The Qwillery | category: Justin Gustainis


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Winners x 10 - August 7, 2011

Lots of winners!

Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht

Winners x  10 - August 7, 2011

Anassa who said...

I read about 4 books a month, and am developing a complex over being too busy to read more.


Bride of the Wolf, Luck of the Wolf, and Code of the Wolf by Susan Krinard

Winners x  10 - August 7, 2011

Saribonita who said...

I like Vampires, but LOVE werewolves! Always have, I guess maybe because of the shape-shifting mystique! :)


Miserere: An Autumn Tale by Teresa Frohock

Winners x  10 - August 7, 2011

Jack Provencher who said...

I like Spring, but I love Autumn. It can contain an Indian Summer, but it also can be cool & breezy. And for atmosphere, it can cause chills, and is a perfect time of year for gothic tales, as well as stories of horror.


The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross and "Radioactive" Steampunk Necklace by Cemetery Cat Jewelry

Winners x  10 - August 7, 2011

Winners x  10 - August 7, 2011

RtB Admin who said...

I haven't read any steampunk. It's a genre I've kept meaning to try, but just haven't found the book to do it... perhaps this is the one. :)


Soft Apocalypse (2 e-books) by Will McIntosh

Winners x  10 - August 7, 2011

Tore who said...

Dystopia but I do like both. Please enter me in contest.


Vivien who said...

This really sounds fantastic!!!


500 GFC Follower Giveaway: Ghost Story (Dresden Files 13) by Jim Butcher

Winners x  10 - August 7, 2011

Annette said...


I'd love to enter the contest. I'm follower Annette.


Signed copies of Shadow Fall by Seressia Glass (2 copies)

Winners x  10 - August 7, 2011

Escape by Fiction who said...

I think all aspects of ancient mythology is cool - I'm really fond of Egyptian, Mayan and Greek.


Lee who said...

What is your favorite mythology? African? Egyption? Greek? Indian? Something else?Mine..Native American, east coast Cherokee, or southwestern Dine and just about all in between.. especially tales of coyote. But I also admit I like a Celtic tale or two about the Shide. But as Joseph Campbell says all mythos touch on each other.


Signed copy of Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis

Winners x  10 - August 7, 2011

Bethany C. who said...

Hmmm, usually doesn't matter to me if the story's good, but I guess I would like to see some (more?) set in the DC metro area.

The winners have been notified and have until 11:59 PM United States Eastern Time on August 14, 2011 to respond or The Qwillery will very randomly choose a new winner and winners.

Thank you to everyone who reads the blog!

Interview with Justin Gustainis and Giveaway - July 29, 2011

Please welcome Justin Gustainis to The Qwillery.

TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Justin:  I have a hard time getting started on a project. I put it off, agonizing the whole time, for weeks, even months. When my central nervous system finally accepts the fact that “Hey – I’ve got a book due soon!” I can go like hell. During the writing of my last book, one day I cranked out 36 fresh pages, a personal best. Mind you, I don’t say they were 36 *good* pages….

TQ: Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?

Justin:  Oddly enough, most of my favorite authors are mystery/suspense/crime writers. Maybe it’s because I read a lot of that stuff before I ever read much horror or dark fantasy. That might explain why my books are considered “paranormal mysteries.” On the mystery/crime/suspense side, some of my favorites among living writers are Thomas Perry, Robert Crais, Thomas Harris, and Stephen Hunter. Some others I like, who have passed on to that Great Writers Conference in the Sky, include Robert B. Parker, John D. MacDonald, Ross Thomas, and Raymond Chandler. Among paranormal writers, I admire Stephen King (especially his money), Kim Newman, Jim Butcher, Lili Saintcrow, and Rachel Caine, among others.

TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Justin:  I try to get the broad outlines of a plot together, then work out the details and subplots as I go along. Plotting is one of the things I find hardest to do.

TQ: What inspired you to write Hard Spell?

Justin:  The novel grew out of a short story I wrote at the Odyssey Writing Workshop called “Demons Don’t Die.” I thought it would be fun to write a paranormal police procedural, and I set it in Scranton because I grew up nearby and went to college there and, for gosh sake, the only thing the town is known for nationally was “The Office.”

TQ: What sort of research did you do for Hard Spell?

Justin:  Not a great deal. That’s the wonderful thing about writing paranormal fiction: you can make up anything you want, as long as you’re consistent. Although I did a little Internet work to reacquaint myself with the Scranton area (I haven’t been back in several years), if challenged I can always say, “Yeah, well , *my* Scranton is set in an alternate universe, and in that one City Hall *is* twelve stories tall and built like a medieval fortress. Or whatever.

TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? Hardest and why?

Justin:  I suppose the easiest one was Detective Sergeant Stan Markowski, the protagonist. The narration is in the first person, so I suppose Stan speaks with my voice, sort of. But since Stan is supposed to be a blue collar guy, whenever he started talking like a college professor I had to go back and change things.

Hardest? Probably Stan’s daughter, Christine – given the differences between us in age, gender, and, um, status. People will know what that last part means when they read the book – as well they should.

TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in the book?

Justin:  Favorites would include Markowski’s first scene with his daughter, the scene set in Renfield’s, Scranton’s most popular “supe” (as in “supernatural) bar, the scene set in an adult bookstore that caters to “supe” customers, and, of course, the climactic scene, wherein the Fate of Humanity Hangs in the Balance (doesn’t it always?).

TQ: How many books are planned for the series?

Justin:  I have contracts for two more. EVIL DARK will be out in January, if I ever get it written (see earlier comment about procrastination). After that, it depends on whether the publisher wants more, and whether I still have ideas.

TQ: What's next?

Justin:  The interesting thing isn’t so much what’s next, as what’s going on simultaneously. I find myself in the odd position of having two urban fantasy novels being released on the same date (in the US, anyway): July 26th. SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL is the third book in the “Morris/Chastain Investigations” series. In this one, occult investigator Quincey Morris (descended from the character in DRACULA) and his partner, “white” witch Libby Chastain, learn that Senator Howard Stark, candidate for President, has been secretly possessed by a demon. Hell wants to put Stark in the White House, so that he can use the President’s powers to destroy the world. They don’t like us much, those folks in Hell.

TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

About Justin's Books

Hard Spell
An Occult Crimes Unit Investigation 1
(Angry Robot Books, July 26, 2011)
Meet Stan Markowski of the Scranton PD’s Occult Crimes Unit
“Like the rest of America, Scranton’s got an uneasy ‘live and let unlive’ relationship with the supernatural. But when a vamp puts the bite on an unwilling victim, or some witch casts the wrong kind of spell, that’s when they call me.

“My name’s Markowski. I carry a badge.

“Also, a crucifix, some wooden stakes, a big vial of holy water, and a 9mm Beretta loaded with silver bullets.”

Amazon : Barnes & Noble : Book Depository : Books-A-Million

See The Qwillery's 4 Qwill review here.

Black Magic Woman
A Morris and Chastain Investigation 1
(Solaris Books, November 25, 2008)
Occult investigator Quincey Morris and his "consultant", white witch Libby Chastain, are hired to free a family from a deadly curse that appears to date back to the Salem witch trials.

Fraught with danger, the trail finds them stalking the mysterious occult underworlds of Boston, San Francisco, New Orleans and New York, searching out the root of the curse. After surviving a series of terrifying attempts on their lives, the two find themselves drawn inexorably towards Salem itself - and the very heart of darkness.

Amazon : Barnes & Noble : Book Depository : Books-A-Million

Evil Ways
A Morris and Chastain Investigation 2
(Solaris Books, December 29, 2009)
In a story that ranges from Baghdad to Los Angeles, EVIL WAYS sees eccentric billionaire Walter Grobius attempt to unleash a devastating magical apocalypse. Quincey Morris and his partner, white witch Libby Chastain, are drawn into their deadliest case yet, but from different directions. In Los Angeles, Quincey is blackmailed by the FBI into investigating a series of ritualistic child murders. In New York, Libby barely escapes an attempt on her life by assassins armed with magical weapons. Both of these threads eventually intertwine, leading the investigators to a conspiracy so vast and diabolical as to defy belief.

The final, bloody confrontation takes place at Grobius’s isolated Idaho estate, on Walpurgis Night -- the night of the Witches’ Sabbath. Quincey and Libby, and their allies, must fight a desperate battle against immensely powerful dark forces that threaten the future of all mankind.

Amazon : Barnes & Noble : Book Depository : Books-A-Million

Sympathy for the Devil
A Morris and Chastain Investigation 3
(Solaris Books, July 26, 2011)
Senator Howard Stark wants to be President of the United States. So does the demon inside him. With the competing candidates dropping out due to scandal, blackmail, and ‘accidental’ death, Stark looks like a good bet to go all the way to the White House. And if he gets there, Hell on Earth will follow.

Occult investigator Quincey Morris and white witch Libby Chastain are determined to stop this evil conspiracy. But between them and Stark stand the dedicated agents of the US Secret Service – and the very forces of Hell itself. Quincey and Libby will risk everything to exorcise the demon possessing Stark. If they fail, ‘Hail to the Chief’ will become a funeral march – for all of us.

Amazon : Barnes & Noble : Book Depository : Books-A-Million

About Justin

Justin Gustainis was born in Northeast Pennsylvania in 1951. He attended college at the University of Scranton, a Jesuit university that figures prominently in several of his writings.

After earning both Bachelor's and Master's degrees, he was commissioned a Lieutenant in the U. S. Army.

Following military service, he held a variety of jobs, including speechwriter and professional bodyguard, before earning a Ph.D. at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

He was married to Patricia A. Grogan of Toledo, Ohio, from 1977 until her death in 2007. He misses her a lot.

Mr. Gustainis currently lives in Plattsburgh, New York. He is a Professor of Communication at Plattsburgh State University, where he earned the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2002.

His academic publications include the book American Rhetoric and the Vietnam War, published in 1993, and a number of scholarly articles that hardly anybody has ever read.  In the Summer of 2008, he attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop.

Justin's Website:

The Giveaway


What:  One commenter will win a signed copy of Hard Spell (An Occult Crimes Unit Investigation 1) from Justin.

How:  Leave a comment answering the following question:

What is your favorite city or town used as a setting for an Urban Fantasy?

Please remember - if you don't answer the question your entry will not be counted.

You may receive additional entries by:

1) Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2) Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

3) Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.

There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website mentions. In addition please leave a way to contact you.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Friday, August 5, 2011. Void where prohibited by law.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*

Release Day Review: Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis - 4 Qwills

Hard Spell
Author: Justin Gustainis
Series: Occult Crimes Unit Investigations 1
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 416 pages
Publisher: Angry Robot Books (July 26, 2011)
Price: $7.99
Language: English
Genre: Urban Fantasy
ISBN: 978-0-85766-115-9
Review copy: Provided by the author. I also bought the e-book since it was released ahead of the Mass Market Paperback.

Cover and description:

Release Day Review: Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis - 4 Qwills
Stan Markowski is a Detective Sergeant on the Scranton PD's Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit.

Like the rest of America, Scranton's got an uneasy 'live and let unlive' relationship with the supernatural. But when a vamp puts the bite on an unwilling victim, or some witch casts the wrong kind of spell, that's when they call Markowski. He carries a badge. Also, a crucifix, some wooden stakes, a big vial of holy water, and a 9mm Beretta loaded with silver bullets.

File Under: Urban Fantasy [ Dial V For Vampire | Forbidden Spells | Bite Club | Scranton By Night ]

My thoughts:

Hard Spell is the first book in the Occult Crimes Unit Investigations series by Justin Gustainis. I've read a lot of books recently that include some sort of supernatural crime investigation unit - either with humans policing supernaturals, with supernaturals as police/law enforcement or both. I have not read anything quite like this.

While I am not an expert on noir, Hard Spell is definitely noirish. Stan Markowski, the main character, is fairly hard-boiled, he's got an air of desperation about him for a variety of reasons which become clear in the novel. The novel also pays homage in its way to Dragnet (a police procedural radio then TV show starring Jack Webb). I loved this element in the book. Essentially, however, this is an Urban Fantasy police procedural with noir elements. And it's a very good Urban Fantasy.

Hard Spell is set in an alternate Scranton, Pennsylvania, which I believe is a first. I learned some things from the book: Scranton is in an area of Pennsylvania called the Wyoming Valley. I also learned some slang indigenous to that area. Learning new things is always a plus for me in a book.

I like the main character Stan Markowski a lot. The story is told from his point of view. He's not a typical hero by any means. He's is a good cop though he stretches the rules here and there. His partner, Karl Renfer, makes a perfect foil for Stan. Stan and Karl work for the Occult and Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit, which is nicknamed the "SupeSquad." The police procedural elements are well done. You can tall that Mr. Gustainis did his homework, but he does not bog down the book with too many procedural details.

I really like some of the secondary characters in the book, even some of the creepy and scary ones. The SWAT team is really great. Read the book to find out what SWAT means in this instance.

This is a fast moving book with terrific pacing. Stan and Karl deal with several crimes while also trying to figure out the big mystery surrounding some interrelated crimes. The book moves towards the ultimate showdown while skillfully weaving together several intersecting plot lines. The ending surprised me a bit, but in a good way.

The language can be a bit coarse at times, but it suits the tone of the book. There are some moments that made me laugh and/or smile. For example, you reach the SupeSquad by dialing "666." That actually makes a lot of sense.

This is a very good start to a new series, and I'm looking forward to the next book.

I give Hard Spell 4 Qwills.

Release Day Review: Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis - 4 Qwills
Guest Blog by Justin Gustainis - Why I Like Occult Detectives - February 5, 2014Winners x  10 - August 7, 2011Interview with Justin Gustainis and Giveaway - July 29, 2011Release Day Review: Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis - 4 Qwills

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