Monday, October 24, 2016

Interview with YA fantasy author Francina Simone

I have the pleasure of interviewing Francina Simone about her new young adult urban fantasy novel, The Keeper’s Vow. It’s the first book in the Guardians Trilogy.

During her virtual book tour, Francina will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card (winner’s choice) to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too.

Francina Simone is a writer of Epic Urban Fantasies brimming with Magic and Moral Ambiguity.

From the time Francina Simone entered kindergarten, she loved to read and share words with her friends. When she was in the fifth-grade, she was scared to read aloud and so the teacher concluded she wasn’t very good at reading—Francina read anyway.

Francina left her middle school book club behind for the daunting and exciting life as a high school freshmen. She was quickly told Young Adult books were childish and she should concern herself with finer literature—Francina read them anyway.

Francina waved good-bye to her high school life and strutted into University with her YA books and graphic paper to take notes. She witnessed the birth of a YA trend where publishers flocked to sell their stories to teens…stories that were underdeveloped and glaring with structural issues. The message she heard as a consumer was simple—common belief is YA readers aren’t good enough readers to discern quality stories or they are too childish to tell the difference.

Francina dropped her degree in chemistry and decided enough was enough—and set out to write the quality* stories her fellow readers deserved.

After her formative years she moved to Japan, with her best-friend and husband, land of some of the worlds best story-tellers and creators of unique manga. There she worked on her stories and the quest to understand what authenticity* in story means.

Now she lives in Boise with her husband, son, cat, and Catahoula. She spends most of her time battling the terrible-twos and puppy-dom. But when things are quiet—you can hear frantically typing away; her mind far away with her characters in their quest to make the right decisions in a world brimming with magic and moral ambiguity.

Welcome, Francina. Please share a little bit about your current release.
The Keeper’s Vow is a story that speaks on the complexities of love, race, identity, and the role we play in the lives of the people around us. It is all told through the eyes of 16 year-old Katie Watts. She is not a blank slate a reader can just “insert” themselves into, she is a strong opinionated girl (though not always graceful in delivery) and for the events that unfold in her three book story—she has to be.

What inspired you to write this book?
I totally wanted to write the paranormal story I wanted to read. I loved books like The Mortal Instruments, and Vampire Academy, but they either didn’t have the world-ending, true-to-life situations I love reading or they focused way too much on the romance as a plot. I like my books a little more gut wrenching and balanced when it comes to Fantasy plot vs Romance.

Excerpt: Here is a sneak peak of a turbulent situation Katie and Tristan find themselves in after fighting off a pack of werewolves:
Mr. Heckler turned his attention to Tristan. “Why didn’t you call security? We have procedures for situations like this.”
“Do your procedures include letting three werewolves snatch a girl off her porch?”
 Mr. Hecklers face turned purple. Spit flew out of his mouth as he spoke. “Innocent people could have been on these streets.”
“Well you should have been protecting them. You have procedures for situations like this.”
Mr. Heckler moved toward Tristan but thought better of it. “Watch it boy. As far as I’m concerned you’re the reason they were on this street!”
“He saved my life,” Katie said, feeling her own rage. Her heart still pounded from hearing a gun go off so close to her head.
“We wouldn’t have let anything happen to you. We would have—”
“Done nothing. I was in the back of that van. I was as good as dead without him. You didn’t even have the decency to show up until it was all over. Those wolves could have killed us.” She didn’t know if the fire she felt was from her pain or anger. How dare they blame him for what happened. How dare they look at him like he was a monster. Like he was a half-breed.
“Enough. Come inside, Katalina,” Tristan said, holding out his blood stained hand to her.
She grabbed it. The look of pure disdain on Mr. Heckler’s face did not go unnoticed. “The school does not look kindly upon discrepancies like this. We have procedures.”
“Bigot,” she shouted at him. Mr. Heckler stiffened and the street fell silent. All eyes were on her. The same expressions from the Christmas party. Shock, horror, and disgust.

What exciting story are you working on next?
Right now I’m working on two books. From the Ashes, which is book three in the Guardians Trilogy and an Epic Fantasy. I will be bridging the world between Urban Fantasy and High Fantasy with this and I’m super excited to see how this all plays out. There is a cast of 5 main characters from different walks of life in a kingdom filled with magic and danger. I’ll be sharing sneak peaks on my blog.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I decided I was a writer sometime in 2012. I had just watched the Black Swan and something about authenticity and art imitating life and how as an artist I have to throw myself into it even if it drives me mad, just really spoke to me. So I put my foot down and decided if I wanted to be an author I’d have to decide I’m a writer.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I am a full time writer and a stay at home mom. Being a writer means I’m also a business manager of a Brand and being a stay at home mom means I’m a cook, maid, organizer, referee, dog walker, cat cuddler, book reader and more. I spend the mornings working on my platform (which is fun I just get to hangout and chat with book people all day). I spend my afternoons either reading a book for review for my YouTube channel or filming videos, and in the evenings I try to get in as much writing as possible. These days with my book launch means less writing and more of the other stuff. In between all that “routine” stuff I juggle a screaming toddler and hyper active puppy.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I listen to music on repeat and “movie trailer” the book scenes in my head before I write them.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An accountant. I was weird and liked math an awful lot. I think mainly I just didn’t want to be like other people…which is strange because accountants are abundant.


Thank you for being a guest on my blog!
Thank you for having me.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Review of dark short story collection Echoes of Darkness by Rob Smales

Echoes of Darkness
Written by Rob Smales
Reviewed by Lisa Haselton
Genre: Dark fiction

This book of dark short stories isnt for the faint of heart, or those who want to sleep with the lights out. The collection is a mix of stories that pull you in and bring you on journeys you didnt know you wanted to be on. Author Rob Smales does a great job of creating worlds with few wordsand those few words bring you into worlds ranging from light gray to black. A lot of paranormal and supernatural creatures -- that dont believe in happily ever afterwill have you leaving the lights on.

My heart went out to the boy inDeath of a Boyduring his journey. Smales certainly ratcheted things up at every opportunity.

A Night at the Showcaught me off guardI loved it.

I loved howWendigopulled me in and wouldnt let go. The point of view is quite effective in suspending my disbelief. I even felt the cold.

One of the shortest stories in the book isThose Little Bastardsand its a favorite because, well, if I tell you why itll give away the tale.

Thats a difficult part of reviewing short storiesI cant say much as I dont want to give away any of the stories. I loved going into each tale not knowing anything about it. No story disappointed. Smales has fun taking some conventional tales and adding a twistits the twist that makes the story so savory and memorable.

Smales is the author of Dead of Winter, which won the Superior Achievement in Dark Fiction Award from Firbolg Publishing's Gothic Library in 2014. His short stories have been published in two dozen anthologies and magazines. His story "Photo Finish" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and won the Preditors & Editors' Readers Choice Award for Best Horror Short Story of 2012. His story "A Night at the Show" received an honorable mention on Ellen Datlow's list of the Best Horror of 2014, and was also nominated as best short story by the eFestival of Words in 2015.

I read Echoes of Darkness in bite-sized chunks, one story per evening for two weeks. I could have read more some nights, but I prefer having the characters stick with me for a little bit before rushing onto the next story and a new cast. As a fan of dark fiction, I give this two thumbs up, 5 stars, and call it a highly recommended read for those not afraid to dabble a bit on the dark side. Im on my way to find more Smales stories to read.

TitleEchoes of Darkness
Author: Rob Smales
Published: February 2016
ISBN: 978-0-69-260957-6
Publisher: Books & Boos Press