Monday, November 30, 2015

Review: The Death of Dulgath by Michael J. Sullivan

The Death of Dulgath
AuthorMichael J. Sullivan
Series:  The Riyria Chronicles 3
Publisher:  Riyria Enterprises, LLC, October 15, 2015 (ebook)
       Mascot Books, December 1, 2015 (Hardcover)
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages
List Price:  $24.95 (Hardcover);  $9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781943363025 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Author

Three times they tried to kill her. Then a professional was hired. So was Riyria.

When the last member of the oldest noble family in Avryn is targeted for assassination, Riyria's Royce and Hadrian are hired to foil the plot. Three years have passed since Hadrian, the war-weary mercenary, and Royce, the cynical ex-assassin, joined forces to become rogues-for-hire. All has gone well until they're asked to help prevent a murder. Now they must venture into an ancient corner of the world to save a mysterious woman who knows more about Royce than is safe and cares less about herself than is sane.

From the best-selling author of The Riyria Revelations comes the third installment of The Riyria Chronicles. Although part of a series, it's designed to thrill both new readers looking for fun, fast-paced fantasy and Riyria veterans wishing to reunite with old friends.

Melanie’s Thoughts

The Death of Dulgath is the product of Michael J, Sullivan’s active imagination, his obvious love of both the Riyria world and its characters and a very successful Kickstarter campaign. Without these factors we might not have had opportunity to enjoy another excellent adventure of our two favourite characters - Royce and Hadrian.

This novel is set in between The Rose and the Thorn and Theft of Swords where the Riyria have only been together for a few years and just starting to establish their reputation. In need of some cash they accept a job on the opposite side of the kingdom to try to prevent a young woman from getting murdered. It sounded like a quick and easy assignment involving no mystery, no intrigue and no death or mayhem. Sound like something that should go to plan? Unfortunately for the Riyria this quick and easy job turns out to a little more than they expected. Idyllic countryside, happy citizens who love their Lady and a kind and benevolent ruler? If it sounds too good to be true then usually someone is determined it doesn't stay that way. Enter Royce and Hadrian who need to use both their combined and individual skills to find out who wants the Lady dead and why. Its what they find out about each other however that is what makes this story such an excellent read.

I was extremely lucky to have been selected as part of the beta reader group for The Death of Dulgath. You may have read some of my other reviews of Sullivan's books and know that I love just about everything about this series and its two main characters. This instalment in the series was no exception. Sullivan continues to develop both of his main characters with POV chapters where we gain a better insight into how they feel about each other which is really interesting and gives both them and the story more depth. Sullivan also gives us some additional background into a new region of the kingdom, of the religious beliefs of the citizens of Dulgath and what the Church of Novron is planning. The plot largely focuses on Lady Dulgath who features not just as the intended victim of the murder plot but as the subject of the artist Sherwood, who has been commissioned to paint her portrait. Sullivan uses Sherwood's POV chapters and the painting as a tool to advance the plot, as well as, the mechanism for revealing one of the story's big mysteries. Lady Dulgath is an enigmatic character and has some interesting scenes with Royce where she reveals some home truths about who (or what) he really is. Royce is drawn to the Lady as he is intrigued by what she tells him. I apologise for sounding vague but I can't reveal too much as I don't want to spoil the story for you.

Fans of this series, will enjoy the chapters dedicated to Royce and Hadrian. As with the other books in the series it is in the scenes with Royce and Hadrian that Sullivan's writing really shines and these were my favourite parts of the novel. Royce and Hadrian's POV chapters give us a better insight into how they feel about each other and we get an inside view of how their relationship continues to grow and flourish.

This is another great book by Sullivan and another star in the Riyria collection and a must read for any fantasy fan. Although you can easily enjoy The Death of Dulgath as a one off I wouldn't want you to miss any of the excellent books in the series so start back with The Crown Tower.

2015 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - November Winner

The winner of the November  2015 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars is Viking Warrior Rising by Asa Maria Bradley from Sourcebooks Casablanca with 48 votes equaling 40% of all votes. The cover was designed by Eileen Carey.

The Results

The November 2015 Debut Covers

Thank you to everyone who voted, Tweeted, and participated. The 2015 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars will continue with voting on the December Debut covers starting on December 5, 2015 and ending on December 14th.  

Voting for the 2015 Debut Author Challenge COVER OF THE YEAR will start on December 21st and end on December 31st.

The View From Monday - November 30, 2015

Happy last Monday in November. It's also Cyber Monday so if you are hunting for something today I hope you find it. If not you can always buy a book or two.

This week's debuts:

The Curse of Jacob Tracey by Holly Messinger

Bloodbound (Pathfinder Tales 30) by F. Wesley Schneider


Your Brother's Blood by David Towsey

And from formerly featured Debut Author Challenge Authors:

Impulse (Lightship Chronicles 1) by Dave Bara (in Mass Market Paperback);

Blood Will Follow (Valhalla Saga 2) by Snorri Kristjansson (in Trade Paperback);


The Labyrinth of Flame (The Shattered Sigil 3) by Courtney Schafer.

November 28, 2015
Beneath an Oil-Dark Sea Caitlin R. Kiernan SF/F/H - Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan 2

November 30, 2015
Fender Lizards Joe R. Lansdale LF

December 1, 2015
Enemy in the Dark Jay Allan SF - Far Stars Trilogy 2
Magic Gifts: A Kate Daniels Novella (e) Ilona Andrews UF - Kate Daniels
Tales of the Time Scouts Robert Asprin
Linda Evans
SF - Time Scouts Ominibus
Impulse (h2mm) Dave Bara SF - Lightship Chronicles
The Warrior Vampire Kate Baxter PNR - Last True Vampire 2
Ash and Silver Carol Berg F - Sanctuary 2
Nocturnall: A River of Souls Story (Ke) Beth Bernobich F - River of Souls
Give Up the Ghost Juliet Blackwell PM - A Haunted Home Renovation Mystery 6
Assassin's Creed: Underworld Oliver Bowden HistF - Assassin's Creed
The Elfstones of Shannara (ri/TV Tie-in) Terry Brooks F - The Shannara Chronicles 1
The Wishsong of Shannara (ri/TV Tie-in) Terry Brooks F - The Shannara Chronicles 2
Wild Wolf Claiming (e) Rhyannon Byrd PNR - Bloodrunners 8
Come the Revolution Frank Chadwick SF - How Dark the World Becomes 2
Sleeping Embers of an Ordinary Mind Anne Charnock SF
The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics Louis Chude-Sokei LC
Sweet Ruin Kresley Cole PNR - Immortals After Dark 16
Ghost in the Wind E.J. Copperman PM - A Haunted Guesthouse Mystery 7
Ark Storm (h2mm) Linda Davies Th
A Daughter of No Nation A. M. Dellamonica F - Stormwrack 2
Not Dark Yet Berit Ellingsen LF
Experimental Film Gemma Files H
A Palazzo in the Stars: Science Fiction Stories Paul Di Filippo SF - Collection
A Painted Goddess (Kindle Serial) Victor Gischler F - A Fire Beneath the Skin 3
Otherworld Protector (e) Jane Godman PNR - Otherworld 1
Pax Britannia: The Ulysses Quicksilver Omnibus Vol. 2 Jonathan Green SF - Pax Britannia
Blood Storm Steven Harper F - The Books of Blood and Iron 2
Shadow's End Thea Harrison PNR - Elder Races 9
The Ghost of Mistletoe Mary (e) Sue Ann Jaffarian PM - Ghost of Granny Apples Novella
Seize the Night (ri) Sherrilyn Kenyon PNR - Dark-Hunter 7
Alien in Chief Gini Koch SF - Alien 12
Blood Will Follow (h2tp) Snorri Kristjansson F - Valhalla Saga 2
Crucible: All-New Tales of Valdemar Mercedes Lackey F - Valdemar
Clockwork Samurai Jeannie Lin SP - Gunpowder Chronicles 2
For Love or Magic Lucy March FR - Nodaway Falls 3
Thunderbird Jack McDevitt SF/AC
Dorothy Parker Drank Here (h2tp) Ellen Meister SF - Dorothy Parker 2
The Curse of Jacob Tracy (D) Holly Messinger HistF/H
The Bone Hunters Robert J. Mrazek Th
The Zero Stone (e)(ri) Andre Norton SF - Murdoc Jern 1
Catseye (e)(ri) Andre Norton SF - Dipple 1
Uncharted Stars (e)(ri) Andre Norton SF - Murdoc Jern 2
Wraiths of Time (e)(ri) Andre Norton SF - Gods and Androids 2
Android at Arms (e)(ri) Andre Norton SF - Gods and Androids 1
Night of Masks (e)(ri) Andre Norton SF - Dipple 2
Rhythm of the Imperium Jody Lynn Nye SF - Imperium 3
The Prison in Antares Mike Resnick SF - Dead Enders 2
Sword of Destiny Andrzej Sapkowski F - The Witcher 1.5
The Labyrinth of Flame (e) Courtney Schafer F - The Shattered Sigil 3
Bloodbound (D) F. Wesley Schneider F - Pathfinder Tales 30
The Goblin Reservation (e)(ri) Clifford D. Simak SF
The Fellowship of the Talisman (e)(ri) Clifford D. Simak SF
Special Deliverance (e)(ri) Clifford D. Simak SF
Mastodonia (e)(ri) Clifford D. Simak SF
Project Pope (e)(ri) Clifford D. Simak SF
Time and Again (e)(ri) Clifford D. Simak SF
Highway of Eternity (e)(ri) Clifford D. Simak SF
A Choice of Gods (e)(ri) Clifford D. Simak SF
Our Children's Children (e)(ri) Clifford D. Simak SF
Unbound (e) Shawn Speakman (ed) F - Anthology
Nevermore Rob Thurman UF - Cal and Niko Leandros 10
Your Brother's Blood (D - US) David Towsey H/PA - Walkin' Trilogy 1
The Rising Ian Tregillis AH - The Alchemy Wars 2
The Secret of the Nagas Amish Tripathi F - Shiva Trilogy 2
Joe Steele (h2mm) Harry Turtledove AH
Slavemakers Joseph Wallace SF/AP/PA/Th - Invasive Species 2
Blood Kiss J.R. Ward PNR - Black Dagger Legacy 1
The Seventh Sigil (h2mm) Margaret Weis
Robert Krammes
F - Dragon Brigade 3

December 3, 2015
The Golden Key Legacy: HarperImpulse Fantasy Romance (e) AJ Nuest FR

D - Debut
e - eBook
ed - Editor
h2mm - Hardcover to Mass Market Paperback
h2tp - Hardcover to Trade Paperback
Ke - Kindle eBook only
ri - reissue or reprint
tp2mm - Trade to Mass Market Paperback

AC - Alien Contact
AH - Alternate History
AP - Apocalyptic
F - Fantasy
FR - Fantasy Romance
H - Horror
HistF - Historical Fantasy
LC - Literary Criticism
LF - Literary Fiction
P - Paranormal
PA - Post-Apocalyptic
PM - Paranormal Mystery
PNR - Paranormal Romance
SF - Science Fiction
SP - Steampunk
Th - Thriller
UF - Urban Fantasy

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Melanie's Week in Review - November 29, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends and readers of this post. I hope you all had a wonderful day and lovely, delicious meals with friends and family. I need to get myself invited to someone's house for Thanksgiving as I miss pumpkin pie as it really isn't a British dessert. Feel free to send me one in the post. Anyway back to books.  What did I read?

You may remember a few weeks ago that I had started Raptor which is the 6th book in Lindsay Buroker's Dragon Blood series. In this instalment Lieutenant Caslin Ahn feels that she should be punished rather than praised for the events at the end of book 5. The last thing she wants to do  is pick up the soulblade that ended her friend's life. On the command of the King Ahn has no alternative but to pick up the evil sword to defend her friends and country. Will she survive....will they survive? well you will have to read it to find out.

I have been rather disappointed with the later books in this series as the dialogue between some of the characters has been too flippant and 'kooky' which hasn't been consistent with the plotline or the environment. Raptor slightly improves but not until much later in the story. I had been struggling to get back in the plot and found the story a bit slow moving at first. It was still slower than I would have liked but did pick up towards the end with a bit of a cliff hanger. Luckily the series finishes soon with the release of the final book in a few weeks.

In an attempt to tidy up my NetGalley shelves I realised that I hadn't yet finished Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal 1) by Zen Cho. This is one of books from September's Debut Author Challenge and I had been remiss in reading it in time for that. I really enjoyed this story and thought that Cho got the balance between story and characterisation just about right. Cho explores a few key themes throughout the story but it mainly centers on discrimination - discrimination based on race and discrimination based on sex. Zacharias Wythe is the rightful Sorcerer Royal but his fellow sorcerers don't believe he deserves the position as he is black and a former slave. The other main character, Prunella discovers she has magical powers but isn't allowed to reveal them as she is a woman. Set in the late 1800's women are far too delicate to be considered strong enough to wield any magic more powerful than what is required to make sure that dinner is cooked properly or the linens are well laundered.

I found this an enjoyable read even though the plot was a bit slow in parts. I think that Cho could have spent a little less time setting up Zacharias at the beginning of the story and more time developing his relationship with the other sorcerers towards the end of the story. Overall, this was as an excellent debut novel and I am looking forward to reading more of this series. (You may read an interview with Zen Cho here.)

Finally, a couple of short stories to finish off my week. I chose this book from my Amazon recommendations - Beneath a Waning Moon: a Duo of Gothic Romances. I am not the biggest fan of Elizabeth Hunter but I have enjoyed Grace Draven's novels. I was also inexplicably drawn to the cover. I loved the woman's long flowing gown and the way the folds ripple and cascade down the steps. I thought it was rather painterly.

There are two short stories - The Very Proper Monster by Elizabeth Hunter which tells the story of Josephine Shaw who is full of live and energy yet, dying of tuberculosis. Everything changes when she marries Tom Dargin, a vampire unbeknownst to her, to save her father's legacy. This a good old fashioned story of how love comes in the most unsuspecting forms and and the most unsuspecting times.

Story 2 - Gaslight Hades has hints of Jane Austen's Persuasion to it but this time the Captain Frederick Wentworth character is a monster - the soul of one man in the body of another. Nathaniel Gorden thought his life had been reduced to guarding Highgate cemetery until one day his lost love Lenore Kenward strolls back into his life. Once dead, now Nathanial is very much alive and so is his love of Lenore.

Short stories need only short reviews (in my humble opinion). Hunter's short story can only be described as 'twee'. Josephine was fairly one dimensional and I felt Tom was a bit of a whiner. I ended up skipping some pages at the end. Draven's story had much more depth to it and I liked both of the lead characters. Not an unpleasant end to the week but just a teeny tiny bit dull.

That is all for me this week. I hope you all have a great week ahead and Happy Reading.

Dragon Blood 6
Lindsay Buroker, October 27, 2015
eBook, 354 pages

Responsible for her friend’s death, Lieutenant Caslin Ahn wants nothing more than to be left alone. She no longer deserves the company of comrades or the fulfillment she felt as a Wolf Squadron fighter pilot. But a summons from the king leaves her with no choice but to rejoin her teammates. An ancient evil has been unleashed, bringing death and destruction to the nation, and they are the only ones with a chance of stopping it.

Dragon Blood 6 brings back Cas, Tolemek, Ridge, Sardelle, Kaika, and Tylie, as well as her dragon, for a new epic fantasy adventure.

Sorcerer to the Crown
Sorcerer Royal 1
Ace, September 1, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

In this sparkling debut, magic and mayhem clash with the British elite…

The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, one of the most respected organizations throughout all of England, has long been tasked with maintaining magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman—a freed slave who doesn’t even have a familiar—as their Sorcerer Royal, and allowing England’s once profuse stores of magic to slowly bleed dry. At least they haven’t stooped so low as to allow women to practice what is obviously a man’s profession…

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers and eminently proficient magician, ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up. But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…

Beneath a Waning Moon: A Duo of Gothic Romances
Hunter/Draven, September 29, 2015 (eBook)
CreateSpace, October 20, 2015 (Trade Paperback)

Two delightfully dark tales of Gothic romance from Elizabeth Hunter and Grace Draven.

In A VERY PROPER MONSTER, Josephine Shaw spends long nights filling the pages of her Gothic stories with the fantastic and the macabre, unaware that the suitor her father has arranged is one of the dark creatures she’s always dreamed. For Tom Dargin, courting an ailing spinster was only one duty in a long life of service to his sire. But after he meets the curious Miss Shaw, will Tom become the seducer or the seduced? Can a love fated to end in tragedy survive a looming grave?

In GASLIGHT HADES, Nathaniel Gordon walks two worlds—that of the living and the dead. Barely human, he's earned the reputation of a Bonekeeper, the scourge of grave robbers. He believes his old life over, until one dreary burial he meets the woman he once loved and almost married. Lenore Kenward stands at her father’s grave, begging the protection of the mysterious guardian, not knowing he is her lost love. Resolved to keep his distance, Nathaniel is forced to abandon his plan and accompany Lenore on a journey into the mouth of Hell where sea meets sky, and the abominations that exist beyond its barrier wait to destroy them.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Interview with Kate Ormand, author of The Wanderers and Dark Days

Please welcome Kate Ormand to The Qwillery. The Wanderers was published on September 1st by Sky Pony Press.

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Kate:  Thank you for having me! I started writing around 4 years ago while at university, where I was studying Fine Art.

TQAre you a plotter or a pantser?

Kate:  Pantser. I work out important details but I find it hard to plan in depth before starting something. I’d rather get going on a first draft, then work things out after that when I have something to run with.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Kate:  The first draft. I’m doing NaNoWriMo at the moment, for the first time, and finding it so hard! I think it’s great for motivation and to get a big chunk of a new project written, but it’s tough.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Kate Harry Potter got me into reading again. Maggie Stiefvater's books led me to discover young-adult books. And The Hunger Games introduced me to a genre I fell in love with.

TQDescribe The Wanderers in 140 characters or less.

Kate:  “About a sixteen-year-old traveling with a shape-shifter circus, and a betrayal in camp that threatens the lives of them all.”

TQTell us something about The Wanderers that is not found in the book description.

Kate:  The main character’s shape is a horse! She shifts and performs at the circus in her animal form.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Wanderers? Is this a novel that a tween/teen and parent may read together?

Kate:  I got the idea when I saw a circus poster, and I said, “What if I wrote a circus book where all the animals were shape-shifters?” And then I couldn’t stop thinking about it! I think it would be fun for a teen and parent to both read the novel and discuss it together (if you don't mind a bit of violence and gore).

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Wanderers?

Kate:  Lots! The main research was for the circus itself and getting that right.

TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Kate:  Flo was easiest. I felt a connection with her from the start and we’re quite alike. Pru was probably the most difficult, even though she was fun, because she was hard to figure out at first. She didn’t join the group in their escape in the first draft and was left behind, but after a while I really fell for her and wanted to spend more time with her so I extended her part.

TQWhich themes do you touch upon in The Wanderers?

Kate:  High action, romance, jeopardy and betrayal - everything I love to find in the books I read!

TQWhat's next?

Kate:  The sequel! The Pack will be released in 2017 and I’m currently in the process of writing it.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The Wanderers
Sky Pony Press, September 1, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages
(Young Adult Fantasy/Paranormal)

A Unique Twist on Shape-Shifters with Fast-Paced Action, Thrilling Adventure, Mystery, and a Bit of Romance

Flo lives an eccentric life—she travels with a popular circus in which the main acts star orphaned children with secret shape-shifting abilities. Once Flo turns sixteen, she must perform, but she’s not ready. While practicing jumping a flaming hurdle in a clearing beside the circus, she spots a dark figure in the trees and fears he saw her shift. The news sends the circus into a panic.

In Flo’s world, shifters are unknown to humans with the exception of a secret organization—the EOS, referred to as “hunters.” Hunters capture and kill. They send some shifters to labs for observation and testing—testing they don’t often survive—and deem others useless, a danger to society, and eliminate them. To avoid discovery, shifters travel in packs, constantly moving and keeping themselves hidden. Up until now, the circus was the perfect disguise.

Believing she has brought attention to the group, Flo feels dread and anxiety, causing her to make a mistake during her performance in front of the audience—a mistake that triggers a violent attack from the hunters.

Flo manages to flee the torched circus grounds with Jett, the bear shifter who loves her; the annoying elephant triplets; and a bratty tiger named Pru. Together they begin a new journey, alone in a world they don’t understand and don’t know how to navigate. On the run, they unravel secrets and lies that surround the circus and their lives—secrets and lies that all point to the unthinkable: Have they been betrayed by the people they trusted most?

About Kate

Kate Ormand is YA author of DARK DAYS and shape-shifter circus series, THE WANDERERS and THE PACK. She lives in the UK with her family, her partner, and a cocker spaniel called Freddie. She graduated from university with a first class degree in Fine Art Painting. It was during this course that Kate discovered her love of reading YA books, prompting her to try a new creative angle and experiment with writing. Kate is also member and co-creator of an online group of published writers and illustrators called Author Allsorts. And she writes children’s picture books under the name Kate Louise. Kate is represented by Isabel Atherton at Creative Authors Ltd. You can see more about Kate and her writing by visiting her website ( or on Twitter (@kateormand).

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Interview with Beth Vrabel

Please welcome Beth Vrabel to The Qwillery. A Blind Guide to Stinkville was published on October 6th by Sky Pony Press.

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Beth:  Thank you for having me! I wrote my first story when I was small, maybe eight years old. My mom said, “You know what, Beth? Someday you’re going to write a story and it’s going to be published.” That’s all it took for me to fall headfirst in love with storytelling. I’ve been writing ever since. I left journalism to delve into creative writing after my children were born.

TQAre you a plotter or a pantser?

Beth:  A mix! So I guess I’m a plontser? I usually start with a character and build the story around that person. I sketch out the key points in a notebook that I get a little Gollum-esque around. It is precious to me. In a different notebook, I scribble out what needs to happen in whatever chapter I’m working on that day. Not all the details, just a few tidbits. More often than not, the characters lead me in a slightly different direction, and rather than being tied to my notes, I love when that happens. Having your characters tell you the story is pure magic.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Beth:  I think it’s the self-doubt. This can be such a lonely process, digging deeper and deeper into yourself until you find the truth you need to share. Pulling it to the surface, polishing it and putting it out there for others requires a lot of vulnerability.

TQDescribe A Blind Guide to Stinkville in 140 characters or less.

Beth:  When her parents plan to enroll her in a school for the blind, Alice sets out to prove everyone faces challenges. Some are even born with them.

(Okay, fine. It’s 145 characters!)

TQTell us something about A Blind Guide to Stinkville that is not found in the book description.

Beth:  A Blind Guide to Stinkville features a taco-plosion, a possibly rabid squirrel and fire-breathing peacock. One of these is a lie. You’ll have to read the book to find out which one.

TQWhat inspired you to write A Blind Guide to Stinkville? Which themes are you touching on in A Blind Guide to Stinkville and is this a novel that parents and children should read together?

Beth:  Great questions! My daughter has a form of albinism, though it is much, much milder than Alice’s case. Where Alice is legally blind, my daughter is considered low vision; in fact, most people who meet her are unaware that her eyes work different. But it’s a sore point with my daughter to come across the typical depiction of albinism in media. Often, people with albinism are portrayed as mystical, evil or other-worldly. Visually impaired people are shown as all knowing and ever peaceful. I was inspired to write a story about a smart, goofy, kind twelve-year-old girl who just happens to have albinism.

The book hinges on two ideas: everyone faces challenges; everybody has a story. Some of people’s challenges, like Alice’s albinism and blindness, are obvious. Others are more easily hid but just as tough to manage. As Alice learns to navigate her new town, she confronts this first idea again and again—from Mr. Hamlin’s loneliness to Mayor Hank’s hubris to Sandi’s learning disability. At home, Alice’s mom is grappling with depression. But Alice also sees that these obstacles do not define any of them. Their stories are much richer and more beautiful than their challenges.

With that in mind, I do hope that parents will read the book with their children. There are opportunities to use A Blind Guide to Stinkville as a jumping off point to share our own stories. Someone wrote to me recently that A Blind Guide to Stinkville was a gateway for her to discuss her own struggles with depression with her son in healthy, comfortable way. That means so much to me.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for A Blind Guide to Stinkville?

Beth:  Sinkville is a paper mill town, much like my hometown of Spring Grove, Pennsylvania. I relied on stories I had heard growing up about my hometown’s history, including creating a massive lake over farmland, to create the fictional town of Sinkville.

When it was time for Kerica to share her story, I contacted Historic Columbia and spoke with historians about what life might’ve been like in a small town surrounding the city during the Civil Rights era.

TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Beth:  The answer to both those questions is Alice. She was the easiest to write because she had such a distinct voice from the get-go. I admire people with open hearts like Alice. Sharing her story was a joy.

But she also was the hardest character to write. Since the story is from her perspective, I couldn’t establish settings based on visual cues alone. Often times Alice talks about squeezing her eyes shut so she could “see” what was happening in her mind. Thinking about the world in terms other than simply how I physically see it was a challenge, but one I’m happy I took on.

TQWhich question about A Blind Guide to Stinkville do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

BethWhat would you order at Gretel’s diner? A cheeseburger basket and a milkshake with coffee ice cream and Heath bar sprinkles. (In Alice’s world, I am not lactose intolerant. And calories don’t count.)

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines/paragraphs from A Blind Guide to Stinkville.

Beth:  I’d love to! These are a few paragraphs from when Alice first sees the Sinkville Sycamore, a hundreds-year-old tree in her new town. This tree is inspired by the Pinchot Sycamore, a landmark near where I live in Connecticut.
          I want to say that the tree was beautiful. But it wasn’t. It was hideous. Huge, massive, twisty, ugly. But somehow, that made it majestic. I thought about what it had blindly faced in two hundred years. Sure, it was rooted in the same spot, but how many storms had it weathered? How many times had lightening threatened one of its limbs? It had stayed still and stubborn through the rise of the town. It breathed in thousands of people’s air, exhaling oxygen. How many lovebirds carved their names in its bark? Kerica counted a dozen aged hearts; certainly there were more that she couldn’t see. How many fights had it heard? How many birds’ nests had it cradled? How many dirty toes and fingers had scrambled up its sides? Even though it always stayed still, the tree never stopped changing. Its bark broke away to reveal smoother, paler bark below as it grew.
Giving up on my sketch, I tried to lock the image of the tree in my mind instead. I didn’t realize my eyes were closed until I felt Mayor Hank’s breath on my head. I opened my eyes and saw that he was waiting for some kind of response from me. About the tree. Maybe about Sinkville. Maybe about me.
          But then again, I thought, maybe some people saw this and just thought, wow, what a big tree. I tried to swallow down all the huge thoughts that shadowed my mind while standing under the sycamore. Then I looked more closely at Mayor Hank and realized I didn’t have to. He got it.

TQWhat's next?

Beth:  I’m so glad you asked! I have two releases coming up: CAMP DORK, the next book in the PACK OF DORKS series, hits shelves in May. Lucy and the rest of the gang head to summer camp, and this time the bully they face might just be one of them.

And in October, A BLIND GUIDE TO NORMAL releases. This story focuses on Ryder, a character memorably introduced toward the end of STINKVILLE. Ryder, who lost an eye due to retinoblastoma, transfers from Addison School for the Blind to attend eighth-grade in “normal” school. But when his first day of school includes causing his biology teacher to pass out, accidentally-on-purpose humiliating the class hero, and falling hard for the fierce girl next door, Ryder quickly learns “normal” isn’t all that great.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

A Blind Guide to Stinkville
Sky Pony Press, October 6, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 264 pages
(Ages 8 to 12, Grades 2 to 7)

Before Stinkville, Alice didn’t think albinism—or the blindness that goes with it—was a big deal. Sure, she uses a magnifier to read books. And a cane keeps her from bruising her hips on tables. Putting on sunscreen and always wearing a hat are just part of life. But life has always been like this for Alice. Until Stinkville.

For the first time in her life, Alice feels different—like she’s at a disadvantage. Back in her old neighborhood in Seattle, everyone knew Alice, and Alice knew her way around. In Stinkville, Alice finds herself floundering—she can’t even get to the library on her own. But when her parents start looking into schools for the blind, Alice takes a stand. She’s going to show them—and herself—that blindness is just a part of who she is, not all that she can be. To prove it, Alice enters the Stinkville Success Stories essay contest. No one, not even her new friend Kerica, believes she can scout out her new town’s stories and write the essay by herself. The funny thing is, as Alice confronts her own blindness, everyone else seems to see her for the first time.

This is a stirring small-town story that explores many different issues—albinism, blindness, depression, dyslexia, growing old, and more—with a light touch and lots of heart. Beth Vrabel’s characters are complicated and messy, but they come together in a story about the strength of community and friendship.

About Beth

Beth Vrabel grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. She won a short-story contest in fourth grade and promptly decided writing was what she was going to do with her life. After graduating from Pennsylvania State University with a degree in journalism, she moved through the ranks of a local newspaper to become editor of two regional magazines and a lifestyle columnist. Beth’s previous book, Pack of Dorks, received a starred Kirkus review, other positive trade reviews, and was selected for Kirkus’s roundup of the Best Middle-Grade Realism of 2014. Beth lives with her husband, two children, a spoiled-rotten puppy, and Frodo the guinea pig in Canton, Connecticut.

Website ~ Twitter @beth_vrabel ~ Facebook

Monday, November 23, 2015

Interview with Michael Livingston, author of The Shards of Heaven

Please welcome Michael Livingston to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews and The Shards of Heaven Blog Tour. The Shards of Heaven will be published on November 24th by Tor Books.

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Michael:  Hi there! Thanks for having me.

I started writing stories as a kid, and the encouragement of my teachers really helped me to aspire to the craft. In fact, I started down the path to becoming a professor in part because I thought it would leave me with blissfully free summers in which I could write novels. Little did I know that I would need to be writing academic books, too!

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

MichaelThe Shards of Heaven features a rather intricate series of plots and point of view characters, and it's situated amid the real events of history -- all of which means that at some level I need to be a plotter. The history has to work.

At the same time, my outline is actually nothing more than a simple spreadsheet that describes the events of each chapter in one or two sentences. So I afford myself as much room as possible within that script to let my characters take over.

I guess that makes me a hybrid.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Michael:  As a professor I have a fairly busy life of teaching, grading, and doing research and writing on the academic side of my life. So finding the time to get into the mindset of my fiction is by far the most difficult thing for me. I've had to learn to keep the Muse on speed-dial, ready and waiting for any chance I get to steal an hour of time here or there to write.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Michael:  My tastes in literature are really quite diverse, from medieval writers like Chaucer to modern writers like Brandon Sanderson. On my shelf you'll find J.R.R. Tolkien next to Tennyson, Dan Simmons next to Shakespeare, and Parke Godwin next to Gilgamesh. I try to learn something from every author I've read.

TQDescribe The Shards of Heaven in 140 characters or less.

Michael:  It is history and fantasy colliding at the rise of the Roman Empire as Caesar's children fight to control the artifacts of gods old and new.

TQTell us something about The Shards of Heaven that is not found in the book description.

Michael:  At its core, this novel is about fashioning a reality from the fog of mythology. I have long been fascinated by the similarities between various legends of the ancient world, and so I tried to find a hidden thread that would bind them all together into a historical adventure that's part Indiana Jones and part Game of Thrones.

As an added bonus, if you liked Pullo and Vorenus from the HBO series 'Rome', I'm pleased to say that they ride again in this book.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Shards of Heaven? What appeals to you about writing Historical Fantasy?

MichaelThe Shards of Heaven is actually the backstory for another Historical Fantasy I started writing years ago. It grew so intricate and interesting that I realized it simply needed to be told on its own merit.

As for my interest in Historical Fantasy, it really stems from my interest in both worlds: I was trained as a historian, but I've always loved the fantastic. Like J.R.R. Tolkien, another professor of medieval literature who wrote his fantasies in his spare time, I have simply grown fascinated with the holes in our knowledge about the past, and the exciting tapestries we can weave through them.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Shards of Heaven?

Michael:  Given the strong historical element, I write with stacks of research at hand: whether that constitutes the tactics of a battle, the archaeological remains of a temple, or the technological workings of ancient armor, I need to know everything I can about my topic. My hope is that this knowledge base doesn't overwhelm the story but instead quietly percolates under its surface, making it all the more real.

Plus, I think it will lead to some surprises when those who know the history come across the various Easter eggs I've slipped into the narrative.

TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Michael:  The easiest point-of-view character for me was Didymus, the chief librarian of the Great Library in Alexandria. He's a polymath, and while I wouldn't call myself that I do recognize the thirst he has for knowledge. He needs to know, and that need runs so deep it can be all-consuming. For better or worse, I never had any problem facing the question of what someone like that would do or say.

Far more difficult for me at the beginning was the daughter of Cleopatra and Mark Antony, Cleopatra Selene. She's a headstrong little girl in the novel -- something I have no experience being! -- but historically she grows up to become one of the most remarkable rulers of her age. It was hard to get that balance right at first, but as I'm writing her in the sequels I'm finding she's one of my favorite characters to engage. I hope readers will adore her as much as I do.

TQPlease tell us a bit about the historical Juba II on which your character is based.

Michael:  Juba II, like Cleopatra Selene, is an amazing historical figure who should be far better known. His father, the king of Numidia, fought against Julius Caesar and ultimately chose suicide over being paraded through Rome in Caesar's Triumph. Young Juba was taken into Caesar's household as an adopted son -- an act intended to demonstrate his mercy. Add into this potent background his ethnic separation from the Romans surrounding him and the passionate intellectualism that ruled his life, and you could hardly ask for a more fascinating figure to build a story around.

For more about what he does, and the power he learns to wield, read the book!

TQWhich question about The Shards of Heaven do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!


Q: In your book, several of your characters decide that God is dead. Do you anticipate any hate mail from that?

A: I don't think that's a terribly shocking thing for my characters to conclude, but if it does bother anyone, I hope they don't write me about it. I hope instead they purchase boxes and boxes of my books and burn them. On live TV. You simply can't buy that kind of publicity.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Shards of Heaven.

Michael:  My favorite passage is this:

Like a sudden exhalation, matched with an echoing boom that reverberated in Vorenus' chest, the rain came back against them, stinging like a thousand tiny arrows.

And behind the rain came the roar of an angry god.

TQWhat's next?

Michael:  I'm polishing off The Temples of the Ark right now, which is the sequel to The Shards of Heaven. It is scheduled for release in November of 2016. The adventure of the Shards, I'm happy to say, is just getting started!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Michael:  Thank you for having me. Happy reading, everyone!

The Shards of Heaven
The Shards of Heaven 1
Tor Books, November 24, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages

Julius Caesar is dead, assassinated on the senate floor, and the glory that is Rome has been torn in two. Octavian, Caesar's ambitious great-nephew and adopted son, vies with Marc Antony and Cleopatra for control of Caesar's legacy. As civil war rages from Rome to Alexandria, and vast armies and navies battle for supremacy, a secret conflict may shape the course of history.

Juba, Numidian prince and adopted brother of Octavian, has embarked on a ruthless quest for the Shards of Heaven, lost treasures said to possess the very power of the gods-or the one God. Driven by vengeance, Juba has already attained the fabled Trident of Poseidon, which may also be the staff once wielded by Moses. Now he will stop at nothing to obtain the other Shards, even if it means burning the entire world to the ground.

Caught up in these cataclysmic events, and the hunt for the Shards, are a pair of exiled Roman legionnaires, a Greek librarian of uncertain loyalties, assassins, spies, slaves . . . and the ten-year-old daughter of Cleopatra herself.

Michael Livingston's The Shards of Heaven reveals the hidden magic behind the history we know, and commences a war greater than any mere mortal battle.

About Michael

MICHAEL LIVINGSTON holds degrees in history, medieval studies, and English. He is an Associate Professor of English at the Citadel, specializing in the Middle Ages. His short fiction has been published in Black Gate, Shimmer, Paradox, and Nature.
  ~   Twitter @MedievalGuy

The View From Monday - November 23, 2015

Happy Monday before Thanksgiving (in the US). Please note that The Qwillery will probably not post on the 25th and 26th so that all of us may also enjoy T-Day.

There is one debut this week: The Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston.

From formerly featured Debut Author Challenge Authors:

Heir to the Jedi: Star Wars by Kevin Hearne is out in Mass Market Paperback;


Yesterday's Hero (Arthur Wallace 2) by Jonathan Wood is also out in Mass Market Paperback.

November 24, 2015
Feel the Burn G.A. Aiken PNR - Dragonkin 8
A Vision of Fire (h2tp) Gillian Anderson
Jeff Rovin
SF - Earthend Saga 1
Black Heart Holly Black UF - Curse Workers 3
Luke Skywalker Can't Read: And Other Geeky Truths Ryan Britt PopCul/LC/SF
Convergence Point (e) Liana Brooks SF - Time & Shadows Mystery 2
Child of Two Worlds Greg Cox SF - Star Trek: The Original Series
Andromeda's War (h2mm) William C. Dietz SF/AA - Legion of the Damned
Dinosaurs and a Dirigible (tp2mm) David Drake SF/TT - Collection
Wild Cat Christine Feehan PNR - Leopard 7
1636: The Viennese Waltz (h2mm) Eric Flint
Gorg Huff
AH - The Ring of Fire 18
Bound in Darkness Jacquelyn Frank PNR - The Immortal Brothers 3
The Dead Play On (h2mm) Heather Graham Th/Sus/P - Cafferty & Quinn 3
Chimera Mira Grant H - Parasitology 3
The Magicians (TV Tie-In Edition) Lev Grossman F - Magician 1
Heir to the Jedi: Star Wars (h2mm) Kevin Hearne SF - Star Wars
The Eye of the World: The Graphic Novel, Volume Five Robert Jordan F/GN - Wheel of Time
The Seventh Bride T. Kingfisher FairyT/FolkT/L&M
Stars in Your Eyes Lynn Kurland TTR - De Piaget 17
The King's Deryni (h2mm) (ri) Katherine Kurtz F - Deryni 3
The Shards of Heaven (D) Michael Livingston HistF - The Shards of Heaven 1
Dragon Storm Katie MacAlister PNR - Dragon Fall 2
Giving Up the Ghost Max McCoy PM - Ophelia Wylde Occult Mystery 3
The Golem of Solomon's Way Jon Messenger SP - Magic & Machinery 3
Burned (h2mm) Karen Marie Moning PNR - Fever 7
The Country of Ice Cream Star (h2tp) Sandra Newman LF/Dys
The Morcai Battalion: Invictus Diana Palmer SF - The Morcai Battalion 3
Doctor Who: The Secret Lives of Monsters (h2tp) Justin Richards SF - Doctor Who
Charmed: Let Gorgons Be Gorgons Part 2 (e) Paul Ruditis UF - Charmed
Charmed: Let Gorgons Be Gorgons Part 1 (e) Paul Ruditis UF - Charmed
Charmed: Let Gorgons Be Gorgons Part 4 (e) Paul Ruditis UF - Charmed
Charmed: Let Gorgons Be Gorgons Part 3 (e) Paul Ruditis UF - Charmed
Cast in Honor Michelle Sagara F - The Chronicles of Elantra 12
The Bite of Winter (e) Lauren Smith PNR - Love Bites 1
Positive (h2mm) David Wellington H
Double Contact (e)(ri) James White SF - Sector General 14
Yesterday's Hero (tp2mm) Jonathan Wood UF - Arthur Wallace 2

November 26, 2015
Blurring the Line (e) Marty Young (ed)
Geoff Brown (ed)

November 28, 2015
Beneath an Oil-Dark Sea Caitlin R. Kiernan SF/F/H - Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan 2

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

AA - Action Adventure
AH - Alternate History
Dys - Dystopian
F - Fantasy
FairyT - Fairy Tale
FolkT - Folk Tale
GN -  Graphic Novel
H - Horror
HistF - Historical Fantasy
L&M - Legend and Myth
LC - Literary Criticism
LF - Literary Fiction
P - Paranormal
PM - Paranormal Mystery
PNR - Paranormal Romance
PopCul - Popular Culture
SF - Science Fiction
SP - Steampunk
Sus - Suspense
Th - Thriller
TT - Time Travel
TTR - Time Travel Romance
UF - Urban Fantasy

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Melanie's Week in Review - November 22, 2015

When the weather outside is frightful and the fire inside is delightful....let it snow let it snow let it snow. Believe it or not it snowed today. It only lasted 10 minutes and melted before it hit the ground but snow is unusual England especially in November. I bet you are wondering why I am giving you a weather report well snow and cold  = an excuse to wrap stay on the couch all day with a good book. Bring on the snow! Anyway, what did I read?

I am going to start with one of the most HILARIOUS books I have read in a long time - The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone. Dahlia is down on her luck, no job, no prospects of finding one and living off the generosity of her friend Charice. No one is more surprised than Dahlia when she is hired by to locate and return a stolen spear. Not just any spear but the Bejeweled Spear of Infinite Piercing, a prized possession in Kingdoms of Zoth. Dahlia isn't sure whether she is more surprised to be hired as an private investigator, a job she has not qualified to do or whether what she has been hired to find is part of a video game. Her very first case is turned on its head when her client ends up murdered by the real-life replica of the sword she was hired to find. Dahlia's on the case whether she wants to be or not.

I really enjoyed Dahlia's tale. Wirestone is very, very witty and is one of the first authors I have come across that is able to make Dahlia's witty dialogue sound exactly that, rather than making her sound like a perpetually wise cracking joker.  The main focus of the plot is the multi player role playing game - Kingdoms of Zoth - oh and the murder, of course.  I thought the scenes where Dahlia is 'in game' especially  amusing but I believe that even if you aren't a fan of video games you will still enjoy the story. Dahlia is a great character and you can't help but cheer on this down on her luck gal. I hope that Wirestone has more in store for this great character.

I had the opportunity to read a couple of short stories. One such short was Brighter Than the Sun by Darynda Jones. This time the story is told from Reyes POV starting when he is just a young boy until he first meets Charley. This gives us more insight into Reyes' past and how the abuse he suffers as a child shapes him as an adult. We also get the opportunity to see more of his relationship with his sister and what he withstands in order to protect her. I thought this short story was OK. Without Charley (or should I say with her in the periphery) there seemed to be something missing. I think that Reyes needs to be developed a bit more in order to carry a story on his own. Once Jones gets past telling us about Reyes' past it may just be him giving Charley the 'googly love eyes.

The final story I have to tell you about is Domnall and the Borrowed Child by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley. Domnall is old and his bones hurt when it rains but even so he is still the fae's best scout. When Maeve asks him to get Mother's Milk to save a sick fae child he knows he can't say no. Unfortunately, the baby 'switch-a-roo' doesn't go quite to plan but a baby's live is at stake so Domnall does what it takes to save the child.

This as an enjoyable short story. It was also a tiny bit sad at the end and not quite the happy ending I was expecting but good nonetheless.

That is it for me this week. I am quite satisfied with my reads this week as I have had a few disappointing weeks lately. Until next week Happy Reading.

The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss
Redhook / Orbit, October 20, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages
Review Copy: Provided by the Publisher

For fans of The Guild, New Girl, Scott Pilgrim, Big Bang Theory, Veronica Mars, or anyone who has ever geeked out about something.

The odds of Dahlia successfully navigating adulthood are 3,720 to 1. But never tell her the odds.

Meet Dahlia Moss, the reigning queen of unfortunate decision-making in the St. Louis area. Unemployed broke, and on her last bowl of ramen, she's not living her best life. But that's all about to change.

Before Dahlia can make her life any messier on her own she's offered a job. A job that she's woefully under-qualified for. A job that will lead her to a murder, an MMORPG, and possibly a fella (or two?).

Turns out unfortunate decisions abound, and she's just the girl to deal with them.

Brighter Than the Sun
A Reyes Alexander Farrow Story
     Charley Davidson 8.5
St. Martin's Press, October 6, 2015
eBook, 112 pages

All his life, Reyes Alexander Farrow has suffered the torments of the damned. Only one thing has given him hope: the woman who radiates a light that no mortals can see; a light that only the departed can see...

Told from his point of view, BRIGHTER THAN THE SUN chronicles the first time Reyes ever encountered Charley, and how their relationship has been the one thing that can either save him or doom him.

Domnall and the Borrowed Child, November 10, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 112 pages
Review Copy: Provided by the Publisher

The best and bravest faeries fell in the war against the Sluagh, and now the Council is packed with idiots and cowards. Domnall is old, aching, and as cranky as they come, but as much as he'd like to retire, he's the best scout the Sithein court has left.

When a fae child falls deathly ill, Domnall knows he's the only one who can get her the medicine she needs: Mother's milk. The old scout will face cunning humans, hungry wolves, and uncooperative sheep, to say nothing of his fellow fae!