The Qwillery | category: 2015 DAC Guest Blog


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

My Favourite Extract: Stephen Moore talks about his novel Graynelore

Graynelore by Stephen Moore was published by Harper Voyager UK on August 13, 2015 and the cover won the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars for August. Please welcome Stephen back to The Qwillery to tell us about his favorite bit of his debut adult novel.

My Favourite Extract: Stephen Moore talks about his novel Graynelore

My Favourite Extract: Stephen Moore talks about his novel GRAYNELORE

A few years ago I had a conversation with my mother about her historical family roots and she reminded me that I am, in fact, directly descended from notorious Sixteenth Century Border Reivers. Who? Family groups from the English/Scottish borders who saw robbery, rustling, kidnap, blackmail, blood-feud and murder as all part of their normal daily life. What author worth their salt wouldn’t want to write about that? I couldn’t resist, and after travelling a long and winding road of research and creative adventure I eventually arrived at my fantasy novel, GRAYNELORE. How might I best describe GRAYNELORE? If it’s an epic fantasy, it’s also a tale of divided loyalty. It’s a blood-soaked mystery, a grown-up faerie-tale and, in its own twisted way, a kind of love story.

Which begs a question: out of all those amazing possibilities, do I, the author, have a favourite bit, an extract from the book I love above all others?

And, after much thought, I realise that I do! It’s the very first scene I wrote when I began Graynelore. It came to me fully formed and almost word perfect first time. Believe me, an extremely unusual event for a writer who composes piecemeal and as inspiration hits; an author who can easily re-write a scene a dozen times or more in an attempt to get it just right. Originally this scene did not belong anywhere in particular, only eventually becoming the start of Chapter Six: The Killing Field, and pivotal to the plot.

Why do I love it? Well, it very much set the tone and nature of the story I went on to tell. Also, I’m a very visual author. I see the actions, the events and the landscapes of my tales clearly laid out before me. And I’m a lover of beautiful words. The way they read off the page; indeed, the way they visually appear in print. It’s all important, and not to be rushed! This particular scene begins with the description of a face, a beautiful, enticing, seductive image. However, as the scene unfolds, it quickly becomes apparent that all is not what it first appears to be...

Her eyes, they were a blue that startled, invited, demanded. They caught hold of me, drew me to her like a lover. Still wet, they glistened. Not with tears. Nor fear. There was no stain on her cheeks. Her white cheeks... White skin… She was a beauty yet. The wind was playing lightly across her face, moving a single frond of auburn hair. She had caught it upon her tongue at the edge of her mouth. Open mouth. Red mouth… Surely she was teasing me, smiling, whispering. No... yes.
         I tried to put Notyet’s face in the way of hers, only I could not seem to find it. Vague, hidden as if veiled, its image would not come to me.
         ‘Rogrig,’ she said.
         Did she really speak my name, then? No... yes. No. It was only the voice of the wind.
         ‘Rogrig… Rogrig...?’
         But this last was not a woman’s voice, nor the wind.
         ‘Watch this, Rogrig!’ It was a clumsy youth who had spoken: Edbur, my elder-cousin Wolfrid’s whelp, his laughing cry was thin with a disguised fear.
         Then there was violence, the sweet scent of fresh blood spilled, the kicking.
         I was suddenly released from my stupor and the woman’s spell was broken. Instinctively I gripped the hilt of my sword, but let it rest at my side. There was no threat here. I recognised the boy’s smell. Edbur, Edbur-the-Widdle… It was a fitting nick-name. He was old enough, and big enough to fight, but the whelp soiled himself at every skirmish. Still, there had been killings made here, and if wounded pride was the worst of his injuries he had served his surname, his grayne, better than many. The fortunes would soon forgive him for it. And if they did not, well, then I would forgive him in their stead.
         The boy’s swinging kick sent the severed head of the dead woman tumbling. Edbur-the-Widdle laughed outrageously as it thumped and thudded between grass and gulley, as it broke heavily upon stone, spilling teeth, spitting blood.
         Not a woman now.

Is the scene a little gory? Perhaps, but it’s also honest and even beautiful (I hope). And if it was to become important to the story, it was also pivotal in another way. You see, up until this point all of my books had been written for older children (and I’ve been a published author for almost twenty years!) With this one scene, I found myself standing at an unexpected crossroads. And I knew if I was going to write truthfully about Border Reivers it might well be a faerie tale, but it was not going to be a children’s story. And so it turned out. GRAYNELORE is my very first fantasy novel for adults.

Harper Voyager UK, August 13, 2015
eBook, 400 pages
(Debut - Adult)

My Favourite Extract: Stephen Moore talks about his novel Graynelore
Rodrig Wishard is a killer, a thief and a liar. He’s a fighting man who prefers to solve his problems with his sword.

In a world without government or law, where a man’s only loyalty is to his family and faerie tales are strictly for children, Rodrig Wishard is not happy to discover that he’s carrying faerie blood. Something his family neglected to tell him. Not only that but he’s started to see faeries for real.

If he’s going to make any sense of it he’s going to have to go right to the source – the faeries themselves. But that’s easier said than done when the only information he has to go on is from bards and myth.

About Stephen

My Favourite Extract: Stephen Moore talks about his novel Graynelore
Stephen Moore is the author of the fantasy novel, GRAYNELORE. (Published by HarperVoyager, 2015.)

A published author since the mid 1990's he’s also written several well received fantasy books for older children (ages 9-14yrs/YA) including, TOOTH AND CLAW, SPILLING THE MAGIC and FAY. (Published by, Crossroad Press.)

Stephen hails from the North of England; a beautiful land he loves to explore; full of ancient Roman history, medieval castles and remnants of the infamous Border Reivers.

Long ago, before he discovered the magic of storytelling, he was an exhibition designer and he has fond memories of working in the strange old world of museums. Sometimes he can still be found in auction houses pawing over old relics!

He loves art and books, old and new. He’s into rock music, movies, history and RPG video games! But mostly, he likes to write, where he gets to create his own worlds.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @SMoore_Author  ~  Goodreads

Guest Blog by Gerrard Cowan - The beginning, middle and end of planning a trilogy

Please welcome Gerrard Cowan to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. The Machinery will be published by Harper Voyager UK on September 10, 2015.

Guest Blog by Gerrard Cowan - The beginning, middle and end of planning a trilogy

The beginning, middle and end of planning a trilogy

I always knew I wanted my fantasy novel, The Machinery, to be the first in a trilogy. I liked the clarity of it: the sense of a beginning, a middle and an end.

The scale of the story provides a breadth of opportunities, but there have also been challenges I’m only just starting to comprehend.

After seven years of thumping away on a keyboard, killing off characters major and minor, inventing and destroying subplots, I am done with Book One. I sent in the final copy edits of The Machinery a few weeks ago, though I probably could have kept tweaking it for the rest of my natural existence. It’s out of my hands, and from September 10th it will have to make its own way in the world.

I’m now deep into the writing of Book Two, The Strategist, which should be ready to send to HarperVoyager in a couple of months time. I suppose that puts me about halfway through the entire project; once The Strategist is done, I’ll move straight on to the as-yet-untitled Book Three.

In a way, writing the first book is fairly easy. In my case, The Machinery was also my first novel, so at the beginning I was really writing it for myself. I was the only person who ever saw it, apart from a few friends and family members who cast their eyes over the early drafts. I had the benefit of time, as no one was expecting the novel by a certain deadline. However, I was also only beginning to develop my own writing routine, so there was a lot of trial and error before I really got into the rhythm of it.

I found that there are certain challenges unique to writing a book that is intended to be one of a series. If you’re writing a standalone novel, everything is contained within its pages. You don’t have to worry about the effect a certain tweak might have on the narrative of later books. This is true even if you think there might be a sequel on the cards later.

To an extent, the same rules apply when you’re writing the first novel of a planned trilogy, especially when that novel is your first crack at publishing in general. If HV hadn’t picked up The Machinery, I’m not sure I would be writing the second book right now. Maybe I would have gone down the self-publishing route – I really don’t know. The point is that I wrote the first book with the second book in the back of my mind, not at the front of my thoughts.

Of course, that all changed when I signed a deal for three books. As I reworked and edited the Machinery, I had to consider the impact every decision might have on the next two novels. This added a whole new layer of complexity.

Writing the second book is trickier still. Not only do you have to keep in mind the coming events of Book Three; just as importantly, you are required to remember the events of Book One. Now, obviously you remember the major twists and turns. However, you also need to think about the details: the colour of someone’s eyes, any injuries they may have sustained in the previous book, the type of food they hate, etc.

The second book also poses more serious challenges. The first book in a trilogy should suck the reader in, and the third book should be the culmination of everything you’ve been building towards. But the second book is a bridge, across which the narrative flows from Book One to Book Three. It’s essential to maintain a balance between building the foundations of Book Three and ensuring that the second book is exciting and interesting as a standalone novel.

I haven’t come to Book Three yet, but I can already see the pitfalls that lie ahead. It’s like reaching the end of an expedition, when you can see the destination; you’d better hope you brought the right equipment to take you the last few steps up the mountain. If you laid things out wrong in books one and two, there’s not much you can do about it now. Those books are not only written – they’re out there for all to see.

All that being said, I have thoroughly enjoyed it. As I said at the beginning, the real pleasure is in the sheer range of possibilities that writing a trilogy provides. In the end, it’s been best for me to see it as one novel, broken into three books; if you look at the narrative as a single entity – which is what it is – then it somehow becomes less daunting.

I’m not going to take much of a break between finishing The Strategist and moving on to Book Three. Why would I? I would only be two-thirds of the way through my novel.

The Machinery
The Machinery Trilogy 1
Harper Voyager UK, September 10, 2015
eBook, 400 pages

Guest Blog by Gerrard Cowan - The beginning, middle and end of planning a trilogy
For ten millennia, the leaders of the Overland have been Selected by the Machinery, an omnipotent machine gifted to their world in darker days.

The city has thrived in arts, science and war, crushing all enemies and expanding to encompass the entire Plateau.

But the Overland is not at ease, for the Machinery came with the Prophecy: it will break in the 10,000th year, Selecting just one leader who will bring Ruin to the world. And with the death of Strategist Kane, a Selection is set to occur…

For Apprentice Watcher Katrina Paprissi, the date has special significance. Life hasn’t been the same since she witnessed the kidnapping of her brother Alexander, the only person on the Plateau who knew the meaning of the Prophecy.

When the opportunity arises to find her brother, Katrina must travel into the depths of the Underland, the home of the Machinery, to confront the Operator himself and discover just what makes the world work…

About Gerrard

Guest Blog by Gerrard Cowan - The beginning, middle and end of planning a trilogy
Gerrard Cowan is a writer and editor from Derry, in the North West of Ireland. His debut fantasy novel, The Machinery, will be published by HarperVoyager UK in September 2015. It is the first in a trilogy.

His first known work was a collection of poems on monsters, written for Halloween when he was eight; it is sadly lost to civilisation.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @gerrardcowan

Guest Blog by S.K. Dunstall: Writing a Book Together - July 17, 2015

Please welcome S.K. Dunstall to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Linesman was published on June 30th by Ace. You may read an interview with Sherylyn and Karen here.

Guest Blog by S.K. Dunstall: Writing a Book Together - July 17, 2015

Writing a book together

The most common question we get as writers isn’t about our books at all. It’s “How do you write a book together?”

Some co-writers ‘share’ the writing equally. The story might have two protagonists, and each writes one protagonist’s story. We do that sometimes too, but it’s not our main method of writing. For us, sharing the workload doesn’t mean we each do half of everything. We have our own strengths.

We didn’t always write together. We began by critiquing each other’s stories. We were harsh critics—because we wanted the other’s stories to be good. Somewhere along the way we started editing each other’s work. After a while we realised that the stories we worked on together like this were better than the ones we worked on alone.

So we started experimenting with different ways of writing together. We’re still experimenting, but we’ve settled into the following method for our most successful stories. This is what we used for Linesman, and it’s what we’ll use for other stories in the Linesman universe.

For us, it is important we keep the same voice throughout the story. This means one main writer for the first draft. For the Linesman series, it is Karen.

We discuss the story as Karen writes it. Over breakfast, over dinner, in the car. It absorbs our life. Most of this talking is backstory, not plot. If we over-talk the plot before we write it, it stops us dead.

First drafts are ugly. Stories aren’t written, they’re rewritten. If a writer—even a published writer—shows you their first draft, your reaction is unlikely to be, “Wow, this is a great story.” It’s more likely to be, “Hmm, how do I tell them this story needs work?”

When the first draft is done, the second writer starts fixing things. We still talk all the time about what works and what doesn’t.

Once that’s done, we have a working story.

Then we start the rewrites.

This involves multiple rereads, multiple rewrites and a lot more discussion. Whole sections of the book are rewritten, story lines added, or even taken out. If we can’t agree, we talk until we get something we both agree on. Everything has to blend together as seamlessly as possible.

Usually one writer follows along behind the other, editing the other’s rewrite.

Finally, we have a story we’re happy with.

But it doesn’t finish there. That’s just the story. Next job is to clean up the writing.

The second writer takes over the bulk of the work. For the Linesman series, this is Sherylyn. Cleaning up the prose, getting rid of pet phrases, eliminating unnecessary words. Reading and rereading the text until she can almost quote paragraphs in bulk.

Once we think the book is clean we read the whole thing aloud. We pick up lots more errors doing this.

It’s intense, even claustrophobic sometimes, and we could only do it with each other.

We’re sisters, but we’re also good friends, and we’ve been sharing stories all our life.

More, if one of us doesn’t like something we know to talk it out because we trust the other’s instincts. Eventually we’ll arrive at a solution that suits us both.

We’re honest about what works and what doesn’t.

We like the same type of writing. If we didn’t both love science fiction and fantasy we wouldn’t be writing together. If we didn’t both like the same types of characters in a story we wouldn’t be writing together. You have to be able to read the other person’s writing and think it’s not just good, but great. You have to be able to reread it dozens of times and still think that.

You still get book fatigue, where you’ve been working on a book so long you get tired of it, and then you think ‘this story stinks’. Most writers do, but that’s part of writing. You get over that.

So given it sounds like a lot of work, why do we do it?

It’s fun.

Writing is something most people do on their own. You work on your novel for months, sometimes years. If you’re lucky, you have someone close who understands and supports you, but for many you’re doing it alone. When you’re co-writing you have someone as enthusiastic about the novel as you.

It doesn’t halve the work, but it helps cut the stress. You can’t control life. You can’t control deadlines. Work and family get in the way of writing. You will get stressed. Luckily for us we have our meltdowns at different times. Karen usually stresses early in the book, when the whole thing looks huge and undoable. Sherylyn stresses as the deadline looms. We support each other and help the other through.

Most of all, we enjoy writing together. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Linesman 1
Ace, June 30, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Guest Blog by S.K. Dunstall: Writing a Book Together - July 17, 2015
First in a brand new thought-provoking science fiction series.

The lines. No ship can traverse the void without them. Only linesmen can work with them. But only Ean Lambert hears their song. And everyone thinks he’s crazy…

Most slum kids never go far, certainly not becoming a level-ten linesman like Ean. Even if he’s part of a small, and unethical, cartel, and the other linesmen disdain his self-taught methods, he’s certified and working.

Then a mysterious alien ship is discovered at the edges of the galaxy. Each of the major galactic powers is desperate to be the first to uncover the ship’s secrets, but all they’ve learned is that it has the familiar lines of energy—and a defense system that, once triggered, annihilates everything in a 200 kilometer radius.

The vessel threatens any linesman who dares to approach it, except Ean. His unique talents may be the key to understanding this alarming new force—and reconfiguring the relationship between humans and the ships that serve them, forever.

About S.K. Dunstall

Guest Blog by S.K. Dunstall: Writing a Book Together - July 17, 2015
Andrew Kopp ©2015
Karen (left) and Sherylyn (right) Dunstall
S. K. Dunstall is the pen name for Sherylyn and Karen Dunstall, sisters who have been telling stories—and sharing them with each other—all their lives. Around five years ago, they realised the stories they worked on together were much better than the stories they worked on alone. A co-writing partnership was born.


Twitter @SKDunstall


Guest Blog by John Ayliff: Is Belt Three Hard Science Fiction? - July 16, 2015

Please welcome John Ayliff to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Belt Three was published on June 18th by Harper Voyager UK.

Guest Blog by John Ayliff: Is Belt Three Hard Science Fiction? - July 16, 2015

Is Belt Three Hard Science Fiction?

          In my Qwillery interview last month, one of the questions was "Is Belt Three hard SF?", and that question made me pause. Despite having written the novel, I wasn't sure if it qualified. It seemed like a bold claim: to say that a novel is hard SF is to invite criticism of its scientific details from people who know more science than I do. Unlike some hard SF writers, I'm not a scientist; I'm never going to be able to write the kind of hard sf that takes a bleeding-edge scientific theory and wraps a story around it. On the other hand, I love hard SF, and I think (I hope!) my book will appeal to hard SF fans. In the interview I equivocated and said it had a hard-SF sensibility, without actually giving a yes or no answer, and I've been thinking about it ever since.
          Why even attempt to write hard SF as a non-scientist? Partly this was a stylistic choice for this particular novel. I wanted the space-based setting of Belt Three to feel like a difficult and unnatural place for people to live, and the hand-wave technologies one finds in soft SF--artificial gravity, faster-than-light drives, etc.--tend to remove the difficulties of real-life space travel. That's appropriate if those difficulties would be a distraction from the story you're trying to tell, but in the case of Belt Three the difficulties were a part of my world-building.
          Even if I'd included artificial gravity and FTL drives, though, I'd want to put them in a basically realistic universe. A character travelling to a city by magic carpet is a sign of a fantasy story; the character getting there and finding a seaport when the real city is inland is a sign the writer didn't do the research. I tried to treat space as if it were a foreign city I was setting my story in. It's OK to invent a new side-street or asteroid if the plot requires it, but the overall setting should be something a native would recognise.
          I decided to trust the mental image of space I'd built up from being a child fascinated by popular science books, then research specific details as I needed them. Can you use a solar sail to move closer to the sun? Yes, hence references in my novel to "tacking against orbit". Can you fire a conventional gun in a vacuum? Yes, probably, and certainly hand-guns designed in a space-dwelling setting could be built to be vacuum-safe. If the Earth were blown up and the pieces formed an asteroid belt, how dense would this belt be? According to back-of-the-envelope calculations I made when I started writing, it would be much denser than the real asteroid belt--so dense that, occasionally, you'd be able to see two asteroids at once with the naked eye!
          I don't claim that I've got every detail right in Belt Three. Although I think I've got my solar sail ship moving basically correctly, it may not be plausible for a solar sail to move a ship that large; and sometimes I fall back on being vague about distances and travel times rather than risking being wrong. I think, though, that these sorts of liberties are the SF equivalent of adding a fictional side-street to an otherwise accurate city. So I've decided to pin my colours to the mast and say that Belt Three is a work of hard science fiction, and I invite hard SF readers to check it out.

Belt Three
Harper Voyager UK, June 18, 2015
eBook, 400 pages
Trade Paperback, December 2, 2015

Guest Blog by John Ayliff: Is Belt Three Hard Science Fiction? - July 16, 2015
Worldbreakers do not think, do not feel and cannot be stopped.

Captain Gabriel Reinhardt’s latest mining mission has been brought to a halt by the arrival of a Worldbreaker, one of the vast alien machines that destroyed Earth and its solar system long ago. As he and his crew flee they are kidnapped by a pirate to be mind-wiped and sold into slavery, a fate worse than death in this shattered universe.

But Captain Reinhardt is hiding a secret. The real Gabriel Reinhardt died six years ago, and in his place is Jonas, one of the millions of clones produced for menial labour by the last descendants of Earth.

Forced to aid the pirate Keldra’s obsessive campaign against the Worldbreakers in exchange for his life, Jonas discovers that humanity’s last hope might just be found in the very machines that have destroyed it.

About John

Guest Blog by John Ayliff: Is Belt Three Hard Science Fiction? - July 16, 2015
Photo by David Riley
I honed my writing skills while working in the computer games industry, and still sometimes call my protagonist the ‘player character’ by mistake. I enjoy interesting character drama against a backdrop of hard science fiction, and that’s what I aim to write. Outside of writing, my interests include computer games, tabletop roleplaying games, and going to the opera. I currently live in Vancouver, Canada.

Website  ~  Twitter @johnayliff  ~  Facebook

Guest Blog by A.F.E. Smith - City as character: building Darkhaven - June 12, 2015

Please welcome A.F.E. Smith to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Darkhaven will be published on July 2nd by Harper Voyager (UK).

Guest Blog by A.F.E. Smith - City as character: building Darkhaven - June 12, 2015

City as character: building Arkannen

The ways in which people and places interact with each other have long been a fascination to me. It’s self-evident that we act upon our environment, shaping it to suit our own purposes. That’s what humans do. But perhaps we tend less often to realise just how much the environment influences us, too. Our surroundings affect us at all levels, from the individual rooms in which we find ourselves to the wider landscapes we navigate every day. Think of the peace we find in a beautiful vista, the irritation that can be evoked by just a single flickering overhead light, the unease or contentment we experience – without even knowing why! – when entering certain buildings. Every tiny detail of the places we inhabit contributes to our mood and the way we perceive the world. So as a writer, I’ve found it important to remember that setting isn’t just backdrop. It’s not like the scenery on a stage, a flat background in front of which the characters move. It acts on, and is acted upon by, the characters.

To me, this often seems to be particularly true of cities – because cities, more than any other kind of man-made environment, have a character of their own. If you live in a city, you can probably list a handful of things that make it unique without having to think too hard. Even to a stranger walking the streets, it’s clear that no two cities have quite the same feel to them. Yet a city’s character runs deeper than that. A city is animated by its inhabitants. They are the blood that runs through its veins. And sometimes, the city gets into their blood, too. There’s a symbiotic relationship between a city and its long-term citizens that’s very hard to break.

When I created Arkannen, the city in which all the action of Darkhaven is set, I wanted it to be the kind of city that a person could spend their whole life in without ever wanting to leave. The kind of city that people outside it long to visit one day. Not because it’s perfect, but because it’s alive. And creating a living city means being aware of how it shapes, and is shaped by, its inhabitants. To build a city with character, you have to know the city just as well as you know the people who populate your story. You have to know where its inhabitants live, where they work, what they eat, how they spend their time. As the great Terry Pratchett once said, know how the water comes in and how the sewage gets out. Most of the details don’t go into the book, of course, but being able to refer to them if necessary brings the setting to life.

In addition, a city is not a static thing; it’s a growing, changing beast. So as well as knowing what it’s like now, you have to know how it reached that point. Most cities start as small settlements and then grow because they’re well placed in terms of resources or trade routes, so you can cut down through the layers of the city and find its history like fossils embedded in the rock. Arkannen is a little different in that it was designed and built to order, so rather than having grown organically it has a very precise structure: seven concentric rings, each accessed by a single gate. All the same, its relatively recent history is there to read, if you know where to look. It was built as a military stronghold in a less mechanical age, so it still has many of the features that come with that: narrow streets and crooked buildings and cobblestones, arrow slits and lookout posts and gates that are easy to barricade. But since then, it has gone through something of an industrial revolution. The lower rings, in particular, have become a place of steam trams and factories, airships and machines. Yet the impact on the higher rings has been less; apart from the new gas lamps, the training grounds of the fifth ring and the temples of the sixth are much the same as they ever were. And Darkhaven itself – right at the centre – doesn’t appear to have changed since it was built. It looks like what it is: a show of power and a warning to the world. Here be dragons.

So what effects does my city have on my characters, and vice versa? Some of them are obvious: for instance, the city’s structure – with its rings and gates – puts a very specific set of physical constraints on both the characters and the plot. A person trying to get up or down through the city has to take certain routes and pass through certain points. Yet there are also more subtle variations in attitude and mindset between different areas of the city. The lower rings are a place of innovation, of movement and industry, of the old and obsolete being swept away. Up in Darkhaven, things continue much the same as they have for hundreds of years; the emphasis is on preservation and tradition in order to maintain the family bloodline and its supremacy over the rest of the population. So the contrast and conflict between old and new in the city is directly representative of the contrast and conflict between old and new in the book: the shapeshifter family that rules from Darkhaven, and the new technology that could destroy them.

Harper Voyager (UK), July 2, 2015
eBook, 400 pages

Guest Blog by A.F.E. Smith - City as character: building Darkhaven - June 12, 2015
Ayla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven. But her half-brother Myrren – true heir to the throne – hasn’t inherited their family gift, forcing her to take his place.

When this gift leads to Ayla being accused of killing her father, Myrren is the only one to believe her innocent. Does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line?

Now on the run, Ayla must fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved.

About A.F E. Smith

Guest Blog by A.F.E. Smith - City as character: building Darkhaven - June 12, 2015
A.F.E. Smith is an editor of academic texts by day and a fantasy writer by night. So far, she hasn’t mixed up the two. She lives with her husband and their two young children in a house that someone built to be as creaky as possible – getting to bed without waking the baby is like crossing a nightingale floor. Though she doesn’t have much spare time, she makes space for reading, mainly by not getting enough sleep (she’s powered by chocolate). Her physical bookshelves were stacked two deep long ago, so now she’s busy filling up her e-reader.

What A.F.E. stands for is a closely guarded secret, but you might get it out of her if you offer her enough snacks.

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter @afesmith

DARKHAVEN on Goodreads

Guest Blog by Gabriel Squailia: I, Zombie - February 21, 2015

Please welcome Gabriel Squailia to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Dead Boys will published on March 3rd by Talos.

Guest Blog by Gabriel Squailia: I, Zombie - February 21, 2015


The zombie attack, as a metaphor, can be read as a visceral confrontation with mortality. We don’t think much about death in our society, and suddenly here it is, staggering toward us with annihilating hunger. After a first near-miss, we have a moment to reflect that our lives, up until this moment, were almost entirely devoid of danger, and then we’re off and running again.

Fighting for our existence, we learn who we really are. We can’t avoid thoughts of death now: it’s breaking down our doors, tearing into our loved ones, forcing us to shoot them in the head before they turn.

Unlike other paranormal baddies, zombies get to me. In all my years of dreaming, I’ve only dispatched a single vampire, but I’ve killed hundreds, maybe thousands, of the shambling dead.

It’s not because I think about death all the time. It’s because I don’t. My avoidance of the inescapable fact that I won’t be around all that long is what gives zombies their metaphorical oomph.

It’s a thought that gets me in the guts. Enough so that I felt compelled to turn that horror inside-out.

I know what zombies mean to me, but what do they mean to themselves?

Dead Boys, my first novel, is an attempt to explore that question. It takes place in a sprawling underworld where the dead pull themselves out of the muck of the River Lethe and into eternal entropy. They’re falling apart, but slowly.

And there’s no one to take it out on, no one to destroy, no brains to eat. Just themselves, and infinite time.

I decided to leave their minds intact. I wanted them to remember what they’d been, what they’d lost.

One of the most interesting things about writing the book that resulted from these thought-experiments is how little its characters think about their lives. I tried to fit their backstories in there, but I always had to delete them.

They didn’t fit. My zombies were a vain, prideful people, and they had a near-pathological tendency to think of death as their natural environment. They’d be there forever, after all: how could they get by, from day to day, if they didn’t think of it as home?

As I filled in the details of Dead City, building out its gambling-halls and pubs, designing its time-based economy and imagining its shadowy government, I kept an eye on myself. It was easy enough to look at my friends and imagine them there, giving them names, personas, and grotesque, Tim Burton-y character builds.

But zombie me was a different story. Where did I fit in this macabre vision of the afterlife?

I wasn’t even sure how I fit into the land of the living. And that sense of dislocation, as much as anything, became the story.

It turns out that death scares me less than life without a purpose.

Now, I’m fairly certain that, in the event of an actual zombie apocalypse, I’d spring to action, even if that action got me killed in the first reel. But were I the zombie, staring down at my own rotting flesh, exploring an eerily familiar necropolis, I’d have some things to come to terms with first.

Then, I hope I’d have the bravery to spend my afterlife seeking out something worthwhile to do with my time.

The characters in Dead Boys swash their share of buckles. This is a big, questing adventure, with fights, escapes, near-misses, and moments of reckoning. But at its core, it’s trying to answer a question that’s deeply, if subtly, embedded in most zombie tales: what’s the point of all this?

That query might not be right on the gory surface of such stories, but it’s in there. Outnumbered by the infectious undead, lost in a suddenly inhospitable world, watching our companions die, one by one, we have to ask ourselves, sooner or later, why it’s worth struggling.

I don’t have the answer, at least not every day. But I do love striving for it, and fiction is my favorite way to try.

Dead Boys
Talos, March 3, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Guest Blog by Gabriel Squailia: I, Zombie - February 21, 2015
A decade dead, Jacob Campbell is a preservationist, providing a kind of taxidermy to keep his clients looking lifelike for as long as the forces of entropy will allow. But in the Land of the Dead, where the currency is time itself and there is little for corpses to do but drink, thieve, and gamble eternity away, Jacob abandons his home and his fortune for an opportunity to meet the man who cheated the rules of life and death entirely.

According to legend, the Living Man is the only adventurer to ever cross into the underworld without dying first. It’s rumored he met his end somewhere in the labyrinth of pubs beneath Dead City’s streets, disappearing without a trace. Now Jacob’s vow to find the Living Man and follow him back to the land of the living sends him on a perilous journey through an underworld where the only certainty is decay.

Accompanying him are the boy Remington, an innocent with mysterious powers over the bones of the dead, and the hanged man Leopold l’Eclair, a flamboyant rogue whose criminal ambitions spark the undesired attention of the shadowy ruler known as the Magnate.

An ambitious debut that mingles the fantastic with the philosophical, Dead Boys twists the well-worn epic quest into a compelling, one-of-a-kind work of weird fiction that transcends genre, recalling the novels of China Miéville and Neil Gaiman.

About Gabriel

Guest Blog by Gabriel Squailia: I, Zombie - February 21, 2015
Bill Wright Photography
Gabriel Squailia is a professional DJ from Rochester, New York. An alumnus of the Friends World Program, he studied storytelling and literature in India, Europe, and the Middle East before settling in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, where he lives with his wife and daughter. Dead Boys is his first novel.

Website  ~ Twitter @gabrielsquailia

Facebook  ~  Google+

Guest Blog by Darin Kennedy, author of The Mussorgsky Riddle - December 27, 2014

Please welcome Darin Kennedy to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs! The Mussorgsky Riddle will be published by Curiosity Quills Press on January 12, 2015.

Guest Blog by Darin Kennedy, author of The Mussorgsky Riddle - December 27, 2014

A big thank you to Sally ‘Qwill” Janin for inviting me to guest blog on The Qwillery site and also for inviting me to be a part of The Qwillery 2015 Debut Author Challenge. It is one minute to midnight on Christmas Day as I begin to write, and if I’m a little punchy, know that Steven Moffat has just run me through the emotional roller coaster of “Last Christmas” followed by a rerun of “The Time of the Doctor” – many of you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, you’re missing out.

A quick introduction: I’m Darin Kennedy and my debut novel, The Mussorgsky Riddle, is due out January 12th, 2015 from Curiosity Quills Press. The last nine months have been a whirlwind of activity since my acceptance at this awesome press (CQ treats its authors very well and produces a quality book) with the various revisions from three different editors, the long process of cover design and redesign, the inspection of final layouts and proofs, the initiation of the book’s marketing plan, and the scheduling of various conventions / signings / conferences / interviews. And the funny thing? That’s the condensed version. And now, we’re less than three weeks from the launch of my very first novel. Pretty exciting times. But it took a long time to get here.

Growing up, I always heard about mountaintop experiences. Many times, this metaphor was something I heard about in church, but as I’ve gotten older, it’s actually become a pretty apt metaphor for life in general. Right now, with a book coming out, interviews being done, signings being scheduled, etc. – this is a mountaintop experience. I’m at the top of Mt. Mitchell and looking east as the sun rises through the fog on a crisp September morning. This does not change the fact that I hiked for hours to get to this point, froze my butt off through the rainy night, and wore a blister on my left heel. Right now, it’s all about the view. It won’t last forever, so I should enjoy it while I can. And then what? Time to hike again.

To all the writers out there. You’re not always going to be on the mountaintop. Many times you’re down in the valley of agent rejection or climbing the hill of “Why can’t I make this chapter work?” Sometimes it seems like you’ll never see the sky again, much less the horizon, on your little walk through the woods. The pack can get heavy, your feet sore, your back tired.

My advice? Keep hiking. If you have a story to tell, tell it. If you don’t know enough about writing to tell it the way you want to, learn. If the first agent / editor / publisher doesn’t bite, send it to another one. If the first book doesn’t sell, write another one. When my first book never found a home despite the fact that book was the one that landed me an agent, it would have been easy to pack up and go home, but a very smart writer (who specializes in YA zombie novels) told me five years ago that the people who don’t succeed in this business are the ones who stop trying. So, to all you aspiring writers out there: Keep trying. Keep learning. Keep getting better until you’re the best writer you can be. And most importantly, keep writing!

The Mussorgsky Riddle
Curiosity Quills Press, January 12, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 350 pages

Guest Blog by Darin Kennedy, author of The Mussorgsky Riddle - December 27, 2014
Psychic Mira Tejedor possesses unique talents that enable her to find anything and anyone, but now she must find a comatose boy wandering lost inside the labyrinth of his own mind. Thirteen-year-old Anthony Faircloth hasn’t spoken a word in almost a month and with each passing day, his near catatonic state worsens. No doctor, test, or scan can tell Anthony’s distraught mother what has happened to her already troubled son. In desperation, she turns to Mira for answers, hoping her unique abilities might succeed where science has failed.

At their first encounter, Mira is pulled into Anthony’s mind and finds the child’s psyche shattered into the various movements of Modest Mussorgsky’s classical music suite, Pictures at an Exhibition. As she navigates this magical dreamscape drawn from Anthony’s twin loves of Russian composers and classical mythology, Mira must contend with gnomes, troubadours, and witches in her search for the truth behind Anthony’s mysterious malady.

The real world, however, holds its own dangers. The onset of Anthony’s condition coincides with the disappearance of his older brother’s girlfriend, a missing persons case that threatens to tear the city apart. Mira discovers that in order to save Anthony, she will have to catch a murderer who will stop at nothing to keep the secrets contained in Anthony’s unique mind from ever seeing the light.

About Darin

Guest Blog by Darin Kennedy, author of The Mussorgsky Riddle - December 27, 2014
Darin Kennedy, born and raised in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is a graduate of Wake Forest University and Bowman Gray School of Medicine. After completing family medicine residency in the mountains of Virginia, he served eight years as a United States Army physician and wrote his first novel in 2003 in the sands of northern Iraq.

His debut novel, The Mussorgsky Riddle, was born from a fusion of two of his lifelong loves: classical music and world mythology. His short stories can be found in various publications and he is currently hard at work on his next novel.

Doctor by day and novelist by night, he writes and practices medicine in Charlotte, North Carolina. When not engaged in either of the above activities, he has been known to strum the guitar, enjoy a bite of sushi, and rumor has it he even sleeps on occasion.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @DarinKennedy

Guest Blog by Krassi Zourkova, author of Wildalone - December 6, 2015

Please welcome Krassi Zourkova to The Qwillery with the first 2015 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blog! Wildalone will be published by William Morrow on January 6, 2015.

Guest Blog by Krassi Zourkova, author of Wildalone - December 6, 2015

Magic Is a State of Mind

        Magic is for kids. We learn this early on, and it becomes a given, part of the price for growing up. If you’re old enough to drive, it’s time to give up fairy tales. And so, we do.
        What’s left, then, is a rational, adult existence in which duty erases dreams, logic cancels passion, and our heart is told what it should or shouldn’t want, ad nauseam. Magic—if it survives at all—gathers dust on bookshelves, labeled “literature for children” and used sparingly, as a guilty escape.
        Wildalone began for me as an extension of this escapism. I envisioned a story very much rooted in reality and in my past, but also one that would contain everything my real life didn’t: myths, legends, witch powers and sex rituals, ancient riddles, murderous secrets, and immortal creatures capable of an even more immortal love.
        But, as they say, be careful what you wish for. With every page and every plot twist, as I watched my fictional world grow complete, I also felt a certain penchant for magic lodge itself in my mind. I started to look for extraordinary potential in the everyday, to crave intricacies in life’s minutia and see each experience through a dreamy prism that earned me concerned headshakes from both family and friends.
        Technically speaking, I was writing magical realism: a tale in which the fantastical blends so smoothly with the normal, it becomes impossible to distinguish where reality ends and myth begins. Put more simply, it was a fairy tale for adults. Not the sweeping fantasy recipes I had read as a child, boasting castles and magic objects and superheroes, but a world exactly as the one we live in, except now suddenly transformed by the ability of ordinary human beings to love and dream with an intensity most of us consider to be the stuff of fairy tales.
        Over the past few weeks, as the book has reached its first readers, I have been called a hopeless romantic more than ever before. The “romantic” part I do love. But the word “hopeless” makes my skin crawl. It implies not that the romantic has given up hope, but that he or she is beyond repair. Why is the world so insistent on reforming those of us who dream? And why is romanticism viewed as a liability? Can—and should—we perhaps start speaking of the “hopeless pragmatist” instead?
        It could be that finding the magic in our adult lives means reverting back to a certain innocence we had while still children. This time, though, it needs to be a conscious choice: to believe in the unlimited possibilities of our inner world. As the saying goes—we are all granted two childhoods, but the second one depends entirely on us.

William Morrow, January 6, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

Guest Blog by Krassi Zourkova, author of Wildalone - December 6, 2015
In this enchanting and darkly imaginative debut novel full of myth, magic, romance, and mystery, a Princeton freshman is drawn into a love triangle with two enigmatic brothers, and discovers terrifying secrets about her family and herself—a bewitching blend of Twilight, The Secret History, Jane Eyre, and A Discovery of Witches.

Arriving at Princeton for her freshman year, Thea Slavin finds herself alone, a stranger in a strange land. Away from her family and her Eastern European homeland for the first time, she struggles to adapt to unfamiliar American ways and the challenges of college life—including an enigmatic young man whose brooding good looks and murky past intrigue her. Falling into a romantic entanglement with Rhys and his equally handsome and mysterious brother, Jake, soon draws Thea into a sensual mythic underworld as irresistible as it is dangerous.

In this shadow world that seems to mimic Greek mythology and the Bulgarian legends of the Samodivi or “wildalones”—forest witches who beguile and entrap men—she will discover a shocking secret that threatens everything she holds dear. And when the terrifying truth about her own family is revealed, it will transform her forever . . . if she falls under its spell.

Mesmerizing and addictive, The Wildalone is a thrilling blend of the modern and the fantastic. Krassi Zourkova creates an atmospheric world filled with rich characters as fascinating and compelling as those of Diana Gabaldon, Deborah Harkness, and Stephenie Meyer.

About Krassi

Guest Blog by Krassi Zourkova, author of Wildalone - December 6, 2015
Krassi Zourkova grew up in Bulgaria and came to the United States to study art history at Princeton. After college, she graduated from Harvard Law School, and she has practiced finance law in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, where she currently lives. Her poems have appeared in various literary journals. Wildalone is her first novel.

Facebook  ~  Twitter @zourkova

My Favourite Extract: Stephen Moore talks about his novel GrayneloreGuest Blog by Gerrard Cowan - The beginning, middle and end of planning a trilogyGuest Blog by S.K. Dunstall: Writing a Book Together - July 17, 2015Guest Blog by John Ayliff: Is Belt Three Hard Science Fiction? - July 16, 2015Guest Blog by A.F.E. Smith - City as character: building Darkhaven - June 12, 2015Guest Blog by Gabriel Squailia: I, Zombie - February 21, 2015Guest Blog by Darin Kennedy, author of The Mussorgsky Riddle - December 27, 2014Guest Blog by Krassi Zourkova, author of Wildalone - December 6, 2015

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