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A blog about books and other things speculative

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Review: The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu


The Wall of Storms
Author:  Ken Liu
Series:  The Dandelion Dynasty 2
Publisher:  Saga Press, October 4, 2016
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 880 pages
List Price:  US$29.99 (print); US$9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:   9781481424301 (print); 9781481424325 (eBook)

Review: The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu
In the much-anticipated sequel to the “magnificent fantasy epic” (NPR) Grace of Kings, Emperor Kuni Garu is faced with the invasion of an invincible army in his kingdom and must quickly find a way to defeat the intruders.

Kuni Garu, now known as Emperor Ragin, runs the archipelago kingdom of Dara, but struggles to maintain progress while serving the demands of the people and his vision. Then an unexpected invading force from the Lyucu empire in the far distant west comes to the shores of Dara—and chaos results.

But Emperor Kuni cannot go and lead his kingdom against the threat himself with his recently healed empire fraying at the seams, so he sends the only people he trusts to be Dara’s savvy and cunning hopes against the invincible invaders: his children, now grown and ready to make their mark on history.



Brannigan's Review

Ken Liu's The Grace of Kings was one of my top books of last year. The Wall of Storms is the second book in his Dandelion Dynasty series and I have to say it is an amazing sequel. Liu does everything right for his sequel, he expands on the cast of characters, the world itself and the conflict.

When it comes to characters, Liu knows how to bring complexity. I thought he had a lot of characters in The Grace of Kings, well I was wrong. He added even more for this book and spends plenty of time giving them time on the page to develop their own stories. Something I really enjoyed with this second book is the fact that so many female characters got so much attention and development. The Emperor Kuni Garu, the main protagonist, has two wives (or a wife and a consort), and a daughter--not to mention the leaders and scholars in the court that are also female. Each of these female characters play major parts in this story as they all want to have as much influence in the court as possible and go about it in different ways and even work against each other to accomplish their goals.

Some things that I really enjoyed about the first book that continue over into this book is the way that Ken Liu does writes his characters in such an equitable way. There are never any truly good or evil characters. They all seem to do the wrong things, even if they've justified them to be right in their minds. Yet because they stay true to their needs, I find myself forgiving them or at least feeling empathy. The antagonists in this story have plenty of relatable aspects to their personalities and yet they do some really horrible things even if you can understand why they do it. I love the complexity Liu gives them.

The world expands a lot in this second book as we see how the islands react after the rebellion and the new Emperor starts his rule. Once again the gods spend a lot of time in the story popping in and out, taking sides with different factions and generally causing as much chaos as possible. I've never been a huge fan of deities in fantasy fiction. We see the mixture of technology and magic development much more in this second book, which I found very entertaining. We are also introduced to the Wall of Storms, which I don't remember ever being mentioned in the first book. Basically, the islands are protected or separated from the mainland by a wall of cyclones that keeps ships from crossing it. This aspect of the world plays a major part of the conflict in the story.

I love Ken Liu's writing, but I always try to point out one or two flaws I find in the book to be fair. Liu is a master storyteller and mixes in some beautiful poetic lines in his prose. His descriptions are breathtaking. However, this is not a short book. It's 858 pages and it's a very slow read with a lot of political dueling and the introduction of many new characters while balancing the already large cast. Things don't really pick up speed until the last 1/3 of the book. This is not to say I didn't enjoy every part of the book, but it took me much longer to read. Much like the pacing of the book, the number of characters and plots going through this book can become very confusing. Once again, you have to know your limits as a reader. If you prefer your cast of main characters to be under ten, this isn't the book for you.

The Wall of Storms brought everything I wanted in a sequel. I spent a good month enjoying myself in this one book and would love to do it again. I can't wait to see where we go from here and even though I'm not a huge fan of stories lasting longer than three books, I'll be sad if it ends in the next book. If you love an immersible Asian Fantasy with a large cast of complex characters, you're going to be in heaven with this one. You really need to read the first book in the series to enjoy this book, but you won't regret the time you'll spend in Liu's world. Frankly, they would be the perfect two books to enjoy over the holidays.





Previously

The Grace of Kings
The Dandelion Dynasty 1
Saga Press, August 9, 2016
Trade Paperback, 640 pages
Hardcover and eBook, April 7, 2015
Mass Market Paperback, February 23, 2016

Review: The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu
Two men rebel together against tyranny—and then become rivals—in this first sweeping book of an epic fantasy series from Ken Liu, recipient of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards. Hailed as one of the best books of 2015 by NPR.

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

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


See Brannigan's Review here.

Interview with Joe Zieja, author of Mechanical Failure


Please welcome Joe Zieja to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Mechanical Failure will be published on June 14th by Saga Press.



Interview with Joe Zieja, author of Mechanical Failure




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

Joe:  Hi there! Thanks for having me. Like many writers, I've been writing for most of my life in some form or another. I decided to actually pursue writing as a potential career, however, in 2010. To be honest, I can't remember why I made the decision at that specific time, but I would bet it had something to do with the nagging desire to keep writing that has been with me my whole life. I was still in the Air Force back then, and I think part of my motivation was to have a career option that would help me leave it behind when the time was right. That turned out to be completely wrong - I became a voice actor and moved to Los Angeles instead - but that was definitely part of the motivation.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Joe:  Hybrid, with a lean toward plotting. I generally don't begin a book unless I know how it ends, but I don't fill in lots of the details in between. Mechanical Failure, for example, had a rough synopsis that was about 10,000 words of stream-of-consciousness outlining done prior to beginning the work. I don't, however, resist changes as the book starts to flow, and I'm not afraid to throw out sections of outline and start from scratch.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Joe:  Honestly? All the things that have nothing to do with writing. Navigating the publishing industry, establishing connections, making time for cons, promoting my work, being an active participant in social media. All those tertiary things can be tough sometimes, and I'm always beating myself up for not making the other parts of my career as strong as they could be. If you were to force me to pick a challenge that specifically has to do with putting words on the page, though, I might say picking an idea to invest in. Before starting a new concept, I'll sketch out several ideas, with the haunting feeling that whichever one I pick is a 100,000 + word commitment. I have an aversion to wasted time, so sometimes the idea that I might make the wrong choice can be paralyzing.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Joe:  Life! If we're talking specifically about Mechanical Failure and the Epic Failure trilogy, my military career had the biggest influence on that piece. The things I did, the places I went, and the people I met are all in these books in some way or another. (Sorry, fighter pilots.)



TQDescribe Mechanical Failure (Epic Failure 1) in 140 characters or less.

It's Catch-22 in space with some robots.



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

The main character constantly fantasizes about being rescued from burning rooms by the woman of his dreams.



TQWhat inspired you to write Mechanical Failure? What appeals to you about writing military science fiction?

JoeMechanical Failure was sold on a proposal and 3 sample chapters, which I know doesn't happen often for new guys. In this case, my editor at Saga, Joe Monti, had read a previous piece of mine that was a zany fantasy/farce piece. Ultimately he didn't end up buying it (YET, MONTI, YET!) but it spurred him to come to me with a request for a military science fiction novel with a humorous bent. He knew my background in the military, and we'd met before, so I gladly cooked up some options. I always thought I would write epic fantasy - military SF kind of came out of nowhere for me.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Mechanical Failure?

Joe:  I spent years briefing generals in the Air Force on very serious matters of intelligence and national security combined with tactical analysis of warfare in at least 3 theaters of operation and a tiny pinch of explosions. Isn't that what everyone does?



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

Joe:  The main character - Rogers - was the easiest to write. He basically represented my internal monologue for 10 years of my life, and it was almost cathartic to get it out on paper for once without the fear of being court-martialed. The most difficult to write was the admiral of the fleet. I had to almost completely rewrite his character because I wanted to take him in a direction that was just way too over the top for the novel, and figuring out a way to reign him in while still maintaining the humor and poignancy of his character was not an easy task.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Mechanical Failure?

Joe:  I don't think it's really possible to write a good piece of literature without including some social issues in it, whether the author intends to or not. I absolutely talk about social issues - mostly using humor to lampoon them from a number of perspectives - but I didn't set out to write a thematic element in neon lights. I never think about it in terms of including social issues - I think about it in terms of the kind of story I want to tell. If I figure out a compelling story to tell about something that also happens to be a hot-button social issue, I'm going to write that story. But since you asked, I do hate Donald Trump.



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

Joe:

Q: What is a secret life story behind any of the events in Mechanical Failure?

A: There's a scene where Admiral Klein, commander of the fleet, critiques an intelligence officer for the colors he's used in his briefing. This stems from an actual experience I had as a lieutenant in the Air Force, in which approximately a half hour was wasted discussing whether or not the bars on my slide that represented incomplete missions should be red or orange. Red was considered by some to be too negative, since some of the incomplete missions were due to circumstances outside of our control. Mind you, this was a three-star general's briefing, not just a small, squadron-level thing. That may have been the day I decided that a full, 20-year career in the USAF was not for me.



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

Joe:  When the character believes he is going to slowly suffocate: "...The last traces of his intellect would vanish as his body no longer put oxygen into his brain. Then he’d be promoted to colonel and run the personnel squadron. It was an inevitable chain of events."

"AUTOMATION IS EFFICIENCY IS EFFICACY IS GOOD."



TQWhat's next?

Joe:  Well since Saga was kind enough to buy three of these books, I've got to get writing them! To be honest, the second book is already done. I'm waiting on some feedback before I start book 3, in case Saga says they want to cut all of the characters in book 2 and replace them with funny droids. Don't want to get too far ahead of myself. Book 3 is loosely scheduled for sometime in 2017, so I've got a bit of time to think about it. In the meantime, I'm toying with some other, more serious ideas.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Joe:  Thank YOU!





Mechanical Failure
Epic Failure 1
Saga Press, June 14, 2016
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Interview with Joe Zieja, author of Mechanical Failure
A smooth-talking ex-sergeant, accustomed to an easygoing peacetime military, unexpectedly re-joins the fleet and finds soldiers preparing for the strangest thing—war.

The two hundred years’ (and counting) peace is a time of tranquility that hasn’t been seen since...well, never. Mankind in the Galactic Age had finally conquered war, so what was left for the military to do but drink and barbecue? That’s the kind of military that Sergeant R. Wilson Rogers lived in before he left the fleet to become a smuggler.

But it turns out that smuggling is hard. Like getting-arrested-for-dealing-with-pirates-and-forced-back-into-service kind of hard. It doesn’t seem so bad—the military was a perpetual tiki party anyway—but when Rogers returns after only a year away, something has changed. These are soldiers—actual soldiers doing actual soldier things like preparing for a war that Rogers is sure doesn’t exist. Rogers vows to put a stop to all this nonsense—even if it means doing actual work.

With an experienced ear for military double-speak, Zieja has created a remarkable and sarcastic adventure.





About Joe

Interview with Joe Zieja, author of Mechanical Failure
Joe Zieja is an author with a long history of doing things that have almost nothing to do with writing at all. A graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, Joe dedicated over a decade of his life to wearing The Uniform, marching around in circles and shouting commands at people while in turn having commands shouted at him. It was both a great deal of fun and a great nuisance, and he wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Joe’s also a commercial voiceover artist and a composer of music for video games and commercials. He’s probably interrupted your Spotify playlist at least once to encourage you to click on the banner below and isn’t the least bit upset that you ignored him.

Website  ~   Twitter @JoeZieja
Facebook  ~  Instagram

Interview with Kat Howard, author of Roses and Rot


Please welcome Kat Howard to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Roses and Rot will be published on May 17th by Saga Press.



Interview with Kat Howard, author of Roses and Rot



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

Kat:  I started writing seriously in late 2007, when I decided to apply to Clarion. I was basically in a situation where my personal life had taken an unexpected turn, and it was one of those “Okay, well, let’s see if I can do this thing, what have I got to lose” moments. I was so sure that I wouldn’t succeed that it stopped me from feeling afraid about it.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Kat:  In my initial drafts, I’m almost entirely a pantser. Once I have that down, I then go back and figure out what I’ve left out, and try to do things like impose some sort of structure and make sure a plot gets in there at some point.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Kat:  In case that answer above didn’t give it away, I do have to remember to put the plot in, and it has been and continues to be a challenge for me to get my brain to think about plot in a way that translates to things actually happening on the page. I’m also someone who is, for the most part, much more comfortable when I’m revising, rather then when I’m writing that very first draft, so learning to relax and write something that’s “good enough for now” so that I can move on and then make it better later is an ongoing thing as well.



TQWhat has influenced/influences your writing?

Kat:  I think it can be hard to see your own influences sometimes, to recognize the thing that itches your brain until it becomes a story. But I’m inspired by a lot of writers currently working: Holly Black and Elizabeth Hand and Sarah McCarry and Kelly Link and Sofia Samatar and Maggie Stiefvater and Victoria Schwab and Maria Dahvana Headley and Fran Wilde and Genevieve Valentine and Zen Cho and Carmen Maria Machado and that’s a non-exhaustive list.



TQDescribe Roses and Rot in 140 characters or less.

Kat:  It’s a gender-flipped riff on Tam Lin set at a modern day artists’ colony.



TQTell us something about Roses and Rot that is not found in the book description.

Kat:  It contains two kittens, a train, and chocolate mousse.



TQWhat inspired you to write Roses and Rot? What appeals to you about writing Contemporary Fantasy?

Kat:  I’ve loved the story of Tam Lin ever since I first read Pamela Dean’s novel. Roses and Rot came out of thinking about one particular part of that story – the tithe that Fairy pays, and the way to break that tithe. Who do you love enough to risk that much for? Once I had that question, I had the beginning of the book.

I write fantasy because it’s a genre that allows me to start with the metaphor, and move on from there. I like weirdness and magic and wonder, and writing fantasy allows me to make all of those things literal.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Roses and Rot?

Kat:  I read a lot of biographies of women artists, and I watched a lot of ballet. Let me tell you, it’s not a bad life, watching videos of Misty Copeland or Sergei Polunin for work.



TQWhy did you set the novel in rural New Hampshire?

Kat:  I knew and loved the area.



TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Kat:  The easiest character was probably Imogen – I had her voice in my head from the beginning, and I always felt like I knew her. The most difficult was probably Imogen and Marin’s Mom, because she was so unpleasant.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Roses and Rot.

Kat:  “You go into the woods to find your story. If you are brave, if you are fortunate, you walk out of them to find your life.”



TQDo you have any favorite fairy tales?

Kat:  My favorite is probably “Beauty and the Beast” – I collect different versions of it. I also really love “The Six Swans.”



TQWhat's next?

Kat:  Well, I’m always writing short fiction, and – speaking of fairy tales – I have a retelling of “The Snow Queen” that will be a part of The Starlit Wood anthology, coming later this year from Saga. I’ll also have a new novel (completely unrelated to Roses and Rot, which is fully a standalone) out from Saga in the fall of 2017.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





Rose and Rot
Saga Press, May 17, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Kat Howard, author of Roses and Rot
Publishers Weekly Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror Novel of Summer 2016

Imogen and her sister Marin escape their cruel mother to attend a prestigious artists’ retreat, but soon learn that living in a fairy tale requires sacrifices, whether it be art or love in this haunting debut novel from “a remarkable young writer” (Neil Gaiman).

What would you sacrifice for everything you ever dreamed of?

Imogen has grown up reading fairy tales about mothers who die and make way for cruel stepmothers. As a child, she used to lie in bed wishing that her life would become one of these tragic fairy tales because she couldn’t imagine how a stepmother could be worse than her mother now. As adults, Imogen and her sister Marin are accepted to an elite post-grad arts program—Imogen as a writer and Marin as a dancer. Soon enough, though, they realize that there’s more to the school than meets the eye. Imogen might be living in the fairy tale she’s dreamed about as a child, but it’s one that will pit her against Marin if she decides to escape her past to find her heart’s desire.





About Kat

Interview with Kat Howard, author of Roses and Rot
Photograph © Shane Leonard
Kat Howard lives in New Hampshire. Her short fiction has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award, anthologized in year's best and best of collections, and performed on NPR. Roses and Rot is her debut novel. You can find her on twitter at @KatWithSword.












Website



2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Mechanical Failure by Joe Zieja


2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Mechanical Failure by Joe Zieja


The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2016 Debut Author Challenge.


Joe Zieja

Mechanical Failure
Epic Failure 1
Saga Press, June 14, 2016
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Mechanical Failure by Joe Zieja
A smooth-talking ex-sergeant, accustomed to an easygoing peacetime military, unexpectedly re-joins the fleet and finds soldiers preparing for the strangest thing—war.

The two hundred years’ (and counting) peace is a time of tranquility that hasn’t been seen since...well, never. Mankind in the Galactic Age had finally conquered war, so what was left for the military to do but drink and barbecue? That’s the kind of military that Sergeant R. Wilson Rogers lived in before he left the fleet to become a smuggler.

But it turns out that smuggling is hard. Like getting-arrested-for-dealing-with-pirates-and-forced-back-into-service kind of hard. It doesn’t seem so bad—the military was a perpetual tiki party anyway—but when Rogers returns after only a year away, something has changed. These are soldiers—actual soldiers doing actual soldier things like preparing for a war that Rogers is sure doesn’t exist. Rogers vows to put a stop to all this nonsense—even if it means doing actual work.

With an experienced ear for military double-speak, Zieja has created a remarkable and sarcastic adventure.

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Roses and Rot by Kat Howard


2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Roses and Rot by Kat Howard


The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2016 Debut Author Challenge.


Kat Howard

Rose and Rot
Saga Press, May 17, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Roses and Rot by Kat Howard
Publishers Weekly Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror Novel of Summer 2016

Imogen and her sister Marin escape their cruel mother to attend a prestigious artists’ retreat, but soon learn that living in a fairy tale requires sacrifices, whether it be art or love in this haunting debut novel from “a remarkable young writer” (Neil Gaiman).

What would you sacrifice for everything you ever dreamed of?

Imogen has grown up reading fairy tales about mothers who die and make way for cruel stepmothers. As a child, she used to lie in bed wishing that her life would become one of these tragic fairy tales because she couldn’t imagine how a stepmother could be worse than her mother now. As adults, Imogen and her sister Marin are accepted to an elite post-grad arts program—Imogen as a writer and Marin as a dancer. Soon enough, though, they realize that there’s more to the school than meets the eye. Imogen might be living in the fairy tale she’s dreamed about as a child, but it’s one that will pit her against Marin if she decides to escape her past to find her heart’s desire.

Interview with Mishell Baker, author of Borderline


Please welcome Mishell Baker to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Borderline was published by Saga Press on March 1st.



Interview with Mishell Baker, author of Borderline



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

MB:  My sister taught me how to make the alphabet when I was four years old, and the very first thing I did was ask for a blank book so I could fill it with stories. At the wise old age of six I announced my intention to become a professional novelist. Thanks to the loving support of my parents and every possible advantage, the process only took me thirty-four more years. I guess you could say I was the exact opposite of a writing prodigy. That leads to the "why" - it's simply been a lifelong obsession, something I couldn't give up no matter how hard I tried. There was no persistence or work ethic involved; I wrote because I couldn't get through life otherwise.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

MB:  I'm a plotter, all the way. I make pretty detailed outlines before I even write word one of the first draft. That's not to say that I don't discover things along the way. There is no outline detailed enough to cover every quip a character might make, or every impulsive thing she might do in trying to achieve her objective in a scene. For example, there's a moment that ends a chapter in a train station in Borderline - heavy spoiler; you'll know it when you get there - and that moment was most definitely NOT in the outline. It didn't change the plot as I'd planned it, but it gave added weight to everything that came after. I can't imagine the book without it now.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

MB:  Outlining. Honestly, by the time I sit down to write the first draft, the hard part is over, and I can breeze right through. I put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into my outlines, pacing and talking to myself and making sure every twist in the story works and bears the load I want it to bear. I try to visualize settings, get a feel for characters, and layer subplots in the outline stage so that by the time I sit down to write prose, all I have left to figure out is what words to use to describe the movie that's already playing out vividly in my head.



TQWhat has influenced/influences your writing?

MB:  A whole eclectic mess of things. I'm fascinated by 19th-century Russian literature, the vividness of the people, the intricate observation of human psychology. But I also studied screenwriting, and some of my most profound influences at a certain phase in my development were television writers like Aaron Sorkin and Joss Whedon. This shows in my dialogue, I think. In addition, I play a lot of story-driven video games, such as the great stuff from Bethesda and Bioware. This kind of epic, immersive, emotional fantasy has changed the way I view story, made me very conscious of character choices and the endless ripples of consequence that can fan out from them. In some ways, modern storytelling media have spoiled me, made me impatient, and my writing reflects that. I don't tend to linger lovingly over landscapes; I feel driven to keep moving, to tie everything to conflict and emotion.



TQDescribe Borderline in 140 characters or less.

MB:  A cynical, disabled filmmaker must hunt down a movie star who's gone missing in Los Angeles and who happens to be a noble of the Seelie Court.



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

MB:  One of the things that I enjoy about Borderline is its bizarre approach to sex and romance. Eroticism permeates the book, but an indirect way. Millie is such a passionate person, and yet so long isolated and so uncomfortable with the changed landscape of her body, that she's all but exploding with sexual frustration. Even as she keeps herself at arms' length from everyone, she's still desperate to make a physical and emotional connection, and so she ends up having inappropriate fantasies about just about everyone she meets.



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

MB:  The inspiration for the story really comes from my experiences in Los Angeles, a city I love, but which at times seems so far removed from any other reality that it's almost a fantasy setting in and of itself. I had played around once with writing a thinly-veiled memoir about my experiences in the city, something more mainstream or literary, but it just didn't take. My true love has always been fantasy, and it was only when I made the connection between fairy glamor and Hollywood glamor that I knew I had a story I could actually write. I had not read any urban fantasy at that point -- I'd grown up on traditional fantasy -- and I had to do some research to make sure I didn't reinvent the wheel. I quickly realized that what I was writing was different in some awkward ways from the gold standards of the subgenre, but I didn't let that stop me, and as it turned out the differences ended up being strengths.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Borderline?

MB:  I did some driving around and location scouting, just as though I were planning to shoot it as a film. Because I have weak eyes, I don't have a very strong visual imagination, so it helps me to actually look at the settings I'll be writing and note down details to use later. I also looked into some of the realities of daily life for those with lower limb prosthetics, and I grilled my husband and people he knows in the entertainment industry for little secrets and anecdotes of film production.



TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

MB:  Caryl Vallo was the easiest character for me to write, because she was actually repurposed from another story that died very early in the making. She was so vivid to me, and I identified with her so strongly, that I never could quite let go of her; she had to find another home. The hardest character to write was probably Brian Clay. I'm not even sure why, but it took about three drafts before he came to life for me. Even for a minor character, a lack of personality is unacceptable to me, and so I kept beating my head against a mental brick wall until a personality slowly started to emerge for him. Now he's one of my favorites, and -- well, I can't say more without massive spoilers.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Borderline?

MB:  The social issues that Borderline tackles are so deeply interwoven with the narrative that it's hard even to think of them as "included" in any deliberate way. I wrote about mental health because that's what I know. I wrote about disability because that was part of my character's history and so I had to learn about it in order to depict her life accurately. And you can't write about Los Angeles without writing about racial diversity, any more than you can write about Los Angeles without writing about sunshine. You just have to depict what you'd see in a setting, if you want to do your job as a writer. But with the possible exception of mental illness, I didn't go into writing Borderline with any consciousness of putting across a message or trying to make a point. And the only point I really wanted to make about mental illness is, "People who have it are still people." Not exactly revolutionary, or at least I hope it isn't.



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

MB:  "I'm a collector of signed hardcovers! Is there a hardcover edition of Borderline available?" Why, yes there is! I collect signed hardcovers as well, and so to celebrate our shared hobby, if you mail the hardcover of Borderline to me to be signed, I'll mail it back to you on my own dime! You can send your hardcovers to me at PO Box 78760, Los Angeles, CA 90016. If you write me a letter along with it telling me about yourself, I'll sign the book to you nice and personally (and we may even end up pen pals; I'm eccentric that way).



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

MB:  Probably my favorite quotation from Borderline is this one: "Suicide is not a way of ending pain; it's just a way of redistributing it."



TQWhat's next?

MB:  Why, Book 2 of The Arcadia Project, of course: working title Phantom Pains. I'm also simultaneously at work on another fantasy series that I'm keeping mostly under my hat for now. But The Arcadia Project is going to have at least three books, and given the response to the first one so far, I can certainly see writing more after the first trilogy has reached its big finish.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





Borderline
Book 1 of The Arcadia Project
Saga Press, March 1, 2016
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Mishell Baker, author of Borderline
A cynical, disabled film director with borderline personality disorder gets recruited to join a secret organization that oversees relations between Hollywood and Fairyland in the first book of a new urban fantasy series from debut author Mishell Baker.

A year ago, Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she’s sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.

For her first assignment, Millie is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court. To find him, she’ll have to smooth-talk Hollywood power players and uncover the surreal and sometimes terrifying truth behind the glamour of Tinseltown. But stronger forces than just her inner demons are sabotaging her progress, and if she fails to unravel the conspiracy behind the noble’s disappearance, not only will she be out on the streets, but the shattering of a centuries-old peace could spark an all-out war between worlds.

No pressure.





About Mishell

Interview with Mishell Baker, author of Borderline
Photo by Vanie Poyey, Headshots LA
Mishell Baker is a 2009 graduate of the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, and her short stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Redstone Science Fiction, and Electric Velocipede. She has a website at MishellBaker.com and frequently Tweets about writing, parenthood, mental health, and assorted geekery at @MishellBaker. When she’s not attending conventions or going on wild research adventures, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children. Borderline is her debut novel.






Website  ~ Twitter @MishellBaker  ~  Facebook



Guest Blog by Lee Kelly - My Magic Dictionary


Please welcome Lee Kelly to The Qwillery. A Criminal Magic was published by Saga Press on February 2nd.



Guest Blog by Lee Kelly - My Magic Dictionary




MY MAGIC DICTIONARY
Plus some sneak peeks inside the world of A CRIMINAL MAGIC
Lee Kelly

My latest novel, A Criminal Magic, just released this month. The story takes place during an alternative Prohibition era, where magic instead of alcohol has been prohibited, and follows a sorcerer and federal agent as they become entangled in the magic underworld. And while I loved crafting the tense scenes between the two protagonists, Joan and Alex, and describing the historical details of this alternative Jazz Age, my very favorite part of writing this book was the magic. And there’s a LOT of it in this one – everything from sleights of hand to full-blown, multi-sorcerer immersive performances.

The tricky thing with magic though is that, while it’s supposed to be fantastical, it also has to make sense. It needs to be internally consistent – there should be rules, and the rules must work together or the “magic of the magic,” so to speak, clumsily falls apart like a bad card trick.

So as I was drafting this novel, I made sure to keep track of all my magic definitions and cross-references . . . and slowly but surely this evolved into a massive, dog-eared, thirty-page “Magic Encyclopedia” (yes seriously). Obviously no one’s seen any of this monster doc before, so I’m pretty excited to share some excerpts now.

Without further ado, here are five magic tricks you can expect to find at work inside the covers of A Criminal Magic:

caging spell (n., magic type: spell). A type of blood-spell whereby an individual with the magic touch a) locks a symbolic item in a vessel with the intention of banishing the evil such symbol represents, b) seals her vessel with drops of her own blood, and c) states the appropriate words of power (see also blood-spell). She removed a sliver of the patient’s infected flesh, put it in her mason jar and sealed it with her own blood, banishing his gangrene forever with the caging spell. (related: tracking spell, protection spell).


Fae dust (n., magic type: contraband). ORIGINS: IRELAND; OTHER REALITY (SPECULATED). A bright-blue, highly addictive powder with questionable magic origins, often used illicitly as a narcotic to produce hallucinations, and known for extreme paranoia-inducing side effects (see also dust, dust sweepers, dust bunnies). Get him to take it a few times, so that he’s hooked. The fae dust should work its own magic from there.


Linked trick (n., magic type: visual and spatial manipulation). A type of double-sided magic manipulation whereby an individual with the magic touch connects or “links” two objects through time and space (see also double-sided trick). The robbers’ getaway plan hinged on the success of a sorcered linked trick, as police claimed three masked men rushed through the bank’s back door and disappeared, only to be spotted by passersby exiting the front door of the bakery next door. (related: separation trick).


Obi (n., magic type: contraband). ORIGINS: BAHAMA ISLANDS. A dark, syrupy elixir-like drug with magic origins, often used illicitly to produce an almost catatonic, hypnotic mental state (see also death brew, Bahamian death brew, ghost brew). I’ve never touched the stuff, but more adventurous Shaw boys say obi lets you see ghosts. That the product only survives the trip across the sea because Satra’s gang made a deal with death, and has trapped damned souls inside their bottles.


Force field (n., magic type: visual and auditory manipulation). A type of protective magic manipulation whereby an individual with the magic touch disguises or hides another object with a charged, magical barrier, which may be invisible or can be itself disguised as another object (i.e., a “magic shell”) (see also protective force field). As soon as I cross the threshold, I feel it, that slow pull of walking straight through a protective force field. Like an unraveling, layer by layer, like I’m being consumed slowly by a thick, black nothing.





A Criminal Magic
Saga Press, February 2, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages

Guest Blog by Lee Kelly - My Magic Dictionary
In Lee Kelly’s newest fantasy novel, two young sorcerers experiment with magic and mobsters in 1920s Prohibition when a new elixir is created that turns their lives upside down.

Washington, DC, 1926. Sorcery opponents have succeeded in passing the 18th Amendment, but the Prohibition of magic has only invigorated the city’s underworld. Smuggling rings carry magic contraband in from the coast. Sorcerers cast illusions to aid mobsters’ crime sprees. Gangs have even established “magic havens,” secret venues where the public can lose themselves in immersive magic and consume a mind-bending, highly addictive elixir known as “the sorcerer’s shine.”

Joan Kendrick, a young sorcerer from the backwoods of Norfolk County, accepts an offer to work for DC’s most notorious crime syndicate, The Shaw Gang, when her family’s home is repossessed. Alex Danfrey, first-year Federal Prohibition Unit trainee with a complicated past and talents of his own, becomes tapped to go undercover and infiltrate the Shaws. When Joan meets Alex at the Shaws’ magic haven, she discovers a confidante in her fellow partner and he begins to fall under her spell. But when a new breed of the addictive sorcerer’s shine is created within the walls of the magic haven, Joan and Alex are forced to question their allegiances as they become pitted against one another in a dangerous, heady game of cat-and-mouse.





Also by Lee Kelly

City of Savages
Saga Press, February 2, 2016
Trade Paperback, 432 pages
Hardcover and eBook, February 3, 2015

Guest Blog by Lee Kelly - My Magic Dictionary
Red Dawn meets Escape from New York and The Hunger Games” (Booklist) in an action-packed dystopian fantasy filled with “prose [that] is gorgeous and brilliant” and “tells a satisfyingly dark tale through alternating the two sisters’ points of view” (VOYA, starred review).

It’s been nearly two decades since the Red Allies first attacked New York, and Manhattan is now a prisoner-of-war camp, ruled by Rolladin and her brutal, impulsive warlords. For Skyler Miller, Manhattan is a cage that keeps her from the world beyond the city’s borders. But for Sky’s younger sister, Phee, the POW camp is a dangerous playground of possibility, and the only home she’d ever want.

When Sky and Phee discover their mom’s hidden journal from the war’s outbreak, they both realize there’s more to Manhattan—and their mother—than either of them had ever imagined. And after a group of strangers arrives at the annual POW census, the girls begin to uncover the island’s long-kept secrets. The strangers hail from England, a country supposedly destroyed by the Red Allies, and Rolladin’s lies about Manhattan’s captivity begin to unravel.

Hungry for the truth, the sisters set a series of events in motion that end in the death of one of Rolladin’s guards. Now they’re outlaws, forced to join the strange Englishmen on an escape mission through Manhattan. Their flight takes them into subways haunted by cannibals, into the arms of a sadistic cult in the city’s Meatpacking District and, through the pages of their mom’s old journal, into the island’s dark and shocking past.





About Lee

Guest Blog by Lee Kelly - My Magic Dictionary
Photo by Pieter M. van Hattem
Lee Kelly is the author of A CRIMINAL MAGIC and CITY OF SAVAGES. She has wanted to write since she was old enough to hold a pencil, but it wasn’t until she began studying for the California Bar Exam that she conveniently started putting pen to paper. An entertainment lawyer by trade, Lee has practiced in Los Angeles and New York. She lives with her husband and two children in Millburn, New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter at @leeykelly and on her website at NewWriteCity.com.


Website  ~  Twitter @leeykelly

Facebook  ~  Tumblr



What's Up for the Debut Author Challenge Authors? - Part 44


This is the forty-fourth in a series of updates about formerly featured Debut Author Challenge authors and their 2015 works published since the last update and any upcoming works for 2016. The year in parentheses after the author's name is the year she/he was featured in the Debut Author Challenge.

This Update includes a cover that has recently been revealed (by the author, publisher, etc.).


Check out an interview with Kameron Hurley and an excerpt from The Stars are Legion at i09.com. I am really, really looking forward to this novel!



Part 1 herePart 11 herePart 21 herePart 31 here
Part 2 herePart 12 herePart 22 herePart 32 here
Part 3 herePart 13 herePart 23 herePart 33 here
Part 4 herePart 14 herePart 24 herePart 34 here
Part 5 herePart 15 herePart 25 herePart 35 here
Part 6 herePart 16 herePart 26 herePart 36 here
Part 7 herePart 17 herePart 27 herePart 37 here
Part 8 herePart 18 herePart 28 herePart 38 here
Part 9 herePart 19 herePart 29 herePart 39 here
Part 10 herePart 20 herePart 30 herePart 40 here
Part 41 herePart 42 herePart 43 here



Kameron Hurley (2011)

The Stars Are Legion
Saga Press, October 4, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages
[Exclusive First Look at i09.com]

What's Up for the Debut Author Challenge Authors? - Part 44
Set within a system of decaying world-ships travelling through deep space, this breakout novel of epic science fiction follows a pair of sisters who must wrest control of their war-torn legion of worlds—and may have to destroy everything they know in order to survive.

On the outer rim of the universe, a galactic war has been waged for centuries upon hundreds of world-ships. But these worlds will continue to die through decay and constant war unless a desperate plan succeeds.

Anat, leader of the Katazyrna world-ship and the most fearsome raiding force on the Outer Rim, wants peace. To do so she offers the hand of her daughter, Jayd, to her rival. Jayd has dreamed about leading her mother’s armies to victory her whole life—but she has a unique ability, and that makes her leverage, not a leader. As Anat convinces her to spend the rest of her life wed to her family’s greatest enemy, it is up to Jayd’s sister Zan—with no stomach for war—to lead the cast off warriors she has banded together to victory and rescue Jayd. But the war does not go at all as planned…

In the tradition of The Fall of Hyperion and Dune, The Stars are Legion is an epic and thrilling tale about familial love, revenge, and war as imagined by one of the genre’s most imaginative new writers.


2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Borderline by Mishell Baker


2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Borderline by Mishell Baker


The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2016 Debut Author Challenge.



Mishell Baker

Borderline
Book 1 of The Arcadia Project
Saga Press, March 1, 2016
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Borderline by Mishell Baker
A cynical, disabled film director with borderline personality disorder gets recruited to join a secret organization that oversees relations between Hollywood and Fairyland in the first book of a new urban fantasy series from debut author Mishell Baker.

A year ago, Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she’s sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.

For her first assignment, Millie is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court. To find him, she’ll have to smooth-talk Hollywood power players and uncover the surreal and sometimes terrifying truth behind the glamour of Tinseltown. But stronger forces than just her inner demons are sabotaging her progress, and if she fails to unravel the conspiracy behind the noble’s disappearance, not only will she be out on the streets, but the shattering of a centuries-old peace could spark an all-out war between worlds.

No pressure.

Review: The Wall of Storms by Ken LiuReview and Giveaway - Level Grind by Annie BelletInterview with Joe Zieja, author of Mechanical FailureInterview with Kat Howard, author of Roses and Rot2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Mechanical Failure by Joe Zieja2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Roses and Rot by Kat HowardInterview with Mishell Baker, author of BorderlineGuest Blog by Lee Kelly - My Magic DictionaryWhat's Up for the Debut Author Challenge Authors? - Part 442016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Borderline by Mishell Baker

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