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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Guest Blog by Michael Poore - On the Road Among the Drug-Fueled Face-Eaters: Dark Books and Dark Vacations For Dark Times

Please welcome Michael Poore to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Up Jumps the Devil, Michael's debut novel, will be published on July 3, 2012.

On the Road Among the Drug-Fueled Face-Eaters: Dark Books and Dark Vacations For Dark Times

Guest Blog by Michael Poore - On the Road Among the Drug-Fueled Face-Eaters: Dark Books and Dark Vacations For Dark Times

      So, my family and I are gearing up for vacation. We’re leaving for three weeks (while my armed, badass friend Josh watches the house with Jake the giant, irritable, paranoid dog) on a classic road trip that will take us across the plains and through the Rockies to the homes of friends and loved ones, reveling in the grandeur of the American road and the thunder of our big, fat wheels.

      Too bad it’s zombie season. Some kind of bad, evil season is happening out there. People are getting their faces chewed off. I just bought a wicked, 40-piece knife-tool combo gadget at the Bass Pro Shop because of all the cannibals, and because we might have to cut open clamshell packaging at some point (the apocalypse is subtle, and creeping, and plastic. Who knew?)

      It’s alright. We’re good at this. My wife, writer Janine Harrison, and my stepdaughter, Jianna Harrison (7), are ready for anything.

      And when we get back, it’s only a few days ‘til my book comes out. Up Jumps the Devil (from Ecco Press, an imprint of HarperCollins). Here’s a picture of the cover, with the cool blurbs from Christopher Moore, Daniel Wallace, and Patrick deWitt:

Guest Blog by Michael Poore - On the Road Among the Drug-Fueled Face-Eaters: Dark Books and Dark Vacations For Dark Times

      With the book release in mind, I find myself looking back on another road trip. The one I took in the summer of 2009, to do some research for this very same book. Me and my armed, badass friend Josh camped our way east, from Gettysburg to Salem, Massachusetts, looking for traces of the devil, and finding him, here and there.

      At Gettysburg, some drunk came and thumped on Josh’s tent in the middle of the night, bellowing “Where’s Mike?”

      Who knew who this guy was? But Josh just threw me under the bus, pointing out my tent and saying “He’s over there. Leave me alone,” and vanishing back inside his tent. So I had to conversate with this person, who wasn’t looking for me, but another Mike, and off he went without mayhem.

      In Salem, we were negotiating prices with a campground keeper, and he looked kind of interesting (he had tiger stripes tattooed around his throat), so Josh wanted to take his picture. The guy wouldn’t allow it, because, he explained, “Some law-people types might be looking for me.” So I took his picture while he was talking to Josh. Only later, looking at the picture on my camera, did we notice the word ‘REDRUM’ tagged on the wall behind him. Salem was fun. In the night, raccoons visited our picnic table and ate our Pringles and some shampoo.

      When I first started writing Up Jumps the Devil, an elderly woman with a supernatural bent tried to warn me against it at an American Legion beer blast. “The devil is real,” she said. “He’s like the ocean. If you disrespect him, he will notice, and there will be a price.”

      Her words stayed with me.

      There was a reason they stayed with me. See, when I was about fifteen, I tried to sell my soul to the devil. I don’t know why. I wanted to be famous, probably, or wanted to do it with some girl in Mrs. Flynn’s class. I didn’t believe in the devil in any real way, any more than I believed in Jesus or the Easter Bunny. But I got out the Bible that Pastor Matevia at the Lutheran church had given me for my 8th birthday, and tried to tear it. It was going to be like a signal to the devil, if by chance he existed, showing him I was ready to talk business. I grabbed, like, Deuteronomy through Second Kings or something in both hands, and ripped with all my might. But paper is strong stuff, when you’ve got a hundred pages of it in your hands…well, it just bent and wrinkled, and before I could give it another go, my mom called up that dinner was ready. We were having tacos. Now, tacos I believed in for REAL! I forgot all about selling my soul and went downstairs, and never gave it another thought until that old lady at the party said what she said.

      I was living alone at the time, in a run-down house by some woods. In the late afternoons and evenings, I worked on my devil novel, and later I’d sit and read a book and pet my dogs, and try not to hear the woman’s voice saying “…there will be a price…”

      And what was that noise, outside? The wind.

      And what was that, moving there, in the dark beyond the patio? A shadow. Some trees. Something blown by the wind.

      Or something else.

      Did I really believe in the devil? Not as such, no.

      Did he or she show up and eat me? No.

      But there are, as they say, strange things in Heaven and Earth, and being a scientific sort and thinking rational thoughts is no defense against getting good and creeped out, sometimes.

      So what was I doing, if I was so rational, writing a book about the devil?

      It was my way of writing a book about people, and about America in the 21st century. About how the nation that wrote the Constitution could be the same nation that depended on slavery. How a nation full of people who go to church and say God is Love can hate gay people and insist on restricting their freedoms. How a nation of volunteers and good neighbors can also breed people who get psycho-high and try to eat other people.

      We’re a nation of contradictions. Like the devil, who began as an angel. The devil is our most enigmatic fiction. Like our own national soul, we haven’t quite got the devil figured out.

      The devil in Up Jumps the Devil is NOT particularly Satanic. He is not in charge of Hell, because there is no Hell. He became the devil because he thought God was too bossy, basically. He is proud. He’s a rebel. He wants to make earth cooler than Heaven. And, after millenia of human history, he believes America is his best shot at accomplishing this. America, too, is proud and rebellious, and even a little godlike. Here’s an excerpt involving Benjamin Franklin (Chapter 7: The Excellent Mr. Scratch, A Patron of Science):

     “Properly controlled,” Franklin argued, “electricity can kill.”
     “Lightning kills,” said Bosley. “That’s no surprise.”
     “Man can not control lightning,” answered Franklin. He indicated cylinders attached to the leads. “He can control this.”
     Soberly, Franklin knelt before the cage, and hobbled the turkey with a pair of copper manacles.
     “With apologies to this fine bird,” he said, “I offer you gentlemen the advent of electricity as a weapon both terrible and --”
     Franklin twisted something as he spoke.
     A thousand suns of light! Followed by thick smoke and the stench of overcooking.
The smoke sank to reveal a recumbent Franklin, rising like an island in a receding tide. He seemed to be asleep. One of his hands was burned. Indeed, it still smoked.
     The turkey was on fire, and also somewhat inside-out. At the front of the cage, the copper manacles and their wiring lay melted.
     The ministers Poole hovered over Franklin from a distance.
     “Is he --?” said Bosley, coughing.
     “Has he --?” said Jacob, trembling.
     The Devil observed that Franklin was breathing evenly.
     “The good doctor will live to strike another day,” he assured the Presbyterians, ushering them toward the door. “Let us consider our adventures complete for the day.”
     “But --” began Bosley, indicating the blazing turkey.
     “See here --!” barked Jacob, indicating the battery, which had begun to glow and spit marmalade.
     The Devil drew himself up, dark and tall.
     “Good day,” he bid them, in a certain voice he had.
     The ministers made their Goodbyes. The Devil bolted both doors, and closed the windows. With a wave of one wooden hand, he extinguished the battery and the turkey. He located a roll of clean linen and a jar of ointment, and sat down to tend Franklin’s hand.
     “Wake up,” he told the scientist.
     Franklin’s eyes shot open. He spied the Devil leaning over him, and smelled smoke.
     “If this is Hell,” he grouched, “It’s a disappointment.”
     “You’re not dead,” the Devil told him. “Only foolish. Now listen…”

      In the course of the book, the devil interacts with a lot of Americans, famous and otherwise. In this way, it owes a great deal to folklore and literature. The idea that the devil is hiding under the bed or in the woodshed is an old one. Maybe this idea first sparked for me when I read Stephen Vincent Benet’s story, “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” in which a hard-luck farmer sells his soul, but regrets it when his seven years of prosperity is up. When it’s time, as the old lady at the American Legion put it, to pay the price, he hires fabled senator Daniel Webster to advocate for him in the devil’s midnight court. In the course of debate, Webster says that the farmer owes nothing to the devil because the devil is a foreign prince. To which the devil replies
...When the first wrong was done to the first Indian, I was there. When the first slaver put out for the Congo, I stood on her deck. Am I not in your books and stories and beliefs, from the first settlements on?... Tis true, the North claims me for a Southerner, and the South for a Northerner, but I am neither. I am merely an honest American, like yourself, and of the best descent -- for, to tell the truth, Mr. Webster, my name is older in this country than yours."
      The devil’s name is old in America. He has been the dark side of America’s very strong religious tradition going back beyond the Pilgrims. In Up Jumps the Devil, old Scratch takes a Pilgrim woman (and, um, some of her cows) as a lover. He turns George Washington into a werewolf. He possesses JFK to help forestall nuclear war (and to have access to JFK’s super-hot and under-attended wife). He storms the Angle at Gettysburg, and burns in the fires of Hiroshima. He intimately knows the greatness of his adopted nation, and he knows its monsters, too.

      When I say ‘monsters,’ I mean it in a couple of different ways.

      One, of course, is metaphor. Our human failings. Our huge moral mistakes, like slavery and segregation, like awful, world-ending weapons. Like runaway science and, worse, runaway religion. Like our worst monster, runaway TV.

      In Up Jumps the Devil, the children of Plymouth fall under the devil’s spell, and scry the monsters of America’s future in a sort of fortune-teller trance:
…The children described the future as if it were something that had visited them in their sleep. They pointed at the woods as they spoke, because the woods were west, and the future was west.
They said that the Indians would die of mumps and pox and tooth decay, and other white diseases.
They told how the new country, starting right here in their churchy little village, would grow up rooted in blood and gold and slavery.
There would be a race of retarded people called Rednecks, kept like a national pet. There would be schools like factories, factories like prisons, and prisons like cities. There would be a machine like an eye, which would talk to people and show them pictures, and people would do whatever the eye said…
      As we, here in Indiana, get packed up to hit the road, keeping a weather eye on the news, it’s beginning to seem lately that the line between our metaphorical monsters and…what I guess you’d call “the real thing”: zombies, vampires, werewolves, and such… is getting blurry.

      Some naked guy by the highway ate another guy’s FACE. It’s been on the news. Also on the news: a number of people apparently think this is the dawn of the zombie apocalypse.

      That’s intense, and not a good sign, but it’s not what makes me cautious. Here’s the blurry part: enough people think this that the CDC felt obligated to respond.

      Not by simply denying it, saying, “No, ‘tis just another weird, psychoactive street drug.”

      They have also started a website explaining how you WOULD go about preparing for a zombie apocalypse. It started as kind of a joke, but the joke, as Dr. Ali Khan of the CDC explained:
“…has proven to be a very effective platform. We continue to reach and engage a wide variety of audiences on all hazards preparedness via Zombie Preparedness; and as our own director, Dr. Ali Khan, notes, "If you are generally well equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack." So please log on, get a kit, make a plan, and be prepared!”
      The lines between fiction and reality are getting fuzzy out there.

      Does it mean we really can’t tell the difference? I don’t think it’s that simple. I do think that role-playing has taken hard root in in the multi-screen era. Our real lives are no longer enough. We don’t just want to watch our myths on TV, we want the myths to surround us. We want to BE the myths. If we believe it, it will come. My God, we’re BORED.

      Up Jumps the Devil harbors the premise that the devil lives in all of us, a little. In our leaders and celebrities, and in our neighbors (Hey Charlie). Under that premise, my editor and I had this idea for a Twitter account, where I would write tweets as the devil. The most fun part of that was getting photographs together. What does the devil, as an American folk icon, LOOK like, after all?

      Like this?

Guest Blog by Michael Poore - On the Road Among the Drug-Fueled Face-Eaters: Dark Books and Dark Vacations For Dark Times

      Like this?

Guest Blog by Michael Poore - On the Road Among the Drug-Fueled Face-Eaters: Dark Books and Dark Vacations For Dark Times

      Like this?

Guest Blog by Michael Poore - On the Road Among the Drug-Fueled Face-Eaters: Dark Books and Dark Vacations For Dark Times

      He could look like any of us. In my book, he usually has a goatee. He smokes. He likes hats and sunglasses. He misses his girlfriend, who prefers to live in Heaven. He likes to stay at the Holiday Inn, when he’s on the road.

      He likes to be on the road.

      So do I. So does Janine. We hope Jianna will love the road, too.

      We’re teaching her all the important stuff, like how to play the Alphabet Game and find license plates from all the states, and say in advance when she needs a rest stop. How to pack snacks that are good for you, and night-vision goggles, and some cool games and CDs and a trick or two with Kung-Fu.

      See you out there, if something doesn’t gitcha first.


For additional information about Up Jumps the Devil, including links for ordering, please visit me at, and feel free to follow me on Twitter: michaelpoore007. Alas, the Twitter devil account, @ScratchTheDevil, has been suspended. Not for rules violations or even offensive content, but because certain people complained on ideological grounds. This is called censorship, folks, and it should scare you. If you’d like to help show Twitter the light, think about complaining to them at:

Under "Description of problem," perhaps write / paste:
"@ScratchTheDevil was not in violation of Twitter Following Policy or Best Practices, and has been suspended in response to negative reports by users with an ideological objection to its content. This is a clear and unjust violation of the spirit of the First Amendment. People with narrow perspectives should not be allowed to simply vote free speech "off the island."


About Up Jumps The Devil

Up Jumps the Devil
Ecco (HarperCollins), July 3, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Guest Blog by Michael Poore - On the Road Among the Drug-Fueled Face-Eaters: Dark Books and Dark Vacations For Dark Times
A stunningly imaginative, sharp, funny, and slyly tender novel featuring the Devil himself, John Scratch.

He's made of wood. He cooks an excellent gumbo. Cows love him. And he's the world's first love story . . . and the world's first broken heart. Meet the darkly handsome, charming John Scratch, aka the Devil. Ever since his true love, a fellow fallen angel named Arden, decided that Earth was a little too terrifying and violent, John Scratch has been trying to lure her back from the forgiving grace of Heaven. Though neither the wonders of Egypt nor the glories of Rome were enough to keep her on Earth, John Scratch believes he's found a new Eden: America.

John Scratch capitalizes on the bounty of this arcadia as he shapes it into his pet nation. Then, one dark night in the late 1960s, he meets three down-on-their-luck musicians and strikes a deal. In exchange for their souls, he'll grant them fame, wealth, and the chance to make the world a better place. Soon, the trio is helping the Devil push America to the height of civilization—or so he thinks. But there's a great deal about humans he still needs to learn, even after spending so many millennia among them.

Overflowing with imagination, insight, and humor, rippling with history and myth, Up Jumps the Devil is as madcap and charming as the Devil himself.

About Michael

Guest Blog by Michael Poore - On the Road Among the Drug-Fueled Face-Eaters: Dark Books and Dark Vacations For Dark Times
Michael Poore’s fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train, Fiction, StoryQuarterly, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and other magazines. Up Jumps the Devil (Ecco / HarperCollins), his first novel, will be available on July 3. His story “The Street of the House of the Sun,” which appeared in The Pinch, has been selected for America’s Best Nonrequired Reading 2012 (Houghton Mifflin). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, the Fountain Award, and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. Poore lives in Northwest Indiana with his wife, writer Janine Harrison. Both are proud members of the Indiana Writer’s Consortium and the Highland Writer’s Group.


Guest Blog by Michael R. Underwood - Geekomancy’s Official Unofficial Soundtrack

Please welcome Michael R. Underwood to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs.  Geekomancy, Michael's debut, will be published on July 10, 2012 by Pocket Star.

Geekomancy’s Official Unofficial Soundtrack

I make soundtracks for pretty much every story I write, be it a flash piece, a short story, screenplay or novel. The practice started years ago, when I was writing my first novel (which now lives in a digital trunk, only to be looked upon to steal ideas away and put to use with better prose). I tend toward instrumental pieces, since the lyrics can sometimes get in the way. However, songs that I’ve heard more than 50 times stop distracting me with their lyrics, because I know them well enough that they can just be background noise in my mind.

Geekomancy wouldn’t be the book it is without Florence + the Machine. You’d think that for a comedic geeky urban fantasy, I’d be listening to They Might Be Giants, Jonathan Coulton, maybe even MC Frontalot. But it was the British fiery faerie ringleader Florence Welch and her band that served as my musical fast-track to the part of my brain that is labeled Geekomancy.

I started writing Geekomancy in November of 2010, and at that time, I was deep in my compulsive listening to Florence + the Machine’s album Lungs. Like many, I was blown away by the strength of Florence Welch’s voice, the haunting quality of the lyrics, and the awesomeness of having a harp in a pop/rock band.

I immediately connected with “Dog Days Are Over,” but as I started thinking through the plot for the novel, I latched onto “Rabbit Heart,” due to the emotional punch of some of the lyrics.

This is a gift, it comes with a price // Who is the lamb and who is the knife? // Midas is king and he holds me so tight // And turns me to gold in the sunlight (“Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)” Florence Welch and Paul Epworth

Without giving away spoilers, those lines hit home for me in terms of the main characters and the action of the middle and end of the novel as I had them outlined in my head. The lyrics don’t directly line up with the plot and the characters, but the emotions that the song evoked for me were fantastic fuel for my mind as I channeled geekiness and tried to figuratively bleed all over the page.

When I got into the middle of the novel, I wanted to find some music to convey another feel, something solidly distinct from the Florence + the Machine of Ree’s normal world. I decided on Daft Punk’s wonderful score for Tron: Legacy, since I drew on some Tron imagery for that section of the novel and because I knew from personal experience that techno makes my brain happy in action sequences.

I had to take a break in writing the first draft during the summer of 2011, since summer is one of my busy seasons. So by the time I came back to the novel, Ceremonials, Florence + the Machine’s second studio album, was coming out. And it’s good that I waited, because I would have been lost on how to create the novel’s grace notes in the epilogue without “Shake it Out.”

“Shake it Out,” for me, is a song for a grown woman, with girlhood in her rear-view mirror. It’s a song for a woman who has gone through the Bad Times, found herself, and emerged stronger. When Welch holds the note leading into the last set of chorus repeats, I feel the energy of a defiant survivor, someone who knows themselves better and is ready to face the world. That’s the kind of feel I wanted to give the epilogue, and I hope it shows through for the readers.

Florence + the Machine features strongly in the soundtrack for the sequel to Geekomancy (tentatively titled Celebromancy), but I’ve added some other artists for variation, to make them feel different in my mind as I’m working. But when I hear “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)”, “Shake It Out,” or nearly any song from Lungs, I will always think of Rhiannon Anna Maria Reyes, aka Ree, and the joy of taking the journey of Geekomancy with her.

About Geekomancy

Pocket Star, July 10, 2012
eBook, 400 pages

Guest Blog by Michael R. Underwood - Geekomancy’s Official Unofficial Soundtrack
Clerks meets Buffy the Vampire the Slayer in this original urban fantasy eBook about Geekomancers—humans that derive supernatural powers from pop culture.

Ree Reyes’s life was easier when all she had to worry about was scraping together tips from her gig as a barista and comicshop slave to pursue her ambitions as a screenwriter.

When a scruffy-looking guy storms into the shop looking for a comic like his life depends on it, Ree writes it off as just another day in the land of the geeks. Until a gigantic “BOOM!” echoes from the alley a minute later, and Ree follows the rabbit hole down into her town’s magical flip-side. Here, astral cowboy hackers fight trolls, rubber-suited werewolves, and elegant Gothic Lolita witches while wielding nostalgia-powered props.

Ree joins Eastwood (aka Scruffy Guy), investigating a mysterious string of teen suicides as she tries to recover from her own drag-your-heart-through-jagged-glass breakup. But as she digs deeper, Ree discovers Eastwood may not be the knight-in-cardboard armor she thought. Will Ree be able to stop the suicides, save Eastwood from himself, and somehow keep her job?

About Michael

Guest Blog by Michael R. Underwood - Geekomancy’s Official Unofficial Soundtrack
Michael R. Underwood grew up devouring stories in all forms: movies, comics, TV, video games, and novels. He holds a B.A. in Creative Mythology and East Asian Studies from Indiana University and an M.A. in Folklore Studies from the University of Oregon, which have been great preparation for writing speculative fiction. Michael went straight from his M.A. to the Clarion West Writers Workshop and then landed in Bloomington, Indiana, where he remains. When not writing or selling books across the Midwest as an independent book representative, Michael dances Argentine Tango and studies renaissance martial arts.

You can find him at or @MikeRUnderwood on Twitter. Geekomancy is coming July 10th from Pocket Star.

Guest Blog by Megan Powell - If I can’t be a magical, undercover, secret agent, at least my heroine can

Please welcome Megan Powell to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Megan's debut, No Peace for the Damned (Damned 1) will be published on July 10th.

If I can’t be a magical, undercover, secret agent, at least my heroine can.

In 2001, my husband and I saw the movie, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. We didn’t even make it out of the theater’s parking lot before I announced that I knew, without a doubt, that I was secretly a wizard whose supernatural powers hadn’t emerged yet. Of course, being in my twenties, I was too old to actually attend Hogwarts, but the abilities were still there–I could feel it.

A few months later, to my husband’s chagrin, The Bourne Identity arrived in theaters. My destiny was revealed. After all, what better career path for a latent wizard than that of a secret super spy/assassin?

Unfortunately, my English degree and Credit Manager work experience, didn’t immediately qualify me for what I was sure I was put on this earth to do. (Believe it or not, the CIA’s online application process doesn’t have a section where one can outline his or her undeveloped magical powers. At least it didn’t in 2002. I might have to check that again.) The point is, more than half a decade later, I found myself still chomping at the bit to fulfill my fate while simultaneously creating a life within the reality of mortgages and school PTA meetings.

Enter Magnolia Kelch.

The heroine of my debut novel, No Peace for the Damned, had been a voice in the back of my mind for years. She was powerful, sarcastic, damaged, and most of all, she was the keeper of all the supernatural secrets. She just needed some place where she could feel safe exploring the ‘real’ world. Someplace like, say, a super-secret spy organization that managed all the dangerous, mystical power around us.

The Network, in its inception, was a localized group of mercenaries, skilled in their intelligence and fighting prowess, and trained to fight against the paranormal dangers of our world. Their leader was the mysterious Thirteen, a stoic giant whose wisdom demanded loyalty and respect. They were a tight group of men and women, as wary of Magnolia’s powers as she was of their supposed loyalty. It would be an uncomfortable fit, at first–Magnolia and the Network–but one that would ultimately allow both to flourish.

But it wasn’t enough. In my mind, Magnolia needed more. She needed the local element to be a touchstone–an introduction to the wider world she had yet to see. To do her justice, I needed to take The Network global.

So I did.

As revisions moved Magnolia’s story forward, the Network grew. Thirteen, still the mysterious leader, became one of several Chiefs within an underground, multi-layered organization. The local group of mercenaries evolved into a specialized task force, embodied by conflicting personalities and private agendas. And Magnolia, leery to trust her new ‘teammates,’ found the exposure she needed to the real world while maintaining her closest supernatural secrets.

Just thinking about the created world of Magnolia and the Network makes me smile. Vicariously, my destiny has been fulfilled.

About No Peace for the Damned

No Peace for the Damned
Damned 1
47North, July 10, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook

Guest Blog by Megan Powell - If I can’t be a magical, undercover, secret agent, at least my heroine can
Magnolia Kelch is no stranger to pain. Beautiful and powerful, she’s spent her entire life at the mercy of her sadistic father and the rest of the Kelch clan, who have tortured her and tested the limits of her powers. After one particularly heinous night that leaves Magnolia nearly dead, she finally sees her chance for escape…

But this first taste of freedom is short-lived when she collides with Thirteen, head of the Network—a secret organization dedicated to fighting supernatural criminals—who recruits her into the group. Even as she’s coming to grips with this new life and the horrific memories that still haunt her, she’s conflicted by her growing attraction to fellow team member Theo and the emergence of new, untested abilities. After months of grueling training, her loyalty to the team is tested when she learns her target is the Network’s most wanted: the Kelch family.

Revenge may course through her veins, but so does the blood of the Kelches. And opposing her family may cost her the thing she treasures most. After all, Magnolia is still a Kelch. And the Kelch are damned.

About Megan

Guest Blog by Megan Powell - If I can’t be a magical, undercover, secret agent, at least my heroine can
Born and raised in the Midwest, Megan has cultivated a strange affinity for State Fairs and basketball humor. When not writing she is often found reading, frequently feeding her paranormal romance addiction. She loves cheap coffee with tons of sugar and can eat no-bake cookies by the dozen. While she doesn't necessarily consider exercising as a bad thing, she's certain that dieting is the work of the devil. No Peace for the Damned is the first title in her powerful debut series.


Guest Blog by Cassie Alexander - Process Changes

Please welcome Cassie Alexander to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Cassie's debut, Nightshifted (Nightshifted/Edie Spence 1) will be published on May 22, 2012.

Process Changes

My first book to sell, Nightshifted, was actually my tenth book written.

Along the fifteen years it took to write one that could finally sell, I was buoyed by an endless optimism and (in retrospect!) a frankly completely naive confidence in myself. Which was lucky, because ten books and a decade and a half is a lot of time to spend writing without any external validation.

But there was a two year gap in there where I didn’t write at all, and that was largely due to me not understanding how my process was changing. All I knew is that I couldn’t write how I used to, in the way that I was used to – and so instead of trying to keep writing, I gave up, because I was scared it wouldn’t be any good.

You see, I had a system. I’d get my idea and I’d write books through, A-Z, in order, every time. Scene by scene. That’s how it worked for me – and I knew that’s how it worked because I had nine books to show for it, via that method.

But when your writing process changes, it’s not like your subconscious sends you a note. All I knew was that one day, instead of being a linear author, I became some sort of quantum unknown. I’d write A, then I’d write G, then I’d write C from a different POV, or X from another book entirely.

My inability to write like I once had freaked me out. If what I was already doing wasn’t selling, what chance did this new weird stuff have? Would I even finish it? Could I finish it? Where was the end? Who was this story even about? I felt like I’d lost control of my craft, and had run my ship ashore.

So I shut down for two years. I’d try to write on and off, discover I was still “broken”, and give up again. It’s funny how a process change I wasn’t in control of at all scared me more than a decade of consistent rejection.

It really wasn’t until I went to Clarion West and had to produce one story a week for six weeks, that I got over my “What the hell am I doing? Why isn’t this in order? Whose voice is this in my head now?” panic and learned to trust in the journey and just go where my process wanted me to go. It forced me to believe in myself, and with that belief I produced some of the best work of my life. And when I was done with that trial by fire I knew that my process would work if I just let it. All I needed to do was to get out of my own way.

So when the idea for Nightshifted came along, and seemed a little strange, and I wanted to write it out of order, and who were all these weird characters and why was my protagonist sleeping with characters I didn’t even know yet? Well, I trusted it. And it worked.

Most authors don’t seem to have this problem, or if they do, they don’t talk about it. But I know Jay Lake has spoken about it before, (but he’s very prolific, I can’t find the link right now, he talks about his process a lot ;)) But if this happens to you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Try to roll with it and see where it takes you -- it may just be the best thing ever to happen to your career.

About Nightshifted

Nightshifted/Edie Spence 1
St. Martin's Paperbacks, May 22, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Guest Blog by Cassie Alexander - Process Changes
From debut author Cassie Alexander comes a spectacular new urban fantasy series where working the nightshift can be a real nightmare.

Nursing school prepared Edie Spence for a lot of things. Burn victims? No problem. Severed limbs? Piece of cake. Vampires? No way in hell. But as the newest nurse on Y4, the secret ward hidden in the bowels of County Hospital, Edie has her hands full with every paranormal patient you can imagine—from vamps and were-things to zombies and beyond…

Edie’s just trying to learn the ropes so she can get through her latest shift unscathed. But when a vampire servant turns to dust under her watch, all hell breaks loose. Now she’s haunted by the man’s dying words—Save Anna—and before she knows it, she’s on a mission to rescue some poor girl from the undead. Which involves crashing a vampire den, falling for a zombie, and fighting for her soul. Grey’s Anatomy was never like this…

And the cover for Moonshifted, which will be published in the Fall 2012!!

Guest Blog by Cassie Alexander - Process Changes

About Cassie

Guest Blog by Cassie Alexander - Process Changes
Cassie Alexander is an author and a registered nurse. Her debut trilogy, Nightshifted, will be published by St. Martin's Press on May 22, 2012. It's coming out in January from Piper Verlag in German.

She likes alchemy, blood, and science, in that order.

Cassie's Links:


The Giveaway


What:  One commenter will win a Mass Market Paperback copy of Nightshifted from The Qwillery. Please note that you will receive your book after it is published in May 2012.

How:  Leave a comment answering the following question:

What do you think of the covers for Nightshifted and Moonshifted

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, April 30, 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 Rhiannon Held - Reverses

Please welcome Rhiannon Held to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Silver, Rhiannon's debut, will be published in June.


     As an urban fantasy author, I often deal with coworkers and the like who are unfamiliar with speculative fiction and who have trouble understanding the distinction between urban fantasy and paranormal romance. Do I write books like that one author with the vampires that are just soft core porn?? (I am always tempted to respond: which one?) I’m squarely on the urban fantasy side of the sub-genre divide, but that’s sometimes hard to explain since my novel also has romantic elements. I’m always working on a better way to convey the differences.

     My personal definition of the distinction between urban fantasy and paranormal romance was originally a little like the old joke “do you want a little burger with that ketchup?” where either plot or sex is the ketchup, depending on who’s reading it. Which do you want as the dominant part of the meal, and which serves to flavor and enhance (but not overwhelm) the other? And that’s definitely the main difference, but in some cases there’s more to it than that, I think.

     Over the years, I’ve read a paranormal romance here and there, though urban fantasy is generally my taste for reading as well as writing. I wouldn’t want to generalize those books to the entire sub-genre, but I did notice something interesting about those in particular: their romantic arcs were full of reverses.

     What I mean by reverses is this: when everything seems doomed to failure, and then destined for success, and then doomed to failure, and then destined for success…I differentiate it from the kind of romantic arc one usually sees in urban fantasy, which doesn’t have the back and forth. Everything seems pretty damn difficult or even hopeless until the final obstacle is cleared, and success is achieved.

     For example. A romantic arc full of reverses might go something like this: Jane the protagonist has the hots for the Werebadger king, but his council forbids boinking humans. But maybe he doesn’t have the hots for her! But she finds out he does! But she sees him kissing another woman! But she finds out that woman was fey and ensorcelled him! But maybe ensorcelling doesn’t work without some attraction to begin with! But--!

     And that’s when my neck feels a little sore from whiplash.

     To some degree, I would expect that a romantic arc that’s the flavoring rather than the meal would be a little simpler—who has time for reverses when you’re desperately hunting down goblins, tracking them to their master, and closing his doom gate? But what interests me instead is comparing a dominant romantic arc to a dominant plot arc.

     Plot arcs seem to me to more often have setbacks, rather than reverses. The doom gate isn’t where our mystical calculations said it would be! Perhaps our heroes feel demoralized, but seeing as they’re heroes, they start looking for the doom gate somewhere else. In contrast, after a romantic reverse, it’s all about self-doubt. Maybe it’s better for the Werebadger king if Jane leaves him alone. Maybe he is only playing with her. The heroine has to fight to decide what her goal should even be (fight to keep him or forget him), not how to accomplish it or whether to give up. That’s why I call it a reverse instead of a setback.

     In thinking over the plots of the urban fantasy novels I’ve read lately, I can’t think of a single one that had more than one reverse, and most had none. There are cases of single reverses: the hero is betrayed by an ally, perhaps, so suddenly he or she has to change sides, and spend some time reevaluating their goal (fight for or against?). But the multiple reverses just aren’t there.

     I think the cause of this is partially what kind of obstacles are available in the environment around the characters. It’s easy to keep your characters from locking lips during their coffee date if the goblins burst up from the drains, whereas sans goblins, you’re left with something like making Jane hold back because she’s worrying how sincere the Werebadger king is.

     In a way, that’s a false cause, though. Authors build their novels’ environments, so if they want sewer goblins, they can put in sewer goblins. A fantasy romance novel I read with no reverses at all that I can remember got a lot of the tension by the heroine being kidnapped by an evil djinn. She didn’t need to see her lover kissing another woman when they were locked apart by the harem doors.

     So I think there’s a difference in kind as well as degree between urban fantasy romantic elements and a particular kind of romantic plot arc. It’s a matter of taste whether a reader enjoys and expects setbacks or multiple reverses, and I think they’re different enough that getting one when you want the other can be frustrating. But recognizing that it’s not the same even though it all has sex in it somewhere (and really, who doesn’t like sex?) can definitely be helpful.

About Silver

Tom Doherty Associates/Tor Books, June 5, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Guest Blog by Rhiannon Held - Reverses
Andrew Dare is a werewolf. He’s the enforcer for the Roanoke pack, and responsible for capturing or killing any Were intruders in Roanoke’s territory. But the lone Were he’s tracking doesn’t smell or act like anyone he’s ever encountered. And when he catches her, it doesn’t get any better. She’s beautiful, she’s crazy, and someone has tortured her by injecting silver into her veins. She says her name is Silver, and that she’s lost her wild self and can’t shift any more.

The packs in North America have a live-and-let-live attitude, and try not to overlap with each other. But Silver represents a terrible threat to every Were on the continent.

Andrew and Silver will join forces to track down this menace while discovering their own power and their passion for each other.

Silver  - Publisher Page

Read the first couple of chapters of Silver

About Rhiannon

Guest Blog by Rhiannon Held - Reverses
Rhiannon Held lives in Seattle, where she works as a professional archaeologist. Unfortunately, given that it's real rather than fictional archaeology, fedoras, bullwhips, aliens, and dinosaurs are in short supply. Most of her work is done on the computer, using databases to organize data, and graphics programs to illustrate it. SILVER is her first novel.

Rhiannon's Links


Guest Blog by Anne E. Johnson - Green Light Delivery as a Sci-Fi Stew

Please welcome Anne E. Johnson to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Green Light Delivery, Anne's debut for adults, will be published in June.

Green Light Delivery as a Sci-Fi Stew
by Anne E. Johnson

I didn’t set out to write Green Light Delivery as science fiction. At first it was a “bizarro” exercise, and I tried to create something utterly and inexplicably weird. But after about three paragraphs of the first draft, I realized that I wanted a cogent, if wacky, story. That meant human―or at least humanoid―behavior and motivations for the characters. But I was determined to have plenty of weird and wonderful in there, despite a logical narrative arc.

I didn’t even know whether Webrid, the main character, was human when I first started writing. As it turns out, nobody in Green Light Delivery is human because it takes place in an alternative universe. That alone, by some definitions, makes it science fiction.

Before I knew it, I was writing a sci-fi adventure! Some might even call it a space opera, because it involves an entire planetary system.

The scientific element of the novel is non-technical. This is partly due to the fact that the world is seen through Webrid’s eyes, and he doesn’t know a thing about technology. And, although his main problem is a science-based one (there’s some sort of high-tech laser embedded in his skull), he doesn’t understand what’s going on. Lucky for him, some of his friends paid attention at school!

Many people notice a “noir” element to the writing of Green Light Delivery. This does not mean it’s a detective story! There is no private eye. Webrid is stuck solving his own mystery. But there are choices I made in language and perspective that reflect a “pulp” sensibility. For one thing, this involves a certain kind of dark, sarcastic humor, which I do try to control when interacting with people in real life, but which I always have at my disposal.

Setting and character type are also essential for a noir feel. Much of Green Light Delivery takes place in the gritty city of Bargival, where Webrid lives and works, carting items in a hand-pushed cart. He’s an intensely urban (decidedly not urbane) character, who feels uncomfortable among the rich, the educated, or the rural. And he surrounds himself with tough types. At one point he runs into a drug dealer in an alley, and is relieved to meet someone he can relate to.

And then there’s Webrid’s general attitude. Definitely based on the noir model. He has an eye for the ladies, a sardonic world view, and some nagging issues of self-esteem. I didn’t spend my college years reading all those Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett novels for nothing! I did make the decision not to use first-person, though. Unlike Chandler and Hammett, say, who become Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade, I wanted to give the reader a slightly wider-angle view of the proceedings. However, even in the third person, Webrid’s heart and mind are the only ones truly exposed to the reader.

Green Light Delivery was fun to write, and I think readers will find influences from many types of literature in its pages. The reason I became an author of fiction is because I so love reading it! And I’m a sponge: once I discover a particular author or style or genre, it’s part of me forever.

About Green Light Delivery

Green Light Delivery
Candlemark & Gleam, June 19, 2012

Webrid is a carter, like his mother and grandfather before him. It’s not glamorous work, but it mostly pays the bills, and it gives him time to ogle the sexy women on the streets of Bexilla’s capital. Mostly, he buys and sells small goods and does the occasional transport run for a client.

Then he gets mugged by a robot.

Now, with a strange green laser implanted in his skull and a small fortune deposited in his bank account, Webrid has to make the most difficult delivery of his life. He doesn’t know who his client is, or what he’s carrying, but he knows that a whole lot of very dangerous people are extremely interested in what’s in his head. Literally. And they’ll do whatever it takes to get it.

With the help of some truly alien friends, a simple carter will journey across worlds to deliver his cargo. And hopefully keep his head in the process.
Preorder - Barnes and Noble

About Anne

Anne E. Johnson is a fiction writer based in Brooklyn. Her eclectic background includes degrees in classical languages and music history. She has published over twenty short stories, many of them for children. Green Light Delivery is her first science fiction novel and her first novel for adults. You can learn more at her website,

Anne's Links

Facebook Author Page

Guest Blog by Jeff Salyards - Open 24/7

Please welcome Jeff Salyards to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Scourge of the Betrayer (Bloodsounder's Arc 1) will be published in May by Night Shade Books.

Open 24/7

Writing is a solitary, sometimes anguished-filled pursuit. You sit down, stare at the blank page, and have to figure a way to banish those demons and dark fears that show up even though no one summoned them by name. Do I really have talent, or am I just deluding myself? Why isn’t the text even remotely matching the idea I had in my head? Do I know where this story is going, or am I just hopelessly spinning in circles with one foot nailed to the floor?

The doubts can be legion, well-armed, and merciless. Whether you’re writing ornate, baroque literary fiction or a breakneck, visceral thriller, it’s going to be a slog. Sure, some magical moments, it almost seems effortless. But most days, it’s going to be a hard fought battle against those doubts, and you’re going to be fighting the good fight all by your lonesome.

But let’s say you are writing a novel, and you fully commit. You don’t allow yourself to leave the text until it’s as pristine as you can possibly make it. At long last, you emerge from your cave—pasty, exhausted, blinking at the harsh light of day, but also exhilarated. You did it. You finished your manuscript. And it’s good. Really good. You’ll have agents begging to sign you as a client, and your work will surely generate a bidding war for the ages with publishers.

And it might. It happens. And if you’re one of those meteoric talents, hats off to you. But if you go the traditional publishing route you’ll likely discover that those gatekeepers—agents, editors, marketing directors, and their overlords—don’t particularly care about how much sweat or blood you spilled, or what your anguish was like. They care about the final product. And they’re going to look at it with a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective. Where you see completion and fruition, they might see potential. That is sadly undermined by too many flaws. Or too close to another project they just picked up. Or too long. Or too short. Like doubts, the reasons they might have for passing are legion.

And, if you’re like most writers, you’ll be frustrated at the paucity of feedback you get when they reject you. More times than not, it’s a boilerplate form letter, or worse, cold silence. “But why,” you scream at the uncaring heavens, “why didn’t they LIKE it?!”

Well, they aren’t workshop members or lovers or good chums—they aren’t obligated to say, and they have enough on their plates, they probably won’t. Which is why when an agent or editor takes the time to give you some meaty feedback, you should really be open and pay attention.

When I finished my fantasy novel, Scourge of the Betrayer, I carefully researched and compiled a list of agents, crafted what I was sure was a killer query letter, and started soliciting, confident that my success was all but ordained. Of course, it didn’t turn out quite that way.

The rejection letters starting pouring in. I was braced for this. Sort of. But it still stung. And then I got my first manuscript request from Nathan Bransford (this was right before he stopped agenting to focus on his own writing career.) He was exceptionally generous with his time, and offered me some really substantial feedback about the direction he thought the manuscript should go in to be salable. While Nathan believed I was talented, and the manuscript polished, he suggested that it was being weighed down by a literary structure that muddled things and distanced the reader. That, and the manuscript was too long, nearly hitting the 200,000 word mark.

The problem was, of course, I wasn’t ready to hear any of this. This wasn’t in the grand plan. Where was the glowing praise, the universal adulation? More revisions? Seriously!? Hadn’t I revised enough already? I did make some efforts to address Nathan’s concerns, but hindered by pride and stubbornness, I only went half way, and he ultimately politely passed.

So I kept querying, sure that was an isolated response, a one-off. In the next six months, I got over 15 requests for the partial or full manuscript. Which all ultimately led to more rejection letters, most of which were perfunctory and completely unhelpful. But a handful of agents provided some brief commentary about why they were passing. And wouldn’t you know it, they largely echoed Nathan’s sentiments.

Having exhausted more than half my list of dream agents, I took a break from querying as I wrestled with the dilemma. Did I throw some blinders on, ignore the advice, and continue through the remainder of my list, sure that making large-scale changes would only compromise my vision for the book, or did I acknowledge that the common refrain in the critique might have some validity, really reevaluate the manuscript, and possibly resign myself to some serious (and torturous) revisions?

Publishing professionals aren’t always right—there are plenty of stories of agents and editors passing on a book that someone else snatches up and champions to the best seller list. They have bad days. They make mistakes. But they also aren’t professionals for nothing. And if they all seem to be saying basically the same thing. . .

The decision was incredibly difficult and involved crying into my beer more than one night, but my stubbornness ultimately gave way. I tore into the manuscript like a rabid wolverine, viciously revising style and narrative structure, gutting a huge back story that was slowing the thing down to a crawl, and ultimately ripping out 100,000 words. It was brutal, bloody, and whole villages of darlings were slaughtered in the process.

Several months later, emerging from my cave once more, I started querying again, got another batch of requests for the full manuscript, and not long after landed a wonderful agent. And not long after that, he landed a three-book deal with a publisher. (Of course, the revisions don’t end there—the publisher requested changes as well, but at least they weren’t gut-wrenching).

Writing is a solitary and sometimes lonely pursuit, and writers need to develop an ability to objectively critique their own work (which is far harder than it sounds). But sometimes, it really pays to be receptive to what other folks are telling you.

About Scourge of the Betrayer

Scourge of the Betrayer
Bloodsounder's Arc 1
Night Shade Books, May 2012
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

Guest Blog by Jeff Salyards - Open 24/7
A gritty new fantasy saga begins . . .

Many tales are told of the Syldoon Empire and its fearsome soldiers, who are known throughout the world for their treachery and atrocities. Some say that the Syldoon eat virgins and babies--or perhaps their own mothers. Arkamondos, a bookish young scribe, suspects that the Syldoon's dire reputation may have grown in the retelling, but he's about to find out for himself.

Hired to chronicle the exploits of a band of rugged Syldoon warriors, Arki finds himself both frightened and fascinated by the men's enigmatic leader, Captain Braylar Killcoin. A secretive, mercurial figure haunted by the memories of those he's killed with his deadly flail, Braylar has already disposed of at least one impertinent scribe . . . and Arki might be next.

Archiving the mundane doings of millers and merchants was tedious, but at least it was safe. As Arki heads off on a mysterious mission into parts unknown, in the company of the coarse, bloody-minded Syldoon, he is promised a chance to finally record an historic adventure well worth the telling, but first he must survive the experience!

A gripping military fantasy in the tradition of Glen Cook, Scourge of the Betrayer explores the brutal politics of Empire--and the searing impact of violence and dark magic on a man's soul.

About Jeff

Guest Blog by Jeff Salyards - Open 24/7
I grew up in a small town north of Chicago. While it wasn’t Mayberry, with all the doors unlocked and everyone offering each other slices of pie and quaint homilies, it was pretty quiet and sleepy, so I got started early imagining my way into all kinds of other worlds and universes that were loud, chaotic, and full of irrepressible characters and heaps of danger. Massive explosions. Tentacled aliens. Men with sharp swords and thousand-yard stares and secrets they would die to protect. Clearly, I was a full-bore dork.

Royal Crown bag full of multi-sided dice? Check. Blood-red hooded cloak? Check. Annual pilgrimages to Renaissance Faires? Check. Whacking other (curiously athletic and gifted) dorks with rattan swords in the SCA? Check. Yes, I earned my badges, thank you very much.

My whole life, I’ve been fascinated by the fantastic, and of course this extended to speculative fiction of all kinds. Countless prepubescent evenings found me reading a worn, dog-eared copy of Thuvia, Maid of Mars (it sounded so much dirtier than it was!) or The Frost Giant’s Daughter (high hopes for that one too!) well past lights-out, flashlight in hand, ignoring the repeated calls to turn in. That’s as quiet and harmless a rebellion as you can have, and my parents mostly sighed and left me to it.

So, no one has ever been surprised to hear that I was working on (or at least talking about working on) some sci-fi or fantasy story or other. But it took years of flirting with various projects, flitting from one to the next without the hint of complete commitment, before I finally mastered myself enough to finish a novel. And longer still before I finished another one that was worthy of being published.

But wonders never cease. And here we are.

My debut novel, Scourge of the Betrayer, is a hard-boiled fantasy to be published by Night Shade Books in May 2012. It’s the first installment in a series called Bloodsounder’s Arc. I’m so excited I’m beginning to annoy myself. I am represented by Michael Harriot at Folio Literary Management, and couldn’t be happier. His savvy, smart advice has been invaluable on this journey. I suspect he has a secret stash of 20-siders somewhere in his desk.

I live with my lovely wife, Kris, and three daughters in a suburb west of Chicago. I am indebted to Kris in countless ways for her steadfast encouragement, support, and thick skin in dealing with a prickly, moody writer. I don’t always like living with me, but she has a choice and stays anyway.

And before you are tempted to mention it, I am fully aware that siring three daughters is certainly karmic retribution, particularly when they all transform into teenagers. I cling to the hope of discovering at least one of them reading covertly in the middle of the night. That kind of transgression I can handle.

Jeff's Links


Guest Blog by V.M. Zito - Logic for Dead People

Please welcome V.M. Zito to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. The Return Man was published on April 1, 2012 by Orbit.

Logic for Dead People

I love comic books. And to love comic books, sometimes you have to throw real-world logic out the window. A megadose of gamma rays turns Bruce Banner into the Hulk? A cosmic space storm transforms four astronauts into the Fantastic Four? A radioactive spider-bite mutates Peter Parker into Spider-Man? Err... umm... sure, why not. In reality, they'd all die of horrible cancers and radiation poisoning. But on the comic page, we just accept it and move on. Don't ask too many questions, or else the entire concept crumbles. And what fun is that?

It's a lot like 'suspension of disbelief' -- the mental state necessary to enjoy fiction as a reader -- except it goes further, asking us to jump even wider gaps in believability.

I call this 'Comic Book Logic.' And I think it applies to zombies, too.

I realize this might be hard to accept. We live in an era of vast knowledge, constantly expanding our understanding of life, technology and the universe; even last month, scientists came closer to pinpointing the ever-elusive 'God particle' in subatomic physics. We crave answers. We want to take it all apart and see how shit works, because we're certain it's better to know.

In college, I was a biology major (although I never finished the degree); even today I'm still fascinated by the cogs and wheels that make life function. So you might think I'd be pretty eager to know exactly how a zombie works. I mean, we're talking about a dead body that gets up and walks around and tries to kill us. For that to be possible, a few things have to happen...

For example, which biological systems are still ticking below the clammy grey skin? Does the heart beat? If not, how do the muscles get energy without a steady blood supply? Does a zombie digest the people it eats? Does it poop? I have never seen a pile of zombie poop.

See what I mean? The more questions you ask, the more that follow, to the point of distraction. The trend today in zombie entertainment is to offer answers -- pseudo-scientific explanations that sound plausible enough, at least until you ask the next question -- but be careful. Comic books went through a similar stage in the 80s, when writers like Alan Moore and Frank Miller enforced 'reality rules' on their superhero characters and in the process almost killed them. Comic artist David Mazzuchelli said it this way: 'Once a depiction veers toward realism, each new detail releases a torrent of questions that expose the absurdity at the heart of the genre. The more "realistic" superheroes become, the less believable they are. It's a delicate balance...'

George Romero's 1968 film, Night of the Living Dead, launched the zombie apocalypse with Comic Book Logic, hinting that radiation (the Silver Age comic's greatest plot device!) from an exploding space probe may have caused the dead to rise. But even George realized that no explanation could possibly withstand the scrutiny of science, and in his follow-up Dawn of the Dead, he transcends logic entirely by issuing my favorite proclamation of all time:

'When there is no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the earth.'

Shazam! Theology trumps science. The zombie apocalypse is God's plan. Zombies can walk because God freakin' wants them to, okay? And to make sure we get the point, in Day of the Dead Romero explains that maybe God 'just wanted to show us he's still the Boss Man.'

In my novel THE RETURN MAN, I tip-toe to the edge of the 'scientific answer.' I couldn't resist; my inner biology student was curious, and the main character Henry Marco is a neurologist who would naturally be interested, too. But I also took George's advice to heart and backed off before taking a full flying leap to a conclusion. Ultimately, the only explanation for our beloved flesh-eating zombies is either an inscrutable God... or good old Comic Book Logic.

Which do you believe in?

The Return Man
V.M. Zito
Orbit, April 1, 2012
Premium Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

The outbreak tore the US in two. The east remains a safe haven. The west has become a ravaged wilderness, known by survivors as the Evacuated States. It is here that Henry Marco makes his living. Hired by grieving relatives, he tracks down the dead and delivers peace.

Now Homeland Security wants Marco for a mission unlike any other. He must return to California, where the apocalypse began. Where a secret is hidden. And where his own tragic past waits to punish him again.

But in the wastelands of America, you never know who - or what - is watching you.

About V. M. Zito

V. M. Zito resides in Connecticut, USA with his wife and daughter. When not writing, he spends his weekdays working as Creative Director at a New England ad agency and his weekends running on trails. THE RETURN MAN is his first novel.

V.M.'s Links

Guest Blog by Shawntelle Madison - Writing a character with OCD

Please welcome Shawntelle Madison to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Coveted, Shawntelle's debut, will be published on April 24, 2012.

Writing a character with OCD

First of all, thanks for having me! As the release date for Coveted closes in, I’ve found myself thinking more and more about how I initially wrote the book. Coveted is the story of Natalya Stravinsky, a werewolf with interesting hoarding tendencies. All of her hoarding stems from the fact that she has an obsessive compulsive disorder.

At first, the idea of writing a character with OCD seemed a difficult challenge. How do I get into the head of someone who obsesses about certain things? I’d done my academic research on OCD and learned about the symptoms, the medications, and more. But living in the head of a hoarder is another thing entirely. I’m also a fan of the show Hoarders on A & E. It shows the lives of hoarders and the difficulties they face to control their compulsions and try to live normal lives. I wanted Natalya to be three-dimensional and be more than just a werewolf. She was a woman with real-life problems that millions of people faced. She could hoard cute holiday trinkets and all, but there had to be consequences for her actions, and she needed a valid reason to do what she does.

After a lot of thought and research, I found it was easy for me to slide into Natalya’s head. Natalya is a clean freak and obsesses over things which most people let go. To understand how she sees the world, I basically gave into my own pet peeves. What things drove me nuts at home or outside of it? They start out small, but then they are easy to amplify. Have you ever been irked about the things left on the kitchen counter by family members? What about dirty clothes they didn’t put away? How about the bathroom? (Don’t even get me started. I have sons and they leave behind stuff to clean up. That’s all I’m saying.) If I was concerned about germs, I’d dwell on keeping things the way I want them to be. That’s how Natalya is and that’s how I came to understand her. To see the world through her eyes, I had to take what bothered me and amp it up to the nth degree. And it actually wasn’t that hard. Take this scene for example. Natalya has a guest in her home. (Can you see the problems coming already?)
Several hours later, my work day ended. I arrived home and breathed a sigh of relief as I entered the foyer: my house was just as I had left it. That was until I entered my kitchen to find Julia Child baking her heart out in my once-clean kitchen.

“Hey, Nat! You like my cakes? I baked two of them for the dinner tonight.”

I gaped as my blood boiled in my veins. Remain calm. Don’t look at the flour all over the floor. But then the spilled pineapple on the counters drew my attention. Ignore that, too. I tried to close my eyes against the evidence, but I couldn’t: the soiled spoons, filthy bowls, and broken eggs left in the carton.

Her eyes widened when she saw my face. “Don’t worry about the mess. I’ll clean it up before we leave.” Aggie showed off her masterpieces, which she’d placed in my plastic cake containers. Most likely a moist pineapple upside-down cake from the smell. I tried to convert the straight line of my lips into a smile, I really did.

“If you had a gun right now, you’d shoot me.” She tried to laugh, but it came out as a croak.

“Clean. Now.” I whispered the words, but even though I’d tried to speak gently, my friend scrambled to pick up the mess.
This excerpt is definitely a great example of how Nat sees the things that some people brush off. Most folks would brush it off and enjoy a piece of cake. Natalya likes things clean and in their place. After coming home to a baking spree she definitely didn’t find that.

So, do you have any pet peeves that you can't shake? That you refuse to shake?

Mine is one that I really need to let go. I hate to wait for people in my household to do things. Especially the house is a mess and I can clean it faster and get it done right then and there. I want the dishes done. I want the floor cleaned. I want the counters wiped off. But I have children and I need to let them do chores as well. I just gotta let it go and not be super mom. Gee, Natalya and I aren’t alike at all. :P

About Coveted

Coveted 1
Ballantine Books, April 24, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

Guest Blog by Shawntelle Madison - Writing a character with OCD

For werewolf Natalya Stravinsky, the supernatural is nothing extraordinary. What does seem strange is that she’s stuck in her hometown of South Toms River, New Jersey, the outcast of her pack, selling antiques to finicky magical creatures. Restless and recovering from her split with gorgeous ex-boyfriend, Thorn, Nat finds comfort in an unusual place: her obsessively collected stash of holiday trinkets. But complications pile up faster than her ornaments when Thorn returns home—and the two discover that the spark between them remains intense.

Before Nat can sort out their relationship, she must face a more immediate and dangerous problem. Her pack is under attack from the savage Long Island werewolves—and Nat is their first target in a turf war. Toss in a handsome wizard vying for her affection, a therapy group for the anxious and enchanted, and the South Toms River pack leader ready to throw her to the wolves, and it’s enough to give anybody a panic attack. With the stakes as high as the full moon, Nat must summon all of her strength to save her pack and, ultimately, herself.

About Shawntelle

Guest Blog by Shawntelle Madison - Writing a character with OCD
Shawntelle loves to write stories where something mysterious always happens. Her stories unfold in either a magical place or she drop kicks her heroine and hero into the mix of crazy magical circumstances. Her characters have been swimming around in her head for the longest of time, but its only recently that she has given into their demands and wrote down their adventures.

Why paranormal? Well, every time she thinks about writing something straight forward she gets caught in the what-if exercise. What if her hero was a werewolf or if her heroine was a nymph? How far could she go down the rabbit hole and not sound crazy? (Yet still be somewhat believable?)

Writing is one of her first loves, besides web development. She is a die hard geek who earned her undergraduate degree in Math from Iowa State University. (She even almost finished a degree in Russian Studies.)

As far as memberships, she’s a member of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and Romance Writers of America (RWA), in particular the Missouri RWA and Young Adult RWA.

She currently lives in Missouri with her husband and children (the Den of Evil).

Shawntelle's Links:


Guest Blog by Chris F. Holm - Confession Time

Please welcome Chris F. Holm to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Chris' debut novel, Dead Harvest, was published on February 28, 2012 by Angry Robot. You may read an interview with Chris here and my 5 Qwill review of Dead Harvest here.

Confession Time

Confession time: I’m a fan of rules. Of parameters. Of restrictions. As a writer, I feel like I’m not supposed to say that, because it punctures the notion of some quill-brandishing creative-type madly jotting down his or her every whim. And hey, some folks can pull that off: witness Jasper Fforde or David Foster Wallace. But I’m pretty sure my kitchen-sink novel would read like a psychotic fever dream, so when I sit down to tell a story, I give myself a few guidelines to stick to – and it turns out, I’m not alone.

I read an interview with Stephen Soderbergh recently in which he talked about how, when he set out to make his pandemic-thriller Contagion, he drew up a list of clichéd disaster-flick scenes he wouldn’t allow himself to shoot. In the documentary Under Great White Northern Lights, Jack White of the White Stripes talks of leaving his spare picks at the far end of the stage to inject spontaneity and creativity into his performance. And Shakespeare famously penned his sonnets while standing on his head. (One of those I may have made up because I was desperate to have a third thing. As I said, I like rules, and in writing, the rule of three is a big one.)

So, you ask, what were the rules I laid out for myself in writing DEAD HARVEST? (Yes, I’m aware you didn’t ask, but let’s pretend for the moment that you did. Otherwise, I won’t make my word count, and that’ll stress me out something fierce.)

1. No Hero’s Quest, No Prophecy

DEAD HARVEST is a strange little tale, one that filters the battle between heaven and hell through the lens of classic crime pulp. To my mind, one thing religion and crime fiction have in common is the notion of moral agency: good or bad, our actions are our own. So I wanted to reflect that, by creating characters who weren’t lucky enough to be handed a road map. They’re not chosen. They’re not destined. Their arrival is not foretold. They’re just scared, and human (well, most of them), and fallible. They’re doing the best they can in a situation they might well not survive.

2. No One True Religion

Obviously, when you’re writing a tale that features angels and demons, the topic of religion is bound to come up. But I had no interest in telling an explicitly religious tale. So when I sat down to craft my mythology, I decided to cast a wide net. I borrowed from Judaism and Christianity, obviously, but also from Eastern and Middle Eastern religions, as well as Greek and Mesoamerican mythology, folk tales, apocryphal texts, and assorted sundry writings on the occult. I had this idea of the world’s religions as the result of some great game of telephone, a couple millennia’s worth of folks passing down garbled tales intended to make sense of this vast, half-glimpsed cosmology all around them (and largely failing.)

3. Neither Shrinking Violet nor Driven Snow

Look, DEAD HARVEST is at its heart a pulp tale, and as such, it was bound to have a damsel in distress. But what I didn’t want is said damsel to come off like some cardboard cutout paragon of sweetness and light. I wanted her to be fully realized. I wanted her to be scrappy. I wanted her to be flawed. Whether I’ve succeeded is for the audience to decide, but I, for one, quite like how she turned out.

And finally…

4. Fantasy Ain’t a Coat of Paint

This was a biggie for me. Too often in crossgenre works, there’s a tendency to half-ass one of the genres. I wanted to pay equal respect to both. That meant I couldn’t just cook up a crime tale (“They have to rob a bank!”) and slap on some supernatural derring-do (“They have to rob a goblin bank!”) So I set out to create a tale that couldn’t be told were it not for the fantastical element. What I settled on was a potential frame-up, but one in which the person supposedly framed for murder (the damsel in distress I mentioned a ways back, unless of course she proves a literal femme fatale) was witnessed committing the crime.

So were all those self-made hurdles worthwhile? I’ll leave that for you to decide. As for me, I’ll be busy fretting over the fact I couldn’t come up with one more rule – I was aiming for five…

About The Collector

Dead Harvest
The Collector 1
Angry Robot (February 28, 2012 US/Canada; March 1, 2012 UK/RoW)
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Guest Blog by Chris F. Holm - Confession Time
Meet Sam Thornton. He collects souls.

Sam’s job is to collect the souls of the damned, and ensure they are dispatched to the appropriate destination. But when he’s sent to collect the soul of a young woman he believes to be innocent of the horrific crime that’s doomed her to Hell, he says something no Collector has ever said before.


File Under: Urban Fantasy [ Souled Out | Damned If You Don't | Collector Mania | On The Run ]
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Book Depository : Books-A-Million : IndieBound

The Wrong Goodbye
The Collector 2
Angry Robot (September 25, 2012 US/Canada; October 4, 2012 UK/RoW)
Mass Market Paperback and eBook

Guest Blog by Chris F. Holm - Confession Time
Meet Sam Thornton, Collector of Souls.

Because of his efforts to avert the Apocalypse, Sam Thornton has been given a second chance – provided he can stick to the straight-and-narrow.

Which sounds all well and good, but when the soul Sam’s sent to collect goes missing, Sam finds himself off the straight-and-narrow pretty quick.

File Under: Urban Fantasy

About Chris

Guest Blog by Chris F. Holm - Confession Time
Chris F. Holm was born in Syracuse, New York, the grandson of a cop with a penchant for crime fiction. He wrote his first story at the age of six. It got him sent to the principal’s office. Since then, his work has fared better, appearing in such publications as Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Needle Magazine, Beat to a Pulp, and Thuglit.

He’s been a Derringer Award finalist and a Spinetingler Award winner, and he’s also written a novel or two. He lives on the coast of Maine with his lovely wife and a noisy, noisy cat.

Chris' Links


The Giveaway


What:  One commenter will win a Mass Market Paperback copy of Dead Harvest (The Collector 1) from The Qwillery.

How:  Leave a comment answering the following question:

What are some of your favorite cross genre novels?
Are there any genres do you think should not be crossed?

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 Saturday, March 24, 2012. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*
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