Author: Christina McMullen
Genre: Sci-fi, Urban Fantasy, Humor, Young Adult
Book: Past Life Strife from Rise of the Discordant series
Christina McMullen is a science fiction and fantasy author who fuels her imagination with coffee and the occasional cupcake. She currently resides in Texas with her wonderfully supportive husband and three dogs. When she isn’t writing, Christina enjoys travel, vegan cooking, modern and classical art, and of course, reading.
Blackbird may seem like any other small Midwestern town, but the bland and unremarkable façade hides a dark and deadly secret. The Discordant, creatures from the realm of Chaos, lurk in the shadows, preying upon the souls of Blackbird’s unsuspecting residents.
As an Observer, Seth is tasked with identifying the lost before they fall victim to the Discordant. An unenviable job under normal circumstances, but the situation takes a turn for the worse when Blackbird’s Guardian calls it quits and no new Guardian is available to take her place. Instead, Seth now finds himself partnered with Desmond, a powerful and intimidating Warrior, who worries that Seth will give in to the lure of Chaos. Desmond’s fears are all but validated when a magical disturbance draws even more Discordant to the area. Among them is Amara, a dangerous and nearly invincible femme fatale from Seth’s past.
To stop her, Seth must sacrifice his own soul or put all of his faith in a psychic’s vague prediction. But without a Guardian, both the Observer and Warrior are at a disadvantage and time is running out.
Excerpt from Past Life Strife
Demons, Drinks, & Dames
Okay, I gotta admit, but don’t you dare tell nobody, bartending ain’t half bad. I kinda got a kick outta being the guy with the magic happy juice. All that melancholy and woe is me stuff that knocked me over when I first showed up was beginning to fade. In its place? Temporary happiness, liquid courage, and the promise of all kinds of bad decisions and poor judgment calls in the makin’. I could seriously get down with this. Chaos is chaos and I ain’t picky.
Of course, there was all this cleanin’ and crap that I wasn’t too fond of. Again, I cursed Desmond for binding me. Well, I verbally cursed him, seein’ as he left me just enough bippity to keep the humans from knowin’ my true form, but no boppity boo for anythin’ else. With my magic, I wouldn’t’ve had to worry about the mundane stuff like washin’ glasses, or running outta bottles, or changing out kegs. But since I didn’t have it, I had to run my butt off and keep the place from fallin’ into chaos. Oh, the irony!
All this work weren’t leavin’ me with a lot of time to chat up the ladies neither. I mean, come on, that’s the number one perk of this crummy job, ain’t it? Even when I wasn’t runnin’ my tookus off and tryin’ to keep up with the amount of cheap domestic these cretins guzzled, it was slim pickins for a man of my refined tastes. Seemed to me like this town’s primary export was sausage, if ya get my meaning. But just when I started given up all hopes of seein’ some dames, I started believin’ in miracles ‘cuz these three smokin’ babes walked in. Now, I ain’t gonna lie, I’ve seen some hotties in my day. I mean, come on, I been working Hollywood since the invention of the talkie. But these three… Wowzers! All soft curves, long legs, and wavy hair, decked out in these gauzy little dresses that showed way too much sk-
Just as I started to smooth down my shirt and ratchet my charm up to eleven, the ugly truth hit me. Three women (note: that’s a magical number), hotter than any I seen in a good long time, walk into a place like this and no one bats an eye? No one? I took an experimental sniff, hopin’ I was wrong, and nearly gagged. Earth magic. The scent of moss, herbs, dirt, and all that other hocus pocus-y crap invaded my nostrils. These weren’t no ladies. These broads was witches, and they was headed right for me.
“Good evening, ladies,” I said, puffin’ out my chest and plasterin’ a big ol’ grin on my mug. Don’t ever let it be said that I don’t have grace under pressure, ‘cuz I’m the king of playin’ it cool. “What can I get started for yous dolls?”
“You’re not fooling anyone with that pathetic glamour, demon,” said the blonde one. She was definitely the leader. I could tell this because of the way the other two hung back, glarin’ at me like a couple of guard dogs waitin’ for the order to sic ’em. “Where’s Seth?” she asked, pointin’ a finger at me like she was gonna blast me with a bolt of lightning. I wasn’t worried though. Earth witches can’t do that. Least, I don’t think they can.
“Don’t play games with us,” she warned, letting the stink of her magic increase until I had to step back. “You know what we are and you know what we will do if you try anything stupid.”
“Jeez Louise! Back off already!” I managed to choke as I took in another toxic mouthful of sage and lavender. Though I don’t know if that was the magic or her poor choice of perfume. “Yeah, I know what yous are. Ain’t no need for the whole death by aromatherapy thing ya got goin’, okay?”
Alright, dumb move, I admit it. Instead of backing off, she let loose with another round of choke the demon. I swear, if I never smell patchouli again in my life, it’ll be too soon.
“That was just a warning,” she hissed.
“Oh for the love of cheap tricks and cheaper booze, calm down, lady! If you can lay off your own ego for a moment, you’ll notice that I ain’t even tryin’ to attack you. Even if I wanted to, I can’t do jack squat.”
“He’s right, Louise,” said the one on the left, a tiny little brunette with these ginormous ta-tas that she musta put some kind of a spell on, ‘cuz I couldn’t take my eyes off ‘em. “His magic has been bound.”
“Uh huh. Desmond bound me before he took off after the vamp. Wait a second.” I tore my eyes from the scenery and turned back to blondie. “Is your name really Louise?” That was actually kinda funny.
“Shut up!” maybe Louise snapped, tilting her head to the side, which made her look a lot like a dog who just heard his favorite squeaky toy. “Something isn’t right here.”
Yeah, no joke, blondie. Sheesh. I could’ve told you that without usin’ a drop of magic. She turned to the other two.
“What is that? What do you feel?”
“Something… we’re supposed to forget,” the redheaded one said, screwing up her face in concentration. “Very powerful magic.”
“Order magic,” the brunette whispered.
Uh oh. See, here’s the thing about witches. All mystics, really. They can see things that most folks can’t. Like how these three knew I was a demon. Now, with some of ‘em, this works in our favor. It’s easier to get a lost soul to come on over to our side if they already know there’s more to life than meets the eye. But with these three, though, I had a bad feeling they was a little too cozy with the local Order and I didn’t wanna be no part of that.
Connect with Christina
On August 23rd, Past Life Strife (eBook) will be free. The following titles in the series, Splitsville and You Wish, will be on sale for just $0.99 for the entire following week. For more details, bookmark the page www.freebookblast.com.
Learn more about Christina
Tell us a little about yourself.
What can I say about me? I’m a terribly boring individual. No really. I am the quintessential author hermit. I don’t own a television and were it not for the internet, I’d live in a cultural vacuum. I’ve always written, but you know, all authors say that, don’t they? There’s a reason for that. It’s because it’s true. Even as a wee child with a still developing imagination, I enjoyed creating my own fantasy worlds. What do I do when I’m not writing? Reading, mostly, but every so often, I come out of my crabby author shell and venture out into the real world. Out there, I tend to enjoy visiting art museums and finding new and interesting places to explore with my husband.
Is this your first book?
No, Past Life Strife is the seventh book I’ve written and the first book in my second set of series books. All total, I have nine books available with the tenth coming out hopefully around Halloween.
What genre is it and what is it about?
The series, Rise of the Discordant, is urban fantasy, but there is an element of humor throughout.
What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always wanted to write something in the same vein as Robert Asprin’s satirical ‘Myth’ series, but rather than take potshots at sword and sorcery, I felt it would be more fun to weave the humor into a genre that I love. I do acknowledge and even poke fun at some of the more popular urban fantasy tropes, but I’ve attempted to stay away from the low hanging fruit by keeping the story from turning into a paranormal romance. The series is actually made up of bits and pieces of other short stories that I’ve written, dating back to as early as 1998.
How did you come up with the title of your book or series?
I wanted all of the book titles in this series to be somewhat whimsical and quirky as a way to convey the humor aspect. As for the series name, Rise of the Discordant, well, that’s pretty much what the series is about. The Discordant are creatures of Chaos who are coming to our world in droves, looking to upset the balance of Order and takeover. This series revolves around the small Midwestern town that has become the unfortunate epicenter of this war.
Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?
I am my own cover artist. The painting on the cover was originally something I knocked out on a scrap of cardstock after taking a casual painting class with my husband for our anniversary. With a little bit of computer doctoring, I had something I liked. I’ve tried to continue with the same theme for the rest of the series, keeping the color and simple artistic elements the same.
If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
Oh dear! For this book, that’s a toughie. I was asked to do this on another and the problem I have is that I live under a rock. Bogie at least is easy because while I was giving form to the character, I happened to be driving one day and saw a billboard advertising Howie Mandel’s standup performance at a nearby venue. From that day forward, Bogie was Howie Mandel. I even named his great uncle Howie in his honor. Now for the rest of the crew:
Seth-who’s that blonde guy everyone thinks is so pretty? (*does a quick Google search*) Ah, yes! Ryan Gosling. He’ll be my overworked and overstressed Observer.
Desmond- Given that Desmond is a Warrior and supposed to be huge, the easy answer would be Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson, however, I think he’s kind of overused for the tough guy. Instead, I’m going with Don Cheadle because I think he can pull off the straight man routine while also giving depth to some of the rare serious moments that do indeed get pretty serious.
The witches- This is also tough because I don’t know enough about young actors, but for Donna, I am going to take what might be a very unpopular stance and go with Lindsay Lohan. I don’t much pay attention to tabloids, but I need a redhead who can pull off both ‘sexy-witch’ and ‘super scary-tomboy.’ Louise might have to be a slightly older power player. I’m thinking Reese Witherspoon. She can pull off bossy like a… well, like a boss. And this just leaves Betty. You know there aren’t many brunette actresses out there. I’m giving this role to Kristen Stewart. She’ll be happy to know there is no lip biting required.
The Angel is simple: Tilda Swinton, nothing more really needs to be said on that subject.
And finally for my succubus baddie, Amara, I’m going with a Gothed out Mila Kunis because, really, who else is there?
Do you plot out your story lines or do you write on the seat of your pants?
A little of both. I’ll write an outline, but that’s mostly to get the idea out of my head and onto paper before I forget it. By the time I finish my first draft, I’ve usually written something so completely different that the outline can be saved for another day.
Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others?
Love scenes. Definitely. I don’t do graphic and if I include sex at all, it’s mostly implied. Even romantic scenes involving kissing are difficult. There’s only so many ways one’s heart can flutter or have their legs turn to jelly.
Who is your favorite character from your book and why? How about your least favorite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
Bogie is by far my favorite character in this series. What’s not to love about a wisecracking lesser Demon with a heart of gold and atrocious grammar? I don’t actually have a least favorite in this series. So far, *knock on wood*, no one has given me fits.
What book do you wish you could have written?
My own first series, The Eyes of The Sun, but a couple of years earlier, while vampires were still the rage and the ebook market was brand new.
Do you read your reviews?
Read? Yes, absolutely. Reviews can offer a lot of critical feedback on what we’re doing right as well as wrong. Respond? Absolutely not. Even though I just said authors can learn from reviews, ultimately, they are a way for readers to tell other readers what they liked and disliked. I offer my email address at the back of every book. If someone wants to talk to me directly about what they did or didn’t like, they have an open avenue. As for how to deal with bad reviews, that’s simple. Everyone gets bad reviews. Even the top dogs who are making millions of dollars can’t please everyone. You can’t please everyone either. Sure, it may feel like a gut punch when you see a low rating or hurtful words about your life’s work, but trust me, that feeling is temporary. You’ll get over it before you even get your next glowing review.
And now…for the fun of it…
Do you have a pet or pets?
I have three delightful mutts who keep me safe from such daily dangers as the mailman, squirrels, and the neighborhood cats.
If you were a super hero, what would your name be? What costume would you wear?
I would be Future Girl. My costume would be a retro silver space suit complete with white go-go boots and a flared miniskirt. I’d wear my hair in a very futuristic modified beehive/flip and layer on the blue eyeshadow and white eyeliner. I’d carry a shiny silver ray gun and my sidekick would be a ten foot tall robot named Scoot who shoots lasers from his eyes. We would fly around during battles with our personal jetpacks, but for every day transport, we’d use our flying sedan.
Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?
Just one? That’s very tough. I’ve been lucky enough to have traveled to many wonderful places that I would not mind going again, but as for some place I’ve not yet been, I think I’d like to see Tokyo. It’s very hard for me to wrap my head around a city that is actually larger and denser than New York.
Do you recall your dreams? Do you have any recurring dreams/nightmares?
I don’t really have any reoccurring dreams, but I still today, many decades later, remember a traumatizing dream I had in kindergarten. It involved having to go back to school after dark while everyone was gone because I had left some important papers there. The cast of Sesame Street, not just the Muppets, but the humans as well, were fading in and out from the walls to give me lessons in my ABCs and numbers.
Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
I would love to be able to go back just a few years ago and tell Octavia Butler how much of an inspiration she is to me for pushing the boundaries of quality sci-fi with a conscience and thank her for her role in breaking down both gender and racial barriers that still want to persist in the genre today.