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A blog about books and other things speculative

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Interview with Andy Davidson, author of In the Valley of the Sun


Please welcome Andy Davidson to The Qwillery as part of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. In the Valley of the Sun is published on June 6th by Skyhorse Publishing.







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

Andy:  When I was ten, my fifth-grade teacher had us write in journals every morning—whatever we wanted, no restrictions. I filled up a notebook with weird, episodic little stories about an earthworm who wore a hat, drove a car, got married, had relatives come to stay. The teacher let us read aloud what we’d written, but I was too nervous to stand in front of the class. So, one day this other kid snatches my notebook and starts to read for me. Turns out, he’s a terrible reader, so I get up and finish the job, and to this day I still remember the expressions on the other kids’ faces when I looked up from the end of the story: they were rapt. That was the moment, I’ve always suspected, when I fell in love with writing.

It would be a lie to say I’ve been writing ever since. In fact, for about ten years after getting my MFA, I didn’t write fiction at all. I dabbled with screenplays, started smaller projects that went unfinished. Lost my way a bit. I don’t remember when, exactly, I woke up, but I did. A confluence of fear and love brought me back to it and made me see: it’s now or never. So, I worked harder at it than I ever had in my life, and I was as surprised as anyone when it paid off.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Andy:  I guess I'm a hybrid, but I lean more toward plotting than pantsing. There's something about the word “pantser” that sounds dirty, like you could get arrested for doing it, so I try not to do it all that much. But writing is an organic process, whether you plot or not. I plot heavily up front, so that I always know (mostly) where I'm going. Inevitably, how I get there changes based on the needs of the story, and I end up reshaping things along the way.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Andy:  I work forty hours a week in a regular job, so making time for writing—especially in the early stages, when I’m just trying to get a project off the ground—isn’t always easy. Imagining what the story could be, all the preliminary work, that’s play. It’s fun. But sooner or later, you have to start, and escape velocity is critical: getting enough words written so I can't turn back, so I have to finish. Eventually, the process kicks in and it becomes habit. But there’s an iffy period, early on, when I could easily crash and burn. Pushing through that (about the first 20,000 words of a novel) is tough.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Andy:  I keep a bulletin board at work pinned with pictures of writers and filmmakers (teachers, all of them) who remind me, daily, what I’m supposed to be doing and how I’m supposed to be doing it. Among these folks are Barry Hannah, Jack Butler, Cormac McCarthy, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Charles Portis, the Coen Brothers, Margaret Atwood, Flannery O’Connor, and David Lynch. Also: my wife. She’s a lifelong pen-and-paper gamer, and we often talk about the mechanics of story or some aspect of character or how to get out of a tricky place, plot-wise. It’s good to have someone who really understands storytelling to talk to. It keeps the wheels spinning.



TQDescribe In the Valley of the Sun in 140 characters or less.

Andy:  A Texas serial killer becomes a vampire at the hands of his would-be victim. Tender Mercies meets Taxi Driver by way of Near Dark.



TQTell us something about In the Valley of the Sun that is not found in the book description.

Andy:  There’s a lighter side to the book. It does have a few funny moments. And it’s ultimately a love story—not necessarily about one character’s pursuit of another but more about the idea of love, how we all need someone else to complete us, whether it’s a wife, a husband, a child, or even God.



TQWhat inspired you to write In the Valley of the Sun? What appeals to you about combining Horror and Westerns?

Andy:  About five years ago, my wife and I decided to enclose our yard with a privacy fence. It turned out to be a massive fence, and when it came time to paint the sucker, I found myself outside for days on end, painting and painting and painting. I plugged into my iPod while I worked. One of the songs that kept cycling through was Dwight Yoakam’s cover of Johnny Horton’s “Honkytonk Man.” It struck me that the singer—a man who tells the listener he just can’t stop doing what he’s doing—is fessing up to a compulsion, a compulsion that leaves him a little broken when all’s said and done. I thought it was kind of sinister, this song. At the time, I was learning scriptwriting by reading screenplays and books on writing, so I layered this idea—a psychotic cowboy who can’t stop hooking up with women in juke-joints—over Horton Foote’s Tender Mercies, which is one of my favorite films. I wrote the script, then turned the script into a first draft of a novel. But what I had written just wasn’t working. It had zero supernatural elements. It didn’t spark my interest, as a reader. So I went back to my great childhood love of horror novels, and I’m reading Salem’s Lot and it hits me: Travis is already a kind of metaphorical vampire, so why not make him a literal vampire? As a reader, now I’m hooked. It introduces mystery, antagonism, all sorts of things that weren’t there before.

Horror stories and Westerns share this idea of the unknown, I think. In Westerns, the unknown is usually some outcome or destination you can’t see, i.e. a perilous journey to some unmapped place. That place can be a literal landscape or a figurative destination, some dark place in our own hearts. In Horror, the unknown is typically what terrifies us: a dark storm drain or basement. But it can also mean the bad things we fear we’re capable of doing, given the wrong set of circumstances. In both genres, though, people are usually drawn toward something that will either damn them or set them free. There’s a lot of that in my novel, being compelled toward a thing you don’t fully understand—and all the dangers inherent to chasing that compulsion. For me, that’s what the West is.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for In the Valley of the Sun?

Andy:  Most of my research was about atmosphere and landscape, with a little bit of forensic research. Since the book is set in West Texas, I read No Country for Old Men again. I spent a long time with Google Earth’s ground-level views of the region. I listened to a lot of old country music, which was not all new to me (country music was a big part of my childhood, just like horror novels). I looked at a lot of Wikipedia articles about trees in West Texas. Diagrams of box turtle anatomy. Eventually, my wife and I were able to visit out there, which was invaluable in terms of finding perfect details the Internet just can’t give you, like the actual sound of a windmill turning in the desert, or the little bones you find littering the highways.



TQPlease tell us about In the Valley of the Sun's cover.

Andy:  Well, the sun’s going to feature prominently in any vampire novel—but especially in one called In the Valley of the Sun. The cover is really all about mood. In a word, “dread.” Erin Seaward-Hiatt at Skyhorse is the cover designer. Talking with my editor, we wanted it to have the feel of an old photograph found in a drawer, something that might chill you if happened upon it. Annabelle Gaskin, who owns the motel where much of the novel takes place, photographs sunsets and sunrises and hangs the pictures in her café. I always imagined the book’s cover was one of hers. Maybe one she never framed because it scared her, inexplicably.



TQIn In the Valley of the Sun who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Andy:  John Reader, the Texas Ranger, was the easiest. In part, that’s because I understood him from the beginning: he’s not particularly happy with what he does for a living, but he does it well, and he loves his wife more than anything else in the world. The two of them share what all couples share: a history of happiness and sadness and everything in between. Also, he’s an archetypal figure, the man of the law, so his course of action in any given situation was always clear to me, even if it wasn’t to him. Reader does what’s right. Maybe he strays, but he comes back to the path. Characters like that, if they have a clear voice, almost write themselves.

The hardest character was Travis. Writing a serial killer isn’t easy. The main challenge is imbuing him with a personality that’s not cold or blank—seeing all aspects of him, in other words, from his sense of humor to the genuine kindness he sometimes shows to others. Of course, at the end of the day, he does have to be scary, but he can’t be so scary that he loses the reader’s sympathy—ever. That’s a tricky thing to pull off. Props to my editor for pushing me to get him right. I’m really proud of him, actually—as proud as one can be, I guess, of a murderer.



TQWhich question about In the Valley of the Sun do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Andy:  This is sort of about the book. At a reading last year, I had a student ask me, “What’s your favorite novel?” It caught me completely off guard! I actually couldn’t think of a definitive answer. I told him I could have easily given him my favorite movie (it’s JAWS). But later, when searching for an epigraph for In the Valley of the Sun, it just struck me, the one book I’d call a perfect novel, and one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read? Davis Grubb’s The Night of the Hunter. So, there it is. If anyone ever asks me that again at a reading, I’m ready for it.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from In the Valley of the Sun.

Andy:  “The world’s just full of monsters.” – Reader



TQWhat's next?

Andy:  I’ve got another book already finished called The Boatman’s Daughter. I’m currently revising it, getting it ready for submission—it takes place in my home state of Arkansas, features a swamp witch and a mad preacher—and I’ve hit the 25,000-word mark on a third novel. If I had to pitch that one, I’d tell you it’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula meets Smokey and the Bandit.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Andy:  Thanks!





In the Valley of the Sun
Skyhorse Publishing, June 6, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

Deftly written and utterly addictive, this Western literary horror debut will find a home with fans of authors like Joe Hill, Cormac McCarthy, and Anne Rice.

One night in 1980, a man becomes a monster.

Haunted by his past, Travis Stillwell spends his nights searching out women in West Texas honky-tonks. What he does with them doesn’t make him proud, just quiets the demons for a little while. But after Travis crosses paths one night with a mysterious pale-skinned girl, he wakes weak and bloodied in his cabover camper the next morning—with no sign of a girl, no memory of the night before.

Annabelle Gaskin spies the camper parked behind her motel and offers the cowboy a few odd jobs to pay his board. Travis takes her up on the offer, if only to buy time, to lay low and heal. By day, he mends the old motel, insinuating himself into the lives of Annabelle and her ten-year-old son. By night, in the cave of his camper, he fights an unspeakable hunger. Before long, Annabelle and her boy come to realize that this strange cowboy is not what he seems.

Half a state away, a grizzled Texas Ranger is hunting Travis for his past misdeeds, but what he finds will lead him to a revelation far more monstrous. A man of the law, he’ll have to decide how far into the darkness he’ll go for the sake of justice.

When these lives converge on a dusty autumn night, an old evil will find new life—and new blood.




IN THE VALLEY OF THE SUN Trailer from Andy Davidson on Vimeo.





About Andy

Andy Davidson holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Mississippi. His work has appeared in Drunken Boat, Carve magazine, the Santa Clara Review, and other journals. He lives in Georgia with his wife.


Website

Twitter @theandydavidson


Interview with Lauren A. Forry, Author of Abigale Hall


Please welcome Lauren A. Forry to The Qwillery as part of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Abigale Hall was published on April 11th by Skyhorse Publishing.



Interview with Lauren A. Forry, Author of Abigale Hall




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

Lauren:  I started writing stories when I was kid, weird stories about witches and children disappearing in fields of corn and a blob that ate students on field trips. I read a lot of Goosebumps and the Bunnicula books by James Howe, and I really wanted to write my own scary stories (which were not scary and barely stories).

It wasn’t until college that decided I wanted to be a writer. I originally wanted to be an ER doctor and started on the pre-med track at NYU. NYU is split into several different colleges, and it offers open arts elective courses so that students in the other schools can take certain classes at Tisch School of the Arts. I needed one more class to fill out my spring semester Freshman year, so I took an open arts course in screenwriting. I pretty much immediately realized that telling stories is what I should be doing for a living. While I found my science courses interesting, I had more passion for that course than any pre-med work I had done. When I told my parents I wanted to switch my major and become a writer, my mom’s word-for-word response was, “Well we knew that. We were waiting for you to figure it out.”



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Lauren:  Definitely a hybrid. I’ve learned the hard way that if I totally try to pants something, I write nothing worth keeping and have to scrap entire drafts. On the flip side, if I try to plot everything, I don’t let the story develop and reveal itself naturally. So before I start a novel, I figure out the opening scene and inciting incident, the mid-point climax, and the resolution. Then I write chronologically. As each scene develops, I start to see where the plot needs to go in order to get me to that next major plot point, so when I finish a chapter, I’ll do a quick outline of what I think needs to happen in the next chapter, adjusting as necessary. It’s exciting when I get towards the end of a first draft, and I know exactly how many scenes I have left to write until I get to the ending (which may or may not have changed since my initial idea).



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Lauren:  Scene descriptions! Because I had four years of screenwriting training, I have a strong sense for scene structure and dialogue, but when I decided to write novels, I struggled with descriptions because I realized they actually have to be interesting. In screenwriting, you’re creating a blueprint for others to follow. You only include what detail is necessary, and you keep it simple and straightforward. When describing a scene in a novel, you’re not just the writer. You’re the director, actor, cinematographer, costumer, sound mixer, etc. It’s entirely up to you to work the reader’s imagination and create the scene you want them to see.

When I’m writing a first draft, my scenes are mainly skeletons – dialogue and necessary plot points. Then I’ll go back and layer in the stronger, descriptive prose. It usually takes me a few rounds before I get the scene to evoke the tone and atmosphere I want.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Lauren:  My very first influence was The X-Files. Long story short, my dad was an FBI agent, so when The X-Files premiered when I was 8 years old, he wanted us to watch it together. (My parents let me watch pretty much anything so long as I watched it with them. I also didn’t scare easily and had a pretty strong understanding of fiction versus reality.)

For all original 9 seasons, Dad and I never missed an episode together. Because of that, I’ve always been drawn to anything dark, scary, weird, or strange. As an adult, that’s translated into a love of Daphne du Maurier, Shirley Jackson, Sarah Waters, David Mitchell, Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, and many others.

On the other side of the spectrum, I also have a pretty big love affair with Judge Judy. Understanding how people think is important for developing strong characters, and seeing what people choose to sue one another over in a small claims court – especially when they’re suing family members – fascinates me.



TQ:   Describe Abigale Hall in 140 characters or less.

Lauren:  A dark Gothic thriller set during one of Britain’s most depressing eras where women must cannibalize their own desires to survive.



TQ:   Tell us something about Abigale Hall that is not found in the book description.

Lauren:  To me, Abigale Hall has always been a story about the past versus the future. Mrs. Pollard is the past, desperately clinging to old ideas and values no matter the cost, while Eliza is the future, fighting for her own identity and freedom.



TQWhat inspired you to write Abigale Hall?

Lauren:  Two ideas kind of collided around the same time that birthed the idea for Abigale Hall. First, I had been reading about post-WWII Britain. Being American, I grew up learning about how great the post-war years were for us economically. In Britain, it was the exact opposite. I had no idea that living conditions were worse for several years after the war than they were during it. It seemed like such a depressing time and I thought, “What a great setting for a horror story.”

While my dad imbued me with a love of scary, strange stories, my mom is a huge history buff who got me interested in British and European history. She’s also into genealogy and because of that, she inadvertently sparked the idea for the plot. She discovered we had a distant ancestor named Brownawell and thought it would be a great name for a character. I started thinking who this Brownawell might be and what his secrets were. Once I figured out those secrets, I thought of who might be the best person to discover them, and that person became Eliza, the novel’s protagonist. Once I connected the idea that Eliza’s story could be put into that postwar setting, everything else fell in place.



TQAbigale Hall is described by your publisher as "a historical ghost story". What appeals to you about ghost stories and do you have any favorites?

Lauren:  I like the mystery of ghost stories – the question of what’s really happening. Why is the ghost here and what connection does it have to those who are still living? And, is there really a ghost or is what’s happening the manifestation of an unwell mind?

I love the film The Orphanage. After The Others, I didn’t think another film could pull off such a unique twist on the genre, but The Orphange does. And I finally read The Shining the other year and couldn’t put it down. I find I’m more drawn to malevolent, manipulating spirits than the kind ones!



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Abigale Hall?

Lauren:  I read as much as I could about the WWII and postwar experience in Britain. David Kynaston’s Austerity Britain was a huge asset. Britain also had something quite remarkable from 1937 to the 1950s which was the Mass Observation social research organization. Mass Observation asked people to document their everyday lives and sometimes answer specific questions about the news or politics at the time, and mail in their diaries. Because of that, there is a vast amount of information about the average person’s life in Britain during and after the war. Several editors have collected some of the entries into books, including Simon Garfield (Our Hidden Lives and Private Battles), and the diaries of a woman named Nella Last, who was especially prolific, have been collected into three volumes. Lots of books can tell you the events of the time, but it’s the little details like what type of soap people used or the most popular brands of toothpaste, that really make a setting come to life.

I was also living in London when I wrote Abigale Hall, so I visited as many museums as I could. The Imperial War Museum in Lambeth had, at the time, a life-sized model of a typical 1940s house, and I took about a thousand pictures. Plus it had suitcases and belongings of children who had been evacuated during the Blitz, ration cards, 1940s clothes and shoes, gas masks. You could even sit inside a shelter and experience what is like to hide during an air raid.

Sometimes I would just walk around central London and try to see it as Eliza would have, but I’d have to double-check streets and walking routes because in 1947, London had barely begun to rebuild after the Blitz. A street you can walk down today might have been a blasted bombsite until the 1950s.



TQPlease tell us about Abigale Hall's cover.

Lauren:  The cover puts the focal point on the house, which I love, because the house really plays a central character in the story rather than just being a setting. Only some of the windows are lit to evoke the sense that something is not all there about this place. There is a battle between darkness and light going on inside. And the surrounding tree branches are like claws, but are they reaching out to push you away from the house or turning in to keep something contained?



TQIn Abigale Hall who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Lauren:  Rebecca was the easiest. I am a younger sister, so I could channel her mindset pretty well. We youngest siblings can tend to be selfish. We experience this strange combination of everyone else in the family simultaneously looking out for us and taking care of us while also ignoring us enough that we’re left to our own devices and can do as we please. So I took my experiences with that and amped them up to a more dramatic level.

Peter’s friend, Stephen, was the hardest. He’s a misogynist and a creep, so having to think like him made me uncomfortable, particularly in his scenes with Eliza. I would say more about a time I enjoyed writing his character, but I don’t want to spoil anything!



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

Is Abigale Hall also a Gothic romance, like Rebecca?

Lauren:  No, and I’m sorry if anyone who reads it expects more romance than there is! Eliza does have a boyfriend whom she loves dearly and wants to get back to, but in an age where women were already being forced out of work after the war and chided for causing child neglect if they did work, I wanted Eliza to learn how to stand on her own. Her entire life, her identity has been wrapped up in relationships – relationships with her parents, her sister, her boyfriend – and I wanted her to learn to see herself as a whole person and question whether or not she likes what she sees.



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

Lauren:

“A set of teeth smiled at her from the brown water. Eliza dropped the spoon. The sheep’s head sunk to the bottom of the pot.”

Boiling a sheep’s head to make broth was something people did – you couldn’t waste anything – and as soon as I read that in my research, I knew I had to include it. I’ve never made broth in my life, let alone boiled animal heads to do it, and that image left such a strong image in my mind that I couldn’t wait to share it.



TQWhat's next?

Lauren:  I recently finished my second novel, which is another dark, twisted tale, though not Gothic. I like to think of it as a dark X-Files episode except set in 1950s Britain with a repressed housewife and a disgraced scientist. And I’m editing my third novel, which will be my take on a murder mystery in the vein of And Then There Were None. (The Clue movie with Tim Curry is a big childhood favorite, and I’ve wanted to write something darkly humorous – and murderous – like that for awhile.) I’m also working on a few more short stories for Brick Moon Fiction (brickmoonfiction.com) that I’m excited about but can’t say much about right now.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





Abigale Hall
Skyhorse Publishing, April 11, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 376 pages

Interview with Lauren A. Forry, Author of Abigale Hall
Amid the terror of the Second World War, seventeen-year-old Eliza and her troubled little sister Rebecca have had their share of tragedy, having lost their mother to the Blitz and their father to suicide. Forced to leave London to work for the mysterious Mr. Brownwell at Abigale Hall, they soon learn that the worst is yet to come. The vicious housekeeper, Mrs. Pollard, seems hell-bent on keeping the ghostly secrets of the house away from the sisters and forbids them from entering the surrounding town—and from the rumors that circulate about Abigale Hall. When Eliza uncovers some blood-splattered books, ominous photographs, and portraits of a mysterious woman, she begins to unravel the mysteries of the house, but with Rebecca falling under Mrs. Pollard’s spell, she must act quickly to save her sister, and herself, from certain doom.

Perfect for readers who hunger for the strange, Abigale Hall is an atmospheric debut novel where the threat of death looms just beyond the edge of every page. Lauren A. Forry has created a historical ghost story where the setting is as alive as the characters who inhabit it and a resonant family drama of trust, loyalty, and salvation.





About Lauren

Interview with Lauren A. Forry, Author of Abigale Hall
Lauren A. Forry was brought up in Pennsylvania before living in the woods outside of London. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Kingston University, where she was awarded the Faber Creative Writing MA Prize for her thesis work, Abigale Hall. Her short stories have since been published by Brick Moon Fiction, Lamplight Magazine, and other sci-fi and horror anthologies. She currently resides in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.








Facebook  ~  Twitter @laurenaforry



Review: Dragonolia: 14 Tales and Craft Projects for the Creative Adventurer by Chris Barnardo


Dragonolia: 14 Tales and Craft Projects for the Creative Adventurer
Author:  Chris Barnardo
Publisher:  Skyhorse Publishing, November 3, 2015
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 96 pages
List Price:  US$16.99 (print and eBook)
ISBN:  9781634503273 (print); 9781510700925 (eBook)

Review: Dragonolia: 14 Tales and Craft Projects for the Creative Adventurer by Chris Barnardo
Dragonolia is a storybook with a difference. Discover 14 charming tales, where each one is intertwined with an exciting craft project enabling the reader to relive the amazing adventures of Sir Richard Barons, the famous 19th century dragon hunter.

Learn how to make an antique-looking Box Frame while reading about the tale of the Mischievous Mink; or perhaps you might like to find out how to easily craft the fabulous Wizards’ Wand that brought the dying dragon, Angeline, back to life at the last minute; or even make a real-life Dreamcatcher to hang above your bed as you follow Sir Richard Barons into the Brazilian jungle on the trail of the Celestial Dragon Spirit to cure his niece of the horrible nightmares she suffered after she banged her head falling off her horse.

The stories, written in an imaginative Victorian style befitting of the great adventurer, fit perfectly round their accompanying craft projects, which being beautifully laid out in simple, easy-to-follow steps, ensure a truly immersive and rewarding experience for the reader and listener alike.



Trinitytwo's Point of View

Sir Richard Barons, a dragon hunter and explorer of some renown, shares exploits from his past in the form of short stories. It should be noted that Sir Richard does not hunt dragons to kill them but rather to gather information and artifacts. Each story ends with a modern idea for creating your own artifact and the instructions are easy to follow and well detailed.

The first chapter entitled "Shadow Box Frame; The tale of the lost mink that was the cause of an invention" is a highly creative and imaginative tale. This story recounts Sir Richard's father's exploits as a boy who desired to tame a mink and make him into a trained pet. Chaos quickly ensues as the mink escapes its captivity and finds refuge in the walls of their home. Destructive measures are taken to capture the mink by making holes in the plaster. A quick-thinking housekeeper uses her ingenuity to cover the holes and an innovation in displaying prized possessions is born. Directions to create your own shadow box are provided in 15 steps along with tracing templates.

The next story entitled "Antique Chart; Dream of an undiscovered country" and the art of mapmaking tells of the author stumbling upon his father's charts and journal pages. On Dragon Island his father and his crew were able to repair their ship and get much needed provisions. During their stay they enjoyed the company of the locals so much that they gave the island's inhabitants a gift of a set of maps of the entire archipelago. Keeping a set of maps for themselves, they vowed to return but the company never found the island again. Sir Richard tells the story with the hopes that it will inspire readers to make a map of their own. Nine simple instructions are provided as well as samples of lettering and other details. The short story inspired me as I have always loved looking at maps, and I tried my hand. The template for the map was easy to download but I made the mistake of printing in black and white where color would have been preferable. Mapmaking is somewhat time consuming, even if you are just using your own imagination, but I was able to produce a pretty cool map in under three hours.

The next craft to catch my eye was the Dragonhide Pouch, accompanied by the short story "Tough negotiations for the toughest hide". In this amusing anecdote, our hero must procure dragonhide for a friend whose up and coming London business plans on catering to the whims of the upper crust. He plans on providing them the opportunity to purchase authentic dragonhide purses, wallets, and pouches. Sir Richard Barons travels to Nepal in order to purchase the highest quality dragonhide available. Negotiations are successful but a few months later the intrepid negotiator learns that he may have been played for a fool. This craft has nine steps with instructions that are simple to follow. I made some modifications since I didn't have the correct material in my craft bin. Instead I used a red flannel sock and a pouch I already had on hand. Two bits of advice: Please use caution around hot glue if there are little ones involved, and the inevitable dangling glue threads were time consuming to get rid of, but should definitely be removed before painting.

Dragonolia by Chris Barnardo accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do. It entertains by way of 14 amusing tales of adventure and provides instructions for accompanying crafts that will inspire both young and old. The stories lend themselves to older children through adults. "The Filigree Egg Case; the inspiration for the most famous of jewelry eggs" and "Wizard's Wand; The big freeze of '27" are worth mentioning because the stories are outrageously wonderful and although I didn't get to these projects yet, they look enjoyable. I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had making these crafts. I am proud of my Dragonolia creations and I hope to find time to make more.

Review: Dragonolia: 14 Tales and Craft Projects for the Creative Adventurer by Chris Barnardo
Dragonolia Projects
Dragonhide Pouches and Map of Alabaster Island
Photo and Crafts by T. Maknis

Review: Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith


Radiant
AuthorKarina Sumner-Smith
Series:  Towers Trilogy 1
Publisher:  Talos, September 30, 2014
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
List Price:  $15.99 (print)
ISBN:  9781940456102 (print)
Review Copy:  Reviewer's Own

Review: Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith
Xhea has no magic. Born without the power that everyone else takes for granted, Xhea is an outcast—no way to earn a living, buy food, or change the life that fate has dealt her. Yet she has a unique talent: the ability to see ghosts and the tethers that bind them to the living world, which she uses to scratch out a bare existence in the ruins beneath the City’s floating Towers.

When a rich City man comes to her with a young woman’s ghost tethered to his chest, Xhea has no idea that this ghost will change everything. The ghost, Shai, is a Radiant, a rare person who generates so much power that the Towers use it to fuel their magic, heedless of the pain such use causes. Shai’s home Tower is desperate to get the ghost back and force her into a body—any body—so that it can regain its position, while the Tower’s rivals seek the ghost to use her magic for their own ends. Caught between a multitude of enemies and desperate to save Shai, Xhea thinks herself powerless—until a strange magic wakes within her. Magic dark and slow, like rising smoke, like seeping oil. A magic whose very touch brings death.

With two extremely strong female protagonists, Radiant is a story of fighting for what you believe in and finding strength that you never thought you had.


Brandon's Review

Radiant: Towers Trilogy Book One, a debut novel by Karina Sumner-Smith, lives up to its name. When I reached the last page of the story I kept trying to turn the page as if that would make it lead directly into the next book in the trilogy that hasn’t been released yet. Sadly, this didn’t work.

Radiant is a story that explores class differences and issues of privilege as Xhea struggles to survive in the ruins of an unnamed future metropolis. A City floats above the ruins powered by the magic generated by its citizens. Those born without the magical clout to rise above are left to scrabble for the leavings of the past in collapsed buildings as they avoid walkers at night. Xhea is born without the simplest magic, which she has turned into a career as someone who can explore ruins beneath the surface of the earth that pains regular magic users too much to contemplate. She has another unique attribute in that she can see ghosts. One of her clients would like a break from the ghost that is trailing him and we meet Shai, a powerful ghost, who befriends Xhea and together they must decide whether their own survival is more important than that of the City above them.

This is a story that I had no trouble getting deep into and feeling as if the terror, hunger, and pride were struggles I was feeling. Having grown up in a family that faced its share of financial troubles and facing long periods of physical harassment for being different I could identify with Xhea’s need to be the independent loner who hungers deeply for some kind of connection to normalcy. Great pacing in this novel makes it an easy read with enough difference in voice and subject matter to differentiate it from other dystopian future novels out there. I do hope the author spends a little more time developing the issues of privilege that are endemic to this struggle and Shai’s perspective on the trials the two are facing together in the next book.





Look for Brandon's review of Defiant (Towers Trilogy 2) on May 6th.

Defiant
Towers Trilogy 2
Talos, May 12, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Review: Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith
Once, Xhea’s wants were simple: enough to eat, safety in the underground, and the hit of bright payment to transform her gray-cast world into color. But in the aftermath of her rescue of the Radiant ghost Shai, she realizes the life she had known is gone forever.

In the two months since her fall from the City, Xhea has hidden in skyscraper Edren, sheltered and attempting to heal. But soon even she must face the troubling truth that she might never walk again. Shai, ever faithful, has stayed by her side?but the ghost’s very presence has sent untold fortunes into Edren’s coffers and dangerously unbalanced the Lower City’s political balance.

War is brewing. Beyond Edren’s walls, the other skyscrapers have heard tell of the Radiant ghost and the power she holds; rumors, too, speak of the girl who sees ghosts who might be the key to controlling that power. Soon, assassins stalk the skyscrapers’ darkened corridors while armies gather in the streets. But Shai’s magic is not the only prize?nor the only power that could change everything. At last, Xhea begins to learn of her strange dark magic, and why even whispers of its presence are enough to make the Lower City elite tremble in fear.

Together, Xhea and Shai may have the power to stop a war?or become a weapon great enough to bring the City to its knees. That is, if the magic doesn't destroy them first.

Interview with Scott Kenemore - May 14, 2014


Please welcome Scott Kenemore to The Qwillery. Scott's most recent novel is Zombie, Indiana which was published earlier this month by Talos.



Interview with Scott Kenemore - May 14, 2014




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

Scott:  Hi, there! Thank you for interviewing me about Zombie, Indiana!

To answer your question, I've always enjoyed creative writing, and have been writing stories and essays since I was a kid.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Scott:  I tend to outline large narrative events in a novel ahead of time, but still find myself getting ideas in the moment when I'm writing, and sometimes this informs the plot in important ways. (I still smile whenever I see the "plotter versus pantser" bifurcation, because my friend, the poet Chris O. Cook, would always use the verb "pants" to mean "to pull down a man's pants when he is not expecting it." Thus, I am pro-pantsing in all senses of the word!)

The most challenging part of writing for me is probably getting the wording right in revisions. It ain't glamorous, but it's so, so important.



TQ:  Describe Zombie, Indiana in 140 characters or less.

Scott:  "A horror novel and political satire about the great state of Indiana!"



TQ:  Tell us something about Zombie, Indiana that is not in the book description.

Scott:  Larry Bird, Damon Bailey, Reggie Miller, and other Hoosier basketball icons play a role in telling the story (though they don't directly appear as characters).



TQ:  What inspired you to write novels about zombies? Why set the series in the Midwest (Ohio, Illinois, and now Indiana)?

Scott:  I've lived all over the Midwest, and I like to write about the small regional differences-- including differences of temperament-- that can separate Midwestern states.

I like to attack places with zombies because of the stress-test that a zombie outbreak creates. States act one way when the economy is booming, there's no natural disasters, and the country is not at war. They act in entirely different ways during a crisis. I think zombies create an interesting kind of crisis.



TQ:  Please tell us about your zombies. Are they more like the George Romero zombie or something else? What do you think is the appeal of zombie fiction?

Scott:  My zombies are slow and stuporous, very like Romero zombies. I like slow zombies because there's sort of no excuse for getting eaten by one. They're missing limbs. They're illiterate. They can't run. But they're still going to eat you, because you're going to make bad choices and get brought down by your own vices. That's something I find compelling as a storyteller.

I could write tens of thousands of words about why zombie fiction holds appeal for folks, and still not hit every angle. So I'll just say that, for me, zombies have a sort of blue-collar appeal as monsters go. They are the least pretentious entity in the horror pantheon.



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Zombie, Indiana?

Scott:  I lived in Indiana until about 2002. Then, last summer while I was writing the book, I went back down and scouted many of the locations where I knew scenes would be set in Zombie, Indiana. I went to Indianapolis, Southern Indiana, and the caves on the border with Kentucky.



TQ:  In Zombie, Indiana, who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Scott:  The hardest was probably Kesha Washington-- an African-American scholarship student at an expensive private high school in Indianapolis. Creating this character was a conscious decision to challenge myself as a writer, because I find so many renderings of adolescents in horror fiction to be flimsy and obnoxious. I wanted to see if I could do a better job.

The easiest character to write was Indiana Governor Hank "The Tank" Burleson. His short-sightedness and venery were a joy to limn!



TQ:  Please give us one or two of your favorite lines from Zombie, Indiana.

Scott:  Unlike many of my favorite writers--Gore Vidal, Victor Hugo-- my writing does not generally lend itself to producing aphorisms. I do, however, smile upon recalling my governor-character's dismissal of Wisconsinites:
"Idiot Cheeseheads to the last. They had selected a cow for the image on the reverse side of their state quarter. That had given Burleson a deep sense of satisfaction. There was nothing to fear from these gentle bovines. There never had been."
Perhaps this small calumny will suit your purposes?



TQ:  What's next?

Scott:  I have a novel about a haunted hotel coming out in October, also from Skyhorse/Talos.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Scott:  Thank you for having me!





Zombie, Indiana
Zombie 3
Talos, May 6, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 376 pages

Interview with Scott Kenemore - May 14, 2014
In the third book of his Zombie series, Scott Kenemore brings the explosive horror thriller of an undead outbreak in the city of Indianapolis. Zombie, Indiana takes place during the same timeline as the outbreaks in his books Zombie, Ohio and Zombie, Illinois, and has the same punch as the previous two.

Zombie, Indiana explores the impact of an invading zombie horde on a trio of Hoosier protagonists . . . each of whom have some dark secrets to keep. When the governor’s daughter mysteriously disappears on a field trip, IMPD Special Sergeant James Nolan, scholarship student Kesha Washington, and Governor Hank Burleson must all come together not only to find the governor’s daughter, but also to undertake a quest to redeem the very soul of the state itself . . . all while under constant attack from the living dead.

With humorous, memorable characters, tense action sequences, and brutal zombie violence, Zombie, Indiana will put readers in mind of some of the most compelling works of popular fiction. At once a mystery, a thriller, and a horror novel, Kenemore strikes again with this rollicking tour through America’s heartland that is nothing but a tour de force for zombie fiction fans!



Zombie, Illinois
Zombie 2
Talos, October 1, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 392 pages

Interview with Scott Kenemore - May 14, 2014
The sequel to the bestselling Zombie, Ohio, this explosive supernatural thriller from Scott Kenemore tells the story of three Chicagoans who have been thrown together by a bizarre, interconnected series of events during the first twenty-four hours of a zombie outbreak in the Midwest's largest city. A partnership is crafted between a pastor from Chicago's rough South Side, an intrepid newspaper reporter, and a young female musician, all of whom are fighting for survival as they struggle to protect themselves and their communities in a city overrun with the walking dead. Between the barricaded neighborhoods and violent zombie hunters, the trio encounters many mysterious occurrences that leave them shaken and disturbed. When the mayor of Chicago is eaten by zombies on live television, and a group of shady aldermen attempt to seize power in the vacuum, these unlikely friends realize that they have stumbled upon a conspiracy to overthrow the city . . . and that they alone may be qualified to combine their talents to stop it.

Zombie, Illinois will delight devoted zombie fans and put readers in mind of some of the best recent works of supernatural horror. You will be left shocked, horrified, and craving brains! This novel will grab you from the first page and not let go until the riveting finale.



Zombie, Ohio
Zombie 1
Talos, February 8, 2011
Trade Paperback and eBook, 240 pages

Interview with Scott Kenemore - May 14, 2014
When rural Ohio college professor Peter Mellor dies in an automobile accident during a zombie outbreak, he is reborn as a highly intelligent (yet somewhat amnesiac) member of the living dead. With society crumbling around him and violence escalating into daily life, Peter quickly learns that being a zombie isn’t all fun and brains. Humans—unsympathetic, generally, to his new proclivities—try to kill him at nearly every opportunity. His old friends are loath to associate with him. And he finds himself inconveniently addicted to the gooey stuff inside of people’s heads.

As if all this weren’t bad enough, Peter soon learns that his automobile accident was no accident at all. Faced with the harrowing mystery of his death, Peter resolves to use his strange zombie “afterlife” to solve his own murder.

Skillfully combining the genres of horror, humor, and film noir, Zombie, Ohio weaves an enthralling and innovative tale that any fan of the current zombie craze is sure to relish. Followers of detective and horror fiction alike will find something to love about Zombie, Ohio—a tale of murder, mystery, and the walking dead.





About Scott

Interview with Scott Kenemore - May 14, 2014
Scott Kenemore is the bestelling author of the Zen of Zombie-series of humor books, and the novels Zombie, Ohio, and Zombie, Illinois. He was born in New York, grew up in Indiana, and currently resides in Chicago, Illinois.





Website



Interview with Andy Davidson, author of In the Valley of the SunInterview with Lauren A. Forry, Author of Abigale HallReview: Dragonolia: 14 Tales and Craft Projects for the Creative Adventurer by Chris BarnardoReview: Radiant by Karina Sumner-SmithInterview with Scott Kenemore - May 14, 2014

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