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A blog about books and other things speculative

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Interview with Betsy Dornbusch - April 9, 2015


Please welcome Betsy Dornbusch to The Qwillery. Emissary, the 2nd Seven Eyes novel, was published by Night Shade Books on April 7th.



Interview with Betsy Dornbusch - April 9, 2015




TQ:  Welcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel, Emissary (Seven Eyes, book 2), was/is published on April 7th. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote Exile (2013) to Emissary? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Betsy:  I actually wrote Exile ten years ago as a trunk novel to give myself some rein on exploring tropes and character and the epic fantasy genre. Then, when I mentioned it to the Night Shade editor years later, he said he’d like to see it. So writing Exile was a fairly no-pressure game.

Emissary was the first book I wrote that was sold ahead of writing, and we had some awkward things like the Night Shade sale happen in the middle of it. I had to ask for a significant extension on my delivery date. It was a slog at times but it helped that I like the story, and found taking Draken into his previous country and the world building intriguing.

As for my writing now that Emissary is released to the wild, it’s the settling down and just doing it. There are always promo duties, conventions to plan for, Electric Spec slush to read, and with two teenagers in the house, things stay kind of crazy. I usually have a list of about ten things per day. I’ve never been a very regimented person so daily word counts don’t work for me. I somehow tend to get it in though. I do get pretty crabby when I don’t write, my family says.



TQ:  What do you wish that you knew about book publishing when Exile came out that you know now?

Betsy:  Make allies of your convention hotel bartenders. The bars get so crowded and they will totally let you cut the line later if you’re friendly and generous.

Also, I write to sell now, so I start with a tag line for books. Then I write a query. Then I write a synopsis. The planning keeps me calm enough to write. I have far fewer freak outs over what happens next, which means fewer delays in writing, and I write cleaner now, so my revisions aren’t as tough. My first published novel I basically drafted twice. Never. Again.



TQ:  Tell us something about Emissary that is not in the book description.

Betsy:  Draken and his friends spend quite a bit of time aboard ships on the open sea. All mistakes are mine. Really though, I grew up in a sailing family, so other than working out logistics and strategies during battles, the sights, sounds, and smells are pretty familiar to me.



TQ:  Which character in the Seven Eyes series (so far) surprised you the most? Who has been the hardest character to write and why?

Betsy:  Aarinnaie always surprises me. When I first wrote her as an assassin who attempts to kill the Queen, I had no idea how important she’d become to Draken. Since then, she’s become such a fun character to write. She’s complicated and tough and angsty. She accepts Draken’s love and help and is affectionate without getting wimpy about it. She and Draken have a ton of chemistry and she saves his arse more than once, too. To me the story just lights up whenever she’s on the page, and all without any romance!

Queen Elena has always been my toughest, most enigmatic character. Not a sharer, that one. Plus, in Emissary, she is seven months pregnant.

Let me tell a little story. When I was hugely pregnant with our daughter, I drove somewhere and was listening to Oingo Boingo really loud. When I rolled out of the driver’s seat and waddled across the parking lot, the kid collecting carts stared at me and said, “That was you?”

Well. Yeah. Most women don’t put their lives on hold when they’re pregnant. Music still plays on the radio. War still comes. Nations need to be run. Elena is cranky, uncomfortable, and stressed, and Draken isn’t always very understanding. He also has trouble disagreeing with her; she outranks him. There’s the subtext of power struggle, insecurity, and doubt. Much goes unsaid between them. I hope it’s interesting to readers; it is to me. But the two of them can be a bitch to write when they’re together.



TQ:  What appeals to you about writing Fantasy? In your opinion, should Fantasy novels be simply entertaining or should they make us think too?

Betsy:  Ah, the old Obligation vs Opportunity discussion. I land squarely on the side of Opportunity—writers have the Opportunity to examine society and the human condition, to explore diversity, and give lots of different kinds of readers characters to identify with. I’m against writers being Obligated to explore certain themes or include diverse casts.

That said, I often explore diversity and write female characters with agency, and I enjoy books that do the same. I like making social commentary cushioned in secondary worlds, but I use a light hand. I play with social mores, and put my characters on the spot. For instance, Draken learns of some off-screen homosexuality that makes him uncomfortable, and prejudice and religion are major themes through the series, but he doesn’t really stop to analyze it. I try to let him work through these issues and come to acceptance organically as he learns and grows. Sometimes he fails.

There’s no rulebook to theme in fantasy (or if there isn’t I don’t have a copy). But there are still things to say about loyalty and friendship and heroics, of doing the right thing against dealer’s odds. Those are valuable and timeless themes.



TQ:  Please give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Emissary.

Betsy
            “You’ll make quite the cradle tale when it all comes out,” Tyrolean said.
            Draken shook his head and drank deeply of his ale, hiding his relief at Tyrolean’s acceptance of his sordid past. “That’d be of more comfort if cradle tales weren’t so often about the dead.”


TQ:  What's next?

Betsy:  I’m working on Enemy, the final book of the Seven Eyes. It’s quite a ride, actually. I’ll be sad to put Draken away at the end, but I’ll have been writing him for longer than a decade and it’s time to move onto something else, and I’ve a new fantasy series in the planning stages.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Betsy:  Thanks for having me!!





Emissary
Seven Eyes 2
Night Shade Books, April 7, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 360 pages

Interview with Betsy Dornbusch - April 9, 2015
Once an exile. Now a king returning to the land that cast him out.

Draken vae Khellian, bastard cousin of the Monoean King, had risen far from his ignominious origins, becoming both a Bowrank Commander and a member of the Crown’s Black Guard. But when cursed black magic took his wife and his honor away, he fought past his own despair and grief, and carved out a new life in Akrasia. His bloody, unlikely path, chronicled in Exile, led him to a new love, and a throne.

Draken has seen too much blood . . . the blood of friends and of enemies alike. Peace is what he wants. Now he must leave his wife and newborn child in an attempt to forge an uneasy peace between the Monoean King and thekingdomofAkrasia. The long bloody shadow of Akrasia’s violent past hangs over his efforts like a shroud. But there are other forces at work. Peace is not something everybody wants . . . not even in the seemingly straightforward kingdom of Draken’s birth.

Factions both known and unknown to Draken vie to undermine his efforts and throw the kingdom into civil war. Forces from his days in the Black Guard prove to be the most enigmatic, and a bloody tide threatens to engulf Draken’s every step.





Previously

Exile
Seven Eyes 1
Night Shade Books, February 5, 2013
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Betsy Dornbusch - April 9, 2015
Draken vae Khellian, bastard cousin of the Monoean King, had risen far from his ignominious origins, becoming both a Bowrank Commander and a member of the Crown’s Black Guard. But when he is falsely condemned for the grisly murder of his beloved wife, he is banished from the kingdom and cast upon the distant shore of Akrasia, at the arse-end of the world.

Compared to civilized Monoea, Akrasia is a forbidding land of Moonlings, magic, and restless spirits. It is also a realm on the brink of a bloody revolution, as a sinister conspiracy plots against Akrasia’s embattled young queen–and malevolent banes possess the bodies of the living.

Consumed by grief, and branded a murderer, Draken lives only to clear his name and avenge his wife’s murder. But the fates may have bigger plans for him. Alone in a strange land, he soon finds himself sharing the bed of an enigmatic necromancer and a half-breed servant girl, while pressed into the service of a foreign queen whose life and land may well depend on the divided loyalties of an exiled warrior . . .

Exile is the beginning of an ambitious fantasy saga by an acclaimed new author.





About Betsy

Interview with Betsy Dornbusch - April 9, 2015
Betsy Dornbusch is the author of a dozen short stories, three novellas, and three novels. She also is an editor with the speculative fiction magazine Electric Spec and the longtime proprietress of Sex Scenes at Starbucks.







Website
Twitter @betsydornbusch

Interview with John Love and Excerpt from Evensong - February 26, 2015


Please welcome John Love to The Qwillery. Evensong, John's most recent novel, was published in January 2015 by Night Shade Books.



Interview with John Love and Excerpt from Evensong - February 26, 2015




TQ:  Welcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel, Evensong, was published on January 6th. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote Faith (2012) to Evensong?

John:  Thank you for inviting me, it’s nice to be back.

In my last interview, I said that when I’m writing I like to have a glass of malt whisky, and a cat, within easy reach. That bit hasn’t changed.

The style of writing is a bit different from Faith, my first novel. Evensong’s style is a bit plainer and sparser, and more suited to that of a thriller. There are one or two purple patches, but overall it’s less flamboyant than Faith; deliberately so.



TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing now?

John:  The challenge is to get readers to give positive answers to these three questions:
  1. Did you want to turn the page and find out what happens next?
  2. Did you care about the characters? (Not Did you like them? Characters don’t have to be nice to be believable and complex and make you want to know what happens to them.)
  3. Did you think the book tried to be original and different? If you didn’t, what other book or books did you think it most resembled?
For me, the first question is the most important. I’m always asking, Is this page enough to make a reader want to turn to the next page?



TQ:  What do you wish that you knew about book publishing when Faith came out that you know now?

John:  Publicity. I always felt Faith got less than it deserved, partly because of my own inexperience at pushing the publishers and partly because of the internal problems in Nightshade at the time.



TQ:  Tell us something about Evensong that is not in the book description.

John:  Some of the reviews and reader responses have described Evensong’s universe as being dark and twisted, which I wouldn’t deny. But it’s not entirely dark and twisted. Some interesting technologies have started to answer (not completely, but partially) the questions of long-term clean energy supply. And fundamentalism, both religious and political, has been marginalised – again, not completely, but partially. The book’s universe is ambiguous and menacing, but there are also the elements of a kind of Enlightenment springing up here and there. I was tempted to go down that road a bit more, but I decided it would be outside the scope of the book.



TQ:  Which character in the Evensong surprised you the most? Who has been the hardest character to write and why?

John:  Laurens Rafiq, the Controller-General of the UN, was the most surprising. He’s the spider at the centre of all the world’s webs (I wish I’d thought of that phrase when I was writing the book!) so I thought he’d just be pure unalloyed cynicism coupled with labyrinthine cunning. But I realised that although he had to have those qualities he also needed to have something good buried in there as well, otherwise he wouldn’t have worked.

Gaetano was the hardest, because he’s a character like Anwar, and he resents him but has to work with him. I had to be careful to get the balance right.

You didn’t ask me which character was my favourite, but I’d like to tell you anyway: the Ginger Cat.



TQ:  Please give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Evensong.

John:  This is where Anwar and Olivia, the two main characters, meet for the first time.

         ‘When he first saw her she was at the top of a stepladder, scooping a dead fish out of a floor-to-ceiling ornamental tank at the far end of the Boardroom. She had her back to him. Her bottom was wobbling interestingly under a long voluminous velvet skirt.
         “Sorry”, she said without turning round, “I’ll be right with you. I just noticed one of these angelfish had died.”
         “Do they die very often?”
         “No, only once.” ’



TQ:  Both Faith and Evensong are SF with the former being Space Opera/Military SF and Evensong being called a near future thriller (by your publisher). Other than being SF and having titles that have religious connotations, what do the two novels have in common? Do they address similar themes? Should SF address big themes?

John:  There is something I once wrote in a post for the “Night Bazaar” website run by Nightshade, when Faith was first published:

“If Faith has any political resonances, they’re at best oblique. But I hope it has some other resonances. About identity and free will: what makes us what we are, and what makes us what we do. About love and friendship: what forces bring us together, or keep us apart, and why we don’t recognise them. And about the absence of simple good and evil: the complexities which make each of them part of each other.”

Evensong is a near-future political thriller, so it does have some clear political resonances where Faith doesn’t; but the rest of that paragraph could apply to Evensong as much as to Faith.

So, to answer your last question, yes, absolutely. Big themes are as much fair game for SF as for any other genre.


TQ:  Which question about Evensong do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

John:  That’s a nice question. I think I’d like someone to ask how I came to think of Evensong. It was quite an unusual process, and I love regaling (or boring) people with it. Now it’s your turn.

My wife and I went to an Evensong service in Rochester Cathedral in Kent. It was a beautiful summer evening and afterwards everybody went out into the Cathedral precincts where some tables had been set out for coffee. Halfway through my coffee I had this idea of a similar setting, where an unidentified woman comes to the Evensong service but doesn’t stop for coffee afterwards. She hurries away. She’s been to several previous Evensongs and has always hurried away afterwards. Who she is, and why she comes there, is her back story which begins nearly a year earlier.

What is so unusual is that I’d got the whole of her back story, and the whole construction of the book, in less time than it took to swallow a mouthful of coffee. There was no blinding flash or feeling of revelation, but the whole book had sprung out fully formed – main plot, sub-plots, main characters, minor characters, settings, everything. I could see it in three dimensions, could (metaphorically) walk round it and study it from every angle, and it worked. It all hung together.

When I came to write it there was almost nothing, major or minor, which was changed.



TQ:  What's next?

John:  I’m writing a fantasy novel. It doesn’t have any orcs, elves, dragons, sorcerers or dark malign gods, only people. But “fantasy” is probably the most convenient shorthand description because it’s set in a completely imaginary world at the same approximate level of development as ancient Greece or Rome. It even has a map.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

John:  Thank you for asking me back, and thank you for your interest in my book.





Evensong
Night Shade Books, January 6, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Interview with John Love and Excerpt from Evensong - February 26, 2015
A near-future thriller where those who protect humanity are not always completely human.

The future is a dangerous place. Keeping the world stable and peaceful when competing corporate interests and nation-states battle for power, wealth, and prestige has only gotten harder over the years. But that’s the United Nations’ job. So the UN has changed along with the rest of the world. When the UN’s “soft” diplomacy fails, it has harder options. Quiet, scalpel-like options: The Dead—biologically enhanced secret operatives created by the UN to solve the problems no one else can.

Anwar Abbas is one of The Dead. When the Controller-General of the UN asks him to perform a simple bodyguard mission, he’s insulted and resentful: mere bodyguard work is a waste of his unique abilities. But he takes the job, because to refuse it would be unthinkable.

Anwar is asked to protect Olivia del Sarto, the host of an important upcoming UN conference. Olivia is head of the world’s fastest-growing church, but in her rise to power she has made enemies:  shadowy enemies with apparently limitless resources.

Anwar is one of the deadliest people on earth, but her enemies have something which kills people like him. And they’ve sent it for her. It’s out there, unstoppable and untraceable, getting closer as the conference approaches.

As he and Olivia ignite a torrid affair, Anwar must uncover the conspiracy that threatens to destroy her, the UN, and even The Dead.





About John

Interview with John Love and Excerpt from Evensong - February 26, 2015
Photo by Gemma Shaw
John Love spent most of his working life in the music industry. He was Managing Director of PPL, the world’s largest record industry copyright organization. He also ran Ocean, a large music venue in Hackney, East London.

He lives just outside London in north-west Kent with his wife and cats (currently two, but they have had as many as six). They have two grown-up children.

Apart from his family, London and cats, his favorite things include books and book collecting, cars and driving, football and Tottenham Hotspur, old movies and music. Science fiction books were among the first he can remember reading, and he thinks they will probably be among the last.


Website







Excerpt

Chapter One

         Anwar sat in a formal garden in northern Malaysia on a pleasant September afternoon, reading. The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on…He liked FitzGerald’s translation of Omar Khayyam, but felt it took liberties with the text; he preferred the original, in the cadences of twelfth-century Persian.
         It was 4:00 p.m.: time. He closed the book and retreated back under the roof of his verandah, just as the afternoon rain began with its usual promptness and intensity. While he watched it he performed one of his standard exercises: using the fingers of his right hand to break, one by one, the fingers of his left hand. The core of the exercise was not to blank out the pain—though his abilities were such that he could have done that, too—but to feel the pain and still not react to it, either by noise or by movement, as each finger was bent back beyond the vertical and snapped. It was a familiar exercise and he finished it satisfactorily.
         The rain stopped, as promptly and suddenly as it had begun. He leaned back, breathing in the scent of wet leaves and grass. A brief gust of wind shook rain from the trees, so that it sounded, for a few seconds, like another downpour beginning. He cupped his right hand round his left, easing his fingers back to their normal position, and waited for the bones to set and regenerate; it would take about an hour.

         It was not unheard-of for a VSTOL from the UN to land on the formal lawn at the centre of his garden, but it was not something which happened often. This was one of their latest, silent and silvered and almost alien. A door melted open in its side and a dark-haired young woman got out and walked across the lawn towards Anwar. She was Arden Bierce, one of Rafiq’s personal staff, and they smiled a greeting at each other.
         “Rafiq wants you.” She handed him a letter. He studied Rafiq’s neat italic handwriting, not unlike his own, and the courteously phrased request and personal signature. When Rafiq made this kind of request, he did so by pen and ink and personal meeting. Never remotely, and never electronically.
         “I should go now.” He was telling her, not asking her. She nodded and turned back to the waiting VSTOL. Anwar Abbas stood up, stretched, and walked after her. He was as powerful as a tiger, as quiet as the flame of a candle.
         Offer and Acceptance. The VSTOL would take him south to the UN complex outside Kuala Lumpur, where Laurens Rafiq, the Controller-General, would formally offer him a mission and request his acceptance. Anwar Abbas had received such requests before from Rafiq, but this one would be different. It would lead him to two people, one of them his beginning and the other his end.

Chapter Two

         Anwar liked the VSTOL, almost to the point of kinship; it was quiet, did exactly what it was supposed to do, and did it supremely well. It was even superior to America’s Area 51 planes, and their Chinese and European equivalents.
         There was a growing concern in some quarters that the UN was developing better hardware than its members. Another example, Anwar reflected, of the Rafiq Effect.
         The northern highlands of Malaysia hurtled past underneath. They were heavily wooded, and seemed to be smoking without flames; vapour from the last downpour, hanging above treetop level. He clenched and unclenched his left hand.
         “Is it healed?” Arden Bierce asked him.
         He smiled. “The Moving Finger breaks, and having broke, resets itself.”
         “Don’t you mean ‘broken’?”
         “Wouldn’t scan.”
         He liked her; she had this ability to make people feel comfortable around her. She was very attractive, but seemed genuinely unaware of it. Most people born with looks like that would be shaped by them; would probably be cynical or manipulative. She was neither. Perceptive and clever in her dealings with people, but also pleasant and companionable.
         Anwar had never done any more than flirt mildly with her. He was awkward socially, the result of having a normal circle of acquaintances but few close friends. Only about thirty people in the world knew what he was.
         He leaned back and watched the shapes and colours moving just under the silvered surfaces of the walls and furniture of the VSTOL’s lounge. It would be a short flight. The UN complex outside Kuala Lumpur would soon appear.
         The UN had adapted to the increasing complexity and volatility of the world order. It had a Secretary-General (political) and a Controller-General (executive). As it gradually took on more executive functions, the Controller-General became more important, at the expense of the Secretary-General. The Controller-General was Laurens Rafiq.
         The old UN in New York still remained, but Rafiq’s UNEX (UN Executive) in Kuala Lumpur was overtaking it—restructuring the major agencies like UNESCO, UNICEF, UNIDO, and transforming them. Policy was still in the hands of the old UN, but it was becoming apparent that policy was meaningless without executive rigour. The medium was overtaking the message.
         Rafiq had acquired many assets at UNEX. Not only the agencies, but also some independent military capacity—not enough to make the UN more powerful than any of its individual members, but enough to settle some of the increasing conflicts over resources, energy, borders, and trade. Often Rafiq’s UNEX would take pre-emptive action which later the political UN had to ratify—had to, because the action worked.
         One of the smaller and more mysterious components of Rafiq’s UNEX was something he called The Consultancy, known colloquially (and inaccurately) as The Dead. Its members did things for him which mere Special Forces could never do. Outside UNEX, nobody knew exactly how many Consultants Rafiq had, but it was only a handful. This was because only a handful could survive the induction process, and because only a handful was all that even Rafiq could afford. Their training, and the physical and neurological enhancements which made them unique, were uniquely expensive.
         Anwar Abbas was a Consultant: one of The Dead.

         Dusk fell quickly and was short-lived, turning abruptly to darkness in the few minutes’ duration of the flight. Anwar got only a glimpse of the lights of the UN complex before the silvered plane dropped vertically and landed—or, rather, hovered politely one inch above the ground while they stepped out through the door that had rippled open for them. What enabled it to hover was something to do with room-temperature semiconductors, the Holy Grail of frictionless motion: not fully achieved yet, but getting closer.
         The plane slid noiselessly up into the night. For the second time, Anwar found himself following Arden Bierce across a lawn. This lawn was part of the park which formed the centre of the UN complex.
         Ringing the park were some tall buildings, each a different shape and colour: ziggurats, pyramids, cones, ovoids. Each stood in its own smaller piece of manicured parkland, and was festooned with greenery hanging from walls and windows and balconies. The overall effect was pleasing, without the pomp of the old UN buildings in New York and Geneva; more like the commercial district of any reasonably prosperous city. Kuala Lumpur, a few miles south, was similar but larger-scale.
         The central parkland had lawns and woods, landscaped low hills and a river, over which was cantilevered the Controller-General’s house, Fallingwater. It was based on Frank Lloyd Wright’s design, scaled up, but still house-sized. The security around this building, of all the buildings in the complex, appeared to be nonexistent, the way Rafiq had personally designed it to appear. They simply walked up to the front door and rang the doorbell. The door opened into a large reception area.
         “I’ll go and tell him you’re here,” said Arden Bierce as she went through an adjoining door, usually known as the door because it led to Rafiq’s inner office.
         Anwar looked around him. He knew Fallingwater well, and found it calming. The interior of the house was larger than Wright’s original, but furnished and decorated in the same style: comfortable and understated, a mix of regular and organic shapes, of autumn browns and ochres and earth tones. Large areas of the floor were open expanses of polished wood, with seating areas formed by clusters of plain stonewhite sofas and armchairs. Several people were there, talking quietly. They were all members of Rafiq’s personal staff, like Arden Bierce, but only a few of them looked up as he entered. The rest paid him no attention.
         Except for Miles Levin. He and Anwar had known each other for years, and they exchanged their usual greeting.
         “Muslim filth.”
         “Jewish scum.”
         Their Muslim and Jewish origins, if any, were no longer important. They had taken their present names, along with their present identities, when they became Consultants. Which they had done at the same time, seven years ago.
         Levin was six feet five, nearly three inches taller than Anwar, and more powerfully built. He looked generally younger and stronger, and was—for a Consultant—louder and more outgoing. Anwar was thin-faced, with a hook nose. Levin’s face was broader and more open. Both were dark-haired and wore their hair long.
         “Waiting to see him?” Anwar asked.
         “I’ve seen him. Offer and Acceptance. I was just leaving.”
         Normally they’d have had a lot to talk about, but not this time. They couldn’t discuss missions, that simply wasn’t done; and also, Anwar noted a strangeness in Levin’s manner, a kind of preoccupation. So he just nodded briefly at him, and Levin turned to go.
         “Take care,” something prompted Anwar to whisper.
         Levin heard. “You too.” He did not look back.
         “Scum.”
         “Filth.” The door closed softly behind him.
         Another door—the door—opened. Arden Bierce came out.
         “He’ll see you now.”

Excerpted with permission from Evensong by John Love. Copyright 2015, Night Shade Books an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

Interview with Dennis O'Flaherty, author of King of the Cracksmen - February 17, 2015


Please welcome Dennis O'Flaherty to The Qwillery. King of the Cracksmen was published on January 27, 2015 by Night Shade Books. You may read an excerpt (Chapter One) of King of the Cracksmen here.



Interview with Dennis O'Flaherty, author of King of the Cracksmen - February 17, 2015




TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Dennis:  I think my first published piece was in the Camp Kawanhee newspaper when I was nine, and I've been scribbling something or other ever since. As to the why, I was the classic bookish kid, and since I spent a solid chunk of my life reading, it seemed like writing was something a sensible person really ought to do if they had a pencil and a piece of blank paper.

In 1978 I got my first studio job, what was called a "development deal" at Fox. With a job, I automatically became a member of the Writers Guild of America (West) and I've been a professional writer ever since.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Dennis:  Definitely a plotter. I went to law school for a couple of years at USF long after I already thought I was a terrific writer, and it was a shock to discover that my legal briefs were self-indulgent, wordy rubbish. Thank you, dear old USF profs, you really hammered careful note-taking, organization and re-writing until a brief actually said what it meant into my thick head!



TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Dennis:  The endless cultivation of what the Germans call Sitzfleisch, the ability to keep your butt glued to the chair until a piece of work is finished. I think a huge percentage of those people who read have real writing talent, I know that from stuff people have given me to read. The only thing that keeps them from being "writers" is lack of Sitzfleisch, nothing else.



TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Dennis:  That's a hard one. I'm one of those people who has to be reading even if it's only the cereal box. To me, the toughest thing about Parris Island was actually spending four months with nothing to read but the Bible and the Marine Corps Guidebook. So I have writers for moods, and it's hard to name just one. But here he is: Mark Twain. I love language, and Twain's record of real American speech is a treasure house. I love to laugh, too, and there are things in Twain -- like Tom Sawyer's bit about the dog and the beetle in church -- that crack me up every time I read them. It's been punned that all of Russian literature came out from under the skirts of Gogol's Overcoat, and I think it can be just as truly said that all of modern American literature started with Twain.



TQ:  Describe King of the Cracksmen in 140 characters or less.

Dennis:  It's right there in the epigraph I borrowed from Thomas Pynchon: "Maybe it's not the world, but with a minor adjustment or two it's what the world might be."



TQ:  Tell us something about King of the Cracksmen that is not in the book description.

Dennis:  This book is absolutely meant to be fun to read, but it has one or two serious things to say, too. Not mutually exclusive, right?



TQ:  What inspired you to write King of the Cracksmen? What appealed to you about writing a Steampunk novel not set in Victorian London? Why an Entertainment?

Dennis:  Actually, I had been laboring in vain over a mystery novel about a safecracker in 1870's New York, and I was just about ready to give it the old heave-ho when my local library put a copy of K. W. Jeter's wonderful Infernal Devices on the Express Shelf. It was the first piece of Steampunk that I'd ever read and the combination of alternative history, humor and sheer wackiness was a revelation. Never looked back.

So I started with an American setting already in place. But as I read more and more Steampunk, I realized that the incredible riches of American history in the Victorian period were barely touched by Steampunk writers, with a few notable exceptions like Cherie Priest. If you do Victorian England, you're stuck with a rigid caste system for your characters to belong to, while Victorian America is an absolute Babel of interesting people, all interacting like crazy.

As for "Entertainment," it's a tipping of the hat to one of my all-time favorite storytellers, Robert Louis Stevenson, whose Island Nights Entertainments and New Arabian Nights should be read by everyone who's sick and tired of reading the Same Old Same Old in the perpetual search for a fun read.



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for King of the Cracksmen?

Dennis:  I spent a lot of years on serious academic historical research, mostly in Russian and European history, but with American history as a hobby. So the research for "King" could be focused and fast, which is a big help.



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

Dennis:  The easiest was definitely the King himself, Liam McCool (some people seem to have thought I meant he was a cool customer or whatever, but actually the reference is to one of the greatest of Ireland's traditional heroes, Finn McCool). I think male writers always invest a certain amount of wish fulfillment in their male protagonists, and that was surely the case for me here -- I just had to be careful to dial it back from time to time.

By the same token Becky Fox was the hardest. Come on, guys, all you liars take one step forward and say it's easy to write a convincing female protagonist! I just kept reminding myself of my wife saying she was sick and tired of reading male-written thriller heroines who were a combination of the latest from Victoria's Secret and a fight scene from Bruce Lee. Gotta say, my wife pretty much approves of Becky Fox!



TQ:  Which question about King of the Cracksmen do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Dennis:

Q: Do you think there are any parallels between America in the Gilded Age and America today?


A: Do tigers have stripes?



TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from King of the Cracksmen.

Dennis:  (my favorite) "Happy Fourth of July, Miss Fox."



TQ:  What's next?

Dennis:  I'm actually about a third of the way through the sequel to King of the Cracksmen, which is called The Calorium Wars: A Steampunk Romance. Anyone who reads "King" and has fun with it is likely to have fun with The Calorium Wars. Who knows? Maybe even more fun!



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





King of the Cracksmen: A Steampunk Entertainment
Night Shade Books, January 27, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Dennis O'Flaherty, author of King of the Cracksmen - February 17, 2015
How far will the luck of the Irish stretch?

The year is 1877. Automatons and steam-powered dirigible gunships have transformed the United States in the aftermath of the Civil War. All of the country’s land west of the Mississippi was sold to Russia nearly fifty years earlier, and “Little Russia,” as it’s now called, is ruled by the son of Tsar Alexander II. Lincoln is still president, having never been assassinated, but he’s not been seen for six months, and rumors are flying about his disappearance. The country is being run as a police state by his former secretary of war Edwin Stanton, a power-hungry criminal who rules with an iron fist.

Liam McCool is an outlaw, known among other crooks as “King of the Cracksmen.” But his glory days as a safecracker and the head of a powerful New York gang end when he’s caught red-handed. Threatened with prison unless he informs on his own brethren fighting a guerilla war against Stanton’s tyranny, McCool’s been biding his time, trying to keeping the heat off him long enough to escape to San Francisco with his sweetheart Maggie. But when she turns up murdered, McCool discovers a trail of breadcrumbs that look to lead all the way up to the top of Stanton’s criminal organization. Joining forces with world-famed lady reporter Becky Fox, he plunges deep into the underground war, racing to find Maggie’s killer and stop Stanton once and for all.

King of the Cracksmen is an explosive, action-packed look at a Victorian empire that never was, part To Catch a Thief, part Little Big Man, steampunk as you’ve never seen it before.





About Dennis

Interview with Dennis O'Flaherty, author of King of the Cracksmen - February 17, 2015
Dennis O’Flaherty is an author with several decades’ worth of film and television credits under his belt, including the Francis Ford Coppola–produced Hammett. He also wrote many episodes of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles television cartoon! King of the Cracksmen, his debut novel, is available now from Night Shade Books.







Excerpt: King of the Cracksmen by Dennis O'Flaherty


Today we have an excerpt from King of the Cracksmen: A Steampunk Entertainment by Dennis O'Flaherty. King of the Cracksmen is published by Night Shade Books.



Excerpt: King of the Cracksmen by Dennis O'Flaherty




Chapter One

The three men were moving fast, in single file, dashing across the patches of stark moonlight and into the safety of the shadows like night creatures with an owl at their backs.
        “Jasus, Mary and Joseph!” grunted the tail-ender, a fire-plug of a man clutching a sawed-off shotgun. “If I stub me toe on one more rock I’ll blow the bastard thing to smithereens!”
        “Shut yer gob, Bertie,” hissed the man in the middle, “and mind McCool’s satchel or it’s us ye’ll be blowing to smithereens.”
        The man in front paused for a moment, shifting a heavy carpetbag from one hand to the other before he turned to look at them. Despite a bushy walrus moustache and a black slouch hat pulled down nearly to his eyebrows, his face looked disarmingly boyish, but the other two seemed to know better. They fell silent instantly, trading uneasy looks.
        “You’d best save the gassing for Maloney’s,” he whispered, so softly he could barely be heard over the rustle of the breeze in the trees and the busy hum of the cicadas. “Remember, there’s supposed to be a new watchman and he may not be a rumdum like Timmy was.” He motioned to them to follow and slipped away into the darkness.
***
        Meanwhile, in a brightly gaslit parlor on the other side of town a pair of onetime lovers stood glaring daggers at each other, teetering on the edge of violence.
        “I told you before,” the woman hissed, “you and me are through. You have a hell of a nerve sneaking up the back stairs in the night like a dog in heat. If it’s deaf you are now, I’ll say it again louder: I don’t want you here no more!”
        The big man gave her what he hoped was a winsome smile: “You know you don’t really mean that, angel cakes, you always say things you’re sorry for later when you get mad.”
        Mad hell, she thought, she was just getting warmed up. She caught his eyes fixing on her breasts where they showed in the V of her negligée and pulled the gown together with a disgusted growl. There had been a time when she’d found that little-kid grin of his endearing, just like that touch of an accent that he’d never quite managed to lose. Now either one was enough to make her want to twist his nose.
        The big man could see her expression hardening and he felt his own anger breaking through despite his determination to sweet-talk her.
        “I expect you’d rather be billing and cooing with your pretty little boyfriend, is that it?” He sneered, biting the words off and spitting them at her: “You and him all loveydovey, and no more thought of our good times than the man in the moon!”
        She rolled her eyes scornfully: “Pretty? That pretty little boy could cut your gizzard out as soon as look at you, and don’t you forget it!”
        The big man felt the blood rising in his face; he knew he was skating too close to the edge, but he couldn’t keep back his hand as it flew up to strike her.
        “Go on,” she screamed, “hit a woman like the big ugly coward you are. But you’d best kill me when you do or you’ll rue the day!”
        He froze, stopping himself by a tremendous effort of the will and letting his hand fall back slowly to his side. “Damn it, woman, I’ve always loved you,” he said thickly. “You know that.”
        She folded her arms on her chest and gave him a flat stare. “You love sticking your peter in me, that’s what I know,” she said in a voice cold enough to crack granite. “The only person in this world you love is the one whose nasty mug you shave every morning, and I gave up hoping I could change that a long time ago.”
        His thoughts felt heavy and sluggish with rage: should he have one last go at loving her up and bringing her around, or should he just say to hell with it and give her the beating she had coming? He rolled his shoulders ominously, lowered his head and moved towards her . . .
***
        The man with the carpetbag held up his hand for the other two to stop. For some minutes they had been moving along a white picket fence that bordered the road until finally they came in sight of a large, rambling Victorian house set back from the fence by a hundred yards or so of flower-bordered flagstone path.
        The moonlight bathed the white shingles of the house so that it glowed like an apparition, but the windows of the upper stories showed a murky gloom that made all three men uneasy. To make it worse, a long verandah ran along the front of the house, its roof interrupting the moonlight so that it cast everything below it into inky darkness and made it seem as if the whole house was settling slowly into a black sinkhole.
         “There’s niver a copper up there,” quavered the man with the shotgun, “the useless shite’s ta home in . . .”
        The leader turned on him angrily and cut him off with a hand over his mouth. He waited a second to make sure the message had been received, then he squatted down and opened his bag, taking out three calico flour sacks with holes cut for their eyes. He tugged his over his head, handed out the other two, then bent over the bag again and took out three bundles of dynamite, each with a long spool of wire attached to it. Finally he took a blasting machine out of the bag, attached the wires from all three bundles to it, and set it down carefully at the bottom of a drainage ditch that ran along the fence.
        Now he beckoned to the other two, handing each of them a bundle of dynamite and a spool of wire. He bent towards the one with the shotgun and put his mouth directly to his ear as he whispered:
        “Be a good lad and leave the blunderbuss here, will you, Bertie? And don’t be stubbing your toe and falling down on that dynamite or we’ll be meeting next in Hell.”
        The other man frowned sulkily and laid his shotgun against the carpetbag. The leader picked up his own bundle of dynamite and started towards the front door, unspooling the wire as he went. The other two were fanning out to either side, following a plan they had rehearsed till they could do it in their sleep. Even so they walked on tiptoe, sticking to the grass for silence and jumping at every little nighttime noise.
        For a few moments, everything went as smooth as butter. Then, someone stepped on a windfallen branch that broke the hush with a crack like a pistol shot. The three men froze, staring towards the darkness at the front of the house like mice watching for a cat. One heartbeat, another . . . then there was a sharp, ringing metallic CLICK! and a pair of glowing red eyes pierced the gloom and swiveled slowly towards the noise of the snapping branch, whirring loudly as they moved.
        “Aw, shite!” wailed Bertie. “A fookin’ Acme!”
        The leader’s voice snapped at them like a whip: “Bertie, Fergus, don’t budge—those things follow movement!”
        “To hell with that and you too, Liam McCool,” yelled Fergus, “I’m hooking it!”
        Throwing down his bundle of dynamite, he took off wildly across the lawn, his arms pumping like pistons, and as he did heavy footsteps slammed across the verandah until a hulking figure appeared at the top of the stairs.
        Seven feet tall, unnaturally precise in its movements, dressed in the blue serge uniform of the Coal and Iron Police and bald as an egg, the creature’s glowing red eyes stared out of a shiny pink porcelain face as expressionless as a chunk of pig iron. Slowly its head swiveled to follow the hysterically fleeing man and its eyes glowed an even more intense red as it whirred and clicked into a crouching position.
        “Aw, hell!” muttered McCool, reaching for his pocket.
        In the same moment, the creature sprang upwards, leaping through the air for a good fifty feet and landing with an appalling thud not far behind his prey:
        “HEEEEEEEEEEELP!” screeched Fergus.
        McCool pulled a Colt Peacemaker out of his pocket, aimed it carefully and fired towards the “Acme.” The heavy slug struck it square in the back and it stopped running abruptly and turned its glowing eyes towards McCool as Fergus, momentarily reprieved, disappeared into the night howling like a banshee.
        “Fook me!” groaned Bertie through chattering teeth, “I ain’t stickin’ around for no . . .”
        “Yes you are,” said McCool flatly. “I need you. Give me your dynamite and don’t move an inch or I’ll put the next bullet between your deadlights.”
        The creature started stalking back towards McCool, picking up speed with each step as Bertie moaned with terror.
        “Shut up,” McCool said. “I’m going to run towards the house and get the thing to follow me. As soon as you see I’ve got its attention you get down in that ditch with the blasting machine and when I sing out ‘NOW!’ you push that plunger home! Got it?”
        “Aw, shite!” Bertie sobbed.
        “Good,” McCool said and took off at a run towards the house, pistol in hand and both bundles of dynamite stuffed in his jacket pockets.
        For a moment, the “Acme” came to a full stop, its head swiveling and whirring as it looked back and forth between the two men; then it turned and loped after McCool in great, thudding bounds.
        “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” muttered Bertie as he crossed himself. Then he turned and sprinted like a racehorse for the drainage ditch . . .
***
        “You remember?” the big man asked hoarsely. “You remember how it was with us?”
        He was holding her close, his hands under her gown, running up and down her back and cupping her buttocks as he buried his face in her breasts. Thinking at the same moment: By God, she knows how crazy I am about her, how could she let herself be bedded by that young whelp? I swear I’ll kill the both of them before I let him have her again . . .
        At the same time she was thinking: I remember how it was, all right, in another second I’ll be lying down on the floor for him, right here on my own carpet in my own sitting room. I was stupid to let him put his hands on me, he can fire me up as easy as starting coals with a bellows . . .
        “There, now,” he muttered through the thickness in his throat, “there now, little girl . . .” He pulled her gown up around her waist and then let go for a moment to fumble for his buttons. But it was a fatal delay, just long enough to let her self-control flood back. She pushed him away sharply:
        “Get away from me, I mean it!”
        He stood there stunned. “What the hell are you saying, woman?”
        “I’m saying I’m not handing over my diary and you’re not getting anything else either,” she rasped. “Now sling your hook and get to hell on out of here. My true sweetheart treats me like I’m somebody, and if you studied on it from here to the Last Trump you wouldn’t have no idea what that means.”
        “You’re somebody are you, you brainless cow?,” he roared, grabbing her and pulling her close again. This time, though, she had crossed from passion into fury and she punched him in the ear hard enough to make him howl with pain and let her go. In an instant she was across the room at her desk, jerking open a drawer and pulling out a stubby, nickel-plated revolver.
        “Get out,” she shrieked, “get out before I shoot you right in your dirty bollocks!”
        He moved heavily towards her, barely registering her words, not even caring about the shiny little gun as the fury rose in his head and flooded his brain. . . .
***
        McCool leapt up the front steps two at a time, trying to stay calm as the thudding steps of the “Acme” got close enough to shake the ground under his feet. God knows how much those things weighed, but he had just seen that their steel skins were thick enough to stop a slug from a .45 Colt. As for their power . . . he tried not to shudder, remembering an “Acme” he’d run into one night on a Wall Street bank job. He’d tied up a horse and buggy in a back alley for his getaway but before he’d gone a hundred yards the filthy thing had caught up with them and torn the screaming horse to pieces like you’d unjoint a chicken.
        McCool spun around on one foot and drove the other into the front door, so hard that it came off its hinges, flew into the vestibule and slid across the floor. Without a pause, he followed it inside and dropped his bundles of dynamite into an elephant’s-foot umbrella stand as he tore on through the house to the kitchen and out the back door. A moment later, he heard the crashing footsteps of the “Acme” as it followed him inside.
        Continuing his mad dash, around the house now and back towards where he’d left Bertie, Liam crossed his fingers mentally. Henry Royce was a first-rate mechanic and his Manchester factory had made the Acme line the top automatons on the market for durability and effectiveness; Liam just had to hope the limey still hadn’t figured out how to make them smart.
        He cleared the house and started back down the lawn towards the road, where he could just make out the top of Bertie’s hat sticking up out of the ditch. The sounds of wood smashing and glass breaking from the inside of the house seemed to point to the thing being convinced that Liam was still in there with him, but on the other hand why push it?
        “NOW, BERTIE!” he bellowed, simultaneously bellyflopping on the grass and covering his head with his hands. An instant later there was a stupefying thunderclap and a flash as bright as day as the explosion picked Liam up and blew him across the road like a dry leaf . . .
***
        The woman in the negligée was badly frightened now. She had known the big man back in the city before ever she came here, longer than any of the people in Henderson’s Patch had known him, and she had never seen him like this. Sure, he was excitable; maybe all the more so because he made such a fetish of being strong and steady and hard to rile. And all the while it made the pressure build, like a steam boiler with no relief valve, so when he finally blew he made one hell of a big noise. But not like this. This time he looked crazy.
        “All right, then,” she said, angry that she couldn’t keep a tremor of fear out of her voice. “There’s no need for us to be enemies, why don’t we just have a glass of whiskey and talk things over . . .”
        He grinned at that, but the look of his eyes made her blood run cold. Then he started towards her—calmly, purposefully, still grinning a little as he tore off his shirt, then the cotton singlet he wore under it. The thought flashed through her mind that he was going to rape her, and instinctively she pulled back the hammer of the little pistol. The big man paid no attention. As he threw his singlet to the floor he leapt towards her, grabbing for her gun hand and wrenching her arm aside.
        For a moment she fought him hard, harder than any man had ever fought him, raking her nails across his chest till she drew blood, and then trying to force her arm around so that she could shoot him. But at the last moment, when she was within a hand’s breadth of putting the muzzle of the pistol into his armpit, his bulk and strength overcame her and a moment later there was a muffled thud as her eyes flew wide open and a strangled cry escaped her. Then her body went completely slack and the big man pushed her away from him in a spasm of horror and nausea.
        “Ohmygod,” he muttered in near hysteria, “Ohmygod, ohmygod!”
        As if in answer a stupendous explosion split the night, shaking the house like an earthquake, smashing the windows and knocking books and pictures to the floor. For a moment the big man just stood there with his jaw hanging open, struck to stone. Then he flew into action, the craziness melting away like wisps of smoke as his mind was seized by a single, burning thought: “escape!”
***
        For a few moments Liam lay in the middle of a dense patch of bushes, stunned and deafened as bits of board, brick, upholstery and God knows what all rained down around him. Then he forced himself to his feet and looked for his men: there was Bertie, the eejit, cowering in the ditch like Judgment Day had come, while Fergus was God alone knew where—probably in Philadelphia by now.
        “Stir your stumps, dammit!” Liam yelled, “five minutes and the coppers will be swarming us like flies!”
        He ran back across the road, retrieved his satchel and opened it, beckoning to Bertie to join him as he pulled out a folded bed-sheet, a box of carpet tacks and a hammer. Then he crossed to the gate, reached up with one hem of the sheet and tacked it to the crosspost overhead, handed one of the dangling sides to Bertie and tacked it to an upright while he held it, drove a couple of tacks into the remaining side and stepped back to admire his handiwork.
        The designs at the top were plain as day in the moonlight: a crudely drawn obvious coffin next to an equally simple revolver. Below the symbols, in six-inch-tall letters, were painted the words:
        “NOW, MR. BLACK LEG HINDERSON WE WARRANTED YE BEFORE AND WE WILLNT WARIND YOU NO MORE. CLEAR OUT OF THE COALFIELDS RITE NOW OR NEXT TIME WE COME CALLING WHEN YER TA HOME.—M. M. 16 OF JUNE 1877.”
        With a little nod of satisfaction, Liam stuck the hammer, the tacks, the loose wire and the blasting machine back into the satchel, then dusted off his hands and turned to Bertie:
        “All right, then, me old son,” he said with a grin, “we’ve had our Fourth of July, now we’d best get home and get our beauty sleep.”
        He slapped Bertie on the shoulder, grabbed his bag and melted way into the night.

Excerpted with permission from King of the Cracksmen: A Steampunk Entertainment by Dennis O’Flaherty. Copyright 2015, Night Shade Books an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.





King of the Cracksmen: A Steampunk Entertainment
Night Shade Books, January 27, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Excerpt: King of the Cracksmen by Dennis O'Flaherty
How far will the luck of the Irish stretch?

The year is 1877. Automatons and steam-powered dirigible gunships have transformed the United States in the aftermath of the Civil War. All of the country’s land west of the Mississippi was sold to Russia nearly fifty years earlier, and “Little Russia,” as it’s now called, is ruled by the son of Tsar Alexander II. Lincoln is still president, having never been assassinated, but he’s not been seen for six months, and rumors are flying about his disappearance. The country is being run as a police state by his former secretary of war Edwin Stanton, a power-hungry criminal who rules with an iron fist.

Liam McCool is an outlaw, known among other crooks as “King of the Cracksmen.” But his glory days as a safecracker and the head of a powerful New York gang end when he’s caught red-handed. Threatened with prison unless he informs on his own brethren fighting a guerilla war against Stanton’s tyranny, McCool’s been biding his time, trying to keeping the heat off him long enough to escape to San Francisco with his sweetheart Maggie. But when she turns up murdered, McCool discovers a trail of breadcrumbs that look to lead all the way up to the top of Stanton’s criminal organization. Joining forces with world-famed lady reporter Becky Fox, he plunges deep into the underground war, racing to find Maggie’s killer and stop Stanton once and for all.

King of the Cracksmen is an explosive, action-packed look at a Victorian empire that never was, part To Catch a Thief, part Little Big Man, steampunk as you’ve never seen it before.

Guest Blog by Steven John, author of Outrider and Three A.M. - September 17, 2014


Please welcome Steven John to The Qwillery. Outrider, Steven's second novel, was published by Night Shade Books on September 16th.



Guest Blog by Steven John, author of Outrider and Three A.M. - September 17, 2014





Roughly between the time my first novel, THREE A.M., was published back in early 2012 and the release of my second book, OUTRIDER, my life has changed in many ways, not the least of which has been my relationship with writing.

Both of the books I’ve thus far had published were written when I was fully employed. I grabbed what time I had during lunchtime or late at night to write; I snuck in editing sessions there at my desk. I told myself things like: “Just write for 20 minutes a day at least!” or “Just do 500 words, minimum!” And despite how little time I had to devote to writing… it worked. I wrote books.

I have since become what I suppose I can fairly call a “professional writer.” In fact, I think I have to call it that: I’m a freelancer who pens articles under my own name for multiple websites and as a nameless scribe for several more. I write marketing copy, humorous blog posts (I’d like to think, anyway), I write about the tech world, and I often write about writing. But sadly, I also write less fiction.

In the past, those few minutes of writing were an escape for me; writing a paragraph or two of halfway-decent fiction was like turning a release valve on the day. But of late, when I have often written upward of three, sometimes four thousand words a day of copy for various assignments, trying to motivate myself to work on finishing book #4, or at least continuing the edit of #3, can be a daunting task indeed. The fisherman doesn’t unwind with more fishing, nor does the lawyer relax at night by reading a few more briefs, after all.

There’s another factor at play, mind you: in October of last year my wife and I had our first child, a boy named Benjamin. He is charming, brilliant, and handsome, and he will neither suffer boredom nor will he sleep through the night (11 months on and he has done so once). Our son is a treasure, but he is also exhausting in a way I had never dreamt possible (they don’t give you the handbook until you already have kids, nonparents. It’s goddamn sneaky of them).

The blend of too much “hired gun” writing, almost no free time, and precious little sleep had, for months, ground my fiction writing to a near-standstill. But then something happened: as stipulated in the contract I signed so long ago with my publisher Skyhorse (now the parent company of the venerable Night Shade Books, the logo actually gracing the book’s spine), a box full of books showed up at my door a few days ago. Though it was not the first time this had happened, and though I vaguely knew they were coming, it was still a compelling moment when I opened the nondescript cardboard box and looked down to see my name on the cover of the novels therein bubble-wrapped.

When I flipped through a few pages of OUTRIDER, I had to let myself admit that “Hey, this is pretty good writing, actually.” The next day I opened up a file I had not double-clicked on in weeks and edited a few pages of my third novel (let’s call it… UNTITLED – that has a nice ring to it). Again, I was pleasantly surprised to find sentences I enjoyed reading. It hit me not as an epiphany, but certainly as a motivator that if I wanted to have any more moments like that any time soon, I had to get my nose to the grind. No one else is going to write books for me; that’s not how it works.

How it works is saying: “Just write for 20 minutes a day at least!” or “Just do 500 words, minimum!” So now I’m going to sign off and see if I can’t take my own admonitions to heart – sure, there may be less free time in the day, but I’ve got 20 minutes. The kid has to nap sometime, and I can always catch up on my own sleep when the next book is finished.





Outrider
Night Shade Books, September 16, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Guest Blog by Steven John, author of Outrider and Three A.M. - September 17, 2014
Within a few decades, solar technology will evolve to the point where power is endless . . . unless someone wants to stop the flow—which someone does.

And the only men who can stop these high-tech terrorists are on horseback.

In the near future, the New Las Vegas Sunfield will be one of many enormous solar farms to supply energy to the United States. At more than fifty miles long and two miles wide, the Sunfield generates an electromagnetic field so volatile that ordinary machinery and even the simplest electronic devices must be kept miles away from it. Thus, the only men who can guard the most technologically advanced power station on earth do so on horseback.

They are the Outriders.

Though the power supplied by the Sunfield is widespread, access to that power comes with total deference to the iron-fisted will of New Las Vegas’s ruthless mayor, Franklin Dreg. Crisis erupts when Dreg’s quietly competent secretary, Timothy Hale, discovers someone has been stealing energy—siphoning it out of the New Las Vegas grid under cover of darkness.

As the Outriders investigate, the scale of the thievery becomes clear: these aren’t the ordinary energy leeches, people who steal a few watts here or there. These are high-tech terrorists (or revolutionaries) engaged in a mysterious and dangerous enterprise and poised to bring down the entire energy grid, along with the millions of people it supports.

The pressure mounts and fractures appear within both the political leadership of New Las Vegas and in the tight-knit community of Outriders. With a potential crisis looming, the mysterious goal of the “Drainers” finally comes into focus. Only then do the Outriders realize how dangerous the situation really is.





About Steven

Guest Blog by Steven John, author of Outrider and Three A.M. - September 17, 2014
Steven John is a writer living in Glendale, California (by way of Washington DC). He and his wife Kristin, an elementary school teacher, were joined by their son Benjamin in October of 2013. In addition to writing for several websites and journals, Steven published his first novel, THREE A.M., in 2012. His second book, OUTRIDER, hits shelves in September of 2014. When not writing or spending time with his family, Steven tries to squeeze in some mountain climbing.








Website  ~  Twitter @StevenJohn3AM


Guest Blog by Kameron Hurley - Creative Creatures: Not Your Typical Houseplants - August 29, 2014


Please welcome Kameron Hurley to The Qwillery. The Mirror Empire, the first novel in the Worldbreaker Saga, was published by Angry Robot Books on August 26, 2014 in North America and digital format and will be published on September 4, 2014 in the UK in print format.



Guest Blog by Kameron Hurley - Creative Creatures: Not Your Typical Houseplants - August 29, 2014




Creative Creatures: Not Your Typical Houseplants

I get a lot of questions about worldbuilding. It’s right up there with characterization as my favorite part of writing, and is most certainly my favorite part of choosing to write in genre. I can create whole worlds from the ground up.

As I relish in this power of virtual creation, it always seemed odd to me that more people didn’t spend time worldbuilding. Weird writers like China Mieville, KJ Bishop and Angela Carter impressed me with the lush weirdness of the worlds they built, both fascinating and horrifying me as a reader. So when I went to create the creatures inhabiting the world of my latest book, The Mirror Empire, my new epic fantasy novel, you can bet building fantastic creatures was top of mind.

In my God’s War trilogy, I had created a world powered by different types of insects – some real, some made up for the book. Using bugs as a form of commerce and technology affected every other thing in the book, so it was vital to get that system down early. For The Mirror Empire I wanted to have a similarly ubiquitous and strange way of populating the landscape that affected how people worked, traveled, lived.

So… why not flesh-eating plants?

Cue the “feed me” jokes. Yes, they are apt.

I tinkered with the idea of having these semi-sentient types of plants, like walking trees and ground cover that would creep up and engulf you if you sat still too long. I imagined huge bladder traps and massive pitcher plants that ate people and mammals instead of insects. I had also made the primarily point of view culture in the book vegetarian, which seemed to present some interesting issues: it wasn’t as if they could pretend plants didn’t have feelings and motivations when some of them really, really did. So their choice to be vegetarians, I suspected, was not going to be a wholly moral one.

I also made a conscious choice to steer clear of totally unfamiliar names when telling readers what my creatures were, from bears to treegliders to pitcher plants to bladder traps. I used real-world names whenever possible for things that were… well, almost like their earth equivalents. There were already a lot of made-up names across several cultures, and I wanted to reduce the number of new terms that readers were introduced to. So even though the bears on this world have forked tongues and bifurcated paws and protruding fangs, I call them bears. And even though the bladder traps are six feet tall and hidden underground, attached to the roots of trees, instead of miniscule things meant to catch bugs attached to the roots of small plants, they’re called bladder traps.

I learned this trick from author Tara K. Harper, whose Wolfwalker books appear, at first blush, to be standard fantasy novels. But as you get deeper into it you realize the “horses” have six legs, and the other creatures and landscapes you thought were fantasy pseudo-familiar are… not. I had a similar moment of dissonance reading Paul Park’s Starbridge Chronicles, when, halfway through the book there’s a sentence like, “He pushed her tail out of the way” and I was like HOLY CRAP THEY HAVE TAILS???

It turns out that when you’re building really weird worlds, waiting to reveal just how weird they are is kinder to the reader than a mess of word vomit at the start. I had approached many aspects of writing the God’s War trilogy the same way, using real-world words (though not always English ones) to describe things that most assuredly… were not. Or were, at best, used to define slightly different types of things.

Steering clear of too many made-up words is probably my biggest piece of worldbuilding advice, especially if, like me, you’re already making up a good deal, from the names of the people and places to the gods and the unique terms and titles used by several different cultures. You’re already going to have some interesting word salad. Try not to overdo it.





The Mirror Empire
Worldbreaker Saga 1
Angry Robot Books, August 26, 2014 (US/Canada print/digital)
     September 4, 2014 (UK print)
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 544 pages

Guest Blog by Kameron Hurley - Creative Creatures: Not Your Typical Houseplants - August 29, 2014
From the award-winning author of God’s War comes a stunning new series…
 
On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself.

In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked with holding together a country fractured by civil war, a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.

Through tense alliances and devastating betrayal, the Dhai and their allies attempt to hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.

In the end, one world will rise – and many will perish.

File Under: Fantasy





About Kameron

Kameron Hurley is the author of the novels God’s War, Infidel, and Rapture a science-fantasy noir series which earned her the Sydney J. Bounds Award for Best Newcomer and the Kitschy Award for Best Debut Novel. She has won the Hugo Award and been a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, Nebula Award, the Locus Award, BFS Award, and the BSFA Award for Best Novel. Her latest novel, The Mirror Empire, was published by Angry Robot Books on August 26th, 2014.

Website  ~  Twitter @KameronHurley  ~  Facebook




God's War Trilogy / Bel Dame Apocrypha

God's War
God's War / Bel Dame Apocrypha 1
Night Shade Books, February 1, 2011
Trade Paperback and eBook, 307 pages

Guest Blog by Kameron Hurley - Creative Creatures: Not Your Typical Houseplants - August 29, 2014
Nyx had already been to hell. One prayer more or less wouldn't make any difference...

On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages, fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers. Though the origins of the war are shady and complex, there's one thing everybody agrees on--

There's not a chance in hell of ending it.

Nyx is a former government assassin who makes a living cutting off heads for cash. But when a dubious deal between her government and an alien gene pirate goes bad, Nyx's ugly past makes her the top pick for a covert recovery. The head they want her to bring home could end the war--but at what price?

The world is about to find out.



Infidel
God's War / Bel Dame Apocrypha 2
Night Shade Books, October 1, 2011
Trade Paperback and eBook, 300 pages

Guest Blog by Kameron Hurley - Creative Creatures: Not Your Typical Houseplants - August 29, 2014
The only thing worse than war is revolution. Especially when you're already losing the war...

Nyx used to be a bel dame, a government-funded assassin with a talent for cutting off heads for cash. Her country's war rages on, but her assassin days are long over. Now she's babysitting diplomats to make ends meet and longing for the days when killing people was a lot more honorable.

When Nyx's former bel dame "sisters" lead a coup against the government that threatens to plunge the country into civil war, Nyx volunteers to stop them. The hunt takes Nyx and her inglorious team of mercenaries to one of the richest, most peaceful, and most contaminated countries on the planet -- a country wholly unprepared to host a battle waged by the world's deadliest assassins.

In a rotten country of sweet-tongued politicians, giant bugs, and renegade shape shifters, Nyx will forge unlikely allies and rekindle old acquaintances. And the bodies she leaves scattered across the continent this time... may include her own.

Because no matter where you go or how far you run in this world, one thing is certain: the bloody bel dames will find you.



Rapture
God's War / Bel Dame Apocrypha  3
Night Shade Books, November 6, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook,372 pages

Guest Blog by Kameron Hurley - Creative Creatures: Not Your Typical Houseplants - August 29, 2014
After years in exile, Nyxnissa so Dasheem is back in action in service to the bel dames, a sisterhood of elite government assassins tasked with eliminating deserters and traitors. The end of a centuries-long holy war between her country, Nasheen, and neighboring Chenja has flooded the streets of Nasheen with unemployed – and unemployable – soldiers whose frustrations have brought the nation to the brink of civil war.

Not everyone likes this tenuous and unpredictable “peace,” however, and somebody has kidnapped a key politician whose death could trigger a bloody government takeover. With aliens in the sky and revolution on the ground, Nyx assembles a team of mad magicians, torturers,and mutant shape-shifters for an epic journey across a flesh-eating desert in search of a man she’s not actually supposed to kill.

Trouble is, killing is the only thing Nyx is good at. And she already left this man to die…



You may buy the complete God's War Trilogy in a digital omnibus edition (Night Shade Books, July 15, 2013):

Guest Blog by Kameron Hurley - Creative Creatures: Not Your Typical Houseplants - August 29, 2014


Reviews: The Enceladus Crisis and The Gravity of the Affair by Michael J. Martinez


The Enceladus Crisis
Author:  Michael J. Martinez
Series:  Daedalus 2
Publisher:  Night Shade Books, May 6, 2014
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
List Price:  $15.99 (print)
ISBN:  9781597805049 (print)

Reviews: The Enceladus Crisis and The Gravity of the Affair by Michael J. Martinez
Two dimensions collided on the rust-red deserts of Mars—and are destined to become entangled once more in this sequel to the critically acclaimed The Daedalus Incident.

Lieutenant Commander Shaila Jain has been given the assignment of her dreams: the first manned mission to Saturn. But there’s competition and complications when she arrives aboard the survey ship Armstrong. The Chinese are vying for control of the critical moon Titan, and the moon Enceladus may harbor secrets deep under its icy crust. And back on Earth, Project DAEDALUS now seeks to defend against other dimensional incursions. But there are other players interested in opening the door between worlds . . . and they’re getting impatient.

For Thomas Weatherby, it’s been nineteen years since he was second lieutenant aboard HMS Daedalus. Now captain of the seventy-four-gun Fortitude, Weatherby helps destroy the French fleet at the Nile and must chase an escaped French ship from Egypt to Saturn, home of the enigmatic and increasingly unstable aliens who call themselves the Xan. Meanwhile, in Egypt, alchemist Andrew Finch has ingratiated himself with Napoleon’s forces . . . and finds the true, horrible reason why the French invaded Egypt in the first place.

The thrilling follow-up to The Daedalus Incident, The Enceladus Crisis continues Martinez’s Daedalus series with a combination of mystery, intrigue, and high adventure spanning two amazing dimensions.


Trinitytwo’s Point of View

I was truly looking forward to this book’s release because I was heavily invested in the characters, and I absolutely loved the meshing of the two timelines: Historical Fiction meets Science Fiction = Fantastic Fiction. However, I wasn’t prepared for Martinez to immediately blast his readers with a startling and thoroughly exciting opener. Meeting Napoleon, albeit briefly, was so cool and unexpected; it snagged me, hook, line and sinker. Book Two revs up the intensity and action a few notches, and it transformed my perception from a fun read to a book I couldn’t put down. There is so much going on here between the alternate histories, different planets, and four separate plotlines that it should have become confusing, but Martinez, expertly conducts his storylines to create an exciting and brilliant symphony of action.

Definitely put The Enceladus Crisis on your summer reading list, but make sure to read The Daedalus Incident first. (my review here) It lays the foundation and sets the stage for what’s to come. Daedalus puts you in on the ground floor of the story’s technology, and allows readers time to grow fond of its characters. Then for good measure, add the novella, The Gravity of the Affair (see review below) to your list too. The Enceladus Crisis will complete your reading pleasure and packs an astounding wallop of adrenaline. This is a smart, well-written and outstanding series; no sophomore slump here, Book Two is even more exciting than the first one.


~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~


The Gravity of the Affair
Author:  Michael J. Martinez
Series:  Daedalus eNovella
Publisher:  NLA Digital LLC, December 6, 2013
Format:  eBook, 61 pages
List Price:  $2.99

Reviews: The Enceladus Crisis and The Gravity of the Affair by Michael J. Martinez
Before his victory at the Nile.

Before his scandalous personal life made headlines.

Before he crushed the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar.

Before he died a martyr.

Horatio Nelson, England’s greatest naval hero, assumed his first command, the 12-gun brig HMS Badger, at the tender age of 20. History tells us his first voyages as captain were unremarkable. Yet in the Known Worlds, where sailing ships ply the Void and the mystic science of alchemy works wonders, Nelson’s first command goes quite differently. With his brashness and emotions untempered by experience, Nelson’s rash actions as captain of the Badger threaten his heroic destiny.

The Gravity of the Affair is a novella set in the Known Worlds of The Daedalus Incident, with events that tie into the novel (though both works may be enjoyed independently of one another).


Trinitytwo’s Point of View

The year is 1779 and a young Horatio Nelson is the commander of the HMS Badger, a small sailing brig assigned to patrol the Void in author Michael J. Martinez’s alternate universe, the Known Worlds. A pirate frigate raids a settlement where the Badger is laying over, steals precious goods, and presses into service some of the locals. Nelson decides to pursue and eventually engage the vessel, with disastrous results. The Gravity of the Affair is the account of the Board of Inquiry investigating Nelson’s decision to pursue the larger and more powerful vessel, and his thoughts and motivations behind this fateful act. It’s an excellent companion to Martinez’s series and gives readers a glimpse into events that shaped Nelson’s destiny before he became renowned as Britain’s most heroic sailor. I read this novella in between The Daedalus Incident and The Enceladus Crisis and it happily filled a void for me while waiting for Book Two to be published. I must admit, I didn’t care for Horatio Nelson overmuch; he’s too pompous. But the author’s depiction of this historical figure rings true and I did enjoy learning of the events that shaped the young naval commander. While it isn't required reading to enjoy the rest of the series, this novella gives insight concerning Nelson's cameo in The Enceladus Crisis, and adds yet another layer of back story to the rich alternate universe.


Interview with Michael J. Martinez - May 20, 2014


Please welcome Michael J. Martinez to The Qwillery. The Enceladus Crisis, the second novel in the Daedalus series, was published on May 6th by Night Shade Books.



Interview with Michael J. Martinez - May 20, 2014




TQ:  Welcome back to the Qwillery. Your new novel, The Enceladus Crisis (Daedalus 2), was published on May 6. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote The Daedalus Incident (Daedalus 1) to The Enceladus Crisis? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Michael:  Well, I think the most notable change was that I had a deadline! When I wrote the first book, it was just me, wondering if I could write a novel. This time, there was an editor waiting to get his hands on it, because there was a schedule. There were copy editors and cover artists and printing presses. No pressure, right?

I think the biggest change, for me, was that I had some built-in knowledge of what makes a novel work, based on my experience writing the first one. This time out, I had fewer revisions. My process remained the same – I still outline extensively in Excel, and then write to each scene I’ve outlined – but thankfully, there were fewer iterations before it became a book I really liked.



TQ:  What do you wish that you knew about book publishing when The Daedalus Incident came out than you know now?

Michael:  Given the issues surrounding Night Shade’s sale to Skyhorse Publishing last year, I suppose a lot of folks would be like, “I bet you wish you hadn’t signed with Night Shade. I know other authors who feel exactly that way, and for good reasons. I think my situation was unique in that The Daedalus Incident became the first debut from the new Skyhorse/Night Shade, and got some press because of that. I’m grateful to “old” Night Shade for taking a chance on my wacky story, and I’m grateful to “new” Night Shade for asking for two more books, and for doing such a good job on editing and covers and publicity.

So I guess I wish I knew it would’ve turned out as well as it did. This time last year, there was nothing certain for anybody, and I had no idea if my debut would be swallowed up in bankruptcy court. I’m just glad it worked out.



TQ:  Tell us something about The Enceladus Crisis that is not in the book description.

Michael:  Well, there’s Napoleon. The book description, of course, has a mystery surrounding Napoleon’s forces in Egypt in 1798, the year Napoleon Bonaparte invaded. But yes, Napoleon is in there, as a character, interacting with at least one of my fictional characters. That was something readers of The Daedalus Incident seemed to be looking forward to, given the way the first book ended. So yes, he’s there. Now, he’s not taking center stage, but readers will likely figure out he has more going on than his page-count in the book might imply.



TQ:  What kinds of research did you do for The Enceladus Crisis?

Michael:  Of course, I did a lot of research into Napoleon’s 1798 invasion of Egypt and the resulting campaigns. I especially delved into the team of scholars and savants he brought with him – a lot of their names are in the book. I also looked more into the futurist predictions of technology in the coming decades to better inform the futuristic sections of the book. The Daedalus Incident was set on a backwater, low-priority Mars base, so I didn’t need so much in the way of shiny tech. Here, I wanted more of that, because some of these visions are very cool.


TQ:  Which character in the Daedalus series (so far) has surprised you the most? Who has been the hardest character to write and why?

Michael:  I really, really like how Dr. Andrew Finch’s arc has gone. In Daedalus, we find him as a brilliant but drug-addled playboy-alchemist, and over the years he’s grown in both sobriety and power. He’s also come to appreciate his friendships, now that he actually has some. He’s looking ahead in life instead of bemoaning his station, and there’s some great conflicts that come with that, when he has to weigh personal ambition (now that he actually has some) against his friendships and what little sense of duty he has. I like Finch. I want to go drinking with him. Maybe slap him upside the head, too.

I think the hardest character is the future-setting protagonist, the British-Indian astronaut Shaila Jain. It’s not that she’s hugely complex, per se, but I feel like I have a responsibility to really get her right. She’s a woman with agency, a military officer and explorer. She’s had major ups and downs in life; she’s used to being angry and bitter but has little reason for it now. As the book gets underway, she’s in a great place, with a newly restored career and a new romantic relationship. I worked really hard to find a good balance with her because I wanted her to be as real as possible, rather than a caricature. Sadly, she doesn’t get to stay in that great place for very long. She has a long road ahead, one that I’m rounding out now in the final book, The Venusian Gambit.


TQ:  The Daedalus series is a genre-bending blend of SF, Adventure, Alternate History and Mystery. Why genre bend?

Michael:  You know, there wasn’t really a point where I said, “I’m going to genre-bend!” I knew the story I wanted to tell, and it just so happened that it bridged several genres. I think the whole series is a synthesis of many things that I’ve geeked out on through the years, and it just happened to end up the way it did.



TQ:  Please give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Enceladus Crisis.

Michael:  I’m not one given to literary flourishes, but there’s a couple of paragraphs that I rather like:
“In all his years in the service of King and country, Thomas Weatherby had been privileged to see some of the most fantastical things the Known Worlds had to offer the enterprising soul. He had plumbed the jungles of Venus to find evidence of lost civilizations, tasted the ice of Europa, explored the mines of Mercury. He had watched Finch save men from the very brink of death, watched others have their lives snuffed out with naught but a moment’s notice.

He had even seen the future, once upon a time – a future, perhaps, one of many, but the future regardless – in which invisible energies paralyzed the unwary, pieces of glass could summon encyclopediae of information at a moment’s notice, and a Hindu woman could be an officer in His Majesty’s Royal Navy.

None of these things, not a single one of them, could prepare Weatherby for the rings of Saturn.”


TQ:  What’s next?

Michael:  At the moment, I’m hard at work on The Venusian Gambit, which will wrap up the Daedalus trilogy. After that, I’m working on an idea for a new, very different, non-Daedalus series of books. It’s still a take on historical fantasy, but very much unrelated to Daedalus. There may come a point when I might return to the Daedalus multiverse, but for now, I’ve just about told the story I wanted to tell there.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Michael:  Thank you for having me! The site continues to be awesome. Keep up the good work!





The Enceladus Crisis
Daedalus 2
Night Shade Books, May 6, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Michael J. Martinez - May 20, 2014
Two dimensions collided on the rust-red deserts of Mars—and are destined to become entangled once more in this sequel to the critically acclaimed The Daedalus Incident.

Lieutenant Commander Shaila Jain has been given the assignment of her dreams: the first manned mission to Saturn. But there’s competition and complications when she arrives aboard the survey ship Armstrong. The Chinese are vying for control of the critical moon Titan, and the moon Enceladus may harbor secrets deep under its icy crust. And back on Earth, Project DAEDALUS now seeks to defend against other dimensional incursions. But there are other players interested in opening the door between worlds . . . and they’re getting impatient.

For Thomas Weatherby, it’s been nineteen years since he was second lieutenant aboard HMS Daedalus. Now captain of the seventy-four-gun Fortitude, Weatherby helps destroy the French fleet at the Nile and must chase an escaped French ship from Egypt to Saturn, home of the enigmatic and increasingly unstable aliens who call themselves the Xan. Meanwhile, in Egypt, alchemist Andrew Finch has ingratiated himself with Napoleon’s forces . . . and finds the true, horrible reason why the French invaded Egypt in the first place.

The thrilling follow-up to The Daedalus Incident, The Enceladus Crisis continues Martinez’s Daedalus series with a combination of mystery, intrigue, and high adventure spanning two amazing dimensions.



The Gravity of the Affair
Daedalus eNovella
December 6, 2013

Interview with Michael J. Martinez - May 20, 2014
Before his victory at the Nile.

Before his scandalous personal life made headlines.

Before he crushed the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar.

Before he died a martyr.

Horatio Nelson, England’s greatest naval hero, assumed his first command, the 12-gun brig HMS Badger, at the tender age of 20. History tells us his first voyages as captain were unremarkable. Yet in the Known Worlds, where sailing ships ply the Void and the mystic science of alchemy works wonders, Nelson’s first command goes quite differently. With his brashness and emotions untempered by experience, Nelson’s rash actions as captain of the Badger threaten his heroic destiny.

The Gravity of the Affair is a novella set in the Known Worlds of The Daedalus Incident, with events that tie into the novel (though both works may be enjoyed independently of one another).



The Daedalus Incident
Daedalus 1
Night Shade Books, August 13, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
(the eBook was published in May 2013)

Interview with Michael J. Martinez - May 20, 2014
Mars is supposed to be dead…...a fact Lt. Shaila Jain of the Joint Space Command is beginning to doubt in a bad way.

Freak quakes are rumbling over the long-dormant tectonic plates of the planet, disrupting its trillion-dollar mining operations and driving scientists past the edges of theory and reason. However, when rocks shake off their ancient dust and begin to roll—seemingly of their own volition—carving canals as they converge to form a towering structure amid the ruddy terrain, Lt. Jain and her JSC team realize that their realize that their routine geological survey of a Martian cave system is anything but. The only clues they have stem from the emissions of a mysterious blue radiation, and a 300-year-old journal that is writing itself.

Lt. Thomas Weatherby of His Majesty’s Royal Navy is an honest 18th-century man of modest beginnings, doing his part for King and Country aboard the HMS Daedalus, a frigate sailing the high seas between continents…and the immense Void between the Known Worlds. Across the Solar System and among its colonies—rife with plunder and alien slave trade—through dire battles fraught with strange alchemy, nothing much can shake his resolve. But events are transpiring to change all that.

With the aid of his fierce captain, a drug-addled alchemist, and a servant girl with a remarkable past, Weatherby must track a great and powerful mystic, who has embarked upon a sinister quest to upset the balance of the planets—the consequences of which may reach far beyond the Solar System, threatening the very fabric of space itself.

Set sail among the stars with this uncanny tale, where adventure awaits, and dimensions collide!


Read Trinitytwo's review of The Daedalus Incident here.





About Michael

Interview with Michael J. Martinez - May 20, 2014
Photo by Anna Martinez
Michael J. Martinez is a husband, father and writer living the dream in the Garden State. He’s spent more than 20 years as a professional writer and journalist, including stints at The Associated Press and ABCNEWS.com. After telling other people’s stories for the bulk of his career, he’s now telling a few of his own creation – The Daedalus Incident (Night Shade Books, 2013) and its sequel, The Enceladus Crisis (Night Shade Books, 2014). The third installment, The Venusian Gambit, is due out in March 2015. He’s a proud member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.



Website  ~  Twitter @mikemartinez72.





Interview with Robin Riopelle, author of Deadroads - April 24, 2014


Please welcome Robin Riopelle to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews.


Interview with Robin Riopelle, author of Deadroads - April 24, 2014




TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Robin:  Hi – thanks again for having me.

Always. In the crib, I think. Although I’ve had a really interesting series of creative careers [see earlier blog post, maybe a link?], I always had to write. During lunch hours, after the kids were asleep, I wrote. Writing feeds a different part of my soul. About five years ago, I decided I was going to push myself further and start submitting things. I didn’t want to have any regrets about roads not taken.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Robin:  Oh, I am a plotter. I am clearly a chronic, over-the-top plotter of epic proportions. Because I’m also an illustrator, my outlines often look like annotated drawings. If people are amazed at how quickly I can turn out words, it’s because I spend stupid amounts of time working the outline.



TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Robin:  Giving myself permission to take the time to do it. So much else seems to crowd in and will eat my attention if I’m not vigilant and determined.



TQ:  Describe Deadroads in 140 characters or less.

Robin:  Classic loner gets over it.

What? Something more? Oh, okay.

Sol Sarrazin lays ghosts to rest, but after his father is murdered, he must face down demons to save his estranged family.



TQ:  What inspired you to write Deadroads? Why did you write a novel of ‘Supernatural Suspense.’ Are there any other genres or sub-genres in which you’d like to write?

Robin:  I’ve always liked a good ghost story. Ghosts work well as a metaphor for unfinished business, for past mistakes, for things that we try to ignore that keep coming back. It’s difficult to pin down what Deadroads actually is, genre-wise: part thriller, part family drama, part horror. Character-driven supernatural suspense is as close as I can come.

Fractured families interest me. Separation, reunion – as an adopted person, these are the ideas that I want to take apart, examine, and put through their paces. A natural extension of this idea is le grand dérangement – the historical expulsion of Acadians from maritime Canada – which tore families apart, with some ending in the swamps of Louisiana, where Deadroads begins.

Other genres? I’m partial to all sorts of fantasy, and I definitely would like to write something set in an alternate history. Really well-written creative non-fiction appeals to me, too. I’d love to research the hell out of a topic and write something accessible about it. Like writers Erik Larson (The Devil in the White City) or John Vaillant (The Golden Spruce).



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Deadroads?

Robin:  For Deadroads, I had a research vector: Cajun and Acadian history and culture; the lure of “The West”; and paramedicine. I live in Ottawa, where I use French a lot. I talked to francophone friends about language and culture; I read a lot. I listened to Quebecois, Cajun and Acadian music almost non-stop, though that never was and never will be a chore. As for The West – well, Jack Kerouac came in handy. Because my character Sol is a paramedic, I pestered my EMT friends about what they loved and hated about their jobs. And due to a hiking accident and subsequent 2-hour ambulance ride, I had a rambling, drug-fueled conversation with a very nice paramedic about the entire contents of her rig, the injuries that still make her queasy, and the difficulties of maintaining a love life.



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

Robin:  Sol Sarrazin screws up so royally, and is so flawed, that he’s a joy to write. Sol witholds: his love, his tongue, his approval, his temper…until he doesn’t. As a writer, I tend to hold back myself, let the reader fill in the blanks, so maybe that’s why he resonated with me.

Writing his sister Lutie wasn’t difficult so much as harrowing. Lurking under her poise and her seemingly cold indifference is a monumental hurt. She masks it by straight-arming anyone who comes close to her. When I felt her warming up to Baz, this long-lost brother who is happy as a balloon at a kid’s party, it was painful, the return of sensation, like pins and needles. She’s a hard person to like, and writing her self-imposed distance made me ache.



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

Robin:  When Sol figures out that the stranger he assumed his brother Baz’s date is actually their sister, Lutie. You could describe Sol as beleaguered and harried, at the best of times. He’s juggling about twelve things at once: lying to his girlfriend, dealing with his dead father’s ghost, trying to keep Baz safe, and then there’s this chippy girl who’s giving him grief. He more or less throws her out from Baz’s motel room. But when the penny finally drops, when he understands the enormity of what’s going on, and how he’s going to have to face it—it’s a whole new level of harried. I knew, as Sol knows, that he’s going to have to tackle all this emotional crap he’s swept under the rug. It’s delicious.



TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite lines from Deadroads.

Robin:  Sol, in response to his paramedic partner Wayne’s assertion that the best part of the job is the thank-you sex, before recapping Sol’s daring rescue of an injured construction worker:

“Bon,” said Sol, nodding. “That’s why I do it. So I can see your little face light up like that.” He grimaced. “Not for the thank-you sex. Jesus.”

I like this line because Sol is not generally funny. He had to take on a lot of responsibility on at an early age, and it made him serious and solemn. I really like the relationship he has with Wayne, how Sol’s easier around him, doesn’t put up as many fronts. It also reveals that while Sol will joke around with the EMT crews, he’s serious about his relationship with his girlfriend. He’s a decent guy, at the core.

I also love listening to my completely bilingual friends, how they slip in and out of two languages in the same sentence.



TQ:  What's next?

Robin:  There’s more to the story I start in Deadroads. I based the story on an old French folksong: Les trois hommes noirs. There’s three of those devils, right? So I’ve been writing the sequel.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





Deadroads

Deadroads
Night Shade Books, April 15, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
(eBook published March 17, 2014)

Interview with Robin Riopelle, author of Deadroads - April 24, 2014
Lutie always wanted a pet ghost-but the devil's in the details.

The Sarrazins have always stood apart from the rest of their Bayou-born neighbors. Almost as far as they prefer to stand from each other. Blessed-or cursed-with the uncanny ability to see beyond the spectral plane, Aurie has raised his children, Sol, Baz, and Lutie, in the tradition of the traiteur, finding wayward spirits and using his special gift to release them along Deadroads into the afterworld. The family, however, fractured by their clashing egos, drifted apart, scattered high and low across the continent.

But tragedy serves to bring them together. When Aurie, while investigating a series of ghastly (and ghostly) murders, is himself killed by a devil, Sol, EMT by day and traiteur by night, Baz, a traveling musician with a truly spiritual voice, and Lutie, combating her eerie visions with antipsychotics, are thrown headlong into a world of gory sprites, brilliant angels, and nefarious demons-small potatoes compared to reconciling their familial differences.

From the Louisiana swamps to the snowfields of the north and everywhere in between, Deadroads summons you onto a mysterious trail of paranormal proportions.






About Robin

Interview with Robin Riopelle, author of Deadroads - April 24, 2014
Robin Riopelle lives on the border between French and English Canada with her criminologist husband, two seemingly adorable kids, and an obstreperous spaniel. In addition to writing for museums and magazines, Riopelle also illustrates children’s books. Deadroads is her first novel.










Website  :  Twitter @Robin_Riopelle :  Facebook



Review: The Venusian Gambit by Michael J. MartinezInterview with Betsy Dornbusch - April 9, 2015Interview with John Love and Excerpt from Evensong - February 26, 2015Interview with Dennis O'Flaherty, author of King of the Cracksmen - February 17, 2015Excerpt: King of the Cracksmen by Dennis O'Flaherty Guest Blog by Steven John, author of Outrider and Three A.M. - September 17, 2014Guest Blog by Kameron Hurley - Creative Creatures: Not Your Typical Houseplants - August 29, 2014Reviews: The Enceladus Crisis and The Gravity of the Affair by Michael J. MartinezInterview with Michael J. Martinez - May 20, 2014Interview with Robin Riopelle, author of Deadroads - April 24, 2014

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