Wednesday, August 28, 2019


DEMON IN THE WHITELANDS is the debut novel from Month9Books author Nikki Z. Richard. This book is a LGBTQIA YA Fantasy that will debut at the end of September 2019.

Sometimes no matter how hard you try, some things cannot be explained.

Sixteen-year-old Samuel, son of devout cleric, has endured shame and prejudice his entire life. Although he is destined to become clergy too, he longs for an ordinary life in the whitelands away from demons and holy roots.

When the mayor claims to have captured a mute demon girl, Samuel is forced to become her caretaker. But as Samuel gets to know the prisoner, he finds her not to be very demonlike. Instead, she is intelligent, meek, and an exceptional artist. Despite her seeming goodness, some more concerning things cannot be explained. Samuel is hard-pressed to reconcile her uncanny strength and speed, missing arm, ambiguous gender, and the mysterious scars covering most of her body.

Samuel forms a deep attachment to the girl with predator eyes and violent outbursts, against his father’s advice. Their friendship could turn into something more. But when Samuel discovers the mayor’s dark intentions, he must decide whether to risk his own execution by setting her free or watch as the girl is used as a pawn in a dangerous game of oppression, fear, and murder.

According to your website bio, you are pursuing a Ph.D. How do you balance this with your writing commitments?

Balancing schoolwork with my other writing commitments has never been an easy task, but I honestly don't think I've known another way of doing life. School is a place where you're forced to read a bunch of different things, and then you're forced to write about what you've read. College is probably one of the best environments for a writer. I wrote my first short story as an undergraduate student at LSU in a Fiction workshop course, and since then I've been writing creative works (poems, short stories, novels, screenplays, etc.) alongside my more traditional academic writing projects. In a way, learning how to write a strong research paper on racial and gender inequality in Chimimanda Adichie's Americannah helps me know how to write a really good story with those same thematic elements. I guess that's a very braggadocios way of saying, "I'm a nerd and I love school!" And I never sleep, and I drink a lot of coffee.

I also love school. I think that's one reason I became a librarian. I'm intrigued by the mute "demon" girl in DEMON IN THE WHITELANDS. How did she come to you?

For me, Zei is a perfect representation of the voiceless other. People tend to fear what they don't understand. It's a cliche saying, but I've always found it to be true. Zei is an intelligent humanoid being with superb physicality, but lacks sexual organs and the ability to speak. Because of this, Zei's identity is postulated and imposed by others, mainly those in power. Is Zei a human, a demon, a monster, or something else? The mayor claims Zei to be some sort of "demon." In his naiveté, Samuel assigns gender and sexual identity to Zei, because Zei "looks like a girl." It's only when Samuel gives Zei access to writing tools that he is able to learn their true name. Instead of prescribing identity and intentions towards someone or something we don't understand, I believe it's our responsibility not to simply try and "listen," but to make sure the voiceless are given access to the tools they need to be heard.

Absolutely. What do you feel is the most difficult part of the writing process and why?

The most difficult part of the writing process is actual writing-it-down part. I could live in my head all day, and I have a hundred different ideas for stories I'm always mulling over, but it's like pulling teeth sometimes to get me to sit still long enough to punch the keys and write the words down. I really enjoy editing, so for me that's the easy part. It's that initial leap of faith, taking time out of your life to write down words that may or may not work out into a worthwhile project, that always kicks my butt. But, thankfully, I've been getting better at forcing those 1st draft ideas out.

First drafts are indeed challenging--I have to remind myself there are no wasted words. What are some of your current projects?

My biggest upcoming project is a new-adult queer dystopian love story that's sort of a hybrid between Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. It's actually going to serve as my creative dissertation for my PhD! And, of course, I've already working on the sequel to Demon in the Whitelands, which will bring a lot more answers in regards to Zei's origins.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

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Wednesday, August 21, 2019


I first featured Marie Brennan here. I saw her again at last year's WorldCon, and when I found out that that there would be a novel featuring Dragon Naturalist Lady Trent's granddaughter, I couldn't wait to spread word about it. The book debuted yesterday, and is now available.

As the renowned granddaughter of Isabella Camherst (Lady Trent, of the riveting and daring Draconic adventure memoirs) Audrey Camherst has always known she, too, would want to make her scholarly mark upon a chosen field of study.

When Lord Gleinheigh recruits Audrey to decipher a series of ancient tablets holding the secrets of the ancient Draconean civilization, she has no idea that her research will plunge her into an intricate conspiracy, one meant to incite rebellion and invoke war. Alongside dearest childhood friend and fellow archeologist Kudshayn, must find proof of the conspiracy before it’s too late.

In our last interview, you said, "[Objectivity] still requires you to sort through the advice you get and figure out which parts ring true, and that's much easier said than done." Which situations or projects have you found it most difficult to remain objective as a writer?

That’s a tough one! I think some of the hardest projects in that respect have been ones where the idea has been with me for a really long time, because they’re so ingrained in my mind that it’s difficult to change them.

I ran into that particularly with LIES AND PROPHECY, which was (in its original draft) the first novel I ever finished. I *know* it has structural flaws -- the viewpoint structure being the most significant one -- but they’re so baked into the concept that in the end, I could only do so much to change them. In the end, the book is what it is, and I can’t make it be something different.

I have sort of the opposite problem with another idea whose earliest roots date back to junior high school. It started out as fanfic of something else, and during late high school and college I started working on filing off the serial numbers so that I could make it an independent piece of fiction, while keeping the bits that were important to me. But there were so many bits that felt important, and yet they didn’t all fit together sensibly without the supporting elements I’d taken away, that I wound up trunking that for a long time, hoping I’d get the distance (and objectivity) I needed to really strip it down to the essentials and then build up again from there. Instead what’s happened is that I’ve gone back to look at it, and when I try to pick out the core bits I really want to keep . . . the whole thing crumbles to bits. I’m not sure any part of it has been strong enough to really survive and win back my attention. So if that thing ever sees the light of day, it will be as something only tangentially related to what it was before.

It makes sense that the longer you are with a project, the harder it is to complete the often necessary process of figuring out which parts to keep and which to throw away. You also drew from an existing universe in TURNING DARKNESS INTO LIGHT. Audrey Camherst, Lady Trent's granddaughter, makes her way into the foray of her own Draconean journey. When did Audrey first come to you, and how did you know her story needed to be told? 

I owe roundabout thanks for this to a girl named Elizabeth, whom I met at the Tucson Book Festival.

When I was signing a book for her after a panel, she asked if I’d thought about writing anything else in that setting. I started giving her my stock answer, which is that I’d love to do a kind of “nonfiction” companion volume for the Memoirs with Lady Trent’s field notes and such . . . and then out of nowhere, I got mugged with an idea.

That idea was not the idea I wound up writing! My first notion was to do a kind of in-world historical novel, written by someone in Isabella’s own country, about ancient Draconean civilization. But I’m more inclined to mythology, so my thoughts drifted from “historical novel” to “mythological epic” -- which doesn’t entirely work as a novel in the real world, since those tend to operate differently from modern fiction. On the other hand, an epic lent itself nicely to the scholarly angle you see in the Memoirs, so I had the notion of interleaving sections of a Draconean epic with sections of story about the people translating that epic, with intrigue and adventure surrounding the finding of the text and its meaning for the present day.

At that point it was only natural to make one of the translators someone connected to Lady Trent -- to wit, her granddaughter. Audrey popped straight into my head: a more 1920s kind of young woman, compared to her late Victorian grandmother, and struggling against the weight of expectation placed on someone connected to so illustrious a family.

What a great way to interweave story! How do you know which projects to prioritize and which to shelve?

It’s a complicated dance. Ideally I could just decide based on what has fired up my imagination enough that the story is demanding to be written -- and sometimes I get to do that. But just because I’m passionate about something doesn’t mean that editors will be, so there are various projects that have gotten shelved for lack of interest on that end.

I try to pay at least some attention to what will segue well out of what I’ve done previously, too. When I signed a contract with Tor for the last two novels of the Memoirs plus one more novel, our tentative agreement was that the latter would be a book called THE CHANGING SEA. But as I wrapped up Lady Trent’s story, I looked at that idea and realized it wouldn’t make anything like a good follow-up to what I’d been doing: its setting is a strange ocean that exists between worlds, its main characters are a bunch of people cursed for their sins in life, and the protagonist is a guy. I think it’s a cool concept, but that didn’t really seem like the right time for it. So my editor and I agreed to put that aside, and instead I wrote TURNING DARKNESS INTO LIGHT.

Shelved isn’t the same thing as chucked out, though. I do still hope to write THE CHANGING SEA someday, or one of the other projects currently on hiatus.

It's nice to be reminded that shelved projects aren't necessarily dead in the water! If you could tell your younger writer self one thing, what would it be and why?

Honestly, Younger Me had her head screwed on pretty well. This kind of question is usually about steering yourself away from mistakes or dead ends, but I don’t have any that I truly, profoundly regret -- there are certainly things that could have gone better, but in the end those things still got me to where I am now. So I think that I’d mostly just give Younger Me a pep talk, reassurance that yes, this is indeed a long game, that it may take me a while but I’ll break through. I believed that was true at the time, but there were stretches where it would have been nice to have the confirmation.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

For Marie Brennan's other works, click here

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Wednesday, August 14, 2019


When I met M.M. Choinaurd, and heard about her book THE DANCING GIRLS, I knew I had to spread word about this crime thriller series and its amazing heroine. The second book, TAKEN TO THE GRAVE, just went up for pre-order on Amazon:

When Jeanine Hammond is found dead in a hotel in the picture-perfect town of Oakhust, newly-promoted Detective Jo Fournier is thrown into a disturbing case. Who would murder this shy, loving wife and leave her body posed like a ballerina?

Jo wants to know why Jeanine's husband is so controlling about money, and where Jeanine's wedding ring is, but before she and her team can get close to the truth, another woman is found strangled in a hotel, arms placed gracefully above her head like a dancer.

While digging through old case files, Jo makes a terrifying link to a series of cold cases: each victim bears the same strangulation marks. But the FBI won't take Jo seriously, and if she disobeys direct orders by investigating the killings outside of her jurisdiction, it will mean the end of the career she's already sacrificed so much for, even her relationship.

Just as Jo is beginning to lose hope, she finds messages on the victims' computers that make her question whether these small-town women were hiding big lies. Jo thinks this is the missing link, but she knows the murderer is moments away from selecting his next victim. Will it lead her to the most twisted killer of her career in time, or will another innocent life be lost?

When a girl’s body is discovered in a park in the sleepy Massachusetts town of Oakhurst, local detective Jo is shocked to the core. Because the girl is the second innocent victim to turn up dead in three days. And just like the first, a tarot card has been left by the body. The meaning of the card: betrayal.

After uncovering a series of threatening messages targeting the girl, a student at the university, and the first victim, her teacher, Jo thinks she’s locked the killer in her crosshairs. The primary suspect is a volatile ex-military student with an axe to grind for failing grades, and the frightened town is out for his blood. But the next day, a much-loved member of the community is found dead in her home, a tarot card in her mail. There’s no clear motive to link her death to the others, and the message on the card this time is even stranger: domestic bliss.

With a fourth body and card appearing the following day, Jo knows she’s running out of time to crack the code and bring the killer to justice. And the pressure only gets worse with heart-breaking news about Jo’s father forcing her to choose between helping her family heal or the victims’ families get justice. Can Jo find the twisted murderer sending the town into a panic before another life is lost? Or this time, will the dangerous killer find her first?

You are the owner and operator of Lacquer Or Leave Her!, a nail polish and nail art blog. What originally got you interested in nail art? 

I’ve always loved nail polish, to the point where an ex-boyfriend teased me once that my nails were only ever without polish for the time it took me to remove and reapply. Fast forward years to me as a professor working such crazy long hours and combine that with a niece who started sending me all sorts IG photos and YouTube videos of cool nail art. I’d given up all the artistic outlets in my life because of the hours I was working, so nail art seemed like a relatively low-time investment artistic outlet. I discovered nail stamping and it became a first step on my journey to find balance.

A journey to find balance is definitely relatable. I love the character of Jo Fournier in THE DANCING GIRLS. Did Jo come to you fully formed or did she develop as you wrote her? 

I’m so glad you like her! She developed over time, or rather, she revealed herself to me over time. My first attempt to write a detective was influenced by the ones I’d fallen in love with as a young girl—Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, etc—mostly males. But as I wrote my male detective, I struggled to write one that interested me and that I wanted to spend time with—and if I didn’t want to spend time with them, my readers certainly wouldn’t. I stepped back and thought it through with the help of my critique group, and realized that as much as I loved those characters, I didn’t connect with them on a personal level the way I did with my favorite PI, Kinsey Millhone. So, I switched gears and wrote a woman detective, one who struggles with issues more in line with those that professional women deal with (at least, in my experience). While her specific struggles are different than mine, the more I write her, the more I believe they share something universal with the choices all woman have to make, and with the societal pressures on women. Jo’s specific struggle to find balance is different than mine, but the general struggle is universal across women—we all have to decide how many of our very limited hours we’re going to spend on career, family, self-care, and we all have to deal with the consequences of those choices. But despite those struggles, I also wanted to write a woman who was damned good at her job without turning into a mega ball-breaking bitch in the process; I think that’s an unfortunate corner many women are backed into if they want to be taken seriously. And as I write her, Jo teaches me something new in each book about what strength really means, and how much more powerful it is when paired with compassion.

Wonderfully put! You've also published flash fiction pieces. What do you like most about writing within a smaller story space?

I love the time I get to take on each word in the story. It’s like a puzzle you’re trying to solve, trying to get as much impact into every word as possible. I love reading a flash piece that takes a just a few minutes to read but stays with me for days—flash pieces are like stealth punches in the gut!—so trying to craft that myself is a lovely challenge. And it’s a fun way to use ideas I have that won’t work for a whole novel.

It is indeed! What are some of your current projects?

My second book in the Detective Jo Fournier series, TAKEN TO THE GRAVE, just went up for pre-order. I also have a traditional mystery about a woman who solves her late husband’s murder—and two others—with the help of an enchanted tarot deck that I’m trying to find a home for. And I’m currently writing a stand-alone thriller about a mysterious old-school text adventure game that appears on the dark web and turns out to have clues the players must hunt down in the real world—to deadly consequence, of course.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound


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Wednesday, August 7, 2019


I met Rosiee Thor at this year's YallWest in Santa Monica, and when I heard about her debut novel, TARNISHED ARE THE STARS, I had to feature it. Even better, it's set to debut on my birthday, October 15:

A secret beats inside Anna Thatcher's chest: an illegal clockwork heart. Anna works cog by cog -- donning the moniker Technician -- to supply black market medical technology to the sick and injured, against the Commissioner's tyrannical laws.

Nathaniel Fremont, the Commissioner's son, has never had to fear the law. Determined to earn his father's respect, Nathaniel sets out to capture the Technician. But the more he learns about the outlaw, the more he questions whether his father's elusive affection is worth chasing at all.

Their game of cat and mouse takes an abrupt turn when Eliza, a skilled assassin and spy, arrives. Her mission is to learn the Commissioner's secrets at any cost -- even if it means betraying her own heart.

When these uneasy allies discover the most dangerous secret of all, they must work together despite their differences and put an end to a deadly epidemic -- before the Commissioner ends them first.

What originally drew you to steampunk?

I'll be honest, I don't actually remember what drew me to steampunk. I remember liking it, and I remember feeling like the essence of steampunk vibed with the themes I wanted to explore, but I don't remember the initial spark. It might have been an interview I saw about the steampunk community, or it might have been a pinterest photo, or maybe just the overwhelming desire to write about big hats. What I do know is that steampunk allowed me to explore the concept of technological advancement in an exciting way and really embodied the attitude of rebellion through technology, fashion, and social-constructs I wanted to partake in--and really, what more could you ask of a genre?

I think it's that sense of rebellion that draws me to steampunk too. I love that TARNISHED ARE THE STARS is a queer adventure story. What do you hope readers will take away once they've finished reading it?

I have a lot of hopes... probably more than is wise, if I'm being honest. But really the main thing I hope readers take away from this book is that adventure belongs to queer people too. So often I see queerness used as a plot device, and I wanted to write something where queer characters could be queer without that being the point of their story. I wanted them to exist and fight for what they believe in and solve mysteries while being queer without their queerness being a roadblock of some kind. I think issue books can be so important, and we need those, but we also need books where queer kids get to save the day without anyone telling them they can't simply because of who they are.

We absolutely do! I love the design of your website. What suggestions, if any, do you have for authors looking to build (or expand) their online presence?

Thank you! My website was designed by Gail Villanueva, who is an amazing graphic designer, and also a kidlit author! She did such a fabulous job of translating my personal aesthetic into a website and I could not be happier with it. As for advice, I think the best thing I ever did was give myself permission to be myself. So often I think people look for their personal brand and try to cultivate it, but the thing is... we all have personalities already, and most of the authors I see with successful online presences use their personality as their brand. Yes, it's good to be cognizant of what we say online and how that connects to our author brand, but more often than not you already have the tools you need to build your brand right there in your handy dandy personality--you don't have to pretend to be anyone you're not.

Well said! What are some of your current projects?

I can't talk a ton about my current projects yet, but I can say I'm working on another YA book. It's got some fantasy... and some science... and lots of fire! It's also starring queer characters, and while it isn't steampunk, it's got a similar vibe to my debut in that it's grounded sff with a super fun aesthetic! Hopefully I'll get to share more soon 🤞

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

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Tuesday, August 6, 2019


I'm excited to announce that MRS. SMITH'S SPY SCHOOL FOR GIRLS: DOUBLE CROSS by Beth McMullen is out today! I featured this book here, along with the other titles in the series.

Abby and her classmates have all been invited to Briar Academy to participate in The Challenge, a prep school competition where teams compete for prizes and the glory of being the best of the best. While there, they figure out their nemesis, The Ghost, is using Briar as headquarters to plan a devastating attack on his enemies (a.k.a.: pretty much everyone) using a brand-new invention Toby developed. And this time, The Center and Mrs. Smith will be of no help as Abby suspects there is someone working for The Ghost on the inside—and they can trust no one.

Other books in the series:

After a botched escape plan from her boarding school, Abigail is stunned to discover the school is actually a cover for an elite spy ring called The Center, along with being training grounds for future spies. Even more shocking? Abigail’s mother is a top agent for The Center and she has gone MIA, with valuable information that many people would like to have—at any cost. Along with a former nemesis and charming boy from her grade, Abigail goes through a crash course in Spy Training 101, often with hilarious—and sometimes painful—results. But Abigail realizes she might be a better spy-in-training than she thought—and the answers to her mother’s whereabouts are a lot closer than she thinks…

Abby and the rest of her friends go international as they embark on their first “official” Center mission in this second book in the Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls series.

After discovering the truth about her spy school/boarding school—and her super-spy mom—Abby Hunter is ready for her next adventure, but what’s about to happen is something she never would have guessed…

Everyone at The Smith School is obsessed with Monster Mayhem, the latest reality video game craze. But when Drexel Caine, the mastermind behind the game is suddenly kidnapped, it becomes clear that the kidnappers are playing for more than just special badges.

After Drexel’s son—who is Abby’s friend, Toby—receives a cryptic message, Abby and her friends discover the kidnapping is part of a bigger scheme that could take down The Center for good.

With the help of Abby’s frenemy (and reluctant mentor), Veronica Brooks, the group tackles their first official Center Mission. They tangle with the world’s most notorious hacker, get in trouble for the possible theft of the Mona Lisa, and prepare for the ultimate showdown in London. But not before they have to contend with one more hurdle: the agonizing Smith School Spring Formal. Along the way, they discover they are much stronger as a team they can ever be alone.

And with a little luck, they might just save the world.

Buy: Book Passage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Indiebound

Buy: Book Passage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Indiebound

Buy: Book Passage ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Indiebound

Release Feature: #MURDERFUNDING by Gretchen McNeil

Happy release day to #MURDERFUNDING, the follow-up to #MURDERTRENDING by Gretchen McNeil! The full interview with Gretchen McNeil can be viewed here.

WELCOME TO WHO WANTS TO BE A PANIAC?, the latest reality TV show on the hunt for the next big-hit serial killer. But don’t worry—no one is actually going to murder anyone, as real as the fake gore and pretend murder may appear . . . uh, right?

Seventeen-year-old Becca Martinello is about to find out. When her perfectly normal soccer mom dies in a car crash, a strange girl named Stef appears to let Becca know that her deceased mom was none other than one of Alcatraz 2.0’s most popular serial killers—Molly Mauler. Soon, Becca ends up on Who Wants to Be a Painiac? to learn the truth about her mom’s connection to Molly Mauler, but things turn sinister when people are murdered IRL. Will Becca uncover dark secrets and make it out of the deadly reality show alive? Or will she get cut?

WELCOME TO THE NEAR FUTURE, where good and honest citizens can enjoy watching the executions of society's most infamous convicted felons, streaming live on The Postman app from the suburbanized prison island Alcatraz 2.0. 

When seventeen-year-old Dee Guerrera wakes up in a haze, lying on the ground of a dimly lit warehouse, she realizes she's about to be the next victim of the app. Knowing hardened criminals are getting a taste of their own medicine in this place is one thing, but Dee refuses to roll over and die for a heinous crime she didn't commit. Can Dee and her newly formed posse, the Death Row Breakfast Club, prove she's innocent before she ends up wrongfully murdered for the world to see? Or will The Postman's cast of executioners kill them off one by one?