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Guest Blog by Nancy Northcott, author of Renegade - Anticipation - December 20, 2012

Please welcome Nancy Northcott to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Renegade (The Protectors 1) was published on November 6th (eBook) and was published on December 18th in Trade Paperback. Read an interview with Nancy here.



Guest Blog by Nancy Northcott, author of Renegade - Anticipation - December 20, 2012



Anticipation

Sally, thank you for having me here today!

Reading often fills me with anticipation. As I turn the pages, I look forward to the triumph of the good characters and the happy conclusion to any romantic arc in the book. I expect serious problems, even danger and disaster, along the way, but I figure the ending will leave me satisfied.

As I writer, I try to deliver what I like to read. This means anticipating what readers might want. Renegade, my debut novel is labeled paranormal romance. I think of it as a combination of dark fantasy and romantic suspense, a label that won’t fit a vendor’s marketing niche. To make it satisfying to readers, I had to look at the components of those genres.

First, I needed characters who had appealing goals but would not be natural allies. A sheriff and a fugitive wouldn’t join forces immediately. They might eventually, though, if the fugitive is wrongly accused. So Renegade is about the mages’ shire reeve, or sheriff, Valeria Banning, and the mage world’s most wanted criminal, former shire reeve Griffin Dare. Trying to clear his name and unmask the real threat force them into dangerous situations that also draw them closer to each other.

I also needed a world and a magic system with rules and consistency. For those, I drew on Wicca, New Age concepts, and folklore. My mages’ power is nature-based, and they can draw only so much of it at any time, or they can burn themselves out with an overload. I set that limit because I felt it was more realistic and more challenging. Unless the characters face significant, believable challenges, the plot has no conflict. It’s the Superman problem of finding an adversary who poses a real threat.

I wanted a place with abundant life energy for my mages to draw. Based on vague childhood memory, I chose the Okefenokee Swamp. It’s actually a peat bog, not a swamp, so it doesn’t smell and isn’t muddy, but its 700 or so square miles in southeast Georgia teem with various forms of wildlife.

Every genre novel hero or heroine needs an adversary, and my mages have the ghouls. Corrupted by dark magic, they can’t breed among themselves, so they kidnap mages or Mundanes (normal humans) for that purpose. They also have talons that extend from beneath their fingernails to drain magical energy or inject potentially lethal venom into their prey. Unable to digest anything not freshly killed, they keep animals for that purpose. They also engage in chaos magic, which not only violates the natural order but feeds on terror, pain, and the ritual sacrifices of souls.

I read pretty much every type of genre fiction as well as a range of nonfiction. I can enjoy a novel that doesn’t have a romantic arc, but I prefer those that do. Renegade is basically a romantic suspense novel set in a contemporary fantasy world, so the romance has to be the primary story arc to deliver what romantic suspense readers most anticipate. Griff’s and Val’s battles against ghouls and mage intrigue provide the provide the danger and suspense elements and fuel the romantic conflict.

I always enjoy reading, but now anticipation, for me, is also about building the mages’ world, driving them toward a final confrontation with their greatest foes. I’m enjoying the process and hope readers will enjoy the end result.

Thanks again for having me, Sally. I’d like to wish all your readers a happy holiday season and a wonderful 2013!





About Renegade

Renegade
The Protectors 1
Grand Central Publishing , November 6, 2012 (eBook)
December 18, 2012 (Trade Paperback)
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Guest Blog by Nancy Northcott, author of Renegade - Anticipation - December 20, 2012
SHE FOLLOWS THE RULES

As the Collegium council's top sheriff of the southeastern United States, Valeria Banning doesn't just take her job seriously, she takes it personally. So when a notorious traitor wanted by the authorities suddenly risks his life to save hers, she has to wonder why.

HE BREAKS EVERY ONE OF THEM

As a mage, Griffin is sworn to protect innocents from dark magic, which is how he finds himself fighting side by side with the beautiful Valeria Banning. But when the council finds out the two have been working together, they're both left running for their lives-from the law, the threat of a ghoul takeover, and a possible Collegium mole.





About Nancy

Guest Blog by Nancy Northcott, author of Renegade - Anticipation - December 20, 2012
Nancy Northcott’s childhood ambition was to grow up and become Wonder Woman. Around fourth grade, she realized it was too late to acquire Amazon genes, but she still loved comic books, science fiction, fantasy and YA romance. A sucker for fast action and wrenching emotion, Nancy combines the romance and high stakes she loves in her new contemporary mage series.

Married since 1987, she considers herself lucky to have found a man doesn’t mind carrying home a suitcase full of research books. Nancy and her husband have one son, a bossy dog, and a house full of books.


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Guest Blog by Alexa Egan - Writing Bass-Akwards - November 19, 2012

Please welcome Alexa Egan to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Alexa's debut novel, Demon's Curse  (Imnada Brotherhood 1) will be published in December. Awaken the Curse, an e-novella prequel, will be published tomorrow.


Guest Blog by Alexa Egan - Writing Bass-Akwards - November 19, 2012



Writing Bass-Akwards

     DEMON’S CURSE, the first book in my new Imnada Brotherhood trilogy releases at the end of December. But for those who like an appetizer before their main course, I have AWAKEN THE CURSE, the prequel novella coming out tomorrow. Thank you…thank you…hold the applause…there’s more, for while Awaken precedes Demon by almost two years in chronological time, the novella was in fact written almost a year after the book was turned in.

     Now I’m not a builder but I know you can’t shingle a roof before you erect the rafters and it’s never a good idea to lay carpet before you put up the drywall. Likewise, writing the prequel to a story AFTER you write the story is not the brightest of notions.

     But in the case of Awaken, it seemed like the perfect idea.

     In fact, the novella seemed to grow backwards out of the first book almost naturally, offering readers the ultimate flashback as characters and backstories barely hinted at in the first book are allowed more scope than a few measly paragraphs could ever offer.

     AWAKEN THE CURSE is the story of James Duncallan and Katherine Lacey, estranged lovers reunited over an ancient stone dolmen and tales of strange creatures known as nightwalkers. As James and Katherine dig to discover the secret behind both mysteries, they uncover powerful Fey magic, deadly enemies, and a race of shapechangers thought extinct since the days of King Arthur.

     While writing backwards let me explore seeds I planted in Demon’s Curse, it also presented a host of challenges. For starters, I knew what had to happen. I couldn’t change the future or the first book (it was already in production), so plotting became trickier as I worked to tell the story I wanted to tell without contradicting myself, writing myself into a corner, or otherwise f@!#ing up.

     Did I enjoy the process, messy as it was? You bet! So much so I’ve decided to do it again with a second novella to bridge the first and second books in the series. Once again, the second book is complete as I sit down to write the novella that will precede it. Once again, I will be leaping back through time with characters who just begged to have their stories told. And once again, I will be challenged to erect the rafters after I’ve already laid the shingles. Difficult, but it seems I’m a skilled builder after all.




About The Imnada Brotherhood

Awaken the Curse
Imnada Brotherhood
Pocket Star, November 20, 2012
eBook, 100 pages

Guest Blog by Alexa Egan - Writing Bass-Akwards - November 19, 2012
One very passionate and very scandalous kiss separated university student James Farraday and professor’s daughter Katherine Lacey. Now five years later, James, the new Lord Duncallan, receives an unexpected summons from Kate’s father begging him to come to Wales. When James arrives, he finds Professor Lacey has vanished while studying a mysterious ancient obelisk and everyone blames the nightwalkers; sinister creatures said to haunt the surrounding remote Welsh mountains. Do these legends point to the existence of the Imnada; a race of shape-shifters said to have died off a thousand years ago? Or is the professor’s disappearance the result of a very human villain? James and Kate are determined to find out the truth, knowing it may be the only way to find her father.

Even as they work to unravel the mystery, they find that they’re not the only ones interested in the obelisk and the lost race of Imnada. Treasure hunter Gilles d’Espe believes the ancient dolmen is the focal point of the shape-shifters’ power and would do anything to lay his hands on the last of four silver disks he needs to unlock the dolmen. A disk that hangs around the neck of James Farraday. While Cade, a local villager, is determined to refute both the claims of nightwalker sightings and the power of the dolmen as superstitious nonsense.

James and Kate soon find themselves fighting for their lives. Yet every hour they spend together makes it harder to lay aside the bitterness of the past and a very new and very real temptation…


Excerpt:

Wales, January 1814
Katherine was exactly as James remembered. Same trim figure. Same thick foxy mane pulled into a sloppy chignon. Same scattering of freckles across a nose just a tad too snubbed and eyes the inviting shade of good cognac. And her lips . . . they were just as full, pink, and disastrously kissable as they had been five years earlier. Only her guarded gaze and defensive posture revealed the changes time had wrought. Once, there had been nothing hidden between them. They had been passionately in love—or so he’d believed.
     She leaned over him, her eyes flicking between his face and his bare shoulder, and for a moment they were back in her father’s garret in Oxford, enjoying a few stolen moments together.
     “Hold still,” she murmured, “this might hurt.”
     He frowned. He didn’t remember her ever issuing such a warning during those sweet interludes when—Bugger fucking all! A sharp pain lanced up his arm and straight to his brain. He jerked against the hands pinning him down as he stifled a scream behind clenched teeth. Closing his eyes, he counted backward from ten. Made it to seven before the world collapsed into darkness around him.
     Someone shook him awake. “Lord Duncallan? Can you hear me?” He blinked up into her face—again. “I’ve finished stitching,” she said. “You can sit up if you’re not too dizzy.”
     He reached across to feel at the swathe of bandages wound tight around his upper arm, and five years screamed past in a single bone-aching throb of his shoulder. He was in the godforsaken wild Welsh mountains. It was snowing like the bloody Arctic. He’d been ambushed on the road. And the topper to this perfectly horrible day bent over him, worry hovering in her eyes.



Demon's Curse
Imnada Brotherhood 1
Pocket Books, December 26, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Guest Blog by Alexa Egan - Writing Bass-Akwards - November 19, 2012
She holds the key . . .

One of the mythical race of shape-shifting Imnada and a member of an elite military unit, Captain Mac Flannery suffers under a ruthless curse. As the result of a savage massacre on the eve of Waterloo, he and the men he served with are forced to live the hours of darkness trapped as their animal aspects. Now one of them has been murdered, and Mac suspects the existence of the Imnada may finally have been discovered. His only link to unearthing the truth—Bianca Parrino, the beautiful actress whom every man desires.

. . . to his forbidden desires

Forging a new life for herself after escaping the clutches of her abusive husband, Bianca is again drawn into violence when a dear friend is brutally murdered and she becomes a suspect. Forced to place her trust and her life in Mac’s hands as they flee a determined killer, Bianca cannot deny she is falling for the mysterious soldier. But will his dark secrets tear them asunder? Or will love be the key to breaking even the cruelest of spells?




About Alexa

Alexa Egan lives in Maryland with a husband who’s waiting impatiently for her fame and fortune to support them in a new and lavish lifestyle, three children for whom she serves as chauffeur, cook, nurse, social secretary, banker, and maid (not necessarily in that order), one cat … and twenty-seven fish. You can find her at www.AlexaEgan.com, friend her at www.Facebook.com/AlexaEganBooks or follow her at www.Twitter.com/AlexaEganBooks.




THE GIVEAWAY

What:  One commenter will win a digital copy of Awaken the Curse from Alexa.

How:   Answer The Qwillery's Question: 

I'm a huge fan of e-novella prequels and e-novellas in general.  What about you?

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 Monday, November 26, 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 Trey Garrison - On zombies, Nazis, robots and cowboys: Writing the book was the easy part - November 16, 2012

Please welcome Trey Garrison to The Qwillery. Trey's debut novel, The Spear of Destiny, will be published in 3 e-parts starting in December 2012. A print version will follow.

The first part, Black Sun Reich, is out on December 18, 2012.



Guest Blog by Trey Garrison - On zombies, Nazis, robots and cowboys: Writing the book was the easy part - November 16, 2012



On zombies, Nazis, robots and cowboys:
Writing the book was the easy part

     Describing THE SPEAR OF DESTINY was about as hard as writing it. I’m still not 100 percent sure I’ve got it down pat. Along the way, I’ve made a few mistakes. Let me explain.

     The last thing I want to do is invoke the ire of steampunk purists. I love the purists in any fan base. I am one. As far as I’m concerned, there is no Star Trek outside the 23rd Century and The Empire Strikes Back was the last Star Wars movie they made. Barry Allen is still dead, zombies shamble slowly, Han shot first, and Superman wears red underwear over his blue tights.

     But early on when THE SPEAR OF DESTINY was being pitched it picked up the steampunk label. I’m not sure if it was my agent or my editor. It was hard enough distilling the description down to “genre-mashing alternate history Nazi zombie supernatural comedy adventure with robots, cowboys and monsters.” (Somehow, “Indiana Jones meets Shaun of the Dead” sounded too much like a bad pitch to Griffin Mill in The Player.) I don’t know how the label got thrown in there.

     Granted, I took a lot of the elements from steampunk, but steampunk is more than just brass goggles, steam cars and airships. For purists it has to be dystopian, 19th Century, set in London, and adhering to the other rules of the genre. My book is none of those. It’s more dieselpunk in terms of time setting. It’s not completely dieselpunk either, though a lot of the technology and aesthetics are. If anything, it’s sort of a literary incarnation of the Art Deco and Art Nouveau of the 1920s, in an adventure story. I love the boldness of the art and architecture of that era, and I think that seeped into the fabric of THE SPEAR OF DESTINY.

     I set the story in the 1920s for several specific reasons, and among those reasons is my love of the look, the feel, the fashion and the mindset of the time. It was a time when the “world of tomorrow” was looked to with optimism. There was a sense of style and utility in everything, a style that embraced the past but faced always forward. There was a strength and beauty in the architecture and a belief in the promise of progress and science. It was in everything from the swept shape of automobiles to the fonts in advertising. It was also a time in America of great contradiction – laissez-faire economics co-existing with Prohibition. American racial laws actually inspired the Germans a decade later, yet we claimed to be a beacon of freedom and a haven for immigrants.

     My story is set in a 1920s different on a lot of levels. North America is as balkanized as Europe at the turn of the 20th Century. Technology runs the gamut from horse-drawn carriages to high-speed airships. Magic and technology co-exist. I think given all these competing forces and effects, it was important to bring to the story the sense of “technological promise just over the horizon” that steampunk embodies in all its incarnations. Even if my story goes far afield from the usual rules of steampunk, I think it’s part of what tied everything together.

     Telling an alternative history story like this means you really have to help anchor the reader to reality. To do that, you have to really know the hows and the whys of the world you’ve created. I was already fascinated by the 1920s, but to write this book I immersed myself in the decade in every way I could. To bring a sense of reality, I couldn’t just wave a wand and make something so. I had to weave true reality – detailed, gritty reality – into the fantasy. For instance, I make a point of the attitude of equality that arose because of the cowboy culture. In the mid-19th Century, skilled hands were in such demand that ranchers didn’t care what color a cowboy was, so long as he could do the job. That’s really a thing you’ll find in cultural monographs about the cowboy subculture. That was critical to the story and I had to ground that in reality. Then sometimes the final result of hours of research would be some little throwaway detail about the cut of a man’s wool jacket or the kind of tin a biscuit would come in, but I think that’s the kind of reality nugget necessary to help the reader suspend disbelief about later when you bring out the undead and the clockwork assassins.

     Then there’s the issue of working through logically the repercussions of the historical changes you make. For instance, in the world of THE SPEAR OF DESTINY, New Orleans becomes the crossroads of world commerce, trade and culture – complete with the Statute of Liberty – that New York City occupies in our world. From there I had to consider how that would have changed both little and big things in the culture – from how relations might have evolved in a North America comprised of many nations to what the fashions and customs might been. Then I had to consider what New York City would have been like had a smaller, weakened, socialist United States arisen after the Civil War. I wanted to consider what the Nazis might have been like if they hadn’t learned the lessons from the failure of the Beer Hall Putsch, and what the Nazi ruling circle would have been like if the Thule Society and all that arcane Aryan mysticism had the sway it did in the 1920s after they had power. It takes a lot of sustained speculation if you want to make it believable.

     Of course, the more afield you take your alternate history, the more you have to have someone through whose eyes the reader relates. It seemed natural for that person to be Dr. Kurt von Deitel. Granted most of us can’t easily relate to a high-born Prussian doctor, but it’s the nature of his sheltered life that gives us a segue into learning more about this world. I think it worked and I was a little surprised how the doctor became my favorite character.

     THE SPEAR OF DESTINY has no pretensions to being great literature. It’s just a fun story the likes of which inspired me as a kid to want to set out on my own adventures. It’s a bold, swashbuckling tale for readers of all ages. I hope people love reading it as much as I loved writing it – even the steampunk purists.



The Spear of Destiny

Black Sun Reich
The Spear of Destiny: Part One
HarperVoyager, December 18, 2012
eBook, 100 pages

Guest Blog by Trey Garrison - On zombies, Nazis, robots and cowboys: Writing the book was the easy part - November 16, 2012
Black Sun Reich: Part One of three in The Spear of Destiny, the first novel in a new steampunk, horror, alternate history, action-adventure series set in a 1920s where the Nazis have begun their subjugation of the world using the occult, advanced science, and a holy relic with awesome powers.

And don't miss the other parts of this serialized novel—Part Two: Death's Head Legion and Part Three: Shadows Will Fall.

Trey Garrison recaptures the unapologetic adventure, wonder, and excitement of the classic pulp fiction of the 1930s and 1940s, blending elements of steampunk with deeply researched historical fiction and a good dose of humor. The novel also explores major philosophical and moral issues relevant to our contemporary world: the trade-off between security and liberty, the morality of preemptive war, and what fundamentally separates good from evil.

The North American continent is made up of several rival nations, and a Cold War is building among them. The Nazis rose to power a decade ago. People travel by airship, and powerful organizations calculate with Babbage's Difference Engine. The Nazis have hatched a plot to raise a legion of undead soldiers.

Enter Sean Fox Rucker and Jesus D'Anconia Lago, two Great War veterans and freelance pilots who are pulled into the quest. They are joined by a brash Greek merchant, a brilliant Jewish cowboy, and the woman who once broke Rucker's heart. This ragtag band of reluctant, bickering, swashbuckling heroes is soon locked in a globe-spanning race against Nazi occultists, clockwork assassins, and a darkly charismatic commando. In a world where science and the supernatural coexist, and the monsters of legend are as real as the necromancers who summon them from murky realms, our heroes alone stand before the rising shadows. But all their efforts may not be enough.



The Spear of Destiny, Parts Two and Three:

Guest Blog by Trey Garrison - On zombies, Nazis, robots and cowboys: Writing the book was the easy part - November 16, 2012
Available January 2, 2013



Guest Blog by Trey Garrison - On zombies, Nazis, robots and cowboys: Writing the book was the easy part - November 16, 2012
Available January 22, 2013




About Trey

Guest Blog by Trey Garrison - On zombies, Nazis, robots and cowboys: Writing the book was the easy part - November 16, 2012
     Trey Garrison has been a newspaperman, a magazine writer, and a soldier of misfortune. Trey’s secret identity is working as a mild-mannered journalist, editor, humorist, consultant, and part-time sybarite. Maybe the best word to describe him is racontrepreneur. Currently he is director of communications for a foundation based in Dallas that promotes free market solutions and free enterprise.
      Trey’s work has appeared in a number of publications, often with his consent and sometimes with his knowledge. He’s been a contributor and editor for D Magazine — considered among the best city magazines in the United States — and for Reason magazine, the national magazine that promotes free minds and free markets. Trey has been a special contributor for The Dallas Morning News and a field reporter for The Land Report.
     He’s a master in the kitchen, great at the gun range, and decent at Kung Fu. He lives in Texas. This is his first novel.
     His blog is www.treygarrison.com and you can pre-order THE SPEAR OF DESTINY here: http://www.harpercollins.com/books/Black-Sun-Reich-Trey-Garrison?isbn=9780062261250&HCHP=TB_Black+Sun+Reich

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Guest Blog by D.J. McIntosh - Libraries For a New Age

Please welcome D.J. McIntosh to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. The Witch of Babylon, D.J.'s US debut, was published on October 16, 2012. You may read an Interview with D.J. here.



Guest Blog by D.J. McIntosh - Libraries For a New Age



Libraries For a New Age

We’re all familiar with the fate of the famous Egyptian library at Alexandria but did you know one of the first libraries existed centuries earlier in Mesopotamia? That library plays an important role in my novel, The Witch of Babylon. In the 7th century BC, one of Mesopotamia’s great kings employed hundreds of scribes to copy and create clay tablets which can be considered early books. The king stored these at the royal library in his capital city of Nineveh. Less than fifty years later, Nineveh was completely destroyed, its treasures looted and the city burned. Oddly enough, the fires helped to preserve the tablets and thousands of years later, when British explorers excavated the remains of Nineveh, the library was discovered. Over ten thousand of these tablets are now kept in another remarkable library – the British Museum.

It is thanks to the foresight of the ancient king that we know so much today about the life, culture and history of Mesopotamia. In that library you can find medicinal treatments that are still effective today, wonderful poetry and blow by blow accounts of military campaigns.

Libraries today play quite a different role. They are a central gathering spot for the community – an opportunity for new moms to get some much needed social time, a valuable study aid for students at all levels, a great resource for authors and journalists, a refuge for people out of work who need to use a computer and the place where children are introduced to the magic of stories. From the vast archives of the Smithsonian to our local public libraries, their primary purpose as the repository for the wealth of knowledge of nations and cultures remains its most vital role.

This may be why, when cultures come into conflict as they do most glaringly in times of war, libraries are the first to come under attack. At the time of the crusades, Mongol invaders destroyed the House of Wisdom, a fabulous library in Baghdad, and threw so many manuscripts into the Tigris that the river was said to run black with ink. When the Germans retreated from Naples Italy in WWII, many of the books in lodged in the library at the Royal Palace were burned. And in the recent Iraq war, the archives at Babylon were badly damaged.

In many western countries today, libraries are coming under a different kind of pressure. Budget restraints and cutbacks are forcing many to close or severely curtail services. And with the digital age upon us, it is an open question as to whether libraries can survive. Will great search facilities like Google and Bing eventually make libraries redundant? They have always proved adaptable to new conditions in the past so I think libraries will master this new challenge too. I’m sure all of us who love books sincerely hope so.




The Witch of Babylon

The Witch of Babylon
Mesopotamian Trilogy 1
Forge Books, October 16,2012
Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages

Guest Blog by D.J. McIntosh - Libraries For a New Age
Out of the searing heat and sandstorms of the infamous summer of 2003 in Baghdad comes The Witch of Babylon, a gripping story rooted in ancient Assyrian lore and its little-known but profound significance for the world.

John Madison is a Turkish-American art dealer raised by his much older brother, Samuel, a mover and shaker in New York's art world. Caught between his brother's obsession with saving a priceless relic looted from Iraq's National Museum and a deadly game of revenge staged by his childhood friend, John must solve a puzzle to find the link between a modern-day witch and an ancient one.

Aided by Tomas, an archaeologist, and Ari, an Iraqi photojournalist—two men with their own secrets to hide—John races against time to decipher a biblical prophecy that leads to the dark history behind the science of alchemy. Kidnapped by villainous fortune hunters, John is returned to Iraq, where a fabulous treasure trove awaits discovery—if he can stay alive long enough to find it.

International thriller-writing sensation D. J. McIntosh makes her American debut with The Witch of Babylon.




About D.J. McIntosh

Guest Blog by D.J. McIntosh - Libraries For a New Age
D.J. (Dorothy) McINTOSH is the former co-editor of the Crime Writers of Canada's newsletter, Fingerprints, and is a Toronto-based writer of novels and short mystery fiction. Her short story "The Hounds of Winter", published in Blood on the Holly by Baskerville Books (Toronto, 2007), was nominated for the 2008 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Story. "A View to Die For" appeared in Bloody Words: The Anthology, also published by Baskerville Books (Toronto, 2003). McIntosh graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Toronto.



Website : Facebook : Twitter : The Witch of Babylon




Guest Blog by Sharon Lynn Fisher - You Got Sci-Fi in My Romance! - & Giveaway - November 12, 2012

Please welcome Sharon Lynn Fisher to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Ghost Planet, Sharon's debut, was published on October 30, 2012. You may read The Qwillery's interview with Sharon here.


Guest Blog by Sharon Lynn Fisher - You Got Sci-Fi in My Romance! - & Giveaway - November 12, 2012



YOU GOT SCI-FI IN MY ROMANCE!

Is anyone else old enough to remember that old Reese’s commercial? Two great tastes that taste great together? (Click for nostalgia, if you dare.)

One of the questions I’m often asked in interviews is why I decided to blend romance and science fiction in my recently released debut, GHOST PLANET. To be honest, it wasn't something I put a huge amount of thought into when I wrote it, but I have certainly thought a lot about it since.

I was just writing what I love – stories that explore relationship dynamics against the backdrop of a speculative setting. Like DRAGONRIDERS OF PERN. THE MISTS OF AVALON. And even Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER -- though the speculative element is small in that one, the impact on the plot and characters is huge.

I think that encapsulates what appeals to me most about blending romance with sci-fi/fantasy. When a character’s whole world is flipped upside-down in a way no one has ever experienced before, really interesting things happen. It sets the stage for mystery, plot twists, and great character development.

And when the story does move into familiar territory for readers – starting a new job, falling in/out of love, becoming pregnant – the sci-fi/fantasy lens can show these elements in a whole new light.

At the time I came up with the idea for GHOST PLANET, I was entering romantic fantasy stories in the Writers of the Future Contest. I kept getting honorable mentions, and was finding it hard to come up with fresh ideas. I thought maybe I’d fare better with sci-fi.

The title of the story came to me first. As I noodled on what a story called “Ghost Planet” might be about, I got the idea for a scene where a scientist travels to a newly discovered world, only to find herself tethered to a sexy alien. Then I thought, “She should be the sexy alien,” and it all took off from there.

The short story version of GHOST PLANET earned me another honorable mention, but more importantly, the premise inspired me so much I kept going. Six weeks later the first draft of the manuscript was finished. A year later it had been named a finalist for RWA’s Golden Heart Award in the paranormal category (umbrella category for romance with a speculative element).

What I didn’t realize at the time: Sci-fi romance has typically been considered a niche market, with a devoted but small audience. I think that’s beginning to change with the popularity of genre blending shows like Battlestar Galactica, and SFR certainly seems to be busting out all over the big screen.

Reader perceptions come into play as well – but I’m willing to bet lots of people are SFR fans without even knowing it. For folks who like sci-fi, novels with romantic plots offer strongly character-driven stories. For folks who like romance, sci-fi offers fresh ideas and healthy servings of adventure and mystery.

Like I said, two great tastes that taste great together. :-)  What’s your favorite genre blend?





About Ghost Planet

Ghost Planet
Tor Books, October 30, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Guest Blog by Sharon Lynn Fisher - You Got Sci-Fi in My Romance! - & Giveaway - November 12, 2012
When psychologist Elizabeth Cole arrives on a recently colonized planet to start a new job, she doesn’t expect to find her supervisor, Murphy, so incredibly attractive. She doesn’t expect to see alien beings, native to the planet, materializing as ghosts and following the “colonist” humans around. Most of all, she doesn’t expect to learn that Elizabeth Cole in fact died in a crash en route to this planet, and that she herself a reincarnated ghost-alien, connected symbiotically to Murphy—who, bound by the “Ghost Protocol” that he himself created, is not allowed to interact with or acknowledge Elizabeth in any way.

Confused, alone, and discounted as less than human, Elizabeth works to unlock the secrets of her own existence and fight the blatant discrimination of the Ghost Protocol. But as she draws closer to the truth, she begins to realize that she is only a pawn in the struggle for control of the planet. Oppressed by her ghost status and tantalized by forbidden love, Elizabeth may just be the one to upset the planetary balance….


Excerpt:

We trotted up half a dozen steps and were passing through the glass doors when Murphy said, “We’ll be scanned by security just inside. I hate them being here, raising people’s anxiety level in a place where we want them to feel safe. But all new arrivals pass through here, and someone decided it was a good idea.”

Thinking about the illicit-substance and weapons scans in all the airports and public buildings back home, I raised my eyebrows. “What’s it for?”

“To get a sort of fingerprint on everyone,” he explained, walking through the doorframe-shaped scanner. “Just to make sure we know who’s who. They can’t do it at the transport terminal because no one has ghosts when they first arrive.”

I followed him through the scanner, and a long beep sounded somewhere off to my left as I joined him inside. Murphy’s head jerked toward the sound. His eyes moved to the glass doors we’d just come through, and slowly back to me. He glanced at the security desk on our right.

“Where is it?” Murphy called to the guard, whose fingers were flying over his keyboard. The guard’s ghost leaned against the wall behind him, little more than a shadow.

The man stopped typing and looked up. “I’m sorry, Dr. Murphy?”

“I heard the alert go off, but I don’t see her. My ghost, Simon,” Murphy added, growing impatient. “Do you see her?”

The guard blinked at him a couple times. Then he cleared his throat. “She’s standing right next to you, Dr. Murphy.”





About Sharon Lynn Fisher

Guest Blog by Sharon Lynn Fisher - You Got Sci-Fi in My Romance! - & Giveaway - November 12, 2012
SHARON LYNN FISHER is the author of GHOST PLANET, coming from Tor Books on Oct. 30. The book -- a two-time RWA Golden Heart finalist -- is a sci-fi/romance blend that offers a "fresh and fascinating take on the human-alien problem" (says author Linnea Sinclair). She lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she is hard at work on her next novel and battles writerly angst with baked goods, Irish tea, and champagne. You can visit her online at SharonLynnFisher.com.




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The Giveaway

THE RULES

What:  Three commenters will win a print copy of Ghost Planet from Tor! US/CANADA ONLY

How:   Answer Sharon's question:

What’s your favorite genre blend?

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 US or Canadian mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Monday, November 19, 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 Tina Connolly, author of Ironskin - Thoughts On My Book Tour

Please welcome Tina Connolly to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Ironskin, Tina's debut, was published on October 2, 2012. You may read an interview with Tina here.





Thoughts On My Book Tour

Thanks so much to The Qwillery for having me on the blog! When Sally asked me several months ago, I floated the idea of doing my blog post for the month *after* Ironskin came out. Why? Because October was dedicated to book tour, and I thought it would be fun to share thoughts on that.

So I got to go to a couple stops in my home state of Kansas (the Oak Park Barnes & Noble in KC, and The Raven in Lawrence), the Cedar Hills Powell's in Portland, the University Bookstore in Seattle, and Mysterious Galaxy in Redondo Beach (L.A. area.)

First? It was awesome. I know authors sometimes say that touring isn't all it's cracked up to be, and I'm sure that this can be totally true. I was lucky enough to not have any disasters befall me. So I had an incredibly wonderful time.

What did I learn?

1. Invite your friends!

I posted about the events everywhere I could think of, including Facebook, Goodreads, my blog, Twitter, etc, etc. I additionally invited many of my friends directly. So the majority of folks that
came were friends and acquaintances. In Lawrence I got to see my third grade teacher, in Seattle I saw several former Clarion West classmates, and in L.A. I saw a couple friends from high school! It
was like a traveling reunion! I was thrilled that everyone came out to support me. And then additionally, every stop had people I did not know, and I was so very happy to meet the potential-fans and already-fans that came out for my reading. The tour turned out to be really great, but it would have been smaller crowds if I hadn't done the legwork.

2. Think like an actor.

I'm different than many writers in that I happen to love getting up in front of a crowd and reading from my book and answering questions. My mom said that probably my (extensive) theatre (geek) background was helpful. And that is totally true! I've got a handle on basic speaking skills. So, here's a couple tips for those reading your work in public for the first time:

- Your main goal is to make the audience comfortable. (Your story selection can make them uncomfortable, but you and your delivery should not!) So avoid self-denigrating remarks ("this isn't very good, but..." "this is the first time I've read this, so...") and always choose a selection you feel comfortable reading. You don't have to read the section with the histrionic fight, or the hardcore intimacy. Play to your strengths. Let the audience know they're in good hands.

- Make sure your story is printed out and easy to read. If you read off of a laptop, we'll be more concerned that you're about to drop it (see: making the audience comfortable). Additionally you'll have to worry about power issues. Peter Honigstock at Powell's told me that they lost power during a YA event a few months ago, and had to finish it up in the dark.

I actually have a flash fiction podcast called Toasted Cake (toastedcake.com) and starting with episode 41, I've been sharing little story narration tips after every story. So if you want some more thoughts on pacing, funny voices, and not looking nervous, check out those recent episodes!

3. Think like a carnie.

I also work as a face painter. Which means that companies will hire me - say for a corporate picnic – to do free face painting for the kids. Which also means, subtextually – help us make our picnic a fun and comfortable place to be. So I found while at these book tour events I actually had an "event background" to draw on – that I had more experience than I expected making sure people were having fun. I would never have thought of myself as a party host type person (which can be a good model to follow) but then, I did have experience to draw from after all. YMMV here, but I like saying Hi to everyone before the event starts, and meeting as many of the folks I don't know as I can, and introducing people to each other, so we're starting to have a good time even before the reading begins. (Imagine here what your best friend would do—you know, the one that's so good at throwing parties. Pretend to be her.) Sometimes you might start to feel shy, but this is when the event planner mentality should kick in. If you feel overwhelmed because it's an event that's focused on you...stop
thinking of it that way. Think of it as a event all about the bookstore, and you're hired to help them have a fun time tonight. It's a funny mental trick, but it can be helpful!

Thanks so much to The Qwillery for having me today to talk about my book tour for Ironskin. Hopefully some of these tips will be helpful to you, whether you're going on book tour, reading at open mic night, or even gearing up to do a presentation at work!

Oh, and PS - this didn't occur to me till my very last stop, but here's the other bonus about being a face painter – you can ask me to draw something random in your book, and I will totally do it. (A girl
in LA asked for a kitten with tentacles.) So come see me next time I'm in your town, and I will draw in your book, too!




About Ironskin
Ironskin
Tor, October 2, 2012
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

Jane Eliot wears an iron mask.

It's the only way to contain the fey curse that scars her cheek. The Great War is five years gone, but its scattered victims remain -- the ironskin.

When a carefully worded listing appears for a governess to assist with a "delicate situation" -- a child born during the Great War -- Jane is certain the child is fey-cursed, and that she can help.

Teaching the unruly Dorie suppress her curse is hard enough; she certainly didn't expect to fall for the girl's father, the enigmatic artist Edward Rochart. But her blossoming crush is stifled by her own scars, and by his parade of women. Ugly women, who enter his closed studio...and come out as beautiful as the fey.

Jane knows Rochart cannot love her, just as she knows that she must wear iron for the rest of her life. But what if neither of these things is true? Step by step Jane unlocks the secrets of her new life -- and discovers just how far she will go to become whole again.






About Tina

Photo by Caroline M. Yoachim
Tina Connolly lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son, in a house that came with a dragon in the basement and blackberry vines in the attic. Her stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Fantasy, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and the anthology Unplugged: Year’s Best Online SF 2008. Her debut fantasy novel IRONSKIN is forthcoming from Tor in October 2012, with a sequel in 2013. She is a frequent reader for Podcastle, and is narrating a 2012 flash podcasting venture called Toasted Cake. In the summer she works as a face painter, which means a glitter-filled house is an occupational hazard. Her website is tinaconnolly.com.


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Guest Blog by Cecy Robson - Bedtime Tales - November 7, 2012

Please welcome Cecy Robson to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs and The Weird Girls Blog Tour!  Sealed With A Curse (The Weird Girls 1) will be published on December 31st. The Weird Girls (an eNovella) will be published on December 4th.




Bedtime Tales

Being of Latin descent, I’m über superstitious. Ghosts, check. Chupa Cabra, check. Headless Horseman, check. Bigfoot? Well, I’m still up in the air about that one, but given I live in the Great Northwest, I’ll give that one a check just in case. Best not to anger a big, hairy being capable of tearing me limb from limb.

My father, instead of telling me there’s no such things as ghosts, fed my insane superstitions or sense of creativity, however you prefer to call it. When I was about seven, he told me that if he died, and his ghost returned from the dead, that I shouldn’t be afraid. Of course I bawled like any seven year-old would. Call me crazy, but the idea of my dead father coming back to haunt me had that effect. He stopped my tears by promising his ghost would only arrive to tell me where treasure was buried. I believed him then, now, not so much . . .

Most children heard “Billy Goats Gruff” or “Ferdinand the Bull” right before bed. I heard “La Llorona” the tale of a dead woman calling out and searching for her equally dead children. Gracia, Papí, and special thanks for the goodnight kisses with the glow-in-the-dark vampire fangs for the full, “I’m scarred for life” result.

The stories didn’t change as I grew older. Instead, they began to creep into my reality. We were visiting a relative in California when I was about fifteen. Before I could step foot in her trailer, my father clasped my arm and said, “Try not to piss her off. She’s a witch, and she doesn’t like you. I don’t want her putting a curse on you.” He walked in ahead of me. It took me several heart-pounding minutes to join him. I proceeded to spend the next two hours refusing to speak, eat, or drink anything in said supposed witch’s home.

While I didn’t get the “whammy,” the encounter, the stories, and the too many bumps I heard at night triggered and fueled my imagination. I didn’t find an outlet for the virtual potpourri of bizarro dreams or strange ideas until I began writing my Urban Fantasy Romance Series, WEIRD GIRLS.

WEIRD GIRLS is about four, very unique sisters who obtain their magical abilities as a result of a curse cast upon their Latin mother for marrying outside her race. Except the curse backfired, and instead of harming the girls, it bestowed them remarkable traits, making them different from any race of human, vampire, witch, or werebeast on earth. And although the sisters have perceived their powers as maledictions instead of gifts, these rare abilities help them combat the supernasties of Lake Tahoe once they’re “outed” to the mystical community.

I hope readers will see that while my childhood doesn’t portray a Norman Rockwell portrait, and perhaps my father should have used more discretion when choosing bedtimes tales, in the end my experiences and influences helped me to create a series filled with distinct characters, graphic and intense fight scenes, twisted humor, and launched the WEIRD GIRLS’ incredible journey.

Thank you for your time. If you’ll excuse me, my children are waiting with the lights on to hear a story. *slaps on vampire fangs*




About The Weird Girls

The Weird Girls
Signet Eclipse, December 4, 2012
eNovella

Celia Wird and her three sisters are just like other 20-something girls—with one tiny exception: they're products of a backfired curse that has given each of them unique powers that make them, well, a little weird…

The Wird sisters are different from every race on earth—human and supernatural. When human society is no longer an option for them, they move in among the resident vampires, werebeasts, and witches of the Lake Tahoe region. Could this be the true home they’ve longed for? Um, not quite. After the sisters accidentally strip a witch of her powers in a bar brawl, they soon realize the mistake will cost them. Because to take on a witch means to take on her coven. And losing the battle isn’t an option.



Sealed with a Curse
The Weird Girls 1
Signet Eclipse, December 31, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Celia Wird and her three sisters are just like other 20-something girls—with one tiny exception: they're products of a backfired curse that has given each of them unique powers that make them, well, weird…

The Wird sisters are content to avoid the local vampires, werebeasts, and witches of the Lake Tahoe region—until one of them blows up a vampire in self-defense. Everyone knows vampires aren't aggressive, and killing one is punishable by death. But soon more bloodlust-fueled attacks occur, and the community wonders: are the vampires of Tahoe cursed with a plague?

Celia reluctantly agrees to help Misha, the handsome leader of an infected vampire family. But Aric, the head of the werewolf pack determined to destroy Misha's family to keep the region safe, warns Celia to stay out of the fight. Caught between two hot alphas, Celia must find a way to please everyone, save everyone, and oh yeah, not lose her heart to the wrong guy—or die a miserable death. Because now that the evil behind the plague knows who Celia is, it’s coming for her and her sisters. This Wird girl has never had it so tough.




About Cecy

Cecy (pronounced Sessy) Robson is an author with Penguin's SIGNET ECLIPSE. She attributes her passion for story-telling back to the rough New Jersey neighborhood she was raised in. As a child, she was rarely allowed to leave the safety of her house and passed her time fantasizing about flying, fairies, and things that go bump in the night. Her dad unwittingly encouraged Cecy's creativity by kissing her goodnight wearing vampire fangs. Gifted and cursed with an overactive imagination, she began writing her Urban Fantasy Romance Series, Weird Girls, in May 2009. THE WEIRD GIRLS: A Novella, debuts December 4, 2012 followed by SEALED WITH A CURSE, December 31, 2012, and A CURSE EMBRACED, July 2, 2013.

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Guest Blog by John Park - Of Drafts, Keyboards and a Sense of Place

Please welcome John Park to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Janus was published in September by ChiZine Publications.


Guest Blog by John Park -   Of Drafts, Keyboards and a Sense of Place


Of Drafts, Keyboards and a Sense of Place

Oddly, the history of my novel Janus almost exactly spans the age of the personal computer. My earliest attempts at the story had been short pieces, produced in my then-current mode: hand-written first draft; lots of readings and scribblings; a second draft typewritten on yellow paper (unlike William Gibson’s in those days, my typewriter was at least electrically powered); more readings and scribblings; and a final draft typed onto decent-quality white paper.

But by the time the idea was expanding into a novel, the new age had reached me, in the form of an Apple II+ computer upgraded to take 56 kilobytes of RAM. The hand-written first draft and yellow-paper second were compressed into one writing-revising process using the bright little letters on the green screen. The Apple II+ you probably don’t remember, used square black “floppy discs” a bit bigger than a CD jewel case. Allowing for backup- and work-space, each would hold about 7500 words. That became the length of a chapter, and the first version of Janus was stored on fourteen of these diskettes. But the big advantage was—no struggle at the keyboard to produce an acceptable final draft. A dot-matrix printer did all the work. And I was ready to go.

Not to a publisher, of course. This was the point to get some independent criticism. I was a member of a writing group and had other writing friends who were prepared to read and comment on my new printout. And they did a good, conscientious job. I stress this. One reader noticed I had used the same expression in connection with two different characters in two different chapters and wondered if I was implying a connection between them. (No—just early-draft sloppiness.)

So I collected all the comments, thought about them, and prepared for the next (perchance the final) draft.

But by now technology had forged further ahead. I had acquired a new computer: a second-hand Mac Plus. It had a glowing white screen with black letters and a mouse to move the cursor; and most impressive, it used smaller, rigid “floppy” discs, any one of which could hold my entire novel with room to spare. The only problem was that there was no means to transfer my text from the old Apple to the new Mac—except my traditional way of producing a new draft, by typing it in. Which is what I did.

It must have taken several months, revising as I went. And along the way, for the first time, I noticed something in my old version (which, remember, I had lived with for a couple of years, and maybe eight other people had carefully read and thought about): quietly, between chapters, the home of my male lead had moved from one side of the river to the other. Which might explain why some readers felt the novel lacked a sense of place.

I think there’s a moral here, if not a comfortable one. Rewriting, retyping, is an active process—at least if, like me, you don’t have a direct link from your eyes to your fingers. One of the old ways of teaching musical composition was to have the student copy out scores of the classics. Painful as it might seem, it apparently inculcated an understanding of how a good piece of music was constructed. I believe it. In my case, my clunky typing meant that each sentence fragment was held in my head for several seconds while my fingers fumbled with the keyboard. In even a careful reading, the same chunk of text would be dealt with in about one second. So it seems natural I would notice more implications when I typed in a new draft than if I simply edited on paper or on the screen.

Nowadays (human frailty in the face of labour-saving devices being what it is) I rarely retype. Does anyone? But sometimes, when I think of the number of words of fiction being turned out electronically every day, I do wonder what subtle changes, what softening of the edges, the word-processor is working upon us.




About Janus

Janus
ChiZine Publications, September 15, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 300 pages

Guest Blog by John Park -   Of Drafts, Keyboards and a Sense of Place
In the near future, Jon Grebbel arrives on the colony world of Janus, and finds himself mysteriously without memory of his life on Earth. It seems that the journey has caused severe memory loss in many of Janus's colonists. While Grebbel wants to start his new life, he also wants his memory back, and starts treatments to restore his past. But they only leave him angry and disturbed and he begins to doubt the glimpses of the past the treatments reveal. Grebbel meets Elinda, an earlier arrival, whose lover, Barbara, vanished and then was found lying in the woods, apparently brain-damaged. Elinda has also lost her memories of Earth, but unlike him she has abandoned the effort to recover them. Now their meeting brings each of them a glimpse of an experience they shared back on Earth. Investigating Barbara's fate and their own, the two find their love and their search for justice turning toward bitter self-discovery and revenge, even as they begin to uncover the darkness at the heart of their world.




About John

Guest Blog by John Park -   Of Drafts, Keyboards and a Sense of Place
John Park was born in England but moved to Vancouver in 1970 as a graduate student and has lived in Canada ever since. He has done research in chemical physics and been part of a scientific consulting firm. Along the way, he developed a liking for Beethoven, became a graduate of the Clarion writers workshop, and began selling short stories (not necessarily in that order). His fiction and poetry have appeared in a number of Canadian, US and European publications. He lives in Ottawa, where he is a member of the Lyngarde writing group.



Follow John on Twitter:  @pocomaestoso

Guest Blog by A.J. Colucci - Truth is Stranger than Fiction - October 11, 2012

Please welcome A.J. Colucci to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. The Colony, A.J.'s debut, will be published on November 13, 2012.


Guest Blog by A.J. Colucci - Truth is Stranger than Fiction - October 11, 2012


Truth is Stranger than Fiction

by

A.J. Colucci
 
      The Colony, my debut novel, is sometimes categorized as science fiction. It’s actually fictionalized science –a small but growing genre made popular by the late, great Michael Crichton. Often referred to as “science thriller,” these novels combine real-life scientific theories and facts with the high-speed action and suspense of a thriller. Whether the antagonists are cloned dinosaurs, self-replicating nanobots, or alien spores invading earth, what makes these stories so interesting is that they’re possible.

      The Colony is about a supercolony of ants that attack Manhattan, which sounds pretty sci-fi if you’re reading the jacket, but just about everything in the book is based on true science and technology, as well as the actual capabilities of real killer ants. The protagonists, two divorced entomologists brought together to save the city, are both at the top of their field. That meant I had to at least give the impression of knowing everything about ants. So I started my research in the non-fiction section of the library, then moved on to myrmecology text books and scientific journals, studying ant morphology, pheromones, swarm intelligence, and interviewing several entomologists who helped me decipher the technical jargon. I’m a research junkie and must have spent a thousand hours on the internet while writing the first draft.

      Within six months I felt like I had about as much working knowledge of ants as a second-year grad student. More importantly, I discovered that these insects were more bizarre than any monster I could dream up. Here are just a few ant facts that prove truth is stranger than fiction:

  • Fire ants are attracted to electrical systems, and have been a leading cause of traffic light failures in many parts of the southern United States.
  • Driver ants in Africa sweep the forest floor in columns of 22 million and are the only known ant to attack people with the intention of killing them for food. They sometimes enter the nose and mouth of their prey and asphyxiate them to death.
  • A queen slave-maker ant will fake her own death, enticing ants from other colonies to drag her to their nest. Once inside, she kills their queen, rolls around in her scent and takes over the colony. She lays her own eggs and as her soldiers mature, they emerge to attack other nests, tearing their victims apart and scurrying off with thousands of eggs to be made into new slaves.
  • In Australia, Yellow Crazy Ants killed tens of millions of animals by spraying formic acid into their eyes and leaving them blind.
  • In the Amazon, a new species of fungi turns ants into zombies. A week after being infected, ants enter a "zombie-like" state. The fungus then grows out of the head of the ant, releasing spores into the air, which rain down onto unsuspecting ants.
  • The largest termite mound ever found is 41 feet tall.
  • Every worker ant in a colony is female – the only job of the males is to fertilize the queen.
  • Army Ants live in temporary nests that they form by linking their bodies together. These living nests protect the queen inside.
  • It is estimated that the weight of all ants on earth is equal to the weight of all humans.

      How can you not write about ants after reading that? What we know from books like Jaws and Jurassic Park is that real-life monsters can make a story more terrifying than creatures from our imagination. Ants are scary, no doubt about it. Most of the comments I get from readers focus on the attack scenes, how realistic they feel. Here is an excerpt from the first attack in my novel:

“…Cries of agony were muted behind the clear plastic shower curtain as Jerrol sat slumped at the bottom of the tub, groaning in wet clothes and sneakers, as heavy steam engulfed the room. The insects held tight to his legs from sock to knee. Their three-hook claws pierced his shins, stinging again and again… The pain was excruciating; mandibles biting and filling their jaws with meat. Jerrol hunched over his knees, digging fingernails deep and scratching away layers of flesh. A few ants spun down the drain in a river of bloody water, but most were burrowing farther into the wounds. Small knobby bumps moved under the skin of his kneecap where black tunnels of ants were visible as they fed and crawled freely about. A searing heat pulsed from the side of his left foot where a tremendous amount of blood poured into the tub. He peeled back the top flap of his sock with frantic shaking fingers. Underneath were the tattered remains of flesh and sinew, and a hole the size of a quarter where white ankle bone protruded from the center.”

      Creepy, right? You’re swatting at your leg, aren’t you? The truth might not always be stranger than fiction, but stories are certainly scarier if we think they can happen. The universe is amazing; from insects, mammals and ocean life to the stars, planets and beyond. So if you ever find yourself contemplating what to write about, you might head for the backyard. Vampires and zombies are nothing compared to what a swarm of ants can do to a grasshopper. And if you want to get a close-up view of these fascinating insects, check out the antcam on my website: http://ajcolucci.com/antcam.php



About The Colony

The Colony
Thomas Dunne Books, November 13, 2012
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

Guest Blog by A.J. Colucci - Truth is Stranger than Fiction - October 11, 2012
A series of gruesome attacks have been sweeping New York City. A teacher in Harlem and two sanitation workers on Wall Street are found dead, their swollen bodies nearly dissolved from the inside out. The predator is a deadly supercolony of ants--an army of one trillion soldiers with razor-sharp claws that pierce skin like paper and stinging venom that liquefies its prey.

The desperate mayor turns to the greatest ant expert in the world, Paul O’Keefe, a Pulitzer Prize–winning scientist in an Armani suit. But Paul is baffled by the ants. They are twice the size of any normal ant and have no recognizable DNA. They’re vicious in the field yet docile in the hand. Paul calls on the one person he knows can help destroy the colony, his ex-wife Kendra Hart, a spirited entomologist studying fire ants in the New Mexico desert. Kendra is taken to a secret underground bunker in New York City, where she finds herself working side by side with her brilliant but arrogant ex-husband and a high-ranking military officer hell-bent on stopping the insects with a nuclear bomb.

When the ants launch an all-out attack, Paul and Kendra hit the dangerous, panic-stricken streets of New York, searching for a coveted queen. It’s a race to unlock the secrets of an indestructible new species, before the president nukes Manhattan.

A.J. Colucci's debut novel is a terrifying mix of classic Michael Crichton and Stephen King. A thriller with the highest stakes and the most fascinating science, The Colony does for ants what Jaws did for sharks.




About A.J.

Guest Blog by A.J. Colucci - Truth is Stranger than Fiction - October 11, 2012
A. J. COLUCCI was born in the Bronx and raised in Larchmont, a suburb outside of New York City. She spent 15 years as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor and writer for corporate America. Today she is a full-time author and science geek who spends much of her free time reading stacks of novels, surfing the internet for the latest in technology, or clicking between the Science Channel, PBS Nova, Discovery and National Geographic. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two daughters and a couple of zazzy cats. THE COLONY is her first published novel. Visit her online at ajcolucci.com.

Guest Blog by Lee Collins, author of The Dead of Winter - "Weird West is Weird"

Please welcome Lee Collins to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Lee's debut, The Dead of Winter, will be published on October 30th in the US and Canada and on November 1 in the United Kingdon.


Guest Blog by Lee Collins, author of The Dead of Winter -



“Weird West is Weird”

I had no idea weird West was even a genre (or sub-genre, or genre affiliate, or whatever) until after I’d completed the manuscript for The Dead of Winter. The idea of putting monsters in a tale of six guns and outlaws seemed perfectly natural, one that had surely been done many times before. We’ve been putting monsters, magic, and machina into interesting time periods and calling it historical sci-fi/fantasy for a good while now. The Old West is an interesting time period; surely it’s been given its share of monsters. The resulting books go right next to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, probably. If a book is decent, it will find a place on bookstore shelves.

Oh, the naïve arrogance of innocence.

I first realized that weird West might not be as big a cup of tea as I originally thought when I started shopping around for agents. Marketed as “a blend of fantasy, horror, and thriller set in the American Old West,” the manuscript had a difficult time dodging the various “we do not represent” criteria listed on agency websites. Fantasy, horror, no Westerns. Historical fantasy, yes; horror, no. Hours of reading slush pile rejection stories deterred me from dropping a label because I didn’t want to be one of those aspiring authors who didn’t read the submission guidelines. Form rejections and non-responders piled up, leaving me sullen, bitter, and ready to move on to greener pastures. Had Angry Robot not thrown open its doors to unagented authors in March 2011, Cora Oglesby might never have stumbled through the saloon’s batwing doors into the light of day.

Once I finally learned what The Dead of Winter should be called, I read through the Wikipedia article on weird West with a growing sense of confusion. The list of related works was short and featured far more movies than novels. Why could the infinite fandom knowledge of the Internet only come up with a score of books that fell into this genre? Aren’t the rich mythologies of American Indian tribes every bit as worthy of exploration as the legend of King Arthur or the wardrobe preferences of 19th-century England? Weird West is as open and endless as the prairie, as cold and foreboding as the Rocky Mountains, as merciless and deadly as the Great Salt Flats. Stories lie beneath its rugged surface, waiting to be mined and smelted into fantastic new shapes.

Yet these riches remain largely untouched, and I can’t fathom why. Have the legions of Spaghetti Westerns marched the setting of the Old West into a farcical grave? Do the arid landscapes of Arizona and New Mexico clash with traditional ideas of faeries, elves, and nature-infused magic? Whatever the reason, I challenge new and established authors alike to take a second, serious look at this criminally-underexplored sub-genre. The Dead of Winter is just one of thousands of stories that could flourish in the Great American Desert. I know I had a fantastic time exploring those frigid peaks and dusty streets, searching for ancient beasts and nuggets of culture and lore. There’s plenty for everybody, so cinch up your saddlebags, strap on your six gun, and see what magicks and monsters await you in that untamed frontier.

All this from a guy who is planning to set his next series in Soviet Russia.



About The Dead of Winter

The Dead of Winter
Angry Robot, October 30, 2012 (US/Can)
Mass Market Paperback and eBook
November 1, 2012 (UK)

Guest Blog by Lee Collins, author of The Dead of Winter -
Cora and her husband hunt things – things that shouldn’t exist.

When the marshal of Leadville, Colorado, comes across a pair of mysterious deaths, he turns to Cora to find the creature responsible. But if Cora is to overcome the unnatural tide threatening to consume the small town, she must first confront her own tragic past as well as her present.

A stunning supernatural novel that will be quickly joined by a very welcome sequel, She Returns From War, in February 2013.

File Under: Dark Fantasy [ Winter Chill | Small Town Blues | Dead Reckoning | Sharp Shooter ]




About Lee

Guest Blog by Lee Collins, author of The Dead of Winter -
Lee Collins has spent his entire life in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. Despite this (or perhaps because of it), he generally prefers to stay indoors reading and playing video games. As a child, he never realized that he could create video games for a living, so he chose to study creative writing at Colorado State University. Upon graduation, he worked as an editorial intern for a local magazine before securing a desk job with his alma mater.

Lee’s short fiction has appeared in Ensorcelled and Morpheus Tales, the latter of which awarded him second place in a flash fiction contest. In 2009, a friend challenged him to participate in National Novel Writing Month, and the resulting manuscript became his debut novel, The Dead of Winter. It will be published in 2012, and the sequel She Returns From War arrives in 2013.

In his spare minutes between writing and shepherding graduate students at his day job, Lee still indulges in his oldest passions: books and video games. He and his girlfriend live in Colorado with their imaginary corgi Fubsy Bumble. You can track him down online via Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads
Guest Blog by Nancy Northcott, author of Renegade - Anticipation - December 20, 2012Guest Blog by Alexa Egan - Writing Bass-Akwards - November 19, 2012Guest Blog by Trey Garrison - On zombies, Nazis, robots and cowboys: Writing the book was the easy part - November 16, 2012Guest Blog by D.J. McIntosh - Libraries For a New AgeGuest Blog by Sharon Lynn Fisher - You Got Sci-Fi in My Romance! - & Giveaway - November 12, 2012Guest Blog by Tina Connolly, author of Ironskin - Thoughts On My Book TourGuest Blog by Cecy Robson - Bedtime Tales - November 7, 2012Guest Blog by John Park -   Of Drafts, Keyboards and a Sense of PlaceGuest Blog by A.J. Colucci - Truth is Stranger than Fiction - October 11, 2012Guest Blog by Lee Collins, author of The Dead of Winter - "Weird West is Weird"

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