The Qwillery | category: Michael Shou-Yung Shum


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Michael Shou-Yung Shum, author of Queen of Spades

Please welcome Michael Shou-Yung Shum to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Queen of Spades was published on October 10th by Forest Avenue Press.

Interview with Michael Shou-Yung Shum, author of Queen of Spades

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Michael:  I have been composing my own stories since I was a young child. I guess I've always felt compelled to write, although it is impossible to say why!

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Michael:  I definitely write by the seat of my pants. It comes from composing stories as a child, where you would begin a story and have no idea where it would lead.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Michael:  Coming up with an attractive form that interests me.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Michael:  Great writing and ideas by other writers--especially living with a great writer like Jaclyn Watterson to bounce ideas off.

TQDescribe Queen of Spades in 140 characters or less.

Michael:  The story behind the Strangest Hand Ever Dealt.

TQTell us something about Queen of Spades that is not found in the book description.

Michael:  It was originally started as a long short story or novelette, and not a novel.

TQWhat inspired you to write Queen of Spades? What appealed to you about Pushkin's Queen of Spades?

Michael:  Pushkin's "The Queen of Spades" is one of my favorite short stories--and one of the few stories that elevate gambling to a high art.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Queen of Spades?

Michael:  Although I didn't know it was research at the time, I spent over two years working as a poker dealer in a small cardroom in Lake Stevens, Washington, learning the ins and outs of what goes on behind the scenes.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Queen of Spades?

Michael:  The cover was designed by Forest Avenue's brilliant in-house designer, Gigi Little. She really hit it out of the park with this one!

TQIn Queen of Spades who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Michael:  The easiest was Barbara because she was the most fun to follow. The hardest was Chan because in many ways he began as a blank slate that I had to fill in along the way--even still, he remains something of a mystery to me.

TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Queen of Spades?

Michael:  I intentionally made all the traditional "power roles" filled by women. It might seem like a small thing, but it's a start to reconditioning (or deconditioning) our gender expectations.

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

Michael:  How would you like readers to be transformed by reading the novel? First, I hope the novel offers readers some consolation in very challenging and difficult times. Second, I hope readers become better persons in some small but not insignificant way. Finally, I hope reading the novel makes readers want to take some risks as a means of improving their life.

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

Michael:  Everything coheres with what comes before--and what comes after.

TQWhat's next?

Michael:  I am working on a novel-in-stories tentatively entitled Portmanteau.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Queen of Spades
Forest Avenue Press, October 10, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 256 pages

Interview with Michael Shou-Yung Shum, author of Queen of Spades
Queen of Spades revamps the classic Pushkin fable of the same name, transplanted to a mysterious Seattle-area casino populated by a pit boss with six months to live, a dealer obsessing over the mysterious methods of an elderly customer known as the Countess, and a recovering gambler who finds herself trapped in a cultish twelve-step program. With a breathtaking climax that rivals the best Hong Kong gambling movies, Michael Shou-Yung Shum’s debut novel delivers the thrilling highs and lows that come when we cede control of our futures to the roll of the dice and the turn of a card.

About Michael

Interview with Michael Shou-Yung Shum, author of Queen of Spades
Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Michael Shou-Yung Shum eventually found himself dealing poker in a dead-end casino in Lake Stevens, Washington. Two doctorates bookend this strange turn of events: the first in Psychology from Northwestern, and the second in English from University of Tennessee. Along the way, Michael spent a dozen years in Chicago, touring the country as a rave DJ. He currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia, with his spouse and three cats. Queen of Spades is his first novel.

Website  ~  Twitter @dr_shum

2017 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - October Debuts

2017 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - October Debuts

Each month you will be able to vote for your favorite cover from that month's debut novels. At the end of the year the 12 monthly winners will be pitted against each other to choose the 2017 Debut Novel Cover of the Year. Please note that a debut novel cover is eligible in the month in which the novel is published in the US. Cover artist/illustrator/designer information is provided when we have it.

I'm using PollCode for this vote. After you the check the circle next to your favorite, click "Vote" to record your vote. If you'd like to see the real-time results click "View". This will take you to the PollCode site where you may see the results. If you want to come back to The Qwillery click "Back" and you will return to this page. Voting will end sometime on October 31, 2017.

Vote for your favorite October 2017 Debut Cover! free polls

2017 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - October Debuts

2017 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - October Debuts
Jacket illustration - Martin Deschambault
Jacket design - Greg Stadnyk

2017 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - October Debuts
Cover design - Adam Auerbach
Cover art - photograph of cloaked figure &copy: Malgorzata Maj/
Arcangel Images; photograph of raven courtesy of 
Shutterstock Images

2017 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - October Debuts
Cover illustration - Steve Stone
Cover design - Lex Maudlin

2017 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - October Debuts

2017 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - October Debuts

2017 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - October Debuts

2017 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - October Debuts
Cover illustrations - Crystal Ben, Arcangel
Cover design - Lisa Marie Pompilio

2017 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - October Debuts
Cover art - Jaime Jones
Cover design - Jaime Stafford-Hill

2017 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - October Debuts
Cover art and design - John Coulthart

2017 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - October Debuts

The View From Monday - October 9, 2017

Happy Monday!

There is one debut this week:

Queen of Spades by Michael Shou-Yung Shum.

The View From Monday - October 9, 2017
Clicking on a novel's cover will take you to its Amazon page.

From formerly featured DAC Authors:

Live in London (Bookburners Season 3 #13) by Max Gladstone;

Himself by Jess Kidd is out in Trade Paperback;


(ID)entity (Phoenix Horizon 2) by PJ Manney.

The View From Monday - October 9, 2017The View From Monday - October 9, 2017
The View From Monday - October 9, 2017
Clicking on a novel's cover will take you to its Amazon page.

The View From Monday - October 9, 2017

Debut novels are highlighted in blue. Novels, etc. by formerly featured DAC Authors are highlighted in green.

October 8, 2017
Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy Lucas K. Law (Ed)
Derwin Mak (Ed)
SF/F - Anthology

October 10, 2017
Midnight Unleashed Lara Adrian PNR - A Midnight Breed Novella
The Power Naomi Alderman SF/AP/PA
The Stone in the Skull Elizabeth Bear F - The Lotus Kingdoms 1
Blockbuster Science: The Real Science in Science Fiction David Siegel Bernstein Sc/Phil/SF
The Tufa Collection: (The Hum and the Shiver, Wisp of a Thing, Long Black Curl, Chapel of Ease, Gather Her Round, “Shall We Gather,” “The Two Weddings of Bronwyn Hyatt”) (e) Alex Bledsoe CF - Tufa Novels
Assassin's Creed Origins: Desert Oath Oliver Bowden MTI - Assassin's Creed
Death Overdue Allison Brook PCM - Haunted Library Mystery 1
Children of the Fleet Orson Scott Card SF/SO - Fleet School 1
A Long Day in Lychford Paul Cornell CF/UF - Witches of Lychford 3
To Guard Against the Dark Julie E. Czerneda SF/SO - Reunification 3
Marvel The Tales of Asgard Trilogy Keith R.A. DeCandido F - Tales of Asgard Trilogy
The Book of Swords Gardner Dozois (Ed) F - Anthology
Ironfoot Dave Duncan HistF/DF - Enchanter General 1
Tarry This Night Kristyn Dunnion Dys/LF
The Malazan Empire Series: (Night of Knives, Return of the Crimson Guard, Stonewielder, Orb Sceptre Throne, Blood and Bone, Assail) (e) Ian C. Esslemont F - Novels of the Malazan Empire
The Runelords Series: (The Runelords, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Wizardborn, The Lair of Bones, Sons of the Oak, Worldbinder, The Wyrmling Horde, Chaosbound) (e) David Farland F - Runelords
A Dragon Age Collection: (Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne, Dragon Age: The Calling, Dragon Age: Asunder, Dragon Age: The Masked Empire, Dragon Age: Last Flight) (e) David Gaider
Patrick Weekes
Liane Merciel
F - Dragon Age
The Iliac Crest Cristina Rivera Garza
Sarah Booker (Tr)
An Orchard in the Street Reginald Gibbons LF/VM - Collection
The Princess Bride Deluxe Edition HC: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure William Goldman F
Shattered Legions Laurie Goulding (Ed) SF - Horus Heresy Anthology
Undeniable Tom Grace TechTh/SF/GenEng - Nolan Kilkenny 6
Halloween Carnival Volume 2 (e) Brian James Freeman (Ed) H - Anthology
The Rules of Magic Alice Hoffman LF
Dark Tales Shirley Jackson H/SupTh/Gothic - Collection
Entropy in Bloom: Stories (h2tp) Jeremy Robert Johnson H/F/Occ/Sup - Collection
The Mammoth Book of Vampire Stories by Women Stephen Jones (Ed) H/PNR/F/DF - Anthology
Calgar's Fury Paul Kearney SF - Warhammer 40,000
Himself (h2tp) Jess Kidd LF
Oracle Bone Lydia Kwa Hist/GH/MR
The Best of Richard Matheson Victor LaValle (Ed) SF/H/F - Collection
Reimagining Lovecraft: The Novellas (e) Victor LaValle
Kij Johnson
Cassandra Khaw
Caitlin R. Kiernan
DF/H - Anthology
Swords and Deviltry (ri) Fritz Leiber F
The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures Aaron Mahnke Folklore/M/SocHis
Ghosts of Empire George Mann SF/SP - Ghost 4
(ID)entity PJ Manney TechTh - Phoenix Horizon 2
Volk: A Novel of Radiant Abomination David Nickle H/Dys/F/DF/Occ/Sup
The Skeleton Paints a Picture Leigh Perry PCM - A Family Skeleton Mystery 4
The Fissure King: A Novel in Five Stories Rachel Pollack F/CF
Queen of Spades (D) Michael Shou-Yung Shum LF/MR/Th
The Sea Peoples S. M. Stirling SF/AP/PA/AH/F - A Novel of the Change 14
Lorgar: Bearer of the Word Gav Thorpe SF - The Horus Heresy: Primarchs 5
Cursed Sue Tingey PNR - The Soulseer Chronicles 2
Ocean's Fire Stacey Tucker CF/FR/FairyT/FolkT/LM - Equal Night Trilogy 1
Honor Among Enemies, Limited Leatherbound Edition David Weber SF - Honor Harrington 6
A Lot Like Christmas: Stories Connie Willis F - Collection

October 11, 2017
Live in London (e) Max Gladstone UF/M - Bookburners Season 3 #13

October 13, 2017
John Silence--Physician Extraordinary / The Wave Algernon Blackwood H
Strange Is the Night S.P. Miskowski H - Collection

D - Debut
e - eBook
Ed - Editor
h2mm - Hardcover to Mass Market Paperback
h2tp - Hardcover to Trade Paperback
Illus - Illustrator
ri - reissue or reprint
tp2mm - Trade to Mass Market Paperback
Tr - Translator

AC - Alien Contact
AH - Alternate History
AP - Apocalyptic
CB - Coloring Book
CF - Contemporary Fantasy
CoA - Coming of Age
CW - Contemporary Women
DF - Dark Fantasy
Dys - Dystopian
F - Fantasy
FairyT - Fairy Tales
Fem - Feminist
FL - Family Life
Folklore - Folklore
FolkT - Folk Tales
FR - Fantasy Romance
GenEng - Genetic Engineering
GH - Ghost(s)
Gothic - Gothic
H - Horror
HC - History and Criticism
Hist - Historical
HistF - Historical Fantasy
HU - Humor
LF - Literary Fiction
LM - Legends and Mythology
M - Mystery
MF - Military Fantasy
MR - Magical Realism
MTI - Media Tie-In
Noir - Noir
Occ - Occult
P - Paranormal
PA - Post Apocalyptic
PerfArts - Performing Arts
PCM - Paranormal Cozy Mystery
Phil - Philosophy
PM - Paranormal Mystery
PNR - Paranormal Romance
Psy - Psychological
PsyTh - Psychological Thriller
R - Romance
Sc - Science
SH -Superheroes
SF - Science Fiction
SFR - Science Fiction Romance
SO - Space Opera
SocHis - Social History
SpecFic - Speculative Fiction
Sup - Supernatural
SupM - Supernatural Mystery
SupTh - Supernatural Thriller
TechTh - Technological Thriller
Th - Thriller
TT - Time Travel
UF - Urban Fantasy
UFR - Urban Fantasy Romance
VM - Visionary and Metaphysical

Note: Not all genres and formats are found in the books, etc. listed above.

2017 Debut Author Challenge - October Debuts

2017 Debut Author Challenge - October Debuts

There are 12 debut novels for October.

Please note that we use the publisher's publication date in the United States, not copyright dates or non-US publication dates.

The October debut authors and their novels are listed in alphabetical order by author (not book title or publication date). Take a good look at the covers. Voting for your favorite October cover for the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars will take place starting on October 15, 2017.

If you are participating as a reader in the Challenge, please let us know in the comments what you are thinking of reading or email us at "DAC . TheQwillery @ gmail . com" (remove the spaces and quotation marks). Please note that we list all debuts for the month (of which we are aware), but not all of these authors will be 2017 Debut Author Challenge featured authors. However, any of these novels may be read by Challenge readers to meet the goal for October 2017 The list is correct as of the day posted.

Updated to include Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng.
Updated to include Court of Twilight by Mareth Griffith.

Melissa Caruso

The Tethered Mage
Swords and Fire 1
Orbit, October 24, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 480 pages
     Epic Fantasy

2017 Debut Author Challenge - October Debuts
In the Raverran Empire, magic is scarce and those born with power are strictly controlled — taken as children and conscripted into the Falcon Army.

Zaira has lived her life on the streets to avoid this fate, hiding her mage-mark and thieving to survive. But hers is a rare and dangerous magic, one that threatens the entire empire.

Lady Amalia Cornaro was never meant to be a Falconer. Heiress and scholar, she was born into a treacherous world of political machinations.

But fate has bound the heir and the mage. And as war looms on the horizon, a single spark could turn their city into a pyre.

The Tethered Mage is the first novel in a spellbinding new fantasy series.

Mareth Griffith

Court of Twilight
Parvus Press LLC, October 17, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 342 pages
     Contemporary Fantasy

2017 Debut Author Challenge - October Debuts
Explore the hidden world of ancient magic within modern Dublin.

Six months ago, Ivy stumbled into the deal of a lifetime – great rent in a posh Dublin neighborhood and a flatmate, Demi, who was only a little weird. It didn’t matter that their flat is packed with exotic plants or that her flatmate does all her shopping on-line but refuses to meet the delivery man at the door?

Now, though, Demi’s gone missing, there are strange men hiding in the flower boxes, and a lot of strangers have suddenly taken interest in the whereabouts of her peculiar flatmate. When the police won’t help, Ivy knows she’s going to have to solve this mystery on her own.

Ivy dives headfirst into a secret Dublin, hidden in plain sight, and discovers that the longer she stays in, the more she risks losing the world she always knew. Can she save Demi without losing herself?

Ausma Zehanat Khan

The Bloodprint
The Khorasan Archives
Harper Voyager, October 3, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 448 pages
     Epic Fantasy

2017 Debut Author Challenge - October Debuts
The author of the acclaimed mystery The Unquiet Dead delivers her first fantasy novel—the opening installment in a thrilling quartet—a tale of religion, oppression, and political intrigue that radiates with heroism, wonder, and hope.

A dark power called the Talisman, born of ignorance and persecution, has risen in the land. Led by a man known only as the One-Eyed Preacher, it is a cruel and terrifying movement bent on world domination—a superstitious patriarchy that suppresses knowledge and subjugates women. And it is growing.

But there are those who fight the Talisman’s spread, including the Companions of Hira, a diverse group of influential women whose power derives from the Claim—the magic inherent in the words of a sacred scripture. Foremost among them is Arian and her fellow warrior, Sinnia, skilled fighters who are knowledgeable in the Claim. This daring pair have long stalked Talisman slave-chains, searching for clues and weapons to help them battle their enemy’s oppressive ways. Now they may have discovered a miraculous symbol of hope that can destroy the One-Eyed Preacher and his fervid followers: the Bloodprint, a dangerous text the Talisman has tried to erase from the world.

Finding the Bloodprint promises to be their most perilous undertaking yet, an arduous journey that will lead them deep into Talisman territory. Though they will be helped by allies—a loyal boy they freed from slavery and a man that used to be both Arian’s confidant and sword master—Arian and Sinnia know that this mission may well be their last.

Martin MacInnes

Infinite Ground
Melville House, October 17, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 272 pages
     Psychological, Literary Fiction

2017 Debut Author Challenge - October Debuts
On a sweltering summer night at a restaurant in an unnamed Latin American city, a man at a family dinner gets up from the table to go to the restroom . . . and never comes back. He was acting normal, say family members. None of the waiters or other customers saw him leave.

A semi-retired detective takes the case, but what should be a routine investigation becomes something strange, intangible, even sinister. The corporation for which the missing man worked seems to be a front for something else; the staff describes their colleague as having suffered alarming, shifting physical symptoms; a forensic scientist examining his office uncovers evidence of curious microorganisms.

As the detective relives and retraces the man’s footsteps, the trail leads him away from the city sprawl and deep into the country’s rainforest interior . . . where, amidst the overwhelming horrors and wonders of the natural world, a chilling police procedural explodes into a dislocating investigation into the nature of reality.

Ed McDonald

Raven's Mark 1
Ace, October 3, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook 368 pages
     Dark Fantasy

2017 Debut Author Challenge - October Debuts
“A remarkably assured fantasy debut that mixes of the inventiveness of China Miéville with the fast paced heroics of David Gemmell.”—Anthony Ryan, New York Times bestselling author of The Legion of Flame

Set on a postapocalyptic frontier, Blackwing is a gritty fantasy debut about a man’s desperate battle to survive his own dark destiny…

Hope, reason, humanity: the Misery breaks them all.

Under its cracked and wailing sky, the Misery is a vast and blighted expanse, the arcane remnant of a devastating war with the immortals known as the Deep Kings. The war ended nearly a century ago, and the enemy is kept at bay only by the existence of the Engine, a terrible weapon that protects the Misery’s border. Across the corrupted no-man’s-land teeming with twisted magic and malevolent wraiths, the Deep Kings and their armies bide their time. Watching. Waiting.

Bounty hunter Ryhalt Galharrow has breathed Misery dust for twenty bitter years. When he’s ordered to locate a masked noblewoman at a frontier outpost, he finds himself caught in the middle of an attack by the Deep Kings, one that signifies they may no longer fear the Engine. Only a formidable show of power from the very woman he is seeking, Lady Ezabeth Tanza, repels the assault.

Ezabeth is a shadow from Galharrow’s grim past, and together they stumble onto a web of conspiracy that threatens to end the fragile peace the Engine has provided. Galharrow is not ready for the truth about the blood he’s spilled or the gods he’s supposed to serve…

Jeannette Ng

Under the Pendulum Sun
Angry Robot Books, October 3, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 416 pages
    Fantasy, Dark Fantasy
    Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology

2017 Debut Author Challenge - October Debuts
Victorian missionaries travel into the heart of the newly discovered lands of the Fae, in a stunningly different fantasy that mixes Crimson Peak with Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

Catherine Helstone’s brother, Laon, has disappeared in Arcadia, legendary land of the magical fae. Desperate for news of him, she makes the perilous journey, but once there, she finds herself alone and isolated in the sinister house of Gethsemane. At last there comes news: her beloved brother is riding to be reunited with her soon – but the Queen of the Fae and her insane court are hard on his heels.

File Under: Fantasy [ In Arcadia | Seek and Hide | The Queen of Moths | Lands of the Damned ]

K Arsenault Rivera

The Tiger's Daughter
Their Bright Ascendency 1
Tor Books, October 3, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 528 pages
     Epic Fantasy, Historical Fantasy

2017 Debut Author Challenge - October Debuts
"Rich, expansive, and grounded in human truth...simply exquisite.” —V. E. Schwab, New York Times bestselling author of the Shades of Magic series

K Arsenault Rivera's debut, The Tiger's Daughter, the beginning of a new epic fantasy trilogy

Even gods can be slain

The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach—but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests.

Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons.

This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.

A crack in the wall heralds the end…two goddesses arm themselves…K Arsenault Rivera's The Tiger’s Daughter is an adventure for the ages.

Adam Rothstein

Orthogonal Procedures
Arche Press, October 3, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 280 pages
     Science Fiction, Time Travel

2017 Debut Author Challenge - October Debuts
Everything you are about to read is true. Mostly.

After US Postmaster Theodore Roosevelt showed the Nazis who was boss in 1942, the Postal Bureau--part of the Department of Transportation--ushered in an era of scientific marvels: simulcast via satellite, sub-orbital transnational flights, dazzle pistols, and electromagnetic driverless cars. However, long-simmering feuds between the Shamans of Commerce and the Wizards of Technology were not forgotten, and it isn't until the age of Sputnik and the Space Race that the secret organizations buried deep within the US Weather Service and Census Bureau make their move against the Department of Transportation. To regain control of the Administration, they'll need to rely on older—more esoteric—technologies: astrology, blood rituals, and strange creatures long thought extinct.

It's up to G-man Fred Mackey of the Electromagnetic Bureau, Domestic Interference Engineering Section, to figure out how to science America back on track. With the assistance of the enigmatic Assistant Secretary for Innovation and the world's leading specialist in rocket science and all-around occultnik, Mackey tackles the byzantine bureaucracy of a vast government conspiracy that extends from deep space to deep beneath the earth.

Welcome to 1970. This is the history you were never taught . . .

Michael Shou-Yung Shum

Queen of Spades
Forest Avenue Press, October 10, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 256 pages
     Literary Fiction, Magical Realism, Suspense, Thrillers

2017 Debut Author Challenge - October Debuts
Queen of Spades revamps the classic Pushkin fable of the same name, transplanted to a mysterious Seattle-area casino populated by a pit boss with six months to live, a dealer obsessing over the mysterious methods of an elderly customer known as the Countess, and a recovering gambler who finds herself trapped in a cultish twelve-step program. With a breathtaking climax that rivals the best Hong Kong gambling movies, Michael Shou-Yung Shum’s debut novel delivers the thrilling highs and lows that come when we cede control of our futures to the roll of the dice and the turn of a card.

Rivers Solomon

An Unkindness of Ghosts
Akashic Books, October 3, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 340 9ages
     Science Fiction, Space Opera, Literary Fiction,
     African American, Apocalyptic, Post-Apocalyptic

2017 Debut Author Challenge - October Debuts
Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She’s used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. If she were truly a monster, she’d be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remains of her world.

Aster lives in the lowdeck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship’s leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer, Aster learns there may be a way to improve her lot—if she’s willing to sow the seeds of civil war.

R. E. Stearns

Barbary Station
Saga Press, October 31, 2017
Trade Paperback, Hardcover, and eBook, 448 pages
     Science Fiction, Space Opera

2017 Debut Author Challenge - October Debuts
Two engineers hijack a spaceship to join some space pirates—only to discover the pirates are hiding from a malevolent AI. Now they have to outwit the AI if they want to join the pirate crew—and survive long enough to enjoy it.

Adda and Iridian are newly minted engineers, but aren’t able to find any work in a solar system ruined by economic collapse after an interplanetary war. Desperate for employment, they hijack a colony ship and plan to join a famed pirate crew living in luxury at Barbary Station, an abandoned shipbreaking station in deep space.

But when they arrive there, nothing is as expected. The pirates aren’t living in luxury—they’re hiding in a makeshift base welded onto the station’s exterior hull. The artificial intelligence controlling the station’s security system has gone mad, trying to kill all station residents and shooting down any ship that attempts to leave—so there’s no way out.

Adda and Iridian have one chance to earn a place on the pirate crew: destroy the artificial intelligence. The last engineer who went up against the AI met an untimely end, and the pirates are taking bets on how the newcomers will die. But Adda and Iridian plan to beat the odds.

There’s a glorious future in piracy…if only they can survive long enough.

Sandi Ward

The Astonishing Thing
Kensington, October 31, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
     Family Life, Contemporary Women,
     Literary Fiction

2017 Debut Author Challenge - October Debuts
In her inventive, sometimes bittersweet, ultimately uplifting debut, Sandi Ward draws readers into one extraordinary cat’s quest to make sense of her world, illuminating the limits and mysterious depths of love . . .

Pet owners know that a cat’s loyalty is not easily earned. Boo, a resourceful young feline with a keen eye and inquiring mind, has nonetheless grown intensely devoted to her human companion, Carrie. Several days ago, Carrie—or Mother, as Boo calls her—suddenly went away, leaving her family, including Boo, in disarray. Carrie’s husband, Tommy, is distant and distracted even as he does his best to care for Boo’s human siblings, especially baby Finn.

Boo worries about who will fill her food dish, and provide a warm lap to nestle into. More pressing still, she’s trying to uncover the complicated truth about why Carrie left. Though frequently mystified by human behavior, Boo is sure that Carrie once cared passionately for Tommy and adores her children, even the non-feline ones. But she also sees it may not be enough to make things right. Perhaps only a cat—a wise, observant, very determined cat—can do that . . .

Wonderfully tender and insightful, The Astonishing Thing explores the intricacies of marriage and family through an unforgettable perspective at the center of it all.

Interview with Michael Shou-Yung Shum, author of Queen of Spades2017 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - October DebutsThe View From Monday - October 9, 20172017 Debut Author Challenge - October Debuts

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