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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Guest Blog by Adam McOmber - Inspector Francois Vidocq

Please welcome Adam McOmber to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. The White Forest, Adam's debut novel, will be published on September 11, 2012.

Guest Blog by Adam McOmber - Inspector Francois Vidocq

Inspector Francois Vidocq

In writing my novel The White Forest, which is set in and around nineteenth century London, I had a lot of fun pulling characters from actual history. It’s my hope that allowing real history to mix with fantasy adds another interesting layer to the book.

Inspector Francois Vidocq, who becomes a foil for Jane Silverlake, the main character of the The White Forest, was an actual nineteenth century criminalist and already has a long history of appearing in fiction. Victor Hugo used Vidocq as his model in Les Miserables for both Jean Valjean, the escaped prisoner, and Inspector Javert, the man who pursues him. Vidocq’s own history prompted this juxtaposition, as he was a master thief in his early life who later became a detective—claiming his nefarious past gave him a better understanding of the criminal mind.

In The White Forest, an aging Inspector Vidocq is brought from France to investigate the disappearance of Nathan Ashe, the son of Lord William Ashe, a prominent member of parliament. Nathan has disappeared under mysterious circumstances in a corrupt part of London, and Vidocq is asked to use his keen powers of logic and observation to investigate. The inspector infiltrates a cult in London’s Southwark which Nathan had become a member of after returning from a stint in the Crimean War. There, Vidocq finds some interesting connections between the cult and Jane Silverlake, Nathan’s beloved, whom he then begins to investigate. Jane wants desperately to escape the prying inspector, as it appears she has something to hide.

My primary interest in Inspector Vidocq came, not from the Les Miserable connection, but from his connection to Edgar Allan Poe. The White Forest takes cues from the otherworldly tradition of Poe, and I wanted to have Inspector Vidocq present as a nod to Poe’s mastery. Vidoqc is believed to have been the model for Poe’s own detective, Auguste Dupin, who appears in such stories as “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Mystery of Marie Roget.” I was drawn to this connection because Dupin uses his scientific and rational mind to cut through the ambiguities of cases that initially appear supernatural in origin. It occurred to me that, though Dupin acts to dispel the supernatural, he is also connected to it in some way, and if he ever came into contact with the actual presence of the supernatural, such an encounter would drive him to extremes.

Vidocq too is driven to extremes as he pursues Jane Silverlake, in his quest to understand her mysterious nature. This quest may prove to be the inspector’s undoing.

The White Forest

The White Forest
Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, September 11, 2012
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

Guest Blog by Adam McOmber - Inspector Francois Vidocq
In this hauntingly original debut novel about a young woman whose peculiar abilities help her infiltrate a mysterious secret society, Adam McOmber uses fantastical twists and dark turns to create a fast-paced, unforgettable story.

Young Jane Silverlake lives with her father in a crumbling family estate on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Jane has a secret—an unexplainable gift that allows her to see the souls of man-made objects—and this talent isolates her from the outside world. Her greatest joy is wandering the wild heath with her neighbors, Madeline and Nathan. But as the friends come of age, their idyll is shattered by the feelings both girls develop for Nathan, and by Nathan’s interest in a cult led by Ariston Day, a charismatic mystic popular with London’s elite. Day encourages his followers to explore dream manipulation with the goal of discovering a strange hidden world, a place he calls the Empyrean.

A year later, Nathan has vanished, and the famed Inspector Vidocq arrives in London to untangle the events that led up to Nathan’s disappearance. As a sinister truth emerges, Jane realizes she must discover the origins of her talent, and use it to find Nathan herself, before it’s too late.

About Adam

Guest Blog by Adam McOmber - Inspector Francois Vidocq
Adam McOmber teaches creative writing at Columbia College Chicago and is the associate editor of the literary magazine Hotel Amerika. Stories from his collection, This New and Poisonous Air, have been shortlisted for Best American Fantasy and nominated for two Pushcart Prizes in 2012. Visit

Website : Blog : Twitter

Guest Blog by Alex Hughes - Crossing Genres

Please welcome Alex Hughes to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Clean (Mindspace Investigations 1) will be published on September 4, 2012.

Guest Blog by Alex Hughes - Crossing Genres

Crossing Genres

Genre – or categories – of fiction are things that people made up to sell books. Or, if you prefer, to figure out how to shelve books in a big, confusing bookstore. It’s helpful. It makes our brains happy. It sorts through all the books in the world and shows me the ones that are most likely to give me the happy romance feeling, the big explosions, the crazy mystery, or the exciting impossible fantasy. I like those feelings, and in a particular mood, I like to be able to find them quickly. The trouble is, those feelings are not mutually exclusive – nor are the genres built around them the only kinds of stories out there.

The idea of cross-genre books is the same idea of good writers everywhere. Let me take this new idea or interesting character and collide him or her with this other interesting idea or new character and see what happens.

For Linnea Sinclair this means taking rollicking good-fun science fiction space opera adventure and putting a heartfelt, deep-level romance in the middle of it. The result is so successful that I’ve seen her shelved both in the science fiction and romance categories. She doesn’t scrimp on action or worldbuilding – two things space opera fans love – but she doesn’t apologize for the deep emotions and meaningful sex the romance fans crave. Keeping both sets of fans happy has got to be tough, but she does it well.

For J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts), genre bending means writing mysteries in a futuristic world. Of course, because she’s Nora, there’s a strong and successful romance thread in the series, but the level of detail she puts into her worldbuilding and society of the future gets impressive over time. She stands up – if you give her several books – to many leading purely-science-fiction authors, and also manages to put an incredible depth of detail into the mystery plots she weaves. She does her research, she plants her red herrings, and she brings you to a satisfying ending in every book – something that keeps the mystery readers coming back for more every time.

For Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, the genres she crosses are a little less mainstream. Remember the old sailing ship books a la Patrick O’Brien? Imagine those with dragons. Fighting dragons, in His Majesty’s Air Force. While the book has all the things people love about dragon stories and a vigorously-built world for the fantasy fans, what makes the series one of my favorites is the depth of the historical detail. She builds a world in which dragons interact with real historical events and personages – and with the food, the customs, and all the rest so carefully described, the world feels authentic.

There are, of course, stories that don’t fit quite so neatly into just two categories. Look at Kylie Chan, writing urban fantasy-type fiction with Chinese Mythology in modern Hong Kong. How do you categorize that? Or Laurell K. Hamilton’s urban fantasy / thriller / romance / horror Anita Blake series? Or the small-town travails of Sookie Stackhouse in Charlene Harris’s books? What these stories all have in common is the richness of their detail, and the way they stay authentic to the story they’re telling – in all its facets, with all its genre expectations.

So, when it came time for me to sit down with my novel Clean, having realized that the story would hit multiple genres, I had big shoes to fill. I had to stay completely authentic to the story I was telling, put in great detail, and still do my best to make the genre readers happy on all sides. The book is about a telepath detective recovering from a drug addiction. That’s two major genres - telepath means science fiction/fantasy and detective means mystery / thriller - and a specific kind of character struggle (recovering addict) all working together.

In science fiction, readers expect cool pseudoscience moments and consistent rules of the world – so I had to work those in. Mystery readers expect the hero to solve the case clue by clue and then (for the turn to a thriller) for the hero to track down the bad guy and confront him in an exciting way. So I worked on the structure over and over until the clues sang and the ending was as exciting as I could possibly made it. And then – for those folks reading for character and the struggle of the main character – I carefully layered in as much depth of character and meaningful growth as I could make fit in the remaining space. It took careful structuring to give enough page time to everything, but I knew the readers deserved the best book I could make it.

The truth is, as readers many of us love more than one thing – we read more than one kind of book on a regular basis. And so, when we’re given a chance to have two or more of our favorite things in the same package, it’s exciting. When the author can give us what we love from both genres, layer in rich detail, and be authentic to the story he or she is telling, well, that’s when the story becomes magic.

Mindspace Investigations

Mindspace Investigations 1
Roc, September 4, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Guest Blog by Alex Hughes - Crossing Genres

I used to work for the Telepath’s Guild before they kicked me out for a drug habit that wasn’t entirely my fault. Now I work for the cops, helping Homicide Detective Isabella Cherabino put killers behind bars.

My ability to get inside the twisted minds of suspects makes me the best interrogator in the department. But the normals keep me on a short leash. When the Tech Wars ripped the world apart, the Guild stepped up to save it. But they had to get scary to do it—real scary.

Now the cops don’t trust the telepaths, the Guild doesn’t trust me, a serial killer is stalking the city—and I’m aching for a fix. But I need to solve this case. Fast. I’ve just had a vision of the future: I’m the next to die.

About Alex

Alex has written since early childhood, and loves great stories in any form including scifi, fantasy, and mystery. Over the years, Alex has lived in many neighborhoods of the sprawling metro Atlanta area. Decatur, the neighborhood on which Clean is centered, was Alex’s college home.

On any given week you can find Alex in the kitchen cooking gourmet Italian food, watching hours of police procedural dramas, and typing madly.

The Giveaway


What:  One commenter will win a copy of Clean (Mindspace Investigations 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 the following question:

Cross Genre novels - love them or leave them?

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 Wednesday, August 15, 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 Tom Pollock - Three Stories You Probably Never Knew Were Urban Fantasy

Please welcome Tom Pollock to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Tom's debut, The City's Son (The Skyscraper Throne 1) will be published on September 8, 2012 in the US.

Guest Blog by Tom Pollock - Three Stories You Probably Never Knew Were Urban Fantasy

Three Stories You Probably Never Knew 
Were Urban Fantasy

When I tell people I’m an Urban Fantasy writer, I’m often met with sceptical looks. It’s as if people have a mental picture of what UF stories ought to be, and the kinds of people who are supposed to write them, and despite The City’s Son featuring streetlamp spirits, run-away train ghosts and giant scaffolding wolves, I don’t match it.

Urban Fantasy is a strange category. Everyone kind of knows what it means, but it tends to get reduced to either Paranormal Romance or Paranormal detective fiction, Now, as much as I admire and like both of those kinds of stories, Urban Fantasy’s more than that, it’s the intersection of the mythic and the modern, magic and the mundane. It’s any story which brings the fantastical to our doorstep, or promises that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our year 10 physics textbooks.

So in the spirit of working with farther horizons, here are three stories you probably never knew were Urban Fantasy.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

Before you all email me pointing it out, yes, I know Narnia’s a secondary world, but unlike middle earth, say, it’s a secondary world accessible from this one, and that makes all the difference. It’s delightfully bathetic third element in the title, the dusty bit of furniture in the spare room in the Professor’s house that makes The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, Urban Fantasy, but it’s not getting in on a technicality. Fundamental to the appeal of the book is the implicit promise it makes, ‘Find the right heirloom in your attic, and you too can be a King or Queen of Narnia’

If that wasn’t enough, Lewis continues to jumble up bits and pieces of the modern world in with his fantasy universe, even when the wardrobe’s been left behind. Sometimes this is consolatory (as in, don’t worry guys, you may be in an analogue medieval world, but the faun will still make you crumpets and tea.) but at other times it’s genuinely estranging, cutting the familiar thing loose from its real world anchors and making it weird. The single lamppost sitting in the middle of the snow-bound forest still gives me the shivers.

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner.

This one’s probably not as familiar to those of you Stateside, but it’s a foundational text for thousands of Brits. In it, a brother and sister go to stay in the countryside for a summer, only to find the hills under their feet riddled with goblin tunnels, and witches and warlocks are hunting for them because an old family heirloom (again) is really the key to preventing the end of the world.

Weirdstone’s built up like a game of make believe, everything stands for something darker and more sinister: a local lake is really the lair of a dark magician, a rutted track is a charmed elf-road. As with the displaced streetlamp in Narnia, this is a way of escaping the mundane world by estranging it, making it more thrilling, more frightening and just plain more. Garner writes with such blistering conviction that every single ordinary thing his protagonists meet is heavy with a delicious sense of threat.

The Fire Eaters by David Almond.

With his father suddenly fallen ill, his new school a cruel and authoritarian place and the Cuban Missile crisis looming over the world, The Fire Eaters narrator Bobby Burns needs more than escapism, he needs a miracle. David Almond’s period story is probably the toughest case to make as urban fantasy, since there’s nothing overtly supernatural in it. Instead it trades in the feel of magic, of ritual, of midnight bonfires on the beach and in the ordinary, breathtaking magic that exists between best friends. All of these things combine to transport Bobby, and the reader. Using a magic-realism style honed on the more literally fantastical Skellig, Almond achieves the affect of an urban fantasy while skirting the edge of anything that would upset a nuclear physicist.

Hopefully that’s widened your UF horizons a little, are there any other titles, which, on reflection, you think I ought to have put it?

The City's Son

The City's Son
The Skyscraper Throne 1
Flux, September 8, 2012 (US)
Hardcover and eBook, 480 pages

Guest Blog by Tom Pollock - Three Stories You Probably Never Knew Were Urban Fantasy

"Gritty, dynamic, and beautiful.
I can't wait for more."
author of Blood Magic

Running from her traitorous best friend and her estranged father, graffiti artist Beth Bradley is looking for sanctuary. What she finds is Filius, the ragged and cocky crown prince of London’s mystical underworld. Filius opens Beth’s eyes to the city she’s never truly seen—where vast spiders crawl telephone wires seeking voices to steal, railwraiths escape their tethers, and statues conceal an ancient priesthood robed in bronze.

But it all teeters on the brink of destruction. Amid rumors that Filius’s goddess mother will soon return from her 15-year exile, Reach, a malign god of urban decay, wants the young prince dead. Helping Filius raise an alleyway army to reclaim his skyscraper throne, Beth soon forgets her old life. But when her best friend is captured, Beth must choose between this wondrous existence and the life she left behind.

The UK Cover
(Published August 2, 2012 by Jo Fletcher Books)

Guest Blog by Tom Pollock - Three Stories You Probably Never Knew Were Urban Fantasy

About Tom

Guest Blog by Tom Pollock - Three Stories You Probably Never Knew Were Urban Fantasy
© Mia Whitmore Photography
Inventor of monsters, hugger of bears, shameless prevaricator (i.e. fiction writer) Tom writes about strange creatures and unlikely friendships in the hidden corners of the city, and his first novel The City's Son, is released on 2nd August in the UK and 4th of September in the US. You can grab him on Twitter at @tomhpollock. Fair warning, he may pun at you. He's deplorable that way.

Website : Twitter

There will be a live online launch event for The City's Son with Tom on September 6, 2012, from 3-4 PM Central Standard Time. To participate on the 6th go to:

Guest Blog by G.T. Almasi - The Fast American Novel

Please welcome G.T. Almasi to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Blades of Winter (Shadowstorm 1) will be published on August 28, 2012.

The Fast American Novel.
Today’s high-speed digitalia leaves books in the dust.

Look at that kitten swallowing a lawnmower! American Idol marathon! Boom! More explosions! Faster! Too slow; I’m already on Facebook! What? Can’t hear you; I’m in Call of Duty! Aw, man, that noob tea-bagged me! Watch this video of my dog snoring Mozart! My ex-girlfriend’s mom’s new husband’s stepson just went to jail! I didn’t know Romney was a Martian! The Crown Prince of Nigeria has a real estate deal for me! Look at that kitten barfing up a lawnmower!

       The daily flood of viral memes, videos, eye candy, social posts, highlights and sound bites comes at us from so many places, in such volume, and at such high speeds, that fewer and fewer people are making time for traditional mediums such as books and magazines. The sad truth is that for many would-be readers, printed material takes too long to get to the point.

      I regularly read books, and I love them dearly, but I can still relate to this desire for fast-paced story-telling. I often found myself longing for a book as exciting as a Hollywood action movie, as colorful as a graphic novel, and as engrossing as a climactic boss fight.

       I feel the read for speed.

       Since none of my favorite authors stepped up to the plate, I eventually decided to take a shot at writing it myself. Jumping off from precedents such as Eye of the Needle, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Snowcrash, La Femme Nikita, The Terminator, Pulp Fiction, Gears of War, Call of Duty, and the Elder Scrolls games, I launched my bid to write the world’s fastest novel.

       Leave the poems, take the cannolli.

       Inspired by magazines and web sites, I arranged the book into two intertwined sections. The main chapters tell the story without getting bogged down in long descriptions of people, places, and things. Between the chapters are short articles, government memos, and data files that provide additional depth and context. Readers can choose how much of the back story they take in.

       Faster pussycat! Read! Read!

       I did everything I could to crank the action up to the frantic pace of blockbuster movies, comic books, and video games. Nothing was too big, too loud, or too wild. Then I worked to make the entire book as fast-paced as the action scenes. To this end I tried to make every line do three things; advance the story, develop the characters and relationships, and hopefully captivate the reader with inventive phrasing and language.

       The leaves nourish the roots.

       The result has gotten a good reception so far, which supports my trust in literature’s ability to change with the times. In the 18th century that meant a novelist was suddenly free to write about a world where single men in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. Perhaps now it means novelists can borrow from the many mediums descended from books to meet the accelerated pace of a digital generation.


Blades of Winter
Shadowstorm 1
Del Rey, August 28, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Guest Blog by G.T. Almasi - The Fast American Novel
In one of the most exciting debuts in years, G. T. Almasi has fused the intricate cat-and-mouse games of a John le Carré novel with the brash style of comic book superheroes to create a kick-ass alternate history that reimagines the Cold War as a clash of spies with biological, chemical, and technological enhancements.

Nineteen-year-old Alix Nico, a self-described “million-dollar murder machine,” is a rising star in ExOps, a covert-action agency that aggressively shields the United States from its three great enemies: the Soviet Union, Greater Germany, and the Nationalist Republic of China. Rather than risk another all-out war, the four superpowers have poured their resources into creating superspies known as Levels.

Alix is one of the hottest young American Levels. That’s no surprise: Her dad was America’s top Level before he was captured and killed eight years ago. But when an impulsive decision explodes—literally—in her face, Alix uncovers a conspiracy that pushes her to her limits and could upset the global balance of power forever.

Hammer of Angels (Shadowstorm 2) will be published in March 2013.

About G.T.

Guest Blog by G.T. Almasi - The Fast American Novel
G. T. Almasi graduated from RISD and moved to Boston to pursue a career as a graphic designer. While he built his design portfolio, he joined a band as the bass player, and wrote and designed the band's newsletter. Once his career as an art director took off, he continued to supplement his design talents by writing copy for his clients. As a novelist, his literary influences include Robert Ludlum, Neal Stephenson, and Hunter S. Thompson. He also draws inspiration from John Woo's movies and Todd Howard's videogames. Almasi lives in Plymouth, Massachusetts, with his wife, Natalie, and their lovably stubborn dog, Ella.

Facebook : Shadowstorm FB Page : Twitter

Guest Blog by Michael Boccacino - A Good Start

Please welcome Michael Boccacino to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge interviews. Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling was published on July 24, 2012.

Guest Blog by Michael Boccacino - A Good Start

A Good Start

I tend to have very particular dreams.

Last night, after celebrating the release of my first novel, Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling, I dreamt that a book appeared mysteriously on my nightstand. It was bound in cracked black leather, and the letters of the title were embossed in faded white paint: How To Be a Successful Writer.

I’ve been in something of a panic leading up to my “release date”, and the term itself has come to mean more than just the sale date of the book as neuroses and anxieties I didn’t know I possessed have slowly started bleeding into every facet of my life. Have I done everything I could to get the word out? Is there anyone else I should have tweeted at? Is it weird that I’m Googling my book so often? Will people like it, and if not, DEAR LORD WHAT IS WRONG WITH THEM?!

In the dream, I picked up the book and began to flip through its pages. There was one section dedicated to blogger outreach strategies, and I distinctly remember a passage about how authoring a guest post on The Qwillery, would improve readership by 37%. Whether this detail was a result of the fact that I was terribly late on delivering the post you’re now reading, or a simple reminder that Sally was the first blogger to welcome me to the surreal and wonderful world of book promotion remains a question for my subconscious. Try as I might, I’ve been unable to recall any further specifics from the mystery book. It’s faded away, my nightstand is empty, and I remain as anxious as before, consumed by the question that the book articulated: how do I know if I’m doing this right?

It’s a strange thing to put your heart and soul into the writing of a novel for years on end, because the moment the book is released into the world it stops being the author’s. In many ways, the writer is losing something secret and special that no one else could ever understand as well as they do, until, that is, someone else reads it and the book becomes theirs. To truly share a piece of yourself, you have to be willing to lose it entirely, to let it become part of someone else’s life.

In the end, the only rule that matters is to let go. Not to stop caring, but to acknowledge that you did what you set out to do. The “secret” of the book may be gone, but that doesn’t make it any less real. The “success” of the book is that it happened at all, and for me, it’s sitting on the shelf at my local Barnes and Noble between Judy Blume and Boccaccio. For now, that’s a good start.

Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling

Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling
William Morrow Paperbacks, July 24, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Guest Blog by Michael Boccacino - A Good Start
When the nanny to the young Darrow boys is found mysteriously murdered on the outskirts of the village of Blackfield, Charlotte Markham, the recently hired governess, steps in to take over their care. During an outing in the forest, they find themselves crossing over into The Ending, "the place for the Things Above Death," where Lily Darrow, the late mother of the children, has been waiting. She invites them into the House of Darkling, a wondrous place filled with enchantment, mystery, and strange creatures that appear to be, but are not quite, human.

However, everything comes with a price, and as Charlotte begins to understand the unspeakable bargain Mrs. Darrow has made for a second chance at motherhood, she uncovers a connection to the sinister occurrences in Blackfield and enters into a deadly game with the master of Darkling—one whose outcome will determine the fate of not just the Darrows but the world itself.

Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling is a Victorian Gothic tale about family ties, the realm beyond the living, and the price you pay to save those you love.

About Michael

Guest Blog by Michael Boccacino - A Good Start
Michael Boccacino's poetry has been published in the St. Petersburg Times. He currently lives in New York City. This is his first novel.


Guest Blog by Joanne Reay - Spiked Coffee

Please welcome Joanne Reay to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Romeo Spikes (Lo'Life Trilogy 1) will be published on August 14, 2012.

Guest Blog by Joanne Reay - Spiked Coffee

Spiked Coffee

“What are you doing here?” asks the girl at the till.

I’m in a coffee shop, buying coffee. An unwarranted question, I think.

The girl’s left breast is labeled Luna. I assume the name applies to all of her.

She continues. “Everyday, same time. Same table. So what you doing?” Luna is possibly Polish and certainly rude-ish.

“I’m writing a novel.”

“Aha, that so?” I could see her making an immediate translation.

“I’m writing” = I’m totally
“a novel’ = unemployed

Something sparks in me – an urge to decorate this comment with unnecessary detail.

“It’s called Romeo Spikes.”

She shoves my coffee over. “I like title. What does it mean?”

“It’s a little hard to explain. You kinda have to read the story.”

‘Then I don’t like title. Good title should have natural meaning.”

And there it is. Luna’s first crit. I skillfully sweep up my coffee but don’t take the crit that well.

I sit down at my usual table. Write nine hundred words, same as always. Pack up and rise to leave. Luna’s passing farewell comes like a playground pull at my pony-tail.

“Tomorrow you tell me what book about. Then maybe title work OK.”

I trudge home. It is winter and the snow is thick but I don’t mind. Trudging feels good. I emphasize with every step the reasons why Luna knows nothing about titles.

Everyone loves it. I have tried it out on friends and family - frequently. And everyone says the same: “Romeo Spikes, that’s so cool.”

Trudging on – translating now.

Romeo Spikes = shit, is she still talking about her bloody novel?
That’s so cool = just kill me now

Next day, Luna leans on the counter, a wall of flesh between me and my coffee.

“So what’s it about?”

She looks strong and healthy as if she might live past a hundred. I don’t know why this bothers me.

“Luna, y’know – it’s a funny thing. But sometimes, talking about the creative process, it’s not good.”

“Not good, eh? Maybe story no good.”

‘The story’s good, Luna. I just don’t want to talk about it.”

“Give me one line. The soul of it.”

The soul of it? Please God let it be that her English is so limited, simplicity sounds like genius.

At my usual table, I write nine hundred words, expanding a novel that has no soul and a meaningless title.

I leave. I go home. There is no snow. I trudge harder.

The next day is busy in the coffee shop. Every Wednesday, mother and baby groups gather to test the acoustics and Luna is forced to flit back and forth, memorizing orders and punching at the till. I take some pleasure in choosing this morning to regale her with the main points of my novel. She cunningly counters by ignoring me. A simple tactic but surprisingly effective.

I collect my coffee – decaf. Defeated.

I don’t go back to the coffee shop. I find another. The coffee is weak but the criticism is less bitter. I tell no-one that I’m writing a novel. I try to look like I’m unemployed. I succeed brilliantly.

A year later, novel in hand, I go back to the original cafe. I flourish the book at Luna. I don’t know what I’m looking for. Closure, perhaps.

“Hey Luna, you remember me? I was in here everyday. Writing. This is the novel. I got it published.”

Luna looks at me and a memory flickers, like a star that died four billion years ago.

“Novel lady, yes. I remember.”

I place the book in her hands and she scans the front cover, fixing on my name.

“How you say this?”

“It’s spelled with an “e” but it’s pronounced Ray, like sun ray.”

Luna pulls a face. “You should spell it how it sounds.”

I take the book back.

Screw closure.

Romeo Spikes

Romeo Spikes
Lo'Life Trilogy 1
Gallery Books, August 14, 2012
Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages

Guest Blog by Joanne Reay - Spiked Coffee
Working the Homicide squad, Alexis Bianco believes she’s seen every way a life can be taken. Then she meets the mysterious Lola and finds out she’s wrong. More weapon than woman, Lola pursues a predator with a method of murder like no other.

The Tormenta.

If you think you’ve never encountered Tormenta, think again. You’re friends with one. Have worked for one. Maybe even fallen in love with one.

They walk amongst us—looking like us, talking like us. Coercing our subconscious with their actions. Like the long-legged beauty who seduces the goofy geek only to break his heart, causing him to break his own neck in a noose. Or the rock star whose every song celebrates self-harm, inspiring his devoted fans to press knives to their own throats. The pusher who urges the addict toward one more hit, bringing him a high from which he’ll never come down. The tyrannical boss, crushing an assistant’s spirit until a bridge jump brings her low.

We call it a suicide. Tormenta call it a score, their demonic powers allowing them to siphon off the unspent life span of those who harm themselves.

To Bianco, being a cop is about right and wrong. Working with Lola is about this world and the next . . . and maybe the one after that. Because everything is about to change. The coming of a mighty Tormenta is prophesied, a dark messiah known as the Mosca.

To stop him, Bianco and Lola must fight their way through a cryptic web of secret societies and powerful legends and crack an ancient code that holds the only answer to the Mosca’s defeat. If this miscreant rises before they can unmask him, darkness will reign and mankind will fall in a storm of suicides. Nobody’s safe. Everyone’s a threat.

About Joanne

Guest Blog by Joanne Reay - Spiked Coffee
Vienna is now my home, where I work as a screenplay writer and producer for a film production company. Prior to that, I worked for the BBC and ran my own documentary production company. Over the last two decades, without doubt the best things I’ve produced are my two amazing daughters. Now twenty-one and eighteen, Emma and Katie are my constant inspiration and – as I frequently remind them – possibly also my pension, unless my books are a hit.

Guest Blog By Hanna Martine - The Dreams You Keep

Please welcome Hanna Martine to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Hanna's debut, Liquid Lies (The Elementals 1), will be published on July 3, 2012 by Berkley. Tomorrow! Read an interview with Hanna here.


Writing professionally has been a dream of mine since I was very young. However, it was a dream, not my only dream.

If I could have been the first dancer/novelist, my life would have been complete. I felt as much love for performing in front of an audience as I did for sitting in my bedroom alone clacking away at my mom's typewriter.

When you're that young--we're talking grade school--dreams never seem impossible. Unless something profound and real is holding you back, when you're eight, you can be anything. Life seems borderless and grand, and growing up is so far away. Like Peter Pan, you feel ageless.

I always thought I'd be able to keep dancing. I don't think I ever fooled myself into believing I was good enough to be professional, but I couldn't picture a day when it wouldn't be part of my life. The dream flickered, small but ever-present, in the back of my mind.

My two loves, dance and writing, went hand in hand for a long time. In college, I adopted a grueling dance (and social) schedule. I barely wrote. Soon after, life took me away from both my loves. Dance isn't something you can pick up after years off and expect to be at the same level you once were. But writing ... the more mature I became, the more I read and analyzed and typed away--surprise, surprise--the better I got at it.

As the dream of dance faded, the obsession to become a writer took over. I knew that's where my true talent lay, the one that could fulfill me professionally and spiritually.

Still, dance was a powerful dream, and now it's gone. It hurts to this day. Go with me to a dance performance and I will cry. It's a given. The tears are as much for the talent I don't have anymore as for the beauty of what I see on stage. But clinging to regret for not pursuing dance earlier on and in a more aggressive manner is useless. Regret holds you back. And I've only ever wanted to fly.

Dancing had come and gone, but I still had my words. The thing about writing? It never leaves you. You could be blind and still write. You could lose a hand and still write. It's entirely made of what's inside you.

I remember the exact day the dream of writing manifested into a serious, tangible goal of becoming a novelist. I hadn't written a word in at least five years. I was at the library, running my fingers over the spines of the science fiction and fantasy books. The desire to share my stories with an audience, in much the same way as I'd shared my performances, slammed into me with such powerful force I went immediately to the store, bought a notebook (I didn't even own a computer then) and started scribbling down ideas.

Dreams are funny things. Some you are forced to leave behind. Some are ripped away against your will. Some you hold on to. Some you merely set aside for when the time is right for them to be fulfilled.

My debut novel, LIQUID LIES--a different kind of paranormal romance--is the culmination of many, many years of dreaming and even more years of seriously hard work.

I'd love to hear from you. Please visit me at

[By the way, as I was writing this, I could not get this song ( out of my head. And now it's in yours!]

About The Elementals

Liquid Lies
The Elementals 1
Berkley, July 3, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Guest Blog By Hanna Martine -  The Dreams You Keep
Magic is corporate America's best-kept secret, and Gwen Carroway is the best at selling it...

With her ability to pick up any language in an instant, Gwen Carroway is taking her family business global. As dutiful future leader of water elementals, she'll do anything to protect her people's secrets and bloodlines--including enter an arranged marriage. Inside, however, she yearns for the forbidden.

Reed is a mercenary addicted to the money and adrenaline rush of his work. After he inadvertently saves Gwen's life, he ignites her taboo desire for men without magic--and with bodies of gods. Just as things heat up, Reed discovers that Gwen is exactly who he's been hired to kidnap. He resolves to put work before lust, yet her luscious beauty and fiery spirit unravel him...

But there is a terrible truth behind Gwen's family business--and now, caught between the kinsmen she no longer trusts and an enemy bent on vengeance, the only ally she has is her abductor...

About Hanna

Guest Blog By Hanna Martine -  The Dreams You Keep
Hanna Martine's only goal growing up was to become a writer, specifically a fantasy writer. That dream stuck until she realized that most speculative fiction novels faded to black during the best parts or skipped over love stories altogether. When she discovered paranormal romance and urban fantasy, she found the genre of her heart. After the arrival of her daughter, she couldn't think of a better lesson to teach the little one than: Have a dream. Go after it. Be fulfilled. So she set aside all thoughts of returning to the business world and focused on writing and learning about the industry. She finished two novels before coming up with the idea for the world of The Elementals. She joined the Romance Writers of America (RWA), placed in numerous contests, and found an agent and editor who believed in her unique stories. She loves writing about secret worlds, magic, and the intense emotional and physical relationships that exist within them.

Find Hanna:  Website, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Goodreads

The Giveaway


What:  One commenter will win a copy of Liquid Lies (The Elementals 1) from The Qwillery.

How:  Leave a comment answering the following question:

What were some of your childhood dreams?

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.

3)   Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.

There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website 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, July 9, 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 Kira Brady - Hearts of Darkness: Chapter Four

Please welcome Kira Brady to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Hearts of Darkness, Kira's debut novel, will be published on August 7, 2012.  Kira shares some background to the novel and Chapter 4

My debut novel, Hearts of Darkness was inspired by a ghost tour of Seattle's Pike Place Market and Butterworth Mortuary. This historic landmark is supposed to be the most haunted spot in Washington State. Those ghost stories and the lawless, Wild West attitude of the Seattle Pioneers formed the backbone of the ghost-infested world that became the alternate Seattle of the Deadglass trilogy. This is the first scene I started writing when I sat down to sketch out the book, and it is still one of my favorites. In Hearts of Darkness, a human woman, Kayla Friday, travels to Seattle to identify her sister's body and finds herself in the middle of a bloody war between two ancient races of shape shifters. The Kivati--led by Corbette--seek to protect the Gate to the Land of the Dead, the Drekar to destroy it. The only man Kayla can trust is Hart, a blood sworn mercenary with his own agenda. In this scene Hart, a werewolf, meets with his boss, the Regent of the dragon-shifting Drekar. Hearts of Darkness debuts August 2012 from Kensington Zebra.

Hearts of Darkness: Chapter Four

       Butterworth and Son's Mortuary first opened in 1903 as a one-stop shop for the dead: morgue, funeral parlor, and crematorium. Before that, the land had been an Indian burial ground. The result was one seriously haunted chunk of earth. The number of dead passing through the Gate in this spot had forever warped the Aether, so that even humans could sense the otherworld. Various bars and restaurants had come and gone, quickly driven out of business by strange happenings and ghostly vandalism.

       Butterworth's, as it was now called, was the longest-running business to occupy the building, thanks to the owner, Sven Norgard, who understood how to manage otherworldly inhabitants. No one, living or dead, crossed Norgard. He’d turned the place into an opium parlor and tea house. Those of Seattle's famous musicians who were unlucky enough to die in Norgard's debt performed nightly, putting a new twist on "live" music.

       All were welcome, but for a price. Guns were checked at the door, no exorcisms allowed, yet the air reeked of violence. Shadows slithered in the flickering glow of the candelabras. Clouds of opium puffed from the deep, red velvet booths like sweetly scented, miniature volcanoes.

       Hart pulled himself up to the massive mahogany bar that took up one wall. Hand-carved dragons decorated the imposing piece, a nod to the owner and his kin. Every muscle protested from Hart's earlier fight. He was getting too old for this crap. In the fifteen years he'd worked for Norgard he'd watched countless other men die. Two more jobs, he could do it. The Lady had never done him any favors, but maybe She'd take pity on him this once.

       Doc, the bartender, saw him and ambled over. Charms tinkled from the man's portly belly, warding off spirits intent on breaking his bottles of alcohol.

       "Happy Nisannu," Doc said in greeting. "May Tiamat aid you in the coming year."

       Nisannu—the celebration of the Babylonian New Year—was in full swing. Norgard had gone all out with fountains of fermented honey wine and free chocolate. Red streamers hung from the ceiling and stalks of barley decorated the walls. Stone Babylonian gods, illuminated by red lanterns, leered over the dance floor.

       "What'll it be?" Doc asked.

       "The usual," Hart said. "Tell Norgard I'm here."

       Doc nodded and poured him a cup of Darjeeling with a shot of gin. Hart gingerly raised the porcelain cup to his lips. The delicate handle felt ridiculous in his thick fingers. As he waited, he watched the grinding bodies on the dance floor, keeping his back to the bar and an eye on the door so no one could catch him off guard. The thick air, clogged with sweat and opium, threw off his nose. Without his sense of smell he felt blind and vulnerable. If it were up to the beast, he would avoid all crowds and closed spaces. Too bad he had no choice in the matter.

       Like most Drekar and Kivati haunts, Butterworth's was wired for gas. Red plates of glass covered the chandelier and wall sconces. The bloody glow of the lights illuminated an empty chair on stage. In front of it sat an old-fashioned microphone flanked by two large amplifying horns that pumped out music from the ghostly entertainer. Hart dug out his Deadglass and raised it to his eye to see what the dancers, high on opium and alcohol, could see: a thin young man with stringy blond hair, torn jeans, and a flannel shirt sitting in the chair and strumming a beat-up guitar. He looked not much different from the way he had in life—same paper-pale skin, same hollow eyes. He played with a demonic flare that roused the crowd to a frenzy.

       Hart pocketed the Deadglass and surveyed the room. Politicians made deals in the booths that lined the walls. Ishtar's Maidens, in lace garters and little else, slipped through the crowd selling their wares. He caught sight of Oscar's blond head at the back of the room and raised his teacup in a mock salute. His fellow operative saw him and touched his forehead in return. Norgard discouraged camaraderie. It was practical, given the short life expectancy of his blood slaves.

       Speak of the devil. The tall blond Viking glided through the crowd toward him. His beautiful face made people trust him. In his left eye, he wore a Deadglass monocle. His right eye was clear blue, icy as his heart. Unless feeding, fighting, or fucking, the oval iris looked mostly human. Usually by the time anyone noticed its irregularity, it was much too late.

       Norgard owned half the city and controlled most of the territory across the western United States. His business interests covered everything from technology and aeronautics to chocolate. All of his ventures flourished; Norgard had the Midas touch.

       Behind Norgard stalked the head of his personal guard, Erik Thorsson. Civilization might have advanced, but Thorsson hadn't. He was a bloody, violent individual, better suited to pillaging by longboat than running a business. Norgard indulged him, especially if that violence was directed toward the Kivati.

       Norgard slid gracefully onto a stool next to Hart, engulfing him in a wave of iron-scented air. The beast inside Hart strained forward at the sight of his alpha. Norgard had taken something natural and twisted it, leashing the beast. But Hart's mad totem couldn't be fooled for long; this alpha and makeshift pack were tainted. Once the blood debt was repaid, the beast would make its move. Hart found himself eyeing Norgard's throat, saliva pooling along his sharp canines. He wrenched his gaze away. Soon.

       "What could be so important that it could not wait for later?" Norgard asked. A hint of Norse tinged his voice.

       Hart waited for Norgard to order a drink—Glögg, aflame as usual—before telling him the job had changed. Norgard's nostrils flared, but Hart didn't give a damn. The Dreki had left out a dangerous amount of information.

       "Losing your touch, mad dog?" Norgard smiled, showing a mouthful of sharp teeth. "What could be so difficult in robbing a silly chit?"

       "Seems you're not the only one interested in this so-called sentimental trinket."

       Norgard had the grace to look away. It was as much an admission of guilt as Hart was going to get. "Corbette. I had hoped he was unaware of its existence. What does he know?"

       Hart shrugged.

       "The man is a stuffed shirt," Norgard said. "His reactionary tactics will never restore the glory of the Kivati. Their gilded age is over. He needs to accept that and move forward. Open up, rather than isolating his people like some damned Victorian commune. I will not let him interfere in my plans."

       Hart took a sip of his tea and waited. It was a rant he'd heard before, and privately agreed with. Corbette thought a few generations of exacting protocol and rigid societal laws could keep his people from fading completely into the Shimmering Lands. But nothing could wash the taint from the blood. Nothing could restore the integrity of the cracked Gate. That didn't mean Hart agreed with all of Norgard's views. Humans wouldn't accept the supernatural races unless the hellfire of the apocalypse was raining down around their shoulders.

       Norgard sighed heavily. "I suppose this means the original price will no longer suffice."

       "You suppose right." Hart had never figured why a man so filthy rich could be such a penny pincher.

       "Fine. So close to freedom," Norgard said. "What will you do, little Wolf, when you no longer bear the leash?"

       Hart wanted to tell him to go to hell. He'd follow the packs north to Canada, last of the great wild spaces, and then he didn't know what he'd do. Anything. Everything. No one to answer to. Nothing to keep him here. He'd find somewhere he could run free.

       "Can you taste it? The tang of blood coating your palate? Free to let its magic feed your own soul once again?" Norgard leaned in, a seductive purr in his voice. "Or is it fear that haunts you? Knowing that once the leash is gone, the madness will take you, faster and stronger than ever. What will stop it from destroying you? What will stop you from destroying everyone around you?"

       Hart growled low. The beast waited beneath the surface, hungry and aching to be let free. His skin itched with the need to Change. His mouth watered. He wanted to rip the Dreki's throat between his teeth.

       Norgard smiled and leaned back. "I rest my case."

You may read Chapter 1 of Hearts of Darkness at the Kensington Books website.

Deadglass Trilogy

Hearts of Darkness
Deadglass 1
Kensington Zebra, August 7, 2012
Mass Market Papberback and eBook, 352 pages

Guest Blog by Kira Brady - Hearts of Darkness: Chapter Four
In the first of a dazzling new romantic trilogy, one woman’s courageous search plunges her into a millennia-old supernatural war—and an irresistible passion…

Nurse Kayla Friday has dedicated her life to science and reason. But for her, Seattle is a place of eerie loss and fragmented, frightening memories. And now the only clue to her sister’s murder reveals a secret battle between two ancient mythologies…and puts Kayla in the sights of lethally-sexy werewolf mercenary Hart. He’ll do whatever it takes to obtain the key to the Gate of the Land of the Dead and free what’s left of his soul. But seducing the determined Kayla is putting them at the mercy of powerful desires neither can control. And as the clock ticks down to hellish catastrophe, the untested bond between Kayla and Hart may lead to the ultimate sacrifice.

Hearts of Fire
Deadglass 0.5
Kensington Zebra, June 26, 2012
eBook (Novella)

Guest Blog by Kira Brady - Hearts of Darkness: Chapter Four
In the prequel to a stunning new paranormal series, one woman's desire for a forbidden man will spark a centuries-long supernatural conflict--and a love nothing can destroy.

She's the heiress to Seattle's most powerful shifter clan. Her destiny is as controlled and certain as moonrise. However, from the moment Alice Corbette encounters the man known as Brand, she will defy all constraint and break every rule to make this dragon-shifter hers. Brand is determined to repay the clan leader he owes his life to. But one taste of Alice's exquisite spirit will make him question his loyalty--and plunge them both into the middle of a ruthless power play. Their only chance at freedom is a gamble that could risk the future of humans and shifters alike. . .

Hearts of Shadow (Deadglass 2) will be published in May 2013 and Hearts of Chaos (Deadglass 3) will be published in February 2014.

About Kira

Guest Blog by Kira Brady - Hearts of Darkness: Chapter Four
Kira Brady is afraid of crows, the dark, and things that go bump in the night. A native Seattleitte, she spent her childhood hiking the rainy forests of the Pacific Northwest and drying out by the fire with a good book and a mug of something hot. She graduated with honors from the University of Pennsylvania, where she met her real life Prince Charming and promptly dragged him back to sunless Seattle. She fell in love with historic, haunted cities in graduate school. Now she writes about the twisted cities of her imagination, where wraiths and shape-shifters stalk the night and love redeems even the darkest heart. When not writing, she can be found drinking inordinately large mugs of Assam tea, knitting wool socks, and raising a wee heroine-in-training. Her debut novel, Hearts of Darkness, was named one of the Best Books of Summer 2012 by Publishers Weekly. You can read more about her on her website

Website : FacebookTwitter : Google+ : Goodreads

The Giveaway


What:  Five commenters will each win a digital copy of  Hearts of Fire (Deadglass 0.5), the prequel novella, from Kira!

How:  Leave a comment answering Kira's questions:

Are you afraid of ghosts? What are your favorite haunted spots?

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.

3)   Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.

There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website 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 Sunday, July 8, 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 Lou Morgan - Sound & Fury

Please welcome Lou Morgan to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Blood and Feathers, Lou's debut, will be published on July 31, 2012 in the US and Canada and on August 2, 2012 in the UK.


"Oh dear god, no! You can't put that on! Turn it off: are you trying to *kill* me?"

(My husband stands, bewildered, at the foot of the stairs; a remote control in his hand.)

"Turn it off! Turn it off! I used that song for a short story, and you'll put me back in work mode!"

(Husband - still bewildered, but also looking a little pained now - obligingly turns the music off, and puts another album on.)

Welcome to the world of writers' playlists.

It seems to happen more and more often these days: writers post playlists to accompany their latest book online, and many will have favourite albums to work to. Film scores are apparently a favourite (probably because they don't usually have lyrics) and a while back, I knew of at least ten authors who were using the "Tron: Legacy" soundtrack to score their own writing. I'm not surprised, by the way: it's a brilliant album.

With the rise of digital, music is a more integral part of our lives than it has ever been. It goes with us everywhere, and that's why it's so useful to writers. A very, very long time ago, I remember reading an article with a Properly Famous, Serious Author who said he couldn't listen to the radio while he worked because it was unpredictable: you had no idea what the next song would be, and there was no way of controlling the pace or the tone of what you heard - and that would seep into the writing.

An interesting idea.

I've heard other writers say they will only listen to orchestral music (besides Daft Punk's music for "Tron", thanks to his scores for Christopher Nolan's films in particular, Hans Zimmer has become something of an unofficial patron saint to authors) or some who will only play songs with lyrics in a language they don't speak. In an interview a few years ago, Joe Hill summed up the writer's playlist as being a "mental trick"; a way to get back into the right mood when picking up a story again.

For a lot of writers, it seems to be part of the ritual. Others may not need it; may want to work in silence.

I'm on the side of the playlisters. I've killed more than one song for myself by listening to them over and over and over again while I worked on a short story (and when I say "killed" them, I mean it. At the last count, one of them registers as having been played 200 times. Over the course of a weekend. I weep every time I hear it, a year and a half later. This was the musical choice of my unfortunate husband… hence the freak-out on my part. Excusable? Not really. Understandable? Maybe.) In my case, I might find a song that matches a character, a scene, an aspect of what I'm writing; that sums something up… and on the playlist it goes. Sometimes, it's a song which gets me thinking, and the rest of it falls into place from there.

And while I might weep and wail and gnash my teeth and pull my hair and generally make life miserable for whoever happens to be nearest to me if a "work song" is sprung on me unexpectedly, it's also quite nice to be able to revisit not just the stories themselves, but the memories of working on them. I can still hang the whole of my experience plotting and writing "Blood and Feathers" on one Linkin Park song.

There are other songs which came after it, which fitted around what I was doing, what I wanted to do… but that song will forever be the beginning; the start of something quite new.

And after all, isn't that what inspiration means?

You can find the BLOOD & FEATHERS playlist printed in the back of the book, and listen to it on Spotify.

Blood and Feathers

Blood and Feathers
Blood and Feathers 1
Solaris, July 31, 2012 (US and Canada)
August 2, 2012 (UK)
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Guest Blog by Lou Morgan - Sound & Fury
"What's the first thing you think of when I say 'angel'?" asked Mallory. Alice shrugged. "I don't know... guns?"

Alice isn't having the best of days. She was late for work, she missed her bus, and now she's getting rained on. What she doesn't know is that her day's about to get worse: the epic, grand-scale kind of worse that comes from the arrival of two angels who claim everything about her life is a lie.

The war between the angels and the Fallen is escalating; the age-old balance is tipping, and innocent civilians are getting caught in the cross-fire. If the balance is to be restored, the angels must act - or risk the Fallen taking control. Forever.

That’s where Alice comes in. Hunted by the Fallen and guided by Mallory - a disgraced angel with a drinking problem and a whole load of secrets - Alice will learn the truth about her own history… and why the angels want to send her to hell.

What do the Fallen want from her? How does Mallory know so much about her past? What is it the angels are hiding - and can she trust either side?

Caught between the power plays of the angels and Lucifer himself, it isn't just hell's demons that Alice will have to defeat...

Blood and Feathers: Rebellion (Blood and Feathers 2) will be published in 2013!

About Lou

Guest Blog by Lou Morgan - Sound & Fury
Lou Morgan grew up in Wales, before moving to London to study medieval literature at UCL. She now lives in Brighton with her husband and son.

Her first novel, BLOOD AND FEATHERS will be published by Solaris Books in August 2012 with the sequel, BLOOD AND FEATHERS: REBELLION to follow in 2013.

She wastes a lot of time on Twitter as @LouMorgan, and occasionally commits short fiction.

Guest Blog by Madeline Ashby - Gynoid Trouble

Please welcome Madeline Ashby to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. vN (Machine Dynasty 1), Madeline's debut, will be published by Angry Robot Books on July 31, 2012 in the US/ Canada and on August 2, 2012 in the UK/ RoW.

Gynoid Trouble

I was flying back from a trip to Intel's IXR Lab when a British ad man caught me looking at the cover of my book vN on my computer. I explained that the book was about a robot named Amy. That was Amy (and her mother Charlotte, and her grandmother Portia) on the cover.

"Does she know she's a robot?" my seat mate asked.

"Oh yes," I answered. "She knows. She's always known. She's very happy being a robot. She doesn't want to be anything else."

Saying these words aloud, I realized how odd they sounded. After all, many stories about robots are about establishing an identity. Most of this time that means that the robots, like Pinocchio, wish to become "real." The Tin Woodsman wants the Wizard to give him a heart. Little David, in both "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long" and its film adaptation, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, longs to become a real little boy. Both Rick Deckard and Roy Batty are on a quest for authenticity; neither can find it without Eldon Tyrell's help. Commander Data wants to find Dr. Soong, so that he can have his emotion chip installed. Astro Boy wants to impress his creator, Dr. Tenma, and later his adopted father, Professor Ochanomizu. Even David Weyland, the robot in Ridley Scott's latest disappointment, Prometheus, performs a human identity to the best of his ability so that his father will recognize that he does indeed have a soul. All of these stories stem from Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein, in which the Creature that Victor Frankenstein creates goes on a quest to find him, prove his humanity to him, and ultimately punish him for having abandoned him. In turn, M.W. Shelley's story stems from both the Prometheus and Satan myths: an angry creation's quest to prove himself to a distant creator, a quest that turns violent or destructive when the creator fails to appreciate his creation.

Most robot stories are all about daddy issues. Most robot stories are also about male robots, written by men. I suspect this is not a coincidence. But in vN, I wasn't writing about sons and fathers, but about mothers and daughters. I was also influenced by Donna Haraway's A Cyborg Manifesto, in which she says:

Unlike the hopes of Frankenstein's monster, the cyborg does not expect its father to save it through a restoration of the garden; that is, through the fabrication of a heterosexual mate, through its completion in a finished whole, a city and cosmos. The cyborg does not dream of community on the model of the organic family, this time without the oedipal project. The cyborg would not recognize the Garden of Eden; it is not made of mud and cannot dream of returning to dust. Perhaps that is why I want to see if cyborgs can subvert the apocalypse of returning to nuclear dust in the manic compulsion to name the Enemy. Cyborgs are not reverent; they do not re-member the cosmos. They are wary of holism, but needy for connection- they seem to have a natural feel for united front politics, but without the vanguard party. The main trouble with cyborgs, of course, is that they are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism, not to mention state socialism. But illegitimate offspring are often exceedingly unfaithful to their origins. Their fathers, after all, are inessential.

Now, Amy is not a cyborg. She is all machine. A robot. But her family unit is cyborg: a fusion of organic and synthetic elements in the form of her robot mother and human father, who live together as a mixed-species couple. The cyborg values Haraway described appealed to me, and over time they became Amy's values and those of her family: atheism, pluralism, the rejection of origin, a commitment to designing a good life based on personal desires and not social constructs. Those are the values Amy takes out into the world when she goes on an adventure that leads her to some truths about her family and herself.

But values weren't enough. When I tried to think of stories about female robots, all I could come up with were women like Rachael Rosen in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: cold, calculating, using sex as a weapon. I thought about the Buffybot, and Data's daughter Lal, and Pris and Zhora. The Stepford Wives. The Cylons: 6, 8, etc. Deceivers, mostly, or substitutes. The mechanical brides of Frankenstein's Creature. Only Molly Millions stands out as someone you might wish you could be, someone with her own position in the world. But she's a cyborg, not a robot. The only remotely healthy models of fully gynoid subjectivity I could think of were Japanese: Motoko Kusanagi, from Ghost in the Shell (all of its iterations); Gally/Alita, from Battle Angel Alita/Gunm; Melfina, from Outlaw Star; Chii, from Chobits; R. Dorothy Wayneright from Big O, and KOS-MOS, the star of the Xenosaga RPGs.

Of those, Kusanagi's story is the one that always resonates most deeply with me. In all of her incarnations -- manga or film or television animation -- she is a woman who must confront the darkest aspects of herself and reintegrate all of her disparate elements into a coherent identity. Susan J. Napier describes Kusanagi's growth as a series of "falls" and crossed thresholds both literal and figurative. This is a classic journey from girl to goddess, in which the "devouring mother" or wicked queen of Jungian archetype must be faced and displaced so that the girl can become a woman. Similarly, the more Freudian "uncanny double" appears a great deal in stories about female robots and cyborgs: in Dick's novel Rachael and Pris are doubles; Chii has Freya; KOS-MOS has T-elos; Dorothy has R.D.; Lain Iwakura has the "wild Lain"; Rei Ayanami has multiple clones and is herself a clone of Yui Ikari. All of these doubles must be subdued for the heroine to achieve her goal. The heroine's journey is the transition from object to subject. More specifically, the gynoid heroine's journey is the transition between "automaton" to "autonomous". From a piece of consumer technology to one who can never be owned. As Rei Ayanami says, "Wastashi wa anatta no ningyo ja nai; watashi wa anatta ja nai mono." I am not your puppet; I am not your thing.

This is not to say that all women have the same journey, or that all women are the same. Haraway herself said it: "There is nothing about being 'female' that naturally binds women. There is not even such a state as 'being' female, itself a highly complex category constructed in contested sexual scientific discourses and other social practices." She wrote these words five years before Judith Butler published Gender Trouble, before "gender performativity" was a term students had to memorize. But I was thinking of both women when I wrote vN. I was also thinking about Christopher Bolton's articles on Ghost in the Shell, specifically related to bunraku puppet theatre and its relationship to the performance of both gender and humanity. Female robots, or robots coded feminine at least, would have it bad both ways, I thought. Not only would they have to be more human than human, they would have to be more woman than women.

And that seemed like a quest in and of itself.

About vN

Machine Dynasty 1
Angry Robot Books, July 31, 2012 (US/Canada)
August 2, 2012 (UK/RoW)
Trade Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

Guest Blog by Madeline Ashby - Gynoid Trouble
Amy Peterson is a von Neumann machine, a self-replicating humanoid robot.

For the past five years, she has been grown slowly as part of a mixed organic/synthetic family. She knows very little about her android mother’s past, so when her grandmother arrives and attacks her mother, little Amy wastes no time: she eats her alive.

Now she carries her malfunctioning granny as a partition on her memory drive, and she’s learning impossible things about her clade’s history – like the fact that the failsafe that stops all robots from harming humans has failed… Which means that everyone wants a piece of her, some to use her as a weapon, others to destroy her.

File Under: Science Fiction [ Von Neumann Sisters | Fail Safe Fail | The Squid & the Swarm | Robot Nation ]

About Madeline

Guest Blog by Madeline Ashby - Gynoid Trouble
Madeline Ashby is the author of vN, available July 31 from Angry Robot Books. Her fiction has been published in Nature, FLURB, Escape Pod, and elsewhere. Her non-fiction has appeared at BoingBoing, Creators Project, WorldChanging, and She works as a foresight consultant in Toronto.

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