heights. An alien invasion of Earth for all the wrong reasons.

Basically, if you want to have a fun time in space, you need this book!

If Douglas Adams got punted into a sticky orange pool of feminism and made sweet love to Futurama, you’d have something approximating The Audacity. 

Fans of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will appreciate the style, fans of Futurama will love the blend of laugh out loud humor and feels, fans of Steven Universe will enjoy that Space is Very Gay. 

If you’re tired of the same old cynical, militaristic sci-fi and crave characters who genuinely care about each other and an image of life in the Universe that isn’t all gloom and doom, you’re going to have a good time in the Audacity. 

The Grace Year

By Kim Liggett

I read this book in a day, it was so impossible to put down; and yet it took me a whole month to digest it, and figure out how to review. This might be one of the most powerful YA books I have ever read and my mind was (and remains) blown by the entire experience. 

Summary

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

Girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for their chance to grab one of the girls in order to make their fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.

Musings

This book had me shaking. Anger, frustration, injustice. It was horrifying in the same way as the Handmaid’s tale was, aggravating in the same way the Crucible was. Yet it was also beautiful, taking this intense oppression and capturing the beauty of small (and big) acts of resistance. 

The city (or country?) where this novel takes place has a “The Village” sense to it. Isolated, the divide between people – and women – could not be more pronounced. If you are not married, you are nothing. You work, or you sell your body. There are only so many eligible young men, and they’ll pick their future wife and let the rest work out of sight. Subtle hints show that this city might exist isolated in the US we know today, or some dystopian version of it, which intensified the realism. 

Every girl is sent to spend their sixteenth year away, isolate, for fear that their “magic” will destroy the community they have fought so hard to build. Girls live their lives with oppresive rules, dare their :”Magic” escape and hurt the community. Men fear them in this year, but want their power as well: any girl who escapes her confinement during her Grace year can be caught and her body parts sold for medical purposes. It’s a grotesque and terrifying prospect. 

We follow a girl who would be quite content working the fields, who is crash and bold and can’t stand the oppresive nature of her village. She loves to tinker, loves science and logic (a girl after my own heart) and doesn’t give into the oppressive system. While sometimes this borderlines on a “not like other girls” trope, it made me wonder just how many other girls were conceiling these feelings just to fit in. It was something that TO BEST THE BOYS touched on, but THE GRACE YEAR is more subtle, which I think really works. 

The main core of the novel revolves around “The things we do to other girls”. How we’re raised to tear each other down, to stop us from banding together. Together, we are strong. Together, we’re terrifying. The only way to keep the girls meek is to force them to tear each other appart. And THE GRACE YEAR shows this in a violent, beautiful way. We tell ourselves that in a LORD OF THE FLIES situation, girls would prevail, but not if we’re raised to see every other girl as competition…

Nothing is expected: twists ruin everything, and not everyone is promised a happily ever after – even if they survive the violence. At first I found the ending anti-climactic, but the subtility of it was pure perfection.

Seriously. If you read one new book this year, try THE GRACE YEAR. It’s going to stay with me forever.

Expected publication: October 8th 2019 by Wednesday Books

Lose Me Now in Hardcover!

Hello bookworms!

Last year I reviewed the amazing retelling of Pride and Prejudice, Lose Me, by M.C. Frank. And now the book is out in glorious hardcover! It includes an exclusive Wes story and Wes and Ari original art That I’m so excited to see!

“Jane Austen meets Hollywood bad boys in this hate-to-love romance.”

The golden boy. Wes Spencer, aka Mr. Darcy, has it all: the face of a Greek god, millions of adoring fans, a mile-long yacht and a bored attitude. The last thing he needs is a crew member on his new film set nearly dying in his arms.

The stunt girl. That’s me, Ari Demos. I just landed a coveted job as a stunt double in the new Pride and Prejudice movie adaptation starring actor slash phenomenon Weston Spencer. Cue high dives and complicated car stunts along the narrow cliffs of Corfu -one false step and I could lose not only my job, but my life.

I wanted nothing to do with the arrogant English boy. Waking up to his kiss was something other girls dreamed of, not me. The movie star is the last person I’d expect to save my life. Falling in love was never supposed to be part of the job. Fighting to stay alive was never supposed to be part of growing up.

“Today is not the day I die.”

Grab your copy quick!

If you’re not sold just yet, check out my review and see why I think you’re going to fall in love too: review

Liminal Boy

The Opposition #2
Stefani Chaney

Two years ago I had the absolute pleasure of devouring MIDNIGHT, the first book in this series, and fell in love with the spunky Jo, a louder version of me who fights to save her brother and for what is right. I was so thrilled to hear a sequel was in the works, and when the author offered me an advance copy, I screamed for joy. I couldn’t wait to get back to Jo, Jamie, Langdon and the crew. What I got was completely different from what I expected, but amazing all the same.

Summary

An angel out of control. 

A thief who knows too much. 

A power destined to self-destruct.

These are some of the things that haunt Langdon Moore, the longest lasting survivor of a twisted experiment that transformed certain aspects of a person into a weapon. Nothing about Langdon has ever made sense, and his verve confirms it. Born twice and died thrice, he knows this is his final chance to get things right.
The rest of the experiments are at a loss, still recovering from a shocking betrayal and the disappearance of the weapon crafted from Jo Harding’s verve. After a fight over leadership fractures the already unstable bunch, Langdon finds it easy to take shelter in his old isolating habits, slipping away from everyone— except for his service dog.
Unfortunately, his plans for solitude are derailed when his quiet home becomes Jo’s new headquarters. To make matters worse, Midnight doesn’t go anywhere without her twin brother, the model Jamie Harding. When a mysterious thief foretells the arrival of Angel, the most powerful survivor of the experiment, Langdon must act quickly. As a harsh winter ices over Montreal, he makes one final attempt at saving a life… even if that means forfeiting his last chance of finally having one of his own.

Musings

TW: Liminal Boy has a much heavier focus on mental health than Midnight does. I found it was written with that in mind, like it was speaking directly to those of us whose brains work a little differently, and I loved it.

Liminal Boy has a complete tonal shift from Midnight. While the first book in the Opposition series follows the perspective of brash and rash Jo Harding, the second is set from Langdon’s POV, a few months after the events of Midnight. He has a quieter, more thoughtful way of approaching his issues, though he struggles with depression and social anxiety which sometimes tarnish his view of the world. Seeing Jo from his eyes was completely unexpected, and I loved the way the author’s character have such depth.

The pacing is also much slower: while Midnight was a superhero origin story, with wam-bam-thank-you-mam action scenes and immediate danger, Liminal Boy is more of a thriller. It’s more thoughtful and introspective, as Langdon tries to settle back into his life, while dealing with the aftershocks of what Morgan did to him and the other test subjects. But it has this fascinating intrigue: they still have to find what Morgan/Jude/Judas were actually doing, and dismantle the clinic that almost cost them their lives. Plus, how does one get unknown technology out of their friends before it’s too late?

At first I found Liminal Boy to be… confusing. Events seemed to happen to Langdon, sometimes in (what felt like) the wrong order. It took me a while to get into the style, but then it ‘clicked’ for me and I loved it even more. Langdon’s growth and struggle were deeply personal, and at times it was like I was reading a contemporary novel rather than a superhero/urban fantasy book.

But the ending… oh my gosh, that ending. In the last two chapters everything comes together, and now I’m sitting here, trembling in anticipation for book three!

If you liked the characters of Midnight, you are going to love Liminal Boy. Be ready for the tonal shift, but I promise you it’s worth it. It’s a love letter to all outsiders as well as being a brilliant superhero tale.

Liminal Boy is out TODAY! Happy book birthday, Stefani Chaney!

Division

Adaline #4
Denise Kawaii

The next installment of Adaline is here, and I am living for it! This Middle Grade series blew me away when I binge read it just a few months ago, and I had incredibly high expectations for this fourth book. It blew them all away, and then some.

Summary

Boy 62 and his friends are crossing the radioactive wasteland.

They’re searching for the jailhouse that will be their new home.

But someone already lurks the halls of the rugged building, and they don’t want company.

When Boy 1124562 and his friends trek across the desert, they’re expecting to move into an abandoned building where they can build their A.I. enhanced computer without the danger of Hanford’s oversight. But when they arrive, they quickly discover that the building isn’t empty.

A dangerous Woman with a sordid past is hiding in the shadows of the abandoned building. Can the secret she holds be the key to keeping Hanford’s residents alive?

Musings

62 has been exiled from the other survivors, and along with his friends needs to learn how to live in this hostile, radioactive wasteland on his own. They’re not without a few resources: they’re living in a semi-abandoned building and have a few resources from Hanford. But they’re also harboring a terrible secret: one of the women thought to be living with the Oosa has actually escaped with a story too gruesome for the boys to even know.

What’s brilliant about Kawaii’s writing is that anyone at any age can read it and enjoy it. I binge read it in two days, only putting it down for work (groan) and was terrified of Sunny’s story, though I realize she doesn’t actually outright say what happened to her. It’s vague enough that any actual child reading this will be in the same mindset as 62, but adults can fill in the blanks, which makes the horror all the more horrifying since we tend to imagine the worst. 

There were moments of sweetness, too. My favorite parts had the boys discovering their world, such as the snakes, new buildings, and even the sweet potatoes. 62 is actually doing well with food now, and I feel so happy for this adorable cinnamon roll of a boy. I just want the best for him, and I have no idea how the author will give them happy endings with just a single book left!

I feel like adults and middle graders will approach this book differently, while both loving it to bits. It’s a fantastic adventure and a beautiful exploration of what it means to be human, from the point of view of the sweetest, most innocent protagonist you will ever meet. Book four ups the tension, and I cannot wait to see how book five will tie everything up!

Don’t miss book four of the Adaline series!

Everything I Do – Blog Tour + Author Interview

by M.C. Frank

Happy release day to M.C. Frank for her newest novel. Everything I Do, a retelling of Robin Hood that will destroy your heart in the best possible way. I had the absolute pleasure of reading an advance copy of this book and fell totally and helplessly in love.

Summary

A robber and a princess.
A girl disguised as a boy.
A medieval reimagining of the legend of Robin Hood packed with adventure, sacrifice and romance.

Robin Hood, hidden deep in the Sherwood Forest, is fighting to restore the crown to its rightful king, surrounded by faithful friends, green leaves and clear skies. Burdened with secrets, betrayal and an incredible responsibility, he struggles to stay alive and keep the starving people fed. One day, a boy saves him from the Sheriff’s poisoned arrows. Robin, impressed by the slender youth’s courage and skill, takes the boy with him to the forest. 

Only, the boy is not a boy.

In the castle of Nottingham, a maid who used to be a princess is forced to obey the wishes of a tyrannical Sheriff. She dons on male clothes and trains to become a fierce assassin, vowing to catch the greatest criminal in the kingdom. But when she saves Robin Hood’s life nearly losing her own, she is rescued by the outlaws.
When Robin and the “boy” meet, two worlds collide, resulting in unimaginable danger and intense romance. Who will survive when they learn each other’s secrets? 
What happens when the assassin falls in love with her victim?

Musings

Let me preface my review with my one let down: I NEED MORE OF THIS BOOK. It was over so quickly I reached for the sequel only to remember that it’s not even in the works yet! Oh please of place I need more!

Everything I Do is Frank’s best work yet. It takes a classic tale and gives it a believable twist, and I could almost believe this is the real legend of Robin Hood. The cast of characters gives me total #squadgoals and I love each and every one of these forest muffins. It’s a recipe for success, and totally unforgettable. 

Robin and Ru’s playful relationship as outlaw teacher and student casts a sharp contrast to the backstory that is slowly revealed. I loved the twists – the biggest one being precisely at the midpoint of the book, which was brilliant – and the way the ending changed our entire perspective of the story. You can really feel the love she’s poured into it as she wrote it. I read old reviews for the first version of this book Frank worked on, and see she’s taken everything into consideration into making this book a success. 

As you can tell, I’m struggling to put my ideas in any precise order, but it’s because I’m so in love with this book that I’m just babbling about how awesome it is. It’s the beginning of a fantastic series, and I can’t wait to read what happens next – especially after that ending!

Get your copy here!

An Interview with M.C. Frank

I think the best place to start is at the start! How did the idea of doing a Robin Hood retelling come to you?

I have loved Robin Hood since I read his story  when I was nine or ten. From that day, I started plotting the story of Everything I Do in my head (as crazy as that sounds). Two characters from my childhood daydreams have even made it all the way to the book, can you believe it? Heavily of course, but still! It goes to show how much childhood stories stick with us.

In more recent years, the story came back to me, as I live in a country that’s being abused and tortured in the hands of evil and self-serving leaders. The sufferings of Robin’s people acutely remind me of my own, even though we’re centuries apart. So I felt the need to modernize the story, and share it with the world

Did anything from the first draft stick all the way through? Were the characters of Robin and Run always the way they are now?

No, pretty much nothing from the first draft is the same, except some basic things. But all of the names, characters have changed. Three major plot points are exactly the same since I started writing it years and years ago. But pretty much everything else is changed.

Who was your favorite one to write – the Robber or the Princess?

Ah, that’s a cruel question, Sarah, haha! As an author yourself, you know how impossible this is to answer. I loved the pain and despair behind the Princess chapters, but of course I have a soft spot for your tortured bad boy, so the Robber chapters always came out like a breeze. It always took me a moment to get inside his head, however, as I haven’t had personal experience with being so highly confident and capable as Robin is. So that took a bit of imagination.

One of the things I really liked was the team Robin has supporting him. As I said in my review, they’re ultimate #squadgoals. Do you have a favorite character outside of the two main ones? Which was the most fun to write?

I’m in love with that hashtag #squadgoals, it’s perfect! Of course, Will my poor baby is my obvious favorite, but I also loved Alis. She is so feminine but kickass, the opposite of Ru in many ways. She’s unapologetic and brave, but also very tender and mothers the boys. I love her.

Along those same lines, who would you have stand with you in a fight?

Robin, of course, since his fighting skills surpasses everyone else’s. However, he might not be available at the moment, since he’s got so many things going on (to put it mildly) I’d always pick John Lyttle. A gorgeous Viking giant to defend me from all the internet bullies, that’s what I need.

What do you think makes a good story?

A good story is a story that makes you think and feel. If the writer is invested while creating it, then the reader is more likely to relate and then the book will stick with them forever. I read somewhere that the mark of a good book is how long after reading it you remember everything about it. I completely agree.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Everything. Books, movies, my own daydreams. Memes, K-drama, Jane Austen… (I could go on forever).

I can tell you really took the readers’ comments into account when you rewrote this new version. I absolutely loved it, and I feel like it must be an entirely different book to the one that came before. Just how much has changed?

Thank you so much! As I mention on my blog, (read the full story of what happened here) I completely rewrote Everything I Do and republished it. The old version was live for a bit less than 2 months. So, I didn’t  just change the book, I rewrote it. Everything is different. Names, characters, scenes. Robin’s age changed, his looks, his motives, his backstory. Literally everything. Ru didn’t even exist in the old book. And so on about Robin’s men and the villains… The only thing that’s the same is the name Robin Hood, although Robin’s title and last name are changed as well!

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing Everything I Do?

How a human being can be absolutely destroyed in a few days, and how it takes years and a lot of love to restore them to greatness. It never ceases to amaze me that it is possible to be redeemed, even if you are completely broken. I started writing Everything I Do in order to show this, and it was so hard to do as the story progresses in the series (but I think I’ve succeeded). Imagine how much harder it is in real life! But it is possible, that’s all that matters.

I absolutely loved the way the book ended – well, more like I screamed to the heavens, begging for the sequel! How long do we have to wait for the next installment? And what are your plans for the series?

Haha, that warms my heart! Thank you! I always want my readers to suffer… erm, or something. I talk frequently on my blog mcfrankauthor.tumblr.com and on my Instagram @mcfrank_author about my Robin Hood series plans, because they constantly change! So far, the first 5 books have been fully outlined, and of them, the first 3 are fully written! So you may expect the next installment in the fall or winter of 2019.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Reading! I am a bookworm (or actually a book-eater). I read about a book a day, to keep the imagination fuels full.

Connect with the author!

Battle Planet: Champion of Earth

by Andrew Gates

It’s been a while since I did a self-pub Saturday! Today, I’m bringing you an interview with one of my favorite self pub authors, Andrew Gates. You might remember him from such books as ‘Iris’ and ‘Hive’ – his incredibly epic Color of Water and Sky series. As that series ended, new ones begin: this young author has big plans for new books, and his latest Scifi novel, Battle Planet, is intended to release on the 23rd.

Summary

Battle Planet: The Champion of Earth by [Gates, Andrew]

Berlin in 1988. Rock music, revolution, gladiators in space.

Janice Milani was an ordinary American abroad in Berlin during the final days of the Cold War… until she was taken in the night by an alien captor. Now Janice, along with four other captives, suddenly find themselves on an alien world where sentient creatures from across the universe are made to fight in the Battle Arena for sport. Desperate to escape the arena and get back to Earth, the only way Janice can get home is to be crowned as champion of the games. And to do that, she will have to fight like she has never fought before.

An Interview with Andrew Gates

Let’s start at the very beginning. How on earth did you come up with the concept for Battle Planet?

Ha! That’s probably the best question. The biggest influence I had is a Marvel comics event series called Secret Wars, which came out back in the 80s. The premise is that superheroes and villains are kidnapped from earth and forced to fight each other by a being named the Beyonder. I think that premise in itself is just so cool. And with the recent success of the movie Thor: Ragnarok, I figured the timing for a story like this was good because there is clearly an interest in an outer space gladiator story. In fact, the villain in Battle Planet, Queen Jakani, was inspired by the villain from Thor: Ragnarok, Hela.

What prompted you to make it start in the 80’s, in Berlin? How is Janice’s character different from a woman from 30 years in her future – 2018?

It’s kind of a strange thing of mine, but I have never been a fan of stories set in the present day. The reason for this is that I find if you were to read a story any other time after the book comes out, it gets dated pretty quickly. And it’s not just books. To be honest it even bugs me when I watch a movie and it says “present day” in the movie because I know that if I watch this movie 10 years from now, it’s immediately dating itself. So instead I like to set things in period because you can read period stories at any time and it’s supposed to be dated. Doing this also allows the writer to take full advantage of everything that time period has to offer – that could be anything from grand geopolitical elements to something as trivial as music or fashion. This wasn’t so much of an issue for me when I was writing The Color of Water and Sky because that story is set in the future, but if you read my short story collection, Kangblabla!, I have five stories in that collection. Three of them are in the future, one of them is in the 90s and one of them is in the 70s. Nothing is set in the present day.

Tell us a bit about the Battle Arena. What kind of creatures find themselves there? And who watches the games, as a spectator? Take us there briefly?

Every type of creature finds themselves in the Battle Arena. Part of the fun in writing this is coming up with crazy ideas for creatures that might be in the arena. This was where I was really able to push the full limits of my creativity. There are creatures who can split apart and put themselves back together, creatures who can turn invisible, who have two heads or multiple limbs, creatures that are more tree-like than they are animal-like, creatures that are huge or tiny. And obviously, some creatures are more familiar to things we know on Earth than others.

The humans who are taken to the Battle Arena were taken there at complete random, which was something I thought was important because I wanted to get a unique cross section of humankind on this planet. The idea is that five random people are picked with no preference towards any single trait whatsoever. So obviously if that were to happen, you would get a totally random mix of genders, ages, races, nationalities, physical abilities, education and so forth. For example, of the five people taken in Battle Planet, two are Asian, one is European, one is North American and one is South American. There are three females, two males. The ages range from young kids to elderly.

That is also where the Cold War aspect of the story comes into play, because in this time-period, you have all these people from super polarizing political climates forced into a situation with one another where they need to work together and get along. These national identities and national experiences are what drives a lot of the characters and their trust or distrust for one another.

As for the spectators, they’re just there to have a good time and watch the games. They aren’t sickos or sadists necessarily who love to watch pain and torture in the gladiator games. For the spectators, watching people fight to the death is totally normal in the same way that ancient Romans would watch gladiator matches thousands of years ago. The competitors in the arena don’t view the spectators so nonchalantly though.

Was Janice you favorite character to write in this new book, or are there other characters waiting to steal the crown? Do you have favorites when it comes to the writing process?

I think more interesting than any individual character of Janice was the story as a whole. The shared experience that all five of these folks go through is really the most interesting part for me. And honestly, the character of Janice would be nothing if she weren’t working off of the other characters around her. The interaction between the different characters is really the payoff rather than one individual character standing out.

Though I will say, Janice has an excellent taste in music, which is basically just my taste in music expressed through her.

This is your first novel outside of your epic Color of Water and Sky series. How was the writing experience for you, writing in an entirely new world? When you started, were you still working on HIVE, the conclusion to your series, or had you already finished it?

I was still working on Hive at the same time, yes. Interestingly the idea of doing something new and the excitement around starting a different project led me to write Battle Planet extremely fast. This is easily the fastest story of this length I have ever written and I think it was because I was just so excited to get working on something new and different.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in crafting your books?

I’ve learned that writing a novel isn’t all that hard so long as you are confident in what you are doing. I think that is another part of the reason this story came together so quickly. When I first wrote Iris, that took me a LONG time. Granted, it was a longer book, but the pace at which I wrote was much slower and I would constantly go back and re-edit everything tons of times. I think, for most writers, this is true for their first couple of books. But now that I am more confident, I am writing much faster and not micro-editing everything all the time.

Will Battle Planet be the beginning of a new series, or stand entirely alone?

I am still trying to determine the answer to that question myself, but if I do end up writing a second one, it will likely be a prequel instead of a sequel. I think it would be really cool to do a story set in ancient times. There are definitely a lot of things about the Battle Planet that I intentionally left unanswered so there is certainly potential there if I wanted to do a prequel.

You have so many incredible books coming out this year. I’m really excited to get to read them all. Can you tell us a little more about what’s coming our way? What are you most excited about sharing with us?

April is an awesome month for me and I am doing that intentionally. I have had some projects that were basically ready to go that I have held off on until now because I want April to be a huge month.

One week after Battle Planet’s release, I’ll be releasing part one of a three-part series. The book is called Seas of the Red Star and the series is called Pirates of Vexa Prime. The book originally started as a co-authorship between me and MD Cooper, but a few things changed and now the story is 100% mine. The premise is really interesting. It’s about two starship pilots who are stranded on an ocean world, where 18th Century sailors live. The pilots have to get off world and back to their home without any tech and their only help comes from a society that still hasn’t even figured out combustion engines yet. It’s already up for pre-order here.

One week after that, the sequel to Seas of the Red Star will come out, called The Daltus Conspiracy. It is also up for pre-order here.

I also have a new short story coming out as part of an anthology put together by Keystroke Medium. The story is about a virus that has destroyed most of the human population and only those people in remote places are still alive. That will come out sometime in April or May, but I don’t know the exact date yet.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

Mostly my readers are frustrated that the alien character names are so hard to pronounce.

Outside of writing, what does Andrew Gates get up to?

I’ve been super into Halo lately. I love watching movies too. Everything that Marvel is putting out recently has been top notch. I also like running (I’m doing a full marathon the day after this interview gets posted actually). I also write for a local running magazine called Run Washington Magazine. You can find all that stuff here.

Battle Planet: The Champion of Earth is slated to release on April 23rd, though you can preorder your copy now!

Wicked Saints – Blog Tour

by Emily A. Duncan

Once I got into this book, I couldn’t put it down. It was like the Grishaverse, except so much darker, and more gruesome: as if someone stitched Nevernight and Shadow and Bone together and didn’t apply a bandage.

Summary

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.
A prince in danger must decide who to trust.
A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings. 
Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.
In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world
of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between
dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something
Dark and Holy trilogy.

Musings

So if you don’t like blood, turn away now. My only qualm with the book would be how gratuitous it was with all the bloodletting, cutting, and just everything blood; but I’m willing to look past it since it was such a gosh-darn great story. 

Three characters come into play: Nadya, a cleric girl given power by the gods, trying to save her country; Serefin, prince of the enemy country, and Malachiaz, a mysterious boy on the run. We have holy, royal, and cursed – and each willing to do what they must to get what they want. Nadya’s nation has been in a holy war with Serefin’s for centuries. While her country worships the gods, Serefin’s has renounced them, taking power from within under the form of blood magic. Both want the war to end by any means possible, and will become who they must to tear town the enemy. 

So far, it might seem formulaic. Until the author does one single, tiny little thing: she makes her characters begin to question where the gods actually come from. All of a sudden, the holy war seems inconsequential, as we realize that there is so much more at play. The author delves into the complex issues of wars fought over ideals, of the people who are caught in between. And I was hooked.

It’s basically YA on steroids. Everything is ramped up x1000: the blood, the magic, the complexity. Nothing was predictable. I really don’t want to give anything else away if I can avoid it, so I’ll stop my review here. But this book is really going to blow everyone away – I guarantee it!

OUT TODAY from Wednesday books!

The Near Witch – Blog Tour

By V.E. Schwab

It’s such a fascinating adventure to read your favorite author’s debut novel. V.E. Schwab is one of those instabuy authors of mine who would put any book out there and I’d preorder with my eyes shut. But the Near Witch was still one of hers that I hadn’t read yet, simply because I couldn’t find it anywhere. I was so excited for the new edition, and reading my favorite author’s first book was so much fun!

Summary

The Near Witch’ is only an old story told to frighten children. If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. There are no strangers in the town of Near. These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. But when an actual stranger, a boy who seems to fade like smoke, appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true. The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

Musings

A dark and mysterious novel, we follow Lexi, a young girl in a tiny, isolated village on the moors, still mourning the loss of her father. She’s not happy staying at home, she’d rather follow in her father’s footsteps, working and hunting on the moors. When children start disappearing from town à la Pied Piper, Lexi is desperate to find answers to protect her beloved little sister, before she’s next. It doesn’t help that the children start disappearing just when a stranger appears in town, a boy who is more than he looks.

I think this is the first V.E. Schwab book where she uses first person narration. The novel follows a somewhat familiar YA fantasy plot, with a dark, mysterious danger, and a heroine who doesn’t conform. I found it a little odd that in such an old fashioned, puritanical town, we’d have a girl with such a modern name like Lexi, but whatever. She’s a bit – I hate to say this – flat, since her character can be recapped by two traits: not fitting in, and fiercely loving her sister. However, we already see traces of Schwab’s signature voice in the way Lexi stands up to the men in her village, and in the incredible atmosphere she creates.

When I was reading the book, I couldn’t help but feel cold. It’s a perfect ghost story, in the sense that it really does raise goosebumps on your skin, without resorting to cheap horror tricks. It made me feel like I was watching The Crucible – on the Moors of England. The oppressive fear of the ‘other’ makes the air thick and hard to breathe. So while my first reaction to the book was that I could see the plot coming a mile away, I was still transported by it, and blown away (no pun intended) by the subtle worldbuilding. MOORS! WITCHES! MAGIC! HECK YES!

The love story was also a bit flat. Cole is probably my favorite character of the bunch, but it felt super weird to read an instalove here. I was more excited about the actual story of the Near Witch, and wanted to spend more time tracking her down, and learning about her past. I thought there might be an extra twist at the end, but none came. I think it’s why I loved the short story that came after so much – Cole’s point of view, written with the power of Schwab’s writing ten years in the making.

This might be a bit blunt, but I think the best part of reading the Near Witch, now, is seeing how far V.E. Schwab has come since. The Near Witch is good, especially for a debut novel. But compare it to Vengeful… it’s like watching a child grow into a queen. Schwab has grown so much as a writer in the past decade, and it shows. It just makes me even more excited to see what she writes next!

Massive thank you to Titan Books for sending me the new collector’s edition!