Thursday, May 30, 2013

Books of Note: May Reads

Looking back on this month in the books I read, it seems like forever that May has lasted! Again, this month had some ups and downs, but I did find several really good books I enjoyed and these are some of my favorites.

"It is the height of Spain's celebrated golden century - but beyond the walls of the Royal Palace there is little on the streets of Madrid that glitters. The Invincible Armada has been defeated. The shadow of the Inquisition looms large. And the Thirty Years' War rages on in Flanders. When a courageous soldier of this war, Captain Diego Alatriste, is forced to retire after being wounded in battle, he returns home to live the comparatively tame - though hardly quiet - life of a swordsman-for-hire. In this dangerous city where a thrust of steel settles all matters, there is no stronger blade than Alatriste's." The captain is approached with an offer of work that involves giving a scare to some strangers soon to arrive in Madrid. But on the night of the attack, it becomes clear that these aren't ordinary travelers - and that someone is out for their blood. What happens next is the first in a series of riveting twists, with implications that will reverberate throughout the courts of Europe


Thoughts on the Overall Book: After starting the fourth book in the series thinking it was the first one, and then realizing I was missing a lot of things, I finally got to read the first one! And I really enjoyed it. This are a truly classy swashbuckling series that goes back to Dumas and Sabatini. The first book kind of acts as an introduction to the series, so it's a little slower than what I except the rest of the books to be, but that didn't make it in any way less enjoyable.

Cover--Yea or Nay: Yes, I really like how "Alatriste" is portrayed in the shadows. I love shadowing characters and swords on book covers. I also love the font. The font is actually what attracted me to the books in the first place at the library.

Characters: The characters seem to be straight out of a Dumas, and I'm saying that as a nod to the author, and not in a mocking way because Dumas, in my opinion, is one of the best characters crafters there was. I love the idea of a young boy narrating this series and I really love Inigo and his narration. Alatriste is also a really good character. He's somewhat of a reluctant hero, he works as a sword for hire, but he also has a deep sense of honor. And I loved the quiet father/son relationship these two share. It was very sweet. In actuality, it's like if you had a younger, less hot-headed D'Artagnan and Athos. I'm not going to lie when I say that Alatriste was pretty much Athos, and I really don't think the author was trying to hide that either. There was also Agelica, who, really felt like a 12-year-old version of Milady, I can see where she's going in later books. I also really liked the nemesis. I look forward to seeing him duel with Alatriste and Inigo through the series.

The Romance: None to report

Writing Style: As I said before, it's very much like Dumas'. So much so, that I really almost with Arturo Perez-Reverte would write Three Musketeers off-shoot stories because he might just be one of the only people who could pull it off. It was just all very classic, and I know this was translated, but I think I should give a shout out to the translator, because I think she did a very good job. I loved the picture he painted of Spain at this time period, it was lovely and through Inigo's narration, half cynical, and half longing. There was enough backstory of the history of the time period too (that anyone who has read Three Musketeers would know quite a bit about thanks to Dumas) but not so much that the readers gets bogged down in it. There were also several little tidbits for Three Musketeer fans he threw in there as well. I also loved his inclusion of Charles I and Buckingham when they went to Spain in secret so Charles could marry the infanta, disguised as "John and Thomas Smith". I knew who they were when they first appeared because I know the history, but I still thought it was awesome, another little thing that was reminiscent of Dumas.

Problems/What bothered me: The only thing I could mark was that there was a little bit of strong language, not as much as I have read in other books, but I did want to make mention of it.

Conclusion: 4 stars. This is going to be a series I'd like to follow to the end, I was very happy to find it.

Recommended Audience: Dumas fans definitely! You really would love this. Besides that, readers looking for a quick historical read would like this too. I read it in two days, but it could probably also be considered an afternoon read if you have nothing better to do.

Meg Pickel’s older brother, Orion, has disappeared. One night, she steals out to look for him, and makes two surprising discoveries: She stumbles upon a séance that she suspects involves Orion, and she meets the author Charles Dickens, also unable to sleep, and roaming the London streets. He is a customer of Meg’s father, who owns a print shop, and a family friend. Mr. Dickens fears that the children of London aren’t safe, and is trying to solve the mystery of so many disappearances. If he can, then perhaps he’ll be able to write once again.
With stunning black-and-white illustrations by Greg Ruth, here is a literary mystery that celebrates the power of books, and brings to life one of the world’s best-loved authors.

Thoughts on the Overall Book: This was one of those books that when I started it, I wasn't sure if I was going to like it or not. It's starts out slow, and I was worried that the mystery of Meg's brother's disappearance would turn out not to be all that interesting. However, about a third of the way in, the book takes a really interesting turn, that immediately made me sit up and speed through the rest. It was one that I really didn't know what the book was going to be about when I started it, but ended up being really good.

Cover--Yea or Nay: I really like the cover. I was excited to see the book was illustrated by Greg Ruth (I loved his work in the "Secret Journey's of Jack London" series) and he's probably one of my favorite illustrators at the moment. There's just something about his style I really like.

Characters: Like the story, I wasn't exactly sure what I felt about Meg at first. I liked how she was worried about her brother disappearing, and that she was willing to do whatever she had to do to get him back, even if the rest of her family had given up hope, but she almost came across as a little bit naive, and almost borderline bratty on occasion. However, as the story progressed, she just became a strong and very smart heroine, and I have to take it into account that she's only about 12 or so too, so she is still young. I really liked Orion right off though, even though most of what the reader knows about him is just from Meg's memories and flashbacks. I also loved the inclusion of Charles Dickens. I always love it when famous authors are incorporated into novels, and I have read several novels featuring Dickens. Sadly, I have yet to actually read his books, but Charles as himself has already endeared me to him.

The Romance: None!

Writing Style: I liked the writing style, it was classic and fit the time period, and I do believe was a bit reminiscent of Dickens's. The only thing that bothered me about it was that there was an "unknown narrator" who spoke in various places and those were in present tense whereas the rest of the story was in past. It wasn't totally jarring, but it stopped me for a few seconds when I came to one of those places. I really liked how the author portrayed the darker side of London at this time period too, and how children were treated, which was horrible at the best of times. Since this is a kids' book, there was nothing mentioned in any detail, but you still got an insight of the horror of the workhouses and how cruel they treated the poor orphans there and how they press-ganged any children they could find. You get the idea of the horror and to me, it's almost worse than having it put all in front of you.

Problems/What bothered me: The only thing that really bothered me was the fact that I really saw no reason for the inclusion of the ghost boy "Dick Wittington". You see him once in the first few chapters, but he never re-appears, nor did I see any ah-ha correlation to him in any other aspect of the story. I kind of got how he represented "eternal childhood" but I still didn't really see how that all tied in. I think the story would have been just as good without his inclusion.

Conclusion: 4 stars. I ended up really enjoying this book, and it ended on a good note with a happy ending, but also had a tad of bittersweetness as well. I liked seeing Meg grow up in the story from how we originally see her--a dreamer who thinks of the world like a novel--to who she becomes by the end of the story--a bit more world weary, and finally able to realize that not everything can be fixed, at least not right away, and that there really is no conclusion to life like in a novel.

Recommended Audience: Fans of Charles Dickens would enjoy this as a quick read. It's also a kind of easy read for Victorian mystery lovers. Girl or boy read, ages 12 and up.

The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.

Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.

Thoughts on the Overall Book: I love ghost stories. Add Ripperology to that and it can only get better. I was really excited about this book, and, thankfully as I have been several times of late, I was not disappointed. In fact "The Name of the Star" actually held several surprises for me that made me like it all the better.

Cover--Yea or Nay: I do like the cover, it's pretty, but I don't really "get" it. Even when I had finished the story I wasn't sure what the cover was about.

Characters: Despite the fact that I have always thought of Rory as a boy's name, I adored her. She was just the kind of female protagonists I like to read about in contemporary stories. She was genuinely funny, didn't have the attitude, and never once did she come across as annoying. She's the kind of girl I cold easily picture as being a good friend of mine. I liked Jazza a lot too (even though she really didn't seem like a "Jazza" to me). She was sweet and supportive and also not annoying. Despite early feelings, I did grow to like Boo, but she probably will never be my favorite character. I loved Jerome and Stephen and Callum though. They were all totally awesome. Jerome is another person I could picture being good friends with and I loved Stephen (who I instantly pictured as Matthew Baynton, by the way) was the quiet serious type, while Callum was the sarcastic, talkative one without seeming like the funny sidekick, which I appreciated. The villain was totally creepy too. I also loved the ghost characters. Alastair and Jo were totally awesome as well.

The Romance: Rory has a crush on Jerome and there's several make out sessions, but in all honesty, it didn't bother me at all. I think it's because it was so--I don't want to say blatant--but it was just there and there was no problem with it with cause anyone grief. They're just easy people, and I don't mind them together either.

Writing Style: First person and thankfully past tense (amazing!). I loved Rory's narration. I don't always care for first person from a female perspective because if you get a lousy leading lady, it can really make or break a book for me, but Rory is just so awesome and she's funny that I loved the writing style. It made for easy reading, but also held enough suspense to keep reading chapter after chapter. I loved the whole premise of this story too, and Maureen Johnson's take on ghosts was really cool and unique.

Problems/What bothered me: I really didn't have any problems with the story. I could maybe mark that the final showdown was a little drawn out, but then, I've written just as drawn out of ones so I don't really have anything to say on that ;-) It didn't drag at all, it's just that it kind of seemed a little long

Conclusion: 4 stars. I really enjoyed it, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series. I love the idea of London having it's own Ghost police and I think the idea is really original.

Recommended Audience: Ripperologists, fans of ghost stories and suspenseful mysteries also involving ghosts. Ages 16 and up, probably could actually be classed as a girl or a guy read, though I'd be more likely to suggest it to girls.
(To view spoilers, go to this link to read it on Goodreads: )

Indie Author Month Book Feature

I talked before about Indie Author Month put on by the bloggers at Aside From Writing throughout May. It's been an awesome month, and I've found so many books I want to read and learned a lot about some awesome authors.

Today, though, it's my turn, and A Case of Poisons has been featured as the Book of the Day with a mini interview! You can check it out here:

Also, there will be an e-book copy of A Case of Poisons up for grabs in the huge giveaway most of the authors featured on IAM are pitching in books for, so go and enter the giveaway for some awesome books just in time for summer reading!

Enter Here:

Don't forget everyone, that Monday is the release party for A Case of Poisons! There's going to be "door prizes" for commenters and other fun stuff, so don't miss it!!!

Slainte, Hazel

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tuesday Snippet # 13-- Anthony Maxwell

Well everyone, I'm both sad, and excited to announce that this is the last Tuesday Snippet that will feature Anthony. But only because next Monday is the release of the novel! And then you won't have any reason for Tuesday Snippets, you can buy the novel and read it for yourself in it's entirety =D Which, I'm pretty sure is better, but you can tell me what you think about that.

As far as the release goes, I'm going to be having a release party here on June 3rd when it comes out. I'll be doing a character interview with Scamp and Tobias, and putting up 'behind the scenes' stuff about A Case of Poisons. Mara will also be posting a release announcement on her blog as well with an except that I will direct you to from my post. There will also be a giveaway for a free e-book and another for a poster and bookmarks featuring the cover art. There might also be more things but so far, that's classified. (AKA, I don't know if I'll get what I want to done by then).

And so, without further ado, here is the final Tuesday Snippet, and truthfully the last one I can share without giving away too much. Hopefully it's also enough of a cliff hanger to maybe make you want to buy the book when it comes out ;-)

If I hadn’t panicked before while they were chaining me to the table, I was certainly panicking now, and I don’t think I have ever been more scared. I regret to say, dear Reader, that by that time, I had lost all the bravado I had once possessed. All I could think about was the knife wound I had received with the spider venom in it and how I did not want to endure that again, especially on a large scale. He tore my shirt open and brought over the case full of the bloody creatures. I tried to force myself to think of the fact that I was an Englishman and that Englishmen do not show fear when they are tortured, but then who was I to say? I had never known anyone who had been tortured, and surely the rack or the thumbscrews or anything the Inquisitors came up with was better than this. But most of all, I realized right then for the first time, dear Reader, that I was, regrettably, deathly afraid of spiders.

Also, I'm running a giveaway on Goodreads now for two signed paperback copies of A Case of Poisons until the 10th! So enter below:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

A Case of Poisons by Hazel B. West

A Case of Poisons

by Hazel B. West

Giveaway ends June 10, 2013.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Don't forget to come back on June 3rd for the release party!!!!
And also don't forget to check out (and hopefully donate) to my Indiegogo campaign to help me promote Anthony even better!

Until then, 
Slainte, Hazel

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tuesday Snippets #12-- Anthony Maxwell

Wow, I can't believe it's been twelve weeks since I started Tuesday Snippets! I'm even more surprised that I actually got one up each week :P The only sad thing is that Tuesday Snippets featuring Anthony Maxwell is almost over. Next week will be the last one because A Case of Poisons will be out the next Monday! But once I get through the first draft of my next novel (which I will be talking about after Anthony's release) I will start doing Tuesday Snippets again =)

Since I won't be doing Tuesday Snippets again for a while, I am going to start another weekly serial, because I find I rather enjoy it, and have decided to do Friday Duos, during which I will feature a favorite fictional duo with a short piece on why I love them and likely a little bit of fan art ;) So I'm pretty excited about that.

BUT!! Now it's is time for the Snippet, and this Snippet just happens to be from my favorite part in the book, and I really couldn't resist featuring it as a snippet and drawing the picture to go along with it was really fun too ;)

Without further ado, I present the snippet from chapter 17. (Oh yes, and there are a few extracted parts and bleeps so as not to give away spoilers ;)

         I was never sure what exactly started the next few events in motion, but here was my best guess. It is possible that when Tobias and I were rushing to find a hiding spot, we had marginally upset the sarcophagus in the corner we were hiding in, and Tobias was plastered between it and myself, so it’s also possible he shifted slightly and started it moving. The cause didn’t really matter, after all was said and done anyway; only that it happened and set off a whole chain of events that would soon have us running for our lives.
         (The Unnamed Gentleman) was still prattling on about (things that don't concern the Reader at this point) and all that, when a slight scraping sounded in Tobias’ direction. I looked over at him with a frown, but saw him doing the same as I but with his eyes locked on the sarcophagus in the corner. And then I realized with sudden horror that it was moving, sliding down the wall slowly toward us. Tobias realized this at the same time I did and put a hand out to stop it, taking a risk by exposing the appendage to the room should they happen to look over, which seemed more and more likely by the minute. One hand proved to be too little for the heavy artefact and Tobias hurriedly flung both hands up as the thing fell with more speed, panic suddenly in his eyes, and I turned just as he was losing it to help prop it up, finally succeeding it stopping its downward motion. We froze in that position, not even breathing, but -------- was still talking and as I peeped out my moth hole again, it seemed, miraculously, that no one had noticed the mummy falling. It was lucky that the room was so dimly lit that the corner we were in was in deep shadow...
         The sarcophagus was now behind the drape with us, so even if it continued to move and someone happened to look over, no one would see it. Tobias and I let out a breath of relief at the same time, and perhaps that extremely slight shift in position caused the next event, for very suddenly the sarcophagus opened and the mummy inside fell out on top of us. Tobs barely bit back a yelp as it fell onto his face. He let go of the sarcophagus in an attempt to hold the mummy and keep it from falling, and I was left with the full weight of the case in my awkward position of reaching over Tobs, and now the mummy’s, heads. I knew this arrangement was not going to last long and I also knew that we had only seconds before someone noticed what was going on despite the dimly lit room and the riveting speech. I hissed into Tobias’ ear, ‘Put the mummy back in the box.’
            He didn’t answer and I suddenly realized he was frozen, his eyes clamped shut. 

So, if you want to find out how Anthony and Tobias ended up in this very strange circumstance, make sure to save your spangle to buy the book when it comes out June 3rd! Or you can pledge money to my Indiegogo campaign (see below) and get a SIGNED copy =)

If you missed Anthony's interview at my friend Mara's blog last week, go check it out!

And if you enjoyed this snippet, don't forget to help my Indiegogo campaign suceed by pledging money for the release of A Case of Poisons. You can get a signed copy of A Case of Poisons for doing so as well as other awesome perks =)

I'll be back again next week with the final Snippet if not before =) 

Slainte, Hazel

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tuesday Snippets #11-- Anthony Maxwell

The 11th Tuesday Snippet! This one comes from chapter 12 because the previous two chapters didn't have an interesting snippet that wouldn't be a spoiler =) This one is very cliff-hangery though, (which all the snippets will be until the release of the book--that's my plan for getting people to buy it when it comes out *evil laugh*). So hope you like it and the picture of the cute little urchin boys =)

I was woken that morning earlier than expected, hearing first the pounding on my door and then Mrs Hutchings hurrying toward it. I wanted nothing more than to stay curled on my sofa and die, but knew I could not ignore the commotion. I was just hauling myself off the sofa, thankfully still wearing my dressing gown, when a flurry of voices could be heard, along with Mrs Hutchings sounding exasperated and flighty.
         ‘Mr Maxwell, come make sense of this!’ she cried.
         I did just that, or at least, that was my intention, but as soon as I stepped out the door of the parlour, I was accosted by two small, filthy figures that were trying with every ounce of being to drag me out the door.
         ‘What is going on?’ I demanded, trying to shake the muzzy sleep from my head, and that at least stopped them for a minute.
         One of the boys, Dods, I realized now that he was no longer yanking my arm from its socket, spoke first, looking pale and frightened. ‘Tony, you have to come now! Those kidsmen have blagged Archie! We was just out hustlin’ and they came out of nowhere!’

         ‘Who?’ I asked, trying to make sense of it all.
         ‘Some toff and two bruisers,’ said the second boy, Mumbles. ‘Archie fought them, and tol’ us to run.’
         ‘We didn’t wanna!’ Dods put in sternly.
         ‘But we did, ‘cause Archie said so, but we stayed by and watched, and he held his own for a while, but then the bruisers grabbed ‘im and the toff put a billy over his face and ‘e seemed to pass right out.’
         It took me a moment to put their hectic story together, but when I did, I sped off to my room, calling for Mrs Hutchings to quickly send a message to Tobs to tell him to meet me here. I roughly threw on my clothes, ignoring the smarting in my wounded arm and then went to open the door to my room again. But I stopped, leaning against it as I finally realized just what had happened. Archie…

Also, if you missed the cover reveal, go check it out here and see the lovely cover art by Jessica Gilliland!

Also, another fun thing for the day: my Friend Mara interviewed Anthony Maxwell on her blog, so do check that out too so you can find out more about the hero of A Case of Poisons.

And don't forget, if you liked this and want to help me out with promotion for the release of A Case of Poisons check out my Indiegogo campaign. Remember, there's lots of awesome perks for incentive! 

Slainte, Hazel

Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Campaign for "A Case of Poisons" Finally Up!

Well, if you've been following my blog posts, you'll probably know that I was planning to do a Kickstarter campaign to help support the launch of A Case of Poisons my first Anthony Maxwell book. You might also know that it gave me a lot of trouble. SO I finally ended up ditching Kickstarter and went with Indigogo instead (stupid name, but hey, their site is awesome). In fact, I am almost tempted to tell authors from now on to go with them, but I'm going to write a post about that later. Right now, I want to talk about my own campaign!

You'll be able to learn about all the reasons for my campaign by reading about it on the Indigogo page and watching my video, but in the long and short of it, I'm your typical starving artist, and I have no money in which to promote the way I want to. So, that's where (hopefully) you will all come in to pledge a little money and help me out, so I can make the launch of A Case of Poisons more thorough than I would be able to on my budget which is about as much as your average collage student.

But you're also getting something back for pledging money! Every pledge has a thank you gift (which you'll also be able to read about on the campaign page) these are some of them:

There's also a really fun perk where you get to name a character in the next book. Which is really generous of me, because I'm usually very particular about that ;-) But really, there's a slew of unnamed characters for the next book, so I'm going to need some help.

And now here is a video where I explain about the campaign. I was going to upload it to the Indigogo page, but I made it for Kickstarter and I call it a Kickstarter in the video, so I didn't think that was the best idea, and since I am too lazy to re-edit it because my computer takes forever to render videos, I've decided just to put it here. Mainly I talk about the same things I wrote on the campaign page, but I also read from the first chapter of A Case of Poisons so that means you get to hear my English accent and also my annoying parakeet in the background because that's what I get for filming outside.

(Okay, the video will be up soon, I have to make a smaller file)

Thanks for reading this, and if you watched the video, Kudos to you! I hate self-promotion, so I don't know if I'm doing this right, but I hope you might all consider pledging something. You can check out the link to my campaign page below if you are so inclined to give me some spangle, or if you want to pass on the word, which is great too. Oh, and ignore the part in the video where I talk about the part where you get no money if the goal isn't met, because Indigogo doesn't do that, that was all Kickstarter. I'm also going to apologize to everyone who follows me on my various social media because I'll likely be spamming this everywhere, but that's what they said to do. 

Anyway, thanks for your time!

Slainte, Hazel

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Happy Mother's Day! "Ballad of the Highwayman" Sale

In honor of mums everywhere, I am running a sale this week until next Sunday for my novel Ballad of the Highwayman on e-book. It's only $2.99 (normal 4.99), and you can find it on both Amazon Kindle and Smashwords if you don't have a Kindle. It's a nice romantic adventure, with an awesome heroine, handsome heroes, and all that good stuff. Admittedly, it's the only one of my books that I could possibly class as anywhere close to "chick-lit" but even then it's not. However, it's still a fun adventure novel and will appeal to mums. And if you're not sure if you like it, you can read the first couple chapters on Smashwords preview as well!



And if you're looking for something shorter, you can also check out Lynnann Richards' historical romantic short story "Aunt's Story" (a companion to her novel Cherished Preserver) Only $0.99 on Smashwords and Amazon Kindle



Thursday, May 9, 2013

COVER REVEAL!!! Anthony Maxwell Book One: A Case of Poisons

Well, it's finally here! The cover reveal for "A Case of Poisons" and without further ado, here it is!

A huge shout out to Jessica Gilliland, a fellow indie author, for doing the lovely cover art! Go check out her website and books! You can also find her on Goodreads

So I was hoping to announce the beginning of my Kicktarter campaign at the same time as the cover reveal, but stupid Amazon account is taking FOREVER to verify, so I still don't have the Kickstarter set up, which means my book tour is just going to get bumped back even more. The release date is still June 3rd though! And there's other things to look forward too this month!

First of all, Mara at 667B Baker Street is going to be interviewing Anthony on her blog

And then on the 28th, A Case of Poisons is going to be featured on Aside from Writing for Indie Author Month.

And then of course today's giveaway! Anyone who comments from now until saturday at 12 AM will receive a signed bookmark if they so wish. Just leave me your email address, so I can then email you for your mailing address and I will send off a bookmark to you. (US only this time, I'm afraid, but for the Kickstarter, I'm shipping international, so you will still have the chance to get one, you'll just have to pledge money first!)

Here's a picture of the bookmarks:

Of course I will keep up with the Tuesday Snippets as well, and don't forget to follow Anthony Maxwell on Facebook which you can do by clicking his picture on the left of the blog, so that you can get updates on all the stuff that is going on with the Anthony Maxwell series. I'm very excited about the release of the first book. I hope you will all enjoy it!

I'm also going to get up a giveaway for the actual novel soon too, and I'll let you know when I get that done. I'm hoping to have several fun things going this month in preparation for the release date. Just got my proof copy Wednesday and it looks awesome! A little more editing, and everything will be a go.

If you haven't already, don't forget to add A Case of Poisons to your Goodreads shelf!

Come back on Tuesday for the next snippet!

Slainte, Hazel

Tour stop and Character Interview for Daniel Ottalini's New Novel!

Hi everyone! I'm excited to be hosting a tour stop today for Daniel Ottalini introducing his brand new novel in the Steam Empire Chronicles, Copper Centurion, which was just released on the 1st.

Rome Seeks Vengeance 

In his Award Winning Debut Novel Brass Legionnaire, author Daniel Ottalini introduced us to the world of Roman Steampunk as Julius Brutus Caesar and his royal commanding officer Constantine Appius fought to save the city of Brittenburg from total devastation. Now, Rome looks to avenge the actions of the Nortlanders and invades the north. But saddled with political oversight, inept leadership and a resourcefully cunning enemy, the expedition walks a fine line between glory and destruction. With their technology failing, it will be down to swords and shields in the next novel of the Steam Empire Chronicles, Copper Centurion.

I've also conducted an interview with one of the characters from the books, Constantine, who is not only next in line for the throne, but a commander in the imperial army.

Salve, Constantine! Glad to have you on my blog today. Tell the readers who might not know you a little about yourself.

Well by day I’m your average Roman Tribune, commanding officer of the 13th cohort, XIII Germania Legion. By night I’m a supremely dashing heir to the throne, but cool in a mysterious way… Hah, I figured that would get you. (Chuckles) Yes to both the tribune part and the heir to the throne part, but I suppose you could get rid of the dashing part.

What has life been like for you since the Battle of Brittenburg?

Well after recovering from my wounds, I was able to rejoin my men. It’s good to be back with them. Lots of new faces coming in though, the cohort really took a beating in Brittenburg. Holding down the governor’s palace for a whole night against a Nortlander backed mob was a pretty bloody affair. And now we’re headed north to give those barbarian scum a lesson they won’t soon forget. (pauses a moment)

That reminds me, I’ll have to pack my cold weather gear. It’s winter time up there eight months of the year, I’ve heard.

What is it like being an heir to the throne and commanding an army at the same time?

By the gods, do you have any clue how many fricking expectations are dumped upon me? Especially since my brother managed to get himself killed last year. Now I get two jobs with just the pay of one. Not that I want that other job yet, mind you. Thank goodness I’m not in charge of the army, managing my cohort is tricky enough. And as far as I’m concerned, I really don’t like to use my imperial authority out here. If I can’t be respected for what I’ve done, then I surely won’t gain respect for shoving an imperial seal in their face

What are your thoughts on airships? Have you gotten to ride in one?

As always, I love riding in airships. Of course, our airships are more like our ‘wet’ navy ships, in that they look similar, just missing the giant balloon! I’ve learned a lot about airships, mostly how to fight on them. And believe me, those things are not as sturdy as they may appear…

Are you more inclined to have faith in powerful machines on the battlefield or the common soldiers?

A machine is just a machine. Without a human behind it, it cannot do anything. The greatest problems to our world come from the mind of man, not the arm of machines. A smart soldier can always outwit a powerful machine.

Can you share a little with readers about what they can expect in Copper Centurion?

Well, as the expedition is currently classified by my superiors, I suppose I can’t really say much, other than to hint that a certain assassin makes an appearance, an unexpected person reappears, and we all freeze our behinds off in the cold lands of Nortland. Then there’s the usual – airship boarding battles, mechaniphants and mechwolves, ambushes, espionage, a traitorous leader and more.

Now for a little gossip. Anything readers should know about you and Senatora Pelia?

No. (Icy stare) My…private…life… is none of your concern. She would be outraged to hear you asking me about it. She is a senator after all. And a shoe-in for the leadership of the new Army Medical Corps, and….

I’ve said too much (blushes).

What do you think the future will bring for you and the others?

Well with the northern front dealt with for the time being, I’m hopeful that we can get some R&R time. We need to refit and retrain some of the new men, and perhaps I can sneak in a trip to the capital. It’s been a while since I’ve been back.

Thanks so much for letting me interview you, Constantine!

The pleasure was all mine, domina.

Purchase Links:

Brass Legionnaire (Book One)

Daniel Ottalini is a teacher, author, amateur historian who was raised by both the History & Discovery Channel. His parents are very proud of decision to write about alternate history, in hopes that he will stop bothering them about it. His second novel, Copper Centurion, is available in both ebook and print versions. You can learn more about him at or follow him on twitter @dottalini.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Tuesday Snippet (On Wednesday Again) #10-- Anthony Maxwell

Wow, I can't believe there has been 10 Tuesday Snippets! And only a little over three weeks left before the release of "A Case of Poisons"!

Today's snippet is from chapter nine, and reveals what happens to Anthony after the fight he had in the alley with the bruiser and took a wound in the arm from the man's knife.

         I woke sometime in the early hours of the morning. These hours were not at all strange to me, as I might sometimes work until dawn on a case or one of my personal pursuits, but I always took my eight hours of sleep religiously unless utterly impossible, and rarely woke before they were finished once I did trouble myself to sleep. That night, however, I grew restless and uncomfortably hot where earlier I had remembered being cold. My whole body hurt and yet it was my wound that hurt most of all. I was rather out of my head, but I was lucid enough to realize that I had a fever and knew it must be from my wound. I sat up, fumbling with the gas lamp on my bedside table, and unwrapped the bandage from around my arm. It was bloody from where I had distressed it in my fevered thrashing. Some of the blood had dried, making the wrappings painful to peel off, and when I did I quite wished I had not.
         As an investigator I frequently saw dead bodies with horrible wounds, and the ones I had seen several days ago in the morgue at Scotland Yard had had the worst to date, but seeing something that ugly in my own flesh, while I was suffering from a high fever was nearly too much for me.
         Mine, to my best recollection and judging from ones I had seen with a clear head later, looked like decaying flesh. It had turned black where it had once been red, and the cut itself was a horrendous, gaping crimson slash through the blackness, blistering at the edges. I could tell at once, despite my somewhat delirious state, that this was not the normal bruising that can occur around an abrasion; no, this was something else. I felt sick with the thought of what that could be. 

I personally think the shading turned out better on this picture than the last one (though I'm still trying to get it perfect), and I found out that a que tip makes a better blender than the normal paper things they give you in drawing sets (I lost mine).

Consider it a cliff hanger =) 
Also don't forget to stop by the blog on the 10th (this Friday!) for a cover reveal! I'll be doing a giveaway for signed bookmarks with the cover art too, which I should be getting from the printer soon =) I'm very excited to see what you all think of the cover, I think it's lovely and I can't wait to share it with you.
As for the Kickstarter, I've run into unforeseen difficulties, but it's getting there!

Slainte, Hazel

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Re-Release Party for "His Own Good Sword" by Amanda McCrina!

Moving the Tuesday Snippet to Wednesday again, so I can give you all a feature for one of my fellow writers, Amanda McCrina, and welcome her to the sister/brotherhood of Indie Writers! Yay!

Amanda recently terminated her contract with a small publisher to go indie, and today is the re-relase of her historical fantasy novel His Own Good Sword, with a new lovely cover and all!

Mini Interview with Amanda:

1. How does it feel to be an indie author now?

On one hand, it's extremely liberating to know I have complete control over the entire book-production process. I know the design/formatting stage can be frustrating for self-pubbed authors (especially self-pubbed authors on college-student budgets, like me!), but I absolutely enjoyed it. I've always had something of a graphic-design urge, so it was exciting to be able to put that to use on my own book.

On the other hand, it's kind of scary: there's no one to blame but myself for any mistakes!

2. Have you made any changes to your book?

There were a few mundane typographical errors that have been corrected for this edition. I also took the opportunity to rework or flesh out some passages I felt were lacking in the first edition. For the most part, these changes weren't drastic--a sentence or two added here and there, some slight variations on wording to improve the flow. But there are some passages that have changed pretty significantly, especially towards the end; hopefully the changes will shed more light on certain characters. I've also added a map and a character list to both the paperback and ebook versions.

3. What's coming next?

Apart from the sequel to His Own Good Sword (tentatively scheduled for release this December), I'm currently working on a standalone novel called Aquae, a historical fantasy set in 1st-century-AD Wales. It's about a half-Roman, half-British boy who discovers he's inherited his mother's druidic abilities and is accused of attempting to murder his hard-bitten soldier father. It's a loose retelling of the Grimms' fairy tale "The Water of Life."

4. What are you reading right now?

I'm currently reading Walker Percy's The Moviegoer, because I need to maintain my high-brow literary facade. I've also finally gotten around to reading Black Hawk Down. I'm looking forward to continuing Ruth Downie's Ruso series, which I started just recently.(Hazel's note: Just finished the second Ruso book, it was really good ;-)

5. What books and movies are you looking forward to this year?

I have to admit I don't keep up with new book releases the way I should, probably because most of my favorite authors have been dead at least fifty years. But I'm looking forward to Elizabeth Wein's Rose Under Fire, for sure.

As far as movies go--well, I'm a huge film buff, so I could talk the rest of the day about movies. Like the rest of the planet, I'll be going to see Star Trek Into Darkness and Man of Steel. I'm holding out hope for Pacific Rim, because I love Guillermo del Toro as a director, but I wasn't too impressed with the first trailer. I'm also curious about Neill Blomkamp's Elysium, and yes, I'll probably see World War Z, because the book was so surprisingly good and because I'm a closet zombie aficionado.

6. Okay, really important question now: Coffee or tea?

I... don't understand why this is even a question. Coffee, of course--dark, strong Italian coffee. Starbucks' Caffe Verona is my favorite.

Read an excerpt from His Own Good Sword

By now Verio had nearly overtaken the four rebels before the cliff. One of them was falling behind, was perhaps riding with a wound—it would explain why they’d only gotten this far in better than half a day’s time. Another dropped back to stay alongside him. The other two came to the cliff face and dismounted and stood to face the troop with bows drawn back in their hands. Tyren lost sight of the two stragglers in the trees. He saw Verio go riding for the bowmen, sword in hand—too close for arrows to do much good. Verio cut one of them down before he’d the chance to loose. The other let fly a wild shot and turned to run with one of Verio’s men close at his heels. He fell before he’d taken five stumbling steps.

An arrow sped from the trees and took Verio’s man in the throat as he returned along the cliff face from his kill. He fell from his horse with the reins still clutched in his hand. The horse shied and bolted. Tyren saw Verio’s head jerk up in startled realization, saw him slide from his saddle and gesture wildly for a defensive formation—saw his men dismounting, falling back against the cliff in a ragged half circle, their shields out, facing the trees.

He straightened in Risun’s saddle.

“Columns,” he said, to the four men who were still sitting their horses behind him. “Follow my lead.”

Here are some fun re-release stuff that Amanda has going on, so you had best take advantage of it!

Get a free Kindle copy of His Own Good Sword from the 7th through the 11th! Yes, you read that correctly—the book will be free in Kindle format for the first five days of its release, so you are literally without excuse if you don’t have the book on your Kindle by midnight on the 11th.
Not to denigrate those Illustrious Readers who prefer physical books to electronic ones! If you purchase the $7.99 paperback edition of His Own Good Sword from either Createspace or Amazon between the 7th and 11th, forward a copy of your confirmation email to amandamccrina AT gmail DOT com and I’ll make arrangements with you for a free piece of signed artwork by yours truly featuring any character/object/whatever-you-choose* from the book. (For an example of my art style, take a look at this. Disclaimer: Batman is not a character in His Own Good Sword. Though that would have been awesome.)

Purchase Links:

Where you can find Amanda:


You can also read my review of His Own Good Sword on Goodreads