The Jaunty Quills are excited to welcome Sarah Lyons Fleming, author of the Until the End of the World series, which I’ve heard called “zombie chick lit.” Margo Maguire, a former Jaunty and the author who recommended these books to me, calls them “Friends Meets the Zombie Apocalypse and Kristan Higgins in Zombieland” (hi, Kristan!).
I’ve totally been stalking Sarah since I started the series. I read all three books and the novella in rapid succession, and I CANNOT RECOMMEND THEM HIGHLY ENOUGH. I was completely engrossed in the story, the characters, and the world Lyons created. Even if this isn’t your typical read, give it a try. There’s romance, suspense, laughter, tears. Keep reading to find out how to win a DIGITAL copy of UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD series (3 books!).
Shana: Welcome, Sarah! Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed. I’m so thrilled to be able to ask you all my questions. First of all, tell our readers a bit about your books.
Sarah Lyons Fleming: Thanks, it’s my pleasure! I think you nailed the books in your great description above, but here goes: The series is about Cassie Forrest and her friends surviving in a world brought to its knees by a zombie virus. They must escape NYC for the safety of the cabin that belonged to Cassie’s parents, who were preppers (people who store food and supplies for emergencies). Add in a little lost love, sarcasm, clashing personalities and undead altercations, and there you have book one. The other books are a continuation of their journey to survive.
I know, I know. Some of you are thinking, “Eww, zombies? And romance? Why is she even on this site?!”
But I don’t really write about zombies. I write about the people facing the zombies—their fears, their strengths, their weaknesses. It allows me to explore how a devastated world and the fight for survival can change a person for the better or worse. No character is perfect. They argue and laugh—they laugh a lot—and they can be petty and generous and loyal and weak and brave at any given moment, just like us. They’re human.
The main theme of my books is love—romantic, platonic, familial, and everything in between. They’re about finding hope even when it seems impossible.
Shana: I agree 100%. The series is really so much more about hope than zombies. Can you tell us about your inspiration for the series? Did you know you were writing a “zombie chick lit” when you started the trilogy?
Sarah: My dad handed me Malevil—a novel about survivors of a nuclear holocaust—when I was ten, and I’ve been hooked on post-apocalyptic stories ever since. But, aside from YA novels, there weren’t a lot of books that featured females as the main protagonist. Most were men, and often they were military men.
I wanted so badly to read a book with an older character like me (or me ten years ago, when I was thirty *sigh*), that I decided to write it myself. And, because I’ve always loved chick lit, it was a no-brainer to include the friendships and humor often found in that genre. Also, I’m the kind of person who’ll crack a joke at any moment (or at least think of one and have to bite my tongue), so there had to be humor even at the darkest times. You can blame my Irish half for that.
Shana: I love Cassie’s humor in the series.
During the zombie apocalypse, your characters have to learn to survive without modern conveniences. How do you know so many survival skills? For example, in So Long, Lollipops, Peter is trapped in a house and dying of thirst, so he taps the hot water heater. How do you know that kind of stuff?
Sarah: Short answer—I’m a little crazy.
Long answer—I was the girl who grew up in Brooklyn, NY and read survival books on the subway ride home from high school. Even growing up in the city, I spent a lot of time in the woods during the summer, and it’s always been something I’ve felt a burning desire to know. Plus, I really like having a lot of food in my pantry, and water filters and Swiss army knives make me happy.
I guess the long answer is quite similar to the short one, eh?
Of course, I do need to research at times, but I admit I know a lot of random survival tips. I’m ready for the zombie apocalypse! Okay, maybe not ready…but I might not die until the second week.
Shana: I would so die on the first day! Wait…maybe after reading this series I could make it two days.
I loved how you used stargazing to draw Cassie close to Dan in And After, and then how you used it again in All the Stars in the Sky to bring Cassie and her “family” full circle. Are you an amateur astronomer or did you research constellations?
Sarah: That required research. I can pick out the Big Dipper, and then I’m lost. Even with all my research (of course I can now find Cassiopeia) I still get turned around up there. But I love the stars, as well as their stories, and I’ve made it my mission to find and memorize them all one of these days.
Shana: You definitely know how to figure out the worst thing that can happen to your characters and then make that happen. Avoiding spoilers, did you know from the beginning who was going to survive and who wasn’t?
Sarah: I started Until the End of the World as a standalone, so I didn’t have the whole trilogy mapped out by any means. Without giving anything away, there was a character who was slated to die when I first started Until the End of the World. And then s/he didn’t. S/he surprised me by becoming a more important character than I’d ever dreamed, so that 100 pages into writing book one, the course of the entire book changed and became a series (with a novella thrown in).
As for the other characters, they were goners from that moment on.
Shana: I read that you have kids (see, I said I was a stalker). I know the challenges of writing with a busy family. What’s your writing schedule like?
Sarah: I love stalkers! Wait…you know what I mean.
Yes, I have two kids, ages five and eight. It can be challenging, but now that they’re both in school I have more time. Because I work at home and am self-employed, I guard those six hours as much as I can. That means I ignore errands and cleaning and many times I don’t answer the phone—my boss is very strict about personal calls during work hours. And I hate cleaning, so it’s not as if that’s a hardship.
I work school days, a few hours on some weekend afternoons while my husband, Will, entertains them, and I set aside a couple/few nights a week to write when they’re in bed. The other nights I hang with the husband—can’t neglect him either!
Also, headphones are very, very wonderful inventions.
Shana: Finally, tell us what you have coming next.
Sarah: I’m at work on a zombie series that takes place in NYC, in the same world as the Until the End of the World books. Many people have written me to ask what became of some of the characters, and this will be their chance to find out!
Shana: I can’t wait! Seriously, I am tapping my fingers impatiently.
Readers, now it’s your turn. Do you have any skills to survive a zombie apocalypse? How long would you make it?
One reader who comments will be randomly chosen to win the entire series of ebooks (Three books, plus the novella). You must be able to read on Kindle, Nook, or iBooks. The winner will be announced Sunday.
Until the End of the World (Book 1)
Cassie Forrest isn’t surprised to learn that the day she’s decided to get her life together is also the day the world ends. After all, she’s been on a self-imposed losing streak since her survivalist parents died: she’s stopped painting, broken off her engagement to Adrian and dated a real jerk. Rectifying her mistakes has to wait, however, because Cassie and her friends have just enough time to escape Brooklyn for her parents’ cabin before Bornavirus LX turns them into zombies, too.
This is difficult enough, but Cassie’s tag along ex-boyfriend and her friend’s bratty sister have a knack for making everything, even the apocalypse, more unpleasant. When the two attract a threat as deadly as the undead to their safe haven, Cassie’s forced to see how far she’ll go to protect those she loves. And it’s a lot farther than she’d anticipated. This, coupled with Adrian’s distant voice on Safe Zone Radio and, of course, the living dead, threaten to put Cassie right back into the funk she just dragged herself out of.
Survival’s great and all, especially when you have leather armor, good friends and home-brewed beer, but there’s something Cassie must do besides survive: tell Adrian she still loves him. And to do that, Cassie has to find faith that she’s stronger than she thinks, she’s still a crack shot and true love never dies.
Sarah Lyons Fleming is a Laura Ingalls devotee, wannabe prepper and lover of anything pre-apocalyptic, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic—or anything in between. Add in some romance and humor, and she’s in heaven.
Besides an unhealthy obsession with home-canned food and Bug Out Bag equipment, she loves books, making artsy stuff and laughing her arse off. Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, she now lives in Oregon with her family and, in her opinion, not nearly enough supplies for the zombie apocalypse. But she’s working on it.
Jaunties, welcome historical author Jessica Peterson back to the blog and read on to find out how to win your copy of her latest release Undercover Scoundrel.
What is it about scoundrels that we find so irresistible?
Scoundrel is just a fancy word for bad boy; they come in all shapes and sizes. Is it the biker dude’s devil-may-care attitude that makes our toes curl? The rake’s dangerously suave sense of confidence? The vampire’s dark looks, or his promise of an eternity sleeping next to him in his super luxe silk-lined coffin?
Sometimes there is nothing more delicious than a taste of forbidden fruit, whatever flavor you prefer.
Don’t get me wrong – I love the thoughtful, kind-hearted hero as the next reader. And I don’t think being scoundrelly and being sweet are mutually exclusive. In fact, it’s when those two things come together – when the bad boy’s good side is revealed – that the magic happens. Maybe beneath the hockey captain’s gruff exterior, he harbors a thoughtful, deeply loving heart; the secretive spy may treat his targets with amused disdain (disdain that is served shaken, not stirred, of course), but treats the target of his affections with love and respect.
There’s just something so right – so satisfying – about seeing that sweetness, that vulnerability, come out. Especially when we see the bad boy doing a good deed for his lady love. The hero of my latest Regency-set release, THE UNDERCOVER SCOUNDREL, may be a scoundrel twice over – Henry Beaton Lake is a spy with something of a rakish past – but he’s got a seriously mushy soft spot for his long lost first love, Lady Caroline. In many ways, Henry is master of his universe, but the tables are turned when he’s reunited with Caroline after a decade-long separation. Yes, he’s still a scoundrel with a wicked smile and a closet full of skeletons, but Caroline brings out his softer side.
And I don’t know about you, but I happen to think the mushy, ooey-gooey stuff can be just as sexy as the bad boy stuff.
Together, they make a pretty potent combination. I wonder what scoundrels have tickled your fancy – any particular bad boys with good hearts capture your imagination? For me, it’s gotta be the ultimate scoundrel, Rhett Butler, along with the cutie Eggsy from The Kingsman (if you haven’t seen that movie yet, rent it ASAP, if only because Colin Firth is in it!).
Please share your favorite scoundrels for a chance to win a signed copy, along with some fun author swag, of THE UNDERCOVER SCOUNDREL!
As always, a big thanks to the ladies of The Jaunty Quills for having me. It’s always fun stopping by and saying hello!
Comment below to enter to win a signed copy, along with some fun author swag, of THE UNDERCOVER SCOUNDREL (U.S. and Canada only!). Winner announced and contacted Sunday.
Please welcome historical romance author Madeline Martin!
The best part of doing research for Deception of a Highlander was my trip to Scotland where I got to stay overnight in castles, see plenty of beautiful ruins and explore, explore, explore! I could fill up an entire blog on all my adventures from that two week trip.
Today, however, I’m just going to talk about my stay on the Isle of Skye where Deception of a Highlander is set.
The Isle of Skye is on the Eastern side of Scotland, set in the Highlands. It’s a beautiful, magical place where lochs mirror the endless sky and tender, lush grass splits to reveal craggy rock beneath. The winds there are so strong, they make the waterfalls on the cliffs flow backward and billow up into the air in a spray of steamy white. It’s absolutely incredible.
While there, I did two really cool things:
1. I went to my hero’s castle, Caisteal Camus (now called Knock Castle). It was quite an adventure getting there at all. After driving up and down the road several times. (I saw the sign…but I didn’t see the castle, then I saw the sign…but didn’t see the castle, then I saw the sign…yeah, you get it….) I finally just parked and hiked a ways and then I saw it!! On the other side of a five foot stream. It was RIGHT THERE. I could have chucked a rock and hit it. Don’t worry, I didn’t. Nor did I give in to the temptation to wade across it since the middle of October is pretty chilly in Scotland. But I was determined. I marched back up and found a new way to go through a path set by a nearby hotel. I reached the end of the path and there was the castle…just about 12 feet above me. Seeing no denoted path, I began to climb over rocks. They were black and wet and so, so slippery. It’s here I confess (shamelessly) I fell. Hard. Truthfully though, it really isn’t a vacation unless I come away with a war wound – CHECK!
It was when I finally got to the top that I noticed a gentle sloping walkway I could have leisurely strolled up. (But then I wouldn’t have this story, now would I?) The view was worth the effort (and mild contusion) because it was breath-taking the way it overlooked the water. There’s one part that holds the remains of a window facing out to the sea and I could just imagine some lady staring wistfully out as she waited for her love to return (yes, that’s hopelessly romantic, I know.) There wasn’t much left of the castle to explore, but I have enough of an imagination to make Caisteal Camus hit the top ten list of my Scotland trip highlights.
2. The most interesting man in the world is not the Dos Equis guy – he’s actually a blacksmith from the Isle of Skye who still uses an anvil (passed down through his family) and has stacks of books all around his house that he’s memorized and can pinpoint knowledge from by page number. He was in the middle of making a historic dagger/sword collection for a history demonstration somewhere in Scotland and showed me everything from fancy eating daggers to wicked blades. He even made targes by hand and demonstrated how they were used in combat. The biggest influence he had on my writing was in a black-purple opalescent blade on his desk. I asked what it was and he said it just hadn’t been finished yet. Apparently forged steel is that way when it first comes out, before its ground clean to the shiny silver we know. If the black-purple is left as is, it eventually gets silvered with nicks and scratches, but for the most part remains that awesome color. I just had to put that in a book! So, Alec, my hero of Enchantment of a Highlander (introduced in Deception of a Highlander), has a black sword.
There was so much more about my trip to Scotland than just the short, two day visit to the Isle of Skye, but those memories are for other posts…and other books.
For the opportunity to win a signed copy of Deception of a Highlander, please tell me your favorite vacation war wound (or memory if you have the good fortune to not be so clumsy).
Vanessa, here. You can find out more about Madeline and her books on her website!
I’m so pleased to welcome historical (and contemporary) romance author Darcy Burke to the blog today. She’s here to tell us about her new book!
Hi! I’m so excited to be here at the Jaunty Quills today!! I’ve been following the Quills for an eon (I refuse to say how long), and I’m delighted Vanessa asked me to stop by. I write historical and contemporary romance, and my latest release, ROMANCING THE EARL, is Book Two in my Regency Treasure Hunters series. The series title says it all: these books are about treasure hunters during the Regency! I love treasure hunts and mysteries, especially when they’re wrapped up in history and legend. I also love action adventure movies in that vein, and of course, I love the Regency. Melding all of these things together has been so much fun, and I’m only halfway through the series!
I won’t lie, mapping out the mysteries and the treasure hunt can be a bit complicated. All of the treasure hunts have to do with Arthurian-related artifacts, which meant researching King Arthur, the “treasures” associated with him, and other historical information that could be worked into the legends. I decided to go with King Arthur because it’s an enduring and fascinating legend. Some believe he’s myth, other argue he’s history. I find the truth is usually something in between, and so I sort of ran with that.
The treasures are based around the Thirteen Treasures of Britain, which are “real.” (Real in that they appear in many stories. Not real in that no one has ever found them, and I think we’d know if someone found a food hamper that produces food for everyone who needs it!) The other main component of the series is the fictional Order of the Round Table, a secret, centuries-old order charged with protecting the secrets of the Knights of the Round Table, including the thirteen treasures. (Or are they . . . duh duh duh!) Actually, now that I think about it, there could be an Order-esque society that maybe found the treasures and kept them hidden, so maybe they do exist . . . Or maybe I’ve just started thinking my books are real! (Hey, that happens, right?) I have to admit, I adore the idea of a centuries-old anything, especially a secret society. To think that something has been around for so long and withstood the test of time gives me a little shiver. How about you?
One of the great things about having a treasure hunt/road romance is all the sexy banter that happens between the hero and the heroine. Here’s an excerpt to give you an idea of how Elijah and Cate interact:
His eyes widened. “Pardon?”
She cast him a disbelieving look. “Oh, you heard me.” Catching an unsettling amount of his unfortunately delicious scent of sandalwood and pine, she took a small step back.
“Maybe I just wanted to hear you say it again.”
“That I believe.” She lifted her chin and gave him an unflinching stare. “You didn’t respond to my offer of five hundred pounds.”
“You don’t have five hundred pounds.”
“You don’t know that,” she said crossly.
He glanced up at the ceiling as if he were trying to find some patience from on high, but he’d given her the impression he was somewhat of a heathen, so she really had no idea what he was doing. When he looked at her again, his eyes were fierce and frigid. “I’d stake the tapestry on it.”
“The tapestry you don’t have,” she said testily.
“The tapestry you’ll likely never have.”
She sucked in a breath. “Now you’re just being cruel.
“Still being pragmatic, actually.”
I hope you’ll find me on Facebook—I give away a backlist book each week to one random commenter.
And be sure to sign up for my newsletter to hear about my latest release and learn insider information. http://www.darcyburke.com/newsletter/
One random commenter will win a signed copy of THE DE VALERY CODE, Regency Treasure Hunters Book One (contest is open to North America). My question for you is what sort of treasure would you most like to find?
The Jaunty Quills are excited to welcome New Zealand author Bronwen Evans back. She’s the USA Today bestselling author of some of my favorite historical romances. Her latest release is A Touch of Passion, book #3 Disgraced Lords series.
Keep reading to find out how to win your copy of her audio book of her best-selling Wicked Wagers the Complete Trilogy series.
Shana: Welcome, Bronwen! Tell us more about A Touch of Passion. The advance reviews have been fabulous!
Bronwen: Thanks, Shana. Yes, the readers seem to really connect with my heroine, Portia. The book is a Top Pick at Night Owl Reviews and RT Book Reviews loved it too.
Evans’ newest installment in the alluring Disgraced Lords series could easily be read as a stand-alone, which is perfect for new fans looking to jump right in without missing anything. The author’s storytelling abilities are top-notch and this book is proof. A fascinating storyline and characters who seem to linger in one’s mind long after the very last page combine in this fiercely romantic and completely enchanting novel. – RT Book Reviews.
A Touch of Passion is book #3 in my Disgraced Lords series, and features a trailblazer heroine, Lady Portia Flagstaff, and a conservative hero, Grayson Devlin, Viscount Blackwood. It’s a best friend’s sister trope.
A vivacious thrill seeker clashes with her dutiful defender—causing irresistible sparks to fly.
Lady Portia Flagstaff almost died of influenza when a child and is determined to live her life to the full. She loves apple cider, so she decides to try and make some—just a hobby—yeah, right! If she calls it a hobby she’s allowed to make it. However, it turns into a very successful business, and now society scorns her. Portia’s cider business allows her to fund an orphanage and be financially independent. She values financial independence as it gives her choices other women do not have. She feels a responsibility to ensure she uses this freedom to prove women can, and should, be able to do anything.
Portia has been in love with my hero, Grayson Devlin, Viscount Blackwood, most of her life. Grayson moved into her family home many years ago when his family died in a carriage accident. He is her brother Robert’s best friend. Grayson’s memory of his dead mother clouds his judgment regarding behavior of a suitable wife. Portia is far too modern, outspoken, and scandalous, for his tastes, even though he’s drawn to her wit and beauty.
However, when they find themselves in a compromising position, he does the honorable thing and offers marriage.
Unfortunately, that is not enough for Portia. She wants his heart or nothing. The sparks fly as Grayson realizes that to save his honor he’ll have to convince Portia to become his wife.
Shana: I love that Lady Portia Flagstaff is a thrill seeker. She’s captured and put in a harem? This seems like a real throwback to those fabulous early romances. Tell us about Portia and what motivates her to risk so much?
Bronwen: She’s a bit of a tomboy. She has five brothers and no sisters, so has been brought up as one of the boys. Her parents also influence her as they have a love match. It’s a very happy, embracing, and encouraging household. Even her brothers are proud of her desire to be more than a mere brood mare for some lord. She quite rightly assumes that she can do anything men can do.
At sixteen she has a brush with death from influenza, and it changes her perspective on life. You only get one chance at living and she won’t waste a minute of it. She takes risks yes, but considered risks. She doesn’t want to have any regrets when she finally meets her maker.
Here’s the blurb for A Touch of Passion:
Independent and high-spirited, Lady Portia Flagstaff has never been afraid to take a risk, especially if it involves excitement and danger. But this time, being kidnapped and sold into an Arab harem is the outcome of one risk too many. Now, in order to regain her freedom, she has to rely on the deliciously packaged Grayson Devlin, Viscount Blackwood, a man who despises her reckless ways—and stirs in her a thirst for passion.
After losing his mother and sister in a carriage accident years ago, Grayson Devlin promised Portia’s dying brother that he’d always watch over his wayward sister. But having to travel to Egypt to rescue the foolhardy girl has made his blood boil. Grayson already has his hands full trying to clear his best friend and fellow Libertine Scholar of a crime he didn’t commit. Worse still, his dashing rescue has unleashed an unforeseen and undesired consequence: marriage. Now it’s more than Portia he has to protect . . . it’s his battered heart.
Shana: I see you’ve also written a contemporary, The Reluctant Wife. Is there a difference in how you approach writing a contemporary novel as opposed to an historical?
Bronwen: Yes and no.
Character development might be different. A hero still has the same underlying traits – honor, kindness, strength, compassion, loyalty etc. but the way they live and how they behave is set by the social norms of the period you write in. For instance, having a mistress, going to ‘gentlemen’ clubs (brothels), is not considered out of place for a Regency hero. However, I don’t think it’s particularly hero type behavior in modern day.
Language is also a huge difference. Speech was more formal in Regency times. Certain words weren’t even in use. For example, I couldn’t say, “His touch was like accidently touching an electric fence.” There was no electricity in the early 1800’s.
As to the writing process, it’s exactly the same for either historical or contemporary books. I’m a plotter and I use Michael Hauge’s Six Act Story Structure. It’s very adaptable as it uses turning points at certain percentages of the story. For example, the Set Up of the book is usually 10%. If a book is 90,000 then I know a turning point has to come at around 9,000 words, if the book is 50,000 the turning point is around 5,000 words. A very useful road map for writers like me who love to plot.
Shana: You’ve done a lot of traveling. Do your travels influence your novels?
Bronwen: Many years ago, I lived in England for almost eight years, and I traveled extensively round the world. It’s a ‘kiwi’s’ right of passage. Most kiwi’s under the age of 28 can live and work in England for 2 years. We use London as a base to work and travel from because NZ is so far from the rest of the world. I’ve been to Russia, America, Canada, Europe, Africa, Asia, South America…. What I particularly loved about traveling to so many countries, experiencing different languages, varying levels of wealth, and interesting cultures, is, I learned we are all the same when it comes to wanting love and having healthy and happy families. The human condition is the same the world over. That is probably why romance stories are translated into many different languages.
Travel has certainly allowed me to be able to visualize places and settings for my books. How do you describe the Rockies and the ski resorts for instance, if you haven’t been to one? You probably can from a picture but it makes it easier when you have actually been there and experienced the culture and people—the sights, smells, and nuances are more vivid.
Shana: Finally, tell us what you have coming next.
Bronwen: I’m finishing writing A Whisper of Desire book #4 and A Taste of Seduction book #5, and A Night of Forever book #6, in the Disgraced Lords series. I’m also writing a Christmas novella, Invitation To Pleasure, part of my Invitation To series. I’m pretty busy!
Readers, now it’s your turn. Portia is such a spunky heroine. Whose your favorite feisty female–fictional or real life! One reader who comments will be randomly chosen to win the audio book of the Wicked Wagers trilogy [eBook can be substituted if the winner prefers eBook over audio book]. Winner announced and contacted Sunday.
USA Today bestselling author, Bronwen Evans grew up loving books. She writes both historical and contemporary sexy romances for the modern woman who likes intelligent, spirited heroines, and compassionate alpha heroes. Evans is a two-time winner of the RomCon Readers’ Crown and has been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award. She lives in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand with her dog Brandy.
Or Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bronwenevansauthor
Or Twitter: https://twitter.com/bronwenevans_NZ
Buy Links for A Touch of Passion $2.99
Amazon Canada http://amzn.to/1yUMOfv
Amazon UK http://amzn.to/1ucWygI
Amazon Australia http://bit.ly/1zEw2lG
Amazon Germany http://amzn.to/1AkEo57