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A blog about books and other things speculative

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ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis


ConnectiCon XVI was held at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, CT on July 12-15. In my opinion, ConnectiCon is not your typical Comic Convention; it is more of a multi-fandom convention that caters to enthusiasts of all things pop culture. This includes anime, manga, video games, board games, role playing games, animation, comic books, speculative fiction, cosplay, and the TV/movie industry.

I always enjoy chatting with the featured guests, and this year Lisle Wilkerson and Steve Blum were definitely the most interesting. Lisle is the voice behind Tekken's "Nina Williams" and "Christie Monteiro" among others. For non-gamers, Tekken is a fighting video game franchise that was created, developed and published by Namco. Lisle also appeared in the Academy Award winning film Lost in Translation as well as playing a principal role in the indie film Kamataki. Lisle is super cool and very personable. She shared tales of growing up in Japan which lead to her fluency in the Japanese language. She currently works as a freelance voice-over actor, and because she is based in Los Angeles, works as a local correspondent for the Academy Awards, Emmys, Golden Globes, and Grammys for Japan. As an interpreter, she's worked with Keanu Reeves, Makoto Shinkai, author Marie Kondo, and Morning Musume. My three favorite things about meeting Lisle were her smile, her behind-the-scenes story of her MMA match and the fact that she toured Studio Ghibli. Not the museum, the actual working studio!

Then there's Steve Blum. Steve is a voiceover actor with hundreds of credits in his career. For instance Steve voiced "Starscream" in the Emmy award-winning Transformers: Prime, "Wolverine" in X-Men animated movies, TV, and games, and recently voiced "Zeb Orrelios" in Star Wars: Rebels. In 2013, Steve was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records for being the Most Prolific Voice Actor in video games, with 333 credited appearances. Steve shared interesting stories about his career, citing the character "Steve Spiegel" from the anime Cowboy Bebop as one of his favorites. He delighted fans by briefly getting into character when signing autographs. For instance, while standing in line I heard "Guilmon" from Digimon and "Reptile" from Mortal Kombat X. He told one fan that "Guilmon" holds a special place for him as he was the first nice character that Steve ever played. I love the fact that Steve was genuinely interested in his fans' stories and memorabilia, no matter how obscure. He was hysterical in his panel with fellow voiceover actors Nolan North and Troy Baker, which was the highpoint of my Sunday.

ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Lisle Wilkerson with fan Mitchell Maknis
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Steve Blum


ConnectiCon had a really strong Artist Colony as well as some amazing vendors in the Dealer room this year. One of my favorite things about conventions is discovering artists or catching up on new work by artists I am already familiar with. I may have gone a little crazy, but there were so many great things to choose from. Here are some of my purchases:

ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Skull notebook by Dreaming Doe
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
"Owl Prince" by David Woehr of Grinning
Narwhal Industries
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Sweet Creature" Succulent planter
by Soojin "Sandy" Kim of Skimlines
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Wonder Woman & Little Mermaid
Wallet as well as a Disney Villain pouch
by Jolly Otter Studio Shoppe
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Scooter modeling the Marvel's Avengers Dog
Neckerchief by My Nerdy Pet
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Witch Mug and Wonder Woman
pillow by Argama Witch
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Pins and Washi tape from
Maya Kern
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Art by Khelekmir from Quite
Contrary Creations Artist
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Cruella de Vil & Wonder Woman
sketches by Michelle
LaBranche of Chell Studios
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Pins from Kristilyn of Zombie
Romance
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Monstah Box created by Jose Souza III
His name is Horny
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Shattuckite necklace created by Skully Kouture


As a voracious reader I am always impressed when conventions have cool authors. Two of my family's favorites at ConnectiCon were Dan Wells and Jason Fry. Both were on hand to autograph their books.

Dan Wells, a Hugo and Campbell award nominee, writes horror and sci-fi and is the author of the John Cleaver series, the Mirador series, the Partials Sequence as well as numerous standalone books. Dan won a Hugo in 2013 for his book Writing Excuses Season Seven that he co wrote with Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler and Jordan Sanderson. My son became a fan after seeing the film adaptation of his book I Am Not a Serial Killer starring Christopher Lloyd and spoke with Dan about the John Cleaver series. Dan shared that when he wrote I Am Not a Serial Killer, his publisher asked him to expand it into a trilogy. Dan said that complex characters enable a writer to expand on the original story, so the transition from standalone to a trilogy to six in the series was a natural progression. Dan also took some inspiration from the film adaptation of his book and wrote Over Your Dead Body soon after viewing the movie.

Jason Fry appeared on The New York Times Best Seller list for the novelization of Star Wars The Last Jedi and has written over 40 books and short stories that are set in the Star Wars galaxy. He is also the author of his own YA sci-fi series; The Jupiter Pirates. I've been a fan of Star Wars since the original movie hit screens in 1977 so I immediately targeted Jason as someone to visit. Jason picked up on my Star Wars vibe immediately and we engaged in a thoughtful and enjoyable conversation about the franchise. We even agree on our top three favorite Star Wars films: (in no particular order) A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Rogue One. One thing I really enjoyed learning is that The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson gave Jason access to alternate script versions to expand this official adaptation of the film into something quite unique. His newest offering, Solo: A Star Wars Story: Tales from Vandor will hit bookstores this September.

ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Dan Wells
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Jason Fry
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey MaknisConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis


Cosplay is always big at ConnectiCon and this year was no exception. I cosplayed as "Cruella de Vil" on Saturday and was delighted to find my son "Carlos" from Disney's Descendants 1 and 2 among the attendees. My friend "Madame Medusa" and I were fortunate to encounter a posse of Disney villains including another fabulous Cruella! Followed by a few photos from my favorite fandoms:

ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Cruella catches up with Uma, Carlos, Harry Hook, and Gil
from Disney's Descendants 2

ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Madame Medusa (The Rescuers), Cruella de Vil (101
Dalmatians) [x 2], Hades (Hercules), Captain Hook
(Peter Pan), and Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty)

ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Solaire of Astoria from the role-playing
game Dark Souls
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Marvel villain Doctor Doom
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
DC Bombshell Wonder Woman
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
The Dark Lord Sauron
Lord of the Rings
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
From anime Full Metal Alchemist
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Gajeel Redfox from the anime Fairy Tail

ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Tales from the Borderlands characters
featuring Hologram Handsome Jack


This small vignette of my experience at ConnectiCon 2018 is really just the tip of the iceberg. If you're interested in attending next year, mark your calendars: ConnectiCon 2019 is scheduled for July 11th through the 14th. You can check out their website at: http://connecticon.org/registration/faq

Brannigan's Top Four Books of 2015


Now that 2015 has come to a close, some of us at The Qwillery are going to share our Top, Best, and/or Favorite books on last year. Here are Brannigan's Top Four Books of 2015:


My favorite science fiction book of the year is The Void by Timothy S. Johnston. It's the last book in a genre-bending trilogy. The trilogy used its galaxy's many different environments to create a dramatic, engaging story with a satisfying ending—and there's nothing better than a satisfying ending to a great trilogy.


Brannigan's Top Four Books of 2015
The Void
The Tanner Sequence 3
Carina Press, March 25, 2015
eBook, 106,000 words

2403 AD

It would be easier to kill him than to trust him.

Transporting a serial killer might seem like a simple job for CCF Homicide Investigator Kyle Tanner. After spending years apprehending murderers, he's ready to hang up his pistol. Babysitting a prisoner will bring him to Alpha Centauri, where he can search for a way to escape the CCF forever.

If he makes it.

When his ship breaks down in deep space and a CCF research vessel comes to his aid, Tanner realizes he's in terrible danger: the scientists on board have blocked his distress call. And when Tanner's prisoner escapes, he begins to suspect that the proximity of the research vessel had nothing to do with luck and everything to do with the CCF's relentless reach.

Facing near-certain death by his own organization, Tanner must unravel a tangled skein of vengeance, duplicity and murder in deep space. But he's being held at the will of master puppeteers, and if he can't cut the strings, he'll dance straight to a gruesome, excruciating death....

A Tanner Sequence Novel




My favorite fantasy book of the year is The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu. It's an Asian-influenced epic fantasy with some wonderfully engaging characters. The world building is top notch and I can't wait to dig into the next book in the series.


Brannigan's Top Four Books of 2015
The Grace of Kings
The Dandelion Dynasty 1
Saga Press, April 7, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 640 pages

Two men rebel together against tyranny—and then become rivals—in this first sweeping book of an epic fantasy series from Ken Liu, recipient of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.

Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.

Fans of intrigue, intimate plots, and action will find a new series to embrace in the Dandelion Dynasty.




My favorite horror book of the year is The Devil's Only Friend by Dan Wells. Wells breathed new life in his first trilogy by taking John out of his small-town life and throwing in an entirely new environment with a whole new cast of supporting characters. He raised the stakes and added to the mythology of his creatures. I can't wait to see where he takes us.


Brannigan's Top Four Books of 2015
The Devil's Only Friend
John Cleaver 4
Tor Books, June 16, 2015
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

John Wayne Cleaver hunts demons: they've killed his neighbors, his family, and the girl he loves, but in the end he's always won. Now he works for a secret government kill team, using his gift to hunt and kill as many monsters as he can . . .

. . . but the monsters have noticed, and the quiet game of cat and mouse is about to erupt into a full scale supernatural war.

John doesn't want the life he's stuck with. He doesn't want the FBI bossing him around, he doesn't want his only friend imprisoned in a mental ward, and he doesn't want to face the terrifying cannibal who calls himself The Hunter. John doesn't want to kill people. But as the song says, you can't always get what you want. John has learned that the hard way; his clothes have the stains to prove it.
When John again faces evil, he'll know what he has to do.

The Devil's Only Friend is the first book in a brand-new John Wayne Cleaver trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Dan Wells.




My favorite graphic novel of the year goes to The Creeps: Book 1 Night of the Frankenfrogs by Chris Schweizer. This is a children's horror story, but it shows Schweizer's talent that he can entertain a man in his late 30s. There are plenty of twists and humor along the way and his art style is refreshingly one-of-a-kind. Do your inner child a favor and read this book.


Brannigan's Top Four Books of 2015
The Creeps
Book 1 Night of the Frankenfrogs
Amulet Books, August 15, 2015
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and eBook, 128 pages

At Pumpkins County Middle School weird things happen every class period, not to mention during lunch, but nobody ever makes a fuss. Principal Garish thinks what's weird and...well...creepy is how fascinating the mysterious goings-on are to Carol, a big-city girl new to Pumpkins County, who finds kindred spirits in Mitchell (monster expert), Mark (military brat with logistics know-how), and Rosario (girly girl on the outside, muscle underneath). The Creeps are on the case to figure out the spooky mysteries and still get to class on time. Last week it was a pudding monster. This week, it's disappearing classmates and a suspiciously coincidental animal-rights petition being passed around by the snootiest girl in class. Could she be behind an amphibian menace? Or could it be the mad genius who lives in the sewers? How about the school janitor? The Creeps will track down the answers!

In a place that's a little bit Gravity Falls and a little bit Goosebumps, the Creeps will have no end of mysteries to dig into while they try to keep their grades up too. Chris Schweizer's fun art is full of the visual puns and clues that graphic novels can do so well.


Review: The Devil's Only Friend by Dan Wells


The Devil's Only Friend
Author:  Dan Wells
Series:  John Cleaver 4
Publisher:  Tor Books, June 16, 2015
Format:  Hardcover, Trade Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $25.99 (Hardcover); $14.99 (Trade Paperback);
        $9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765380661 (Hardcover); 9780765380678 (Trade Paperback);
        9781466874978 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: The Devil's Only Friend by Dan Wells
John Wayne Cleaver hunts demons: they've killed his neighbors, his family, and the girl he loves, but in the end he's always won. Now he works for a secret government kill team, using his gift to hunt and kill as many monsters as he can . . .

. . . but the monsters have noticed, and the quiet game of cat and mouse is about to erupt into a full scale supernatural war.

John doesn't want the life he's stuck with. He doesn't want the FBI bossing him around, he doesn't want his only friend imprisoned in a mental ward, and he doesn't want to face the terrifying cannibal who calls himself The Hunter. John doesn't want to kill people. But as the song says, you can't always get what you want. John has learned that the hard way; his clothes have the stains to prove it.
When John again faces evil, he'll know what he has to do.

The Devil's Only Friend is the first book in a brand-new John Wayne Cleaver trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Dan Wells.



Brannigan's Review

Dan Wells is the only author I've ever read that has scared me to the point of shutting a book mid-sentence and throwing it across the room in fear, only to get up and pick the book up to continue reading. Normally, if an author messes with my mind that much, I say no thanks and go find a new book. I like to get scared, but I don't want nightmares. I had a bad experience in high school while researching the crimes of Jack the Ripper, and Dan Wells is the only author that has since freaked me out in a similar way and yet I still return to reading his books. His skill as a writer is that good.

I loved the first John Cleaver trilogy and was ecstatic to learn Wells was returning to the character with a new trilogy. The Devil's Only Friend is the perfect launching off point for a new trilogy of an established character. Wells changes John's world drastically by taking him out of his hometown, with its familiar supporting characters, and into a new city and new cast of supporting characters. I love that John is given so many new challenges. He has to find his place in the FBI team. He has to deal with the emotional trauma from past events, and he has find and kill some dangerous demons. I also love spending time in a psychopathic teenage mind.

There are a lot of new supporting characters to get to know right off the bat, and Wells does a good job of giving them unique personalities and quirks to help differentiate them from one another. Wells also gives the team a quick case at the start of the book to help define the roles of each team member before the main event. It sets everything up nicely for the rest of the book.

The pacing is quick but even. I never felt like events were moving too fast or got bored by the introspective moments. Wells also helps expand his world by giving the most information yet on his demons, or Withered or Gifted, depending on perspective of character. It also helps plant some seeds for the next two books in this trilogy.

The Devil's Only Friend is a magnificent start to a new trilogy. It's the perfect blend of horror, action and inventive world building. You'll be glad you picked up the book and started down the dark path of another John Cleaver trilogy, and don't worry if you haven't read the first three books, Wells gives you all you need to enjoy yourself. There isn't an issue with language. Violence on the other hand is often and descriptive, but not gory. No sexual situations. I'd recommend it to teens and adults, as long as they don't scare easy. It's the perfect book to enjoy this month. Go nab yourself a copy.

ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey MaknisBrannigan's Top Four Books of 2015Review: The Devil's Only Friend by Dan Wells

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