The Qwillery | category: 2012 DAC Guest Blog | (page 5 of 7)


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Guest Blog by Matt Adams - The Super World of False Documents: Bringing a Superhero World to Life

Please welcome Matt Adams to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. I, Crimsonstreak, Matt's debut, will be published in May.

The Super World of False Documents:
Bringing a Superhero World to Life

by Matt Adams

Narrating a book from the first-person perspective has its limitations. Readers see the world only through the eyes of a single narrator. In some ways, the technique is a blast to use because the author has to make sure readers get the sense of other characters. Dialogue is the primary method employed to do this.

Everything else comes straight from the narrator's perspective. His/her prejudices, beliefs, and morality color the actions in the narrative.

While writing my book, I tried to avoid information overload. Yes, my main character has to relate the history of his family and explain certain things about secondary and tertiary characters, but for the most part, he gives readers only what they need to know. Nothing less, nothing more.

This can be a limiting practice.

I wanted to give the sense that the I, Crimsonstreak universe has a long history filled with rich characters. At the same time, supervillains, alien invasions, parallel universes, and other strange phenomena run rampant throughout. To tell the story of Crimsonstreak/Chris Fairborne, I used the character. To tell the story of the I, Crimsonstreak universe, I used a series of false documents ranging from newspaper articles to secret dossiers.

The technique is nothing new, of course. Watchmen, a seminal work of graphic novels and comics, employs multiple false documents ranging from Rorschach's journal to fake magazine ads and the fictional autobiography Under the Hood. One of my favorite authors, Michael Crichton, used this technique to compelling effect in Jurassic Park, which includes fake research papers and abstracts. Other Crichton works, including The Andromeda Strain and Airframe, feature faked charts, diagrams, and papers to help tell the story. The books in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series come complete with detailed family trees and histories of each of the different “houses” involved in the multi-layered narrative.

The world of superheroes lends itself well to false documents. Heroes are larger than life and in the public eye; surely someone has written an article about the time a group of heroes saved the world. A reporter certainly pounded out an article about a mysterious masked man who saved a woman from some muggers. No doubt wire services circulated articles about an ongoing threat that played out over the world stage during a tumultuous week. Everyday citizens are likely intrigued enough by these strange vigilantes to clamor for posters and magazine pullouts.

I took these ideas and wrote an extensive amount of background material; this is how I tried to do my world building. It also allowed me to take on a different perspective. Trust me; I spent enough time in my hero's head. I found it satisfying to jump into another character's persona through a journal entry or play ace reporter and trace the history of an emerging hero.

Here are a few of the false documents I employ:

Newspaper Articles. Most articles recount past adventures involving the characters in the book. It's a fun way to tell the backstory of the main character's parents. Another major character gets an entire appendix dedicated to telling his rather involved history.

Magazine Features. A couple of magazine feature articles from Dawn Magazine (think Us or People) are sprinkled throughout the appendices. One focuses on the main character and his family in better days. Another profiles a secondary character.

Journal Entries. Mortimer P. Willoughby, the snarky British manservant for the heroic Crusading Comet and his family, absolutely pops off the page. The character has served his superhero family for decades, keeping a detailed journal of the family's triumphs and tragedies.

Character Biographies. Several of the main heroes get full-on hero worship from Dawn Magazine. These brief summaries recollect career highlights and give readers a peek into how the world perceives the various men and woman who try to protect it.

Secret Dossiers. Villain dossiers provide background on both major and minor villains from the book. These are presented as "ripped from the secret files of the Heroic Legion."

I've always enjoyed getting something "extra" with books I'm reading; I'm geeky like that. I love indexes and appendices, little details that make a world seem fully realized. They're not vital to the story, but those who choose to read the extra materials will walk away with a greater sense of something larger and more connected.

Think of it as the extra content on a DVD or Blu-ray; you don't have to watch the director's commentary to enjoy the movie, but the commentary gives you a different understanding of the film and how it was made. That was my goal with this extra material; to give readers something more.

About I, Crimsonstreak

I, Crimsonstreak
Candlemark & Gleam, May 15, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook

Guest Blog by Matt Adams - The Super World of False Documents:  Bringing a Superhero World to Life
Framed by his father, “reformed” supervillain Colonel Chaos, super-speedster Chris Fairborne, AKA Crimsonstreak, is sent to the Clermont Institution for the Criminally Insane. A hero surrounded by dastardly inmates and heartless guards, Chris struggles to keep his wits about him, until the arrival of some unexpected new “guests” at the facility provides him with a means for escape. Once out, though, he discovers that the world he knew is gone, replaced by a fascist, supposedly utopian state run by none other than Colonel Chaos himself.

With the heroes of the world locked away or fighting in a disorganized resistance, Crimsonstreak teams up with a snarky British butler and a teenage superhero-to-be. Together, the unlikely (and bickering) allies must take down Crimsonstreak’s dad and set the world right. Not easy when your only powers are super-speed and looking good in spandex. But hey, someone’s got to save the world.

I, Crimsonstreak is a first-person superhero novel brimming with parallel universes, stuffy British butlers, crafty supervillains, cloning, gadgets, a fascist police state disguised as a utopian society, and enough geeky pop culture references to stun a Wookie.

About Matt

Guest Blog by Matt Adams - The Super World of False Documents:  Bringing a Superhero World to Life
Matt Adams is a former TV news producer whose stories have appeared in Wily Writers Podcast and anthologies from Library of the Living Dead Press and Timid Pirate Publishing. He lives and works in Indianapolis, Indiana, with his wife and (possibly) man-eating frog. Once, long ago, he planned to patrol the streets as Batman, but ultimately decided writing was safer and more cost-effective. He was only half right.

His debut novel I, Crimsonstreak is due out May 15 from Candlemark & Gleam

Matt's Links:

Publisher Site:

Guest Blog by Carol Wolf - A Peripatetic Writer's Life

Please welcome Carol Wolf to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Summoning, Carol's debut, will be published in April by Night Shade Books.

A Peripatetic Writer's Life
by Carol Wolf

When I was in college my ceramic arts instructor, who was renowned for his teapots, told me that most of the artists of his acquaintance have a wide variety of artistic skills, but that they focus on the one for which they are first rewarded. Hence, his specialty in teapots.

So, now, all you artists reading this, how many different art forms have you pursued over the course of your life, and for which were you first rewarded?

I made up stories and acted them out before I knew how to write. I suppose the first reward I received for writing was when I embarked on an epic (15 page!) story in 3rd grade, and my teacher rewarded my efforts by allowing me, for an entire week, to do nothing but write. While everyone else had to do class work, I sat at a table in the back of the room and wrote all day, and no one was allowed to bother me. What a life! I did have to go out for recess. This was a bitter disappointment, especially since, of all the things we did all day in 3rd grade, recess seemed to me the most unimportant. Later, when I spent years as a substitute teacher, I understood that it wasn't I who needed the recess, but my teacher. I read the finished story to the class, and then was asked by the class to read it again. A triumph!

In 6th grade I wrote my first play, and all but two classmates took part in the production. The Five Murders of Cherryville Lane was presented to the school, and there was a second, special assembly for us to present it a second time. Another triumph! So, I was well-rewarded at an impressionable age for writing stories and plays, and kept on ever after.

When I was seventeen, my third play, a 20-minute one-act called Duel, won a playwriting contest and was published in At Rise Magazine the following year. Even more fantastic was the news that a theater in Waterloo, Iowa, planned to produce the play the year after. Thus it was that, on my junior year abroad at the University of Lancaster, in England, I had to fly back to the states for my play opening in the middle of the spring term. The Waterloo Playhouse produced three one-acts; the other two were written by old guys, one in his thirties and one in his forties. We were interviewed on radio and television to promote the production, and I remember giving a talk at a Rotary Club luncheon. Since the theater had paid my plane fare to come, put me up and paid for my meals, I was well and truly rewarded.

So, I was set by that time on being a writer, and thought I'd be a lawyer and write on the side, or a biologist, and write on the side, or a teacher, and write on the side, as I have a broad range of interests. I was accepted to a graduate school to get an MA in education and a teaching credential, but then I got my acceptance, and a Levin Scholarship, to the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, to study playwriting. Playwrights took acting classes with the actors, directing classes with the directors, design classes with the techies, but none of them took playwriting classes with us. I was told by my department head that if I flunked all my other classes, but did well in playwriting, I'd still be in the program. I wrote seventeen plays in three years, and sixty-six drafts of nine of them. I also wrote my fourth novel, but like the other three, written in college, it was very bad.

One thing I did learn in those three years was that you can't -- I can't -- write on the side. The tool for writing is your brain, and what your brain does all day determines your output as a writer. Thus, I've been a temp, or a sub, and had occasional short-term full-time jobs. I write, and work on the side. If I've paid for that, economically, the upside is that no effort of mine was spared to be a better writer. In this culture where worth, and success, are measured by money, that is at times difficult to justify.

Three of my plays were produced at grad school, and upon graduation, The Terrible Experiment of Jonathan Fish, my feminist musical farce, was chosen for a workshop production in New York City the following year. So, I was well and truly hooked into being a playwright. The workshop was sold out, there were standing ovations, I was taken aside by dozens of people who told me that I would lose my integrity -- a sign that people think you're going to be someone, in NYC. But nothing came of it.

Years later, after writing about fifty plays, the notice on the front of the Dramatist Sourcebook, where all contests, grants, and productions are listed each year, penetrated: "Over 857 opportunities for playwrights!" Tens of thousands of us competing for 857 opportunities, and a good third of those for playwrights in New York, while I was living by then in Los Angeles. The light dawned. Did I give up playwriting? No way! The craft of playwriting is, well, it's an addiction. To sit at the back of a dark hall and watch a couple hundred people watch your play, is an experience that I wish on you all. To sit in rehearsal and watch really good actors bring your play to its feet is about as close as a human can be to being a god on this earth. (A general can send soldiers into battle, even to their deaths, but in their minds they call down curses on him. Actors work like fiends and are always wondering if they're good enough, or if they could do better, and if you give them more to do they thank you.)

The real problem, I realized, was in needing someone else's acceptance or permission to have my work produced. The workers should own the means of production! This was the year after the development of the Canon XL2 camera made it possible for low-budget productions to make theater-quality films. Two friends and I founded Paw Print Studios, and I co-produced, wrote and directed two feature films in the next three years, Far From the Sea, and The Valley of Fear. This required a whole new craft of story telling, through the eye of the camera. One result: pages and pages and pages of cut dialogue. Dialogue takes forever to shoot, and is the slowest way to convey story on film.

Summoning actually began as an idea for a film, but due to budget limitations I soon reworked it as a novel, where a girl changing into a wolf requires no special effects. I finished it, and reworked it, did a bit of research and sent it to a publisher, and after a year they sent it back, no, and I sent it to another, and by the time the next year and the next no had passed, I was on to other projects. Some time later, I was introduced to awesome agent Laurie McLean, and she loved it, and sold it to Night Shade Books. Hooray!

Night Shade wants the second book quickly, and here is where this narrative comes together. When writing a novel in a short time, handfulls of playwriting techniques are extremely useful. The need to set and sustain a significant tension level, knowing that the plot legs must be in proportion with the plot points, that everything that is paid off at the end must be set up in the beginning, and the more important the pay off, the earlier the set-up must be, offer short cuts to what would otherwise arise as a whole lot of story problems.

When you write a play, after finishing it, it is customary to get some friends together for a reading in the living room, usually called, the living room reading. If you are blessed by the acquaintance of some actors, you get them to read for you, but having your computer-programmer and insurance specialist friends read can be just as useful. If the words are said consecutively and audibly, the story must be told. If it is a poor story, the roomful of people will be bored, and there will be no disguising it. The number of trips to the bathroom and the snack table, the rustling and shuffling will be a dead giveaway, which you ignore at your peril. If the play works, no one will move, and no one will get up until the act break. Moreover, the strength of the play will be written on the faces of he audience like some stamp of joy and awe. And here's the other thing. The stronger the play, the more the mistakes will stand out. If there's not much play there, everyone will say nice things to you, offer a few small suggestions, and change the subject. But if the play is good, the mistakes will be annoying to the audience. More than annoying, they will just about piss them off. If, after your play reading, many of the people in the room are shouting at you about the things you HAVE to fix or they will come after you, you can know that you've done some good work.

A few really good novelists might benefit from the experience of their readers yelling at them for the small errors they have made, thus marring a terrific piece of work. Endings are often a case in point. If, in a play, the ending is not satisfying, after two hours of sitting in rising expectation, your audience really will lynch you if you disappoint them. The living room reading for Summoning will take place in other peoples' houses. Is it fortunate or unfortunate that I will be out of range if there is any shouting? Of course, thinking it over, now that the book has gone to the printer and it really is too late, this playwright-novelist has to wonder, is the ending of Summoning satisfying enough? The correct response for the writer is to go write the next book.

About Summoning

Moon Wolf Saga 1
Night Shade Books, April 2012
Trade Paperback, 300 pages

Guest Blog by Carol Wolf - A Peripatetic Writer's Life
The World Snake is coming, devourer of Thrace and Atlantis... and the only one standing in its way is Amber, a sixteen-year-old runaway, recently arrived in Los Angeles.

Amber is more than just a girl with a stolen ID and an attitude; she is a daughter of the wolf-kind, a shapeshifter able to change forms at will. One night, as Amber prowls the Hollywood Hills in wolf form, she stumbles onto an occult ceremony, interrupting the ritual. As a result, Amber finds herself the unwilling mistress of a handsome demonic servant, Richard.

Appearing as a fair youth of eighteen years, Richard is a demon accidentally summoned, then captured, by Dr. John Dee, court magician to Queen Elizabeth I. Richard has been trying for four centuries to free himself from a succession of masters and mistresses, but finds himself bound to Amber, the only one who can protect him from his greatest fear, the herald of the World Snake, the Eater of Souls.

The last thing a girl of the wolf-kind needs is a boy following her around like a lap-dog, but Amber agrees to help Richard reclaim his soul from two of his old foes, hopings soul from two of his old foes, hoping to grant Richard his freedom. But all hell is about to break loose, and Amber and Richard are going to need some allies to stop the Eater of Souls and avert the World Snake, and the battle has only begun.
From Carol Wolf comes the urban fantasy debut Summoning, a novel of a wolf girl, a demon boy, and a city on the edge of disaster.

About Carol

Guest Blog by Carol Wolf - A Peripatetic Writer's Life
Carol Wolf earned a BA in History at Mills College, and an MFA at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers, where she was a Levin Scholar. Her plays have been seen on both coasts and on five continents, and include The Terrible Experiment of Jonathan Fish, The Boss's Wife, Day/BlackNight/Morning, Walking on Bones, and The Thousandth Night, which won the London Fringe First, the Bay Area Critic’s Circle Award, and the L.A. Drama Critic’s Circle Award. Wolf taught Master’s classes in Playwriting at Manhattan College and Mills College, and for ten years headed the playwriting program at Foothill College. She wrote the scripts for the blockbuster video games Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, and Legacy of Kain: Defiance. She co-founded the micro-budget film company Paw Print Studios, for which she wrote and directed two feature films, The Valley of Fear, and Far from the Sea, and is currently in production with the documentary, Letters to my Grandchildren. Her playwriting manual, Playwriting: the Merciless Craft, Techniques in Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Playwriting, has been accepted for publication by AmbushBooks and will be released in April, 2012. She lives in the foothills of the California Sierra Nevadas in with her husband, two border collies, and a varying number of sheep.

Carol's Website

Guest Blog by Chuck Wendig - Having a kid changes everything

Please welcome Chuck Wendig to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs.  Blackbirds (Miriam Black 1)* will be published in April (US/CAN) and May (UK/RoW) by Angry Robot.

Having a kid changes everything.

In italics: everything.


It’s all changed. Changed in the most sanity-destroying, brain-damaging, time-eating, sleep-killing ways.
Many writers give themselves over to a daily routine: wake up, drink coffee, write the first thousand words, walk the dog, second cup of coffee, write the next thousand words, shot of whiskey, a moment spared for Internet pornography, the next thousand words, eat lunch, discard pants, begin editing, get sleepy, get second wind, descend into madness, and so on and so forth.

Writers must become creatures of habit. We must apply order to our day to succeed.

Babies, on the other hand?

Babies are creatures of chaos.

They are, in this way, the very opposite of writers. They cannot give themselves over to routine because every day they change a little more. Our son – nicknamed “B-Dub” – just turned nine months old and out of nowhere this tiny hairless chimpanzee is ticking off checkmarks left and right. Learning to high-five, kiss, stand, walk, babble, put objects together, play patiently with toys, and so forth. He can climb the stairs. He can ascend both tiers of the couch (cushion and the back of the couch) with ease. Having him run around the living room is like setting a coked-up goblin free in your house.

You really have to pay attention to coked-up goblins. And you really have to pay attention to babies, too.

So, where once I had routine, I now have chaos. Where once my day was splayed out before me like a Chinese buffet, I now have to chase down hours with hatchet and spear.

Ah, but all that’s just external. Just what happens on the outside. Something happens inside, too—suddenly, the writer must look at the stories he tells. I take a look at BLACKBIRDS and I think, “My son can’t read this. My son shouldn’t read this until he’s at least a teenager. Hell, I’m not even sure I should read this. Sex. Drugs. Violence. Bad language. Prolific snark.” DOUBLE DEAD features zombies and cannibals and asshole vampires and, worst of all, a nation of Juggalos. SHOTGUN GRAVY has a teen girl who goes up against bullies with shotguns. Not the greatest message for a young mind. “Sure, boy, got a problem with bullies at school? Here’s a .410 shotgun. Give ‘em a scare!”

So now I’m thinking, I’ve got to learn to tell stories to this itty-bitty human. Half the kids’ books we already have don’t help. Daddy can’t read those without criticizing. “This book about this weird button-eyed teddy bear has no character development, no thematic arc, no narrative conflict. I DECLARE IT TO BE A TURD. We will throw this away!” And then I fling it to the far corners of the room.

What will I do? I’ll adjust. Like man has been doing ever since he turned flippers into feet and waddled out of the ocean brine. I’ll keep carving away hours to write. I’ll keep figuring out how, as B-Dub gets older, to tell stories he’ll like as well as keep writing stories that adult human beings will like. And I’ll do it happily and eagerly and without concern because now I’ve got one more reason to keep on doing my penmonkey shuffle: I’ve got a child with a mouth to feed and a mind to fill with stories.

Having a kid changes everything.

In the best – if also the craziest – possible way.

About Blackbirds

Miriam Black 1
Angry Robot, April 24. 2012 US/CAN, May 3, 2012 UK/RoW
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Guest Blog by Chuck Wendig - Having a kid changes everything
Miriam Black knows when you will die. She’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, and suicides.

But when Miriam hitches a ride with Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be murdered while he calls her name. Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim.

No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

File Under: Urban Fantasy [ Touch Of Death | The Future Is Written | Free Way | Surviving ]

About Chuck

Guest Blog by Chuck Wendig - Having a kid changes everything
Chuck’s novel Double Dead hit shelves in November, 2011. His second novel, Blackbirds, is already getting rave reviews prior to its publication in April of this year. Its sequel, Mockingbird, publishes at the end of 2012.

He, along with writing partner Lance Weiler, is an alum of the Sundance Film Festival Screenwriter’s Lab (2010). Their short film, Pandemic, showed at the Sundance Film Festival 2011, and their feature film HiM is in development with producers Ted Hope and Anne Carey. Together they co-wrote the digital transmedia drama Collapsus, which was nominated for an International Digital Emmy and a Games 4 Change award.

Chuck has contributed over two million words to the game industry, and was the developer of the popular Hunter: The Vigil game line (White Wolf Game Studios / CCP). He is a frequent contributor to The Escapist, writing about games and pop culture.

He currently lives in Pennsylvania with wife, dog, and newborn son. You can find him at his website,, where he is busy talking about storytelling and the art and craft of writing. You can find his writing advice collected in e-books such as Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey and 500 Ways to be a Better Writer. Give him a wide berth, as he might be drunk and untrustworthy.

Chuck's Links

Terrible Minds (website)
Tumbelog (Tumblr)

The Giveaway


What:  One commenter will win a Mass Market Paperback copy of Blackbirds (Miriam Black 1) from The Qwillery. Please note that should you win the novel will not be sent to you until after it is published in April.

How:  Leave a comment answering the following question:

Share one thing that it on your bucket list 
(that list of things you'd like to do before you die)? 

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 Wednesday, March 14, 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.**

*To those of you who might say, "but, but THIS is not Mr. Wendig's first novel!!" The Qwillery considers Blackbirds a debut novel because it is not part of a series (Tomes of the Dead) with novels by several writers as is Double Dead.  The Qwillery may be wrong to think so, but that's the way it is. It is not a reflection of the quality of Double Dead or any novel in the Tomes of the Dead.

Guest Blog by Thomas Morrissey - Why?

Please welcome Thomas Morrissey to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs.

     First, of course, is my thanks to Sally for inviting me here. I’ve never done an actual ‘blog’ (I’m not sure university newspaper columns count), so this should be an interesting experience and hopefully not too embarrassing.


     I’m currently in an MFA program at the University of Southern Maine—the Stonecoast program for Popular Fiction (hey, PopFic people!)—and one of the things my mentor has been putting me onto is the books of Steven Pressfield. Pressfield is a successful writer and screenwriter (The Legend of Bagger Vance is his) who has an intriguing perspective on writing: it’s more than a way to make a living or even to tell a story; it’s a sacred calling. Every day we have to overcome Resistance, an active force in the Universe that will oppose in any way, shape or form our efforts to improve ourselves and our lot in life.

     Boy do I feel him.

     I’ve spent a lot of my life collecting rejection slips, ridicule from family, friends and co-workers, and, in an even purer form, battling the Resistance that comes from within. Any artist knows that struggle. It’s the self-doubt we all feel whenever we sit down to write, or paint, or do anything that will improve us in a spiritual, emotional or physical way. After years of facing this on a daily basis—and not always winning—I find myself now, on the eve of my first book’s publication, asking, ‘Why? Why did I keep going?’

     God knows it hasn’t been financial reward—I didn’t sell my first story until 2005, a piece called Can’t Catch Me that appeared in the anthology Brooklyn Noir. I got a hundred bucks for it. I sold another story to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, for about as much. My first novel, FAUSTUS RESURRECTUS, will hopefully do better than that.

     I didn’t keep going because of any professional advancement, either—for most of my writing life I’ve struggled to find an agent (I’ve had three, and am currently without one) or an editor who was even interested in looking at my stuff. Although I have a good manager now, and a good editor at Night Shade Books, Ross Lockhart, I’m still tending bar in midtown Manhattan.

     I certainly didn’t keep going for any heightened lifestyle—anyone who thinks writers get laid for being creative individuals should contact me about a few bridges I have to sell.

     So why go on?

     “We do not do this thing because it is permitted. We do it because we have to. We do it because we are compelled.”

     Rorschach, from Alan Moore’s brilliant Watchmen, is correct. I write, have written since I was ten years old, because I must. When I’ve resisted, as I have at certain periods of my life, my world has not been…right. I’ve resented it, fought against it, hated the idea that I’m supposed to do certain things in my life, that I was put here to be something I had no say in choosing. I want to do what I want to do. It’s my life; I decide.


     That arrogance, that stupidity, that anger has cost me (and continues to, on bad days) more than I can ever calculate. I’ve made enough bad decisions and bad choices to ruin…well, my life, at least. But I still write. So there’s a chance.

     In The Alchemist, Paolo Coelho says, “When you truly want something, the entire Universe conspires to help you achieve it.” I would tweak that a little: ‘When you truly want something for the right reason, the entire Universe conspires to help you achieve it.’ No one, and I mean no one, has wanted success for their writing more than I’ve wanted it. Problem was, the only interest I had in the craft at all was to facilitate my ability to sell it. I wanted money, I wanted validation, it was all about me. Except it isn’t. It’s the story. It’s the message. It’s about allowing the energy of creativity to flow through you, to use you as a conduit for its own purposes. I’m fairly certain my life has demonstrated that I’m far short of perfect, but still, the compulsion remains; still I hear the muse.

     I still need to write.

     Thank God.

     I remain hopeful I’ll succeed. My understanding of things now is that I can only do as much as I can; results are the purview of other forces that I can’t control. I’ve always believed I’ll make a living as a writer—still do—and the path is a little less daunting now. It remains a struggle to sit down at the keyboard every day, but it gets easier when ego doesn’t obscure your vision. It gets easier to let the truth out. As long as it’ll let me, I’ll keep the path clear.

     Thanks for listening; hope I didn’t get too far into my navel.

     Enjoy my stuff.

About Faustus Resurrectus

Faustus Resurrectus
Donovan Graham 1
Night Shade Books, April 2012
Trade Papberback , 300 pages

Guest Blog by Thomas Morrissey - Why?
Unholy murder is just the beginning of the ritual...

When Donovan Graham, newly-graduated occult scholar, helps the NYPD investigate a man killed by scorpions in a midtown hotel, he learns the world is far stranger and deadlier than his studies ever suggested. Evidence forces his academic skepticism to give way to astonished belief that ancient evil exists, and the more he investigates, the higher it rises to overshadow the normality of his life. Can he save those he loves from its power?

In a Central Park overrun with madness, a suave sociopath seeks to achieve his darkest desires by tearing apart the world. Battling him through death and beyond, Donovan risks his soul to learn reality is flexible, and even the impossible can be had if a high enough price is paid...

About Thomas Morrissey

Guest Blog by Thomas Morrissey - Why?
Thomas Morrissey has been writing since he was ten, and became fascinated with his mother’s Sears portable typewriter. He is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and (soon) the Horror Writers of America. His work has appeared in the Akashic Books mystery anthology Brooklyn Noir, where it won the Robert L. Fish Award for Best First Published Short Story from the MWA. His work has also appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. FAUSTUS RESURRECTUS is the first of the Donovan Graham supernatural Noir thrillers, but it won’t be the last.

Guest Blog by Alex Adams - The sky isn't falling, or: How an optimist came to write an apocalyptic novel.

Please welcome Alex Adams to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Alex's debut, White Horse, will be published on April 17, 2012.

The sky isn't falling, or: How an optimist came 
to write an apocalyptic novel.

Do you know what my mother said the first time I told her what White Horse was about, right down to the body count? "How gruesome!"

At the time I was stumbling around like a still-blind kitten, rendered a drooling, stammering loon by the stunning news that White Horse (and two subsequent books) had sold at auction. If I'd had my wits about me, I might have said something clever, like, "Gruesome? But you read King and Kellerman and Koontz! Compared to them my teensy little apocalypse is gruesome-lite!" Instead, I responded with the ultra-witty: "Ha-ha." (There might have been a third "ha" in there; it's all foggy now.)

What she probably expected—what a lot of people expected—was something...funnier. My mother is a woman who gave birth to two daughters, but wound up raising a pair of hams. If you ever meet my sister, ask her to do "Rickets Girl," or her "Soylent Green is people!" act. She can out-Heston Heston. My talents lean more toward an inability to tell jokes without falling on the floor laughing and crying, while those listening strain to interpret what I'm saying. I've ruined so many punchlines with my poorly-timed laughter that I should come with a warning label. Luckily, my laughter tends to be infectious, so a good time is had by all, even if they never get to hear the whole joke.

Nearly everything I'd written prior to White Horse leaned toward funny. I'm not a super-serious person. If a one-liner isn't falling out of my mouth, I can guarantee it's hanging around there, probably ensnared on my epiglottis or uvula--one of those silly-sounding body parts. I penned a funny mystery or two, funny women's fiction, funny fantasy, funny—you get the picture. Funny. But when I sat down and thought about it—really thought about it—comedy wasn't really what I wanted to write. Being funny as a job didn't appeal to me at all. Funny is what I do for fun.

Let me say this right now, before we go any further: I didn't intend to end the world.

White Horse started out as a short. What is now the prologue was supposed to be the opening to a three-thousand word story about a modern-day Pandora. You know, the one with the box that isn't really a box, but is in fact really a jar? My fiancé and I share a love for mythology; we're both writers, so I wanted to write something super-serious to entertain him. And I wanted it to have its roots in Greek mythology.

But something happened. One of my gears slipped. Whatever. When I began writing that second scene, it didn't go where I expected it to go. Instead of remaining local and small, it went all the way to a farmhouse in Italy, to an endless rain and a young blind woman in a ghastly situation. My heroine—my Pandora, whose name is actually Zoe--was there with her, with two thoughts in mind: I have to go. And she has to come with me. Mankind, as we know it, was already circling the drain—clockwise and counterclockwise.

After that, the bad times just kept on rollin'. And I was no longer writing a short story. The end of the world was on and poor Zoe was there with a blind woman for company and an impossible mission ahead. Neither she or I had clue one about how we'd get to the last page.

I'm still not sure how I got there. Directions aren't my thing. I got lost driving to Oregon. Ask my guy. I was right behind him when I took a wrong highway back in California. If not for GPS and his laughter-tinged, "Well, look at the numbers on the side of the road!" I'd be in Canada right now.

I love end-of-the-world scenarios. All you have to do is say "apocalypse" and I'm already making plans to see your movie, buy your book, play your game. I'm the person who bought Deep Impact on DVD. Do not ask me how many hours I sank into killing super mutants in Fallout 3. It's a three-digit number.

Why do I love them?

Because the possibility of The End simultaneously slaps all my buttons. It's the ultimate beyond-our-control scenario. Most of us don't have the power to stop a plague or a war; none of us can suppress a volcano or reach out and divert a meteor (except maybe you, Bruce Willis.) And there's no way to predict who or what would be left standing. Imagine trying to survive with the one guy who did that thing you hate for company; terrifying!

Yes, an apocalypse is frightening, but, for a fiction writer, all that literary potential... What could we do with a blank, damaged slate? It's do-overs on steroids, a chance to build a new world on the broken bones of the old.

And despite the horror, the fear, and the devastation, I find that strangely optimistic.

About White Horse

White Horse
(1st in a trilogy)
Atria / Emily Bestler Books, April 17, 2012
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

Guest Blog by Alex Adams - The sky isn't falling, or: How an optimist came to write an apocalyptic novel.
White Horse is the first book in an absolutely unique debut trilogy—a post-apocalyptic thriller chronicling one woman’s quest to nurture those she holds dear against the backdrop of a shocking, new world.

Thirty-year-old Zoe wants to go back to college. That’s why she cleans cages and floors at GeneTech. If she can keep her head down, do her job, and avoid naming the mice she’ll be fine. Her life is calm, maybe even boring, until the end of the world when the President of the United States announces that humans are no longer a viable species.

Zoe starts running the moment she realizes everyone she loves is gone. Her boyfriend Nick, fearing he’s contracted the virus, leaves for Greece. When Zoe discovers she’s pregnant—and entirely alone—she treks across the world to find Nick and reunite her growing family. On the way she encounters characters both needy and nefarious—some human, some monster, and some uncertain beings altered by genetic mutation. On her journey, Zoe comes to see that humanity is defined not by genetic code, but by soulful actions and choices.

Told in alternating before and after chapters, White Horse is a terrifying and romantic story that readers will be unable to put down.

White Horse UK Cover
April 22, 2012
Guest Blog by Alex Adams - The sky isn't falling, or: How an optimist came to write an apocalyptic novel.

About Alex

Guest Blog by Alex Adams - The sky isn't falling, or: How an optimist came to write an apocalyptic novel.
Alex Adams was born in New Zealand, raised in Greece and Australia, and currently lives in Oregon–which is a whole lot like New Zealand, minus those freaky-looking wetas. Her debut novel, White Horse (Emily Bestler Books/Atria) hits shelves April 17, 2012. Her fingers are crossed that the world won’t end before then.

Alex's Links


The Giveaway


What:  Three commenters will each win a printed Advanced Reading Copy of White Horse generously provided by Alex!

How:  Leave a comment answering the following question:

What is/are your favorite apocalyptic movie(s), comics or novel(s)?

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 Friday, March 2, 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 Post by David Tallerman - Pieces of Cake: Where Giant Thief meets Labyrinth

Please welcome David Tallerman to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. David's debut, Giant Thief, was published on January 31, 2012 US/Canada.

Pieces of Cake: Where Giant Thief meets Labyrinth

     One lesson I learned during the writing of my first novel Giant Thief is that you don't always realise your own influences.

     Whatever I was consciously considering, as random as some of the elements I deliberately threw in were, I don't remember thinking much about the movie Labyrinth. Not that it would have been so strange if I had, since it's one of my favourite fantasy films of all time. I'd cheerfully describe it as a masterpiece, and probably will before this post is out. But the gritty yet humorous Crime / Fantasy adventure I had in my head was a thousand worlds away from Jim Henson's delirious, often silly, always brilliant Muppet-featuring masterpiece.

     (Well that didn't take long.)

     Although ... truth be told and now that I think about it, one small similarity did occur to me fairly early on. When I was trying to visualise my protagonist Easie Damasco riding on the shoulder of Saltlick, the giant he'd just absconded with, where could my mind go but to Sir Didymus? Because let's face it, the sight of an insane fox creature mounted on a cowardly Old English Sheepdog takes all the biscuits when it comes to images of things riding on other things.

     As major, conscious influences went, though, it was only when I started trying to come up with concept images for the cover that the first major similarity hit me. How best to describe Saltlick? He wasn't your typical, monstrous giant. In character and appearance both, I had something quite different in mind. Not quite so tall but broader, considerably nicer, a creature of few words but more than capable of picking the right ones at the right time, kind of like ... well ... a lot like a shaved version of Labyrinth's good-hearted monster Ludo.

     That was it, though - as far as conscious influences went. But realising those two was enough to set my mind ticking for unconscious ones. Had a little bit of Labyrinth's Sarah fed into my tough, well-intentioned but sometimes perhaps a little self-deluding heroine Marina Estrada? Was the reason I was determined to have some humour in the mix a hangover from reading too many Terry Pratchett books, or did it perhaps have more to do with the way Labyrinth (and for that matter other classic fantasy films of the time) undercut their more serious themes with heavy doses of comedy?

     Then there's Easie Damasco himself.

     At time of writing, Damasco has already been compared with Shakespeare's Autolycus (by Adrian Tchaikovsky) and Jack Sparrow (by SFX magazine), not to mention my friend Bill Brennan describing him bizarrely as "a cheerful Raskolnikov." But no one has as yet pointed out how much he has in common with Labyrinth's treacherous, stature-deprived, morally see-sawing hero / villain Hoggle.

     So I'll do it myself. Because both have a magpie's interest for gewgaws, which often gets the better of their interest in people. Both are almost blinded by their cynicism and their sure belief that everyone is just as self-interested as they are. Both have a conscience, but also a staggering capacity to ignore it. And, however minor or tenuous some of these influences may have been, I've no doubt that Hoggle's relationship with Sarah fed into Damasco's with Saltlick. Labyrinth toys mercilessly with our instinct to like Hoggle despite his multitudinous flaws, and our urge to trust him just as Sarah wants to trust him. Even as he lets her down, we want to believe the next time will be different. So it goes with Damasco and Saltlick. Damasco is a charming but outrageously flawed individual, and he's the only hope Saltlick has of ever returning home - if he can just stop behaving like a weasel for long enough.

     Anyway, my point here isn't that I've written a colossal rip-off of Labyrinth. I'm hopeful I haven't written a colossal rip-off of anything! No, my point is that a) Labyrinth is a brilliant movie, and a fantasy classic that maybe doesn't always get the credit it deserves and b) like I said at the start, you don't always know your own influences - and discovering them can come as quite a shock.

     However, in the interests of not looking like a big plagiarist, here are some of Labyrinth's vital ingredients that definitely don't appear even slightly in Giant Thief:

     There are no muppets. At no point does David Bowie appear, with or without padded underwear. There are neither goblins nor babies. Nobody sings or narrowly avoids a dunking in the Bog of Eternal Stench. At no point does anyone remove anyone else's head.

     Actually ... no, wait...

     Damn it!


     I wrote most of this piece on the train to Prestatyn, heading for the SFX 2012 Weekender.

     I'd barely arrived and hooked up with my roommate-to-be Lavie Tidhar when I ran into the Angry Robot team who, along with a couple of old friends, were drinking in a quiet corner of a large room being used as a combination cinema / bar. And barely had Angry Robot co-editor Lee Harris popped the cork on the champagne he'd smuggled in to celebrate Lavie and mine's book launches, but what should start playing on the screen?

     Yeah, that would be Labyrinth.

     Sometimes, life is very strange.

About Giant Thief

Giant Thief
Tales of Easie Damasco 1
Angry Robot Books
January 31, 2012 US/Canada, February 2, 2012 UK/RoW
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Guest Post by David Tallerman - Pieces of Cake: Where Giant Thief meets Labyrinth
Meet Easie Damasco, rogue, thieving swine and total charmer.

Even the wicked can’t rest when a vicious warlord and the force of enslaved giants he commands invade their homeland. Damasco might get away in one piece, but he’s going to need help.

Big time.

File Under: Fantasy [ Big Trouble | Deception | Saltlick's City | Hang 'im High ]

About David
From David's website

Guest Post by David Tallerman - Pieces of Cake: Where Giant Thief meets Labyrinth
David Tallerman is the author of around a hundred short stories, as well as comic scripts and poems, countless reviews and articles and at least two novels. Many of these are already available in print, online and in podcast. Others are due to appear over the next few months - including the first of those novels, Giant Thief, to be published through Angry Robot in early 2012 with two sequels following close on its heels.

Not liking to be pinned down, David's work ranges from gruesome horror to comic fantasy, from political science-fiction to tales about mechanically assisted grizzly bears battling Nazi dolphins on the moon.

He's been writing off and on since he was about six, drawing comparisons to Enid Blyton in those early days, but thankfully less so recently. And he's been writing pretty much flat out since around 2005, having realised he enjoys it a lot more than any of the other jobs he's tried his hand at.

Most of his remaining time is eaten up by his regular employment as an itinerant IT Technician, and whatever's left he spends reading books, watching films, hiking, drinking wine and failing miserably to grow bonsai trees.

The photograph was taken near Robin Hood's Bay, which is somewhere behind the camera- person. There are some seals basking off to the left. If you've never seen a seal up close then you should really try to, they're awesomely weird looking creatures.

David's Links:


The Giveaway


What:  One commenter will win a copy of Giant Thief (Tales of Easie Damasco 1) from The Qwillery.

How:  Leave a comment answering the following question:

What is you favorite fantasy movie? 

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. In addition 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, February 26, 2012. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*

Guest Blog by Steven John - A Story You Already Know

Please welcome Steven John to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Three A.M., Steven's debut, will be published on March 27, 2012.

     With such obvious exceptions as adaptations, reinterpretations, or parables, one does not set out to tell a story that already has been told. This, of course, is especially true if the story has been told innumerable times, innumerable ways and over many years; if it is “one we all know,” so to speak. Or so this is what I would have said—indeed what I thought—up until a few short years ago. And notwithstanding this now disproved personal conviction, it is exactly what I inadvertently did while writing my first novel: I wrote a story you already know. I wrote a book I myself have read dozens of times. But it’s not my fault, dammit. It’s not like I had any choice. Allow me a short digression, and then I’ll make my point as concisely as possible, with perhaps a few ramblings and odd sidebars thrown in for no respectable reason.

     As I’ve said, I did not set out to write a book telling a familiar tale. In fact, I didn’t set out to write a book at all. Oh, mind you I’d long wanted to—long made furtive starts and passing plans—but this thing that turned into the novel Three A.M.? That was just a short story. It was not until a few days after I started typing it out that I realized that at already 20,000 words and counting it was growing into a rather long short story. Soon after that I realized “Well… hey… looks like we got ourselves a novel here.” That was exciting. It really was. And a lot of other things that came after that were, too. But I’ll keep this step back brief and leave it there for now, the broad strokes of the novel’s “origin story” laying down sufficient color for me to return to my assertions above.

     The fact is, I’ve come to realize, that there are only a few stories people really give a good goddamn about. Let me redefine that confining frame a bit: there are only a few themes people care about, and try as an author (or wandering minstrel or dancing shaman or anyone else with a story or two to tell) might to think up something truly new, he or she will fail. At least fail in finding the new theme, if not in telling a fine story. Beyond love and hate, victory or defeat, loss or gain or revelation and a few other sweeping terms (dozens, I’m sure, if we mine deep enough, but finite still!) what have we? We have but ways to tell of these constant themes; stories are little more than polishing a re-imagining of that which we have long sought to glean.

     From the minutiae made epic by careful observation—take, for example, John Muir detailing every move of a Douglas squirrel in his seminal book The Mountains of California, a squirrel which he manages to make captivating!—to the epics which have lived with humanity for thousands of years—I’ll invoke The Odyssey as it’s low-hanging fruit—we read of struggle and perseverance leading to victory. From Aesop to Shakespeare we read of characters veritably choking on their own bitterness (think the “grapeless” Fox and Iago). And lovers, star-crossed or clear-eyed and everything in between, number too many in humanity’s collective literary canon for me to bother plucking an example, but I doubt you’ll be long in remembering various examples with common threads of yearning, lust, loss, etc.

     And then, in my first novel, my wholly original piece of creativity, dreamed up solely in my head and written out by these same two hands now typing away, we find… well, let’s see:

     • The Hero, in this case one who tries to “Refuse the Call” (indeed, almost the anti-hero)

     • The Siren, who draws him in

     • The Guide, who gives the hero wisdom and direction; moral validation

     • Villain(s)… of course

     • And finally: The Hero as Redeemer… Out of the Void… Departure… etc.

     And on it goes. On I went. But, like I said, it’s not my fault: I didn’t know that every story told or yet to come is but one more crack at peeling back the wraps that bind the universal themes; the unending struggle to both reflect on and live life in the same instant. After all, isn’t that the only reason we need stories? To make sense of that which we cannot objectively view while passing through it? Humor, drama, satire, etc.—these are all but lenses to focus the mind. We search for myriad lenses and hapless folks like me seek to provide a new one now and then, but always it is merely a new lens, never a new thing focalized, really. (Implicit within these assertions is the idea that diversion, such as by comedy, is not at all without merit and is in fact at times necessary.)

     It took the reading of countless books over the years to prepare me to write one (or two or three), but it took reading the work of just one man to both humble and embolden me all at once and ready me to approach each character, each twist and turn—every page, to boil it down—with a sense of excitement tempered by the knowledge that what lies beneath the story, what lurks between each word of dialogue, what frames the story and what motivates one to undertake its creation, is as vital as the visible flesh spread out atop. In a word: “Why.”

     Very likely many of you are nodding now even before I write that man’s name: Joseph Campbell. If you are familiar with his fantastic and edifying oeuvre, you will know well how liberally I have used his own terms, or at least his language. I do not feel I am doing him any disservice in conscripting his work thus, for he spent his life not seeking to create new, original material, exactly (the many books, speeches and articles he produced duly noted) but rather Campbell sought—and succeeded admirably—in showing us just how universal our stories are; how from all corners of the world and down through the generations we have produced similar tales trying to tackle the selfsame themes.

     Oh there were others, of course, who did much to inspire my young mind. Others on whose shoulders I shall forever stand (or perhaps over whose shoulders I will ever be trying to catch a glimpse of whatever it was they saw that let them write the things I read). Henry Miller freed my teenage mind. Faulkner stirred my mid-twenty something soul. Rand frustrated the hell out of me—god, I wanted to slap her—but showed me what great writing can do, even if you disagree so often with what the words are saying. But as wonderful as all these writers were, ultimately they are just playing the same game, albeit playing with exquisite finesse. It was Joseph Campbell who made it clear to me that we’re all doing the same: all playing the same game, all telling the same stories, all seeking the same answers, be we writers or bankers or biologists, et al. There are plural answers to be sought, yes, but they are far from infinite. Perhaps that’s why the “same story” can remain so vital despite the fact that we keep hearing it told in different ways.

Credit for selected terms and a few ideas and a lot of inspiration due to:

Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces Novato, CA: New World Library 2008. (Originally published by Pantheon Books 1949.)

And with a nod to my man in the mountains:

Muir, John. The Mountains of California Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press 1977 ed.

About Three A.M.

Three A.M.
Tor Books, March 27, 2012
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

Guest Blog by Steven John -  A Story You Already Know
Fifteen years of sunless gray.

Fifteen years of mist. So thick the streets fade off into nothing. So thick the past is hazy at best. The line between right and wrong has long been blurred, especially for Thomas Vale.

Long gone are the days when new beginnings seemed possible—when he was a new recruit, off to a new start fresh in the army. He had hoped to never look back. Not like there was much to see, anyway.

First came the sickness, followed by the orders: herd the healthy into the city, shoot the infected. The gates closed and the bridges came down… followed by the mist.

Fifteen miserable years of the darkest nights and angry, awful gray days.

Thomas Vale can hardly fathom why he keeps waking up in the morning. For a few more days spent stumbling along? Another night drinking alone? Another hour keeping the shadows at bay….

But when Rebecca Ayers walks into his life, the answers come fast. Too fast.

About Steven

Guest Blog by Steven John -  A Story You Already Know

Steven John and his wife, an elementary school teacher, live in Los Angeles by way of Washington D.C. and New York, respectively. He splits his time between many things, most of which involve words. Three A.M. is his first novel.

Steven's Links

Three A.M. on Facebook

Guest Blog by Suzanne Johnson - Fantasy, Meet Reality - and Giveaway

Please welcome Suzanne Johnson to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Royal Street (Sentinels of New Orleans 1), Suzanne's debut, will be published in April 2012.

Fantasy, Meet Reality

     On Sunday, August 28, 2005, I piled in a car with two dogs (one a ninety-pounder), an elderly parent, a friend, and her ailing cat, and left home for a two-day trip. It’s what I’d packed for, after all: one change of clothes, only the shoes I was wearing, a book to read (John Berry’s Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America), and a few cans of dog food. I was pretty much broke, it being two days before payday and, like most people, I lived paycheck to paycheck.

     But I didn’t go home on August 30 as planned. In fact, I didn’t go back for almost six weeks. We all lived in a hotel room for a week with our restless pets, and then disbursed to live on the goodwill of friends. When I finally did go home on October 10, I was afraid of what I’d find. (And I really, really grew to hate the irony of that John Berry book.)

     I was a New Orleanian, and when I left on August 28, it was a last-minute run from a little storm called Hurricane Katrina. You probably know what happened after that.

     For the next couple of years, I fought insurance companies and bureaucrats to get my house repaired. I watched elderly friends grow weak from the stress and die. I watched the city I loved so fiercely as it struggled back to its feet. I worked long hours trying to do my part in helping Tulane get reopened and repaired. I cried a lot.

     I don’t say all this as a “poor me,” because I had it SO much better than a lot of folks in New Orleans, including many of my friends and coworkers. But a catastrophe or natural disaster leaves its mark on everyone who goes through it. What do you do with all those unresolved feelings?

      For me (and at least two or three other New Orleanians I’ve since met), it became a new endeavor: fiction writing. I’d been a nonfiction writer and editor in higher education for years. But fiction? Moi? Uh-uh.

     I left New Orleans in late 2007 for family reasons, and between unresolved Katrina stress and homesickness, I began to write. In early 2009, I finished a book called Royal Street. I didn’t know if it had any commercial legs—after all it was about a national tragedy people are still dealing with…and it was urban fantasy.

     Urban fantasy is a genre I loved long before I ever heard the name. Anne Rice introduced me to vampires. Stephen King introduced me to all kinds of scary stuff that might be true (and might, without provocation, eat me). The joy of urban fantasy, for me, is the “what if” factor. What if, in our real world, we could turn the corner and run into a vampire? What if the guy behind the counter at the meat market is a werewolf (who cleans up the scraps between customers)? What if science hasn’t really killed off magic in our world?

     What if a wizard got caught in Hurricane Katrina? What if the levees that broke were not only physical but metaphysical? What if more than floodwater swept into New Orleans after the storm? “What if” is the heart of any story, but it’s especially strong at the crossroads of fantasy and reality that we call “urban fantasy” or “contemporary fantasy.”

     Royal Street, at its heart, is a love song to the hometown of my heart. It’s a story about what we do when the things we’ve learned to depend on are taken away from us, abruptly and unexpectedly. It’s about the power of human memory to keep alive those we love. It’s about how even in the worst of times, good things can happen if our hearts are open to them. The wizards of Royal Street aren’t real, but the post-Katrina world they live in is.

A contest! Royal Street, the first book in the Sentinels of New Orleans series, will be released by Tor Books on April 10 and is available for preorder at the usual places online. I’ll be giving away a signed copy of Royal Street to a commenter who answers one of these questions:

     Have you read a book set around a natural disaster, or what’s your favorite book set in New Orleans? (Note: the winner will receive the book in March, as soon as I have author copies available.)

Please see contest rules below.

To find out more about me or the Sentinels of New Orleans series, visit my Preternatura Blog at, or my website at

About Royal Street

Royal Street
Sentinels of New Orleana 1
Tor Books, April 10, 2012
Trade Paperback, 336 pages

Guest Blog by Suzanne Johnson -  Fantasy, Meet Reality - and Giveaway 
As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco’s job involves a lot more potion-mixing and pixie-retrieval than sniffing out supernatural bad guys like rogue vampires and lethal were-creatures. DJ’s boss and mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that might slip over from the preternatural beyond. 

Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans’ fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters. 

While winds howled and Lake Pontchartrain surged, the borders between the modern city and the Beyond crumbled. Now, the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering the soldiers sent to help the city recover. 

To make it worse, Gerry has gone missing, the wizards’ Elders have assigned a grenade-toting assassin as DJ’s new partner, and undead pirate Jean Lafitte wants to make her walk his plank. The search for Gerry and for the serial killer turns personal when DJ learns the hard way that loyalty requires sacrifice, allies come from the unlikeliest places, and duty mixed with love creates one bitter roux.

About Suzanne

Guest Blog by Suzanne Johnson -  Fantasy, Meet Reality - and Giveaway
Urban fantasy author Suzanne Johnson grew up in rural Northwest Alabama, halfway between the Bear Bryant Museum and Elvis’ birthplace. That, plus living in New Orleans for fifteen years, has given her a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football and fried gator on a stick. Her debut novel, Royal Street, will be released on April 10, 2012, by Tor Books, and will begin an urban fantasy series set in New Orleans during and immediately after Hurricane Katrina. The second book in the series, River Road, will be released in November 2012. By day, Suzanne is an editor at Auburn University despite being a graduate of the University of Alabama, which she thinks makes her bilingual. She lives in Auburn with two dogs named after professional wrestlers—a story she is not inclined to share (unless you catch her at the Napoleon House during Authors After Dark 2012).

Suzanne's Links

At Tor.Com

The Giveaway


What:  One commenter will win a signed copy of Royal Street (Sentinels of New Orleans 1) from Suzanne. Note: the winner will receive the book in March, as soon as Suzanne has author copies available.

How:  Leave a comment answering one of the following questions posed by Suzanne:

Have you read a book set around a natural disaster, or 
what’s your favorite book set in New Orleans?

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. In addition please 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, February 22, 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 Delilah S. Dawson - Want a Wicked Vacation? Try a Parallel Universe!

Please welcome Delilah S. Dawson to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Wicked as They Come, Delilah's debut, will be published in late March by Pocket. Check out the cover below. It's all sorts of gorgeous!

Want a Wicked Vacation? Try a Parallel Universe!

Thanks so much for hosting me at The Qwillery and including WICKED AS THEY COME in the 2012 Debut Author Challenge! I’m so excited to spread the word about my first book, and I’d like to officially invite everyone to join me on an adventure in a new world, one without mortgages or head colds or children bickering over the last granola bar. Because I’m betting that, like me, you could use a vacation.

That’s why I made up my own world.

The stories in my Blud series all take place in a parallel universe called Sang. Basically, it’s our Victorian-era world, but with limitless steampunk and clockwork technology. And magic. And sort-of vampires and sort-of demons and lizard people and all sorts of strange things that have tails and swallow snakes and go bump in the night. In Sang, anything can happen.

That’s what’s so compelling to me about the melding of steampunk and paranormal romance. Stories aren’t fettered by silly things like physics and reality. The male lead of WICKED AS THEY COME is a sort of vampire, rakishly handsome and quite skilled at magic and… other things. We all love Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, right? Now what if he was nearly indestructible, long-lived, long-haired, extra naughty, owned a traveling circus, had a helpful pet clockwork monkey, and could conjure butterflies out of dust? Better, right?

All of Sang is like that. Sure, there’s prejudice and poverty and hardship. But in that optimistic, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps steampunk mythos, the characters are empowered to move beyond the walls of their cramped cities and into the dangerous but fascinating world beyond. Flying machines, clockwork animals, automatons—technology can do the impossible, and magic can do everything else. When almost anything is possible, there’s an abundance of hope.

Plus, in Sang, and in my imagination, there’s someone for everyone. Damaged people can find healing. Lost people can find comfort. No matter how strange someone might be, there’s always a perfect fit out there, just waiting to love them—and possibly to roger them in a submarine.

Sang is being built, piece by piece, as I write each book in the Blud series, kind of like when Bastian had to rebuild Fantasia at the end of The Neverending Story. The first book takes place in Sangland, their version of England. The land is divided into countryside ravaged by bloodthirsty rabbits and huge, walled cities where humans are outnumbered by Bludmen, which are like vampires without the superstition. The second book starts in Sangland and moves (via airship brothel) to Freesia, their version of Russia, which is a romantic land of glittering snow, cyborg bears, and ice-white royal Bludmen. The third book will hopefully take place in the cabarets of Franchia, the Sangish France. I’m hoping it will be like Moulin Rouge, but with a much hotter private interlude in the clockwork elephant.

Will there be more books in the series? I hope so! There are so many more countries and peoples in Sang to explore via dirigible or submarine. The Far East, the frozen Arctic, the Sangish version of America. And I still have to figure out where Eblick the Lizard Boy came from. There are so many people I haven’t discovered yet, just waiting for their chance to shine.

All you need to do to apply for your Sangish passport is read WICKED AS THEY COME. I’m hoping you’ll be as hooked as I am, and we can continue to discover a new world together.

About Wicked as They Come

Wicked as They Come
Blud 1
Pocket, March 27, 2012
Mass Market Paperback, 416 pages

Guest Blog by Delilah S. Dawson - Want a Wicked Vacation? Try a Parallel Universe!

Have you ever heard of a Bludman? They’re rather like you and me—only more fabulous, immortal, and mostly indestructible. (They’re also very good kissers.)

Delilah S. Dawson’s darkly tempting debut drops her unsuspecting heroine into a strange faraway land for a romantic adventure that’s part paranormal, part steampunk . . . and completely irresistible.

When Tish Everett forces open the ruby locket she finds at an estate sale, she has no idea that a deliciously rakish Bludman has cast a spell just for her. She wakes up in a surreal world, where Criminy Stain, the dashing proprietor of a magical traveling circus, curiously awaits. At Criminy’s electric touch, Tish glimpses a tantalizing future, but she also foresees her ultimate doom. Before she can decide whether to risk her fate with the charming daredevil, the locket disappears, and with it, her only chance to return home. Tish and Criminy battle roaring sea monsters and thundering bludmares, vengeful ghosts and crooked Coppers in a treacherous race to recover the necklace from the evil Blud-hating Magistrate. But if they succeed, will Tish forsake her fanged suitor and return to her normal life, or will she take a chance on an unpredictable but dangerous destiny with the Bludman she’s coming to love?

About Delilah

Guest Blog by Delilah S. Dawson - Want a Wicked Vacation? Try a Parallel Universe!
Delilah Dawson is an artist, wife, mom, goof, nerd, and cupcake enthusiast. She’s also an Associate Editor on, one of the hottest product review sites on the web. Before writing, she was a kids’ art instructor and arts administrator, including gallery direction and public relations. She lives in Atlanta with her family.

Delilah's Links


Guest Blog by Anne Lyle - Historical Research

Please welcome Anne Lyle to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs.

Historical research

     Don’t despair if you don’t have that kind of background, however; there are lots of other hands-on ways to learn about a historical period. For starters, any kind of practical experience is very helpful. If you’re the active type, you could take riding lessons or learn to fence. If that’s not an option, how about making your own bread, growing herbs, or learning calligraphy? I’ve done most of these (fencing is on my to-do list this year!) and more - it really helps in adding all the little sensory details to a scene if it’s something you’ve actually experience rather than relying on your imagination. If you have plenty of spare time, you could even join a re-enactment group, which will give you access to lots more information and resources.

     The biggest part of historical research, of course, is reading books. Not so much the kind of history books you read in school, all about kings and queens and politics - though of course you need to know that stuff - but the details of everyday life. What did people eat? What did they believe? How did they entertain themselves? I have a whole shelf of books about Elizabethan England, of which my favourite is probably The A to Z of Elizabethan London. It's an enlarged version of a map drawn in around 1570, with annotations helping you to identify streets, churches and other salient features. With it, I can plot my characters’ movements around the city as if I were really there. Even more cool, I can navigate my way around present-day central London using my mental map of its sixteenth-century layout. The buildings may be concrete office blocks instead of timbered houses, but you can still walk from the Globe Theatre to the Tower of London by crossing the river and then following Thames Street eastwards. (It takes about twenty minutes, by the way; I timed it on one of my research trips.)

Guest Blog by Anne Lyle - Historical Research
Reprints of books from your chosen era are an invaluable resource

     That brings us to my favourite part: visiting historic locations. I visited the Tower of London twice whilst writing The Alchemist of Souls, once for a general reconnoitre, once to research specific locations in detail. I've been inside various medieval and Elizabethan houses, from Kent to Yorkshire and from Suffolk to North Wales, and even stayed in a Renaissance house in Venice when researching my second novel, The Merchant of Dreams. Nothing can compare to actually walking into rooms where sixteenth-century people once lived, sometimes amidst incredible opulence but more often in very spartan style.

Guest Blog by Anne Lyle - Historical Research
Museums, like this one at the Globe Theatre, often include 
displays of everyday scenes with replica artefacts

     But what if you don't live in the UK and can't travel to all these wonderful places? Thanks to modern movies and TV shows, you can still get a glimpse of real historic locations, and better still they may recreate places that no longer exist. Of course you have to take anything you see with a pinch of salt and back it up with proper research, because the purpose of these productions is to entertain not educate, but the best of them will give you a good feel for the period. I recommend being particularly wary of the portrayal of historical events and characters, because these are the most likely to be manipulated for dramatic purposes. On the whole, costumes and sets are pretty accurate these days, but even then you can't be certain; the creators of the two "Elizabeth" movies starring Cate Blanchett commit all manner of inaccuracies in the name of visual drama. Ironically I found Shakespeare in Love more useful as a visual reference, despite its self-conscious anachronisms like the "priest of Psyche" (Will Shakespeare's therapist). The picture we get of Southwark, as a semi-rural place of muddy lanes and market stalls, is pretty close to the impression I get from sixteenth century maps of that area.

     In summary, if you want to research a period for a novel, you need to take a multi-pronged approach and use every resource at your disposal. Really immerse yourself in the period, reading both modern-day books and, where available, writings from that time. Watch films, listen to music, learn some practical skills. The more you can get into the mindset of a historical person, the better, because good historical fiction is about putting all that research in context and showing the world through the eyes of someone who is actually living that life.

About The Alchemist of Souls

The Alchemist of Souls
Night's Masque 1
Angry Robot Books, March 27, 2012 (US/Canada), April 2, 2012 (UK/RoW)
Mass Market Paperback (US), 448 pages

Guest Blog by Anne Lyle - Historical Research
When Tudor explorers returned from the New World, they brought back a name out of half-forgotten Viking legend: skraylings. Red-sailed ships followed in the explorers’ wake, bringing Native American goods – and a skrayling ambassador – to London. But what do these seemingly magical beings really want in Elizabeth I’s capital?

Mal Catlyn, a down-at-heel swordsman, is seconded to the ambassador’s bodyguard, but assassination attempts are the least of his problems. What he learns about the skraylings and their unholy powers could cost England her new ally – and Mal Catlyn his soul.

File Under: Fantasy [ Midsummer Magic | Skraylings | Double Trouble | Comedy of Terrors ]

About Anne

Guest Blog by Anne Lyle - Historical Research
Author photo by Andy Fountain
Anne Lyle was born in what is popularly known as “Robin Hood Country”, and grew up fascinated by English history, folklore, and swashbuckling heroes. Unfortunately there was little demand in 1970s Nottinghamshire for diminutive swordswomen, so she studied sensible subjects like science and languages instead.

It appears, however, that although you can take the girl out of Sherwood Forest, you can’t take Sherwood Forest out of the girl. She now spends practically every waking hour writing – or at least planning – fantasy fiction about dashing swordsmen and scheming spies, set in imaginary pasts or parallel worlds.

Anne's Links:

Guest Blog by Matt Adams - The Super World of False Documents:  Bringing a Superhero World to LifeGuest Blog by Carol Wolf - A Peripatetic Writer's LifeGuest Blog by Chuck Wendig - Having a kid changes everythingGuest Blog by Thomas Morrissey - Why?Guest Blog by Alex Adams - The sky isn't falling, or: How an optimist came to write an apocalyptic novel.Guest Post by David Tallerman - Pieces of Cake: Where Giant Thief meets LabyrinthGuest Blog by Steven John -  A Story You Already KnowGuest Blog by Suzanne Johnson -  Fantasy, Meet Reality - and GiveawayGuest Blog by Delilah S. Dawson - Want a Wicked Vacation? Try a Parallel Universe!Guest Blog by Anne Lyle - Historical Research

Report "The Qwillery"

Are you sure you want to report this post for ?