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Guest Blog by Dana Cameron, Review of Hellbender and Video Interview - April 2, 2015


Please welcome Dana Cameron to The Qwillery. Hellbender, the 3rd Fangborn novel, was published on March 31, 2015 by 47North.







Fangborn world-building

          One of the hardest things I did when I started writing UF was realizing that I had to break away from the goal that I'd striven for all my career as an archaeologist: to keep strictly to the available data. Mind you, I'd already written six mystery novels and a short story, so you'd think writing more fiction would be a snap. It really wasn't. When Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner asked me to write a werewolf story set at the holidays, I was delighted. Then terror overtook me as I realized that the first part of my process for writing fiction was missing.
          When I went to my office, I found I had no reference books on werewolves. None on vampires either. My other fiction was either rooted in history or in my own background as an archaeologist, and I'd wanted to keep as much to realism as possible, to get the reader behind the scenes of a dig. So how could I possibly write this story? I had novels about vampires and other supernatural creatures by other authors—would I just pick one of them to imitate?
          That's when I had what a major breakthrough. I could just make up my own world. This seems laughable, but it contradicted all my training and previous work. But it was like snapping the restraining bolt off R2D2, and suddenly, you couldn't stop me. A flock of short stories followed that first one, “The Night Things Changed,” and then the novels featuring archaeologist (and Fangborn werewolf), Zoe Miller: Seven Kinds of Hell, Pack of Strays, and now Hellbender.
          I decided to turn all the usual conventions upside-down. The Fangborn were superheroes, working in secret to protect humanity. I decided that I didn't need to chuck the archaeology, in fact, I'd start looking for images or stories about shapeshifters, wolves, snakes, ravens, or eyes in folklore, art, and artifacts. In a few instances, I even incorporate other fiction about the supernatural. In my short story, “The Curious Case of Miss Amelia Vernet,” a Sherlockian pastiche with a Fangborn twist, I use lines from the Sherlock Holmes canon to create the idea that there's more going on at 221B Baker Street than meets the eye. I use historical and archaeological evidence about supernatural creatures (“vampire” burials, especially). By doing this, I am able to create a “history” for the Fangborn. Combining my fictional elements with famous stories, architecture, or objects that the reader might recognize, make the existence of the Fangborn plausible.
          It's also a lot of fun to twist history around to suit me. That's another thing I was not allowed to do as an archaeologist. Speculating with no basis in fact, creating stories just because I liked them, taking things out of context—that's the principal no-no right there. And yet, with just a bit of history, I can create my own worlds. The trick is to keep telling the truth, as accurately as possible, most of the time, so that your fiction fluidly enters the reader's mind.





Hellbender
Fangborn 3
47North, March 31, 2015
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 272 pages

I-Day is near at hand, and soon the Fangborn will reveal themselves to humankind. As a member of this secretive race of werewolves, vampires, and oracles, will archaeologist Zoe Miller be prepared?

Still grappling with the newfound powers she gained after opening Pandora’s box, Zoe shares the responsibility of protecting “Normal” humans. Having long preferred to keep to the shadows, she knows the pending revelation of the Fangborn will set the world on fire. With Fangborn enemies in the Order of Nicomedia forcing their hand, Zoe and her supernatural Family have no choice but to step into the spotlight. But that decision has garnered the attention of the powerful and otherworldly beings known as the Makers. They claim to have created the Fangborn—not as saviors, but as predators. And it seems they have their own plans for Zoe…and for the fate of all the Fangborn.

Filled with stunning twists, Hellbender takes the Fangborn series to a thrilling new dimension.


Qwill's Thoughts

Hellbender is the 3rd novel in the Fangborn series by Dana Cameron. The Fangborn have often planned to reveal themselves to the humans but world events have until now made the timing impossible. Now the Fangborn must reveal themselves before it is done for them in the most damaging way possible by the Order of Nicomedia.

Hellbender starts off immediately at the end of the prior novel, Pack of Strays, during a battle between the Fangborn and the Order. Zoe is once again struggling to control her powers as she gains more and more of them. The story ranges from Japan to Alaska back to Boston (with additional stops along the way).

Cameron introduces a new element to the Fangborn story - the Makers. With them comes quantum mechanics and spooky motion at a distance along with some other fun science. Zoe and her closest "Normal" human and Fangborn companions are trying to figure out who they are. Eventually Zoe takes steps to protect the Fangborn from the Order and the Makers. She has grown tremendously in her power, with a much deeper understanding of what she is capable of doing. She makes some incredibly tough decisions that affect all the Fangborn and her personally. Enemies are made and new allies acquired. Zoe is growing into her role as protector of the Fangborn. Consequently romance takes a back seat to everything going on. Zoe has more important things to deal with at the moment. However, one of things I like most about Zoe is her compassion and internal struggle to be human.

With its mixture of urban fantasy, action/adventure and science theory, Hellbender easily could be called genrebender and mindbender. I think this adds a great deal of depth to Zoe's story and that of the Fangborn without being overwhelming. I hope we've not seen the last of the scientific exploration regarding the genesis of the Fangborn. Additionally, there are several really well done action scenes and the pacing is crisp throughout.

Zoe Miller is a very compelling heroine. With its fine cast of supporting characters, tons of exciting action, and its exploration of the Fangborn origin story, Hellbender is my favorite novel in the Fangborn series.




Dana and I talk about the Fangborn series, among other things, at NYCC 2014:





About Dana Cameron

Photo by James Goodwin
Dana Cameron can't help mixing in a little history into her fiction. Drawing from her expertise in archaeology, Dana's work (including traditional mystery, noir, urban fantasy, historical fiction, and thrillers) has won multiple Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity Awards and earned an Edgar Award nomination. Her third Fangborn novel, Hellbender, was published in March 2015 by 47North. Her most recent Fangborn short story is a Sherlockian pastiche, "The Curious Case of Miss Amelia Vernet.” Her story, "The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars," featuring Pam Ravenscroft from Charlaine Harris's acclaimed Sookie Stackhouse mysteries, appears in Dead But Not Forgotten: Stories from the World of Sookie Stackhouse. Www.danacameron.com


Website  ~  Facebook  ~ Twitter @danacmrn





Previously

Seven Kinds of Hell
Fangborn 1
47North, March 12, 2013
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 374 pages

Archaeologist Zoe Miller has been running from a haunting secret her whole life. But when her cousin is abducted by a vicious Russian kidnapper, Zoe is left with only one option: to reveal herself.

Unknown to even her closest friends, Zoe is not entirely human. She’s a werewolf and a daughter of the “Fangborn,” a secretive race of werewolves, vampires, and oracles embroiled in an ancient war against evil.

To rescue her cousin, Zoe will be forced to renew family ties and pit her own supernatural abilities against the dark and nefarious foe. The hunt brings Zoe to the edge of her limits, and with the fate of humanity and the Fangborn in the balance, life will be decided by an artifact of world-ending power.


See Qwill's review here.


The Serpent's Tale
A Fangborn Story
47North, September 10, 2013
Kindle eBook, 40 pages

“The Serpent’s Tale” is a Fangborn story set in 13th-century England from the award-winning author of Seven Kinds of Hell.

When the villagers of Godestone report a series of bizarre and troubling events, Sir Hugo, his heavily pregnant wife, Lady Alice, and her distant kinsman Father Gilbert are honor bound to investigate, for they are “born to the Fang,” shape-shifters dedicated to fighting evil in secret.

And the events are worrying indeed—stolen farm implements, a mutilated goat, and now a missing child. Their investigation is further complicated by the arrival of Robert Fynch, who was drawn to the scene by the tales of mysterious happenings in the village. A member of the fanatical Order of Nicomedia, he is bent on tracking down and killing those “born to the Fang,” believing the shape-shifters to be demons, rather than the protectors of humanity they truly are.

Can Lady Alice, Sir Hugo, and Father Gilbert stop a murderer in their village without their true nature being discovered?


Pack of Strays
Fangborn 2
47North, April 15, 2014
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 346 pages

The second exciting novel in the Fangborn series.

Archaeologist Zoe Miller has only recently learned she is Fangborn, a secretive race of werewolves, vampires, and oracles dedicated to protecting humanity. But after she discovered and opened Pandora’s Box, the fabled item has lived up to its myth, and for Zoe and her friends, all hell has broken loose. Now she’s on a double mission: to prevent a politician from revealing the existence of the Fangborn and to foil the diabolical plans of the powerful Order of Nicomedia, a group dedicated to eradicating her kind.

But Zoe is also noticing disturbing changes in herself—new and unique abilities. Her visions are intensifying too, drawing her to faraway places to find more artifacts like the bejeweled bracelet embedded in her wrist.

In a world of dizzying shifts, who can Zoe trust? For while her former lover wants to turn her in, her former adversary seems dedicated to helping her mission succeed…

The second novel in Dana Cameron’s Fangborn series, Pack of Strays takes the fast-paced adventure of Seven Kinds of Hell to a whole new level!


See Qwill's review here.


The Curious Case of Miss Amelia Vernet
A Fangborn Story
47North, October 14, 2014
Kindle eBook, 49 pages

From the award-winning author of Seven Kinds of Hell comes an intriguing new tale that brings the supernatural thrills of the Fangborn world to Sherlock Holmes’s nineteenth-century London.

On the surface, Amelia Vernet appears to be the great detective’s quiet sixteen-year-old cousin. But her innocent exterior conceals an important fact: Amelia is a member of the Fangborn, a secret family of werewolves, vampires, and oracles sworn to protect Ordinary humans, and she uses her Fangborn werewolf gifts to help Holmes solve the curious cases that cross the doorstep of 221B Baker Street.

When the Baker Street Irregulars show up at Holmes’s residence with an unconscious boy in tow and reports of a kidnapping, the detective and Amelia spring into action—but the case quickly proves to be most perplexing indeed. And when they realize their new enemy’s terrible intentions, the pair must fight back with all their wits and strength before their lives—and those of all Fangborn—are destroyed forever.


Fangborn short stories may also be found in

"The Night Things Changed," in Wolfsbane and Mistletoe edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner (Hardcover, Ace Hardcover, October 7, 2008; Trade Paperback, Ace, November 2, 2010 );

"Swing Shift," in Crimes by Moonlight edited by Charlaine Harris (Hardcover, Berkley, April 6, 2010; Trade Paperback , Berkley, April 5, 2011);

"Love Knot," in The Wild Side edited by Mark L. Van Name (Trade Paperback, Baen, August 2, 2011; Mass Market Paperback, Baen, June 26, 2012);

"Pattern Recognition," in Murder and Mayhem in Muskego edited by John & Ruth Jordan (Trade Paperback, Down & Out Books, October 27, 2012)

"Finals," in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine (January/February 2013

"The God's Games" in Games Creatures Play edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner (Hardcover, Ace, April 1, 2014; Trade Paperback, Ace, April 7, 2015)

Review: The Line by J.D. Horn


The Line
Author:  J.D. Horn
Series:  Witching Savannah 1
Publisher:  47North, February 1, 2014
Format:  Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 296 pages
List Price:  $14.95 (print)
ISBN:  9781477809730 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review:  The Line by J.D. Horn
Savannah is considered a Southern treasure, a city of beauty with a rich, colorful past. Some might even call it magical…

To the uninitiated, Savannah shows only her bright face and genteel manner. Those who know her well, though, can see beyond her colonial trappings and small-city charm to a world where witchcraft is respected, Hoodoo is feared, and spirits linger. Mercy Taylor is all too familiar with the supernatural side of Savannah, being a member of the most powerful family of witches in the South.

Despite being powerless herself, of course.

Having grown up without magic of her own, in the shadow of her talented and charismatic twin sister, Mercy has always thought herself content. But when a series of mishaps—culminating in the death of the Taylor matriarch—leaves a vacuum in the mystical underpinnings of Savannah, she finds herself thrust into a mystery that could shake her family apart…and unleash a darkness the line of Taylor witches has been keeping at bay for generations.

In The Line, the first book of the Witching Savannah series, J.D. Horn weaves magic, romance, and betrayal into a captivating Southern Gothic fantasy with a contemporary flare.



Doreen’s Thoughts

I was impressed with the opening concept of J. D. Horn’s The Line. The idea of twins who do not share everything equally, especially magic, was particularly intriguing. At nearly 21, Mercy has a distinct Southern voice, with a unique job. She is the proprietor of “The Liar’s Tour of Savannah,” where she takes groups of people around the streets of Savannah, getting them buzzed on their choice of alcohol and telling them lies about the sites of the town. Starting off with a Liar’s tour was a great introduction to this novel.

I also liked the contrast between the magic of the Taylor family with the hoodoo of Mother Jilo. Despite having a long-time boyfriend of her own, Peter, Mercy is in love with her sister’s boyfriend, Jackson. Because she loves Maisie with more than her life, Mercy is determined to stop moping about Jackson and concentrate on Peter; however, she decides she needs help and she turns to Mother Jilo to make her a love spell so she will fall in love with the boy who has always loved her. Unfortunately, everything goes wrong after that, starting with finding her least-favorite person, Aunt Ginny, dead.

I found Mercy to be a somewhat frustrating main character. I did not understand her desire for Jackson, since he seemed to be more stuck-up than the level-headed Peter. I also found it hard to understand her lack of displeasure with her own sister, who seemed to have it all – the beauty, the perfect boyfriend, and most of all, the magic. Her sister seemed to be spoiled with all the love and devotion of a family that simply left Mercy to her own devices. Somehow Mercy escaped feeling resentful about her circumstances, which made me even more frustrated with her.

Most of the characters in this story were difficult to like. All of them seemed to have secrets of their own which somehow tainted them – Mercy herself was not above it. Despite knowing how wrong it was, she still tried to obtain a love spell. Without giving much away, I can say that the love spell backfired, and that is when the book gets better.

Despite some flaws, I enjoyed The Line. Unlikeable characters seem to be in keeping with Southern gothic stories, and eventually, Mercy grows up enough to become more likeable. I somewhat saw the ending before it happened, but it still came with enough twists to make it memorable. Overall, I look forward to seeing what happens to the Taylor family in the next two novels.

Excerpt: Ourselves by S. G. Redling


Please welcome S. G. Redling to The Qwillery with an excerpt from Ourselves, which will be published on January 27, 2015 by 47North.



Excerpt: Ourselves by S. G. Redling




CHAPTER ONE
Nahan Da Li

Nahan da li: literally, Are you Nahan? A traditional welcome, a friendly greeting, affectionate.

Stell knew there was something wrong with her. Something dark lived inside of her. She didn’t know what it was or how the others could see it. She might not even have known about it herself if she didn’t see it in the eyes of the congregation and feel it in the fists of her uncle. When she was little, she used to look for it in the ribbons of blood that poured from her body when the ritual knives cut into her.
         Now she knew better.
         Whatever was wrong with her couldn’t be cut out like a splinter underneath her skin. Whatever was wrong with her was wrong to the bone.
         Since she couldn’t cut it out or pray it out, Stell took herself and her darkness out of the compound at every opportunity. She’d climb through the hole in the wall behind her bed, crawl through the forsythia, and run hard and fast up the steep western side of Calstow Mountain. She’d run like someone chased her although she knew the congregation wouldn’t miss her. Her classmates wouldn’t. Stell drew the wrath of Uncle Rom like a magnet to a lodestone and everyone gave Stell a wide berth.
         She thought maybe her mother missed her when she took off into the woods of Calstow Mountain. She thought maybe Malbette might worry about her daughter alone in the darkness of the mountain forests, might wonder if her child was safe and unharmed running through streams and climbing trees, sleeping under the stars and waking in beds of pine needles day after day. She thought her mother might miss her but Malbette’s eyes had a distance in them that was impossible to read so Stell didn’t think about her mother much.
         After all, Stell wasn’t a kid anymore. She had to be at least twenty by now. Maybe closer to twenty-five.
         Nobody ever told Stell how old she was. Nobody ever told Stell anything except to shut up and to repent and to pray. Nobody cared whether or not she could read. (She could but she hated to.) The teachers didn’t care that Stell never looked at the maps or listened to the Traditions or that she learned her numbers quickly. Stell never asked questions and nobody noticed or cared.
         When she was little, before she knew better, she’d ask questions.
         She’d asked why she had to pray so hard, why she had to bleed into the bowls in the filthy church room. She’d stomped her foot and cried and clung to her silent mother as the two of them were led to Uncle Rom’s waiting ritual chamber to be cut and bled before the pale faces of the congregation.
         Uncle Rom had answered those questions with snarls and threats and long recitations of Tradition but those weren’t the questions that silenced Stell. Malbette had done that.
         Stell had asked about her father.
         She didn’t know how old she was when she’d asked but since she hadn’t been tall enough to look out the window, Stell figured she’d been pretty young. Young enough to press her luck. Stell had demanded her mother tell her why she didn’t have a father like the other kids in the compound. Stell had shouted and pled, whined and wept, badgering Malbette to tell her who father was and why he wasn’t with them and why nobody would tell her anything about him.
         Malbette hadn’t answered her. Instead, she ignored her daughter’s dirty, grasping hands and settled into the only chair in the small shack they called home. She folded her hands in her lap, stared into the grimy wood of the near wall, and fell silent. At first Stell had raged as small children do. She cried and pulled but Malbette wouldn’t move. She climbed into her mother’s lap but the larger hands made no move to comfort her. And finally Stell got quiet too. She curled up on the floor beside her mother’s chair, thumb tucked securely in her mouth, her cheeks pressed into the scratchy wool of her mother’s skirts.
         They sat that way for three days.
         When Malbette rose from the chair on the third day, smoothing her skirts, and walking off as if nothing unusual had happened, Stell wiped at the tears and spit and snot that had dried on her face. She headed into her room, pulled the cot away from the wall, and kicked at the loose board behind it. She crawled through that hole and ran up to the mountain.
         On Calstow Mountain it didn’t matter what was wrong with Stell. Whatever darkness she had inside her didn’t bother the raccoons or opossum or hawks. The wild turkeys kept their distance but the streams and poplars didn’t mind her. The only ones that screamed at her were the blue jays and they screamed at everything. They even screamed at the common.
         Stell loved those moments when she heard something crashing through the brush louder than any forest creature would. Birds would fly and Stell would climb as fast as she could up into the nearest tree, folding into herself and being as silent as an owl so she could watch and listen to the strangely dressed, heavily burdened common making their way along the forest trails. She listened to their voices; their English sounded so different from hers, no trace of a Nahan accent at all. And sometimes if she really stared at one of them, if she really focused on one particular part of one particular common, that common would freeze. Stell would bite her lip, trying not to giggle as they scanned the forest around them, some ancient instinct alerting them to a danger they couldn’t see.
         Stell didn’t know why they would fear her but she loved it when that happened.
         Maybe that had something to do with the darkness within her.
         She didn’t care. The common would go and Stell would climb down and the mountain would be hers again. It was hers today and Stell lay in her favorite spot, a thick blanket of moss between the creek bed and a thicket of blackberry bushes. Summer had only just started warming up the mountain and it would be weeks until the blackberries appeared but Stell had peeled off her gray, woolen dress as she always did once the snow melted. She’d tossed the hated garment into the poplar branches and sprawled out along the chilly moss.
         The canopy overheard hadn’t thickened fully yet and the sun warmed her pale skin. Bits of mud flaked off her body as she stretched long. She must have fallen asleep because she didn’t hear the rattling of the blackberry branches or the swearing until it was too late to hide. Stell leapt to her feet, blinking away the sleep, as the branches closed together, catching the skin of a young man who pulled at the thorns.
         They stared at each other. Stell knew her eyes and mouth were as wide open as his.
         He was Nahan. She could see it and smell it and feel it.
         And he was beautiful.
         “Nahan da li?” she asked, smiling at this wondrous site before her.
         He looked nothing like the congregation. His clothes weren’t drab and rough. His skin shone with a health she had never seen. And most wondrous of all? His surprised gape turned into a smile.
         “What? Oh yeah, yeah.” He nodded but Stell didn’t think he blinked. “I’m Nahan. I’m…I’m…I’m Thomas. Tomas. Tomas is my real, you know, my real name, um, that we, you know, use here because my grandparents…that’s my name when I’m here. I mean it’s my name but I use Thomas when I’m home but here I use, you know, my name. Tomas.”
         Stell watched the words pour out of his beautiful mouth. She wanted to touch the shadows of pink that rose on his pale cheeks as he talked and talked. He said more to her in that minute than anyone had said to Stell in months.
         “I’m Stell, " she said but he seemed to want more. “All the time. I’m only ever Stell.”
         The pink on his cheeks settled into a glorious rose shade that matched the lower lip he licked. His teeth shone white as he bit into it and Stell couldn’t think of a single reason to ever look at anything else again. She watched his mouth move and waited for more words.
         “Why are you naked?”
         “My dress is in the tree.”
         “Do you want me to get it down?”
         “No.”
         “Oh.”
#####

Excerpted from OURSELVES by S.G. Redling. Copyright 2015. Published By 47North. Used by permission of the publisher. Not for reprint without permission.





Ourselves
The Nahan 1
47North, January 27, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 334 pages

Excerpt: Ourselves by S. G. Redling
They have always been among us.

An ancient, enigmatic race, the Nahan have protected their secret world by cultivating the myths of fanged, bloodsucking monsters that haunt legends. Yet they walk through our world as our coworkers and our neighbors, hiding in plain sight and coexisting in peace. They survive…and they prosper.

A shy young dreamer, Tomas wanders through his life with help from his good friends and influential family on the ruling Council. Now, he’s decided his future lies with the Nahan’s most elite class: the mysterious Storytellers. But his family is troubled by his new choice—and by his new girlfriend, Stell, a wild, beautiful, and deadly outcast from a fanatical Nahan sect.

As Tomas descends into the dark wonders of the Nahan’s most powerful culture, Stell answers her own calling as an exceptional assassin. But when a lethal conspiracy threatens their destinies, Tomas and Stell must unite their remarkable talents against the strongest—and most sinister—of their kind.





About S. G. Redling

Excerpt: Ourselves by S. G. Redling
S. G. Redling hosted a morning radio program for fifteen years before turning to writing. A graduate of Georgetown University, she was a finalist in the 2011 Esquire Short Short Fiction Contest. She is the author of The Widow File, Redemption Key, Damocles, Flowertown, and Braid: Three Twisted Stories. She currently resides in her home state of West Virginia.








Facebook  ~  Twitter @SGRedling


Melanie's Week in Review - November 16, 2014


Melanie's Week in Review - November 16, 2014


My reading this week was a bit like the weather - bright and sunny one minute and grey and drizzly the next. So what did I read?

Melanie's Week in Review - November 16, 2014
Instead of trying to clear another book from my TBR I had a little look on NetGalley and found the Paper Magician trilogy by Charlie N. Holmberg. I really liked the  covers so made the decision that the story was going to be as good. I was only partly right. I really liked the premise with teenage Ceony starting her apprenticeship with the paper magician Emery Thane. In Holmberg's world humans are bonded to the different elements or man made materials. Ceony had hoped to be able to be a Smelter bonded to metals bit instead she has chosen to control paper under the tutelage of the magician Emery Thane. Ceony isn't happy to be bonded to paper but soon changes her mind when Thane gets his heart ripped out in front of her eyes and in a nearly ridiculous chain of events Ceony ends up inside Thane's heart. Now Ceony just has to find a way out, defeat the evil magician who almost killed Thane, return his heart and finish her studies.

I started out quite liking this book. I liked the snippy Ceony and her journey to discovering how cool paper magic really is. At first I thought this was aimed at a younger reader but by the end and after some really grisly events I realised it was how Ceony was written. She was making quite immature decisions and always doing the opposite of what anyone else said to do. She also instantly falls in love with her tutor and guardian which was a tad unbelievable.

Melanie's Week in Review - November 16, 2014
Despite this I went back to NetGalley and requested book 2 The Glass Magician. In this instalment Ceony spends quite a bit of time swooning over Emery, blushing and when she has time learning a few new magic spells. Her life is in peril when not 1 but 2 baddies are after her following the events of book 1. A lot happens in this book and yet again Ceony defies her more magically experienced colleagues to try to save her friends, family and of course, Emery. I thought this book was just ok. I really wanted to give Ceony a few good slaps as she got on my nerves with her whining about being in danger and then running headlong into the next deadly situation quite unprepared. I think Holmberg needs to make a decision on Ceony as she can't be both shy and demure and a bold, firecracker who eats danger for breakfast.

You might remember that I was reading City of Stairs by Robert J Bennett which I finished. I loved this book. It had such great characters and an excellent plot set in a world that was rich in detail. This is a must read and one of the best books I have read this year.

That is it for me folks. I hope you have a good week. I am on annual leave so I may not have very much to tell you about next week. Until then Happy Reading.

Interview with Michael R. Underwood - June 13, 2014


Please welcome Michael R. Underwood to The Qwillery to discuss Shield and Crocus which was published on June 10, 2014 by 47North. Michael is also the author of the Ree Reyes series: Geekomancy, Celebromancy, and Attack the Geek.



Interview with Michael R. Underwood - June 13, 2014




TQ:  Welcome back to The Qwillery. Your most recent novel is Shield and Crocus, which you described in our last interview as a "fantasy adventure." What is a "fantasy adventure?"

Michael:  The thing I wanted to make clear from early on was that Shield and Crocus is an action story. It’s been described elsewhere as a summer blockbuster kind of book, and that description is fairly apt – it’s a story about escalating stakes, desperate heroism, and do-or-die missions.



TQ:  Please tell us something about Shield and Crocus that is not in the description.

Michael:  This novel has been a long time coming. It started as a short story at the Clarion West Writers Workshop in 2007, and has gone through countless revisions and re-interpretations since I adapted that original story into a novel. More than any novel I’ve written before, Shield and Crocus’ publication is a testament to the power of revision and perseverance.



TQ:  First Sentinel and the Shields of Audec-Hal each have unique magical abilities (and in a different genre setting we'd call them superheroes). Please tell us about the magic system in Shield and Crocus.

Michael:  I drew upon the New Weird in the setting of Audec-Hal, and so there are numerous sources of what would be magic or supernatural power in our world. There is alchemy, sorcery, steam technology, ancient trains that have run for millennia, and a city goddess overlooking the people of Audec-Hal, controlling them as she is controlled by the tyrants.

The most common magical/supernatural elements we see are the birthrights of the Shields. I took superhero archetypes (the Bruiser, The Mentalist, The Speedster), and turned them into different fantasy races. This let me have extraordinary people who were super because they were heroes, not heroes because they were super.



TQ:  Which character in Shield and Crocus has surprised you the most?

Michael:  Sabreslate was probably the most surprising character. She started as the cynical doubter, the spoiler who poked holes in the Shields’ plans, and developed into a contrasting voice to that of First Sentinel, the main lead of the book. I’m very excited for her future in this world if/when I get to move on to later stories in Audec-Hal.


TQ:  Will there be any additional works set in the Shield and Crocus world?

Michael:  Jet City Comics, the sister imprint to 47North, is developing an original graphic novel set in Audec-Hal. I’ve made up the outline, but we’re waiting to finalize plans to make more announcements.

Other than that, I currently see this series as a trilogy of central novels, with lots of room for ancillary and interstitial material, as there’s tons of backstory for the city and the characters.



TQ:  What's next?

Michael:  I’m revising The Younger Gods, the start of a separate urban fantasy series, which I’ll be turning in later this month. We’re looking at a Q4 2014 release for that one, and it’s as much a departure from the Ree Reyes books as Shield and Crocus was, though it is also an urban fantasy.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Michael:  Thanks for having me! It seems simultaneously like it’s been ages since I debuted in mid-2012, and that no time has passed at all.





Shield and Crocus
47North, June 10, 2014
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 416 pages

Interview with Michael R. Underwood - June 13, 2014
In a city built among the bones of a fallen giant, a small group of heroes looks to reclaim their home from the five criminal tyrants who control it.

The city of Audec-Hal sits among the bones of a Titan. For decades it has suffered under the dominance of five tyrants, all with their own agendas. Their infighting is nothing, though, compared to the mysterious “Spark-storms” that alternate between razing the land and bestowing the citizens with wild, unpredictable abilities. It was one of these storms that gave First Sentinel, leader of the revolutionaries known as the Shields of Audec-Hal, power to control the emotional connections between people—a power that cost him the love of his life.

Now, with nothing left to lose, First Sentinel and the Shields are the only resistance against the city’s overlords as they strive to free themselves from the clutches of evil. The only thing they have going for them is that the crime lords are fighting each other as well—that is, until the tyrants agree to a summit that will permanently divide the city and cement their rule of Audec-Hal.

It’s one thing to take a stand against oppression, but with the odds stacked against the Shields, it’s another thing to actually triumph.

In this stunning, original tale of magic and revolution, Michael R. Underwood creates a cityscape that rivals Ambergris and New Crobuzon in its depth and populates it with heroes and villains that will stay with you forever.





About Michael

Interview with Michael R. Underwood - June 13, 2014
Michael R. Underwood is the author of the Ree Reyes series (GEEKOMANCY, CELEBROMANCY, ATTACK THE GEEK), Fantasy superhero novel SHIELD AND CROCUS, and the forthcoming urban fantasy THE YOUNGER GODS. By day, he’s the North American Sales & Marketing Manager for Angry Robot Books. Mike grew up devouring stories in all forms, from comics to video games, tabletop RPGs, movies, and books. Always books.

Mike lives in Baltimore with his fiance, an ever-growing library, and a super-team of dinosaur figurines & stuffed animals. In his rapidly-vanishing free time, he studies historical martial arts and makes pizzas from scratch. He is a co-host on the Hugo-nominated Skiffy and Fanty Show.


Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @MikeRUnderwood


Guest Blog by Mark T. Barnes - Blending Magic and Technology in Epic Fantasy - May 23, 2014


Please welcome Mark T. Barnes to The Qwillery.  The Pillars of Sand (Echoes of Empire 3) was published on May 20, 2014 by 47North.



Guest Blog by Mark T. Barnes - Blending Magic and Technology in Epic Fantasy - May 23, 2014




Blending Magic and Technology in Epic Fantasy
by Mark T. Barnes
There are varying opinions about blending technology, or science, with the arcane in fantasy stories. I don’t believe there’s a hard and fast rule in a genre that encourages authors to speculate about worlds other than the one we were born in, and for readers to suspend their disbelief. Provided there’s a valid reason for science and the arcane to coexist, that technology doesn’t preclude the ongoing study of the arcane, and that the reasons for coexistence are demonstrated to the reader and make sense, then I think it can work quite well.

For me it’s questions inherent in the world building:
• How do science and magic coexist?
• What factors make the ongoing study of magic feasible when compared with the relative simplicity of ongoing technological advancement?
• When did society make the choice to focus on two potentially divergent paths of improvement?
• Why doesn’t either the arcane, or science, dominate the other?
• What is the mindset of the prevailing cultures, or the elements of the world around them, that make the arcane a viable option?

When creating the world of Īa for The Echoes of Empire series, and developing it’s layered history of empires that had risen and fallen, there was a tendency for new cultures to borrow from the old. It makes sense to take what you need from what you’ve experienced, and leave what you don’t. Our own history is filled with similar tales where innovation has led to imitation. Īa is no different in that intelligent people will recognise the value in something, try to understand it, and then emulate it and build upon it.

The arcane was well developed on Īa, with a history of cultures being aware of, and connected to, the living mind and spirit of the world. Arcane energy was a renewable natural resource that could be manipulated. The catalyst came when the Starborn (Humans), landed on Īa. Within decades the humans came to blows with the indigenous peoples of Īa, and wars broke out. At first the human technology proved to be very effective, but it was static. The arcane was as strong: subtle and powerful, and highly adaptable. After more than a century there came a détente. But the humans had shown the indigenous cultures of Īa what it was like to have flying ships, to have powered vehicles, or weapons that fired energy, or to create life quickly and artificially. Soon the great minds of Īa had taken on these wonders and found ways to imitate what they had seen, to greater or lesser degrees.

By the time of the stories told in The Garden of Stones, The Obsidian Heart, and The Pillars of Sand, there has been a renaissance of arcane industrialisation. Technology, such as it is, is powered by the arcane, and stretches the known limits of hard science. The mindset of those who live on Īa is to work collaboratively with nature, as they know that the world is aware of what happens around it. Though the arcane is not practiced by everybody, access to the arcane devices and benefits of that imitation can be. Similarly the natural resources of Īa lend themselves to sustaining arcane effects, are mostly renewable, and reasonably accessible. There is no need to continue with the complexities of technology when the arcane can emulate what the people of Īa needed.

Even the humans have embraced the arcane, though some are aware of humanity’s glorious and advanced past. One of my new projects deals more with the humans and their study of ancient Starborn technology, where histories tell of the wonders of ancient human civilisation, and their ability to sail between the stars. But that article is for a different set of books.

Should the writer’s world building answer the questions I posed earlier, the blend of arcane and science can provide a rich and varied world that readers may enjoy.





Echoes of Empire

The Pillars of Sand
Echoes of Empire 3
47North, May 20, 2014
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 488 pages

Guest Blog by Mark T. Barnes - Blending Magic and Technology in Epic Fantasy - May 23, 2014
The epic conclusion of the Echoes of Empire trilogy.

Prophecy declared that corrupt politician Corajidin would rule the Shrīanese Federation, even become its new Emperor—and sinister magic has helped him defy death in order to do it. But his victory is not assured, thanks to clashing rival factions that hinder any attempts to unify the nation. Though he has taken increasingly brutal measures to eliminate all obstacles in his path, the dark forces supporting him grow dangerously impatient. And the harder they press, the more drastic Corajidin’s actions become.

Soon, only his most powerful adversaries will stand in his way: Indris, the peerless swordsman and sorcerer who has long fought to end the Federation’s bloody turmoil; and the warrior-poet Mari, Corajidin’s own daughter and the woman Indris loves. Fate has torn them apart, forcing them into terrifying personal trials. But if Indris can bring to bear the devastating knowledge of the Pillars of Sand, and Mari can rise up as a rebel leader, Corajidin’s enemies will rally—and the decisive battle for the soul and future of the Shrīanese will begin.

This epic tale of intrigue, love, and betrayal, painted in the blood of allies and enemies by Mark T. Barnes, concludes the Echo of Empire trilogy that began with The Garden of Stones and The Obsidian Heart.



The Obsidian Heart
The Echoes of Empire 2
47North, October 15, 2013
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 438 pages

Guest Blog by Mark T. Barnes - Blending Magic and Technology in Epic Fantasy - May 23, 2014
A plot to overthrow the Shrīanese Federation has been quashed, but the bloody rebellion is far from over...and the struggle to survive is just beginning.

Warrior-mage Indris grows weary in his failed attempts to thwart the political machinations of Corajidin, and faces the possibility of imprisonment upon his return to his homeland. Moreover, Indris’s desire for Corajidin’s daughter, Mari, is strong. Can he choose between his duty and his desire…and at what cost?

Left alienated from her House, Mari is torn between the opposing forces of her family and her country—especially now that she’s been offered the position of Knight-Colonel of the Feyassin, the elite royal guards whose legacy reaches back to the days of the Awakened Empire. As the tensions rise, she must decide if her future is with Indris, with her family, or in a direction not yet foreseen.

As he awaits trial for his crimes, Corajidin confronts the good and evil within himself. Does he seek redemption for his cruel deeds, or does he indebt himself further to the enigmatic forces that have promised him success, and granted him a reprieve from death? What is more important: his ambition, regaining the love stolen from him, or his soul?



The Garden of Stones
Echoes of Empire 1
47North, May 21, 2013
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 506 pages

Guest Blog by Mark T. Barnes - Blending Magic and Technology in Epic Fantasy - May 23, 2014
An uneasy peace has existed since the fall of the Awakened Empire centuries ago. Now the hybrid Avān share the land with the people they once conquered: the star-born humans; the spectral, undead Nomads; and what remains of the Elemental Masters.

With the Empress-in-Shadows an estranged ghost, it is the ancient dynasties of the Great Houses and the Hundred Families that rule. But now civil war threatens to draw all of Shrīan into a vicious struggle sparked by one man’s lust for power, and his drive to cheat death.

Visions have foretold that Corajidin, dying ruler of House Erebus, will not only survive, but rise to rule his people. The wily nobleman seeks to make his destiny certain—by plundering the ruins of his civilization’s past for the arcane science needed to ensure his survival, and by mercilessly eliminating his rivals. But mercenary warrior-mage Indris, scion of the rival House Näsarat, stands most powerfully in the usurper’s bloody path. For it is Indris who reluctantly accepts the task of finding a missing man, the only one able to steer the teetering nation towards peace.





About Mark

Guest Blog by Mark T. Barnes - Blending Magic and Technology in Epic Fantasy - May 23, 2014
Mark Barnes lives in Sydney, Australia. He is the author of the epic fantasy Echoes of Empire series, published by 47North. The series includes The Garden of Stones (released May 2013), The Obsidian Heart (released October 2013), and The Pillars of Sand (released May 2014). The Garden of Stones was selected as one of five finalists in the 2013/2014 David Gemmell MORNINGSTAR Award for Best Newcomer/Debut, with the winner to be announced in London in June 2014.




You can find out more at www.marktbarnes.com, his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/marktbarnes.author, or follow Mark on Twitter @MarkTBarnes.


Mash Ups and More Update - May 17, 2014


I keep a long and hopefully extensive list of Mash Ups here. I find these fascinating and some are really well done.  I spotted these 2 novels recently:


Artful
by Peter David
47North, July 1, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 288 pages

Mash Ups and More Update - May 17, 2014
Oliver Twist is one of the most well-known stories ever told, about a young orphan who has to survive the mean streets of London before ultimately being rescued by a kindly benefactor.

But it is his friend, the Artful Dodger, who has the far more intriguing tale, filled with more adventure and excitement than anything boring Oliver could possibly get up to. Throw in some vampires and a plot to overthrow the British monarchy, and what you have is the thrilling account that Charles Dickens was too scared to share with the world.

From the brilliant mind of novelist and comic book veteran Peter David, Artful is the dark, funny, and action-packed story of one of the most fascinating characters in literary history.

With vampires.




The Boy in His Winter: An American Novel
By Norman Lock
Bellevue Literary Press, May 13, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 192 pages

Mash Ups and More Update - May 17, 2014
Huck Finn and Jim float on their raft across a continuum of shifting seasons, feasting on a limitless supply of fish and stolen provisions, propelled by the currents of the mighty Mississippi from one adventure to the next. Launched into existence by Mark Twain, they have now been transported by Norman Lock through three vital, violent, and transformative centuries of American history. As time unfurls on the river’s banks, they witness decisive battles of the Civil War, the betrayal of Reconstruction’s promises to the freed slaves, the crushing of Native American nations, and the electrification of a continent. While Jim enters real time when he disembarks the raft in the Jim Crow South, Huck finally comes of age when he’s washed up on shore during Hurricane Katrina. An old man in 2077, Huck takes stock of his life and narrates his own story, revealing our nation’s past, present, and future as Mark Twain could never have dreamed it.

The Boy in His Winter is a tour-de-force work of imagination, beauty, and courage that re-envisions a great American literary classic for our time.



Release Day Review: Pack of Strays by Dana Cameron


Pack of Strays
Author:  Dana Cameron
Series:  Fangborn 2
Publisher:  47North, April 15, 2014
Format:  Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 346 pages
List Price:  $14.95  (print)
ISBN:  9781477819777 (print)
Review copy: Provided by the Publisher

Release Day Review: Pack of Strays by Dana Cameron
The second exciting novel in the Fangborn series.

Archaeologist Zoe Miller has only recently learned she is Fangborn, a secretive race of werewolves, vampires, and oracles dedicated to protecting humanity. But after she discovered and opened Pandora’s Box, the fabled item has lived up to its myth, and for Zoe and her friends, all hell has broken loose. Now she’s on a double mission: to prevent a politician from revealing the existence of the Fangborn and to foil the diabolical plans of the powerful Order of Nicomedia, a group dedicated to eradicating her kind.

But Zoe is also noticing disturbing changes in herself—new and unique abilities. Her visions are intensifying too, drawing her to faraway places to find more artifacts like the bejeweled bracelet embedded in her wrist.

In a world of dizzying shifts, who can Zoe trust? For while her former lover wants to turn her in, her former adversary seems dedicated to helping her mission succeed…

The second novel in Dana Cameron’s Fangborn series, Pack of Strays takes the fast-paced adventure of Seven Kinds of Hell to a whole new level!


Qwill's Thoughts

Pack of Strays is the 2nd novel in the Fangborn series by Dana Cameron. The Fangborn were first found in a several short stories. Fangborn are vampires, werewolves and oracles who are dedicated to protecting humanity from evil while humanity knows nothing about them. Seven Kinds of Hell was the first novel published in the series. Pack of Strays picks up where the first novel leaves off. Zoe Miller has escaped the clutches of the Theodore Roundtree Group or TRG (a secret US governmental entity) that was experimenting on her. In the first novel she had found a Fangborn artifact that became a part of her body. The TRG wanted to find out why and what it was doing to her.

In Pack of Strays Zoe is being called to find more artifacts. She can't avoid the call and must go after the various artifacts which continue to change her body. While she has embraced that she is a werewolf,, something altogether different is now happening to her. She doesn't understand what it is and neither does the reader though there are hints that she may be fulfilling a Fangborn prophecy.  She travels the world and over the course of the novel picks up a number of Fangborn who want to aid her for various reasons - old and new allies. Not only is Zoe up against the TRG, she is fighting the Order of Nicomedia ("Order") who have sworn to wipe out the Fangborn.

There is a wonderful amount of action in Pack of Strays as Zoe hunts for artifacts and is chased at various times by the TRG and the Order. The Order is up to something really awful and Zoe is determined to stop it. In addition to Zoe, there are Fangborn that we met in the prior novel along with some new characters. There seems to be a bit of love triangle developing with Zoe, her ex-boyfriend Will and Adam Nichols (who worked for the TRG). The romance takes a huge and appropriate back seat to saving the Fangborn. Zoe simply does not have time to deal with her love life in full at the moment. Zoe is becoming a more complex character as the series goes on. She is still somewhat out of her element, but is trying to be a leader while figuring out what is happening to her. For a werewolf she seems very human.

Once again Cameron uses her knowledge of archaeology to enrich the story. Zoe is an archaeologist and this plays a pivotal roll during Pack of Strays. The writing is crisp and the story unfolds nicely from start to finish with much pulse-pounding action, some humor, and mystery. If you haven't read the first novel (and you should), Cameron gives the reader enough information to catch up quickly. Pack of Strays ends on what can be construed as a cliff-hanger. I don't mind cliff-hangers in general and did not in this case. I thoroughly enjoyed Pack of Strays and Zoe Miller's story so far. I am really looking forward to the next novel in the Fangborn series.



Read an April 9th interview with Dana Cameron here. The interview includes a list of the short stories.

Read my review of Seven Kinds of Hell here.

Interview with Melissa F. Olson and Boundary Crossed Giveaway - April 14, 2015Guest Blog by Dana Cameron, Review of Hellbender and Video Interview - April 2, 2015Review:  The Line by J.D. HornExcerpt: Ourselves by S. G. RedlingMelanie's Week in Review - November 16, 2014Interview with Michael R. Underwood - June 13, 2014Guest Blog by Mark T. Barnes - Blending Magic and Technology in Epic Fantasy - May 23, 2014Mash Ups and More Update - May 17, 2014Interview with Roberta Trahan, author of the Dream Stewards series - Giveaway - April 22, 2014Release Day Review: Pack of Strays by Dana Cameron

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