Wednesday, July 11, 2018

CITY OF LIES by Sam Hawke

I first got acquainted with Sam Hawke through Janet Reid's blog on publishing, often referred to as "the reef." And when I first heard the premise for Sam's book, CITY OF LIES, I knew a feature was in order:

I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me... 

Outwardly, Jovan is the lifelong friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible Heir. Quiet. Forgettable. In secret, he's a master of poisons and chemicals, trained to protect the Chancellor’s family from treachery. When the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army lays siege to the city, Jovan and his sister Kalina must protect the Heir and save their city-state.

But treachery lurks in every corner, and the ancient spirits of the land are rising...and angry.



According to your bio, you have a deep fear and distrust of ducks. What is the worst duck encounter you've had?

Oh boy. This hatred and distrust runs deep. As a teenager I used to house/dogsit for a school friend’s parents in the holidays. One year they built a massive duck enclosure in their garden too. I’d had chickens most of my life, mostly little silkies, so I wasn’t bothered and assumed it would be a similar experience. Boy. Boy was I wrong.

Chickens are affectionate little things. They come running when they hear you, they’ll sit on your lap for stroking. Ducks ... ducks are not your friends. Those things are little feathered psychopaths. And when I say little I actually mean ‘substantially bigger than you previously realised’ and by ‘feathered’ I mean ‘except for the one they’ve torn all the feathers off and pecked into a bleeding husk of a bird’. And look maybe they just walked into the shelter at dusk when my friend’s Mum clapped at them like she claimed, but they sure as hell didn’t do it for me. Their house was basically a box in the middle of the back third of the enclosure, with sharp scratchy bushes behind and on either side of it but - critically - a big enough gap both ways that ducks could easily divert from the ramp at the last second and dart left or right to run around behind instead of going in. There was no way to block off those exits, as I learned only too well while chasing aggressive belligerent feathered demons around in the increasing dark, getting scratched and filthy and filthy, swearing and crying with frustration. Even with three people (eventually I admitted defeat and begged help from my family) it was a complex and stressful military campaign to get them in every night. I looked after those ducks for many years but I never stopped hating them.

I don't blame you! Not sure I can look at ducks in the same way either. And speaking of prickly things, in CITY OF LIES, you dabble with different kinds of poisons. What about this was the most fun to write? 

Early on in my world building I decided I wanted it to play in a proper secondary world, with only minor crossovers in plant/animal life with things we would recognise. Which meant not relying on existing poisons but largely making up my own based on the flora, fauna, climate, and sociological history of the region. Possibly I’ve always had a weird interest in ‘things in nature that can kill you’ so I really enjoyed doing it. When I was about eight we got this Readers Digest book called ‘Australia’s Dangerous Creatures’ and I was weirdly, inexplicably obsessed with it, read it cover to cover hundreds of times, so my subconscious is full of deadly plants and venomous and poisonous animals that probably heavily influenced my world building!


That sounds scarier than ducks, even! You still blog on a somewhat regular basis on samhawkewrites.com. What do you think the future of blogs might be, and what do you enjoy most about maintaining your blog? 

Blogs are dead, I’m told? Honestly, I don’t know. I still like reading them, but I have a lot less time than I used to. There are some blogs I think are an invaluable resource for emerging writers - for example, I read Janet Reid’s blog at jetreidliterary.blogspot.com and Chuck Wendig’s terribleminds.com religiously. But I guess more broadly people are communicating in different ways now.

My blogging has never been what you’d call regular, partly for time reasons and partly self consciousness - I still find it hard to feel confident that my rambling thoughts about something are worth an entire blog post.

Not sure I agree with you--I'll bet you have a lot of great things to say. What are some of your current projects?

I’m working hard trying to get the sequel to City of Lies done. Then there will be at least a few months of editing, and I’m hoping to squeeze in an in-world story for an anthology but that’s dependent on me coming up with a workable idea (I tend to think in novel length!). After that, we’ll have to see how City of Lies does and whether there’s any appetite for the Poison Wars novels to continue!



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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

Photo courtesy of mentalfloss.com
Stay tuned next week for an interview with Sam Hawke, author of CITY OF LIES!



Outwardly, Jovan is the lifelong friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible Heir. Quiet. Forgettable. In secret, he's a master of poisons and chemicals, trained to protect the Chancellor’s family from treachery. When the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army lays siege to the city, Jovan and his sister Kalina must protect the Heir and save their city-state.

But treachery lurks in every corner, and the ancient spirits of the land are rising...and angry.








Buy: Bookpassage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Indiebound

Monday, July 2, 2018

Release Feature and Review: CINDERELLA BOY by Kristina Meister

I was lucky enough to snag an ARC of CINDERELLA BOY, and I'm so glad I did. This book releases today; it's a sweet love story that pulled me in from the first page:

Sixteen-year-old Declan is the perfect son . . . except for one tiny issue. When his sister Delia comes home to find him trying on her clothes, he fears her judgment, but she only fears his fashion choices. One quick makeover later, Declan is transformed into Delia’s mysterious cousin Layla and dragged to the party of the year, hosted by Carter, the most popular boy in school.

When Carter meets Layla, he fumbles to charm her. He adores her sense of humor and her poise. But when she vanishes in the middle of the night, he’s left confused and determined to solve the mystery of who she is.

As their school year begins, their high school embraces a policy of intolerance, and both Declan and Carter know they must stand up. Carter is tired of being a coward and wants to prove he can be a knight in shining armor. Declan is sick of being bullied and wants desperately to be himself. If they team up, it could be a fairy-tale ending, or a very unhappy ever after.

Review:

Declan lives for trying on his sister's clothes--until she catches him at it one day. Delia doesn't judge him--if anything she offers the kind of support most would wish in a sister--including introducing Declan to his crush, Carter, as the ever-mysterious "Layla." Carter, meanwhile, finds something in Layla he hasn't found with other girls--an intellect that can match his, and someone willing to see the side of himself that he hides from his other, more popular, friends. Declan, however, gets a conscience about his deceit, and starts to care enough for Carter to let him go. But Carter has some ideas of his own--ones that Declan can't even dream of--especially when Carter fights for something worth believing in. Where Kristina Meister really stands out as an author is with her distinctive voice--separate enough from her characters for them to be autonomous, but consistent enough throughout to keep readers engaged. The characters, in and of themselves, are very deep thinkers, and their conversations are fascinating. Even better, the budding romance is deftly supported with a really meaty plot--with battles against intolerance that teens are still currently fighting. Overall, this book has a beautiful message about self-confidence, and the importance of being yourself, and readers who struggle with self-esteem--even the adults among us--can find ways to gain comfort in their own skin within these pages. This book is definitely a must for high schoolers who are trying to find themselves amid the pressures from parents and community--and for those of us who need ways to bring our own unique individuality to the world.




Buy: Bookpassage ~ Amazon.com ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound





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