Tuesday, January 31, 2012

From the ROYAL STREET files: Ten-Sentence Tuesday, and Sid-Mar's

Yeah, I know—it’s supposed to be Six-Sentence Sunday, but sometimes you have to step outside the box, right? Today, I’d like to introduce you to Sid-Mar’s of Bucktown, one of my favorite New Orleans restaurants. I spent many evenings downing oysters either in their screened-in porch or the back patio overlooking Lake Pontchartrain. (Sid-Mar's is named for owners Sid and Mary, by the way.)

Here’s Sid-Mar’s as it looked when the following ten-sentence excerpt takes place, from Chapter 2 of Royal Street:
Two hours later, Gerry and I relaxed on the wooden deck behind Sid-Mar’s, reviewing the Lafitte job and gorging on stuffed artichokes and fried oysters. The restaurant filled a small wooden house in Bucktown, which had been an isolated fishing village on the south short of Lake Pontchartrain before the railway line connected it to New Orleans and jerked it into the nineteenth century. Now it was a suburb clinging to its colorful history.
            A hot breeze blew off the lake as we crunched spicy oysters and used our teeth to scrape savory stuffing off the artichoke leaves. The food took the edge off my post-magic malaise. Until recently, we’d done these recaps after every job—a way, Gerry said, of helping me learn the mysterious ins and outs of sentinel work. Lately, he’d been putting off the reviews of his jobs, and mine weren’t worth talking about. Well, until today.
            I plucked a French fry off his plate and sprinkled it with Louisiana Hot Sauce. “Lafitte made it sound like he’s tried talking you into a business deal before.” I left out the part about him calling Gerry arrogant.

And here’s what Sid-Mar’s looked like a week later:

After the storm, the federal government took the land Sid-Mar’s sat on and used it to build better flood protection for the nearby Seventeenth Street Canal. Last I heard, Uncle Sam still hadn't paid the owners for the land as promised. I’m happy to say the restaurant did reopen, but in a different location, and a piece of local history is gone.

And, yeah, that was eleven sentences. Had to stick that last one in!

Monday, January 30, 2012

New Releases Jan. 31-Feb. 5 and Get Your Choice

If it’s Monday, it must be time to look at the new releases in speculative fiction this week—and you get to pick which one you’d like to win! We have a pretty good-sized list this week (next week’s is HUGE).

What do you want to read? Leave a comment and tell me, and I’ll draw one name to win his or her choice. International, as always. And if the book is in a series you haven’t started, you can always pick the first one in the series instead.

The Faceless, by Simon Bestwick (Jan. 31, Solaris)
In the Lancashire town of Kempforth, people are vanishing. Mist hangs heavy in the streets, and in those mists move the masked figures the local kids call the Spindly Men. When two-year-old Roseanne Trevor disappears, Detective Chief Inspector Renwick vows to stop at nothing until she finds her. In Manchester, terrifying visions summon TV psychic Allen Cowell and his sister Vera back to the town they swore they’d left forever. And local historian Anna Mason pieces together a history of cruelty and exploitation almost beyond belief, born out of the horrors of war – while in the decaying corridors and lightless rooms of a long-abandoned hospital, something terrible is waiting for them all. Horror.

Lenobia’s Vow, by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast (Jan. 31, St. Martin’s Griffin)
The second in the enthralling new mini-series of novellas from the #1 bestselling authors of the House of Night, Lenobia's Vow tells the gripping story behind the House of Night's enigmatic riding instructor – and one of Zoey’s closest allies against evil. In a small southern town at the turn of the century, young Lenobia is developing into a beautiful young woman with ideas of her own. But when she is Marked as a fledgling vampyre, her world turns upside down, and she is drawn to the musical streets of New Orleans. There, she learns of the city’s dark underbelly, ruled by powerful black magic. As Lenobia experiences her first love – and loss – and discovers a passion for horses to sustain her, she must come face-to-face with Darkness itself. And she may not escape without scars. YA

Control Point, by Myke Cole(Jan. 31, Ace)
Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with magical talents. Untrained and panicked, they summon storms, raise the dead, and set everything they touch ablaze. Army officer Oscar Britton sees the worst of it. A lieutenant attached to the military's Supernatural Operations Corps, his mission is to bring order to a world gone mad. Then he abruptly manifests a rare and prohibited magical power, transforming him overnight from government agent to public enemy number one. The SOC knows how to handle this kind of situation: hunt him down--and take him out. Driven into an underground shadow world, Britton is about to learn that magic has changed all the rules he's ever known, and that his life isn't the only thing he's fighting for. Urban fantasy

All Things Wicked, by Karina Cooper(Jan. 31, Avon)
Juliet Carpenter thought of the coven as family, but when she falls for a man who betrays them all, she's left alone and desperately searching for a reason why. Caleb Leigh has spent the past year in hiding, unable to escape his demons. When Juliet finds him again, her need for vengeance clashes with the hunger still burning between them. It's a fight born from the embers of a half-forgotten attraction and the wounds of a past too raw to ignore. With enemies circling and secrets threatening to consume them all, Caleb has no choice but to fulfill a promise made long ago--protect her, save her. Even if it costs him his blood, his body... and what's left of his mind. Third in the Dark Mission series. Paranormal romance

Moonrise, by Ivy Devlin(Jan. 31, Bloomsbury)
Avery and Ben are just beginning to explore the depth of the bond that links them. Their ability to sense each others' feelings and Avery's mysterious connection to the forest mean that their love is unlike any other. But even such a perfect bond can be strained by jealousy, and when Hope, a gorgeous girl from Ben's old life, arrives in town, Avery can't help but feel threatened. And in more ways than one-because someone is trying to kill her, again. Also new in town are a pair of Hunters-men who know about werewolves and who seek only to destroy what they can't understand. Hope is connected to the Hunters somehow, but by the time Avery figures out her secret, it's too late-and someone will pay with their life. With the glowing, emotional language that made Low Red Moon such an irresistible read, Moonrise ups the romantic stakes with a heart-tugging sacrifice that testifies to the power of love. Second in the Low Red Moon series. YA

Mass Effect: Deception, by William C. Dietz (Jan. 31, Del Rey)
The universe is under siege. Every fifty thousand years, a race of sentient machines invades our galaxy to harvest all organic life-forms. They are the Reapers. Two people who know the truth are desperately searching for a way to stop the cycle: Navy admiral David Anderson and his partner, Kahlee Sanders. They have uncovered grisly evidence proving that the Reaper threat is real. But in so doing they have exposed the machinations of Cerberus, a secretive paramilitary organization, and its mysterious leader, the Illusive Man—putting David and Kahlee in mortal danger, for Cerberus will stop at nothing to protect its secrets. But along the way, they find an unlikely ally in Gillian Grayson, a young woman with extraordinary powers. Once the subject of horrifying scientific experiments, Gillian is now free—and beginning to master her deadly abilities. But after learning that Cerberus was responsible for the death of her father, Gillian swears vengeance against the group and the Illusive Man—threatening to unravel everything Kahlee and David are fighting for. Science fiction

Destiny and Deception, by Shannon Delany (Jan. 31, St. Martin’s Griffin)
The sensational fourth novel in the 13 to Life series sees Jessica and the Rusakuvas fighting to overcome one of their biggest challenges yet--the possibility of a cure for lycanthropy. With the threat of the mafia seemingly gone and the company's headquarters in Junction destroyed, Pietr Rusakova is adjusting to being a normal teen and Jess is realizing normalcy may not be what she wanted after all. But both Jess and Cat know the truth--that normal can't be taken for granted. Their precious cure isn't permanent--and when a new danger stalks into their small town, Alexi decides he must overcome his issues with the mother who abandoned him to be raised by wolves and make a brand new deal to save his adopted family. The fourth 13 To Life book. YA

Undone Deeds, by Mark Del Franco(Jan. 31, Ace)
Connor Grey is a druid consultant for the Boston PD on their "strange" cases. So his world is turned upside down when he suddenly finds that he himself has become one. Wrongly accused of a terrorist attack that rocked the city to its core, Connor evades arrest by going underground, where rumors of war are roiling. A final confrontation between the Celtic and Teutonic fey looks inevitable-with Boston as the battlefield. Urban fantasy

A Devil Named Desire, by Terri Garey (Jan. 31, Avon)
Forbidden fruit is always the sweetest...and no one knows that better than Sammy Divine, High Prince of Darkness. Once an angel, now cast down, Sammy's out to prove he's not the only angel who can be led into temptation...Hope Henderson's sister has disappeared without a trace, and Hope will do anything to find her--even make a deal with the Devil. An ancient text holds the key to unspeakable power, and it's the Archangel Gabriel's job to make sure it stays hidden, even if he has to become human to do it. Lives, love and the fate of the world hang in the balance, as Hope and Gabriel learn that when passion's involved, it may be impossible to withstand a devil named desire. Paranormal romance

Third Grave Dead Ahead, by Darynda Jones (Jan. 31, St. Martin’s)
Charley Davidson—grim reaper extraordinaire, private investigator . . . meh—is practicing her profession under the influence, caffeine and copious amounts of it, due to an extreme desire to induce insomnia. Every time she closes her eyes, Reyes Farrow, the part-human, part-supermodel son of Satan, is there. Only thing is, he’s a tad peeved. She did bind him for all eternity, so it’s hard to blame him. But 13 days without a wink is bound to bring out the crazy in a girl. So, when a man hires her to find his wife, Charley accepts the job with one goal in mind: Put the man behind bars, and not the wet kind. She can sense the guilt waft off him and vows to find the woman’s body and prove he’s a murderer. In the meantime, Reyes is back in prison and none too happy about it . . . so Charley thinks, until she is carjacked by the dark-haired rake, who swears the very man he went to prison for killing is not only alive, but close by. And he wants Charley to find him. While a visit to her old friend Rocket sheds no light on Reyes’s situation, Charley finds out the man’s wife is still alive and time is running out. Finding her before she dies would be a miracle, but she has to try. Together with the help of a fashion-impaired receptionist named Cookie, Charley sets out to bring the bad guys to justice. She just hopes Reyes is not one of them. And that she’s not hallucinating from her self-induced bout with insomnia. Urban fantasy

Burned, by J.F. Lewis (Jan. 31, Pocket)
Void City’s resident bad-ass vampire has a secret to keep, everything to lose, and a plan to win it all. Eric has taken control of the city’s supernatural hierarchy, putting all the deals and contracts that allow Void City to function up for renegotiation. When he installs his insane vampire daughter, Greta, as Void City’s sheriff of the supernatural, bloody mayhem ensues. To further complicate things, the love of Eric’s life is back from the dead, immortally young, at a cost that has put Eric under the thumb of a very powerful demon. The mysterious mouser Talbot, morose mage Magbidion, and all of Eric’s thralls are trying to help him keep things under control….But with early onset Alzheimer’s, vampire hunters, demons, a band of chupacabra, a cursed cousin with a serious grudge, and Rachel as his new “handler”…there’s just not an app for that. Fourth in the Void City series. Urban fantasy

A Little Night Magic, by Lucy March (Jan. 31, St. Martin’s Griffin)
Olivia Kiskey needs a change. She’s been working at the same Nodaway Falls, New York, waffle house since she was a teenager; not a lot of upward mobility there. She’s been in love with Tobias, the cook, for the last four years; he’s never made a move. Every Saturday night, she gathers with her three best friends—Peach, Millie, and Stacy—and drinks the same margaritas while listening to the same old stories. Intent on shaking things up, she puts her house on the market, buys a one-way ticket to Europe, and announces her plans to her friends . . . but then she meets Davina Granville, a strange and mystical Southern woman who shows Olivia that there is more to her life than she ever dreamed. As Liv’s latent magical powers come to the surface, she discovers that having an interesting life is maybe not all it’s cracked up to be. The dark side of someone else’s magic is taking over good people in town, and changing them into vessels of malevolence. Unwilling to cede her home to darkness, she battles the demons of her familial past and her magical present, with those she loves at her side . . . and in the cross fire. Can the most important things in life—friendship, love, magic, and waffles—get her through the worst that the universe can throw at her? Urban fantasy

His Dark Bond, by Anne Marsh (Jan. 31, Brava)
Zer is no angel - well, not anymore. He's explored every flavour of sin imaginable, drinking in the pleasures of humanity. But now he must find the woman who carries his salvation in her very blood...a woman like Nessa St. James. Nessa has considered the bargain the Fallen offer. Anything she wants in exchange for accepting Zer's bond? No way. Not her. Not when she finds out about the mind-blowing ritual involved and the marks of surrender that will ink her skin. But with a serial killer to stop and centuries of experience on his side, Zer will do whatever it takes to change her. Second in the Fallen series. Paranormal romance

Greatshadow, by James Maxey(Jan. 31, Solaris)
The warrior woman known as Infidel is legendary for her superhuman strength and skin tough as chain mail. She's made few friends during her career as a sword-for-hire, and many powerful enemies. Following the death of her closest companion, Infidel finds herself weary of life as a mercenary and sets her eyes on one final prize that will allow her to live out the rest of her days in luxury, the priceless treasure trove of Greatshadow. Greatshadow is the primal dragon of fire. His malign intelligence spies upon mankind through every flickering candle, patiently waiting to devour victims careless with even the smallest flame. The Church of the Book has assembled a team of twelve battle-hardened adventurers to slay the dragon once and for all. But tensions run high between the leaders of the quest who view the mission as a holy duty and the super-powered mercenaries who add power to their ranks, who dream only of Greatshadow's vast wealth. If the warriors fail to slay the beast, will they doom mankind to death by fire?  Fantasy

Incarnate, by Jodi Meadows(Jan. 31, Katherine Tegen)
Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why….Even Ana’s own mother thinks she’s a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she’ll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are suspicious and afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame? Sam believes Ana’s new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana’s enemies—human and creature alike—let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else’s life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?  YA

Wrong Side of Dead, by Kelly Meding (Jan. 31, Bantam)
Barely recovered from her extended torture at the hands of mad scientist Walter Thackery, Evy can use a break. What she gets instead is a war, as the battered Triads that keep Dreg City safe find themselves under attack by half-Blood vampires who have somehow retained their reason, making them twice as lethal. Worse, the Halfies are joined by a breed of were-creature long believed extinct—back and more dangerous than ever. Meanwhile, Evy’s attempts at reconciliation with the man she loves take a hit after Wyatt is viciously assaulted—an attack traced to Thackery, who has not given up his quest to exterminate all vampires . . . even if he has to destroy Dreg City to do it. With Wyatt’s time running out, another threat emerges from the shadows and a staggering betrayal shatters the fragile alliance between the Triads, vampires, and shapeshifters, turning Evy’s world upside down forever. Fourth in the Dreg City series. Urban fantasy

The Dead of Winter, by Chris Priestley (Jan. 31, Bloomsbury)
Michael Vyner recalls a terrible story, one that happened to him. One that would be unbelievable if it weren't true! Michael's parents are dead and he imagines that he will stay with the kindly lawyer, executor of his parents' will ...Until he is invited to spend Christmas with his guardian in a large and desolate country house. His arrival on the first night suggests something is not quite right when he sees a woman out in the frozen mists, standing alone in the marshes. But little can prepare him for the solitude of the house itself as he is kept from his guardian and finds himself spending the Christmas holiday wandering the silent corridors of the house seeking distraction. But lonely doesn't mean alone, as Michael soon realises that the house and its grounds harbour many secrets, dead and alive, and Michael is set the task of unravelling some of the darkest secrets of all. U.S. release. YA

Sadie Walker Is Stranded, by Madeleine Roux (Jan. 31, St. Martin’s Griffin)
Sadie Walker fights for survival as the dead close in...In the months since The Outbreak, Seattle has become a walled citadel - the Infected are kept at bay but the city is rife with kidnappings, religious cults and black-market dealings. And things are about to get much, much worse. A group of frustrated religious fanatics, the 'Repopulationists', destroy part of the wall and zombies swarm the city. Devastated by the brutal kidnapping of her nephew, illustrator Sadie Walker flees Seattle with her best friend Andrea and secures passage on a boat with no destination. The ragtag bunch aboard the ship are thrown ashore by a storm and stumble across what appears to be a thriving survivors camp. The shipwrecked group, relived to find food, shelter and friendship, relax into the rhythm of the community's existence. But then people start to disappear. Horror

Heir of Novron, by Michael J. Sullivan (Jan. 31, Orbit)
The New Empire intends to mark its victory over the Nationalists with a bloody celebration. On the high holiday of Wintertide, the Witch of Melengar will be burned and the Heir of Novron executed. On that same day the Empress faces a forced marriage, with a fatal accident soon follow. The New Empire is confident in the totality of its triumph but there's just one problem-Royce and Hadrian have finally found the true Heir of Novron---and they have their own holiday plans. Books five and six in the previously self-published Riyria Revelations series, incorporating Wintertide and Percepliquis. Fantasy

Giant Thief, by David Tallerman(Jan. 31, Angry Robot)
Meet Easie Damasco, rogue, thieving swine and total charmer. Even the wicked can't rest when a vicious warlord and the force of enslaved giants he commands invade their homeland.  Damasco might get away in one piece, but he's going to need help. Big time. Fantasy

The Great Game, by Lavie Tidhar(Jan. 31, Angry Robot)
When Mycroft Holmes is Murdered in London, it is up to retired shadow executive Smith to track down his killer – and stumble on the greatest conspiracy of his life. Strange forces are stirring into life around the globe, and in the shadow game of spies nothing is certain. Fresh from liberating a strange alien object in Abyssinia – which might just be the mythical Ark of the Covenant – young Lucy Westerna, Holmes’ protégé, must follow her own path to the truth while, on the other side of the world, a young Harry Houdini must face his greatest feat of escape – death itself. As their paths converge the body count mounts up, the entire world is under threat, and in a foreboding castle in the mountains of Transylvania a mysterious old man weaves a spider’s web of secrets and lies. Airship battles, Frankenstein monsters, alien tripods and death-defying acts: The Great Game is a cranked-up steampunk thriller in which nothing is certain – not even death. Steampunk

The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey (Feb. 1, Reagan Arthur)
Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart—he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone, but they glimpse a young, blond-haired girl running through the trees. This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them. Mixed-genre

The Dread, by Gail Z. Martin (Feb. 1, Orbit)
Still reeling from plague and civil war, the Winter Kingdoms face an invasion force from across the Northern Sea led my a dark spirit mage in the name of ancient, vanquished gods. Summoner-King Martris Drayke and an untested generation of new rulers must stand against an alliance of shadowy invaders. To prevail, Tris must win the support of the Dread, spirit-beings that stand guard within the barrows over an even more fearsome threat imprisoned within. In the balance lies not only the freedom of the Winter Kingdoms, but Tris’s life and the soul of his young son. Second in the Fallen Kings Cycle. Fantasy

Article 5, by Kristen Simmons (Feb. 1, Tor Teen)
New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., have been abandoned. There are no more police—instead, there are soldiers. Seventeen-year-old Ember Miller is old enough to remember that things weren’t always this way. Ember has perfected the art of keeping a low profile. She knows how to get the things she needs, like food stamps and hand-me-down clothes, and how to pass the random home inspections by the military. Her life is as close to peaceful as circumstances allow. That is, until her mother is arrested for noncompliance with Article 5, and one of the arresting officers is none other than Chase Jennings…the only boy Ember has ever loved. YA

Harbinger, by Sara Wilson Etienne(Feb. 2, Putnam Juvenile)
When sixteen-year-old Faye arrives at Holbrook Academy, she doesn't expect to find herself exactly where she needs to be. After years of strange waking visions and nightmares, her only comfort the bones of dead animals, Faye is afraid she's going crazy. Fast. But her first night at Holbrook, she feels strangely connected to the school and the island it sits on, like she's come home. She's even made her first real friends, but odd things keep happening to them. Every morning they wake on the floors of their dorm rooms with their hands stained red. Faye knows she's the reason, but what does it all mean? YA

Enormity, by W.G. Marshall (Feb. 2, Night Shade)
In Korea, a lonely young man named Manny Lopes, who is not only physically small (in his own words, he’s a “Creole shrimp”), but his work, his failed marriage, his race, all conspire to make him feel puny and insignificant—the proverbial ninety-eight-pound weakling. Then one day an accident happens, a quantum explosion, and suddenly Manny awakens to discover that he is big—really big. In fact, Manny is enormous, a mile-high colossus! Now there’s no stopping him: he’s a one-man weapon of mass destruction. There’s only one weapon that has any chance at all of stopping him: his wife. Science fiction

Decisions, decisions! As always, four entries possible and please include your e-mail: +1 for comment to tell me what book (any book) you want, +1 for blog follow, +1 for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and +1 for a Tweet or RT about the contest. This contest is international. Now….go!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

From the ROYAL STREET Playlist--Ernie K-Doe (And Did You Win a Book This Week?)

 Happy Sunday!

Today, from my Royal Street playlist, I’d like to share a classic New Orleans song, Ernie K-Doe’s “Mother in Law”—love this old song! There’s a bar in New Orleans called Ernie K-Doe’s Mother in Law Lounge on Claiborne in the Treme neighborhood. Ernie opened it in 1994; he died in 2001. The lounge drowned under nine feet of water in Hurricane Katrina in 2005 but was reopened by Ernie’s widow in 2006.

Now, on to the business of the day. Did you win a prize last week? Here are our weekly winners.

Email me at suzannej3523@gmail.com with your snail-mail info if you see your name.

Congrats to JoAnna for winning our knight’s tale Immortal Hope by Claire Ashgrove.

Congrats to Lyssa Anne for winning Archon by Sabrina Benulis—angels and demons!
Congrats to SusieBookworm for winning Rod Rees’ The Demi-Monde: Winter.

Congrats to Aurian for winning this week’s Reader’s Choice: She chose A Warrior’s Desire by Pamela Palmer.

That’s it for this week--check back tomorrow for a new Reader’s Choice contest!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

From the ROYAL STREET files: The Magical World

(Yes, and a reminder that you still have time to win this week’s contests, with links below.)

One of the fun parts of writing fantasy is building a world, and one of the fun things about writing a fantasy series is making that world deep and rich. Over the next couple of months, I’ll be tossing out occasional introductions to the world of Royal Street and the Sentinels of New Orleans series.

Today, welcome to the world of wizards!

The wizards are highly organized. A wizardly org chart might look like this:

Other than the Elders—the wizards’ ruling council—all licensed wizards fall into one of four Congresses, depending on the area in which their magical skills are strongest. There are rules about education and giving up powers and such, but I won’t go into all that today.

Red Congress wizards specialize in physical magic—they can channel magical energy and zap people with it, so strong Red wizards are considered warrior class. Green Congress wizards are the geeks of the magical world; they specialize in ritual magic, which includes charms, spells and potions. Blue Congress practice illusory magic—they can clean up a crime scene to make it appear as it was before, and tend to be highly creative. Yellow Congress is the smallest group, and these wizards specialize in mental magic—they are often psychics or telepaths.

The wizards have, by longstanding treaty, been responsible for policing the borders between the human world and the Beyond, or Otherworld. The ones who hold that gatekeeper job are called Sentinels. Usually, they are Red Congress wizards. For extra muscle, the wizards employ a secretive force of muscle, known simply as Enforcers. Not much is known about these assassins except there’s a loose affiliation with the FBI in the U.S. and other lawkeeping organizations in other countries.

In the Sentinels series, the primary character is Drusilla Jane (DJ) Jaco. DJ is a Green Congress wizard only four years out from passing her exams, and she works as a deputy sentinel with her mentor, Red Congress wizard Gerald St. Simon, warrior class. They maintain the borders between New Orleans and the Beyond—borders which are destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Mayhem ensues.

Okay, commercial over!

There’s still time to enter this week’s contests:

To win Archon, the angels-and-demons YA from Sabrina Benulis, click HERE.

To win Claire Ashgrove’s sexy Knights Templar paranormal, click HERE.

To win a copy of Rod Rees’ The Demi-Monde: Winter, click HERE.

To win your choice of book in this week’s HUMONGOUS Reader’s Choice contest, click HERE.

To win a complete set of "True Blood Season 1" DVDs, go over to my sister site HERE

Contests enter at midnight tonight (central daylight time in the U.S.) and are international. Now, start scrolling, clicking, commenting! And come back tomorrow to see if you won!

Friday, January 27, 2012

YA Friday: Anime and ARCHON, by Sabrina Benulis

Today, we're looking at a new YA urban fantasy with angels and demons and a surprising influence: Japanese anime. I'm talking about Archon, the debut novel by Sabrina Benulis, and first in a new trilogy. Read on for a chance to win a copy!

"My novel Archon...is a story of visuals, of strange and alien settings and nonstop action," Benulis says in her essay Anime and Archon. "In a nod to some of anime's intricate plots and darker stories, it is a slow burn that deliberately toys with notions of gender, identity, and Western myths. Even more so, Archon's characters fit right into the anime stereotype of tragic pasts, psychological trauma, and awesome outfits."

There's something about anime that draws people to it, says Benulis, who's loved the art form since her own days in high school. Her favorite is the sub-genre of gothic anime. "I always enjoyed how some of the best Japanese anime I watched took what could have been a run-of-the-mill fantasy story but didn't shy from giving it a dark and edgy twist."

ABOUT THE BOOKAngela Mathers is plagued by visions of angels, supernatural creatures who haunt her thoughts by day and seduce her dreams by night. Newly released from a mental institution where she was locked away for two years, she hopes that her time at the Vatican’s university, the West Wood Academy, will give her a chance at a normal life. Unlike ordinary humans, Angela is a blood head — a freak, a monster, the possible fulfillment of a terrifying prophecy of overwhelming death and destruction. Only in Luz, the Vatican’s wondrous enclave, are blood heads accepted and encouraged to discover what kind of powers or special abilities they might possess. But within West Wood, a secret coven plots, and demons and angels roam the streets searching for the key to open Raziel’s book — a secret tome from a lost archangel. Some are determined to destroy Raziel, while others, like the beautiful Supernal Israfel, one of the highest of the high, wish to free him. And when the Archon — the human chosen to possess the spirit of a dead angel — rises as foretold, they will control the supernatural universe.  Torn between mortal love and angelic obsession, Angela holds the key to Heaven and Hell — and both will stop at nothing to possess her.

I have to say that, personally, I'm not an anime fan. And I'm not an "un-fan." It's just been totally off my radar. How about you? Are you a fan of anime...or just want to read a story about angels and demons? Either way, you know the drill to win the book! One entry for comment, one for blog follow, one for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and one Tweet or Retweet. Spread your wings!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review and Giveaway: IMMORTAL HOPE by Claire Ashgrove

Before I get to today’s featured book, here's a chance to win the DVD set of the entire first season of “True Blood,” the HBO adaptation of the Charlaine Harris novels. Just go over to my buddy Susannah’s brand-new paranormal romance website, follow the site, leave a comment, and you’re entered. As Sookie would say, “Easy peasy.” Go HERE after you finish with this page, but you want to win today’s book here, too. Really.

a paranormal romance by Claire Ashgrove.

I’m a big fan of the Knights Templar. I mean, really, what’s sexier than a big ole knight? Unless it’s an immortal knight—a tortured, damaged immortal knight, which is what Claire Ashgrove has in her hero Merrick du Loire. As I think about it, I find my reading sorely lacking in knights, however. Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series has a knight named Michael, and he’s a seriously wonderful dude, even if he does have a dozen kids. (Apparently, knights are quite fertile.) What about you—have you read a romance or urban fantasy with a knight? Am I forgetting something really obvious? (Oh, and this is totally unrelated, but when I said I didn’t like dragons, I didn’t mean dragon-shifters, which are almost as good as knights…but not quite.)

Anyway, I really enjoyed this read. Yeah, the academic end of it didn’t hold up for me since PhD students don’t write theses—they write dissertations. And then they go into a longish period of tenure-track positions before they can do things like become department chairs. But I’m happy overlooking the utterly snore-inducing minutiae of academic life to read about, well, tortured immortal knights. Did I mention knights are good?

ABOUT THE BOOK: Centuries ago, Templar knights defied the archangels and unearthed the copper scroll that revealed the locations of the gates to hell. Cursed for their forbidden act, they now roam the earth, protecting mankind from evil. But darkness stalks them, and battles they fight bring them ever closer to eternal damnation. One promise remains to give them salvation—the return of the seraphs.
Embittered by his purpose, Merrick du Loire must honor an ancient pact and bring peace to his cousin’s soul, releasing him from the clutches of their enemy. When he stumbles upon history professor Anne MacPherson, he discovers that she possesses a sacred artifact that marks her as a seraph. Duty demands he set aside his personal quest and locate the knight she’s fated to heal. As Merrick struggles with conflicting oaths, Anne arouses buried hope and sparks forbidden desire that challenges everything he’s sworn to uphold.   
Anne has six weeks to complete her thesis on the Knights Templar. When Merrick takes her to the Templar stronghold, he presents her with all she needs—and awakens a soul-deep ache that he alone can soothe. Yet loving Merrick comes with a price. If she admits she is destined for him, her gift of foresight predicts his death. (Published Jan. 5, Tor Books. Review copy provided by publisher.)

Want to win a copy of Immortal Hope? Weigh in on knights—read about any? Think you’d like them? You know the drill, kids: one entry for comment, a second for blog follow, third for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and a fourth for a tweet or retweet. (And don’t forget to run over to Susannah's brand-new Life, Unleashed blog to win Season One of “True Blood.”)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Coming Soon to a City Near You (Maybe)

Here's the updated tour schedule for Royal Street. If you're near one of the locations, stop by!

Tuesday, April 10....Launch event at Garden District Books, New Orleans, LA, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Thursday, April 12...Katy Budget Books, Houston, TX, 6 p.m.

Friday, April 13....Murder by the Book, Houston, TX, Time 6:30 p.m. Gotta do something special for Friday the 13th!

Sunday, April 15...A Real Bookstore, Fairview, TX (Dallas area). 2 p.m..

Friday, April 20....Barnes & Noble at the Summit, Birmingham, AL. 7 p.m.

Saturday, April 21...The Alabama Book Festival, Montgomery, AL. Old Town Montgomery. This is a great, free all-day event with multiple authors. Great chance to get multiple books signed! Speaking time TBA.

Saturday, April 28...Eagle Eye Book Shop, Atlanta (Decatur), GA, 2 p.m.

Thursday, May 3...Powell's Books (at Cedar Hills Crossing, Beaverton), Portland, OR. 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 5...Mysterious Galaxy, San Diego, CA. As part of the store's big birthday celebration that starts at 10 a.m.

August 8-12...Authors After Dark convention, New Orleans, LA. Five days of amazing authors. Jeaniene Frost, Nicole Peeler, Joey Hill, Diana Rowland....I'll be the biggest fangirl there! But I'll also be doing some panels, some events, giving stuff away--and taking folks on a tour of the New Orleans of Royal Street.

Preternatura Book Club: Moon Called by Patricia Briggs, Chapter 5

Welcome to this week’s “meeting” of the Preternatura Book Club! Today, we pick up chapter five of Moon Called, the first book in Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series. I’m switching to one chapter a week from here on out with this book since the chapters are so long. This is one of my favorite urban fantasy series, and it’s fun to be reading it again!

When we last left Mercy, the body of young werewolf Mac had been dumped on her doorstep, and she ran to Adam Hauptman’s house to find him in a big fight with another were. She kills the other wolf, but Adam is badly injured and his 15-year-old daughter, Jessie, is missing.

Mercy can’t follow Jessie’s trail, so she gets her old “Vanagon,” an underpowered old VW “Twinkie on wheels,” and manages to load Mac’s body inside, plus the injured and unconscious Adam, still in his wolf form. She’s taking them to Montana, to the Marrok, the only wolf strong enough to control alpha Adam while he heals. It’s a harrowing, mountainous drive in the underpowered van.

Before she leaves, Mercy gets her neighbors to look after her cat, and calls Zee, the former owner of her garage, to see if he’ll look after the place. This is our first vague intro to Zee, aka Siebold Adelbertsmiter, who is a gremlin—a rare member of the fae who can handle metals. Mercy doesn’t know how old Zee is, but he’s OLD. Let’s just say he remembers the Vikings. Next, she calls her vampire friend Stefan and lets him know she used his van to haul a dead werewolf in but had it cleaned up. Finally, she calls the witch Elizaveta and gets her to clean up around Adam’s house so no one will report the damage.

We don’t know the story with Mercy and Bran, the Marrok, yet—only that she was raised among his pack in Montana, then sent away.

Adam, being a dominant alpha, heals fast and he starts stirring way too soon. Mercy stops at a fast-food place, orders thirty burgers, and feeds him 20 of them. After he eats, he zonks out again.

Mercy finally arrives at Aspen Creek, Montana, home of the Marrok. It’s a small town, which we learn is a werewolf enclave plus the humans who live with them. Outsiders not encouraged. It’s clear Mercy has really mixed feelings about being back, and that there are lots of people who won’t be happy to see her. She stops at the small motel, which has a werewolf-safe room, but can’t get Adam out of the van by herself, so she calls Sam. We don’t know their history yet, but he’s the first one she thinks to call. When she can’t get him she tries another couple, and gets a man named Carl to come and help her. Bran, the Marrok, is in the woods, taking the new werewolves out on their first outing.

Carl arrives and helps Mercy get Adam into the room by taping his muzzle shut. Before they can leave, they hear Adam smashing against the door, so Carl reluctantly tells Mercy how to find the Marrok. Mercy shifts into coyote form and goes after them. She can scent Bran and his mate, Leah, as well as Bran’s sons Charles and Samuel. When the tracks split, Mercy decides to follow Samuel—she’s been in love with him since she was fourteen.

Before she finds Sam, she’s spotted by Leah—who obviously doesn’t like her. Leah gleefully howls, but it backfires when it alerts Sam, who’s nearby. He ends up intervening and his wolf backs Leah’s down, even though Leah should be dominant over him. Charles and Bran arrive in wolf form, and Charles shifts to human. Charles is half Salish Native American, and has magical powers since his mother was a witch. Mercy gives him a quick rundown, and Charles responds for Bran, who doesn’t shift—we learn that Bran can communicate with his wolves mentally.

Mercy and Charles head back to the hotel, where she gets a room. Samuel, a doctor, is on his way to treat Adam, and Charles leaves to do an autopsy on Mac and handle his burial.

That’s it for this week! Thoughts? I think one of my favorite things about this series—this book in particular, is weaving believable wolf behavior with the humans. I mean, Adam is still Adam, but he’s also a wolf who might rip her throat out if provoked. So he’s not just Adam in a fur suit. Which is cool.