Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Guest Blog: Graced by Amanda Pillar

UFI welcomes Author Amanda Pillar. Thanks for Joining us!!

Character inspiration 

I was recently part of a wonderful anthology, Cranky Ladies of History, published by FableCroft. It features a plethora of stories about important women of history; about their lives, foibles and victories. And it made me think, how often do popular women (or men) influence authors in their creation of their characters? 

My novel, Graced, has four main characters, but only one is a woman. I didn’t want Elle to be a wallflower, or a passive character where life just happens to her. And it made me think: how much of Elle was created through my admiration or dislike of famous women? Fictional or real. 

So here’s 5 women who I think had influences on Elle’s development: 

  • Bella Swan (Twilight). Not because this story features vampires and shape shifters, but because I wanted someone very different to Bella: I wanted a woman who was empowered, and who refused to allow a man to dictate her life to her.
  • Countess Elizabeth Báthory (The Blood Countess). The most prolific serial killer in history, by some accounts. This is the kind of woman who could easily live as an aristocrat in the Graced world, and she stands for much of what Elle hates: entitlement, disregard for human life, and a hunger for power.
  • Beka Cooper (Terrier, Bloodhound, Mastiff). She’s honourable, hardworking, and has a unique talent.
  • Surreal (Black Jewels Trilogy). She’s kick arse. Fights for those she loves. And did I mention she’s a bad arse?
  • Margaret Thatcher (former Prime Minister of Britain). Okay, this isn’t really an influence on Elle’s character, but may be a bit representative of her grandmother, Olive, who has had a role in Elle’s upbringing. Love her or hate her, Olive only wants what’s best for her people, whether they want her version of ‘best’ or not.

Then there is Dante, one of my other main characters. He was a challenge to write, as he’s a sociopath, but I wanted him to be realistic…so which 5 individuals helped me develop his unique traits? 

  • Dexter (Dexter). He’s a sociopath, but he tries to be good and has developed his own moral code.
  • Patrick Bateman (American Psycho). Patrick is an interesting result of Easton Ellis’ research. I wanted to make Dante sympathetic, whereas Patrick can be hard to relate to as a reader.
  • Johnny Depp. Well, this was more of a physical inspiration. Dante looks (in my mind) a little how Depp does in Sleepy Hollow.
  • Ian Pavlov. Not because Dante likes to play with bells. But because Pavlov didn’t just experiment on dogs, but also children. Ethics?
  • Charles Darwin. Not for personality or traits. Just the methodical and meticulous way in which he researched and studied.

I’m sure there are many more sources of inspiration for all my characters, but these are the names that spring to mind easily. Every character an author creates is individual, but they’re not developed in a vacuum. No one person is the model for Elle or Dante; rather, they were born of a thousand different ideas, until each became their own.

Amanda Pillar is an award-winning editor and author who lives in Victoria, Australia, with her husband and two cats, Saxon and Lilith.

Amanda has had numerous short stories published and has co-edited the fiction anthologies Voices (2008), Grants Pass (2009), The Phantom Queen Awakes (2010), Scenes from the Second Storey (2010), Ishtar (2011) and Damnation and Dames (2012). Her first solo anthology was published by Ticonderoga Publications, titled Bloodstones (2012). Amanda is currently working on the sequel, Bloodlines, due for publication in 2015.

Amanda's first novel, Graced, will be published by Momentum in 2015.
In her day job, she works as an archaeologist.

Find Amanda and her books

 City Guard Elle Brown has one goal in life: to protect her kid sister, Emmie. Falling in love–and with a werewolf at that–was never part of the deal.

Life, however, doesn't always go to plan, and when Elle meets Clay, everything she thought about her world is thrown into turmoil. Everything, that is, but protecting Emmie, who is Graced with teal-colored eyes and an unknown power that could change their very existence. But being different is dangerous in their home city of Pinton, and it's Elle's very own differences that capture the attention of the Honorable Dante Kipling, a vampire with a bone-deep fascination for a special type of human.

Dante is convinced that humans with eye colors other than brown are unique, but he has no proof. The answers may exist in the enigmatic hazel eyes of Elle Brown, and he's determined to uncover their secrets no matter the cost...or the lives lost.

New Releases: 3/1-3/7

Tue. March 3rd

 Binding Ties (Sentinel Wars #9) by Shannon K. Butcher
 Dead Heat (Alpha & Omega #4) by Patricia Briggs
 The Memory Key by Liana Liu
 Pocket Apocalypse (InCryptid #4) by Seanan McGuire 
 Sworn To Love (L.O.S.T #3) by Karin Harlow

Happy Reading!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Early Review: Pocket Apocalypse by Seanan McGuire

Pocket Apocalypse
Release Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: DAW
Incryptid Book #4
ISBN:   0756408121
ISBN13: 9780756408121
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Review Copy Source: Publisher
Endangered, adjective: Threatened with extinction or immediate harm.
Australia, noun: A good place to become endangered.

Alexander Price has survived gorgons, basilisks, and his own family—no small feat, considering that his family includes two telepaths, a reanimated corpse, and a colony of talking, pantheistic mice. Still, he’s starting to feel like he’s got the hang of things…at least until his girlfriend, Shelby Tanner, shows up asking pointed questions about werewolves and the state of his passport. From there, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to Australia, a continent filled with new challenges, new dangers, and yes, rival cryptozoologists who don’t like their “visiting expert” very much.

Australia is a cryptozoologist’s dream, filled with unique species and unique challenges. Unfortunately, it’s also filled with Shelby’s family, who aren’t delighted by the length of her stay in America. And then there are the werewolves to consider: infected killing machines who would like nothing more than to claim the continent as their own. The continent which currently includes Alex.

Survival is hard enough when you’re on familiar ground. Alex Price is very far from home, but there’s one thing he knows for sure: he’s not going down without a fight.

POCKET APOCALYPSE brings Alex and Shelby to Australia where they are willing and ready to help Shelby's family with their werewolf problem. You thought the Prices were difficult? Just wait until you meet the Tanners.

Alex and Shelby might not always seem like the most obvious couple, but watching them work together in POCKET APOCALYPSE made it clear they are meant to be. It was nice to see how other cryptozoologists live and work. It wasn't so great to see their prejudice towards those that are not human. I am glad that Alex and Shelby were able to go there and help and show them that not all 'monsters' are monsters. Alex did not have an easy time in Australia. Shelby's dad was not happy that his 'little girl' brought a man home, but even worse, he doesn't like that Alex's family is former covenant. He questions his actions at every turn and gives him a really hard time about everything.

On to other things. It's great to see Sarah getting better. She isn't herself yet, but she is closer than she was during the last book. I continue to love the Aeslin mice. They are a big hit in every book and as I learn more about them, I like them even more.

There have been two books for Verity and Dominic, two books for Alex and Shelby, will Antimony be next? Can't wait to find out and learn more about her.

I gave it 4/5 stars

* This book was provided free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Pocket Apocalypse is also available as an audiobook from Audible Studios. Enjoy this clip.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Week in Review: 2/22-2/28

Books Received for Review

- Dead Spots by Rhiannon Frater- Publisher

Books I've Read

The Exile by C.T. Adams
Dark Alchemy by Laura Bickle
Hunt by Rachel Vincent
Lion's Share by Rachel Vincent

Reviews Posted

Salt & Stone by Victoria Scott
Heir of the Dog by Hailey Edwards
Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop


* New Releases for the week. Was there anything you were looking forward to reading?

* Monday-  Guest Blog & Giveaway for Enchanter’s Echo by Anise Rae

* Tuesday-  Promo & Giveaway for Aurora Sky: Vampire Hunter  by Nikki Jefford

* Wednesday- Promo & Giveaway for Breaking Sky by Cori McCarthy

* Thursday- Interview & Giveaway for The Curse Servant by J.P. Sloan


* Did you know you can follow UFI on these other sites?

You can also add me (as in Stacy) to your friends on these sites if you're on them.
 * I love comments so if you see something you like (or not) please comment away and let me know.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Early Review: Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop

Vision In Silver
Author: Anne Bishop
Release Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Penguin
The Others Book #3
ISBN:   045146527X
ISBN13: 9780451465276
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Review Copy Source: Publisher
The Others freed the  cassandra sangue  to protect the blood prophets from exploitation, not realizing their actions would have dire consequences. Now the fragile seers are in greater danger than ever before—both from their own weaknesses and from those who seek to control their divinations for wicked purposes. In desperate need of answers, Simon Wolfgard, a shape-shifter leader among the Others, has no choice but to enlist blood prophet Meg Corbyn’s help, regardless of the risks she faces by aiding him.

Meg is still deep in the throes of her addiction to the euphoria she feels when she cuts and speaks prophecy. She knows each slice of her blade tempts death. But Others and humans alike need answers, and her visions may be Simon’s only hope of ending the conflict.

For the shadows of war are deepening across the Atlantik, and the prejudice of a fanatic faction is threatening to bring the battle right to Meg and Simon’s doorstep…

Phenomenal , extraordinary, remarkable, amazing, they all describe The Others series.

Meg has a little bit of difficulties in VISION OF SILVER, but the other cassandra sangue have it worse. They are having a really hard time being in an uncontrolled environment and Meg, with the help of some of the other human woman, is drafted to make a guide that will help those caring for the cassandra sangue understand what they need to be happy and enjoy the world they now live in. Meg continues to show how strong she is in every chapter of VISION OF SILVER. I love the way that the others treat her and in turn how she treats them. She has proven to be a huge part of the courtyard.

The Humans First and Last movement is really amping up their game. Vendors no longer want to deliver to the courtyard even though there are consequences and the Others are NOT happy about that. They are also treating the humans that work with the Others like scum and singling them out and making their lives difficult. The relationship between the human employees/police and the Others is still going pretty strong. There were a few mishaps in VISION IN SILVER that made it feel like that would change, but the difficulties ended up making the partnerships stronger.

I was really happy with not only the development of the storyline in VISION IN SILVER, but also the budding feelings between Meg and Simon. It's a delicate situation and Bishop is doing a fantastic job of making it come to life in a slow, well measured and believable way.

I tend to be pretty stingy in giving out 5 star reviews, so 3 for one series with only 3 books in it so far should tell you something. Go grab your copy of book 1, WRITTEN IN RED, and fall into a great series that will leave you wishing the year would fly by really fast so you can get your greedy hands on book 4.

I gave it 5/5 stars

* This book was provided free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Review: Heir of the Dog by Hailey Edwards

Heir of the Dog
Release Date: January 30, 2015
Publisher: Self-Published
Black Dog Book #2
ISBN: 1632110083
ISBN13: 9781632110084
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Review Copy Source: Author
Faerie teeters on the brink of war and the mortal realm swells with fae refugees desperate to escape the bloodshed. As a half-blooded fae, Marshal Thierry Thackeray has a stake in the outcome of both realms and isn’t afraid to knock a few heads together if it keeps the peace.

When her father goes missing, the only hope of negotiating a truce between the light and dark fae vanishes with him. Eager to avoid another Thousand Years War, the Faerie High Court reaches out to the one person they believe can track him down—the daughter who shares his curse.

This series is unique, full of interesting settings and filled with events that leave you wanting more. DOG WITH A BONE introduced us to the characters and the world, HEIR OF THE DOG introduces us to Faerie and digs a little deeper into Thierry's parentage and Fae side.

Thierry's father goes missing and the Fae think she should stand in for him in an event that will decide the new ruler. She wants nothing to do with Faerie, their politics or their problems, but they give her no choice and she finds herself running for her life and hoping she runs into her father along the way. Thierry seriously kicks ass in HEIR OF THE DOG. Not that she had a choice in the matter, but she never gives up. There is plenty of action, plenty of growth and a nice dose of hot guys vying for her attention.

I was not that surprised to hear about what happened with Thierry and Shaw. He is an incubus after all. Rook was pretty interesting. Thierry and him definitely have a romantic connection and their positions will have them coming together again and I'm rooting for them. Unfortunately I have a feeling Thierry, Shaw and Rook will be a love triangle for a while though.

WHY did it have to end there? I NEED to know what happens next. What a twist in Thierry's life HEIR OF THE DOG's events have thrown at her. Book 3, Lie Down With Dogs, has a release date of April 30, 2015 and there is an excerpt already up on the authors website. I am so ready.

I gave it 4/5 stars

* This book was provided free of charge from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Interview & Giveaway: The Curse Servant by J.P. Sloan

UFI welcomes Author J.P. Sloan. Thanks for Joining us!!

What can you tell my readers about yourself that they might not know from looking on your bio or reading in another interview? 

Well, let's just toss all propriety out the window, shall we, and talk religion? I write a lot about modern occultism, and a considerable portion of the Dark Choir mythos is grounded in both western hermeticism and Gnosticism. So, the question often presents itself: "Is J.P. Sloan an occultist?" Here's the short answer: "Not any more."

Here's the somewhat longer answer… I was once a regular practitioner of a kind of syncretic homespun neo-paganism. Which is to say, our group cobbled together the bits and pieces of Gardnerian Wicca, Seax Wicca, Asatru, Druidism, and whatever the hell else we felt made sense to us at the moment… and met at regular intervals (read: every lunar cycle) for a kind of celebration of Nature, ancestors, gods, whatever we felt like celebrating and/or worshipping. This group was very loose in its construct, and we encouraged individual research into esoteric thought. Here's where I stumbled across Hermes Trismegistus, Aleister Crowley, Anton LaVey, Margot Adler, Frank and Janet Ferrar, and other writers and mythological constructs of the neo-pagan oeuvre. (lookin' at you, Hermes…) I was a dyed-in-the-wool pagan for a quite a while, but later in years I've come to accept the inherent absurdity in all mystical schools of thought, and have embraced a kind of rugged rationalism as my chosen cosmology.

I still take time to observe sabbats, and I still have an altar in my home to the sun and moon… but I recognize that the human experience is one of biochemistry and consequence of actions. Besides… I challenge anyone to spend any considerable time viewing the Hubble Deep Field image without feeling staggeringly small yet invaluable at the same time.

What do you enjoy doing on your down time? 

I spend several nights per week at the local gym with my wife, beating the fear of God into a heavy bag. We've both studied martial arts at separate times in our respective pasts, and nothing spells marital bliss quite like "M-U-A-Y-T-H-A-I."

I'm also a homebrewer and a BJCP National ranked beer judge. I travel to homebrew competitions and evaluate people's beers according to style and off-flavors, giving advice as to how to improve their recipes or processes. It's a thankless job, but someone's got to drink all this damned beer…

What is your Favorite part of writing? 

Typing the last sentence of a first draft. Sure… it's fated to endure nigh-endless editing and revision. Sure… any first draft you write will be a handful of ocelot offal. But that moment where a book goes from "am writing" to "written" is magical.

Do you have any certain routines you must follow as you write? 

I have a day job (for the moment), and my family enjoys ongoing proof that I yet exist… thus my daily writing time tends to fall after bedtime for Homeslice Jr and XBox time with the wife. The good news being that my wife joins me in this insane pursuit of literary distraction… she's another author, recently signed by my publisher. We tend to coordinate writing times, and often abscond on Friday mornings to a local Panera for a slam session of word count hijinks.

What are some of your Favorite books or Authors in the Urban Fantasy/ Paranormal Genres? 

Though I certainly admire Kim Harrison for her world-building and the sheer amount of time she devotes to her fans, I find that her style doesn't quite reach me. Pound-for-pound, I'd say Richard Kadrey is one of the sharpest minds in Urban Fantasy today. His Sandman Slim series is prime reading for both genders.

How would you pitch The Dark Choir series to someone who has not heard of it before?

The Dark Choir is a series of occult thrillers set in modern Baltimore, which follow the life of Dorian Lake, a socialite and hex-peddler who walks a fine and dangerous line between the daylight of our world and the soul-damning underbelly of the practitioners of ancient and forbidden arts.

Can you tell us a little bit about the world that The Curse Servant is set in? 

It's modern Baltimore as anyone would see it… but with a sinister underworld of old ancient hermetic practices held in basements, and cursed objects sold in stalls down dark alleys. I really strive to play my fantasy close to the chest, the magic as easily dismissed as coincidence or luck as anything else.

Do you have a favorite scene in The Curse Merchant

In The Curse Servant, Dorian is in a race against some nameless entity that physically possesses the bodies of people around him, taunting him about his losing his soul. My favorite scene involves a young girl who is taken over by this entity… a real homage to the old-school demon possession movies of the seventies. My take here is that everything she's going through can be, and is in fact, dismissed as schizophrenia, and Dorian has to fight as hard with her mother to seek unconventional treatment as he does against this being that he can't even identify.

Which one character out of all your books was your favorite to write about? What about the hardest to write about? 

I adore writing Edgar Swain. He's based on a real-life acquaintance of mine… one of the brewers in my local homebrewing club. It's easy to slip into his persona, and his entire family is really showcased in The Curse Servant.

The hardest character to write was Ches, Dorian's new love interest. I wanted to take her character a full one-eighty from Carmen in the first book. She's up front, non-manipulative, somewhat naïve, and presents Dorian with a gentler kind of ego-deflation. I wanted to preserve her agency as much as possible, which was difficult as she was filtered through the eyes of a protagonist with immense privilege and entitlement issues.

What Other Projects can we look forward to reading from you? 

I'm revising and polishing a western/horror titled Yea Though I Walk. It's more of a straight take on classic horror elements… essentially Vampires vs. Wendigo vs. Cowboys. I adored writing it, even though it was my most ambitious novel yet.

J.P. Sloan is a speculative fiction author ... primarily of urban fantasy, horror and several shades between. His writing explores the strangeness in that which is familiar, at times stretching the limits of the human experience, or only hinting at the monsters lurking under your bed.

A Louisiana native, Sloan relocated to the vineyards and cow pastures of Central Maryland after Hurricane Katrina, where he lives with his wife and son. During the day he commutes to the city of Baltimore, a setting which inspires much of his writing.

In his spare time, Sloan enjoys wine-making and homebrewing, and is a certified beer judge.

Find J.P. and his books

The Curse Servant
The Dark Choir #2

The one person standing between Hell… and an innocent girl… is a man without a soul.

A regular life isn’t in the cards for Dorian Lake, but with his charm-crafting business invigorated, and the prospect of a serious relationship within his grasp, life is closer to normal than Dorian could ever expect. In the heat of the Baltimore mayoral campaign, Dorian has managed to balance his arrangements with Deputy Mayor Julian Bright with his search to find his lost soul. Dorian soon learns of a Netherworker, the head of a dangerous West Coast cabal, who might be able to find and return his soul. The price? Just one curse.

Sounds easy… but nothing ever is for Dorian. A dark presence arrives in the city, hell-bent on finding Dorian’s soul first. Innocents are caught in the crossfire, and Dorian finds it harder to keep his commitments to Bright. When the fight gets personal, and the entity hits too close to home, Dorian must rely on those he trusts the least to save the ones he loves. As he tests the limits of his hermetic skills to defeat this new enemy, will Dorian lose his one chance to avoid damnation?

I knew this wasn't going to be the typical meeting with Julian Bright when, instead of the usual political organ-grinders at the campaign headquarters, I found a soccer mom duct taped to a chair, foaming at the mouth. Her grunting and growling echoed off the bare sheetrock walls of Julian's office, vacant except for the three of us.

I peeked through the blinds covering the locked storefront to make sure none of volunteers were back from the morning rounds. Satisfied we were alone, I turned to Julian.

He waved his arm at the woman in a lazy circle. "So, this is why I called."

"Who is she?"

"Her name is Amy Mancuso. You know her?"

I shook my head.

"She's a volunteer. Her team was working Cold Spring by Loyola when she started swearing and spitting at the residents. By the time her team captain called me, she'd kicked someone's dog. Terrier, I think. Or one of those purse dogs."

I winced. "Remind me not to hand out yard signs for you. Jesus."

"It's not like we do background checks on volunteers. I figured she probably missed some meds or something."

"But you called me instead of the paramedics."


"Why?" I asked as I took a step toward her.

Amy's grunting halted as she straightened in her chair. Her head swiveled slowly in my direction, and her eyes sent the creeping chills up my neck.

With a nerve-rattling tone she growled, "Is that Dorian Lake I smell?"

I'd never enjoyed the sound of my own name less.

Julian turned a shoulder to me and whispered, "That's why."


I slowly approached Amy, pulling my pendulum from my jacket pocket in a slow, non-threatening motion. Last thing I needed at that moment was to send a crazy person into a panic. I assumed she was crazy. My pendulum would determine whether she was unnaturally energized or the usual cat-shaving flavor of lunatic.

Her eyes were dilated; her mouth twisted into the most unsettling smile one could imagine on the face of an otherwise average woman.

"Have we met?"

"Poor little Dorian lost his soul."

Okay, this was probably a legitimate problem.

I dangled the pendulum in front of Amy. The little nugget of copper spun from the end of its chain in a perfectly Newtonian fashion. Nothing pulled it contrary to the laws of Nature. I couldn't even feel a tug on the chain.

She continued, "Lost his soul, he lost his soul. Dropped it down a rabbit hole."

"I suppose you think you're being clever?"

"Is he doomed or is he dead? Will he damn your soul instead?"

This conversation had lost all of its charm.

"Who am I talking to?"

She sucked in a huge gulp of air and craned her neck at a painful angle toward the ceiling. A sick squealing noise leaked from her lips as her arms trembled. When she finally released her breath and sank back down into her chair, she simply chuckled.

"We're going to find it, you know. And when we do, we're going to eat it."

I leaned in as close as I dared and whispered, "If you think I'm afraid of you, then you need to know something. I'm not impressed."

"It won't be long now."

"Did someone send you, or is this just a courtesy call?"

She smirked. "We're going to enjoy this."

I was knitting together a clever response when a loud rip of tape crackled through the room. Her hand slammed up underneath my jaw, fingers clamping around my throat. My head filled with blood, and I tried to cough through the gag reflex. The harder I beat on her hand to let go, the wider that creepy smile got.

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