Saturday, October 27, 2012

Giveaway by Scott Nicholson

The Home for Halloween Giveaway

Enter the Rafflecopter to win your choice of a Kindle Fire, Nook HD, or Kobo Glo, as well as signed books and audiobooks in the Home for Halloween giveaway from author Scott Nicholson.
The giveaway celebrates the launch of paranormal thriller The Home. Experiments at a group home for troubled children lead to paranormal activity—and the ghosts are from the home’s dark past as an insane asylum. In development as a feature film, it’s available in ebook at Amazon US, Amazon UK,, Kobo, and Smashwords.

By Scott Nicholson
(From Chapter 15)

The sun was sinking now, just touching the ridges in the west. Freeman looked across the lake, expecting one of the house parents to wave them inside. From here, they wouldn’t be able to hear the bell that signaled dinner.
He saw somebody under the trees and thought at first it was Randy, the muscle jock. He tried for a quick triptrap but the person was too far away, and the power really was on the blink. Then the figure came out into the muted light of sundown. It was the old man in the robe.
“You see him, too,” Vicky said.
“The geezer in gray. I’ve seen him twice.”
“What’s he doing down there?
“Maybe he decided it was time for a bath.”
Vicky stifled a laugh. “That’s mean, Freeman. He might be the nicest person here, for all you know.”
“I thought he worked at the home, like a janitor or something. Figured he must have been here so long they didn’t give him a hard time about the way he dressed. Saved on uniform expenses.”
The man moved closer to the water’s edge, then paused and seemed to sniff the air. He looked toward Wendover on the rise of lawn above the lake, then at Vicky and Freeman. Freeman couldn’t tell whether the man was smiling or grimacing as he approached the water, back stooped with the effort of descending the bank.
“The stupid old coot’s going for a swim,” Freeman said. He and Vicky stood so they could see better. “He’ll freeze to death.”
The old man put a foot into the water. Then he took another step. He must have been standing on a rock, because he put another foot forward without sinking.
Four more of his shuffling steps, and still he kept on. He wasn’t swimming, he wasn’t bathing, he wasn’t sinking.
The old man was walking on water.


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Friday, October 26, 2012

Author Interview: Wil Mara

I am pleased to welcome Wil Mara, author of The Gemini Virus, which released in October 2012.  This is one of those novels that tends to give me the chills as it deals with the possibility of a pandemic virus sweeping through our world and the chaos that erupts as a result.  Having studied the Spanish Influenza of 1918-1920, I definitely understand how possible something like this could be and how devastating this would be in our world today.  Wil Mara is also here to discuss the inspiration to this novel, the challenges to writing a novel such as this, his future projects, as well as some fun and interesting Hallowe'en tidbits.  But before we get this, take a look at a summary of The Gemini Virus.

Bob Easton thinks he has a cold. Before he dies in agony, four days later, he infects dozens of people. Local health agencies become quickly overwhelmed by the sick and dying and beg the CDC for help. Dr. Michael Beck and Cara Porter, a member of the Epidemic Intelligence Service, race to identify the deadly bug. They can't cure it until they know what it is.

Dennis and Andi Jensen and their children are terrified. Schools and offices close. Fresh food disappears from store shelves. Three of their children's friends die. Their neighbors are dying or running away, fleeing the unstoppable infection. Desperate, the Jensens join the exodus, making a nightmarish journey to their isolated mountain cabin along empty roads, through abandoned towns, past looted shopping malls. 

The superbug—and the panic—quickly spreads beyond America’s borders. On a packed plane, someone coughs—and at their destination, the pilots are told, “you can’t land here.” US military bases are quarantined. Yet the virus continues to spread. Some believe the plague is man-made. Others see it as a sign of the end times.

In the lab, Cara Porter makes a potentially fatal mistake. In the mountains, Andi Jensen tells her husband that she doesn’t feel well. 

The world is running out of time.

1) To start off, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?  How did you become interested in writing science-fiction novels? 
I’ve been a sci-fi fan all my life. There were paperbacks lying around the house when I was growing up, and all the biggest names—Bradbury, Asimov, Matheson, Clarke, etc. I’d read the synopses on the back, and the stories always sounded interesting to me. I can’t tell you how many hours I sat in my attic with one of these books in hand; if the house had caught fire, I swear I wouldn’t have noticed. It was escapist storytelling at its finest, and almost always with some kind of moral underpinning. That dimension gave it real value to me. It was entertainment, but entertainment with a substantial message. Sci fi, I realized in time, was a wonderful way to present important themes to the world without sounding too preachy. As an author, you had a lot of room to run.
2) Can you tell us a little about your novel, The Gemini Virus?
It’s the story of a supervirus that just shows up one day and begins rapidly burning through the population. The WHO, CDC, and all other healthcare agencies are unable to stop it—in spite of all their experience and empirical data, this one’s the heavyweight of heavyweights. It’s highly contagious and kills very quickly. And each person who gets it goes through horrific suffering. The story is told from the viewpoint of several characters. One is an epidemiologist from the CDC who’s been charged with the task of backtracking the virus in the hope of figuring out how to stop it. He’s a very talented guy, but he’s also dogged by personal demons, as is his faithful assistant. Then there’s a suburban family of four, who struggle with the notion of abandoning their community and then try to outrace the pandemic while holding their domestic life together in isolation. There’s also the geopolitical facet of the book, where the American government is trying desperately to respond to the situation while the death toll continues to mount and some unsavory factions from overseas become involved. So there’s a lot going on.
3) What inspired you to write The Gemini Virus?  How much research was involved in the writing?
One of my favorite sci-fi subgenres is the virus-no-one-can-stop story, and I very much wanted to contribute to it. And since so few books in this vein have been presented to the general reading public lately, I saw an opportunity to do it in a fully modernized context.
As for the research, that required quite a bit of work and time. I got in touch with two very experienced figures in the world of virology, both authors in their own right, in order to assure that all the science in the book would be realistic and credible. To that end, the safety buffer that enables readers to think, Well, it’s scary, but at least it can’t really happen, is completely stripped away. And that’s exactly what I wanted—a nightmare scenario that could occur in the real world.
4) What was your greatest challenge while writing this novel?  How disturbing was it write about something that has the potential to happen?
The greatest challenge was making sure all the science fit together. This meant tweaking certain passages multiple times and discarding others. It also meant enduring the painful experience of having someone tell you that something you wrote is flat-out wrong. But I soldiered through all of it because I wanted to be able to give readers the most compelling—and unsettling—story possible.
As for disturbing, good Lord, yes. Writing about this stuff was tough enough, but reading about it during the research phase was even worse. Stories about grieving parents in Africa having to toss the disease-riddled bodies of their dead children onto huge funeral pyres, and how healthcare workers from other nations who witnessed this could never get the scent out of their noses. It was beyond awful.
5) Who was the most fun to write about?  Which character presented the biggest challenge?
The epidemiological characters—Michael Beck and Cara Porter—posed the biggest challenge, simply because I’m not an epidemiologist. Again, I wanted to get the details right, so I consulted with people who’ve done this kind of work before, plus I read about a million pages of material concerning their profession. (If you’re ever in need of these services and there isn’t a ‘real’ epi on hand, I’m your man in a pinch.) At the same time, however, they were a lot of fun because I got to learn something new and interesting. Epidemiologists are the detectives of the virological world. 
6) What are 3 things that are 'must haves' when you write? Do you have any writing rituals?
I seem to do my best work when it’s quiet (which sometimes means locking myself in a small room and putting on some source of ‘white noise,’ e.g., fan, heater, etc.), when I have the most energy (i.e., in the morning), and when I have a cigar going. I know, I know—the latter’s going to kill me eventually. I live without it most days, but sometimes the urge becomes too much.
7) What was the most interesting thing you learned during the course of research for your book? 
That a pathogen like the one described in Gemini is not only possible, but long overdue. Mathematically, the human race has been beating the odds for quite awhile now—and that kind of luck always runs out eventually.
8) Can you share with us any projects that you are currently working on or plans for the future? What can fans expect next from you?  ?
The next book in the disaster series is tentatively titled Fallout. I’ve been working on it for a few months now, and my editor and I are both pleased with the storyline. But I don’t want to reveal anything else about it at this point. I’m not trying to be coy or curmudgeonly, I just want readers to be delighted by the surprise of it.
And beyond Fallout, I have a fourth disaster story that I’ve been putting together for several years. It’s very fresh and exciting, and it could conceivably stretch well beyond 500 pages. Again, I can’t give out any details now, but I think it’ll be worth the wait.
9) Favourite authors? Role models?
There are so many novelists I whose work I enjoy, even beyond science fiction. I’ll give just about anything a try. If an author’s work strikes me in That Special Way, I’ll become a fan and seek out everything else that he or she has written. I love discovering new authors and new stories.
As for role models, pretty much anyone who has succeeded without compromising a basic set of moral standards; someone who ‘made it’ without crossing the wrong lines. I’ve always admired and tried to emulate that. 
10) As an author who has published previous novels, I am curious as to your thoughts with regards to the publishing industry?  Have some of the changes affected your publishing and marketing process?
The Internet and the digitalization of everything has had the biggest impact, both on myself and the industry at large. Authors make better royalties on eBooks, but then there are all the security issues. And the Internet has become a wonderful tool for getting the word out (case in point), but it has also drastically reduced the number of live author events, e.g., talks and booksignings, etc. As a result, that personal touch between author and reader is being lost. So there are ups and downs to this latest step in publishing evolution. I want to say, “Let’s see how it all turns out,” but then again I don’t think evolution is a process that will ever come to a conclusion. You just need to learn to move and groove with the times.
11) What do you like to do when you are not writing? What is your ultimate luxury?
I like to spend time with my wife and daughters. That’s my greatest joy and my greatest privilege. It doesn’t matter what we do as long as we’re together. They’re my sustenance and my antidote.
12) Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers?
Thank you very much for taking the time to read through all of this. If you have any remaining questions, you might be able to find the answers on my web site— 
13) And now for some Hallowe'en fun!!  Favourite Hallowe'en memory? Favourite costumes? Have you ever played a Hallowe'en prank on somebody?
I was born and raised along the Jersey Shore, and our winters could be brutal. I remember one Hallowe’en when it was so frigid and windy that none of the neighborhood kids wanted to go out in their costumes. So I talked two of my closest friends into doing just that. My brilliant theory was that, due to the weather and the lack of ‘consumer interest,’ every home would have so much spare candy that they’d be giving it out in handfuls. And I was right—when the night was over, we each had four pillowcases stuffed to the splitting point.
Three days later—no joke—I had to have my stomach pumped.  So much for brilliant! What an idiot.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review: Illuminate by Aimee Agresti

Illuminate (Gilded Wings, Book #1)
by Aimee Agresti
Release Date: March 6, 2012
2012 Harcourt Children's Books
Hardcover Edition; 528 Pages
ISBN: 978-0547626147
Genre: Young Adult / Paranormal
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

Haven Terra is a brainy, shy high school outcast. But everything begins to change when she turns sixteen. Along with her best friend Dante and their quiet and brilliant classmate Lance, she is awarded a prestigious internship in the big city— Chicago—and is sent to live and work at a swanky and stylish hotel under the watchful eyes of a group of gorgeous and shockingly young-looking strangers: powerful and alluring hotel owner Aurelia Brown; her second-in-command, the dashing Lucian Grove; and their stunning but aloof staff of glamazons called The Outfit.

As Haven begins falling for Lucian, she discovers that these beautiful people are not quite what they seem. With the help of a mysterious book, she uncovers a network of secret passageways from the hotel’s jazz-age past that leads her to the heart of the evil agenda of Aurelia and company: they’re in the business of buying souls. Will they succeed in wooing Haven to join them in their recruitment efforts, or will she be able to thwart this devilish set’s plans to take the souls of her classmates on prom night at the hotel?

My Thoughts
Illuminate is a beautifully written novel with an interesting plotline and some fairly interesting characters.  Despite all this, it took me quite a long time to finish this novel as I did find the plot to be somewhat tedious at times and drawn-out.  Because of this, I would often go searching for something else to read and return to this book later so it seemed to lack something of a draw power for me that would keep me reading steadily for long periods of time. 

While I did find the plot to be interesting, if somewhat slow, there were elements to it that I had to buy into in order to believe in this novel.  Let me explain.  First of all, I really enjoyed the setting as I am quite familiar with Al Capone and the days of the Roaring Twenties and thought the references to that time period were quite interesting; in fact, I would have liked to have seen more considering the hotel was based on that era and on that persona.  Secondly, the concept of breed of evil doers taking over the world through recruitment was more unique that some other things I had read lately and I was rather intrigued by the concept.  Buying people's souls was definitely not a new concept, but the way in which it was done was rather different and I enjoyed it.  However, the reader would also have to buy into a few other things that were not quite as easy to get over in order to be fully invested into this novel, one of them being Haven's scholarship.  Winning a scholarship that one did not even enter is virtually impossible, and for people to not even question it seems somewhat bizarre to me given you have no idea what you are getting into.  Furthermore, there is no way I would ever drop off a sixteen-year-old child of mine outside of a building without meeting the scholarship owners, leave him to fend for himself, and then not wonder at the lack of communication over the next few months.  

I did enjoy the characters, but I will admit that I tended to find the evil ones more interesting than Haven or Lance as they seemed to have more character and personality.  Haven, until the end, tended to follow along blindly and do whatever she was told and this did grate on my nerves somewhat.  I realize she was only sixteen-years-old, but she could have a backbone once in a while; I did like her a lot more towards the last third of the novel as she seemed to develop a bit more personality and fighting strength and power..  I was glad to see this as it gave me hope that perhaps her character will further develop in the second novel as she grows stronger in her powers.  Dante and Lance, while enjoyable, seemed to have gotten lost within the story and didn't really stand out much for me; they were the stereotypical gay boy and nerd and were definitely cast as such in this novel. I would definitely like to see Lance develop into his own strong personality as it could be quite interesting.  The one I liked the most however, was Lucian.  I liked how complicated he was, switching back and forth from nice guy to mean guy as you never knew what to expect. With the conflict he was going through, I would have liked to have seen more scenes where this struggle was more apparent as it could have been quite fascinating.  

Illuminate has a very interesting concept and while there were many twists in the novel, I did find the lack of character and plot development somewhat of a deterrent for me.  This series does have a lot of potential however, and there is a lot of room for the characters to grow and develop as well as for the plot to really twist and turn and give the reader the gripping tale one is looking for as we search for answers to many of the unanswered questions left at the end of Illuminate.  I do know that I am not finished with this series quite yet, and will definitely take a look at Infatuate when it is released in 2013.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Guest Post: Paul Batista

I am pleased to welcome Paul Batista, who is here today to discuss the reasons why he transitioned from lawyer to writer as well as to promote his new release (May 2013), Extraordinary Rendition, a novel about a suspected terrorist and alleged banker for Al Qaeda, a position which makes him the target of corrupt US intelligence forces and ruthless international terrorists.  Take a look!

When Ali Hussein—suspected terrorist and alleged banker for Al Qaeda—is finally transported from Gitmo to the US mainland to stand trial, many are stunned when Byron Carlos Johnson, pre-eminent lawyer and the son of a high-profile diplomat, volunteers as counsel.  On principle, Johnson thought he was merely defending a man unjustly captured through Rendition and water-boarded illegally. But Johnson soon learns that there is much more at stake than one man’s civil rights.

Hussein’s intimate knowledge of key financial transactions could lead to the capture of—or the unabated funding of—the world’s most dangerous terror cells. This makes Hussein the target of corrupt US intelligence forces on one side, and ruthless international terrorists on the other.  And, it puts Byron Carlos Johnson squarely in the crosshairs of both.

Pulled irresistibly by forces he can and cannot see, Johnson enters a lethal maze of espionage, manipulation, legal traps and murder. And when his life, his love, and his acclaimed principles are on the line, Johnson may have one gambit left that can save them all; a play that even his confidants could not have anticipated. He must become the hunter among hunters in the deadliest game.


More basically, why exit from a business with a good regular paycheck to a business where the financial rewards are uncertain?  Why exchange a suit for a casual shirt and jeans?  I get asked these questions a lot, and they are in fact questions I ask myself.

Let's start with a disclaimer.  I haven't entirely abandoned the practice of law.  This is work I've done for more than thirty years, and old habits die hard. Besides, I like it. More important is the fact that the legal work I do provides fuel for the novels I write.  A criminal case or even a civil lawsuit involves a story, a narrative.  Part of the function of a lawyer is to shape the narrative -- not to fabricate facts but to tell a story. 

Creating fiction, however, does give me a license to do more than just shape the narrative of a case.  In writing a novel I have the ability and the incentive to weave imagined events together, to create personalities and personal histories, to generate intrigue and conflict.  In practicing law, I’m confined by facts -- and those facts can be extremely interesting given the nature of the work I do -- but there are no such constraints in writing fiction.

There's another factor.  Law is a highly regulated business.  No matter how independent you may be as a lawyer, there are people known as judges.  They require you to do specific things on their schedule, not on yours.  They want you to do things their way, not necessarily yours.  They tend to have outsized personalities -- wearing a robe can transform a guy or gal who in civilian clothes is demure and shy into a muscled-up action figure.  And there are also clients.  They get to call you in the middle of the night.

The external controls on fiction-writing are different.  Sure, an editor can set "deadlines" but those are more goals and aspirations rather than drop-dead dates.  You can be disbarred for missing a judge-imposed deadline if you do that too often.  The worst a publisher can do is get mad at you.

But the most important reason for transforming myself into a novelist from a practicing lawyer is the beauty of transformation.  The stuff of a novelist's life is different from the stuff of a lawyer's life.  Creating novels is a liberating experience; you can let loose your imagination.  I find I can have a passion and a drive that, even though I’ve loved practicing law, I can't completely tap into in a courtroom. You hear commencement speakers constantly delivering to young graduates the trite mandate to "follow your passions."   As you move through life and hit the jarring realities of jobs, families and obligations, you can get cynical about those conventional admonitions to follow your passions, live out your dreams, and fulfill your talents.

But those inspirational messages do have meaning, at least for yours truly. Even a lawyer can break out of the constraints of the life he or she has lived.  There is something invigorating, even for a seasoned adult, in taking risks and having the courage to give up security and embrace something unknown, strange, exciting -- fresh.

About the Author

Paul Batista, novelist and television personality, is one of the most widely known trial lawyers in the country. As a trial attorney, he specializes in federal criminal litigation. As a media figure, he is known for his regular appearances as guest legal commentator on a variety of television shows including, Court TV, CNN, HLN and WNBC. He’s also appeared in the HBO movie, You Don't Know Jack, starring Al Pacino.

A prolific writer, Batista authored the leading treatise on the primary federal anti-racketeering statute, Civil RICO Practice Manual, which is now in its third edition (Wiley & Sons, 1987; Wolters Kluwer, 2008). He has written articles for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The National Law Journal.

Batista's debut novel, Death's Witness, was awarded a Silver Medal by the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA). And his new novel, Extraordinary Rendition, is now being published—along with a special reissue of Death’s Witness—by Astor + Blue Editions.

Batista is a graduate of Bowdoin College, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and Cornell Law School. He’s proud to have served in the United States Army. Paul Batista lives in New York City and Sag Harbor, New York.