Monday, October 26, 2009

Interview: Jaye Wells

I'm thrilled to welcome Jaye Wells to the Book Bundle today! Urban fantasy fans will recognise her as the author of 'Red-Headed Stepchild' which was released earlier this year (you can read my review of it here).
Without further ado, here is the interview:

Ailsa: First of all, could you tell us a bit about your journey to publication, getting an agent etc? Did you ever have doubts about or trouble getting published?

Jaye Wells: I started writing fiction about four years ago. I took a writing class at a local community college and started my first book there. Red-Headed Stepchild was the third book I completed. I found my agent through the traditional route--by querying, sending a partial (50 pages of of the manuscript) and then a full. He read the full overnight and offered the next day. About a month later, after some revisions, he sent it out to several editors. About a week and a half later, there was an auction and I ended up signing a three-book deal with Orbit.

I don't think any writer goes through the path to publication without doubts. It's kind of part of the deal. It doesn't end once you get published either. Even published writers deal with rejection--either from editors or fans. The hardest part is to keep writing anyway. You have to have nerves of steel in this business.

A: Woah, so that was pretty quick once you queried that agent! That's great! Plotter or pantser? If you're a pantser, how far ahead do you plan things?

JW: I'm kind of both and neither. ;) My process is confusing even to me. But generally, I start out with a situation and a few scenes. Once I figure out what the story's about, I plot it out all the scenes, leaving myself enough room to pants it as I go. That sounds a lot easier than it is.

A: Do you use beta readers, or have a trusted critique partner who's with you all the way, or does it very with each project?

JW: I have beta readers who read the manuscript once I've done a couple good passes. They catch the high level story and character issues and I fix them. I've used critique groups before, but I found having someone read an almost-finished product is more effective for the way I write.

A: Did you make any rookie mistakes while you were submitting that you can look back on now and laugh about?

JW: Oh yes. One particular issue happened with a query letter. I'd seen a male agent speak at a writing event, and when I queried him I went on and on about how I saw him speak. It wasn't until after I sent the query that I realized I'd addressed the letter to "Mrs. (Agent's last name)." Not surprisingly I never heard back from him.

A: Oh no! Did you query widely, or were you targeting specific people/agencies?

JW: I'd queried a couple of projects before I submitted RHSC, so I had detailed notes on which ones seemed receptive, which ones got back in a timely manner, etc. From that list and further research, I queried about fifteen agents for the book. So I queried quite a few agents, but they were chosen for specific reasons.

A: Sabina was a fun character to read about - how much is she, or are any of the other characters, like you?

JW: All of my characters are like me in some way. Sabina's personality is probably most like mine, but there are some major differences and area where she's more exaggerated. I'm probably best described as a combination of Sabina and Giguhl. Yes, I understand this brings my sanity into question, but I'm okay with that.

A: Lol! Related to that, who was your favourite character, and who did you love to write about most?

JW: Obviously, I love Sabina because it's her story I'm telling. She's such a complex character to write. But I probably have most fun writing Giguhl. He gets the best lines and gives me a break from the heavy stuff Sabina's going through.

A: Can you tell us a bit about The Mage In Black? I'm really hoping for lots more Adam!

JW: The Mage in Black is much more magic-focused than Red-headed Stepchild, and it takes place in New York. Sabina's struggling to deal with the stragne mage culture and come to terms with the fall out from the betrayal of the first book. Giguhl gets involved in a special club and might find a love interest of his own. As for Adam, well, let's just say things there might be a few wrinkles coming in that relationship.

A: Argh! You're making me even more impatient for that book. Maybe I just shouldn't have asked. Finally, then, I know you have some great advice for writers on your blog. Could you share a couple of the most important things here for us?

JW: That's a toughie. I've got four years worth of unsolicited advice on that thing. ;) For aspiring writers, I recently listed my top ten tips for when you're just starting out. It's here: Click

A: Thank you very much for answering our questions!

Jaye's website can be found here, along with her blog.
Please leave a comment if you enjoyed the interview, or if you have any other questions for Jaye!

Also, remember that you still have time to enter our contest! See the post below this one for details.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Competition Time!

I know, I know, I'm two days late - I'm sorry!

This competition is in celebration of Halloween, so I wanted it to have monsters in. It just so happens that I have double copies of a couple of things sitting in my room, waiting for just such an occasion.
So, up for grabs this time:

Halfway to the Grave & One Foot in the Grave (books 1 & 2 in the Night Huntress series) by Jeaniene Frost!

These is one of my favourite series', so I'd love to share it with other people. But because it's two books, together, you have to work for it this time!

EDIT: please note that I've extended the deadline on this: it will now close on November 5th.

To enter, please complete this sentence: I would like to win because....

I'll be enlisting the help of a couple of people to choose a winner, and I think entertaining/imaginative answers will be the ones that catch our attention.

Just leave your answer in a comment, and remember to check back to see if you've won!
Contest is open until midnight, GMT, on November 5th, and winner will be announced as soon after that as we make a decision! Good luck, and I can't wait to see your entries.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Red-headed Stepchild, by Jaye Wells

From the back cover:

Things to do:

1) Infiltrate rival vampire cult and assassinate leader

2) Get rid of demon houseguest

3) Ditch the hot mage stalker

4) Betray family

In a world where being of mixed blood is a major liability, Sabina doesn’t really fit in. And being an assassin – the only profession fit for an outcast – doesn’t help matters. But she’s never brought her work home. Until now.

Her latest mission is uncomfortably complex, and threatens the fragile peace between the vampires and mage races. As Sabina scrambles to figure out which side she’s on, she uncovers a tangled political web, some nasty facts about her family and some unexpected new talents. Any of these things could be worryingly life-changing, but together, they could be fatal.

I’d been ‘hmm’ing and ‘hah’ing about buying Red-headed stepchild for months, since it first came out in the summer, and now I wish I’d got it sooner.

The action starts straight away, with Sabina’s world being pulled apart from the very first chapter, where she shoots her friend because she’s been told he’s a traitor. It’s never made clear what the relationship between Sabina and David was, but it was obviously close, because the echoes of this incident follow her through the novel, as she’s led to question everything she’s lived with.

I was a little bit surprised that Sabina had followed her orders with such unquestioning obedience for so long, but when her illusions break, boy, do they do it in a big way, and I can’t wait to see how revelations In this book affect her in book two, The Mage In Black. The early chapters brought through such a strong picture of what Sabina was like, her bold, kick-ass attitude staying constant throughout the novel.

My favourite secondary character was the mage Adam. (What is it with hot guys called Adam? Several of my favourite fictional guys are called Adam.) I loved the mystery of him from the moment Sabina met him in a bar. I don’t think we really got to see much of him in this book, but I think ‘The Mage In Black’ means we’ll get to see more of him in that book. ;-) And I like the blossoming romance between these two characters – it develops at a sensible pace for their prejudices and suspicions.

The plot moves quickly, and as usual with a good book it kept me up well past my bedtime! There were so many twists and turns, so many exciting things for the characters to deal with, but unlike some novels, the reader can still keep up, which is another great point in this novel’s favour. It was also good to see vampires pitted against something new – the mages. I also love the way their hair colour identifies vampires, and the shade shows how old they are. Little things like this make it a very well-built world, and I’m sure the sequels will be just as strong.

The ending was satisfying, too. Ms Wells has found the balance between a drawn out end that goes on too long, and the sudden stop that leave you wondering what happened. It tied up the important bits, answered some last minute questions, and left me desperate for the sequel.

Overall, I’m giving this 8/10 stars. Vampire fans should add this to their TBR piles, and Ms Wells is definitely one to watch for the future!

Book 2, The Mage In Black, comes out in April next year.

Exciting news!

Jaye has very kindly agreed to do an interview with us here at the Book Bundle. If you get questions to me quickly, I can include them in the interview. Look out for it soon!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

In My Mailbox 3: Ailsa's mailbox

This week:

1) The Amulet of Samarkand, by Jonathan Stroud -> from BookMooch
2) Magic Bites (Kate Daniels no. 1), by Ilona Andrews -> bought, from the Book Depository
3) Magic Burns (Kate Daniels no. 2), by Ilona Andrews -> bought, from the Book Depository

I read Amulet in about 2nd year at school, and loved it, and wanted to re-read the series. Magic Bites & Magic Burns should have arrived before I went on holiday, so it was great to finally get hold of them (I accidently read book 3 first, so it's nice to have everything now). I can't wait for the next book in this series. A new favourite author.

Please vote in our poll, if you haven't already, to get a say in what you'd like to see more of in the blog.
Also, keep your eyes open on Tuesday, when we'll be launching a halloween competition! And this one, you're going to have to work for ;-)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Night Life, by Caitlin Kittredge

From the back cover:
Welcome to Nocturne City, where werewolves, black magicians, and witches prowl the streets at night...
Among them is Luna Wilder, a tough-as-nails police officer whose job is to keep the peace. As an Insoli werewolf, Luna travels without a pack and must rely on instinct alone. And she's just been assigned to find the ruthless killer behind a string of ritualistic murders - a killer with ties to an escaped demon found only in legend... until now.
But when she investigates prime suspect Dimitri Sandovsky, she can't resist his wolfish charms. Pack leader of a dangerous clan of Redbacks, Dimitri sends her animal instincts into overdrive and threatens her fiercly guarded independence. But Luna and Dimitri will need to rely on each other as they're plunged into an ancient demon underworld and pitted against an expert black magician with the power to enslave them for eternity.

I heard a lot about this author before I picked up the book, which led to mixed feelings while I was reading it. I wonder if I set my expectations too high, because it never quite hit the nail on the head for me.
The book opens with Luna looking at a grisly murder scene. It pulled me in, and I read the first chunk in one sitting. Luna was an interesting main character - I liked her, and I liked how she dealt with the issues presented to her over the course of the story. She was fun, and I could relate to her, which for me is important in a book.
I also liked Dimitri - very sexy, and a bit (ok, a lot) of a bad boy, which is something I find hard to resist in books. I did think things should have got further between the two of them in this book, though - or if they weren't going to, then it should have been ended differently. Their relationship didn't really fit right for the pacing around the rest of the events going on in the book, I thought.
I also didn't like the narrow-minded, racist, (watch me try to control myself with the adjectives) cops in the story. That's a peeve I've found in other books though - I just don't like it, it makes me angry, and unfortunately it makes me angry enough to stop reading. It was very tempting to do that at several points in the book.

I did enjoy this book (I'm giving it 7/10 stars) but unfortunately it's the more negative things that I'm remembering. There were too many gruesome murder scenes, and it just didn't quite pull everything off as well as it could have.
I do want to read the next one, because I think this series & the writing can go somewhere - I'm hoping that 'Night Life' gave Kittredge somewhere to smooth off the rough edges, and that 'Pure Blood' (book 2) will be able to join my shelf of 'favourite books'.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Belated 'In My Mailbox', and a contest/interview shoutout

A little delayed, obviously, but these are the books I got last week:

Vampire Academy, by Richelle Mead -> bought from WH Smiths Books (in Glasgow Airport)
Dead As A Doornail (southern vampire mysteries no. 5) by Charlaine Harris -> bought at Indigo books, Toronto
Greywalker, by Kat Richardson -> bought at Indigo books, Toronto
Night's Cold Kiss, by Tracey O'hara -> bought at Indigo books, Toronto
Dawnbreaker (dead days chronicles no. 3) -> bought at Indigo books, Toronto

Review will be coming this week for some or all of those.

We'd also like to direct you over to Ellz Readz review site, where she's interviewing Chloe Neill today, and giving away a copy of Friday Night Bites - check it out here: click

Finally, please vote in our poll on the right, to let us know what you'd like to see on the blog.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Gargoyle

I absolutely love the opening line of this Novel,

"Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, often violently, just like love"

The Gargoyle is the story of a young man fighting for his life, after a horrific accident, which has ended his pornographic cocaine driven lifestyle and made him into a monster. Enter - Marianne Engel, a schizophrenic, who believes they have meet in a previous life and are destined to be together.

Through her naration, we travel from Norway to Japan, and through the middle ages charting the tragic ending of their previous love affair. Anderson expertly allows these shifts from past to present, without losing the reader and sucking us deeper into the world of Marianne.

Combining mystery and mysticism, events unfold which are left unquestioned, which gives this book an air of magic realism. The concept and development of the characters and their stories is done very well, with this story remaining with you for days after being read.

Definitely one of my favourite books, i give it 9 stars. Although i thought this book was exceptionally, I felt that there was something lacking - a 'je n'ai sais quoi' which i never put my finger on.

ECHO... Echo... echo...

*looks around at the vast emptiness of the blog*
Hello, faithful readers, if you haven't given up on us. I'm sorry for the lack of posts - I've been away. (I still am, in fact, but I've got nice free internet here, and I wanted to post something.) Normal posting will resume on Wednesday/Thursday, once I've caught up with the time zones again. I've got a lot of reviews to share with you guys.

In the mean time, I have a question for you. What would you like to see on the blog?

More reviews? More interviews? More contests/giveaways? More about us, the people writing your reviews?

I'm going to put this in a poll on the side of the blog, but I'd love to 'hear' your opinions in the comments, too.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Giveaway winner!

Thank you for all your entries! Keep your eyes on the blog, because there will be another competition soon!

So, without further ado, the winner of 'The Vampyre' by Tom Holland is:

Jessica (BookLover)!

Congrats, Jessica! You've got until the 14th to contact me. (It wouldn't normally be that long, but I'm away, so you get extra time!)

Friday, October 2, 2009

In My Mailbox 1: Ailsa's mailbox

I thought it would be fun for us to join in with this meme from The Story Siren.

These are the books I got this week:

1) Lord of Scoundrels, by Loretta Chase -> from BookMooch

2) Red-Headed Stepchild, by Jaye Wells -> from the bookshop

3) Night Life, by Caitlin Kittredge -> from the bookshop

4) The End of Mr. Y. by Scarlett Thomas -> from Book Hopper

What about the rest of you? Did you get hold of any interesting books this week?
And has anyone read any of these? I'm part way through L.o.S, and I'm saving T.E.o.M.Y. for a long plain ride on Monday, but I've read the other two, so I'd love to hear any thoughts you have on any of those books.