Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Interview with James L. Sutter - April 30, 2014

Please welcome James L. Sutter to The Qwillery. The Redemption Engine is published on April 30, 2014 by Paizo Publishing. Please join The Qwillery in wishing James a Happy Publication Day!

TQ:  Welcome back to The Qwillery! How has your novel writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote Death's Heretic (2011) to The Redemption Engine (2014).

James:  Honestly, the process was pretty similar—Death’s Heretic taught me the value of an extremely detailed outline, and I did that again for The Redemption Engine. That said, something I learned partway through the new book was the importance of deliberately charting out character arcs. In Death’s Heretic, the character arcs were something I did instinctively as part of the book’s central romance, but in this book—which had no romance element for the main character—I had to be more intentional about it.

I also think that second books are both easier and harder to write. The first time you write a book, you know you have no idea what you’re doing, so you cut yourself a lot of slack (or ought to). What I didn’t realize is that the second time you write a book, you have a much better grasp on the mechanics, yet you also have higher expectations for yourself, so that terror is still there. I’m starting to think it might never go away completely...

TQThe Redemption Engine, was published on the 29th. Tell us something about The Redemption Engine that is not in the book description.

Salim’s badass warrior sidekicks in this one are Bors and Roshad, a pair of married gay men. I was really excited to write them for two reasons: First, because I feel like gay men in committed relationships are something we don’t traditionally see very often in fantasy, especially as capable warriors. Diversity is something that’s really important to us with Pathfinder, as well as to me personally, so I thought it was high time to get a gay couple front and center. The second reason is more about the writing itself—I’ve been finding recently that writing gay romance is easier than writing straight romance for me, possibly because my imagination hasn’t been as deeply infiltrated by stale Hollywood tropes, and I can just write what feels true.

TQ:  Both novels are in the Pathfinder Tales series. How are they related? How do they fit in generally with all the Pathfinder Tales novels and the Pathfinder game?

James:  The Redemption Engine is a sequel to Death’s Heretic in the sense that it stars the same character, Salim, and comes chronologically after the first book, each book truly stands alone, so you can enjoy one without having read the other.

Both books are set within the world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, which I helped to create. It’s a big, robust fantasy setting which pulls from all sorts of different types of fantasy, from Tolkien to Miéville and everything in between. The novels don’t presume that you know anything about the game—they read just like normal fantasy books—but the nice thing is that if you’re interested in learning more about the world or telling your own stories in it, there’s a whole system for doing so! For instance, this book is set in the city of Kaer Maga—a Mos Eisley/Perdido Street Station kind of hive of spot—which I created years ago and detailed heavily in the game book City of Strangers. So if after you read the novel you want a travel guide to the city, allowing you to turn down all those streets my main characters walked past—it exists!

While there are a bunch of other Pathfinder Tales novels, the stand-alone philosophy applies to all of them, and there’s generally not much crossover of characters between authors save for the occasional cameo.

TQ:  Which character in The Redemption Engine was most difficult to write and why? Do you have a favorite character?

James:  I actually think that Salim Ghadafar, my main character, was the hardest because I’d written so much about him in Death’s Heretic. He’s a very mysterious character—a former atheist priest-hunter now forced to work for the goddess of death, tracking down errant souls—and a big draw in the first book is finding out how he got to be this way. So when it came time to write the sequel, I had to figure out how to make him interesting for readers who already knew his backstory while simultaneously not alienating new readers. And while I’d love for him to have that iconic Batman feel, I also didn’t want to write a character that’s exactly the same from book to book—he’s a person, and people change and grow. Figuring out how to make that work required me to step up my game as an author.

I really enjoyed a lot of characters in this book, but my favorite is undeniably Gav, the young street urchin who acts as Salim’s local guide. He’s the quintessential scamp who fancies himself a philosopher, and combines a sort of Dickensian flavor with this constant stream of carnival-barker patter that’s immensely fun to write.

TQ:  Please give us one or two of your favorite (non-spoilery) lines from The Redemption Engine.

James:  Given my answer above, I think I have to let Gav talk a little:
“You know what I value, gov? Bread in my mouth. A shirt on my back. Maybe a girl down on Box Street who likes my patter. Those are values, lord, and I know why they’re called that--because they’re worth what you pay for them. No more, no less.” He gave Salim a pitying smile. “You asked before if I’d bow to a queen, and I said no. But I’d sure as hell take her coin if she was handing out alms. Principle’s slippery, sire--try to stand on it too long, you wind up lying in the dirt. Me, I take care of myself.”

TQ:  What's next?

James:  More of the same! I’m going to take some time off from novel-writing to do another campaign setting book for Pathfinder (currently secret, but it’s one folks have been requesting for a while), and then I hope to return with a third Salim novel that ties together a number of threads from the first two. But of course, before any of that I need to spend some time promoting this book—it turns out that writing a book is only half the job!

TQ:  Thank you for joining us again at The Qwillery.

James:  Thank you! It’s always a pleasure!

The Redemption Engine
Pathfinder Tales
Paizo Publishing, April 30, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

When murdered sinners fail to show up in Hell, it's up to Salim Ghadafar, an atheist warrior forced to solve problems for the goddess of death, to track down the missing souls. In order to do so, Salim will need to descend into the anarchic city of Kaer Maga, following a trail that ranges from Hell’s iron cities to the gates of Heaven itself. Along the way, he’ll be aided by a host of otherworldly creatures, a streetwise teenager, and two warriors of the mysterious Iridian Fold. But when the missing souls are the scum of the earth, and the victims devils themselves, can anyone really be trusted?

From acclaimed author James L. Sutter comes a sequel to Death’s Heretic, ranked #3 on Barnes & Noble’s Best Fantasy Releases of 2011!

Death's Heretic
Pathfinder Tales
Paizo Publishing, December 6, 2011
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Nobody cheats death! A warrior haunted by his past, Salim Ghadafar serves as a problem-solver for a church he hates, bound by the goddess of death to hunt down those who would rob her of her due. Such is the case in the desert nation of Thuvia, where a powerful merchant on the verge of achieving eternal youth via a magical elixir is mysteriously murdered, his soul kidnapped somewhere along its path to the afterlife. The only clue is a magical ransom note, offering to trade the merchant’s successful resurrection for his dose of the fabled potion. But who would have the power to steal a soul from the boneyard of Death herself? Enter Salim, whose keen mind and contacts throughout the multiverse should make solving this mystery a cinch. There's only one problem: The investigation is being financed by Neila Anvanory, the dead merchant's stubborn and aristocratic daughter. And she wants to go with him.

Along with his uninvited passenger, Salim must unravel a web of intrigue that will lead them far from the blistering sands of Thuvia on a grand tour of the Outer Planes, where devils and angels rub shoulders with fey lords and mechanical men, and nothing is as it seems...

About James

James Lafond Sutter is the Managing Editor for Paizo Publishing and a co-creator of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game campaign setting. He is the author of the novels Death's Heretic and The Redemption Engine, the former of which was #3 on Barnes & Noble's list of the Best Fantasy Releases of 2011, as well as a finalist for both the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel and a 2013 Origins Award. He's written numerous short stories for such publications as Escape Pod, Apex Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and the #1 Amazon best-seller Machine of Death. His anthology Before They Were Giants pairs the first published short stories of science fiction and fantasy luminaries with new interviews and writing advice from the authors themselves. In addition, he's published a wealth of award-winning gaming material for both Dungeons & Dragons and the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

When not writing or editing, James has performed extensively with various bands and other musical projects ranging from punk and progressive metalcore to folk and musical theater. James lives in Seattle with his wife, a gaggle of roommates, and a fully functional death ray. For more information, look him up at or send him a message on Twitter at @jameslsutter.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Interview with David Ramirez, author of The Forever Watch - April 29, 2014

Please welcome David Ramirez to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Forever Watch was published on April 22, 2014 by Thomas Dunne Books.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

David:  The when was third year in high school. I started writing for fun then, and not just for the occasional bit of homework with leeway for creativity. Though it took a while for me to move on from poor attempts at poetry….

The why is because a lot of my life was lived in daydreams even before I was writing. Imagining other lives, other times, other worlds.

It fed on itself when the right outlet came along. Writing was that outlet. It just took a long time for its importance to me to really sink in.

From childhood up through college, I was determined that I would either be a scientist or a doctor (or both—I was thinking about MD/PhD programs). But the writing thing would not leave me alone. Slowly, gradually, it took on more and more importance to me, until something I had started as a hobby became something I couldn’t not do anymore.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

David:  For short fiction, I’m a pantser.

For long work, I prefer to be a plotter. Everything is easier when there is a formal map, even if there are occasional unplanned side-trips. I didn’t finish my master’s in computer science, but had more than a taste. The formal process of programming, with specification, design, planning, implementation, documentation, and so on, actually helped me a lot in thinking about writing fiction.

However, sometimes my being a plotter does not work out. Sometimes I start writing, and the scenes tuned to the plan feel stale despite tweaks and re-planning. So when all else fails, I sit there and pound the keys and see what happens next, all preparations tossed to the wind.

It needs editing at the end anyway, whether plotted out or pantsed. I guess if I had to be classified as a writing type, it would be “re-writer.” That’s where all the real work happens for me. My initial stages of revising aren’t typo fixes or cutting out a scene here or there—I tend do major reworking. Characters may change significantly; entire story arcs might be rearranged. I’ll go into that more when replying to one of the later questions.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

David:  Sustaining focus. The hardest part of writing is writing even when nothing is going right and my mind wants to be elsewhere. It’s about facing the fear of not knowing if what’s going out onto the monitor is good or lousy and going forward anyway.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

David:  The question of influence is difficult to answer from the inside—others can probably see in my writing what has shaped it better than I. My guesses for who have influenced me most are William Gibson, Michael Moorcock, and Katsuhiro Otomo. I could be wrong. There are many books and comics I read when I was younger that made a deep impression on me and became part of that influence without my noticing or remembering. Every note comes from somewhere.

The list of my favorite authors is pretty fluid and changes depending on my mood. The authors I most admire who are always at or close to the top of that list are Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Haruki Murakami.

TQ:  Describe The Forever Watch in 140 characters or less.

David:  Risking all, Hana and Leon search for a killer whose existence is kept secret by the very authorities charged with the survival of humanity.

TQ:  Tell us something about The Forever Watch that is not in the book description.

David:  The world of Forever Watch came to me in nearly complete form in a dream. The testing, the rigid society, the ship, the major plot devices, etc. In the dream, I held and read documents describing one of the most important secrets of the ship.

So, at first, I tried too hard to write out my dream.

In the earliest version of the story, the main character was Detective Barrens. Dempsey was an almost passive noir “good” woman—nearly a side character to be admired and protected.

It was not working. The characters felt stilted and predictable. The biggest secrets in the story were very complicated, resulting in a messy multi-tiered caste system. It would have been a longer and slower story.

Many things were changed. The world-building was simplified, so the plot tightened up. Dempsey became the lead, which brought some of the most important parts of the ship’s society to life, like Breeding Duty, and the social norms that are tweaked to maintain crew efficiency. The character grew into that expanded role, and as Dempsey changed and became more complex, so did Barrens.

TQ:  What inspired you to write The Forever Watch?

David:  I was in the middle of writing another story when The Forever Watch hit me and I had to write it. But it did not come out of the nowhere of the subconscious—at the time, I was thinking a lot about issues of freedom vs information and censorship. I was displeased by the narratives forming in the news about wikileaks and whistleblowers. They seemed overly simple.

So, while a lot of it was the fortuitous firing of the subconscious, there was also my very conscious desire. I wanted a story in which something that is self-evident to most, differing only based on what side one is on, becomes very different from how it seems on the surface.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Forever Watch?

David:  Not a lot. I tried to refresh myself somewhat on Machine Learning, but I did not want to bloat the exposition, and let the technical correctness slide based on feel. I hope my CS friends will read those parts and shrug off the looseness—I like to think that they have to put up with a lot less accurate portrayals of hacking in other stories, like certain police procedurals on TV….

Other than that, the power ratings for psychics involved several minutes of messing around with a calculator and looking up which wattage unit goes, approximately, with which size task (kilowatts vs megawatts).

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

David:  The easiest character to write was Barrens. It is not that he is simple, but that his motivations and desires are intense and always running high. He is a character who has problems with his behavioral brakes. And his complexities are sort of primal—a very physical type who is also an idealist, a thinker without the education to make the most of himself, and so on. I mostly had to think in extremes.

The hardest character to write was Dempsey. I was always worrying about the authenticity of her experience. And then there was her emotional state. I went back and forth on whether it was overdone or underdone. Balancing her negative emotions with the needs of the story and the goal of keeping things enjoyable for readers was tough. I may have wanted to write her as real as I could but she still had to work as a heroic figure.

I’m sure there are going to be some readers who find her too maudlin, while others may think I’ve trivialized terrible things because she does not seem traumatized enough. Readers are diverse and there’s no knowing whether I hit a good balance point until lots of people start reading and reacting to it.

TQ:  Give us one of your favorite lines from The Forever Watch.

David:  “This is how I deserve to die.” I think that line and that moment are the essence of that character.

There are others I like more, but there is no sharing them without spoiling the plot.

TQ:  Why did you choose to write Science Fiction, particularly Space Opera? Do you want to write in any other genres?

David:  I like science fiction and fantasy because while working within real world rules is about skill, working beyond those rules is about imagination. All those possibilities and impossibilities give the largest possible space to play around with for stories. They can be used to reflect aspects of humanity and the world in ways that aren’t straightforward. Societies and human interactions can be explored with very different limits, or with no limits at all.

I want to write many types of stories. Aside from SF, I’d like to be able to do horror, epic fantasy, pulpy sword and sorcery, superhero stories, magic realism…. I would love to be able to write all the kinds of stories I like to read, eventually. Even with just science fiction, there is still a lot to the craft I need to improve, so I’ll probably never develop the skills to write all these things, but who knows? I like to dream. That’s the only reason I’ve gotten this far.

TQ:  What's next?

David:  What’s next is another science fiction story, though it’s near future and there are no psychics or space ships. It’s about a young girl with a talent for manipulating social media, who comes across a hoax that’s gone viral about a mysterious stationary object in the sky.

I thought I wouldn’t be hit by the sophomore curse because The Forever Watch is not actually my first completed novel (it is the first one that broke through the slush pile). So wrong! For various reasons, my next project has been very difficult to write. In the end, I’m having to seat-of-my-pants it to proceed. I foresee much rewriting in my future.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

David:  Thank you.

The Forever Watch

The Forever Watch
Thomas Dunne Books, April 22, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

An exciting new novel from a bold up-and-coming sci fi talent, The Forever Watch is so full of twists and surprises it's impossible to put down.

All that is left of humanity is on a thousand-year journey to a new planet aboard one ship, The Noah, which is also carrying a dangerous serial killer...

As a City Planner on the Noah, Hana Dempsey is a gifted psychic, economist, hacker and bureaucrat and is considered "mission critical." She is non-replaceable, important, essential, but after serving her mandatory Breeding Duty, the impregnation and birthing that all women are obligated to undergo, her life loses purpose as she privately mourns the child she will never be permitted to know.

When Policeman Leonard Barrens enlists her and her hacking skills in the unofficial investigation of his mentor's violent death, Dempsey finds herself increasingly captivated by both the case and Barrens himself. According to Information Security, the missing man has simply "Retired," nothing unusual. Together they follow the trail left by the mutilated remains. Their investigation takes them through lost dataspaces and deep into the uninhabited regions of the ship, where they discover that the answer may not be as simple as a serial killer after all.

What they do with that answer will determine the fate of all humanity in David Ramirez's thrilling page turner.

About David

Photo by Ging Lorenzo
DAVID RAMIREZ is an ex-scientist who divides his time between Oakland, CA, and Manila, Philippines. Once a molecular biologist who worked on the Human Genome Project, Ramirez returned to the Philippines to get married. He currently dabbles in computer science and programmed part of the information system for the chronobiologists of EUCLOCK, a cooperative project between European research groups on the study of circadian rhythms in model organisms and humans.

Website  ~  Facebook

Guest Blog by Jay Posey - Under the Influence ... of VIDEO GAMES - April 29, 2014

Please welcome Jay Posey to The Qwillery. Jay is the author of the Legends of the Duskwalker. Morningside Fall (Legends of the Duskwalker 2) is out today from Angry Robot Books. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Jay a Happy Publication Day!

Under the Influence … of VIDEO GAMES

       It’s a fairly common experience: you’re hanging out at a party, or a conference, or a convention, and you meet someone new, and they ask you what you do for a living. For me, this exchange generally falls into a somewhat predictable pattern that looks something like:
New Acquaintance (politely feigning interest): “So, Jay, what do you do for a living?”

Me (nervous, as usual): “Oh, I’m a writer.”

New Acquaintance (leaning forward with genuine interest): “Oh, really? Wow that’s cool! What do you write?”

Me (nervous, as usual): “Video games!”

New Acquaintance (leaning back, scanning room for reason to escape): “Oh … that sounds … interesting. I’m sorry, would you excuse me for a moment?”
       And I get it. Video games aren’t exactly known for their ground-breaking, revolutionary writing and mastery of story-telling. It’s not a secret that writers of other media sometimes think of game writing as the sort of thing you do if you aren’t good enough to write anything else. Which is a real shame, because some of the most talented writers I’ve ever met work in games, and can (and do) move effortlessly from games to novels to movies to TV shows. I won’t get up on my soapbox about the complexity involved in writing your average video game, but I will say that one of the coolest things about the discipline is that it draws from just about every other form of writing there is out there.

       Though I’ve been interested in all forms of creative writing since I was a wee lad, I came into the game industry with more of a screenwriting background than anything else. Like most people, I assumed that if I knew how to write a movie, writing a game would be easy. I will pause now for all of my game writing brothers and sisters to have their laugh and wipe the tears away.

        Suffice to say, I had a lot to learn from games, and I was fortunate to have an excellent mentor in the legendary Richard Dansky. After a few years in the game industry, when I decided to take a stab at writing a novel, I was amazed at how much I was able to bring over. I probably don’t have the space to cover everything that you can learn from game writing and apply to novel writing, but three big things jump out to me.

        The first is in world building, and there are two important lessons I picked up. One lesson, which is probably kind of obvious, was in what it took to establish the world. That’s mostly in regards to the amount of work and the level of detail that needs to go into building up a new world from scratch for the writer’s use. Learning what kinds of questions to answer and what kind of topics to consider when creating a consistent, credible world was a huge help to me when I started my novel writing. But just as important was learning what of all that information actually needed to be communicated to the audience. I found myself constantly tempted to want to tell ALL THE INFORMATIONS, because hey, I spent so much time figuring out the details, it only seemed natural to share it all with everyone. But game writing taught me a lot about the difference between writer’s needs and the audience’s needs.

       Another thing I learned from game writing was to trust my own creativity to deliver in times of crisis. Game development is typically a chaotic process where budget concerns or looming deadlines might suddenly gut your entire meticulously-crafted second act break without warning. Or, you know, your second act entirely. It’s not necessarily a pleasant process, but having to pick up your broken story bits and then reforge them into a meaningful narrative develops a certain confidence in being able to face those crisis moments. When I hit a wall while writing a novel, I still tend to have a little freak out, but I also know that if I take a little time to breathe and contemplate, my story brain will generally find a solution.

       And probably the biggest influence that game writing has had on my personal writing style is that it’s made me more comfortable with the idea of the audience collaborating to create their own experience. When I first started out writing prose, I was always very concerned with making sure that readers would picture things exactly as I saw them. But in games, the story you write is only part of the equation; it’s not really complete until the player steps in and adds their choices and actions, and experiences it all for themselves. In writing games, I learned that it was okay if your version of a character didn’t look exactly the same as mine, or if that fight scene played out for you with fewer elbows and more flips. It’s a natural part of reading anyway, to personalize your own vision of the material, but it’s one I had just never really embraced the idea of. These days I spend more energy trying to sketch the right feeling for a particular scene or setting, giving readers enough to understand what’s going on and to build their own picture of it, without necessarily trying to enforce my personal vision for every little thing.

       I could ramble on a lot longer talking about all the things that writing video games has taught me about all the other forms of writing I like to do, but I’d likely go on until I was the only one left listening. Suffice to say, the depth and complexity of video game narrative provides ample opportunities to learn and to practice a lot of the craft found in other disciplines, and I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had writing in the industry.

Morningside Fall
Legends of the Duskwalker 2
Angry Robot Books, April 29, 2014 (US/Canada and eBook)
      May 1, 2014 (UK)
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 432 pages
Cover Art: Steven Meyer-Rassow

The lone gunman Three is gone, and Wren is the new governor of the devastated settlement of Morningside, but there is turmoil in the city. When his life is put in danger, Wren is forced to flee Morningside until he and his retinue can determine who can be trusted.

They arrive at the border outpost, Ninestory, only to find it has been infested with Weir in greater numbers than anyone has ever seen. These lost, dangerous creatures are harbouring a terrible secret – one that will have consequences not just for Wren and his comrades, but for the future of what remains of the world.

File Under: Science Fiction

Legends of the Duskwalker 1
Angry Robot Books, July 30, 2013 (US/Canada and eBook)
     August 1, 2013 (UK)
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 480 pages
Cover Art: Steven Meyer-Rassow

The world has collapsed, and there are no heroes any more.

But when a lone gunman reluctantly accepts the mantle of protector to a young boy and his dying mother against the forces that pursue them, a hero may yet arise.

File Under: Science Fiction [ Three For All | Apocalyptic Wasteland | A Journey Home | Fear the Weir ]

About Jay

Jay is a narrative designer, author, and screenwriter by trade. He started working in the video game industry in 1998, and has been writing professionally for over a decade. Currently employed as Senior Narrative Designer at Red Storm Entertainment, he’s spent around eight years writing and designing for Tom Clancy’s award-winning Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six franchises.

A contributing author to the book Professional Techniques for Video Game Writing, Jay has lectured at conferences, colleges, and universities, on topics ranging from basic creative writing skills to advanced material specific to the video game industry.

You can find him online at his website,, as well as on Twitter (@HiJayPosey).

Release Day Review: Silver Mirrors by A.A. Aguirre

Silver Mirrors
Author:  A. A. Aguirre
Series:  Apparatus Infernum 2
Publisher:  Ace, April 29, 2014
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780425258200 (print)
Review Copy:  ARC provided by the Publisher

As powerful magic comes creeping back, dangerous days are dawning…

Criminal Investigation Division inspectors Janus Mikani and Celeste Ritsuko were lucky to make it out of their last mission alive. Since then, strange troubles have plagued the city of steam and shadows, apparently as a result of magic released during the CID inspectors’ desperate interruption of an ancient ritual. The fabric of the world has been unsettled, and the Council has assigned Mikani and Ritsuko to investigate.

They soon discover that matters are worse than they imagined. Machines have developed minds of their own, cragger pirates are raiding the seas with relentless aggression, and mad elementals are running amok. As the chaos builds to a crescendo, Mikani and Ritsuko must fight a war on two fronts—and this time, they may not be able to turn the deadly tide…

Melanie's Thoughts:

The husband and wife writing duo of A. A. Aguirre  are back with their second instalment in the Apparatus Infernum series, Silver Mirrors. Celeste Ritsuko and Janus Mikani return for another adventure and another mystery to solve. Book 2 starts not long after book 1, Bronze Gods, when the investigators solved the case of a madman who was terrorizing Dorstaad, murdering your woman to enable his evil master plan. The case brought Ritsuko and Mikani closer together and left Ritsuko with a special talent of her own. Life is never easy and it's not long before the fall out from their big case in Bronze Gods has started to cause mayhem across Hy Breasil with machines taking on a life of their own and pirates attacking along the coast. Ritsuko and Mikani are sent to investigate and call in a favour from Mikani's friend and former girlfriend Saskia who captains a ship. Before too long the detectives have hit the high seas and sailing far away from the civility they have known in Dorstaad. Together with Saskia's crew Ritsuko and Mikani have only a few short days to find out what is behind the unusual and destructive events before everything and everyone they know are destroyed in a magical apocalypse.

I really enjoyed book one of this series and thought both Mikani and Ritsuko were engaging characters. Silver Mirrors takes not only Ritsuko and Mikani out of their comfort zone with life aboard Saskia's ship but it took me out of it as well. This part of the plot was a bit too 'piratey' for me and I thought that the new characters diluted the power of Mikani and Ritsuko's relationship. While book 1 read more like a police thriller this instalment was trying to be too many different things with a mix of swashbuckling pirates, evil fae and pissed off elementals. Aguirre also really dragged out the brewing romance between the two colleagues and if you were expecting some movement on this front then you will be disappointed. While perhaps the decision to stage most of the plot on a ship wasn't my favourite aspect of this instalment you can't fault how Aguirre tell their story in a richly textured world with complicated and difficult characters. The book is just so well written that you can't help but be drawn in from the very first pages. Fingers crossed Mikani and Ritsuko's swashbuckling days are over.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Interview with Alison Sinclair - April 28, 2014

Please welcome Alison Sinclair to The Qwillery. Alison's most recent novel is Breakpoint: Nereis (The Plague Confederacy 1) which was published on March 11, 2014 by Bundoran Press.

TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Alison:  Pretty much as soon as I had enough of a grip on a pen to sustain a narrative. When I was 8, under the influence of Gilligan's Island and a child's version of Robinson Crusoe, I wrote and illustrated an opus called "Shipwrecked on an Island". Along with the shipwreck, my hapless protagonist had to endure hurricanes and giant whirlpools (my little sister scribbled on one of the pages, so I worked it into the story) and volcanic eruptions (I wanted to be a geologist) and giant octopi (easier to draw than other animals). Then I wrote "Salma: The Story of a Salmon", and ever after bore a grudge against Henry Williamson for having the idea of writing a novel about a salmon first. The earliest piece that has survived my many moves is "The Long Journey Home". Think Lassie, but with a budgie. Why I wrote I have no idea. My handwriting was execrable, my spelling lawless, and everything was a mashup of love of natural history and science and children's books and TV, but it came out as stories.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Alison:  I am an über pantser. I start with a notion that I want to write a novel 'about' something, and I turn it over for a while until a character shows up with some spark in them - what Jo Walton calls protagonismos. Then I start getting to know them, and their family and lovers and friends and enemies.

There was a convention in drama, back in the drawing room days, when the first scene would consist of two servants dusting the set and dishing the dirt on the family for the edification of the audience. I start by writing feather duster scenes, eavesdropping on my characters as I figuratively hammer and paint the set, while trying to draw a map of the plot with my right foot. I keep notebooks in which I'll hack through the undergrowth of my ideas, talking to myself, but the real working out happens in the fiction.

Once I've blundered my way to the end of the first draft, I start the second by lining up the beginning and end, pulling down the kudzu of undeveloped ideas, and working on pacing, information flow and set-up. That's when the feather duster scenes go. By then I know my characters and their setting, so it's easy to replace uninformative chatter with relevant dialogue, but it takes me three or four drafts to produce something fit to be seen. Even then an editor will still find saggy and irrelevant bits. I love my editors.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Alison:  Finding my way to the end of the first draft. See above. Revision is fun, once I've worked myself into a suitably confident and ruthless frame of mind, because I know I have something workable that can only be made better.

TQ:  What were some of your inspirations for the world of Breakpoint: Nereis?

Alison:  I wanted to do a starship novel–Star-Trek-meets-medical-thriller” when I'm being irreverent–with a crew of a starship (the Waiora), going from planet to planet. So I asked myself why. The answer was "because they're tracking a plague". I also wanted to do a series, so they couldn't find all the answers in the first novel, which was how the idea of the re-contact side of the mission came up. And by keeping it as a re-contact, after a relatively short, though extremely fraught, period, I could have more of a peer relationship between the Wairoans and the Nereians, and play with that shifting dynamic.

I decided on the central on-planet problem for Nereis early. Going into a conflict is always challenging for a humanitarian mission, because they'll be pushed to take sides; but I didn't want the war to dominate the action. I wanted it to be more of a war of intelligence than one of destruction.

TQ:  In Breakpoint: Nereis, who was the character who was the most difficult to write and why? The easiest and why? Which character surprised you the most?

Alison:  Teo–the leader of one of the two re-contact teams–showed up first, along with two young men who play a large part in the next novel. Teo's from one of the early re-contact colonies, a vigorous old woman of ninety who has by now seen everything, done everything, and is confident she and most other people can deal with it. She's easy to write because she's capable, confident, at times overconfident. She'll take risks and things will happen around her.

Creon McIntyre, a war-disabled leader of the invaders, was both easy and difficult. He an able and ferociously determined man who knows what he wants and will do whatever he can to get it, BUT he was easy to write only if he got his own way. He gave me no end of grief until I had built up his nemesis within the book.

That nemesis is Aeron Ivesen, who took me a while to get to grips with. She had to be a contrast to Creon and yet a balance for him; she was interesting to write because she has a justified cause and yet some difficult attitudes.

TQ:  Please tell us about your other work.

Alison:  I started out writing and publishing science fiction, because my educational and career background is pretty much pure science. So far, I've predominately been a novelist, mainly because I have trouble keeping ideas from growing. My first published novel, Legacies, was also a re-contact story, but the re-contact in question was particularly fraught because there is a great historical injury lying between the two sides. My second novel, Blueheart, was about the struggle to define the future of a human colony on a water-world: genetically engineer the humans, and risk creating a schism in the human race, or terraform the world, and destroy a mature ecology and the unique society of the first human colonists. My third novel, Cavalcade, was my alien contact novel, before it became about the first extra-planetary humans inventing their society from scratch.

My next published novels were fantasy, the trilogy Darkborn, Lightborn and Shadowborn, about the denizens of a cursed land who have come to terms with their division into dark-dependent and light-dependent and achieved mutual coexistence, until an unknown enemy declares war on them both.

TQ:  What's next?

Alison:  The next book to be published is the Waiora's next mission, Contagion: Eyre. Teo's confidence and religious conviction lands her in deep trouble, while Phi Kiriakadis deals with the fallout from her encounter with Creon McIntyre. The next book to be written is the third of the series, which is in the messy early stages I mentioned above. Its working title is Contact: Umber.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Alison:  Thank you for inviting me!

Breakpoint: Nereis
The Plague Confederacy 1
Bundoran Press, March 11, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 300 pages

The first of The Plague Confederacy series, Breakpoint: Nereis combines a rousing space opera with a first-rate medical mystery. Struggling to rebuild an empire shattered by plague, the starship, Waiora, recontacts the colony of Nereis, only to find themselves embroiled in war. The mandate of First Contact is to help stabilize devastated colonies while searching for the origins of the plague that brought down the empire. But the new Confederacy has struggles of its owns and it is ill-equipped to play peacemaker. Passions run high as deceit and trickery threaten to destroy them all.

About Alison

Alison Sinclair is the author of the science fiction novels Legacies, Blueheart, and Cavalcade (nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award).


The View From Monday - April 28, 2014

Happy last Monday in April. Last week I read a terrific fantasy novel that is out much later in the year so I am not going to talk about it yet. I'm presently reading an SF The Forever Watch by David Ramirez, a debut that came out last week.  The next book on my list is a ZPoc caused by a virus (or that's what I think it is based on the description). I'll follow that with a thriller or maybe some steampunk.

This is a fairly full release week with one debut:

The Blood of Alexander by Tom Wilde.

And from formerly featured Debut Author Challenge Authors:

Warrior's Curse (Imnada Brotherhood 3) by Alexa Egan;

Two Serpents Rise (Craft Sequence 2) by Max Gladstone is out in Trade Paperback;

Night Child (Night 3) by Lisa Kessler;

Morningside Fall (Duskwalker Cycle 2) by Jay Posey;


Shanghai Sparrow by Gaie Sebold.

April 28, 2014
Vengeance of the Hunter (e) Angela Highland F - Rebels of Adalonia 1
Night Child (e) Lisa Kessler PNR - Night 3
Star Trek: The Original Series: Seasons of Light and Darkness (e) Michael A. Martin SF - Star Trek
Ladder to the Red Star (e) Jael Wye FTR/SFR - Once Upon a Red World

April 29, 2014
Silver Mirrors A. A. Aguirre SP - Apparatus Infernum 2
Dragons Luck (tp2mm) Robert Asprin F  - Griffin McCandles 2
Little Knife: A Tor.Com Original (e) Leigh Bardugo F
The Kraken King Part III: The Kraken King and the Fox's Den (e) Meljean Brook SPR - Iron Seas
The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Guardian (h2mm) Jack Campbell SF - Lost Fleet 9
Earth Afire (h2mm) Orson Scott Card SF - First Formic War 1
Dark Serpent Kylie Chan UF - Celestial Battle Trilogy 1
The Churn (e) James S.A. Corey SF - Expanse Novella
Once Bitten, Twice Burned Cynthia Eden PNR - Phoenix Fire 2
Warrior's Curse Alexa Egan PHR - Imnada Brotherhood 3
Portal (ri) Eric Flint
Ryk E. Spoor
SF - Boundary 3
Aliens: The Official Movie Novelization Alan Dean Foster SF
Forged Jacquelyn Frank PNR - World of the Nightwalkers 4
Dragon Age: Asunder (tp2mm) David Gaider F - Dragon Age 3
Ink Mage Victor Gischler F
Two Serpents Rise (h2tp) Max Gladstone F - Craft Sequence 2
Darkest Flame Donna Grant PNR - Dark Kings 1
Darkest Flame: Part 4 (e) Donna Grant PNR - Dark Kings
The Tangled Bridge (tp2mm) Rhodi Hawk Th/P - Twisted Ladder 2
The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury (tp2mm) Robert Kirkman
Jay Bonansinga
H - Walking Dead 4
Valour and Vanity Mary Robinette Kowal F - Glamourist Histories 4
Dreams of Lilacs Lynn Kurland PNR - De Piaget
Star Trek: The Original Series: Serpents in the Garden Jeff Mariotte SF - Star Trek
Drift (h2mm) Jon McGoran Th - Detective Doyle Carrick and Nola Watkins 1
The Greater Good (tp2mm) Sandy Mitchell F - Warhammer 40,000: Ciaphas Cain 9
Limits of Power (tp2mm) Elizabeth Moon F - Paladin's Legacy 4
Grunt Life Weston Ochse SF - Task Force Ombra 1
Fire of Stars and Dragons (e) Melissa Petreshock PNR
Peacemaker Marianne De Pierres SF - Peacemaker 1
Morningside Fall Jay Posey SF/Ap/PA - Duskwalker Cycle 2
Carpe Jugulum (ri) Terry Pratchett F - Discworld 23
The Fifth Elephant (ri) Terry Pratchett F - Discworld 24
Jingo (ri) Terry Pratchett F - Discworld 21
The Last Continent (ri) Terry Pratchett F - Discworld 22
Thornlost Melanie Rawn F - Glass Thorns 3
XOM-B Jeremy Robinson Th
Edge of Tomorrow (Movie Tie-in Edition) Hiroshi Sakurazaka SF - All You Need Is Kill 1
Shanghai Sparrow Gaie Sebold SP
Burning Dawn Gena Showalter PNR - Angels of the Dark 3
How to Seduce a Vampire (Without Really Trying) Kerrelyn Sparks PNR - Love at Stake 15
Vol'jin: Shadows of the Horde (h2mm) Michael A. Stackpole F - World of Warcraft
The Redemption Engine James L. Sutter F - Pathfinder Tales
The Curse Breakers Denise Grover Swank UF - Curse Keepers 2
House of Steel: The Honorverse Companion (tp2mm) David Weber SF - Honor Harrington
Chimera (h2mm) David Wellington Th - Jim Chapel Missions 1
The Blood of Alexander (D) Tom Wilde Th
Sibs (ri) F. Paul Wilson H

April 30, 2014
Multiverse: Exploring Poul Anderson's Worlds Greg Bear (ed)
Gardner Dozois (ed)
SF - Anthology
Greg Egan Karen Burnham SF - Modern Masters of Science Fiction
Elements Suzanne Church SF/F/H - Collection
The Book of Silverberg Gardner Dozois (ed)
William Schafer (ed)
SF - Anthology
Jack in the Green Charles de Lint F

D - Debut
e - eBook
h2mm - Hardcover to Mass Market Paperback
h2tp - Hardcover to Trade Paperback
ri - Reissue or Reprint
tp2mm - Trade to Mass Market Paperback

Ap - Apocalyptic
F - Fantasy
FTR - Fairy Tale Romance
H - Horror
P - Paranormal
PA - Post Apocalyptic
PHR - Paranormal Historical Romance
PNR - Paranormal Romance
SF - Science Fiction
SFR - Science Fiction Romance
SP - Steampunk
SPR - Steampunk Romance
Th - Thriller
UF - Urban Fantasy

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Interview with Will Storr, author of The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone & Giveaway - April 27, 2014

Please welcome Will Storr to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Hunter and the Howling of Killian Lone was published on March 11, 2014 by Atria Books/Marble Arch Press.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Will:  I started writing my first novel when I was about 12, which is a bit ridiculous. It was called 'Epiphany' and it was a re-telling of the birth of Jesus, except Mary had had an affair and was telling Joseph it was God that made her pregnant. I think, fairly obviously, I was doing that to shock my long-suffering Catholic parents. But I always used to enjoy telling stories - making up tales about witches that lived in the local woods and scaring my little sister. I gave her and her friends guided tours, telling them where they lived etc. I don't know why I did this.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Will:  As in a fly-by-the-seat-of-your?? Ha ha, that's a good question. I sat on a panel with a load of authors recently and every single one gave it the 'I just create characters and see where they take me' routine. It's very fashionable to say that. But do they really? I mean, if they were really doing that - and they weren't also constructing plot - wouldn't their fiction just end up like real life, with people just muddling along as best they can for 80 years? There are many books that read like that, I suppose, but my ambition with my fiction is to immerse the reader in compelling worlds, and if I'm to achieve that I have to do some thinking about story. Story is nothing to be ashamed of. Plot is just as much art as painting or ballet. So the answer is, a bit of both. I think up a general arc and think 'who are the people that populate this story'? And then I think about these people and what they mean to each other. But the problem is, the more real they become, the more they exert their own will on the story. Which means the story changes. And so on...

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? How has being a journalist influenced (or not) your fiction writing?

Will:  I think the journalism created a specific problem and that is that the journalist tells readers things. I'm so completely immersed in that form that, for a long time, I struggled with the basic concept of show-not-tell. What were the rules? What were you allowed to tell? What did you have to show? I couldn't work it out. It took a long time to get my own feel for it all because I had to unlearn lots of lessons about writing. I think fiction actually benefitted my journalism more than the other way around, because it added a bit of complexity and sub-text to it.

The benefit of my journalism is that I often write long-form pieces about the kinds of characters you might find in fiction. This month, for example, I'm writing two stories - one about a former drug addict who escaped his dead-end town and made his riches in London as a gay escort; the other about an engineer whose business went under and ended up becoming one of Britain's biggest cannabis growers. Being able to interview these people for several hours and really find out how they think and why they behaved as they did is a real gift.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Will:  John Fante, as mentioned above. I wanted Killian Lone to read like a Roald Dahl children's book for grown-ups, so he was very much on my mind. One book that was a big influence on the way I wrote it was Kate Grenville's The Idea of Perfection. I loved the way she wove the internal monologues of her characters into the prose. There's a book called Happy Like Murderers by Gordon Burn that does a similar thing - it's a very literary non-fiction book about two serial killers.

TQ:  Describe The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone in 140 characters or less.

Will:  An adult fairy tale in which an ambitious, troubled young chef discovers a magical secret that could give him everything he wants.

TQ:  Tell us something about The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone that is not in the book description.

Will:  Well, a few readers have said they found the book 'nauseating'. We're not going to put that in the book description!

TQThe Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone combines different genre "ingredients"? How would you describe the genre mix?

Will:  That's hard, because you don't really think about the book in terms of genre. I just wanted to write a good old fashioned story, but one that hopefully had a bit of depth and complexity too.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone?

Will:  Apart from the obvious reading, I did two sets of shifts in fine dining kitchens. The first was in Sydney, the second London. They were incredibly tough, but amazing. It was the combination of struggle and art that was really intoxicating. They start at 7am with boxes of animal parts and dirty veg and a few hours later they have perfection. The power dynamic was fascinating too. The head chef can be the biggest bastard you've ever met, but all the cooks would do anything to please them.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? Who is your favorite good 'guy', bad 'guy' or ethically ambiguous character?

Will:  None of them were easy. In fact I'd guess that the ones that felt 'easiest' are probably the least successful. The hardest was Max Mann, the bullying head chef. The reality of head chefs is that, when they're in the kitchen, they just shout a lot and are scary. Recreate that in fiction and you have a classic two dimensional character. But that's what they are! They make themselves two dimensional characters. In fact, Killian's seeing Max as an unreal two dimensional person is at the core of the book. It's part of what drives Killian's behaviour. So that was the hardest thing.

I actually think one of my favourite ethically dubious character is from TV - Omar from The Wire. I wasn't actually a huge fan of that show, but I rooted for Omar. I was talking about this to a writer friend and trying to understand why I rooted for Omar - who is a killer - but felt nothing at all for the lead characters. He made the brilliant observation that Omar is the only person motivated by love. (He was avenging the death of a lover.)

TQ:   Give us one or two of your favorite lines from The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone.

Will:  This might sound silly, but to me the most important line in the book is the quote from the painter Edvard Munch at the beginning. "I felt like a boat built out of hopeless material, of rotten old wood, launched by the shipbuilder onto the stormy sea of life with the words: 'If you sink it will be your own fault, and you will burn in hell for you failure, burn forever in the eternal flames'."

That's the entire book, right there. When people do things that are bad, it's because they're broken somehow. Evil is never a conscious choice. It doesn't emerge from a vacuum. There are always reasons, always a path to evil that is in some way helpless. The book is an attempt at showing someone on that path.

TQ:  What's next?

Will:  I'm trying to write a thriller that's not a thriller. I've given myself lots of rules - no chase scenes, no explosions, no prison breaks etc. I want the relationships between the characters to be at least as much a driver as what's going on in the world around them. It's still in its very early stages. I'm not sure if it's going to work yet.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone
Atria Books/Marble Arch Press, March 11, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Killian Lone comes from a long line of gifted cooks, stretching back to the seven­teenth century, and yearns to become a famous chef himself. When he starts an apprenticeship under Max Mann, the most famous chef in London, he looks set to continue the family tradition. But the reality of kitchen life is brutal. Even his fellow apprentice, Kathryn, who shows Killian uncharacteristic kindness, can’t stop his being sucked into the vicious, debauched world of 1980s fine dining, and gradually he is forced to surrender his dream.

Then he discovers a dark family secret—the legacy of an ancestor who was burnt as a witch for creating food so delicious it was said to turn all who tasted it mad. Killian knows he can use this secret to achieve his ambitions and maybe, finally, to win Kathryn’s affections. But is he willing to pay the price?

This is Killian’s confession—a strange tragedy about love, ambition and incredible food . . .

About Will

Courtesy of the author
Will Storr is a journalist, novelist, and photographer. His features have appeared in numerous newspapers, including The Guardian, The Times (London), and The Observer (London). He has been named New Journalist of the Year and Feature Writer of the Year. The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone is his first novel.

Website  ~  Twitter @wstorr

The Giveaway

What:  One entrant will win a Trade Paperback copy of The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone by Will Storr from The Qwillery.

How:  Log into and follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below.

Who and When:  The giveaway is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Giveaway ends at 11:59PM US Eastern Time on May 6, 2014. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change without any notice.*

a Rafflecopter giveaway

2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - Premonitions by Jamie Schultz

The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2014 Debut Author Challenge.

Jamie Schultz

Roc, July 1, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages


It’s the kind of score Karyn Ames has always dreamed of—enough to set her crew up pretty well and, more important, enough to keep her safely stocked on a very rare, very expensive black market drug. Without it, Karyn hallucinates slices of the future until they totally overwhelm her, leaving her unable to distinguish the present from the mess of certainties and possibilities yet to come.

The client behind the heist is Enoch Sobell, a notorious crime lord with a reputation for being ruthless and exacting—and a purported practitioner of dark magic. Sobell is almost certainly condemned to Hell for a magically extended lifetime full of shady dealings. Once you’re in business with him, there’s no backing out.

Karyn and her associates are used to the supernatural and the occult, but their target is more than just the usual family heirloom or cursed necklace. It’s a piece of something larger. Something sinister.

Karyn’s crew and even Sobell himself are about to find out just how powerful it is… and how powerful it may yet become.

Melanie's Week in Review - April 27, 2014

I started the week on a reading roll but have rather limped in towards the end of the week. This is mainly due to the fact that I read such a great book at the start of the week and then nothing else could compare to it and I couldn't find anything to catch my interest afterwards. So what did I read?

I was  really lucky when my request for an ARC of Magic Breaks was granted by the publisher (Ace). I was really trying to avoid reading it until June as I want to respect the publisher's request not post a review until about a month before the release date which is July 29th. I always prefer to write my review as soon as possible after finishing a book and I don't usually have the luxury of writing them months before they can be posted. I couldn't resist this time as it was like the book cover was taunting me every time I opened my Kindle. I really like this series and Kate is one of my all time favourite heroines. Unfortunately, for you dear reader I can't give too much away about Magic Breaks as I will be writing a full review and you will have to wait until late June/early July to read it. All I can say is that if you haven't had a chance to read any of the other books in the series then you have almost 2 months to catch up because its a cracker!

I bought The Digital Wolf by Jon Rosenberg a few months ago not realising it was the second book of The Academy series. I don't really like skipping books if I don't have to so went and bought book 1 - The Unicorn Crisis. This first book in the series starts with the Summoner David Ash chasing a mad unicorn around a field in Stratford-upon-Avon. Ash didn't think his day could get any worse until he learns that a fellow Summoner has been killed and with the King of Fairy enraged that someone effectively stole his favourite pet Ash is charged with finding the murderer and stopping anyone or anything else escaping from Fairy. Ash has not one but two side kicks to help him with this case including Llewellyn the Welsh elf with a fondness for bitter and soap operas and the fellow Summoner and American, Jenny who has come bearing a grudge. The unlikely trio uncover that there are plans afoot to bring down the Hidden Academy and its up to them to ensure that they don't succeed. Unicorns, flying monkeys and drunk university students, Ash has his work cut out for him!

I enjoyed this book and thought that Rosenberg has a gift for humour and a fantastic imagination. David Ash reminded me a tiny bit of Ben Aaronovitch's Peter Grant series. Both authors have the ability to mix humour with murder and/or mayhem without making their heroes sound like wise cracking jerks. Not an easy feat! I thought it was quite effective how Rosenberg teased out Ash's background and then wove this into the plot. Not everything was spelled out at the start which made it really easy to engage with the story as you wanted to find out meaning or importance of certain events from David's past that are regularly referred to throughout the novel. My only one very tiny criticism was that I thought it as a little bit too long. By about 3/4 of the way through I wanted Ash to have solved the case already. All in all a great start to the series and I am looking forward to The Digital Wolf.

After one super exciting book and one rather hefty book I needed something light and short to finish off my week. I was trawling through my Kindle recommendations and found Devil to Pay by Jeaniene Frost. I have mixed views of Frost's books. I wasn't fond of the Night Huntress series but sort of like the Night Prince series. This novella is part of the Night Huntress world and even for a novella it was pretty short. In retrospect I was glad that it was as it was pretty dull. For vampires and demons they were all  pretty much goody-two-shoes and not at all engaging. I should have read a few more reviews before I decided to buy a book from a series I quit reading after book 2.

That is all for me for this week. I am keeping my fingers crossed for getting through some good books this week. We have a 48 hour tube strike next week and I will need to work from home which means I have less concentrated reading time. Wish me luck!  Until next week Happy Reading.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Interview with Dru Pagliassotti - April 26, 2014

Please welcome Dru Pagliassotti to The Qwillery. Clockwork Lies: Iron Wind, the second novel in the Clockwork Heart Trilogy, was published on March 15, 2014.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Dru:  I’ve been writing fiction since I learned the alphabet, but I didn’t get serious about publishing it until I finished my dissertation and settled into a university position. I’ve managed to work my way up from for-the-love to check’s-in-the-mail, but, alas, I won’t be quitting my day job any time soon.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Dru:  A pantser. I should be a plotter. I admire plotters. I aspire to be a plotter. But I write the way I run tabletop RPGs — I figure out the key scenes and simply let the characters loose. With luck, they get to each scene with minimal authorial assistance.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Dru:  Finding the time. I’m a full-time university professor and department chair, so I squeeze most of my writing into the three months of my summer break.

TQ:  Tell us something about Clockwork Lies: Iron Wind (Clockwork Heart Trilogy 2) that is not in the book description.

Dru:  As one of my friends pointed out with amusement, Iron Wind brings up the problem of urinating while traveling three separate times. …Well, what can I say? Finding the right time and place to pee is serious business when you’re on the road!

Also, if anybody’s wondering, “iron wind” refers to weapons fire, as in an iron wind of bullets.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Clockwork Lies: Iron Wind?

Dru:  Someone asked, “what happens next?”

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Clockwork Lies: Iron Wind?

Dru:  Much of my research involved various modes of flight and steam-powered locomotion, but I also looked into weather and altitude effects, military organization and rank systems, and quite a bit of weaponry, including acid delay incendiaries. (I suspect my IP address is now on an NSA watchlist…).

TQ:  Why did you write Steampunk Fantasy? What is the difference between Steampunk and Steampunk Fantasy? What do you find appealing about Steampunk?

I grew up writing fantasy and horror. In 2004, however, I decided to make National Novel Writing Month a little more challenging by writing in two genres I’d never tried before — steampunk and romance. I had a vision of wings and giant gears that I wanted to develop, so I decided to write in a fantasy world instead of an alternate Earth. Clockwork Heart was the result.

I referred to Clockwork Heart as steampunk fantasy because, in its early days, steampunk was considered an alternate-history genre. My hope was that the word “fantasy” would warn people that this novel wasn’t set in Victorian England. Today, of course, steampunk has embraced all kinds of settings, but Victorian England and the 19th-century United States still dominate the genrescape.

The problem with using “fantasy” as a descriptor is that a lot of people associate fantasy with magic and monsters. Neither exist in this particular series. The Clockwork Heart trilogy does propose the existence of a handful of pseudoscientific elements — most notably a buoyant metal, ondium — but otherwise I’ve avoided supernatural and inhuman elements. I know many writers include magic and monsters in their steampunk, and I’ve thrown them into a few of my steampunk short stories, but in this trilogy I’ve enjoyed the personal challenge of keeping the supernatural out and focusing on what humans can do with ingenuity, perseverance, and the resources around them.

That emphasis on heroic self-reliance is part of what makes steampunk so appealing to me. Steampunk protagonists are intelligent, talented, and hard-working, just like makers in the real world. They value craftsmanship and artisanry, building things that look good and that last over time. They control their tools, rather than let their tools control them. Even at its most dystopic, steampunk suggests that we humans got ourselves into this mess, and we humans can get ourselves back out of it — no supernatural intervention required. I think that’s an inspiring message for these often overwhelming times.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? Who is your favorite good 'guy', bad 'guy' or ethically ambiguous character in the Clockwork Heart Trilogy (so far)?

Dru:  The easiest character to write was Cristof, because both he and I are socially awkward introverts.

The hardest character to write was Taya, because of the many challenging moral dilemmas she’s faced. Taya’s innately optimistic, enthusiastic, and friendly, but it’s hard to stay positive when people are trying to destroy you and your loved ones. She makes some tough decisions over the course of the trilogy, and I’ve done my best to show how she manages to live with her choices.

As far as ethically ambiguous characters go, I like Alister, of course — he’s a hero in his own mind — but there’s not much I can say about him without spoilage. A good guy whose role expanded a lot from Clockwork Heart to Iron Wind is stoic Lieutenant Amcathra. The poor man does his best to impose order and propriety on the chaos that whirls around Taya and Cristof, but it’s a thankless job.

TQ:  What's next?

Dru:  The third and final book in the trilogy, Clockwork Secrets: Heavy Fire, comes out in September. In the meantime, I’ve dusted off a post-apocalyptic dieselpunk political fantasy and made it my summer writing project.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Dru:  Thank you!

Clockwork Lies: Iron Wind
Clockwork Heart Trilogy 2
EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, March 15, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
Cover Illustration by Timothy Lantz

Ondinium stands on the brink of war...

Love and duty collide when Taya is appointed attaché to Ondinium's first exalted ambassador and is soon plunged into a sinister world of secrets and lies. After the diplomatic contingent’s hasty withdrawal from Mareaux to avoid an international incident, Taya's faith is shaken by a disastrous crash and a tragic murder, which reveals just how much she has to lose. Now, if she's going to fulfill her duty to her nation, she must risk everything she cares about. As the winds of war whip around Ondinium’s borders, Taya’s metal wings must bear her through storms, gunfire, and explosions as she fights to save them not only from their enemies, but also from their own government — a government that regards them as nothing more than clockwork cogs in a ruthless political machine.

Clockwork Heart
Clockwork Heart Trilogy 1
EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy, September 15, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
Cover Illustration by Timothy Lantz

Flight is freedom, but death hangs in the skies..

Taya soars over Ondinium on metal wings. She is an icarus, a courier privileged to travel freely across the city’s sectors and mingle indiscriminately amongst its castes. But even she cannot outfly the web of terrorism, loyalty, murder, and intrigue that snares her after a daring mid-air rescue. Taya finds herself entangled with the Forlore brothers, scions of an upperclass family: handsome, brilliant Alister, who sits on Ondinium’s governing council and writes programs for the Great Engine; and awkward, sharptongued Cristof, who has exiled himself from his caste and repairs clocks in the lowest sector of the city. Both hide dangerous secrets, in the city that beats to the ticking of a clockwork heart.

Dru Pagliassotti is the author of the Clockwork Heart trilogy, Clockwork Heart, Clockwork Lies: Iron Wind, and the upcoming Clockwork Secrets: Heavy Fire (EDGE). She’s also written the horror novel An Agreement with Hell (Apex Publications) and various short stories. She’s a professor of communication at California Lutheran University.

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