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A blog about books and other things speculative

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2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - December Winner


The winner of the December 2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars is Endsville by Clay Sanger from Crossroad Press with 72% of the votes. The cover art is by Shawn T. King of STK•Kreations.


Endsville
Outlaw Arcana 1
Crossroad Press, December 25, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 458 pages

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - December Winner
Welcome to Los Angeles—where the secret worlds of the criminal and supernatural collide. Crime and black magic pay. In the City of Angels, no one does it better than Gabriel St. John and the House of the Crow…

ENDSVILLE introduces readers to the House of the Crow. Led by their enigmatic street captain Gabriel, the Crows are a secret coven of high-rolling occult gangsters operating out of Los Angeles. A gangland king by the name of Dante Washington enlists their aid to recover 34 million dollars in cash—stolen from him by what appears to be a hostile sorcerer.

The Crows battle through a vicious cycle of betrayal, violence, and black magic while on the hunt for Mr. Washington’s missing money. In the end, allies prove to be enemies, and there are much greater things at stake than covering up a multi-million dollar gangland heist.





 The Results
2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - December Winner





The December 2018 Debuts
2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - December Winner

Interview with Clay Sanger, author of Endsville


Please welcome Clay Sanger to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Endsville was published on December 25, 2018 by Crossroad Press.



Interview with Clay Sanger, author of Endsville




TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece you remember writing?

Clay:  I think I was about 12 or 13 when I started writing Forgotten Realms fan-fic short stories that had an actual beginning, middle, and end. I wrote a pretty fair number of those, actually. Long before I ever found out that wasn't how publishing in shared worlds or other people's IP's works. Which was kind of a bummer when I did figure that out.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Clay:  Hybrid. Early development is plotting – a haphazard constellation of Word document fragments, sticky notes, and text messages to myself. Then I sit down to write it and accept that no plot completely survives first contact with the enemy and let the story take me where it decides we need to go. Then I pants it and try to keep up. So, hybrid-cat-herder, I suppose.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Clay:  My attention deficit when it comes to what project I'm going to work on now/next. My brain is buried under an avalanche of stories I'd like to get written – more than I will ever live long enough to actually write. Don’t get me wrong, it's not a bad problem to have, but grabbing hold of one out of the all the swirling debris and sticking with it to the end requires constant conscious effort.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Clay:  The creative influences are huge, not even sure where I'd start drilling down into those. But it was when I read The Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore that I first asked myself, "I wonder if I could do this? I wonder if I could write stories?" I was a kid, but I remember that. Very vividly. Everything else sort of flows from that moment. Music influences my writing tremendously. Different music for different projects. And I suppose it was Stephen King that gave a teenage-me the idea I could write anything I damn well pleased.



TQDescribe Endsville using only 5 words.

Clay:  Ruthless occult gangsters for hire.



TQTell us something about Endsville that is not found in the book description.

Clay:  Fundamentally, it's a story about a family. A toxic, brutal, terminally dysfunctional one, but a family nonetheless.



TQWhat inspired you to write Endsville? Why did you set the novel in Los Angeles?

Clay:  I love crime stories, and I love occult horror and dark fantasy. I got fixated on the idea that they would blend together nicely, and the rest is history. I originally started delving into the mythos of this world by following the story of the "good guys" – but I quickly fell in love with the "bad guys" and realized I wanted to tell the story from their perspective instead. As to why I set the novel in Los Angeles: I lived in Southern California back in the mid-'90s, and L.A. and the Southern California desert is just a playground of the wonderful and the bizarre. Once I started putting the first snippets of the Outlaw Arcana mythos on paper, I couldn't see it any other way but as an L.A. crime story. With teeth. Literally.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Endsville?

Clay:  My bookshelves started filling up with books on secret societies, occult practices, myths, legends, Paganism, and bizarre cults. Pretty sure my Amazon order history looks like the last desperate shopping list of a madman. I also spent a lot of time researching L.A. gangland and Southern California crime dynasties – the good guys, the bad guys, and everything in between.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for Endsville.

Clay:  The artist is the incredible Shawn T. King of STK•Kreations. I had the (rare and wonderful) experience of being able to work directly with him during production of the cover art. That's a special treat for an author. After some back and forth, we settled on a depiction of the protagonist Gabriel – and the sigil of the House of the Crow inked on his back – the sign of his rank and station in the family. In the opening chapters of the novel, Gabriel is asked about his Crow tattoo, what it means. His reply tells it all: "It means we're bad people... We lie. We cheat. We steal. We kill. So long as we take out the trash and keep the peace with the other liars, cheaters, thieves, and killers, nobody really cares."



TQIn Endsville who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Clay:  The easiest and hardest are the same characters: Gabriel and his sister Delilah. Their lives turn into a tornado of grief, guilt, regret, and trauma in this story while they fight tooth and nail to get a hand back on the reins. That's familiar territory for me, so it's not a hard head-space to get into. And for that reason, getting dressed up with those characters and telling their story takes a toll. It's an easy river to dive into. A damn hard one to climb back out of when I step away from the keyboard for the night. But I suppose it's kind of cathartic too.



TQDoes Endsville touch on any social issues?

ClayEndsville plants the seeds for some that I'll be delving into deeper as the series unfolds – drug abuse and addiction, toxic and abusive family relationships, and the dangerous spiral of living a life of crime – both by choice and by inescapable circumstances.



TQWhich question about Endsville do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Clay:  The question: "So is Endsville really about the bad guys being bad guys?" The answer: "Why, yes, it is." A lot of urban fantasy stories play with the idea – a protagonist who used to be bad but is trying to reform. Bad guys who really do good but no one gives them credit for it. But for this one, I decided I'd go at telling the story of the bad guys with both barrels and didn't look back. It seemed like a good idea. Looking forward to seeing if the readers agree.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Endsville.

Clay:

#1: "No one loves a crow. Scavengers. Thieves. Liars. Harbingers of death. Loyal to and beholden to no one but their own kind. Drawn to the chaos and carnage so they can pick gold from the bones. Good, bad, indifferent. A crow does what a crow does. Nothing commands a crow. Not men. Not kings. Not gods. The House of the Crow lives up to its namesake."

#2: " Choices have consequences. The inescapable gravity of consequence is a real son of a bitch. As anybody who’d ever jumped off a cliff can tell you, gravity kills. When the stop comes, it’s sudden. Then everything breaks."



TQWhat's next?

Clay:  Book 2 of my Outlaw Arcana series is on the workbench, so that's somewhere on the not-too-distant horizon. I have a short story appearing in Knaves: A Blackguards Anthology coming soon from Outland Entertainment. Other novels currently on my workbench: a grimdark dieselpunk fantasy, an apocalyptic space opera, and a straight-up crime thriller. We'll have to see where they go, and whether or not my head explodes into a shower of confetti while juggling them all.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Clay:  Thank you for having me. It was certainly a lot of fun!





Endsville
Outlaw Arcana 1
Crossroad Press, December 25, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 458 pages

Interview with Clay Sanger, author of Endsville
Welcome to Los Angeles—where the secret worlds of the criminal and supernatural collide. Crime and black magic pay. In the City of Angels, no one does it better than Gabriel St. John and the House of the Crow…

ENDSVILLE introduces readers to the House of the Crow. Led by their enigmatic street captain Gabriel, the Crows are a secret coven of high-rolling occult gangsters operating out of Los Angeles. A gangland king by the name of Dante Washington enlists their aid to recover 34 million dollars in cash—stolen from him by what appears to be a hostile sorcerer.

The Crows battle through a vicious cycle of betrayal, violence, and black magic while on the hunt for Mr. Washington’s missing money. In the end, allies prove to be enemies, and there are much greater things at stake than covering up a multi-million dollar gangland heist.





About Clay

Interview with Clay Sanger, author of Endsville
Clay Sanger is a professional technogeek by day and a writer fiction the rest of the time. A life-long lover of all things wild, Clay spent much of his early adulthood wandering the four corners of the country in search of the weird and wonderful, the dark and the light.  As chance would have it he found them. After meandering far and wide he returned to his native Ozarks where he lives with his dazzling wife, their sons, and a menagerie of mythical creatures both real and imagined.







Website  ~  Twitter @claysanger  ~  Facebook

Guest Blog by Gwendolyn N. Nix - The Hero's Journey and Me


Please welcome Gwendolyn N. Nix to The Qwillery. The Falling Dawn was published on May 11, 2018 by Crossroads Press.



Guest Blog by Gwendolyn N. Nix - The Hero's Journey and Me




The Hero's Journey and Me
Gwendolyn N. Nix

Call to Adventure

Inspiration, that cruel yet wonderful mistress, swooped down on me one fateful evening outside of Makoshika State Park in Glendive, Montana. I'll paint the scene: imagine the pillars and scoops of the badlands, the bones of ancient dinosaurs peeking out of the bedrock, the classic family vacation full of kooky grandparents and backseat sibling squabbles.

Dusk descended, and a prairie thunderstorm raced across the plains to surround our car. The wind howled and the blinding yellow lighting lit the clouds, making the raindrops coating my window glow. I put my hand on the glass, counting the seconds between flashes and thunder rumbles, fascinated in how the lighting looked like falling angels. The story swirled around me, exploding in my brain with that jittery world-encompassing rush of inspiration.

Writers, readers. You know what I'm talking about. The rush. It's unstoppable. It's addicting. And now, at a tender age, I was slave to it.

Refusal of the Call

But how? How to write what I saw in my mind? How to translate that feeling onto the page? English? Pah! No words could embody the feeling of what my story meant. The translation between the seemingly supernatural inspiration and the tools of reality were basic at best. How many times did I nearly give up trying to describe the way the flame of a candle flickered to impart the symbolic gesture of the human soul?

Soon enough, I stashed away my pens and papers, took to driving sports cars at 1am with my friends and spent my weekends out on the town. A bookworm, yes always, but a writer? Meh. Not me.

And yet, I managed to handwrite over 150,000 words for Book One. No one had read a single word of it.

Meeting the Mentor

I was an expert liar at this point about my writing path. I headed off to college with lofty authorly goals in mind and landed headfirst into the creative writing department. I needed help with my craft. The tools in my writer's belt were clumsy Clovis points of too-long sentences instead of honed spears of those who'd been published. Yet, I soon learned the error in my ways: genre fiction wasn't 'in.'

You can't learn from fantasy! I heard. What truths can science fiction impart? You want to add sirens and magic-empowered megladons to your tales? Forget about it! And the untitled novel full of celestial warriors, ocean magic, and underworld gods became a thing of shame, an unworthy concept, an indulgence instead of a vessel to practice my art.

And yet, my heart would not be broken. Finding a mentor wasn't finding my Obi-Wan to teach me my path. My mentorship consisted of discovering what I didn't want to be and having the strength to pursue what I did want to become.

Now transcribed onto a computer, Book 2 had over 75,000 words. Somehow, I'd crossed the path of I think into I know. I knew I wanted to be a writer. A fantasy science-fiction writer.

Tests, Allies, Enemies and the Approach

Lo, I saw before me a dream pasted from pages and printed with words. I saw through the clouds to the high mountain of published success, yet the road to its peak was blocked with query letters, submission guidelines, industry trends, and wizards called agents who held the keys to the gates. I met seers with their eyes on the past and future. They advised me to revise, strengthen my story arc, cut 10% of my words, and ensure that everything served this sacred concept: plot.

I revised. I revised. I revised. I was rejected again and again. I realized I was a lowly blacksmith, the iron of my stories rough and dull. I became the apprentice of blogs, writing panels, and freelance editors. I got Twitter. I revised. I was rejected. I claimed to have trunked this novel, but that was all deceit. I had a dream, yet the mountain looked further away than it ever had before.

Book One has been cut to 125,000 words.

The Ordeal

I came to work for a publishing company and after a time, under certain circumstances on both our parts, they offered to publish my works. I was ecstatic. Happy dances abounded. Things began to develop: artwork, editing, scheduling, but after a number of months the ship began to sink. The ordeal of publishing my novel was out of my hands and dependent on things out of my control. Soon enough, when the mountain looked like it was within my grasp, an avalanche swept me back down to the foothills, and I put my head in my hands and wondered When do all the signs point towards giving up? Here, at the lowest point of my Hero's Journey, I believed all was lost. What was my greatest fear? Failure. That I wasn't good enough.

Resurrection and Transformation

Maybe I wasn't good enough, but my novel had a title now, The Falling Dawn, and I'd had a sweet taste of what it would be like to hold a physical copy in my hands. I had the tools, the skills, and the knowledge to understand what would make my novel sell, what the trends looked like, what the arcs of my tale were. My reward through it all was the realization that I was master of my destiny. I rode the steed of ambition and perseverance and contacted those who might be interested in the story I had to tell. I put myself out there. I managed to speak with my current publisher, who was more than happy to take my book into their repertoire. I managed to reclaim what I had lost: the chance to publish my novel.

Back to the Beginning

Now, with my novel in my hands (and hopefully yours) I'm back to the beginning where I started, with a blank page and that sudden rush filling me again. It's time to write. It's time to craft a spell: one composed out of alliteration, plot twists, and the human condition. It's time to write my next book.





The Falling Dawn
Celestial Scripts 1
Crossroad Press, May 11, 2018
eBook and Trade Paperback

Guest Blog by Gwendolyn N. Nix - The Hero's Journey and Me
Emerging from the dregs of society to become a celestial warrior, Eos soon becomes immersed in a world of ancient texts and falling angels, tasked to find the sacred Book of Raziel and stop a war in heaven. The secrets of the Book will lead Eos down a path of betrayal, pitting her against those she loves. All the while she must cling to her own crumbling sanity as her psyche is split by the emergence of another entity, heralded by the onset of Eos’ new powers. Soon, Eos finds herself in the clutches of the Master of the Oceans, where she must convince him to give her the sacred book. His price? Her soul.





About Gwendolyn

Gwendolyn Nix has tagged sharks in Belize, studied evolution in green algae, and researched neural proteins. She is the author of The Falling Dawn: Celestial Scripts Book One soon to be released from Crossroad Press. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthology Sisterhood of the Blade, and she has earned Semi-Finalist and Honorable Mentions in the Writers of the Future contest. Previously an editor for Ragnarok Publications, she is currently a senior editor for Outland Entertainment. An avid adventurer and saxophonist, she lives in Missoula, MT. Visit her website at www.gwendolynnix.com.

Facebook  ~  Twitter @gwendolynnix
2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - December WinnerInterview with Clay Sanger, author of EndsvilleGuest Blog by Gwendolyn N. Nix - The Hero's Journey and Me

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