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Guest Blog by Doyce Testerman - The Joy of Writing YA: An Outsider's Perspective

Please welcome Doyce Testerman to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Hidden Things was published on on August 21, 2012.


Guest Blog by Doyce Testerman - The Joy of Writing YA: An Outsider's Perspective



The Joy of Writing YA: An Outsider's Perspective 

A few weeks ago, during an interview, someone asked me what I saw as the future of Urban Fantasy (we'd agreed, for the span of the interview, to pretend that Hidden Things was part of that genre, which is only true if you look at it from the right direction and squint a little, but that's okay).

My paraphrased response: "If it's very, very lucky, it's going to become something like YA."

This answer spun off of a conversation I've had with my wife, who knows a little bit about YA. Those types of books are a passion for her. I completely agree with this passion, but “YA” as a category of books makes me unreasonably jealous (as a writer of stuff-that-isn't-YA); it seems to me that the question of whether or not a book is YA (or middle-grade) pretty much boils down to “how old is the protagonist?” If the protag’s about the right age to fall within the target audience of such books, and the subject matter isn’t too dark, then you’re YA.

As I was saying, it bugged me, because the whole thing just kind of seemed like an excellent kind of cheating. We argued about discussed that for awhile, and the fruitful result of that conversation looked something like this.
  1. All the ‘real’ genres of fiction exist within the YA (or MG) age-grouping. 
  2. While that is true, consumers don’t see that because YA is not usually separated out by genre in bookstores or libraries in the way in which adult books are. 
  3.  (And this is a big one.) That may be one of the big reasons why YA is so popular and successful right now.
Here’s what I mean. Take a look at your local book store. Or Amazon. Or whatever. Look at those signs over the book shelves. Mystery. Suspense. Literary Fiction. History. Science Fiction. Fantasy. Romance. Travel…

… and Young Adult.

There, all by itself, with no subheadings to be seen, are all the books aimed at YA readers, lumped together. Sweet Valley High rubbing up against Twilight. Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes next to Two Minute Drill. Mockingjay halfway down the shelf from Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Dogs and cats, living together. Mass hysteria.

Or, possibly, genius -- a pure gift to not only readers, but writers.

See, if I’m browsing for books in the local store, I go to the genres I enjoy, right? For me, that means I go poke around in the Science Fiction and Fantasy section for awhile – fine: a couple hours, whatever – and then I’m pretty much done.

The odds that I’m going to run across an interesting biography during that time? Low. The same goes for randomly picking up, reading the cover copy on, and buying No Country for Old Men, or the latest hot suspense thriller. Not going to happen. I have a friend who is a huge Stephen King fan, but until I mentioned it last week, she had no idea he’d written an nearly autobiographical book called On Writing.

Why? It’s in another section of the store from the one she normal visits.

But over in the YA section (of the bookstore or amazon.com or whatever), the odds of that sort of thing happening — cross-genre reader pollination, if you will — are exponentially higher, simply because everything under an incredibly broad umbrella is lumped together. It's really no coincidence that some of the best fiction out there right now is in YA, because the writer’s genre shackles are gone, the reader’s expectation are wide open, and in that kind of environment anything can happen.

Let me tell you about me-as-a-young-reader: William S. Burroughs? I was there. Random “sports” novels? Sure. Catcher in the Rye? Yep. Alfred Hitchcock collections? Of course. Stephen King? Heck yeah. Trixie Belden? All 34 books in the series, throw in the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew as a snack, and chase the whole thing down with The Lord of the Rings. Then The Old Man and the Sea for dessert.

Today? I pretty much stick to my genres of interest.

Why? Well, mostly because I don’t see the other stuff.

But the YA readers see stuff from all different genres. More importantly, they pick up, check out, and decide to read stuff from all different genres. Because it’s there, and ultimately they are readers and they (like the grown-ups) just like good stories.

I don’t think I’m any less voracious a reader than I was as a kid. I don’t think anyone is. But as adults we tend to read less broadly than we used to because as we allow ourselves to age out of the YA section, our reading selection gets segregated.

Then we buy less, because we’ve ‘read everything’.

Which brings me back to Urban Fantasy as the terrible (yet wonderful), almost uselessly broad genre heading that it is. This kind of vague categorization could become almost the same kind of catch-all treasure trove as YA. It's almost there, and the closer it gets the more it creates a wonderful head space where writers can can ignore genre entirely and just write; just do their best work and put it out there without worrying about which shelf it's going to end up on or whether it has 'too much' horror or not enough sullen vampire or way too many dragons hiding in otherwise unremarkable cornfields. A place where a reader can start browsing a few books down from an author they know and love and stumble over something really cool they've not only not read, but never even heard of.

What an amazing thing, if we could make our strange little sub-genre do all that.

Shall we?



About Hidden Things
Hidden Things
Harper Voyager, August 21, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Guest Blog by Doyce Testerman - The Joy of Writing YA: An Outsider's Perspective
Watch out for the hidden things . . . That's the last thing Calliope Jenkins's best friend says to her before ending a two a.m. phone call from Iowa, where he's working a case she knows little about. Seven hours later, she gets a visit from the police. Josh has been found dead, and foul play is suspected. Calliope is stunned. Especially since Josh left a message on her phone an hour after his body was found. Spurred by grief and suspicion, Calli heads to Iowa herself, accompanied by a stranger who claims to know something about what happened to Josh and who can— maybe—help her get him back. But the road home is not quite the straight shot she imagined . . .



About Doyce

Guest Blog by Doyce Testerman - The Joy of Writing YA: An Outsider's Perspective
Doyce Testerman was born and raised in the wilds of South Dakota, where he developed an early and lifelong love affair with the written word, especially stories that included a bit more magic, mayhem, or mystery than one typically finds around a Midwestern farm. He moved to Denver in 1995, where he has steadily ceded control of his weekends to two dogs, his brilliant wife, and two astounding children. He has been a professional writer for over a decade, and his work has appeared in a number of online magazines related to pen-and-paper roleplaying games, computer games and MMOs, and fiction. Hidden Things is his first published novel.

Website : Twitter @doycet : Facebook

Guest Blog by Rob DeBorde, author of Portlandtown - Zombie 3.0

Please welcome Rob DeBorde to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Portlandtown (A Tale of the Oregon Wyldes 1), Rob's fiction debut, will be published on October 16, 2012.


Guest Blog by Rob DeBorde, author of Portlandtown - Zombie 3.0


Zombie 3.0

I like zombies. Check that—I love zombies. I love the way they lurch. It’s both amusing and terrifying, usually at the same time. Sure, you can run, but a brisk walk is all you really need to get out of harm’s way. In that sense, the zombie experience is a lot like life: you’re going to die in the end, but if you’re smart and in reasonably good shape you’ll survive long enough to see most of the third act.

Given my fondness for dead things it should come as no surprise that my first novel prominently features more than a few perambulatory corpses. The primary villain, while not strictly a zombie, is definitely not a warm body. He has issues with the living. Go Team Zombie!

Imagine my concern upon hearing that zombies as a pop culture icon had recently been pronounced dead. According to those who track such things, the undead are well past their allotted 15 minutes and the time has come for a new monster to crawl out of our collective subconscious and onto a movie screen near you. While I can certainly understand the motivation to make such a claim, I’m not buying it. Bury them as deep as you want, zombies aren’t going away. They’re simply evolving.

The first wave of modern zombies arrived in 1968 with the release of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. That’s your classic zombie right there—pale, slow, relentless. It took a few years for the movement to get lurching (hey, they’re zombies), but by the time Michael Jackson was dancing in the street with a bunch of jazz-hand waving ghouls, the zombie menace had found its footing. And then a bunch of crappy movies made it go away.

The second coming of the undead was heralded by the release of the original Resident Evil videogame in 1996. Here were Romero’s foot-dragging slack-jaws returned from the dead, but somehow more terrifying (probably because they could actually kill you this time, albeit in pixilated form). Videogames led the charge with countless Z-rated titles, but the rest of pop culture eventually caught on giving us such seminal works as Shaun of the Dead, World War Z, The Walking Dead, and Plants Vs. Zombies. Zombies went mainstream and it was good. Until the media wonks decided record-setting television ratings and million-selling apps didn’t matter and declared them dead. Again. Welcome to Zombie 3.0.

Despite what you may have heard, the next invasion is already under way. The living dead are alive and well, they’re just no longer above the title. It turns out, you don’t have to make a movie about zombies to have zombies in your movie. Same goes for television, games, comics, and even books. You can write a story about an extraordinary family of booksellers living in Portland, Oregon in 1887 who occasionally do odd jobs that result in confrontations with the undead. It happens. And that’s good, because good stories are based on characters not calamity. As much as I love the lurch, my favorite zombie stories are those that put the heroes (or villains) front and center.

That’s zombie evolution, people.



About Portlandtown

Portlandtown
A Tale of the Oregon Wyldes 1
St. Martin's Griffin, October 16, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Guest Blog by Rob DeBorde, author of Portlandtown - Zombie 3.0
Welcome to Portlandtown, where no secret is safe---not even those buried beneath six feet of Oregon mud.

Joseph Wylde isn’t afraid of the past, but he knows some truths are better left unspoken. When his father-in-law’s grave-digging awakens more than just ghosts, Joseph invites him into their home hoping that a booming metropolis and two curious grandtwins will be enough to keep the former marshal out of trouble. Unfortunately, the old man’s past soon follows, unleashing a terrible storm on a city already knee deep in floodwaters. As the dead mysteriously begin to rise, the Wyldes must find the truth before an unspeakable evil can spread across the West and beyond.
Preorder



About Rob

Guest Blog by Rob DeBorde, author of Portlandtown - Zombie 3.0
Rob DeBorde is the author of Portlandtown: A Tale of the Oregon Wyldes, a story of supernatural suspense, adventure, and zombies in the rain due October 16 from St. Martin’s Griffin. He also wrote a fish cookbook and a cartoon about an accident-prone octopus chef. Seriously. He lives upriver from Portland, Oregon and can be found online at www.robdeborde.com.

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Guest Blog by Max Gladstone - The Agony and Ecstasy of Send

Please welcome Max Gladstone to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Three Parts Dead will be published on October 2, 2012.


Guest Blog by Max Gladstone - The Agony and Ecstasy of Send


The Agony and Ecstasy of Send

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Our Hero wakes up in a white room—maybe a room in only the loosest sense, a featureless white expanse without floor, ceiling, or walls, or else an According-to-Hoyle room, complete with white bed, white tables, white chairs, white curtains. Perhaps Our Hero is confined to a hospital against her will. Maybe she's stuck in an insane asylum, or an extra-dimensional prison. Specifics come later. The room is the point, and the room is white.

The joke, of course, is that Our Hero is in exactly the same position as her author: staring at a featureless white space, defined at best by faint suggestions of detail. The empty page that confronts the author becomes the space the character must navigate.

I first read this joke years ago, in the Turkey City Lexicon; Bruce Sterling summed it up by wondering what would become of the venerable white room now that a writer starting a story is more likely to stare at a monitor than a sheet of blank paper.

The white room is alive and well, and will remain so until Skynet wakes up and word processor programs open with a pre-written page. But the white room has a new friend, a comrade in arms: the Terrifying Button.

You know the Terrifying Button. It's the button at the end of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, the one Tom Cruise pounds to stop the world from ending. It's the button the hero presses to stop the bomb, or blow the bridge. Jeff Goldblum's magic PowerBook in Independence Day is one of the great Terrifying Buttons of cinema. The entire last act of Joss Whedon's Serenity is one big quest for the Terrifying Button. Bonus points if, after pushing the Button (with their last ounce of strength), our heroes, and even sometimes the villains, stand back, hold their breath, and wait, and hope.

To qualify, the Button must be the pivotal moment of the plot: if the Button works, the heroes win, and if it fails, they lose. There's a Button in Alien—the self-destruct sequence—but it's not Terrifying. Pressing that Button doesn't save the world; it's one more failed attempt by the Nostromo's crew to stop their adversary. For a Button to be truly Terrifying, its activation must contain the possibility of success or failure.

I'm no social scientist or computational literary scholar; I've conducted no extensive surveys or interviews. But it seems to me that the Terrifying Button springs from the same font as the Mysterious White Room. The writer escorts her characters through adventure, heartbreak, mystery, pain, redemption, despair, and all the other million ills flesh and fiction are heir to, and at the end, everything—lives, futures, destinies, love—depends on the press of a button. And that button has the word 'send' in the middle. Off goes the manuscript, leaving the writer to pour herself a couple fingers of scotch and pace her room and watch her inbox and wonder: was the subject line eye-catching enough? Did I remember to fix that typo my friend caught on page 274? (Yes, I did.) Did the attachment attach? Does the (choose one or more: agent/editor/assistant/publicist/reviewer/gatekeeper)'s email strip attachments? What if they decided, in the 12 hours since I last checked submission guidelines, that Courier is an affront to typefaces everywhere and they now only accept manuscripts in Zapf Dingbats or ten-foot-high Braille? And, of course, the big one: what if everyone I know has been lying to me this entire time, and my book, my screenplay, my story, my memoir, isn't any good? Or, every bit as insidious: what if it is? What then?

That's the Terrifying Button: 'send' itself, and the heady mix of anticipation and fear it entails. If you live on the internet, you've encountered the Terrifying Button, when sending a love letter or sales email, a job or college application, a final paper or an OK Cupid message. Pressing the button is a mystical moment. By pressing it, you will discover something about yourself, and your work.

Which is why, I think, Terrifying Button moments can be so effective, even though they're patently ridiculous as story devices. Think about it: pressing the Button takes success or failure completely out of the hands of our main characters, and puts it in the hands of some anonymous IT department. The question of whether the Button works is outside the bounds of the story, unless the story has been about corporate IT at some nameless internet service provider and Tom Cruise was a last-minute arrival on the scenes.

But that's the point. The story is told, the writer presses the Button, off the story goes, and soon the writer learns whether the story works the way she hoped. The Button is the fundamental truth of storytelling: in the end, you let your story go, and see what the audience does with it.

Some Buttons make you wait longer than others. I pushed the Button for my debut novel Three Parts Dead about six months back—the biggest Button of my career so far, a Button that's the sum of either a few years or a lifetime of effort depending on how you look at it. On October 2, the book hits shelves, and over the next few weeks I learn the results of the fateful press. Forces are working behind the scenes, beneath the surface, and while I have the tiniest shred of influence over what happens next, for the most part it's out of my hands. The book belongs to the audience now. The button is pressed, and time will tell what happens next. All I can do is wait, and hope.

And take heart in the fact that I'm not alone. These days, we all live in the world of the Button.



Three Parts Dead

Three Parts Dead
Tom Doherty Associates / Tor Books, October 2, 2012
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Guest Blog by Max Gladstone - The Agony and Ecstasy of Send
A god has died, and it’s up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart.

Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb. Without Him, the metropolis’s steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot.

Tara’s job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in. Her only help: Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead god, who’s having an understandable crisis of faith.

When Tara and Abelard discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb’s courts—and their quest for the truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and Alt Coulumb’s slim hope of survival.

Set in a phenomenally built world in which justice is a collective force bestowed on a few, craftsmen fly on lightning bolts, and gargoyles can rule cities, Three Parts Dead introduces readers to an ethical landscape in which the line between right and wrong blurs.




About Max

Max’s novel Three Parts Dead will be published by Tor Books in October.

Max has taught in southern Anhui, wrecked a bicycle in Angkor Wat, and been thrown from a horse in Mongolia. Max graduated from Yale University, where he studied Chinese.

Website : Twitter : Goodreads

Guest Blog by Steve Bein - Why swords?

Please welcome Steve Bein to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Daughter of the Sword (The Fated Blades 1) will be published on October 2, 2012. Only a Shadow, a Fated Blades e-novella will be published tomorrow.


Guest Blog by Steve Bein - Why swords?


Why swords?

About ten years ago I published my first short story, “Beautiful Singer,” about a samurai who refused to believe his katana was possessed. (It turns out he was woefully mistaken about that, and the slain geisha that inhabited his sword made short work of him.) It was only after publication that I realized I’d written a story in which an inanimate object acted as a character. I didn’t do it intentionally, but it’s an homage to Tolkien: the One Ring also has a will of its own. As soon as I saw it, I decided I’d take a crack at writing a whole novel in which swords were characters, driving the narrative every bit as much as the warriors who wielded them.

The result was Daughter of the Sword and Only a Shadow, though I’d hardly imagined at the outset that one of the “warriors” would be a Tokyo police detective. That left me in a pretty sticky spot. It was clear that Mariko, my detective, was going to have to fight with one of the swords, and there just aren’t many good reasons for a cop in the 21st century to involve herself in a samurai showdown.

How much easier my life would have been if only I’d chosen to start with something simple—a ring, say—instead of a sword. Barring that, I could have set the entire novel in medieval Japan, and indeed I thought that’s what I’d set out to do. I wanted to follow the exploits of three fated blades throughout Japanese history, and I started with stories of samurai and ninja. Then the swords crossed paths again in WWII, and I realized the only way to bind all the stories together was to have one character discover the whole truth. Thus Mariko was born, and she was a major pain in the neck.

Of all the things I could have picked, the sword might be the hardest one to put in Mariko’s hands. So why swords?

It’s a question that applies to many areas of my life, not just my book. The first martial art I got involved in was Florentine swordfighting. Since then I’ve studied kenjutsu, kendo, and iaido, none of which have the slightest applicability in street self defense, unless you happen to have a sword with you (which, one would think, is probably sufficient self defense by itself: regardless of whether or not you know how to use it, carrying a three-foot razor blade is reason enough for most muggers to choose another target).

It’s weird that anyone still teaches swordsmanship, really, and weirder still that anyone trains in it. Even by the Revolutionary War the sword had already lost most of its usefulness as a weapon, which means the sword has been more or less obsolete for the whole of US history.

And yet something keeps drawing me back. I think part of the sword’s allure is that it shaped the world for so much of human history. Your empire was as large and as stable and as powerful as your swords would allow it to be. When it fell, it usually fell to the sword, and the next power to rise rose by the sword. One could say the same of the bow, but it was the sword that lingered as a symbol of martial power. Even those commercials for the Marine Corps still have swords.

The machete attacks during the genocide in Rwanda horrified all who saw them, as did the acts of butchery during the Bataan Death March, and a big reason those attacks were so horrifying is that the sword awakens ancient fears. Bows and guns kill from afar. You can accidentally kill someone with them, and you don’t have to feel it even when you aim to kill on purpose. Not so with swords.

They’re viscerally personal weapons. A swordfight is not only the ultimate test of skill, but also one of mettle, of guts. I knew a Vietnam vet whose job in the war was to fire huge shipboard cannons. These things could propel a thousand-pound shell two or three miles inland, and he honestly couldn’t tell the difference between target practice and combat. He was the first to tell you the war never tested his courage. He’d also be the first to tell you he much preferred it that way.

The samurai would have had no taste for that. When firearms were introduced to Japanese shores, samurai debated whether or not they could use them. These were elite soldiers, the deadliest of their day, many of them more accomplished archers than swordsmen. But at least with an arrow you can tell which of the enemy you’ve shot, even in line combat. That isn’t true of musket balls. Better, many samurai said, to stay true to the old ways, so you could know you and your enemy both fought with honor.

Of course, those were the samurai who got mowed down by lines of musketeers.

But the honor code is still a noble idea, even for a guy like me, who got in swordfights throughout high school but only with 20-sided dice. I also understand the nobility of testing one’s skill. It’s what keeps me going back to the dojo after twenty years in the martial arts, even though I think it’s safe to say I can defend myself pretty well by now.

I think it’s the imagery of the sword, and its history, and the sheer no-guts-no-glory audacity it takes to fight with one, that keeps me fascinated. None of that made it any easier to find a good way to get a 21st century cop into a swordfight, but it was good enough reason for me to try to make that scene happen. I have to say I’m pretty pleased with the result. I can’t say more without giving things away, but I think you’re going to like what you find.



The Fated Blades

Daughter of the Sword
The Fated Blades 1
Roc, October 2. 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 480 pages

Guest Blog by Steve Bein - Why swords?
Mariko Oshiro is not your average Tokyo cop. As the only female detective in the city’s most elite police unit, she has to fight for every ounce of respect, especially from her new boss. While she wants to track down a rumored cocaine shipment, he gives her the least promising case possible. But the case—the attempted theft of an old samurai sword—proves more dangerous than anyone on the force could have imagined.

The owner of the sword, Professor Yasuo Yamada, says it was crafted by the legendary Master Inazuma, a sword smith whose blades are rumored to have magical qualities. The man trying to steal it already owns another Inazuma—one whose deadly power eventually comes to control all who wield it. Or so says Yamada, and though he has studied swords and swordsmanship all his life, Mariko isn’t convinced.

But Mariko’s skepticism hardly matters. Her investigation has put her on a collision course with a curse centuries old and as bloodthirsty as ever. She is only the latest in a long line of warriors and soldiers to confront this power, and even the sword she learns to wield could turn against her.
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Only a Shadow
Fated Blades eNovella
Roc, September 4, 2012
ebook, 59 pages

Guest Blog by Steve Bein - Why swords?
The author of Daughter of the Sword takes readers to feudal Japan, where men and empires rise and fall by the sword…

The Tiger on the Mountain is a legendary blade, crafted by the master sword smith Inazuma, and reputed to possess magical powers. In 1442 Japan, the sword dwells inside the impregnable fortress of Hirata Nobushige, the enemy of the Iga clan.

Venerable shinobi Jujiro has recruited the brave young ninja Tada to steal the sword and restore power to the Iga clan. If Tada is successful, he’ll go from being the clan’s orphaned ward to a legend for the ages—and he’ll be able to ask for Old Jujiro’s granddaughter’s hand in marriage. If he fails, the clan will be annihilated.

Getting inside the castle is next to impossible—getting out is inconceivable. But as Tada prepares himself for one of the boldest thefts in history, the greatest obstacle he faces may just prove to be himself…

Don’t miss Daughter of the Sword, the first Novel of the Fated Blades!
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About Steve

Guest Blog by Steve Bein - Why swords?
Steve Bein is a philosopher, martial artist, climber, photographer, diver, world traveler, and award-winning sci fi and fantasy author. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Interzone, as a winner in the Writers of the Future contest, and in international translation. Daughter of the Sword, his first novel, has already received critical acclaim, including (most recently) a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

Steve divides his time between Rochester, Minnesota, and Rochester, New York, where he is a visiting professor of Asian philosophy and Asian history at SUNY-Geneseo. His other academic interests include bioethics, which led him to a brief stint as a visiting researcher at the Mayo Clinic, environmental philosophy, which led him to see polar bears in Canada and penguins in Antarctica, and philosophy and science fiction, which leads him everywhere else in the universe.

Please visit Steve at www.philosofiction.com. If you like Steve on Facebook, you can receive an autographed sampler from Ace and Roc featuring the first two chapters of Daughter of the Sword. You can also find a preview of Daughter of the Sword in the companion novella, Only a Shadow, which goes on sale tomorrow.

Guest Blog by Jill Archer - A Post-Apocalyptic Novel without Zombies, Robots, Aliens, Dystopia, the Plague or Even a Recent War

Please welcome Jill Archer to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Dark Light of Day (A Noon Onyx Novel 1) will be published on September 25, 2012.


Guest Blog by Jill Archer - A Post-Apocalyptic Novel without Zombies, Robots, Aliens, Dystopia, the Plague or Even a Recent War


A Post-Apocalyptic Novel without Zombies, Robots, Aliens, Dystopia, the Plague or Even a Recent War

Post-apocalyptic novels are big right now. It seems like everywhere you look, there's a great new story set in a post-apocalyptic world. There's Cormac McCarthy's The Road, Justin Cronin's The Passage, Max Brooks' World War Z, S.M. Stirling's Novels of the Change, Julianna Baggot's Pure, William R. Forstchen's One Second After, and Suzanne Collins' wildly popular Hunger Games trilogy (I know I'm missing some awesome ones; sound off in the comments with your favorites). Movies and television also have a wonderful selection of recent and somewhat recent post-apocalyptic fare: The Walking Dead, Contagion, Battlestar Galactica, City of Ember, Terminator Salvation, even Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland (both hilarious).

Most post-apocalyptic fiction deals with "end of the world" type stuff. That's what an apocalyptic event is, after all. It's an epic disaster, a cataclysmic event, total annihilation. It's an over simplification, but I tend to group post-apocalyptic tales into one of three categories:
The Monster Stories: These stories have zombies, vampires, aliens, robots, or some other type of monster still actively chasing all of the survivors down.

The Super-Plague or Disaster Stories: In these, the villain is faceless and much of the plot centers on the characters fight to survive in a destroyed world. Food and fuel shortages are common. Anarchy and lawlessness abounds.

The Dystopian Story: These stories tend to be set a bit later than the two categories above, often years after the initial apocalyptic event. Civilization has had a chance to get back up on its feet, but it's walking around with a severe limp -- and a lot of poor governing practices. These stories pit the individual against a flawed society.
I adore post-apocalyptic stories. Why? Well, for starters, it's an ancient archetype of conflict. Monsters, sickness, and natural disasters have been man's enemy since the dawn of time. The passage of time, contemporary settings, and modern technology provide more, not less, story fodder. And dystopian tales? I'm betting the moment cavemen started banding together behind common leaders, they got a taste of dystopia. Dystopia is bad leaders happening to good people. Real world history is full of it.

When I started writing my debut novel, Dark Light of Day, I wanted to set it in a post-apocalyptic world, but I wanted to try something different. My premise (regarding the world of Halja, where my story is set) was:
What if the Apocalypse came and went... but everything was still relatively the same? What if Armageddon was old news? What if there were no zombies, vampires, aliens, or robots? What if there were no plagues or disasters, natural or divine? What if the society wasn't dystopian?
Well, if that's all there was to Dark Light of Day, the story might have been pretty darn boring. No monsters? No disasters? No dystopia? Where's the conflict?! I hear you and agree. So I added demons.

The concept of Armageddon originates with the Christian Bible. The Book of Revelation from the New Testament references Armageddon, which some have interpreted to mean the place where the final battle between God and Satan will take place. Such an event would, obviously, be apocalyptic. So I used the concept of Armageddon (not just a war to end all wars, but a war to end the world) as the apocalyptic event of my story. But then I added a twist by asking:
What if the demons won? And life just went on? What would it look like 2,000 years later? What would be the same? What would be different?
In the beginning, I had misgivings about setting my story in a world where Lucifer reigns as an absent king. But I can assure you, Halja is as full of light as it is of darkness. I've tried to be respectful of my Christian inspirational sources, while remaining true to my primary goals, entertainment and exploration. I wanted to explore what life might be like in a world where good and bad aren't as easily defined as they sometimes are in ours. Have other writers done that? Sure, but I hope my story's unique enough to attract some attention. To help you decide whether this story might be right for you, here's a brief excerpt from Chapter 2:
       If Halja, my country, was the lone man left standing in a battlefield after a long and brutal war, then its future would be the spilled blood under his feet—expected, yet somehow still startling, slippery and shifting, a sacrifice for peace in a world full of demons. Real ones. Because it was here in Halja that Lucifer’s army, the Host, beat the Savior’s army in the last great battle of the Apocalypse.
       And yet . . .
       Life goes on pretty much the way it did before. People still get married, have babies, and pay their taxes. Many things were destroyed, but many things have been rebuilt. We have mechanized cabriolets, electro-harmonic machines, winder lifts, pots of lip gloss, and nail lacquer. We have time to do our hair. Because the Apocalypse happened over two thousand years ago. Armageddon is old news and in the days, years, centuries, and millennia since, we’ve mourned our dead, buried them, and even forgotten where their graves were.
So, what about you? Do you like post-apocalyptic stories? If so, which are your favorites? Why do you like to read it (or watch it)? What about stories that explore the nature of good and bad and right versus wrong? Do you enjoy stories where the line between the "good guys" and the "bad guys" is more muddied than it is in our world?

If you're interested in more post-apocalyptic tales, check out: http://io9.com/5572283/30-post+apocalyptic-visions-of-the-21st-century. If you're Interested in reading more about the end of the world, check out: http://www.history.com/topics/the-end-of-the-world.

Thank you, Sally, for hosting me and including Dark Light of Day in The Qwillery's 2012 Debut Author Challenge!



About Dark Light of Day

Dark Light of Day
A Noon Onyx Novel 1
Ace, September 25, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Guest Blog by Jill Archer - A Post-Apocalyptic Novel without Zombies, Robots, Aliens, Dystopia, the Plague or Even a Recent War
Armageddon is over. The demons won. And yet somehow…the world has continued. Survivors worship patron demons under a draconian system of tributes and rules. These laws keep the demons from warring among themselves, the world from slipping back into chaos.

Noon Onyx grew up on the banks of the river Lethe, daughter of a prominent politician, and a descendant of Lucifer’s warlords. Noon has a secret—she was born with waning magic, the dark, destructive, fiery power that is used to control demons and maintain the delicate peace among them. But a woman with waning magic is unheard of and some will consider her an abomination.

Noon is summoned to attend St. Lucifer’s, a school of demon law. She must decide whether to declare her powers there…or attempt to continue hiding them, knowing the price for doing so may be death. And once she meets the forbiddingly powerful Ari Carmine—who suspects Noon is harboring magic as deadly as his own—Noon realizes there may be more at stake than just her life.
PreOrder



About Jill

Guest Blog by Jill Archer - A Post-Apocalyptic Novel without Zombies, Robots, Aliens, Dystopia, the Plague or Even a Recent War
Raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Jill earned a bachelor of science from Penn State University and later moved to Baltimore to attend the University of Baltimore School of Law, where she graduated magna cum laude. She went on to practice law as a “dirt lawyer” for ten years, specializing in real estate law, municipal development, commercial leasing, and anything involving exceedingly lengthy legalese-like contractual monstrosities.

Jill now lives in rural Maryland with her two children and husband, who is a recreational pilot. Weekends are often spent flying around in the family’s small Cessna, visiting tiny un-towered airfields and other local points of interest.


Website: www.jillarcher.com
Blog: http://jillarcherauthor.wordpress.com/
Twitter: @archer_jill
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jillarcherauthor
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13556956-dark-light-of-day



The Giveaway

THE RULES

What:  One commenter will win a copy of the Ace/Roc 2012 Science Fiction and Fantasy Sampler from Jill.

How:  Leave a comment answering Jill's questions:
Do you like post-apocalyptic stories? If so, which are your favorites? Why do you like to read it (or watch it)? What about stories that explore the nature of good and bad and right versus wrong? Do you enjoy stories where the line between the "good guys" and the "bad guys" is more muddied than it is in our world?
Please remember - if you don't answer the questions your entry will not be counted.

You may receive additional entries by:

1)   Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2)   Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

There are a total of 3 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry) and Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry).  This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook or Twitter mentions. You MUST leave a way to contact you.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Friday, September 7, 2012. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.

Guest Blog by Bec McMaster - I need a hero…

Please welcome Bec McMaster to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Kiss of Steel (London Steampunk 1) will be published on September 4, 2012.


Guest Blog by Bec McMaster - I need a hero…



I need a hero…

Everybody has their favourite sort of hero. For some it’s a dashing duke or a dangerous rake, for others it’s a prince in disguise. But for me, it’s always been the diamond in the rough.

From Buffy’s Spike or Derek Craven from Lisa Kleypas’s Dreaming of You or even Disney’s Aladdin, I’ve always had a soft spot for the type of hero who’s had to fight the odds his entire life. He might not be educated. He might not even be literate, but he’s got the kind of street smarts and roguish charm that can win even the most hardened heart, and he’s more than prepared to do it.

When I wrote Kiss of Steel, my hero Blade came into my head fully formed, whispering in my ear with that delicious Cockney accent. Dressed in gaudy velvet waistcoats and defiantly himself, Blade doesn’t give a damn what others think of him. He knows who he is and he’s proud to be that way.

In my steam-fuelled Victorian world, Blade’s master of his own destiny, determined to defy the aristocratic blue blood Echelon who rules London and protect the little ‘family’ he’s managed to form. Alpha enough to rule the rookery of Whitechapel and just ruthless enough to keep it, he’s also hiding a heart of gold beneath that roughened exterior. He has his own dark secrets too. But what hero doesn’t?

Of course, every hero needs a heroine who’s his match, and who better than strait-laced Honoria Todd, on the run from a monster from Blade’s past? She could be his perfect revenge against the Duke of Vickers or his ultimate salvation.

When Honoria comes into his life, Blade’s not looking for love – but when he realises what he feels, he’s going to fight for it, tooth and nail. Not so easy when my heroine had other ideas of course, but that’s all part of the fun. I love a hero who has to work for what he wants.

So tell me… The upright hero just begging to have his hair mussed? The possessive alpha? Or even a self-made workaholic? What’s your favourite hero type – literary or otherwise - and why?



BLURB FOR KISS OF STEEL

He craves her like no other…

Honoria Todd has no choice. Only in the dreaded Whitechapel district can she escape the long reach of the Duke of Vickers. But seeking refuge there will put her straight into the hands of Blade, legendary master of the rookeries. No one would dare cross him, but what price would he demand to keep her safe?

Ever since Vickers infected him with the craving, Blade has been quicker, stronger, almost immortal—and terrified of losing control of the monster within. Honoria could be his perfect revenge against the duke…or the salvation he never dared to dream of.



EXCERPT FROM KISS OF STEEL

To give this a little context, the first time Honoria meets Blade he offers her protection from the dangers of the rookery… for a price. Honoria’s response is to draw her pistol to prove that she’s not without protection:
       There was a blur of movement and something grabbed her from behind. Honoria gasped, the knife a sharp warning against her throat as he drew her back against his hard body. Her chin tipped up and she swallowed hard, the blade hovering directly over her carotid. His arm was a steel band about her waist, hugging her close.

       Blade’s lips brushed her ear. “Still not impressed,” he whispered.

       The fire spat. Her wide eyes took in the room: the cheroot sitting in the ash tray and still smoking: the abandoned cat giving them a disgruntled look from the floor as it turned and sauntered away: and the long stretch of shadow that showed them locked together in a parody of an embrace.

       “Put it down, luv,” he said. “And don’t ever draw on me again unless you intend to use it.”

       Honoria lowered the pistol. “I was proving a point. I didn’t bother to cock it.”

       “Just as I were provin’ my point,” he replied in that husky whisper. His cool breath stirred the curls at her throat, pebbling her damp skin. “Who do you think won?”

       “I may have been... somewhat precipitous,” she admitted.

       His hand slid along hers, closing over her fingers. “Give it to me.”

       No. Honoria shut her eyes and took a deep breath. She forced her fingers to relax. To let him take the smooth weight of the pistol.

       He thumbed open the barrel and examined the shot inside with a soft grunt. “What the bleedin’ devil are you usin’ for rounds?”

       “Firebolts,” she replied. “My father designed them.” And then she shut her mouth. He didn’t need to know anything about her father. It was safer that way.

       Vickers still had a price on her head and who knew what this man would do for that much money?

       Blade snapped the pistol barrel back into place, then tucked it away somewhere on his person. The razor-edge against her throat kept her locked in place. The pressure was perfect. She couldn’t move an inch, but it hadn’t broken the skin either.

       Then suddenly it eased. Honoria took a deeper breath, her head spinning with the sudden rush of oxygen into starved lungs. With the knife gone, other impressions started leeching into her. The hard body imprinted against hers, separated only by the thickness of her bedraggled bustle. The press of his belt buckle, tugging at the fabric of her skirts. And the sound of his breathing, quickening just slightly.

       His arm slid around her waist again. “And now you’re disarmed. And at me mercy. Now what do you do, Miss Todd?”



Kiss of Steel

Kiss of Steel
London Steampunk 1
Sourcebooks, September 4, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

Guest Blog by Bec McMaster - I need a hero…
When Nowhere is Safe

Most people avoid the dreaded Whitecapel district. For Honoria Todd, it's the last safe haven. But at what price?

Blade is known as the master of the rookeries—no one dares cross him. It's been said he faced down the Echelon's army single–handedly, that ever since being infected by the blood–craving he's been quicker, stronger, and almost immortal.

When Honoria shows up at his door, his tenuous control comes close to snapping. She's so...innocent. He doesn't see her backbone of steel—or that she could be the very salvation he's been seeking.




About Bec

Guest Blog by Bec McMaster - I need a hero…
Bec McMaster writes romance novels featuring red-hot alpha males, kick-ass heroines and edge-of-your-seat adventures. When not writing, reading, or poring over travel brochures, she loves spending time with her very own hero or daydreaming about new worlds. Her debut steampunk romance, Kiss of Steel, is available Sept, 2012, from Sourcebooks. Read more about her at www.becmcmaster.com, or follow her on twitter @BecMcMaster.







The Giveaway

THE RULES

What:  One commenter will win a copy of Kiss of Steel (London Steampunk 1) from The Qwillery. Please note that the winner will not receive the novel until after it is released in September.

How:  Leave a comment answering Bec's question:

The upright hero just begging to have his hair mussed? The possessive alpha? Or even a self-made workaholic? What’s your favourite hero type – literary or otherwise - and why?

Please remember - if you don't answer the question your entry will not be counted.

You may receive additional entries by:

1)   Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2)   Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

There are a total of 3 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry) and Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry).  This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook or Twitter mentions. You MUST leave a way to contact you.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Tuesday, August 28, 2012. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*

Guest Blog by E. J. Swift - Opportunities and challenges in writing about climate change

Please welcome E .J. Swift to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Osiris (Book One of the Osiris Project) was published on June 5, 2012 by Night Shade Books. You may read The Qwillery's interview with E. J. Swift here.


Guest Blog by E. J. Swift - Opportunities and challenges in writing about climate change


Opportunities and challenges in writing about climate change

In an interview back in June, I mentioned the challenges of using climate change as a backdrop to my novel Osiris, and The Qwillery has kindly asked me back to talk a bit more about it. I made a decision quite early on that Osiris would be set in a world drastically altered by climate change – I could have gone down the fantasy line with it, but I chose this route, partly because the changes happening to our planet are something I feel very strongly about, and partly because I like the scope the subject gives me as a writer of fiction.

It’s important to me to create a plausible world as far as possible, but plausibility is always going to be limited to what is known at the time of writing. Although there’s a prevalence of information relating to climate change, both in terms of what is happening right now, and predictions for the future, new data is constantly coming to light, and predictions can conflict one another. A good example is the 2004 film The Day After Tomorrow, based on the idea that a shift in the Gulf Stream could bring a new ice age to the northern hemisphere – a scenario which was also highlighted in Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth, but which in light of more recent information now seems unlikely.

As a novelist, the possible scenarios certainly allow plenty of room to play. I’ve always been drawn to bleak landscapes; but I’m also interested in the politics of a future where large parts of the world have become uninhabitable. What does that mean for countries and borders? Who survives and who is left behind? Geoengineering is a hot topic in environmental discussions – if we are unable to prevent change happening on such a vast scale, would there be attempts to reverse it? What would be the movements for and against those actions?

The challenge for me is to incorporate some of these questions and details into the backdrop of the novel without detracting from the narrative. With The Osiris Project trilogy, I’m working in a close third person point of view, and the closer the viewpoint, the more bound you are to the character’s inner world. The question then becomes what does that character have access to, and what can they discover from other people or events? In Osiris this had its limitations because the city has been cut off from the rest of the world: neither of the two principal characters could know what existed beyond the city’s towers. One technique which I always enjoy when I’m reading and like to incorporate in my own work is stories within stories. I love the theatricality of storytelling, and the question of its perspective and veracity. Another way of showing details is through the landscape influencing a character’s behaviour; in Osiris, I wanted the sea to creep into in all aspects of the characters’ lives, consciously and unconsciously.

These are all questions I continue to face whilst writing the next two installments of the trilogy. The world can offer a great deal to the story: it can inform the mindset of the characters and the decisions they make and the crises that they face. It can inform the wider politics of the society they are part of. But it needs to sit behind the story, influencing, but not overshadowing the actions of the characters.

Postscript

As a postscript, I wanted to link to an article published by Rolling Stone at the beginning of this month - if you’re interested, you can find the full article here: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719 , but it’s based around three statistics, which I think speak for themselves:

2 degrees – the widely accepted (at least politically) upper limit of global warming which can happen without climate change running complete riot
565 gigatons – the amount of carbon dioxide which can be released into the atmosphere without passing the 2 degree threshold
2795 gigatons – the amount of carbon dioxide we’re currently planning to burn, i.e. gas, coal and oil reserves of energy companies – the amount that is already in circulation in terms of financial commitments, investments and equity.

I think this could inspire some interesting scenarios for science fiction writers.




About Osiris

Osiris
Osiris Project 1
Night Shade Books, June 5, 2012
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

Guest Blog by E. J. Swift - Opportunities and challenges in writing about climate change
Nobody leaves Osiris. Osiris is a lost city. She has lost the world and world has lost her . . .

Rising high above the frigid waters, the ocean city of Osiris has been cut off from the land since the Great Storm fifty years ago. Most believe that Osiris is the last city on Earth, while others cling to the idea that life still survives somewhere beyond the merciless seas. But for all its inhabitants, Citizens and refugees alike, Osiris is the entire world--and it is a world divided.

Adelaide is the black-sheep granddaughter of the city's Architect. A jaded socialite and family miscreant, she wants little to do with her powerful relatives--until her troubled twin brother disappears mysteriously. Convinced that he is still alive, she will stop at nothing to find him, even if it means uncovering long-buried secrets.

Vikram, a third-generation storm refugee quarantined with thousands of others in the city's impoverished western sector, sees his own people dying of cold and starvation while the elite of Osiris ignore their plight. Determined to change things, he hopes to use Adelaide to bring about much-needed reforms--but who is using who?

As another brutal winter brings Osiris closer to riot and revolution, two very different people, each with their own agendas, will attempt to bridge the gap dividing the city, only to find a future far more complicated than either of them ever imagined.

Osiris is the beginning of an ambitious new science fiction trilogy exploring a near-future world radically transformed by rising seas and melting poles.



About E.J. Swift

Guest Blog by E. J. Swift - Opportunities and challenges in writing about climate change
E. J. Swift is an English writer of science fiction and fantasy. Her short fiction has been published in Interzone magazine. Her debut novel OSIRIS is published by Night Shade Books, and is the first in a trilogy: THE OSIRIS PROJECT.




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Guest Blog by Douglas Nicholas - The Page and the Palantir

Please welcome Douglas Nicholas to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Douglas' debut novel, Something Red, will be published on September 18, 2012.


Guest Blog by Douglas Nicholas - The Page and the Palantir



The Page and the Palantir

One of the things that I found myself thinking about in the last year or so—and wondering why I hadn’t before—is the magical aspect to reading. I knew vaguely that there was a point when I began to read smoothly as a child, and it was no longer something I had to think about doing as I did it, and that it became very enjoyable.

But recently it occurred to me that there’s a much more strange quality to a good reader. You open a book, you begin to read, you begin to see things unfold before your eyes. It’s like watching your own movie. And yet you’re also seeing the page! If there’s a felicitous turn of phrase, you can stop and appreciate it, seeing it as words on a page, black type against white paper. Then the shadow play resumes, and you’re once again seeing a scene that isn’t there.

How is it possible to see the page and yet see something else simultaneously? If you think I have an answer, dear reader, I don’t. I have read recently that, when summoning a scene before the mind’s eye—someone asks you if there’s a gas station near the library in the next town over, and you’re trying to envision it from memory—your optic nerve stops sending images from the outside world to your consciousness, and passes them to a low-level monitor in your brain. Meanwhile the optic nerve is stimulated directly by the re-created scene. If there’s an emergency, you are shunted back to the “live feed” from the real world. There may be something like this at work in the back-and-forth between the page as physical object and the page that functions as one of the palantir, the seeing-stones that enable visions of far-distant events in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

In the selection below, taken from my new novel (pub date: September 18), Something Red, the boy Hob listens to a tale told by Molly, the Irish leader of a little troupe of travelers in thirteenth-century England. As she speaks, he begins to envision the scene as we readers do.

The action of Something Red takes place in a terribly bitter winter. However, the excerpt you are about to read is from a flashback chapter, recounting events of the summer before, when Hob was only twelve years old. The troupe, consisting of Molly, a woman in her early fifties, her lover Jack, a man in his late forties, Molly’s granddaughter Nemain, and the prentice boy Hob, is camped in a forest clearing on a night in late June.


===========================================================


Hob awoke alone in the middle-sized wagon, with an unsettled, incomplete feeling: a dream ruptured midway, a significant revelation interrupted. He rolled over on his back and looked out the wagon window. The wooden shutter was latched back against the wagon side and the leather shade was rolled high and tied in place, despite the unseasonably cool night. He craned his neck, trying to see the stars, but the overarching branches in full leaf hid much of the sky. Fresh air played over his face, and the scent of yarrow came and went in the interior of the wagon. The lost dream nagged at him, a task left undone.
       A strong golden glow moved and danced on the wagon's ceiling. He hitched himself up on one elbow to see. The fire had been built up again, and there on the other side of the clearing sat Molly, gazing into the flames, her back against a thick-bodied grandfather of an oak and a fired-clay jug by her side. Her hair was unbound, and fell forward over one shoulder in a rich gray tumble, down past her hip.
       Hob reached down a long linen shirt from its peg and pulled it over his head. He rolled off the chest and stumbled barefoot to the door. He was still half asleep. He swung down awkwardly from the wagon and made his way over to Molly.
       He thought she might shoo him back to bed, but she said nothing. She wiped a film of perspiration from her round sun-reddened face with a wing of her shawl, though a cool night wind was moving through the broad leaves.
       He stood next to her and she looked up and wordlessly patted the space beside her. She had spread a cloth between the bases of two large roots, and it was on this that she sat. He joined her, leaning back, the bark rough against his shoulderblades. Molly put her stout arm around his shoulders and drew him to her side, smoothing the fine black hair back from his forehead.
       “Is it that you can't sleep, mo chroí?” she said dreamily.
       “I was asleep, and then I was looking out, and. . . .”
       Thunderous snores from Jack began to rattle through the clearing.
       “Sure and there's not a creature sleeping within a league of that,” she said. “Well, that's all that's left of him this night, that snore.” She laughed a little to herself.
       “I was dreaming, and it was, it was. . . . I wanted to know what it was.”
       She turned a little and looked at him with more interest, although her eyes, blue as summer lakewater, were low-lidded and focused on him with some difficulty.
       “And what can ye bring to mind of it, at all, Hob?”
       “It was. . . . I forget.” The fire, the wind, the trees, crowded in on the memory of the dream; it flew apart like the steam from Molly's kettles. He squinted across the clearing. “It was something that was, that was white, that gleamed, it was a gleam of white, and something else, something red. I wanted to know what, what—it was something important and I wanted to know, but I, I can't. . . .”
       “You men,” said Molly, to Hob's delight. “You men never remember your dreams.” She took a sip from the jug. “Jack, now, says that there's never a dream he remembers on waking, it's like a black sea he jumps into each night. You can learn from dreams: what was, or what's to come. But what's forgotten is no help at all.”
       Beyond the fire's yellow circle the moon threw patches of pale light where it made its way through the net of heavy branches. Close by an owl gave voice to a startling series of barking screeches. The snores paused an instant, then resumed, a snarling undercurrent to the crackling of the fire, the pop of sap in a too-new twig thrown in with last winter's dead logs. Wisplets of smoke played in amid the flames, as though reluctant to join the main upwelling cloud.
       Something about the snoring reminded Hob of Jack's harsh difficult speech. The encircling arm, the stroking hand, Molly's warm bulk, relaxed him, and made him bold. “Mistress,” he asked, “what happened to Jack's neck?”
       Now, he thought, I'll be sent off for being the curious mouse at the larder.
       But Molly tilted the jug up again. From the side of his eye, Hob watched the thick shapely throat quiver as she swallowed, swallowed again.
       “Well, I'll tell you some of it, mo chroí.” Beads of moisture stood out on her forehead. A few damp silver locks had tumbled over her eye, and she pulled them back and tucked them behind her ear.
       “Jack Brown was in the Holy Land. He was carrying a pike for Sir Baldwin, he being the castellan of Aiglemont, when that knight went on pilgrimage. Our Jack was one of sixteen in Sir Baldwin's company, and they traveling along with a whole train of others, pilgrims and men-at-arms on their way down to Jerusalem, and baggage wagons, and the Templars their shepherds on that stretch of road. It was some road of the old Roman folk they were on, dust and dry hills all around, and the heat terrible late in the day as it was, and didn't the Moors come at them in a rush, one minute nowhere and the next down upon them.”
       “The Moors are the Devil's followers, Mistress?”
       “Something like,” she said, and drank again. “Cruel dark men, on horses fast as thaw-water. With curvy swords like sickles, only with the edge outwards, if you see what I mean.”
       With Molly's lilt in his ears and the shifting firelight in his eyes, Hob seemed to see the clouds of dust, the column of wayfarers, the sun's beams stuttering along the polished lanceheads. Pictures came to him as though he were watching, from a mountain ledge, the dwellers in a valley far below: clearly seen but very small, and not quite real.


The first attack swept along the column like a Syrian sparrowhawk stooping at a snake. White cloaks billowed out behind the lean dark horsemen; the burning desert sun flashed and sparkled on the storm of scimitars; the riders in their quilted tunics were shouting what Jack had come to learn was “God! God is great!” in their rapid rattling speech. An uproar began at the rear by the baggage wagons, swelling toward Jack's position in the center of the march, in which was mixed the wails of pilgrims and the clank of colliding metal and the skeeking of wooden whistles as the sergeants tried to rally a defense.
       Jack and his comrades had a scant moment to snatch at swords and war-hammers, and to swing their short kite-shields around from behind their backs. All was confusion on the instant, the pikes out of reach in one of the wagons, no time for forming up. Jack got his sword out and swung his shield up just in time to parry a whistling slash at his head, stabbed ineffectually at the horse, then braced for the next rider, who passed him by but cut Leofric next to him crosswise, left shoulder to right waist, smooth as silk, and then was gone.
       Another blur of striped tunic and white turban, a glimpse of narrowed black eyes, a prominent nose, and Jack hacked at the rider's thigh and felt the bite of the sword-blade into meat, but the horse carried the brown man on away and then the greater part of the fighting was on up the line.
       Jack looked around. Leofric was plainly beyond all help; Jack turned away and set himself, braced for the next assault.
       Three more times the Saracens circled and raced up the column on their swift beautiful horses, the delicate hooves kicking up clouds of dust. The wind was picking up, too, and raising more dust and loose sand from the dry burnt land. The riders came a fourth time, out of the wind, and Jack had to squint against the grit that stung his eyes and half blinded him.
       The day steadily darkened and the wind began to sing. The moving air ripped the top layer from the land and threw it against the stalled caravan and still the bronze men came, wave upon wave. Jack's throat was so dry that it burned. He set his back against an opentop wagon and hunched behind his shield, lunging whenever a rider loomed up out of the murk. He could not see a yard to either side, and the cries of his comrades came dimly above the blare of the gale. He was alone in a tan blankness.
       The sand flung by the storm against his unprotected face and hands was beginning to wear away bits of skin, and his hands were oozing blood from dozens of tiny cuts. There was shouting toward the distant front of the procession, and the hissing ring of steel upon steel, the thud of mace upon flesh, a horse screaming, but nearby was only the moan and shriek of the wind, the gritty patter of sand upon his boiled-leather gambeson. He peered through the dun haze. There was nothing.
       There was nothing, and then there was the Beast. It came bounding out of the brown clouds on all fours, and Jack's stomach turned to ice as he saw the big dark broadbacked shape hurtling toward him: massive black-furred limbs, a naked leathery breast, hands folded into fists the size of Jack's head, the knuckles pounding along the ground, a bestial mask of anger, fangs like a demon, and yet it was like a man and yet, yet, it was not a man.
       The next instant it had slammed him against the wagon, his left arm pinned beneath the great body pressing against the shield, his sword somewhere in the dirt. From the shadow beneath a heavy shelf of bone, little red eyes bored horribly into his; black lips drew back from yellow canines, two inches long. A scorching breath was on his face, a salty animal reek in his nostrils. Giant hands gripped his arms and shook him like an infant; his chin rattled against his collarbone and he felt himself sinking into a dazed lassitude. His head lolled back and he felt the rim of the wagon's side at the back of his neck and he looked up into the roil of brown cloud in a stupor, a vast weight on his chest crushing the air from his body.
       A searing pain at the side of his throat broke the dreamy paralysis of his limbs. He tried to scream but had no breath. He managed to draw up his right leg, and his right hand scrabbled at his calf, groping for the dagger strapped there. He drew the foot-long blade, struck blindly at the demon's side. It was like striking a young oak, but the thing sprang back. Jack fell groaning to the ground and scrambled beneath the wagon, chest heaving and throat a bloody mess.
       He felt a hand close on him, just above his foot. Jack was a powerful man himself, and had wrestled Jack White and other burly men on feast days on the grassy field to the west of his village, but he had never felt anything like this grip crushing down on his ankle. The Beast began to drag him from beneath the wagon bed as though he were a child. Somewhere the wind howled and the shouts and clang of battle echoed, but beneath the wagon Jack was sunk in a soundless sobbing nightmare, his fingers digging into the sandy soil as an arm, thick as his own thigh, drew him slowly toward those drooling tushes.
       He kicked back ineffectually with his free leg. He saw the wagon bed moving backward above him and then he was drawn inexorably from beneath its shelter. He heard a trumpet sounding, faint with distance. He could hardly hear it above the wind and the pounding of the blood in his head. The pounding grew louder and then louder and he realized that it was outside him, and a knot of Templars came barreling up the line, pitiless men on huge horses, appearing out of the whirling sands, the red cross stark against the dull gleam of battle-stained white surcoats. The horses' broad breasts smashed into the Beast, tumbling it under the heavy iron-shod hooves as they thundered past. The chargers, big as twenty-hundredweight draft horses, barely missed a stride. Jack was free.
       Jack saw the demon for a moment, collapsed in a tangle of massy limbs, before the dust obscured it. Blood from his throat soaked the shoulder of his shirt beneath the gambeson. He pulled off his helmet. He ripped the kerchief he wore beneath the helmet from his head and jammed it against his neck.
       He managed to roll over on his belly and crawl under the wagon again before lying still. He was unable to move further, and he lay there gasping and spitting with the sand blowing into his mouth, until the roaring in his ears grew louder than the roaring of the wind, and he fainted.
       When the attack had been driven off, Jack was found beneath the wagon, barely alive. When he was well enough to ask cautiously, much later, concerning the Beast, no one could remember seeing anything like such a creature. There was only the blood-blackened sand; the battered wagons, some burnt; the bodies of two or three of the fined-boned Arab horses; and scores of Christian and Saracen corpses, some of the latter so badly trampled by the Templar destriers with their spike-studded horseshoes that they were naked and unrecognizable.


Molly paused, and drank again from the jug.
       “And they never saw the Beast again?” Hob prompted.
       “They did not, surely.”
       “And did he ever go on to the Holy City, Mistress?”
       “He went to the lip of his own grave and that's no mistake. The Knights of St. John got him well enough to come home, but he was sore sick for a long weary time. There was little enough left of Jack when he found me at St. Audrey's Fair at Ely. You've seen the wee bag about his neck?”
       “Yes. He let me see inside it once, Mistress,” Hob said.
       Jack wore a thong about his neck, from which depended a little leather bag, and he took it off only when they went swimming in the hot part of summer. Hob had asked Jack about it one day, and the silent man had opened it to show him. Within were several small bunches of dried herbs, each tied with a lock of Molly's silver hair, and a little wooden figurine of a seated man, legs folded, with antlers growing from his head. In his hands he held out two serpents, whose heads were those of curl-horned rams.
       “By the herbs in that bag, by potions I brew him up, by the power of the Horn-Man, Lord of the Beasts and a powerful god he is, Jack's relieved of the fevers he had from the bite of that Beast. Sure and had he not found me that feast day, there'd be no more Jack.” She gave a little laugh deep in that soft white throat. “He's man enough now, though, and a bit to spare.”



About Something Red

Something Red
Emily Bestler Books / Atria Books, September 18, 2012
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Guest Blog by Douglas Nicholas - The Page and the Palantir
From debut author Douglas Nicholas comes a haunting story of love, murder, and sorcery.

During the thirteenth century in northwest England, in one of the coldest winters in living memory, a formidable yet charming Irish healer, Molly, and the troupe she leads are driving their three wagons, hoping to cross the Pennine Mountains before the heavy snows set in. Molly, her lover Jack, granddaughter Nemain, and young apprentice Hob become aware that they are being stalked by something terrible. The refuge they seek in a monastery, then an inn, and finally a Norman castle proves to be an illusion. As danger continues to rise, it becomes clear that the creature must be faced and defeated—or else they will all surely die. It is then that Hob discovers how much more there is to his adopted family than he had realized.

An intoxicating blend of fantasy and mythology, Something Red presents an enchanting world full of mysterious and fascinating characters— shapeshifters, sorceresses, warrior monks, and knights—where no one is safe from the terrible being that lurks in the darkness. In this extraordinary, fantastical world, nothing is as it seems, and the journey for survival is as magical as it is perilous. 
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About Douglas

Guest Blog by Douglas Nicholas - The Page and the Palantir
DOUGLAS NICHOLAS is an award-winning poet whose work has appeared in numerous publications, among them Atlanta Review, Southern Poetry Review, Sonora Review, Circumference, A Different Drummer, and Cumberland Review, as well as the South Coast Poetry Journal, where he won a prize in that publication's Fifth Annual Poetry Contest. Other awards include Honorable Mention in the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation 2003 Prize For Poetry Awards, second place in the 2002 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards from PCCC, International Merit Award in Atlanta Review's Poetry 2002 competition, finalist in the 1996 Emily Dickinson Award in Poetry competition, honorable mention in the 1992 Scottish International Open Poetry Competition, first prize in the journal Lake Effect's Sixth Annual Poetry Contest, first prize in poetry in the 1990 Roberts Writing Awards, and finalist in the Roberts short fiction division. He was also recipient of an award in the 1990 International Poetry Contest sponsored by the Arvon Foundation in Lancashire, England, and a Cecil B. Hackney Literary Award for poetry from Birmingham-Southern College. He is the author of Something Red, a fantasy novel set in the thirteenth century, as well as Iron Rose, a collection of poems inspired by and set in New York City; The Old Language, reflections on the company of animals; The Rescue Artist, poems about his wife and their long marriage; and In the Long-Cold Forges of the Earth, a wide-ranging collection of poems. He lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife, Theresa, and Yorkshire terrier, Tristan.

Douglas Nicholas on Facebook and Goodreads

Guest Blog by Roberta Trahan - The Chicken-Egg Paradox: What Came First – the Story or the Character?

Please welcome Roberta Trahan to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. The Well of Tears (The Dream Stewards 1) will be published on September 18th. We are thrilled to share an excerpt of Chapter 2!


Guest Blog by Roberta Trahan - The Chicken-Egg Paradox:   What Came First – the Story or the Character?



The Chicken-Egg Paradox: 
What Came First – the Story or the Character?

Today is full of firsts for me, and I am absolutely thrilled to be invited to The Qwillery for my first guest blog post and to announce the upcoming release of my first novel THE WELL OF TEARS – Book One of The Dream Stewards on September 18. I am also absolutely honored to be included in the 2012 Debut Author Challenge – another first for me!

Perhaps the greatest mystery of writing is the ‘idea’ – where does it come from? What is its origin? How do you find one? And what do you do with it when you do? My personal field research has revealed the idea to be an amorphous creature with the ability to shape-shift, and whose natural habitat is the unsuspecting mind of the hapless artiste. Ideas tend to live in throngs and breed like rats, and yet no two are exactly alike. Sadly, once the hapless artiste is infested with ideas, he or she is resigned to a life of utter distraction. There is no cure, and the only known method of extrication is expression. This, I say, is why writers write. It’s a matter of survival.

I have discovered that ideas are of two genders – story, and character. They bond primarily in pairs, as procreation requires a fully developed story, and at least one mature character. It is not uncommon for a single story to take on multiple character partners, creating a larger and more complex unit known as a novel. In some cases, these story-character pairings will result in multiple offspring, most often referred to as a series.

While the perpetuation of the idea has been studied and is generally well understood, the question of origin remains. Which came first – the story, or the character? The research is inconclusive and results seem to vary depending upon the habitat. As it turns out, the unsuspecting mind of the hapless artiste is as unique as the creatures that breed there. In some idea colonies the story is predominant, while in others it is the character who dominates the population. In the creative fields of my mind, it is the character that most often asserts itself and sets off in search of a story.

In THE WELL OF TEARS, the first book of The Dream Stewards, readers are introduced to the Stewardry, an ages-old order of sorcerers whose one purpose is to protect an ancient prophecy. The Stewards must work to seat a powerful king who has been ordained to bring order to centuries of chaos and impose a lasting peace. In return for their help, the king has promised to restore the old ways to favor and return magic to its rightful place in the world. Alwen, high sorceress and guardian of the realms returns to the Stewardry determined to fulfill her oath. Yet when black magic begins claiming those closest to her and traitors plot to steal the Stewardry’s source of power, she realizes that the king’s survival—and that of all the realms—may require that she sacrifice her own.

Of all the many characters who reside in my mind, Alwen was not the first to manifest. But she was the first to made demands, and with such insistence that I felt compelled to find her a story. As it so happened, at the time she made herself known I was thoroughly immersed in my own story - the family tree my older brother had recently uncovered in Cornwall and Wales. I became obsessed with learning all that I could about the culture and the history of this ancient, romantic world. An historian who offered to guide me introduced me to Hywel dda, a much-loved 10th century Welsh king who had united the country in the only known era of peace and prosperity, and a learned man who helped to create the first written law of the land. A bit reminiscent of the Arthurian legends, don’t you think? I had to know more, and set out to learn all that I could about this famous ruler and the record of his reign. I quickly discovered that very little documentation exists, and what does exist is contradictory and colored by the oral traditions through which the majority of Celtic history was passed down. For the historian, this is a maddening conundrum in which more questions are raised than answers. For the fantasy lover, however, it is the makings of a vast, undefined universe in which anything is possible.

And so it was that Alwen found her story and the idea of The Dream Stewards was born. If you’d like to know more about the era of Hywel the Good, Wikipedia has a relatively complete and reasonably accurate overview of his life and a good source reading list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hywel_Dda.

To give you a preview of Alwen, the magical heroine of THE WELL OF TEARS, I’ve included a chapter excerpt below. This is the first time this excerpt has been shared - a sneak peek just for The Qwillery readers!


*

Two

Autumn in Norvik, 905 AD


The shrill peal of the herring gull echoed over the pounding waves and then faded on the winds. Alwen’s gaze followed its tail feathers eastward, toward the edge of the earth, and found find the day near to dawning. She had spent most of the night on the cold Northland beach, waiting.

In answer to her silent beckon, the gull banked right and returned, travelling parallel to the coastline. Alwen launched her thoughts and released her soul to the bird, joining her mind with the gull’s in such a way that the two beings coexisted within the one. She would have called it sharing or borrowing, as Alwen only chose the creatures, animal or human, who accepted her freely. She preferred the birds. No creatures were freer than the winged ones.

The herring gull hungered, insisting they glide low over the shoals in search of fish. Together they travelled south from where she stood, to a small, shallow inlet on the channel side of the tiny Frisian isle. Not the quay on the northeastern tip, where the village fishing boats were moored. A landing there would have been noticed.

Alwen nudged her host slightly inland, expecting to come upon the ferry still moored and strangers camped on the bank. She had discovered them making the channel crossing during her spirit-faring the previous morn. Instead, through the gull’s eyes she spied the riders already on the road. They must have risen before dawn. The messenger would reach the village before long.

She released the bird and returned her consciousness to her own being, grounding herself once again in rock and sand. Even before she had seen the travelers approaching, Alwen had felt the call: an echo of distant, ancient voices pulling her toward a life she had left long ago. Remembrances she had held in sacred keeping for more than twenty years had begun to surface.

But it was not the memories which made her anxious. The summoning was at hand.

In deep, even respiration Alwen drew in the dawn and slowly exhaled the residue of unrest. Thick damp mist salted her lips and sated her lungs, though even the sea’s soothing vapors could not bring the calm. Destiny hung on the horizon, looming ever larger like the rising sun. Her days on this tiny isle were nearly done.

“Where did the wings take you this time?” Rhys hauled himself up to balance on a surf-and-sand scrubbed boulder and grinned down at her from his perch.

“Hither and yon.” She offered a half-hearted nod to her son, not quite ready to be interrupted. Rhys liked to come upon her earlier than expected, always hoping to find her entranced, with her psyche soaring along with some unsuspecting carrier on what he imagined to be a grand adventure. And it was. The spirit-sending was the magical art that Alwen most treasured, and the one her son most envied. She regretted that she had no way to share it with him.

“I see.” Rhys eyed her suspiciously as he held out his hand and waited for her to take half the pebbles he held in his palm.

Alwen couldn’t help a smile as she accepted the stones. As a small boy, Rhys had called them wishing rocks. Even now he sought her out nearly every morning to help him cast his secret desires into the water, as far out to sea as either of them could throw.

“Nothing unusual, then?” Rhys began to throw the stones into the waves.

Alwen noted the familiar lure in his tone, but did not respond. Instead she attempted to distract him. Focusing intently on the next stone as Rhys released it, Alwen caused it to hang in mid flight.

“Remember the dancing stones?” With just the slight bobbing of her chin Alwen directed the rock in wanton hops and skips, as if it were waltzing on the water.

Rhys groaned aloud with the agony only a grown man can experience at the hands of his mother. “I remember.”

She laughed, releasing the stone so that it plopped into the surf and sank. “Well, you used to find it amusing.”

She regarded her son with deep affection, watching the stretch of his arm and the proud jut to his jaw. Though his build was lean and lithe like hers, Rhys had inherited neither her fair hair and light eyes nor her sorcery. Rather, the son was so much like the father there were times it nearly took her breath away. At nineteen, Rhys was the very semblance of his sire in much younger days. He had the same thick, dark hair that shaded intelligent green eyes, and the same engaging grin.

For several long minutes they traded tosses in silence, until Rhys could no longer contain his curiosity. “You’re keeping something from me, or me from it,” he prodded, gaze trained on the horizon in an unsuccessful attempt to feign casual interest.

A sudden gust sent a shiver through her bones, and Alwen shrank deeper into the folds of her cape. Wild, snow-white locks escaped her cowl at the insistent tugging of the brisk North Sea breeze, whipping wet and cold against her cheeks. She chucked the last of her stones in one pitch and tucked her hair back inside the hood.

“We have visitors.”

“Visitors?” Rhys teetered on his heels as he turned to look. “Where?”

“You should be able to see them by now.” Alwen turned to point out three horsemen making their way north through the flats on the one narrow byway that transected the island. From their vantage point on the jetty at the northern tip of the island, they could see the entire length of the coastal road. “Change marches towards us.”

“Is that a flag?” His gaze followed hers, traveling the waterline beyond the outermost edge of the village. Rhys nodded slightly as the herald’s colors drew nearer. “A messenger.”

“Yes,” she said. “They came ashore last night, just before sunset.”

“Last night?” Rhys sounded shocked, even insulted. He dropped the last of the pebbles and brushed the sand from his hands. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“There are some things I keep to myself, Rhys.” She sounded more abrupt than she had intended. In truth, she was reluctant to admit that she had wanted to be alone with the news, at least for a little while. Her children knew little of her past, except that she owed a duty she would one day be called to serve.

“Well, naturally, there would be.” Rhys adjusted his tone to reflect proper deference for his mother but his deeply furrowed brow revealed a bit of resentment. “Do you know the colors?”

Alwen nodded absently, not acknowledging his words so much as dismissing him. She was distracted by the deep, indigo standard of the Steward’s guild. The sight of it evoked an old but familiar heart song. “I know them well.”

“You are nervous,” Rhys observed. “You’re fisting your hands so hard I’d guess the nails are digging into your palms.”

“So I am.” She relaxed the absent-minded clench and clasped her hands together beneath the cuffs of her cloak. Rhys was observant and knew her better than most, but Alwen had been trained to quash telling signs. Obviously she would need to redouble her discipline. “I suppose I find this all a bit unnerving.”

“Unnerving?” Rhys laughed full out. “That is an outrageous understatement, even for you.”

“If you say so.” Alwen couldn’t help but smile. He was right, after all, and not about to let her get away with pretense. Candor was a trait she particularly favored, especially in Rhys.

“Very mysterious.” Rhys rebalanced himself on the boulder and turned to face the open ocean. “This is what you have waited for, is it not?”

“We will know soon enough.”

“The realm of possibility is endless.” Rhys smiled to himself as he stared into the water’s infinite depths. “I can think of no greater adventure than the unknown.”

“Nor greater peril,” she warned. “The realm of loss is also endless.”

“Hah,” he scoffed. “The greater the peril, the more prized the purse. Half the fun is in the risk and in the end, it’s all just a matter of what you’re willing to wager.”

Rhys fell suddenly silent, as if sobered by the deeper meaning in his own words. Nothing stirred but the surf. Alwen watched as he gradually surrendered to the sea, lulled by the languid suck and rush of the water washing over the scaur and the distant, haunting caw of the herring gulls.

It wouldn’t take a spirit-faring to know what he was feeling. Alwen could sense the yearning that afflicted her son. His instincts stirred to the call of the sea, as did all of the island people. But that was understandable. She had come to feel rooted here as well.

Norvik was a tranquil, unassuming place. A Varangian name for a Frisian settlement, but that was fitting. This was the birthplace of the great Norse warrior, Aslak, legendary captain of the castle guard at Fane Gramarye. Aslak’s family lands were as close as Alwen could ever have come to finding content on any foreign soil. Rhys, however, was completely at peace on these shores.

“You are happy here,” she said.

He snuffled his sleeve as he swiped the brine and wind blown curls from his brow, as if to savor the scent of the sea on his shirt linen. “I suppose I am. It’s a quiet life, maybe too quiet, and I don’t like the cold. Especially now, with winter edging in on the wind.”

“Speaking of understatement,” she taunted. “It will be hard for you to leave.”

Rhys shrugged. “Norvik has been home to me all of my life. And Eirlys, too.”

Home, he said, as if the land and the village were all that he worried to leave. Alwen understood the word for what he really meant, even if Rhys had not yet fully realized it. For Rhys and his sister, home was also family, and family included Bledig.

“Your father will find us on the road.”

“No sign of him?” Rhys could not keep the disappointment from his voice.

“With the dead season looming, the birds prefer to keep close to shore. I can only go where they care to take me,” she said. “Bledig and his men are yet beyond my sight.”

Rhys nodded, resigned to truths yet unspoken. “We’ll be leaving without him, then.”

“Yes.” It saddened her to say it, but Alwen was relieved that Rhys had drawn the conclusion on his own. If only Eirlys would be as accepting. “Worse yet, I fear I must foul your sister’s wedding plans.”

Rhys turned his head to grin at her. “Change marches toward us, isn’t that what you said?”

“So I did. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that the two of you should suffer for it.”

“Doesn’t it?” He was only half teasing.

Alwen understood his frustration. Rhys had spent time enough in his father’s charge, in travel and training, and in the earning of his manhood. Bledig was the clan leader of one of the nomadic tribes of the Obotrites, renowned for their tracking skills and ruthless, cunning tactics in trading. It was assumed that Rhys would one day take his place at his father’s side, as second man to the chieftain. It was an honor he respected, but Rhys longed to find his own adventures. On that account, he had her compassion in greater measure than he would ever know.

“Rhys,” she said gently. “You are your own man. You are entitled to choose the path you want.”

“What I want,” he said, sighing, “is to know what I want.”

Alwen laughed softly. “You have no idea how lucky you are to be plagued by such a delicious dilemma. For you, everything is an adventure into the unknown.”

Rhys shook his head at her. “You have the oddest sense of humor.”

“Your future is not yet fixed. Until you set your own course you stand at the center of an enormous turnstile. No matter which way you turn, no matter which direction you look, there is yet another path to take. As you say, the possibilities are endless.”

“Well, I guess those endless possibilities of mine will have to wait a bit longer.” Rhys slid off the rocks as if to ground himself. “We must first greet your destiny.”

*



The Well of Tears

The Well of Tears
The Dream Stewards 1
47North, September 18, 2012
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook

Guest Blog by Roberta Trahan - The Chicken-Egg Paradox:   What Came First – the Story or the Character?
More than five centuries after Camelot, a new king heralded by prophecy has appeared. As one of the last sorceresses of a dying order sworn to protect the new ruler at all costs, Alwen must answer a summons she thought she might never receive.

Bound by oath, Alwen returns to Fane Gramarye, the ancient bastion of magic standing against the rise of evil. For alongside the prophecy of the benevolent king, a darker foretelling envisions the land overrun by a demonic army and cast into ruin.

Alwen has barely set foot in her homeland when she realizes traitors lurk within the Stewardry, threatening to destroy it. To thwart the corruption and preserve her order, Alwen must draw upon power she never knew she possessed and prepare to sacrifice everything she holds dear—even herself. If she fails, the prophecy of peace will be banished, and darkness will rule.
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About Roberta

Guest Blog by Roberta Trahan - The Chicken-Egg Paradox:   What Came First – the Story or the Character?
Roberta Trahan is a life-long writer and “fantasian” (lover of fantasy and history). She is also a Pacific Northwest native and former advertising & marketing maven. After too many years helping to cultivate other people’s ideas, Roberta decided to listen to the little voices in her own mind and began to build magical worlds populated with mystical beings. Roberta is a self-confessed coffeechocoholic and antique jewelry hoarder, and spends her more lucid moments with her family, friends, fellow fantasians, and the thriving writing community in the Seattle area.
THE WELL OF TEARS (47North, September 2012) is her first published novel, but hardly her last. Book Two of The Dreamstewards, THE KEYS TO THE REALMS, is coming soon!

Website : Idyll Conversation (Blog) : Twitter @robertatrahan  : Facebook

Guest Blog by Lee Battersby & Giveaway - August 14, 2012

Please welcome Lee Battersby to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Corpse-Rat King, Lee's debut, will be published on August 28, 2012 in the US/ Canada and September 6, 2012 in the UK/RoW.


Guest Blog by Lee Battersby & Giveaway - August 14, 2012



I’m not the most coherent person on Earth. It helps.

My day job requires me to be organised, on top of things, alert and in charge: I’m the Arts co-ordinator for a city of more than 100 000, responsible for public art, cultural events, large scale exhibitions and the like. Fuck up and we all look stupid, so I’m wired up and focussed and generally busier than Henry VIII’s bridal registry. And then I’ve got three kids at home between the ages of 19 and 7 who have different demands and with whom I want spend time and be a good dad, and my wife is lovely and I want to spend time with her and encourage her in all her pursuits, and we’re trying to sell our house right now so I’m patching and painting and weeding and hanging curtains and moving furniture about……

Yesterday I edited 15 pages of my upcoming novel in a food court.

Actually, that wasn’t a bad thing to do: frankly, there’s no greater motivation for putting my head down over my work and not ever looking up than the sight of a whole bunch of strangers eating around me. Seriously, people: if my seven year old knows not to eat with his mouth open or talk with it full, maybe you and your wife and your kids could think about it? That cheap-arse potato curry didn’t look that good when it was still in the bain-marie. Your masticating hasn’t improved it. I’m already tipping over into misanthropy. Don’t push me into outright whole-scale revulsion. I hate guns and I don’t want to be remembered as the guy who went mad in a food court and tried to choke a whole bunch of people with napkins. “It was awful! We were just eating our lunch and the next thing we know this fat guy is jumping on our table screaming something about Emily Post….”

Not until I need the publicity, anyway.

But it’s the mental space I live in, at least, when it comes to my writing. I’m time-poor, like my-available-time-lives-in-a-double-wide-and-thinks-NASCAR-and-Garth-Crooks-are-the-shit-maaaaan poor. So I fill it in whenever I can, in the most productive way I can. Which is why the whole “Where do you get your ideas?” newbie thang makes me giggle. Because I can’t afford to go traipsing through fields of daffodils looking at shapes in the sky and waiting for my muse to float down and gift me with golden droplets of shiny wisdom. (Rambling; pareidolia; Calliope, I guess, though the way I write it’d probably be Thalia. Played by Kate Bush. In a bikini; golden showers. Eww.) See, I have to know this stuff. I have to absorb it. I don’t have time to plough through endless tomes looking for the one inscrutable minor reference that will thrill and delight the six other people on the planet who might get it (Thomas Pynchon). When it comes to creation I freewheel like crazy, drawing in influences I’ve absorbed from over thirty years of obsessive geekiness—started in earnest when I was nine, do the math—and whenever I have the chance to watch TV or read a book or absorb some sort of popular culture it behoves me to use it to expand my weird nobody-cares knowledge base because sooner or later I’m going to be halfway through a story idea and something I read three years ago will bubble to the surface and bang! Instant connection.

I couldn’t point out an X-Factor winner in a line-up of two. But ask me something about the establishment of the magnificent seven cemeteries. Ask me about the Mary Rose. Ask me about the physics of unicorn horns, rhino horns, triceratops horns... I have a head full of this stuff. I have to, because when it comes time for action I have to be ready from the git-go. It’s why I tend to be a pantser, rather than a plotter. I can’t legislate for what my unconscious might throw up, and if I had umpteen months to plot something out I might as well use the time to actually write, because the results are far more feverish and fun and the laundry needs painting.

I’m hardly the only one, of course, who has to harness a swirl of mental chaos in order to create. Hell, I’m hardly the only one in the room. But as long as the world is filled with open-mouthed chewers and game shows for the mediocre, I’ll always have corners in which I can lurk, clutching a biography of John Dee while I watch a documentary on death art of the Andes, waiting for them to merge with something I saw about seal skins and zeppelins a few years back. So thanks, slobs of the world. You make it easier.



About The Corpse-Rat King

The Corpse-Rat King
The Corpse-Rat King 1
Angry Robot Books, August 28, 2012 (US/Canada)
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 416 pages
September 6, 2012 (UK/RoW)

Guest Blog by Lee Battersby & Giveaway - August 14, 2012
Marius don Hellespont and his apprentice, Gerd, are professional looters of battlefields. When they stumble upon the corpse of the King of Scorby and Gerd is killed, Marius is mistaken for the monarch by one of the dead soldiers and is transported down to the Kingdom of the Dead.

Just like the living citizens, the dead need a King — after all, the King is God’s representative, and someone needs to remind God where they are.

And so it comes to pass that Marius is banished to the surface with one message: if he wants to recover his life he must find the dead a King. Which he fully intends to do.

Just as soon as he stops running away.

File Under: Fantasy
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About Lee

Guest Blog by Lee Battersby & Giveaway - August 14, 2012
Lee Battersby is the author of the novels “The Corpse-Rat King” (2012) and “Marching Dead” (2013) from Angry Robot Books, and the collection “Through Soft Air” (2006) as well as appearances in markets as “Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror”, “Year’s Best Australian SF & F”, and “Writers of the Future”. He’s taught at Clarion South and developed and delivered a six-week “Writing the SF Short Story” course for the Australian Writers Marketplace. His work has been praised for its consistent attention to voice and narrative muscle, and has resulted in a number of awards including the Aurealis, Australia Shadows and Australia SF ‘Ditmar’ gongs.

He lives in Mandurah, Western Australia, with his wife, writer Lyn Battersby and an increasingly weird mob of kids. He is sadly obsessed with Lego, Nottingham Forest football club, dinosaurs and Daleks. He’s been a stand-up comic, tennis coach, cartoonist, poet, and tax officer in previous times, and he currently works as Arts Officer for a local council, where he gets to play with artists all day. All in all, life is pretty good.

Website : Twitter 



The Giveaway

THE RULES

What:  One commenter will win a copy of The Corpse-Rat King  from The Qwillery. Please note that the winner will not receive the novel until after the publication date.

How:  Leave a comment.

Please remember - if you don't leave a comment your entry will not be counted.

You may receive additional entries by:

1)   Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2)   Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

There are a total of 3 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry) and Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry).  This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook or Twitter mentions. You MUST leave a way to contact you.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Tuesday, August 21, 2012. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*
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