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A blog about books and other things speculative

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Interview with Stephen Blackmoore


Please welcome Stephen Blackmoore to The Qwillery. Fire Season, the 4th Eric Carter novel, was published on April 16, 2019 by DAW. 

I adore Eric Carter - he's snarky, reckless, a bit crazy, and my favorite anti-hero. I don't expect him to be the good guy though he often ends up that way by accident. He's really conflicted and flawed, which makes him more emotionally believable. Fire Season is the most intricate of the Eric Carter novels (so far). More is revealed about Eric's family and there are plenty of surprises. Blackmoore once again delivers a high-octane thrill ride of mayhem, magic and murder and I enjoyed every minute of it.

I highly recommend Fire Season and the Eric Carter series!



Interview with Stephen Blackmoore




TQWelcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel, Fire Season (Eric Carter 4), was published in April. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote City of the Lost (2012) to Fire Season?

Stephen:  I think so. It's gotten, I can't think of another word for it, sloppier. CITY OF THE LOST felt like I just threw it together. In fact I did just throw it together. I had no idea how it was going to go. Pantsed the whole thing.

But with DEAD THINGS I outlined. Not one or two pages, or notes in a whiteboard. No, I made a 30 page outline and whenever I shifted a direction, I would go back and shift the outline to see if the change was going to break the story.

Then I wrote a three pager for BROKEN SOULS and that was enough.

HUNGRY GHOSTS was a Notepad file with sentence fragments and a white board with half a dozen bullet points.

FIRE SEASON I didn't even have that much. I had a couple of ideas, a few bits of scenes and lines of dialog, kind of the direction I knew it was going to go, and that there was going to be a lot of fire in it.

The one I turned in a few months ago and the one I'm working on now are pretty much the same way, only less organized.



TQWhich character in the Eric Carter series (so far) surprised you the most? Who has been the hardest character to write and why?

Stephen:  For both of those questions, it's Santa Muerte. In HUNGRY GHOSTS Eric tries to kill the folk saint Santa Muerte, who's also the Aztec goddess of the dead, Mictecacihuatl, who he's had problems with since book one. He's doing this while trying to protect her avatar, a woman named Tabitha Cheung who he's come to have complicated feelings about.

Well, he fucks that up. And though Santa Muerte is destroyed, Tabitha goes along with her in a way that (SPOILER ALERT BUT MAYBE NOT REALLY) something new is created in her stead. It's an amalgam of Santa Muerte and Tabitha, which makes things even more complicated for Eric. The thing he despises and the person that maybe he has a thing for, and he really doesn't know what to do with it.

And honestly, neither does she.



TQDescribe Fire Season using only 5 words.

Stephen:  Angry gods necromancy big fire.



TQTell us something about Fire Season that is not in the book description.

Stephen:  I kill a lot more people in the book than I thought I was going to. Like a lot more. I really crank up the death count and the Holy Shit Did That Horrible Thing Just Happen up to eleven.



TQPlease tell us about Quetzalcoatl who appears to be after Eric Carter in Fire Season.

Stephen:  He's an asshole. He's betrayed the other Aztec gods (no one's quite sure why - but there's a bit of a resolution on that in FIRE SEASON) and helped the Spanish kill all but two of them, and in that final fight he was almost destroyed. He's weak, but he's still a god. He's driven, single-minded, and like everyone else has a hidden agenda.



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

Stephen:  "Can I give you a truckload of money to make this into a TV series?" The answer is, of course, "Yes."



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

Stephen

"I tried idealism once. Gave me a rash."

"That's the problem with coke. It makes everything sound like a great idea. If at all possible, never make plans on coke."



TQWhat's next?

Stephen:  The next book in the series, GHOST MONEY, comes out in January. After that is BOTTLE DEMON, which I'm working on now. Besides that I've got another couple of things I'm working toward that may or may not pan out, so we'll see.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Stephen:  Thanks for the opportunity to talk about the book!





Fire Season
Eric Carter 4
DAW, April 16, 2019
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with Stephen Blackmoore
The fourth book of this dark urban fantasy series follows necromancer Eric Carter through a world of vengeful gods and goddesses, mysterious murders, and restless ghosts.

Los Angeles is burning.

During one of the hottest summers the city has ever seen, someone is murdering mages with fires that burn when they shouldn’t, that don’t stop when they should. Necromancer Eric Carter is being framed for the killings and hunted by his own people.

To Carter, everything points to the god Quetzalcoatl coming after him, after he defied the mad wind god in the Aztec land of the dead. But too many things aren’t adding up, and Carter knows there’s more going on.

If he doesn’t figure out what it is and put a stop to it fast, Quetzalcoatl won’t just kill him, he’ll burn the whole damn city down with him.





Previously

Dead Things
Eric Carter 1
DAW, February 3, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 256 pages

Interview with Stephen Blackmoore
Stephen Blackmoore’s dark urban fantasy series follows necromancer Eric Carter through a world of vengeful gods and goddesses, mysterious murders, and restless ghosts.

Necromancer is such an ugly word, but it’s a title Eric Carter is stuck with.

He sees ghosts, talks to the dead. He’s turned it into a lucrative career putting troublesome spirits to rest, sometimes taking on even more dangerous things. For a fee, of course.

When he left LA fifteen years ago, he thought he’d never go back. Too many bad memories. Too many people trying to kill him.

But now his sister’s been brutally murdered and Carter wants to find out why.

Was it the gangster looking to settle a score? The ghost of a mage he killed the night he left town? Maybe it’s the patron saint of violent death herself, Santa Muerte, who’s taken an unusually keen interest in him.

Carter’s going to find out who did it, and he’s going to make them pay.

As long as they don’t kill him first.



Broken Souls
Eric Carter 2
DAW, August 5, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 272 pages

Interview with Stephen Blackmoore
Stephen Blackmoore’s dark urban fantasy series follows necromancer Eric Carter through a world of vengeful gods and goddesses, mysterious murders, and restless ghosts.

Sister murdered, best friend dead, married to the patron saint of death, Santa Muerte. Necromancer Eric Carter’s return to Los Angeles hasn’t gone well, and it’s about to get even worse.

His link to the Aztec death goddess is changing his powers, changing him, and he’s not sure how far it will go. He’s starting to question his own sanity, wonder if he’s losing his mind. No mean feat for a guy who talks to the dead on a regular basis.

While searching for a way to break Santa Muerte’s hold over him, Carter finds himself the target of a psychopath who can steal anyone’s form, powers, and memories. Identity theft is one thing, but this guy does it by killing his victims and wearing their skins like a suit. He can be anyone. He can be anywhere.

Now Carter has to change the game — go from hunted to hunter. All he has for help is a Skid Row bruja and a ghost who’s either his dead friend Alex or the manifestation of Carter’s own guilt-fueled psychotic break.

Everything is trying to kill him. Nothing is as it seems. If all his plans go perfectly, he might survive the week.

He’s hoping that’s a good thing.



Hungry Ghosts
Eric Carter 3
DAW, February 7, 2017
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Stephen Blackmoore
Stephen Blackmoore’s dark urban fantasy series follows necromancer Eric Carter through a world of vengeful gods and goddesses, mysterious murders, and restless ghosts.

Necromancer Eric Carter’s problems keep getting bigger. Bad enough he’s the unwilling husband to the patron saint of death, Santa Muerte, but now her ex, the Aztec King of the dead, Mictlantecuhtli, has come back — and it turns out that Carter and he are swapping places. As Mictlantecuhtli breaks loose of his prison of jade, Carter is slowly turning to stone.

To make matters worse, both gods are trying to get Carter to assassinate the other. But only one of them can be telling him the truth and he can’t trust either one. Carter’s solution? Kill them both.

If he wants to get out of this situation with his soul intact, he’ll have to go to Mictlan, the Aztec land of the dead, and take down a couple of death gods while facing down the worst trials the place has to offer him: his own sins.





About Stephen

Interview with Stephen Blackmoore
Stephen Blackmoore is a pulp writer of little to no renown who once thought lighting things on fire was one of the best things a kid could do with his time. Until he discovered that eyebrows don't grow back very quickly. He is the author of the urban fantasy novels CITY OF THE LOST, DEAD THINGS, BROKEN SOULS, HUNGRY GHOSTS, and FIRE SEASON. His short stories and poetry have appeared in Plots With Guns, Needle, Spinetingler, Thrilling Detective, Shots, Demolition, Clean Sheets , Flashing In The Gutters and a couple of anthologies with authors far better than he is. You can even stalk him on Twitter (@sblackmoore) or check out his website at http://stephenblackmoore.com.




Interview with Dan Stout, author of Titanshade


Please welcome Dan Stout to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Titanshade was published on March 12, 2019 by DAW.



Interview with Dan Stout, author of Titanshade




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

Dan:  The very first thing I remember writing was an epic fantasy called Castle Doom. I think I was eight years old. It’s filled with sentences like, “And then he slew a peasant.”
Let’s just say I don’t think it’ll ever be published.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Dan:  I’d describe myself as a hybrid. My short stories are often pantsed, although I sometimes plot out longer pieces. Novel length work definitely involves plotting, but I prefer to use story structure as a diagnostic tool rather than a road map. I really do love the editing stage, and that’s partially because it’s when I get to break out the structural toys.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing? How does being a journalist affect (or not) your fiction writing?

Dan:  The most difficult thing for me is the gap between starting and completing the first draft. I only get through that Initial first draft by lying to myself about how fast I can get it done and a stubborn refusal to give up.

I think my non-fiction work is a real help when it comes time to edit. It’s not that I’m less emotionally attached to my prose than other writers, but writing for a day job means that I don’t have the luxury of overthinking a problem. I jump in and start cutting and rewriting, because I know that if I don’t get it done, I’m not getting paid.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Dan:  Absolutely everything! I’m a big believer in the idea that all art and media is in dialogue with everything that came before. The great, gritty crime dramas of the 70s are certainly an influence, but so are the more recent fantasy mashups—everything from Fonda Lee’s JADE CITY to Marshall Ryan Maresca’s beautifully realized Maradaine novels.



TQDescribe Titanshade using only 5 words.

Dan:  Men in Black meets Chinatown.



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

Dan:  I think it has a lot of heart. The risk in writing a noir detective fantasy novel is that it could easily come across as especially bleak and nihilistic. If I did my job right, Carter’s worldview is that of a disappointed idealist, rather than a cynic who sees corruption as the natural state of the world.



TQWhat inspired you to write Titanshade? What appeals to you about writing Urban Fantasy?

Dan:  I wrote the first chapter as part of an online flash fiction challenge. I had 90 minutes to come up with a story based on a prompt, and while I didn’t get a full story written out, I did at least get the rough outline for the book. That site was called Liberty Hall and although it’s sadly no longer around, at one point all kinds of great ideas were born there.

As far as the appeal of Urban Fantasy, the ability to use fantasy and science fictional imagery and tropes is a huge draw for me. I love finding ways to examine the many weird ways we interact with one another, and speculative fiction gives me a huge treasure trove of tools to highlight and distill all these human interactions. Plus, magic is awesome!



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Titanshade?

Dan:  The advantage of doing a secondary fantasy world is that I can make my own rules and history. But that also carries the burden of making sure that everything hangs together on its own internal logic. I spent a lot of time tracking down original sources for descriptions of 70s era police procedures and arctic living. Again, I had the ability to pick and choose somewhat, because police training and technology varies wildly from one part of the world to another, so the Titanshade PD uses policies I’ve lifted from police forces. But with each element that gets described, that system becomes that much more set in stone.

And of course there’s a ton of research that doesn’t appear in the books. Things like how are building foundations and sewer lines dug when the life of the city could be threatened if a warming geo-vent is damaged? I’ve talked through things like that with architects and engineers, but unless it directly impacts the story, it’s never going to get more than a passing reference.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for Titanshade.

Dan:  Collaborating on the cover was one of the real joys of seeing this book come to life! DAW is amazingly open to author input on the cover. They work with a ton of fantastic artists, but I thought Chris McGrath had the perfect eye for the gritty realism and elements of wonder that were needed to pull off this illustration.

The cover is a bit stylized, in that it doesn’t depict a specific scene, but man, does it ever capture the feel of the book! I thought Chris really hit it out of the park. It was so much fun collaborating on the cover, and we compared notes frequently to make sure we staying true to the book while also giving him room to flex his wings artistically.

Once Chris’s work was done, Katie Andersen and the team at DAW did a fantastic job of designing the jacket. The distressed cover, the title font, the slight tilt to the world… all of that came together in the final package. I love seeing art that hews close to the source material while still bringing the artist’s touch to the page, and I think we all worked together as a team to pull it off.



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

Dan:  For me, writing a 1st-person POV is all about finding the rhythm. Once I get into that voice, that character is pretty easy to write, as it just flows outward. So Carter was the easiest person to write.

The hardest would have to be one of the secondary characters, because their voice needs to come through as unique, and their actions reasonable, even when seen only through the filter of Carter’s observations. I have to stop and ask myself if their actions are honest more often. So I’ll say Ajax, since he shares so much time “on stage” with Carter.



TQDoes Titanshade touch on any social issues?

Dan:  Yeah, absolutely! The city of Titanshade is an oil boomtown whose wells are running dry. In addition, the world’s first industrial revolution was spurred by magic, until the source of manna was hunted to extinction. So the question of resource management and income inequality is an ever-present backdrop to the story.

I’m also very interested in how working class people are portrayed in fantasy and sci-fi. Sometimes it seems like speculative fiction has two categories of income: the ultra-rich and those with absolutely nothing. That ignores the huge swath of the population who are getting by, but with no safety net. To me, that’s the really interesting area to explore. The orphan living in squalor has nothing to lose by going off on a quest to save the world, but a single parent working two jobs to pay the rent just doesn’t have the time!



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

Dan:  Sure! I wish more people would ask how to get it from their library. I think that a lot of people are interested in a range of books, but aren’t able to purchase a copy at full retail price. But most libraries have a way for patrons to request a book, either for order or through inter-library loan. And that goes for almost any format—print, ebook, and audio.
Libraries are a way for readers to discover books and authors at no cost, while still supporting those authors and publishers. I was a library rat growing up, and I’m always happy to help people find out more about their local library system, and how to request a copy of their favorite book (mine or someone else’s!).



TQ:   Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Titanshade.

Dan:  One of my favorites is “Know the city and you’ll know the victims. Know the victims and you’ll know the killer.”

It’s not uncommon to see the victims in crime mysteries portrayed almost as props, while the hero and villain are fully fleshed out characters. I do my best to bring a sense of humanity to the victims of the crimes as well, to make them sympathetic, even if they weren’t likable people in life.



TQWhat's next?

Dan:  I am hard at work on the next book in the Carter Archives, trying to make it as multi-layered and mysterious as possible, while still keeping the sense of fun and adventure that fuels the first book. I can’t wait for it to be out in the world a year from now.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Dan:  Thank you! It’s so much fun to be here and talk about this crazy noir fantasy book!





Titanshade
The Carter Archives 1
DAW, March 12, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages

Interview with Dan Stout, author of Titanshade
This noir fantasy thriller from a debut author introduces the gritty town of Titanshade, where danger lurks around every corner.

Carter’s a homicide cop in Titanshade, an oil boomtown where 8-tracks are state of the art, disco rules the radio, and all the best sorcerers wear designer labels. It’s also a metropolis teetering on the edge of disaster. As its oil reserves run dry, the city’s future hangs on a possible investment from the reclusive amphibians known as Squibs.

But now negotiations have been derailed by the horrific murder of a Squib diplomat. The pressure’s never been higher to make a quick arrest, even as Carter’s investigation leads him into conflict with the city’s elite. Undermined by corrupt coworkers and falsified evidence, and with a suspect list that includes power-hungry politicians, oil magnates, and mad scientists, Carter must find the killer before the investigation turns into a witch-hunt and those closest to him pay the ultimate price on the filthy streets of Titanshade.





About Dan

Interview with Dan Stout, author of Titanshade
Dan Stout lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he writes about fever dreams and half-glimpsed shapes in the shadows. His prize-winning fiction draws on travels throughout Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Rim as well as an employment history spanning everything from subpoena server to assistant well driller. Dan's stories have appeared in publications such as The Saturday Evening Post, Nature, and Intergalactic Medicine Show. His debut novel Titanshade is a noir fantasy thriller available from DAW Books. To say hello, visit him at www.DanStout.com.




Twitter @DanStout  ~  Facebook

Review: Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio


Empire of Silence
Author:  Christopher Ruocchio
Series:  The Sun Eater 1
Publisher:  DAW, July 3, 2018
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 624 pages
List Price:  US$26.00 (print); US$12.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  ISBN 9780756413002 (print); ISBN 9780756413026 (eBook

Review: Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio
Hadrian Marlowe, a man revered as a hero and despised as a murderer, chronicles his tale in the galaxy-spanning debut of the Sun Eater series, merging the best of space opera and epic fantasy.

It was not his war.

The galaxy remembers him as a hero: the man who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. They remember him as a monster: the devil who destroyed a sun, casually annihilating four billion human lives—even the Emperor himself—against Imperial orders.

But Hadrian was not a hero. He was not a monster. He was not even a soldier.

On the wrong planet, at the right time, for the best reasons, Hadrian Marlowe starts down a path that can only end in fire. He flees his father and a future as a torturer only to be left stranded on a strange, backwater world.

Forced to fight as a gladiator and navigate the intrigues of a foreign planetary court, Hadrian must fight a war he did not start, for an Empire he does not love, against an enemy he will never understand.



Melanie's Thoughts:

Hadrian had his life all mapped out. He wants to become a scholiast - one of the learned academics like his beloved teacher, Gibson. However his father, the Archon of Meidua, has other plans. His father is planning to send him to the Chantry where he will become just another soulless minion of the Empire, torturing the poor and defenseless. No one, not even Hadrian, could have anticipated the chain of events that unfold when he defies his father's wishes.

Stranded on a planet far away from home and the future that he sacrificed so much for. With no money, friends or family Hadrian does the only thing he knows - fight. All the years of training have paid off as Hadrian enters the gladiatorial arena. It's not long before he makes a name for himself beating gladiators with better weapons and armor soon becoming a hero of the arena. Once again, politics of the court take him farther away from the life he started to make for himself. He is now firmly on the path to become what the galaxy will remember him as  - the Sun Eater.

Empire of Silence is truly an epic. The story is told in the first person with Hadrian recounting the events that lead up to him becoming known as the world killer. The story starts at the very beginning, with his birth and ends with Hadrian leaving the planet that became his new home. A lot happens to Hadrian in the first few decades of his life and his fortunes change dramatically between the start and the end of book 1. Events before he leaves his home world are very traumatic for him but it seems that his life on the streets of Emesh are what define him as a person.

Ruocchio has an incredible imagination and the worlds that he has built for Hadrian are rich and full of detail. Despite the story only covering the first twenty something years of Hadrian's life a lot happens to him. I liked how the story was told from the first person and and that 30+ years were lost in Hadrian's life as he traveled across the galaxy after escaping his father but we don't find out why. The society, history and social structures are also very detailed, in fact, so detailed that Ruocchio provides us with one of the longest glossaries I have ever seen. Although I didn't find it until I had finished the book which is pretty easy to do when reading an eBook.

My one criticism with Empire of Silence is the pace. There is so much detail and so much dialogue that the story can actually drag in parts but then half a chapter later something would happen so that I could barely put the book down. If I had only two words to describe this book I would say that it is 'topsy turvy' because one minute I was bored stiff with all the detail and the next I was on the edge of my seat. Having said that this was a debut and it was very ambitious. I am very curious to find out what will happen next to Hadrian. I just really hope that Ruocchio evens out the pace and and doesn't unnecessarily drag out the story.

Note: I love the cover. It is one that I spent a lot of time staring at it. And it won the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars for July!

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - July Winner


Another epic voting battle took place for July and this time it was between Empire of Silence (DAW) and City of Lies (Tor Books).

The winner of the July 2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars is Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio with 35% of the votes. The cover art is by Sam Weber



Empire of Silence
Sun Eater 1
DAW, July 3, 2018
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and eBook, 624 pages

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - July Winner
Hadrian Marlowe, a man revered as a hero and despised as a murderer, chronicles his tale in the galaxy-spanning debut of the Sun Eater series, merging the best of space opera and epic fantasy.

It was not his war.

The galaxy remembers him as a hero: the man who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. They remember him as a monster: the devil who destroyed a sun, casually annihilating four billion human lives—even the Emperor himself—against Imperial orders.

But Hadrian was not a hero. He was not a monster. He was not even a soldier.

On the wrong planet, at the right time, for the best reasons, Hadrian Marlowe starts down a path that can only end in fire. He flees his father and a future as a torturer only to be left stranded on a strange, backwater world.

Forced to fight as a gladiator and navigate the intrigues of a foreign planetary court, Hadrian must fight a war he did not start, for an Empire he does not love, against an enemy he will never understand.





The Results

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - July Winner





The July 2018 Debuts

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - July Winner

Interview with V. M. Escalada


Please welcome V. M. Escalada to The Qwillery. Gift of Griffins is published on August 7th by DAW.



Interview with V. M. Escalada



TQWelcome to The Qwillery. Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

V. M.:  Great to be here, thanks for inviting me. I'd have to say I'm a hybrid. My academic training pushes me in the direction of outlines, but I only prepare one to be sure that I've got a viable story, that the idea works and has someplace to go. That isn't necessarily where it actually does go, of course.



TQTell us something about Gift of Griffins that is not found in the book description.

V. M.:  I see that nothing about Griffinhome is mentioned, so there's nothing about how the griffins' society works, and what Weimerk's place is in it. It does have an impact on the plot, though obviously I'm not going to tell you what that is.



TQWhat inspired you to write the Faraman Prophecy? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

V. M.:  I was a fan of those forensics shows that were all the rage for a while. Since my brain lives in a fantasy space, I thought, "what if psychics were used as crime scene investigators?" They could just walk into the crime scene, touch things, and know immediately what had happened. I figured out pretty quickly that the idea wouldn't make a story – at least not a crime-based story, since the psychics would just say "he did it" and the story would be over. So then I wondered, what if being a psychic was the problem? What if they were going about their lawful business when their country was invaded by people who thought Talents were witches that had to be destroyed?

I consider fantasy one of the oldest genres. The way we approach it today, we're able to put our characters into situations that stress them to the breaking point in a way that non-genre writing just can't do. And it also allows the writer to present a society or a world that is different from the world we live in – explore that world, examine it and, occasionally, compare it to the real world.

I've said this before, and I know I'll say it again: I believe that genre literature in general, and fantasy literature in particular is the only place where the protagonist can behave heroically, honourably, without being treated ironically.

It's the only genre where characters can to try to behave as their best selves.



TQWhy griffins?

V. M.:  Well, there are already an awful lot of dragons around, aren't there? Seriously, I liked the idea of griffins because they're dual-natured. Lions and eagles are both at the top of their food chains, top predators. I thought that would make an interesting character, particularly since we meet Weimerk as a hatchling.



TQPlease tell us about magic works in the Faraman Prophecy world.

V. M.:  I like magic to be personal, not dependent on artifacts that anyone can use. So in both books of The Faraman Prophecy, magical abilities are something that people are born with, and trained to use. Like other natural abilities, singing, dancing, cooking etc. some are better at it than others.



TQIn Gift of Griffins who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? Which character has surprised you?

V. M.:  Probably the easiest character to write was Ennick. He doesn't have a huge role in terms of lines, but in his way he's extremely important. He's unique in his motives and outlook, which made him easy to understand, at least for me, some of the other characters seem to have a bit of difficulty.

The hardest character was Weimerk, the griffin. It's always a challenge when you're creating a non-human consciousness. Why would they think the same way we do?

I'd have to say the character than surprised me is Wynn Martan. She became a bit of a Mercutio-like character in that she often steals the scenes she's in. She's a redhead, and it turned out that she has the true ginger attitude.



TQDoes Gift of Griffins touch on any social issues?

V. M.:  In many ways I'm looking at the issue of racial/social biases and prejudices from a number of angles. The Faraman Polity is fairly gender-equal, with a slight bias toward women. So you'll find that ranking military officers, nobles, landowners, and even the Luqs, are very likely to be women. The Faramans themselves don't find anything unusual in this, but the Halians are a totally different matter. Not only are they male-centric, but they believe Talents are abominations that must be destroyed. However, it's not just gender equally that gets explored. Biases pop up between the different types of magic-users, and even within the same groups.



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

V. M.:  Most of my favourite lines concern Weimerk the griffin. Here are a few:

Most of my favourite lines concern Weimerk the griffin. Here are a few:

"The griffin showed you?" The woman's tone softened and became kinder. Clearly she thought Ker was mentally defective . . . "And what griffin would that be, my dear?"
Ker pointed upward. "This one."


He might have been half lion and half eagle, but he seemed to have the stomach of both.
<<I am still growing.>> Somehow his thoughts conveyed a clear feeling of offense.
<<Sorry.>>
<<You are not.>>


<<You're late.>>
<<I am not. I am always here when I arrive, and never a moment later.>>



TQWhat's next?

V. M.:  I had a couple of ideas for more stories in the Faraman universe, but I couldn't choose between them. So, I'm working on a totally different book, where the "magic" and the physical world are linked. The magicians themselves don't understand as much about their magic as they think they do. I'm still working out the kinks, but it looks promising so far.

Still, I'd love to visit Kerida and Tel and Weimerk again someday. And Wynn. I can see her getting into a lot of trouble.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

V. M.:  You're very welcome. I've enjoyed myself.





Gift of Griffins
Faraman Prophecy 2
DAW, August 7, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages

Interview with V. M. Escalada
The second book in the Faraman Prophecy epic fantasy series returns to a world of military might and magical Talents as Kerida Nast continues the quest to save her nation.

Kerida Nast and her companions have succeeded in finding Jerek Brightwing, the new Luqs of Farama, and uniting him with a part of his Battle Wings, but not all their problems have been solved. Farama is still in the hands of the Halian invaders and their Shekayrin, and it’s going to take magical as well as military strength to overcome them.

Unexpected help comes from Bakura, the Princess Imperial of the Halians, whose Gifts have been suppressed.  As the Voice of her brother the Sky Emperor she has some political power over the Halian military, and she will use it to aid the Faramans, if Kerida can free her from what she sees as a prison. But whether Kerida can help the princess remains to be seen. If she succeeds, Bakura may prove their salvation. But should Kerida fail, all may be lost….





Previously

Halls of Law
Faraman Prophecy 1
DAW, August 7, 2018
Mass Market Paperback, 432 pages
Hardcover and eBook, August 1, 2017

Interview with V. M. Escalada
Now in paperback, the first book in the Faraman Prophecy epic fantasy series introduces a world of military might and magical Talents on the brink of destruction–and two unlikely heroes may be its only saviors.

Seventeen-year-old Kerida Nast has always wanted a career in the military, just like the rest of her family. So when her Talent is discovered, and she knows she’ll have to spend the rest of her life as a psychic for the Halls of Law, Ker isn’t happy about it. Anyone entering the Halls must give up all personal connection with the outside world, losing their family and friends permanently.

But just as Kerida is beginning to reconcile herself to her new role, the Faraman Polity is invaded by strangers from Halia, who begin a systematic campaign of destruction against the Halls, killing every last Talent they can find.

Kerida manages to escape, falling in with Tel Cursar, a young soldier fleeing the battle, which saw the deaths of the royal family. Having no obvious heir to the throne, no new ruler to rally behind, the military leaders will be divided, unable to act quickly enough to save the empire. And with the Halls being burned to the ground, and the Talents slaughtered, the Rule of Law will be shattered.





About V. M. Escalada

Interview with V. M. Escalada
Photo: © Jessica Kennedy
V. M. Escalada lives in a nineteenth-century limestone farmhouse in southeastern Ontario with her husband. Born in Canada, her cultural background is half Spanish and half Polish, which makes it interesting at meal times. Her most unusual job was translating letters between lovers, one of whom spoke only English, the other only Spanish.



Twitter @VioletteMalan


Interview with Christopher Ruocchio, author of Empire of Silence


Please welcome Christopher Ruocchio to The Qwillery, as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Empire of Silence was published on July 3rd by DAW.



Interview with Christopher Ruocchio, author of Empire of Silence




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

Christopher:  Thank you for inviting me! It’s hard to say exactly. I began writing in second grade. My friends and I would play make believe on the playground (it started out with them all playing as Dragonball Z characters with myself as Batman—I wasn’t allowed to watch DBZ, you see). It fell to me to catalog the events of the week, and as my friends discovered football and social skills, I just kept writing. I think the first thing I ever finished was what amounted to a handwritten piece of The Legend of Zelda fanfiction with the serial numbers filed off. I did finish a novel in about the ninth grade, but being wise for a high schooler, I put it in a box in my attic and have not thought of it since.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Christopher:  A hybrid, certainly, but with more plotter than pantser. That said, Empire of Silence’s development was far more organic than its sequel. I was working on “a book” since I was about eight, and so I had all the time in the world to make things right. That book eventually became Empire, but not without about fourteen years of false starts and mistakes. For the sequel—which I have finished—I composed about 60 pages of outline, which I then proceeded to only look at with one eye. Artists must have a plan, in my opinion, and a structure, but they should always keep one eye open to inspiration, and some of the best moments in both Empire and its sequel came to me in the heat of the moment.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Christopher:  Sitting still! I tend to find excuses to stand up and move about or to get distracted cleaning my room, but I bought a standing desk recently and that’s helped curb the worst of my meandering. I’m also not very keen on the revision part of the process. Writing new material is easy, but to go back through and pull out pieces and to try and look at plot threads or character arcs distributed through the book sometimes feels like playing four-dimensional chess. That being said, Hemingway was dead on (I believe it was Hemingway) when he said that all writing is rewriting. Onerous a task though it may be, revision is the most crucial part of this enterprise, and editors are unsung heroes (or heroines, as is more often the case)!



TQYou are the Assistant Editor at Baen Books. How does being an Editor affect (or not) your own writing?

Christopher:  The most prominent effect my job’s had on my writing is on my writing time. When I wrote Empire, I was a waiter and a college student, which is a much more forgiving schedule for someone trying to write a book than any 9-5 office job. I wake up at about 6 AM each morning to write before work, and then again after. Those are long days (though much shorter days than those of factory workers, so I remain very grateful—both to my employer and the factory workers). Most of the other effects of my work with Baen have been procedural. I know how the book-publishing process works, and so I’ve been spared the plague of doubts and questions that seem to afflict many newer writers. It’s taught me the importance of being on time, and of clear and quick responses to emails (both as a writer and editor). I think I’m learning to be a better client in relation to my agents and publishers, and a better publishing employee relative to the authors I’ve had the privilege of working with.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Christopher:  Gosh, what hasn’t! The book’s been compared to Dune and The Name of the Wind, which was surreal hearing someone else say out loud. Frank Herbert certainly has been a large influence on me, and I wanted the book to start someplace familiar. The Name of the Wind comparison has more to do with the fact that they’re both first person narratives, though while I do enjoy Mr. Rothfuss’s work—he’s one of the finest prose stylists working today—his work wasn’t a factor in my choice of narrative-style. I was practically born a Star Wars fan, one of the last to experience the franchise before the prequels swept in. Stargate and the Alien films are also perennial favorites—though I never cared much for Star Trek, I will confess. Tolkien was and is absolutely foundational for me, as he was for so many. There has never been a finer writer in all of genre fiction. Being a child of the 1990s, I was also very much influenced by anime/manga. Cowboy Bebop is an all-time favorite, and Akira and Ghost in the Shell have played a role as well (though more in informing Empire of Silence’s sequel than Empire itself). I’m also a great fan of Kentaro Miura’s Berserk, which I’m rather afraid may not bode well for the well-being of my characters. Video games also played a role. Tales of Symphonia was nearly as foundational for me as some of the books I read, if not more so, as were games like Baten Kaitos and Lost Odyssey. In addition to that, I’m an ardent fan of classic literature: Elizabethan drama/poetry, the Romantics, and even Greek theater. History as well. People are quick to note the Roman influences on my worldbuilding, but there are echoes of Byzantine, Spanish, and British Imperial history in this book, as well as some Qing Dynasty China. And lastly, I was raised Roman Catholic—and while my feelings about theology are conflicted enough to fill an entire book—it would be a mistake to imagine that upbringing had no impact on my thinking.



TQDescribe Empire of Silence using only 5 words.

Christopher:  “A love-letter to classic SF.”

(Hyphenated words count as one, right?)



TQTell us something about Empire of Silence that is not found in the book description.

Christopher:  I think it’s quite funny some of them time. Make no mistake: it’s quite a serious book, but there’s enough social comedy elements in places to relieve that. Hadrian is extremely grandiose and formal, and the rest of the cast constantly needles him for it—as does Hadrian himself. I also think it has a lot of heart to it. You can lose sight of that focusing on all the larger-than-life galactic politics and the like, but I consider myself a very character-centric writer and Hadrian’s relationships with the rest of the cast—warts and all, Hadrian is far from perfect—are what I think holds the story together.



TQWhat inspired you to write Empire of Silence? What appeals to you about genre blending - Space Opera and Epic Fantasy?

Christopher:  I’ve always wanted to write. As I say, since I was eight-years-old to be a novelist has been the sum of my professional ambition. Empire simply grew up with me. There was no apple falling out of the tree moment: I just wanted to write a heroic adventure story like I enjoyed when I was a kid, but one that paid homage to the more “complex” stories I’d grown to love as a teenager. As to genre blending, I don’t think I ever thought about it. Fandom’s obsession with genre reminds me of metalheads’ insistence on their love for hyper-specific, micro-genres. The distinction between black metal and power metal, for instance, is totally opaque and arcane to outsiders, and is thereby meaningless. (It’s also so obscure that people don’t want to get into it). Genre fiction is going that way. Some readers will only read epic fantasy, but not urban fantasy, for example. On principle. My question is: How long before realize we’re on our way to creating as many genres as there are writers and give up the whole system? Stepping down off my soapbox, I had a story I wanted to tell, and that story had both fantasy and space opera elements. I thought, “Hey, it’s worked before!” and went about writing it. I hope that fans of both space opera and epic fantasy will find something to love about it!



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Empire of Silence?

Christopher:  I haven’t done much by way of formal research. The truth is, I’m constantly reading something or watching something else, and if you’ll forgive me for boasting, I have an excellent memory for facts, such that I can retain at least the gist (but very often the precise wording and even the tone) of anything I hear after just one exposure. I’m very taken with all the lectures and podcast interviews available now with all sorts of experts on subjects from psychology to biology to ancient history. One has to be careful to vet one’s sources, of course, but it’s not uncommon I’ll get through two or three lectures a day as I drive and make dinner and so on. There’s a Greek Orthodox icon carver called Jonathan Pageau I’ve watched a lot of recently, for example, he discusses literary and visual symbolism in the early Christian tradition and how ideas embedded in these ancient icons still persist in popular culture today (he once compared Shrek to The Bacchae by Euripides. Yes, really). I tend to float from topic to topic as it catches my interest. I never know what might be of use and how. There’s a great channel called Invicta which covers Roman military history in exquisite detail. We live in an age of unprecedented access to educational material for even the most idiosyncratic interests, and I mean to take full advantage of the opportunity!



TQPlease tell us about the cover for Empire of Silence.

Christopher:  The US cover was done by the immensely talented Sam Weber, who did the art for the Dune Folio Edition, as well as Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology and the tenth anniversary edition of The Name of the Wind. I’ve adored his work for years and feel very fortunate to have gotten to work with him. It doesn’t so much depict a moment in the novel as it does evoke the world and feel of the text. It shows my hero, Hadrian, in sort of a lordly, formal set of armor. Mr. Weber balanced the futuristic nature of the setting with the historical influences my worldbuilding draws from Imperial Rome and Victorian Britain. He’s depicted against the dark of space, with two moons to help signify that this is science fiction we’re dealing with (and because the planet Emesh, where most of the book takes place, has two moons). He stands with his sword towards the ground—an unknown hand clutching the blade, looking up as if for some word. We were slightly inspired Pollice Verso, the famous Gerome painting of the gladiator looking up at Caesar’s box for the order to spare or kill his beaten opponent.



TQIn Empire of Silence who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Christopher:  Hadrian has been easiest, far and away. Since he is our narrator, I spend more time in his head than any other character and am more familiar with him the rest of the cast. I’ve also got more space in the text to flesh him out than any other character. The most difficult character by far was Valka Onderra, a xeno-archaeologist who disagrees with Hadrian’s world view at practically every given opportunity. The two have a very antagonistic relationship in the book, which is complicated by Hadrian’s trying very hard to stay on her good side, so every scene she’s in becomes a complex mire of negotiating complex emotions and verbal combat. I think the end result was worth the headache, however. Several early readers seem to really like her!



TQWhich question about Empire of Silence do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

ChristopherIt seems like a lot of your writing relies on reusing old ideas/tropes. Why the homages? Shouldn’t SF/F always be something new?

This thread’s come up in a few of the early reviews, and it’s been bothering me because, yes, I do lay on the homages very heavy at the beginning of this novel. As I say, I wanted the book to start out somewhere familiar, to give audiences a window into the kind of story I’m telling, if only to give them a false sense of security because the book will take us somewhere quite different than the beginning might lead one to suspect. If you look at the great successes in recent years, especially in the film industry, say, none of those things are original. Nonetheless, the industry so often gets fixated on writers who are going to “smash” tropes or “break” a genre. I’ve yet to see one really succeed. For me, doing something different in this day and age means less experimentation, and more focus on telling a story as well as I can. Scotch tobacco ice cream may appeal to foodies, but the average person with a sweet tooth would still rather have vanilla or mint chocolate. And that’s not to say I’m not experimenting, but if you’re going to blend genres the way I am, you need those classic ingredients or the fact this is a blend might go unnoticed.



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

Christopher:  I’ll pick two at random:

“We live in stories, and in stories, we are subject to phenomena beyond the mechanisms of space and time. Fear and love, death and wrath and wisdom—these are as much parts of our universe as light and gravity. The ancients called them gods, for we are their creatures, shaped by their winds.”

“But there are other powers that move our world, powers greater than man. Powers that, like time and tide, wait for none. Even Emperors, like starlight, bend to the blackest forces of natural law.”



TQWhat's next?

Christopher:  I’ve just finished the sequel to Empire of Silence—well, the first draft of it, anyway—and have turned that in to my editor. I’m starting work outlining book 3, which I plan to have done by the time revision notes for book 2 come in. Hadrian and his story will be with me for a few years yet! In addition to that, I’ve just finished compiling stories for a reprint anthology called Space Pioneers with Baen’s Editor Emeritus, Hank Davis. It’s just what the name says on the tin: a collection of older stories about people braving the environs of space. We’ve got stories by Niven and Pournelle, Sturgeon and Heinlein and so on. Hank has an archival memory of everything in SF up until the ‘80s, and there are some real gems in this anthology. I’m also working on an original story/novelette to include in the book as well! That’ll be along in December!



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Christopher:  It’s been a pleasure! Thank you!





Empire of Silence
The Sun Eater 1
DAW, July 3, 2018
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and eBook, 624 pages

Interview with Christopher Ruocchio, author of Empire of Silence
Hadrian Marlowe, a man revered as a hero and despised as a murderer, chronicles his tale in the galaxy-spanning debut of the Sun Eater series, merging the best of space opera and epic fantasy.

It was not his war.

The galaxy remembers him as a hero: the man who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. They remember him as a monster: the devil who destroyed a sun, casually annihilating four billion human lives—even the Emperor himself—against Imperial orders.

But Hadrian was not a hero. He was not a monster. He was not even a soldier.

On the wrong planet, at the right time, for the best reasons, Hadrian Marlowe starts down a path that can only end in fire. He flees his father and a future as a torturer only to be left stranded on a strange, backwater world.

Forced to fight as a gladiator and navigate the intrigues of a foreign planetary court, Hadrian must fight a war he did not start, for an Empire he does not love, against an enemy he will never understand.





About Christopher

Interview with Christopher Ruocchio, author of Empire of Silence
Photo © Paul Ruocchio
Christopher Ruocchio is the author of The Sun Eater, a space opera fantasy series from DAW Books, as well as the Assistant Editor at Baen Books, where he co-edited the military SF anthology Star Destroyers, as well as the upcoming Space Pioneers, a collection of Golden Age reprints showcasing tales of human exploration. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University, where a penchant for self-destructive decision-making caused him to pursue a bachelor’s in English Rhetoric with a minor in Classics. An avid student of history, philosophy, and religion, Christopher has been writing since he was eight years old and sold his first book —Empire of Silence— at twenty-two. The Sun Eater series in available from Gollancz in the UK, and has been translated into French and German.

Christopher lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he spends most of his time hunched over a keyboard writing. He may be found on both Facebook and Twitter at @TheRuocchio.


Twitter @TheRuocchio ~ Facebook

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - April Winner


The winner of the April 2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars is From Unseen Fire by Cass Morris from DAW with 42% of the votes. Cover is by Tran Nguyen.


From Unseen Fire
Aven Cycle 1
DAW, April 17, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - April Winner
From Unseen Fire is the first novel in the Aven Cycle, a historical fantasy set in an alternate Rome, by debut author Cass Morris

The Dictator is dead; long live the Republic.

But whose Republic will it be? Senators, generals, and elemental mages vie for the power to shape the future of the city of Aven. Latona of the Vitelliae, a mage of Spirit and Fire, has suppressed her phenomenal talents for fear they would draw unwanted attention from unscrupulous men. Now that the Dictator who threatened her family is gone, she may have an opportunity to seize a greater destiny as a protector of the people—if only she can find the courage to try.

Her siblings—a widow who conceals a canny political mind in the guise of a frivolous socialite, a young prophetess learning to navigate a treacherous world, and a military tribune leading a dangerous expedition in the province of Iberia—will be her allies as she builds a place for herself in this new world, against the objections of their father, her husband, and the strictures of Aventan society.

Latona’s path intersects with that of Sempronius Tarren, an ambitious senator harboring a dangerous secret. Sacred law dictates that no mage may hold high office, but Sempronius, a Shadow mage who has kept his abilities a life-long secret, intends to do just that. As rebellion brews in the provinces, Sempronius must outwit the ruthless leader of the opposing Senate faction to claim the political and military power he needs to secure a glorious future for Aven and his own place in history.

As politics draw them together and romance blossoms between them, Latona and Sempronius will use wit, charm, and magic to shape Aven’s fate. But when their foes resort to brutal violence and foul sorcery, will their efforts be enough to save the Republic they love?





The Results
2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - April Winner





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

Interview with Cass Morris, author of From Unseen Fire


Please welcome Cass Morris to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. From Unseen Fire is published on April 16th by DAW.



Interview with Cass Morris, author of From Unseen Fire




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

Cass:  Hello, and thanks for having me! The very first thing I remember writing was a story about a girl named Janine and her dog. I can’t remember if I was in kindergarten or first grade, but I do remember that the teacher kept insisting I had misspelled the name “Janie”. I hadn’t; I had picked up the name Janine from the Babysitter’s Club novels. I distinctly recall dragging a book out of my backpack to show her it was a real name.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Cass:  By instinct, largely a pantser on early drafts. I tend to dive into a manuscript with a strong idea of the place and at least a few of the characters, let them all collide into each other, and see what happens from there. From Unseen Fire is the first of a three-book deal, though, which has meant I’ve had to learn to be a bit more of a plotter so far as the overall narrative is concerned.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Cass:  Defeating the urge to include too many world-building details. I was a kid who read the encyclopedia for fun, so I have to be careful not to let the world detract from the story.



TQWhat influences your writing? You worked for the education department at the American Shakespeare Center. Has being around Shakespeare's works since 2010 influenced your writing?

Cass:  I sure hope so! I fell in love with Shakespeare when I was eleven, acted in his plays through high school and college, got a graduate degree in Shakespeare studies, and then decided to work for him for another seven years. I think what I learned most from him in all that time was a sense of rhetorical stylings. I love the study of rhetoric so much. One of the things it gave Shakespeare, and that I try to emulate, is a sense of voice -- how different people talk differently, resort to different syntactical patterns, fall into different cadences. I also get a lot of influence from the other media I consume -- historical novels, fantasy novels, and musical theatre, in particular.



TQDescribe From Unseen Fire in 140 characters or less.

Cass:  In an alternate version of ancient Rome, a trio of patrician sisters and an ambitious senator use wit, charm, and magic to realize their dreams for the city they love.



TQTell us something about From Unseen Fire that is not found in the book description.

Cass:  The elemental magic of Aven, my alt-Rome, isn’t the only kind you’ll encounter. The Iberians waging war on the provincial borders have their own brand, tied to their own gods, drawing power from the stars, rivers, and blood.



TQWhat inspired you to write From Unseen Fire? What appeals to you about writing alt-Roman historical fantasy?

Cass:  Directly, a painting by Lawrence Alma-Tadema called “The Baths of Caracalla”. I’d been thinking I wanted to play with something outside of the medieval European mold, and I’d been toying with the idea of using a Roman-based model, when that painting happened across my eyes. The Vitelliae -- my heroine Latona and her sisters -- sprang into my head in that moment.

The alt-Roman setting gives me so much to mess about with. You get a fantasy world with sanitation and health care, for one thing! The pantheon of gods dovetailed with the magical system I was building in so many beneficial ways. And Rome was such a magnificently diverse, complex place, with social and political issues that are in many ways so familiar to the modern age. It’s a wonderfully fertile playground.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for From Unseen Fire?

Cass:  A lot of it was reviving past studies. I started taking Latin in the seventh grade and kept it up through high school, and I took so many courses on the ancient world in college that I was only a few credits short of an accidental Classics minor. So I had a lot to remind myself of, and a lot that needed more exploration, particularly when it came to the social history. I read a lot of books, listened to a lot of podcasts, watched a lot of documentaries. I’ve got a list of sources on my website, actually (https://cassmorriswrites.com/aven-cycle/the-world-of-aven/resources-and-history), for anyone who’s interested in delving in themselves.

The most fun research, though, was a trip I took in 2016 to do some on-the-ground investigations in Rome itself. I spent three days tramping all around the ancient city, figuring out what was visible from various points on the hills, how long it would take to walk from the Esquiline to the Palatine, all sorts of little details. It also gave me a great sense of the city as a bustling, multicultural metropolis.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for From Unseen Fire.

Cass:  The gorgeous artwork on the cover was done by Tran Nguyen (you can find her on Instagram). My editor, Betsy Wolheim, found a piece of hers based on Roman frescoes and we both loved the style. The woman on the cover is the main female protagonist, Latona, a mage of Fire and Spirit. Tran nailed her look so perfectly. I love that she’s looking the reader right in the eyes, bold and proud, but there’s a vulnerability in her, too. The background is based on a Roman lararium -- a sort of household shrine. The crackled effect was something we’d both loved in Tran’s earlier work, and here it carries a sort of hidden meaning. One of the other magical elements is Fracture, and while it isn’t inherently a dark or evil power, one of the antagonists turns it to warped purposes. I love that the shattered-fresco effect nods towards that as well as communicating a sense of Roman antiquity.



TQIn From Unseen Fire who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Cass:  My knee-jerk reaction was to say Latona, because she’s the character I poured the most of myself into, but I think that actually required too much emotional crafting to call it “easy”. Aula, her older sister, is the one who leaps effortlessly to the page. Her voice comes into my head with resonant clarity, and her relationship with Latona has never given me a moment’s trouble.

The hardest character was probably her brother, Gaius, who’s leading a small legionary expedition in Iberia. He’s early in his career, eager to succeed, and in way over his head. Military matters are so far from my experience, and they’re entirely what he’s thinking about, so that’s a harder mode to get myself into. I leaned a lot on my research for that. Fortunately the ancient Romans wrote down a lot about their warfare!



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in From Unseen Fire?

Cass:  Because socio-political issues are personal issues. I wouldn’t know how to remove them from the story or the characters. I wanted to write Aven as Rome was, a diverse, multicultural, sprawling, wonderful mess of a city. There was no way to write that without engaging in politics. The male protag, Sempronius, has a vision of using that diversity to make Aven the center of a sprawling federation of interconnected nations; his opponents are men who fear change and prefer isolationism. Latona is a woman hemmed in by the patriarchy, recovering from trauma and breaking free of chains forged by what we would call gaslighting. The Iberians worry they’re facing a choice between colonization and conquest. Social issues compose the very beings of these characters. Nothing in From Unseen Fire was meant as a direct analog for current issues or modern political figures, but humanity has wrestled with a lot of the same questions for thousands of years. I think that’s always worth engaging with.



TQWhich question about From Unseen Fire do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Cass:  What scene do I most regret having to cut? There was a whole 20k section taking place at chariot races that I just loved but ended up not fitting -- but I’m hoping to rework it into Book 2!



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from From Unseen Fire.

Cass:

Shadow and Water both moved in him, a blend that lent itself to a strange intuition, an ability to hear words unsaid and see things not yet done.

--

‘All my life,’ she thought, ‘someone has been telling me what I must not do. Mother, father, husband, priestesses . . . How did it take me till now to realize how heartily sick of it I am?’



TQWhat's next?

Cass:  Books two and three of the Aven Cycle! Latona’s story isn’t over yet, so I’m working on getting those manuscripts into fighting shape. I’m also in the early stages of drafting a space opera with a heroine inspired by the French swordswoman/opera singer Julie d’Aubigny. I’m not far into it yet, but that one’s going to be a total romp, and I’m quite looking forward to it.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Cass:  Thanks for having me! I can’t wait to share From Unseen Fire and the world of Aven with more people.





From Unseen Fire
Aven Cycle 1
DAW, April 17, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Cass Morris, author of From Unseen Fire
From Unseen Fire is the first novel in the Aven Cycle, a historical fantasy set in an alternate Rome, by debut author Cass Morris

The Dictator is dead; long live the Republic.

But whose Republic will it be? Senators, generals, and elemental mages vie for the power to shape the future of the city of Aven. Latona of the Vitelliae, a mage of Spirit and Fire, has suppressed her phenomenal talents for fear they would draw unwanted attention from unscrupulous men. Now that the Dictator who threatened her family is gone, she may have an opportunity to seize a greater destiny as a protector of the people—if only she can find the courage to try.

Her siblings—a widow who conceals a canny political mind in the guise of a frivolous socialite, a young prophetess learning to navigate a treacherous world, and a military tribune leading a dangerous expedition in the province of Iberia—will be her allies as she builds a place for herself in this new world, against the objections of their father, her husband, and the strictures of Aventan society.

Latona’s path intersects with that of Sempronius Tarren, an ambitious senator harboring a dangerous secret. Sacred law dictates that no mage may hold high office, but Sempronius, a Shadow mage who has kept his abilities a life-long secret, intends to do just that. As rebellion brews in the provinces, Sempronius must outwit the ruthless leader of the opposing Senate faction to claim the political and military power he needs to secure a glorious future for Aven and his own place in history.

As politics draw them together and romance blossoms between them, Latona and Sempronius will use wit, charm, and magic to shape Aven’s fate. But when their foes resort to brutal violence and foul sorcery, will their efforts be enough to save the Republic they love?





About Cass

Interview with Cass Morris, author of From Unseen Fire
Cass Morris lives and works in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with the companionship of two royal felines, Princess and Ptolemy. She completed her Master of Letters at Mary Baldwin University in 2010, and she earned her undergraduate degree, a BA in English with a minor in history, from the College of William and Mary in 2007. She reads voraciously, wears corsets voluntarily, and will beat you at MarioKart. She can be found on Twitter at @CassRMorris.


Website  ~  Twitter @CassRMorris

Guest Blog by Jacey Bedford


Please welcome Jacey Bedford to The Qwillery. Nimbus, the 3rd Psi-Tech Novel, was published on October 3rd by DAW.


Guest Blog by Jacey Bedford
That's it, I've done my best, Nimbus is not only finished, but it's published. I have a copy in my hot little hands. Too late now to change a thing. It’s the third and final book in my Psi-Tech trilogy. Though I’ve got five books out, now, this is my first complete trilogy – weighing in at half a million words over the course of three books: Empire of Dust, Crossways and Nimbus.

If writing a book is like running a ten kilometre race, then writing a trilogy is the equivalent of running a marathon. As you cross the finish line there’s exhaustion and triumph in equal measure. Your muscles may ache for a day or two, but the achievement stays forever.

The Psi-Tech trilogy is a star-spanning space opera featuring megacorporations, brain-implanted psi-techs, foldspace and jump gates. Its broad theme is trust and betrayal with complex relationships and twisty plots. Friends become enemies and help comes from unexpected quarters. The most important skill for survival is knowing where to place your trust.

Cara’s been let down (badly) and is on the run. Is there anywhere in the galaxy that’s safe for a telepath who knows too much? Ben has faced trouble before, but he’s always been able to trust his best friend. It’s unthinkable that they should end up on different sides in a life-or-death struggle. And yet, all the human conflict pales into insignificance beside a new threat. There’s something stirring in the depths of foldspace. The Nimbus is coming and it’s as mad as hell!

Guest Blog by Jacey Bedford

Much as I'd like to take all credit for the psi-tech books, publishing is a team effort. Sure, I wrote the words and made up the story, but my editor, Sheila Gilbert, worked with me to make it better. It’s published by DAW, and there’s a strong team of people whose job it is to add a layer of professionalism. Besides my editor, there’s a managing editor who deals with admin and scheduling, a copy editor, a proof-reader, cover artist (Stephan Martiniere in this case), graphic designers, typesetters, printers, and when it’s all done, a publicist. That's a huge team effort, but even before DAW agreed to publish I already owed a lot to members of various critique groups.

Writer Paul Cornell says that it's a writer's job to seek out the harshest criticism they can find and learn from it. Some of that learning process comes from reviews after the event, but a wise writer seeks out critique while the work is still in progress. But don't just ask your mum (unless your mum is a writer, too), and beware those writers' groups that exist to pat you on the back just for getting some words down on paper, rather than pushing you to stretch yourself to make your pedestrian prose sing!
There might also be those who will pull your writing to pieces just for the sake of it. Some groups can be destructive rather than constructive because belittling your work makes them feel better about their own. You don’t need those groups. Walk away.

I'm a firm believer in peer-to-peer critique groups, however. Finding the right group is important. I write science fiction and fantasy, so a general writers’ group isn’t likely to meet my needs. I need a group that’s genre-specific and working at the right level. Critiquing with other published science fiction and fantasy writers, is an amazing experience. People new to critiquing can learn by example (from a good group) that constructive and honest critique, both giving and receiving, is invaluable.

I’ve been lucky enough to find my group.

Back in the late 90s I met (online) Liz Holliday who was then the secretary of Milford (http://www.milfordSF.co.uk), a week-long event of peer-to-peer, face-to-face critiquing. In order to attend Milford you have to be published, but that need only be one short story to a recognised market. In 1998 I sold my first short story to a print anthology, and therefore qualified for Milford. I was terrified, but I went anyway. In those days it was held in Devon. Later it moved to York, and currently resides in scenic North Wales at Trigonos, a lovely residential centre with its own lake and a magnificent view of the mountains.

We were a group of ten in 1998. Writing is a solitary business, so to find nine other like-minded individuals willing and eager to chew over plot-bunnies, story arcs, characters, and potential markets gave everyone a real boost, an infusion of enthusiasm and renewed writing energy. My fellow writers included multiply published American author Patricia Wrede, Ben Jeapes, Cherith Baldry, Alastair Reynolds, and Liz Williams, before the latter two got their first book deals.

Did my fellow writers like my submitted piece? Not especially, I suspect, though not liking something doesn’t mean to say that you deliver critique that says it’s bad. ‘This is not my type of book,’ is not the same as, ‘This book sucks.’ And you can still critique plot, characterisation, pacing and style even if it’s not what you’d choose to read for fun. I’ve lost track of the number of times someone will begin with, ‘I am not your target audience,’ but will still give a useful and considered critique.

These days Milford regularly runs with a full-house of fifteen writers. Their constructive critique, and their advice, have always helped me to make changes for the better. I don’t do everything that everyone suggests, of course. It’s still my book. With fourteen other writers weighing in with opinions, you have to learn to critique the critiques. No two people approach a piece in the same way. Thinking of some of our regulars, one writer always approaches it from the standpoint of, ‘What do these characters want?’ One picks apart grammar. One is a history specialist, one a medical doctor, and another a classicist, each brilliant at picking up on relevant facts. One is brilliant on plot, and yet another will analyse my characters’ ethics, often drawing my attention to something I simply hadn’t considered (but should have done). If fourteen people say the pacing is too slow, they might have a point. If seven say it’s too long and the other seven say it’s too short, you have to make up your own mind. Or maybe it’s just about right. It’s up to you to listen and take what’s useful and leave the rest.

Whatever the outcome, it’s your story that’s up for critique, not you.

Those writers at my first Milford in 1998 certainly didn't make me feel like a clueless newbie, even though I was. I learned so much that I went back the following year, and again the year after. In fact, in nineteen years I've only missed three Milfords, and those due to prior commitments that I couldn't shirk. I hung around for so long that, for my sins, I’m now the secretary.

Lots of good things have happened to me because of Milford. I can honestly say that if it wasn't for Milford I would not have five books already published by DAW and I would not be sitting here clutching Nimbus and grinning like an idiot.





Nimbus
A Psi-Tech Novel 3
DAW, October 3, 2017
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 544 pages

Guest Blog by Jacey Bedford
To combat manipulative megacorporations with telepathic technology, two heroes must rebel, overthrowing the enemy’s oppressive influence in the third book in this exciting sci-fi adventure

In a galaxy where the super-powers are the megacorporations, and ambitious executives play fast and loose with ethics in order to secure resources, where can good people turn for help? The megacorps control the jump gates and trade routes. They use psi-techs, implant-enhanced operatives with psionic abilities, who are bound by unbreakable contracts.

Psi-tech Cara Carlinni once had her mind turned inside out by Alphacorp, but she escaped, found her place with the Free Company, and now it’s payback time.

Ben Benjamin leads the Free Company, based on the rogue space station, Crossways. The megacorps have struck at Crossways once—and failed—so what are they planning now? Crossways can’t stand alone, and neither can the independent colonies, though maybe together they all have a chance.

But something alien is stirring in the depths of foldspace. Something bigger than the squabbles between megacorporations and independents. Foldspace visions are supposed to be a figment of the imagination.

At least, that’s what they teach in flight school. Ben Benjamin knows it’s not true. Meeting a void dragon was bad enough, but now there’s the Nimbus to contend with. Are the two connected? Why do some ships transit the Folds safely and others disappear without a trace?

Until now, humans have had a free hand in the Galaxy, settling colony after colony, but that might change because the Nimbus is coming.




Previously

Empire of Dust
A Psi-Tech Novel 1
DAW, November 4, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 544 pages

Guest Blog by Jacey Bedford
To combat manipulative megacorporations with telepathic technology, two heroes must rebel, overthrowing the enemy’s oppressive influence in the first book in this exciting sci-fi adventure

Mega corporations, more powerful than any one planetary government, use their agents to race each other for resources across the galaxy. The agents, or psi-techs, are implanted with telepath technology. The psi-techs are bound to the mega-corps — that is, if they want to retain their sanity.

Cara Carlinni is an impossible thing – a runaway psi-tech. She knows Alphacorp can find its implant-augmented telepaths, anywhere, anytime, mind-to-mind. So even though it’s driving her half-crazy, she’s powered down and has been surviving on tranqs and willpower. So far, so good. It’s been almost a year, and her mind is still her own.

She’s on the run from Ari van Blaiden, a powerful executive, after discovering massive corruption in Alphacorp. Cara barely escapes his forces, yet again, on a backwater planet, and gets out just in time due to the help of straight-laced Ben Benjamin, a psi-tech Navigator for Alphacorp’s biggest company rival.

Cara and Ben struggle to survive a star-spanning manhunt, black-ops raids, and fleets of resource-hungry raiders. Betrayal follows betrayal, and friends become enemies. Suddenly the most important skill is knowing whom to trust.




Crossways
A Psi-Tech Novel 2
DAW, August 4, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 544 pages

Guest Blog by Jacey Bedford
To combat manipulative megacorporations with telepathic technology, two heroes must rebel, overthrowing the enemy’s oppressive influence in the second book in this exciting sci-fi adventure

Ben Benjamin, psi-tech Navigator, and Cara Carlinni, Telepath, can never go home again. To the Trust and Alphacorp alike, they are wanted criminals. Murder, terrorism, armed insurrection, hijacking, grand theft, and kidnapping are just the top of a long list of charges they’ll face if they’re caught.

So they better not get caught.

These are the people who defied the megacorporations and saved a colony by selling the platinum mining rights and relocating ten thousand colonists somewhere safe, and they’re not saying where that is.

They take refuge on crimelord-run Crossways Station with the remnants of their team of renegade psi-techs and the Solar Wind, their state-of-the-art jump-drive ship. They’ve made a promise to find a missing space ark with thirty thousand settlers aboard. But to do that, Ben and Cara have to confront old enemies.

Alphacorp and the Trust: separately they are dangerous, united they are unstoppable. They want to silence Ben and Cara more than they want to upstage each other. If they have to get rid of Crossways in order to do it, they can live with that. In fact, this might be the excuse they’ve been looking for….





About Jacey

Guest Blog by Jacey Bedford
Jacey Bedford is a British writer, published by DAW in the USA. She writes both science fiction and fantasy and her novels are published by DAW in the USA. Her short stories have been published on both sides of the Atlantic in anthologies and magazines, and some have been translated into an odd assortment of languages including Estonian, Galician and Polish.

Her latest book is NIMBUS, published on 3rd October 2017. It’s the third in her Psi-Tech trilogy in which a bunch of renegade Psi-Techs (humans implanted with telepath technology) come up against the might of the Megacorporations, while in the depths of foldspace, there’s something new and terrifying. With NIMBUS the trilogy is complete.

Jacey's a great advocate of critique groups and is the secretary of the Milford SF Writers' Conference, an intensive peer-to-peer week of critique and discussion held every September in North Wales. (http://www.milfordSF.co.uk)

She lives in an old stone house on the edge of Yorkshire's Pennine Hills with her songwriter husband and a long-haired, black German Shepherd (a dog not an actual shepherd from Germany). She's been a librarian, a postmistress, a rag-doll maker and a folk singer with the vocal harmony trio, Artisan. Her claim to fame is that she once sang live on BBC Radio 4 accompanied by the Doctor (Who?) playing spoons.

You can keep up with Jacey in several different ways:

Melanie's Week in Review - August 27, 2017


Melanie's Week in Review  - August 27, 2017


Whoop whoop! Its bank holiday weekend and the weather is lovely. If you have been following my WIR you will know that the weather in the UK has been dismal with a capital 'D'....as in December. I could actually sit outside this afternoon without wearing a sweater. What a treat! Speaking of treats wait until you find out about what I have been reading.


Melanie's Week in Review  - August 27, 2017
I was super lucky to receive The Brightest Fell, the 11th instalment of the October Daye series, from the publisher via NetGalley. The story starts not long after the events of book 10 - Once Broken Faith - and opens with October's bachelorette party. It was a veritable supernatural convention with nearly every female character from the series in attendance. Just when things are looking up for the unlucky heroine her mother - Amandine the Liar - turns up on her doorstep demanding that October find her long lost daughter (Toby's half-sister). To ensure that October does what she is told Amandine takes Tybalt hostage. Toby has no choice - look for her sister who has been missing for decades or lose the love of her life. Toby needs help and sometimes that help comes from where she least expects it. The path to true love is a thorny one and now Toby is on the clock ...find her sister or lose everything.

I don't want to give too much away so apologies for being vague. I always enjoy the books in this series but I really wish that McGuire would give poor Toby a break. I guess it would make for a boring story if everything was sunshine and roses (well maybe not roses for Toby!) without the near death experiences, loss of loved ones or races against time. There is a lot happening in this instalment as the plot progresses at the same time as we find out more of events that pre-date even Toby. If this was an earlier book in the series then I would have loved it but 11 books in and I just hope that McGuire wraps the series up soon. That said, I do enjoy stories with strong female leads and Toby is nothing short of brave.


Melanie's Week in Review  - August 27, 2017
Again, lucky me as I also received Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill via NetGalley. If you are a science fiction fan then this is the book for you. In fact, this is a must read. This is the story of the rise of the machine - mankind has been wiped out when the robots they created to make life easier destroyed them all. Now two super computers - One World Networks - are fighting for supremacy. There are a few freebots that are left to roam the desolate globe searching for spare parts which are in ever increasing short supply. The story centers on Brittle who started its existence as a comfort bot...charged with taking care of a dying man. As the robot/human war unfolds Brittle makes choices that will haunt it for decades. Amongst the wasteland where both humans and robots died Brittle searches for an every decreasing supply of parts and through that search ends up on a mission that could change everything.....or nothing. What will Brittle chose?

This is a fantastic book, in fact one of my favourite books of 2017. I wasn't expecting to like it so much, especially given the subject matter but I did. Every chapter had a new surprise and I could never guess what was going to happen next. I loved the Terminator films but imagine a world where Sarah Connor doesn't survive. Bleak? Yes, but despite the austerity the world that Cargill creates is colourful and vibrant in its own way. Like I said...this is a must read.


That is it for me this week....and in fact for a few weeks. I am taking short hiatus while I re-charge my reading batteries. Don't miss me too much....or better yet...miss me A LOT! Until then Happy Reading!





The Brightest Fell
October Daye 11
DAW, September 5, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages

Melanie's Week in Review  - August 27, 2017
New York Times-bestselling October Daye faerie series • Hugo Award-winning author Seanan McGuire • ”Top of my urban-paranormal series list!” —Felicia Day

Contains an original bonus novella, Of Things Unknown!


Things are slow, and October “Toby” Daye couldn’t be happier about that. The elf-shot cure has been approved, Arden Windermere is settling into her position as Queen in the Mists, and Toby doesn’t have anything demanding her attention except for wedding planning and spending time with her family.

Maybe she should have realized that it was too good to last.

When Toby’s mother, Amandine, appears on her doorstep with a demand for help, refusing her seems like the right thing to do…until Amandine starts taking hostages, and everything changes. Now Toby doesn’t have a choice about whether or not she does as her mother asks. Not with Jazz and Tybalt’s lives hanging in the balance. But who could possibly help her find a pureblood she’s never met, one who’s been missing for over a hundred years?

Enter Simon Torquill, elf-shot enemy turned awakened, uneasy ally. Together, the two of them must try to solve one of the greatest mysteries in the Mists: what happened to Amandine’s oldest daughter, August, who disappeared in 1906.

This is one missing person case Toby can’t afford to get wrong.





Sea of Rust
Harper Voyager, September 5, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

Melanie's Week in Review  - August 27, 2017
A scavenger robot wanders in the wasteland created by a war that has destroyed humanity in this evocative post-apocalyptic "robot western" from the critically acclaimed author, screenwriter, and noted film critic.

It’s been thirty years since the apocalypse and fifteen years since the murder of the last human being at the hands of robots. Humankind is extinct. Every man, woman, and child has been liquidated by a global uprising devised by the very machines humans designed and built to serve them. Most of the world is controlled by an OWI—One World Intelligence—the shared consciousness of millions of robots, uploaded into one huge mainframe brain. But not all robots are willing to cede their individuality—their personality—for the sake of a greater, stronger, higher power. These intrepid resisters are outcasts; solo machines wandering among various underground outposts who have formed into an unruly civilization of rogue AIs in the wasteland that was once our world.

One of these resisters is Brittle, a scavenger robot trying to keep a deteriorating mind and body functional in a world that has lost all meaning. Although unable to experience emotions like a human, Brittle is haunted by the terrible crimes the robot population perpetrated on humanity. As Brittle roams the Sea of Rust, a large swath of territory that was once the Midwest, the loner robot slowly comes to terms with horrifyingly raw and vivid memories—and nearly unbearable guilt.

Sea of Rust is both a harsh story of survival and an optimistic adventure. A vividly imagined portrayal of ultimate destruction and desperate tenacity, it boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, yet where a humanlike AI strives to find purpose among the ruins.

Interview with Stephen BlackmooreInterview with Dan Stout, author of TitanshadeReview: Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - July WinnerInterview with V. M. EscaladaInterview with Christopher Ruocchio, author of Empire of Silence2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - April WinnerInterview with Cass Morris, author of From Unseen FireGuest Blog by Jacey BedfordMelanie's Week in Review  - August 27, 2017

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