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Interview with Chelsea Mueller, author of Borrowed Souls


Please welcome the fabulous Chelsea Mueller to The Qwillery as part of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Borrowed Souls was published on May 2nd by Talos.



Interview with Chelsea Mueller, author of Borrowed Souls




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

Chelsea:  Thanks, Sally. I've been a fan of this blog for so long. Very happy to be here.

I've always been a writer. (Every author says that, don't they?) I actually started as a journalist, though. I worked for magazines and newspapers for many years, before moving into another field. I found myself missing writing every day. I was already a voracious reader of genre fiction, and so I found myself beginning work on novels in every bit of spare time I could find. (Still do.)



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Chelsea:  Officially, I'm a pantser, but I leverage a kind of tentpole writing. I usually know the core threads of the book. So I know the beginning, middle, and end for each of those plot threads and the key turning points, but how they're all connected is discovered during the writing process.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Chelsea:  Picking the right story to tell. I have no shortage of ideas, but finding the one that needs to be told and that has the right kind of heart is the trick. This is especially challenging, as I'm a rather determined person (#Slytherin) and will finish something once I've started it.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing? You've been reviewing books for years at Vampire Book Club, which you founded. How does this influence your own writing?

Chelsea:  I think just about everything can influence us as people and as artists. My work at Vampire Book Club helped me see so much of what worked and what didn't. More importantly, though, it underscored that there is a niche for every book, and let me have confidence in writing the kind of book I would absolutely love—a gritty, dark urban fantasy with magic and big problems and a hot dude on a motorcycle.



TQDescribe Borrowed Souls in 140 characters or less. 

Chelsea:  If Mercy Thompson and Jessica Jones had a soul-renting baby, it'd be BORROWED SOULS. Magic. Mayhem. Motorcycles.



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

Chelsea:  While the book is definitely gritty and sexy—which you get from the blurb—it's also a little funny. I promise there's a scene where the biker mentioned in the blurb and Callie go bellydancing. I don't promise it goes to plan, but expect some hips that don't lie.



TQWhat inspired you to write Borrowed Souls?

Chelsea:  BORROWED SOULS was spawned from the idea of the Soul Charmer, the man who people in Gem City rent souls from. I had this vivid image of him in my mind and of his creepy shop. From there furled the idea of why magic like that would be needed and what would make a person use it.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Borrowed Souls?

Chelsea:  BORROWED SOULS is set in a modified version of a southwestern city. Everything in Gem City—from concerns about light pollution and vagrancy to omnipresent religious references—is based on a real world setting.



TQPlease tell us about Borrowed Souls' cover.

Chelsea:  Isn't the cover fantastic? All credit to it goes to Jeff Chapman. The model looks almost exactly as I'd pictured heroine Callie, and that flask in her back pocket is a key feature in the book. Wait until you find out what she's carrying in it!



TQIn Borrowed Souls who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Chelsea:  The book is written from Callie's point of view, and I can snap into her mindset in a second. She has a very firm set of principles and some serious guilt on her head, but a huge heart. The character arcs are my favorite, but Callie's brother Josh may be the most "difficult." If only because he tries to take advantage of Callie and doesn't recognize how blatant it is.



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

Chelsea:  I keep waiting for people to guess what city Gem City is based on, but all I'll say is look to the southwest!



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

Chelsea:  This one is one of my favorites, especially as everyone who has read it has told me which liquor they had the quintessential "bad experience" with and can no longer drink!

"In the hierarchy of booze-as-medicine-for-emotional-woes, it clearly went beer, wine, rum, vodka, tequila, and then whiskey. However, depending on your defining experiences, one could, possibly, swap the top three into almost any order."



TQWhat's next?

Chelsea:  Next I'm hanging out with everyone! I'll be at the RT Booklovers Convention in Atlanta May 2-6 (including signing at the big, public book signing on May 6), and then I'm hitting the road for a small book tour. If you live in Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, or Austin, check my schedule and come say hi!

I'm finishing up a contemporary fantasy novel, but also working on STOLEN SOULS—yes, that's the sequel to BORROWED SOULS, and it's already so much fun to write.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Chelsea:  Thanks for having me!





Borrowed Souls
A Soul Charmer Novel 1
Talos, May 2, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Chelsea Mueller, author of Borrowed Souls
Callie Delgado always puts family first, and unfortunately her brother knows it. She’s emptied her savings, lost work, and spilled countless tears trying to keep him out of trouble, but now he’s in deeper than ever, and his debt is on Callie’s head. She’s given a choice: do some dirty work for the mob, or have her brother returned to her in tiny pieces.

Renting souls is big business for the religious population of Gem City. Those looking to take part in immoral—or even illegal—activity can borrow someone else’s soul, for a price, and sin without consequence.

To save her brother, Callie needs a borrowed soul, but she doesn’t have anywhere near the money to pay for it. The slimy Soul Charmer is willing to barter, but accepting his offer will force Callie into a dangerous world of magic she isn’t ready for.

With the help of the guarded but undeniably attractive Derek—whose allegiance to the Charmer wavers as his connection to Callie grows—she’ll have to walk a tight line, avoid pissing off the bad guys, all while struggling to determine what her loyalty to her family’s really worth.

Losing her brother isn’t an option. Losing her soul? Maybe.





About Chelsea

Interview with Chelsea Mueller, author of Borrowed Souls
Chelsea Mueller writes gritty fantasy and YA novels packed with lots of action and a steady undercurrent of sexual tension.

She spends too much time at the gym practicing MMA skills, but makes up for it by counseling other authors on writing dynamic and realistic fight scenes. Get those tips in her Write Like a Fighter series.

When not crafting tales full of ass-kicking and kissing, she runs the totally fun blog Vampire Book Club, dishes on the latest book and TV hotties for Heroes & Heartbreakers, and hangs out with her awesome husband and two giant dogs. She loves bad cover songs, dramatic movies and TV vampires.

She lives in Texas and has been known to say y’all.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @ChelseaVBC

And check Chelsea's Event schedule here.

Interview with Cat Sparks, Author of Lotus Blue


Please welcome Cat Sparks to The Qwillery as part of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Lotus Blue was published on March 7th by Talos.



Interview with Cat Sparks, Author of Lotus Blue




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

Cat:  According to some of my old school friends, I always wrote stories and shared them around, but I don't remember entertaining early ambitions of being a writer. What I wanted was to be a filmmaker, so I went to art school to learn the nuts and bolts. Turned out I was truly terrible at it. I didn't have the skill set, the patience or the vision. I didn't really fit in with the film crowd. So at the tender age of 21, I threw in the towel, feeling like a complete failure of course, but in hindsight I'm so glad I didn't waste the next decade trying to hammer square pegs into round holes.

Being a fan of science fiction and fantasy eventually nudged me in the direction of writing it myself. I sold my first story in 2000 after many years of rejection and disappointment. I think I'm what you call a late bloomer.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Cat:  A plotter – totally. Years of random, unfocused pantsing brought me nothing but trouble. I didn't know what I was doing, and consequently hundreds of thousands of words from early drafts of Lotus Blue and the abandoned novels that preceded it ended up in the bin. What's that saying – you need to write a million words of rubbish before you succeed? I well and truly wrote a load of rubbish.

My last couple of short stories have been bashed out pantser style after doing a ton of research, so who knows -- perhaps it's time for a sea change?



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing? How does being an editor affect or not your writing?

Cat:  It is so much easier to determine what works or doesn't work in somebody else's story rather than your own, because of the lack of emotional attachment. As an editor, my duty is first and foremost to the reader. But as a writer, I get carried away by rhythm and flow. I'm a bit of a style pig and sometimes I end up drowning in it. There is nothing more helpful to me than a professional editor who knows what they're doing when it comes to slash and burn.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Cat:  The spectacular prose of other, better writers. I stand in utter awe of authors such as David Mitchell, Margaret Atwood, Simon Ings, Margo Lanagan and Michael Marshall Smith. True artists, I salute them all.



TQDescribe Lotus Blue in 140 characters or less.

Cat:  In a war-ravaged future, 17-y-o Star & a disparate crew fight to stop an ancient, deadly weapon before it wakes & remembers what it’s for.



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

Cat:  In my head, the port town of Fallow Heel that Star winds up in was designed as a hybrid of real world C17th and C18th whaling ports. The hunting of rogue tankers was based on pre-factory ship whaling, back in the days when it really was man against monster with not much technology between them. I read a bunch of old mariner’s diaries. Whaling was a deadly, dirty, batshit crazy business.



TQWhat inspired you to write Lotus Blue? What appeals to you about writing post-apocalyptic fiction?

Cat:  I've been wallowing in post-apocalypse narratives since I was a kid. Something about the end of the world and the crumbling ruins of civilization has always appealed to me, possibly the graphic contrast between such landscapes and my own safe suburban childhood. I guess wanting to contribute to the genre I adored was my main inspiration for writing the novel. Of course, the last thing I ever actually want to experience is an apocalypse for real. Climate change, big business and weak governments are pushing us pretty close to the line.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Lotus Blue?

Cat:  My research included: development and advances in military technology, transportation vehicles, self-repairing building materials, artificial intelligence, weather modification and potential weaponization, climate change, refugees, the Tuareg people who live in the Sahara and that desert itself, war poetry and the aforementioned whaling.



TQPlease tell us about Lotus Blue's cover.

Cat:  I love the cover to this book so much. The artist is Lauren Saint-Onge [www.laurensaintonge.com]. My editor Cory and I were in utter agreement as to which scene from the novel should be depicted on the cover: the moment where my protagonist, Star, and her people watch an ancient ‘Angel’ satellite falling to earth, an action with severe ramifications that kick starts her epic journey.



TQIn Lotus Blue who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Cat:  The easiest was the stowaway-grifter-street kid Tully Grieve – he just kind of tumbled out onto the page, possibly because I've known a few guys like him in real life. Grieve’s a good guy at heart, but flawed by hardship and circumstance. Trusting the wrong person in his world will get you killed. He's become very practiced at looking after number one. Caring for anyone else does not come easy.

The hardest was definitely Star. Many authors project elements of themselves through their protagonist, however I'm not anything like Star, and so I had to figure out how to free her up to make choices I would never make myself -- and do things I would never do. She's much tougher than I could ever be. Everyone’s tough in Lotus Blue. This future is particularly harsh and unforgiving.



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

Cat:  I have a great personal interest in social justice themes and my previous short fiction has always reflected this – in fact, I've been criticized for it in the past (your fiction is always about something, Cat – what’s with that?) Some people prefer fiction to be as light and escapist as possible. I'm not much interested in storytelling that doesn't resonate real-world concerns. Our world is in trouble and it needs all the help it can get. That's not to say that fiction should be preachy or didactic, or that fantasy shouldn't be full of… fantasy. My aim is to build real-world concerns into the narrative landscape at a cellular level, allowing readers to feel wider perspectives.



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

Cat:

Q: How influential was the Mad Max film franchise upon Lotus Blue?

A: Not at all – although I don't expect anyone to believe me! All up, the novel took about 10 years to write – and get right. In my head, I was always writing a Dune homage. I delivered the completed manuscript to my agent before Fury Road hit the cinemas. It's a fabulous film – they're all fabulous films, particularly #2, but I didn't see the similarities myself until first readers started mentioning it. Go figure.



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

Cat

Lucius waved and brought his camel closer. “Coming up on Axa,”
he shouted again for the benefit of those who’d never passed this way.
Not that there was much to see. A stark black cylinder surrounded
by sun-baked flats. Star stared hard at the shimmering thing. So little
was known about the fortress cities. The flats surrounding Axa were
booby-trapped with mines. That much she knew was true—that’s how
Kendrik lost his arm.

and

Mighty tankers were on the move, travelling in tight formation
grids. Working together, not attacking each other. Not something you
saw every day. Those mechabeasts had once roamed wild and free,
following their own whims, their own flights of fancy. But something
had changed. Something had gotten hold of their minds. Synchronous
rhythm locked them into step. For Marianthe, the sight brought on a
stream of flashbacks: glory days, when command and strategy spiked
through her arteries like a virus. Like a drug. A platoon full of hearts
beating in syncopation. You could feel your brother and sister soldiers,
know they had your back, your breath, your sweat.



TQWhat's next?

Cat:  Next up, I need to finish my PhD which is over a year past due. My exegesis examines speculative fiction’s role in regards to the future. I've enjoyed the research immensely but I'm looking forward to reading, writing and researching other things. I have an idea for a new book – a sci fi thriller set in the present day -- completely different to Lotus Blue in every possible way. Can’t wait to get stuck into it!



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Cat:  You're most welcome!





Lotus Blue
Talos, March 7, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 388 pages

Interview with Cat Sparks, Author of Lotus Blue
Powerful war machines of the far-future collide across a barren desert world in this post-apocalyptic debut novel from award-winning Australian author Cat Sparks.

Seventeen-year-old Star and her sister Nene are orphans, part of a thirteen-wagon caravan of nomadic traders living hard lives travelling the Sand Road. Their route cuts through a particularly dangerous and unforgiving section of the Dead Red Heart, a war-ravaged desert landscape plagued by rogue semi-sentient machinery and other monsters from a bygone age.

But when the caravan witnesses a relic-Angel satellite unexpectedly crash to Earth, a chain of events begins that sends Star on a journey far away from the life she once knew. Shanghaied upon the sandship Dogwatch, she is forced to cross the Obsidian Sea by Quarrel, an ancient Templar supersoldier. Eventually shipwrecked, Star will have no choice but to place her trust in both thieves and priestesses while coming to terms with the grim reality of her past—and the horror of her unfolding destiny—as the terrible secret her sister had been desperate to protect her from begins to unravel.

Meanwhile, something old and powerful has woken in the desert. A Lotus Blue, deadliest of all the ancient war machines. A warrior with plans of its own, far more significant than a fallen Angel. Plans that do not include the survival of humanity.





About Cat

Interview with Cat Sparks, Author of Lotus Blue
Cat Sparks is a multi-award-winning Australian author, editor and artist whose former employment has included: media monitor, political and archaeological photographer, graphic designer, Fiction Editor of Cosmos Magazine and Manager of Agog! Press. She’s currently finishing a PhD in climate change fiction. Her short story collection The Bride Price was published in 2013. Her debut novel, Lotus Blue, will be published by Skyhorse in March, 2017.







Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @catsparx




2017 Debut Author Challenge Update - Lotus Blue by Cat Sparks


2017 Debut Author Challenge Update - Lotus Blue by Cat Sparks


The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2017 Debut Author Challenge.


Cat Sparks

Lotus Blue
Talos, March 7, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 388 pages
     Science Fiction, Apocalyptic, Post-Apocalyptic, Genetic Engineering

2017 Debut Author Challenge Update - Lotus Blue by Cat Sparks
Powerful war machines of the far-future collide across a barren desert world in this post-apocalyptic debut novel from award-winning Australian author Cat Sparks.

Seventeen-year-old Star and her sister Nene are orphans, part of a thirteen-wagon caravan of nomadic traders living hard lives travelling the Sand Road. Their route cuts through a particularly dangerous and unforgiving section of the Dead Red Heart, a war-ravaged desert landscape plagued by rogue semi-sentient machinery and other monsters from a bygone age.

But when the caravan witnesses a relic-Angel satellite unexpectedly crash to Earth, a chain of events begins that sends Star on a journey far away from the life she once knew. Shanghaied upon the sandship Dogwatch, she is forced to cross the Obsidian Sea by Quarrel, an ancient Templar supersoldier. Eventually shipwrecked, Star will have no choice but to place her trust in both thieves and priestesses while coming to terms with the grim reality of her past—and the horror of her unfolding destiny—as the terrible secret her sister had been desperate to protect her from begins to unravel.

Meanwhile, something old and powerful has woken in the desert. A Lotus Blue, deadliest of all the ancient war machines. A warrior with plans of its own, far more significant than a fallen Angel. Plans that do not include the survival of humanity.

Guest Blog by Gabriel Squailia - Pantsing vs. Plotting Your World


Please welcome Gabriel Squailia to The Qwillery. Viscera, their 2nd novel, was published on October 4th by Talos.



Guest Blog by Gabriel Squailia - Pantsing vs. Plotting Your World




Pantsing vs. Plotting Your World

by Gabriel Squailia

It took me ten years to figure out how to write a novel. Since I couldn’t get a groove going, I just kept building the world—and building, and building, and building. By the time I got where I was going, it was so real to me I just had to put it all on the page.

From the moment I had the idea to the last edit of the final draft, it took fourteen years to write that book. Then I sat down at the desk and realized I was about to do the whole thing again. I could see myself getting into the same twitches, the same doubts, the same false starts, and I knew I’d be lucky to get off with a five-year commitment.

So, inspired by Robert Jackson Bennett’s excellent post about working under contract, I tried something completely different. I contacted Cory Allyn at Talos Press, who had worked with me to edit Dead Boys, and pitched him some ideas. I hoped to convince him to work with me from the beginning to the end of the process this time, so I could figure out what Real Writers Do.

From a menu of four pitches, he chose the one I’d come up with two weeks before. Others had maps and sourcebooks already developed; this one had a thousand-page first draft. Pretty soon we were signing a contract, on the strength of a revised opening scene and an outline I’d made up on the spot.

It did not escape my notice that there was no world this time. Nor was there time to build one—this wanted to be a book about characters, and to honor that I built two people who could give a damn about the political machinations that were churning up the world around them. Their quests were personal, and they were trying to forget history, not delve into it.

Are you a pantser or a plotter? Does that approach extend to the world around your characters? What I learned over the course of the next six months was that I’m a bit of both.

There is a comforting solidity to a writing in a world you’ve thoroughly designed. When someone puts their foot down, I know where it’s landing, and I can tell stories about the history of the paving-stones they’ve stepped on. On the other hand, I can get lost in those stones, and I’m constantly torn between moving the plot forward and taking detours to tell you more cool things I’ve invented.

Over in the Land of Pants, there’s nothing but the living present. It’s a terrifying, invigorating space to occupy, and it demands that I tell the truth—even about my floundering. Viscera, my second novel, is a book about navigating the brutal truths that emerge when we live through the most difficult times in our lives, and working without a safety net helped me do that concept justice. It was nerve-wracking, though, and I kept wondering, Is this allowed?

From the moment I had the idea to the final edit on the last draft, Viscera took nine months. It was a far faster process than my first time out, and I imagine (with that deceptive pride common to authors before pub day and the parents of newborns) that it’s more fun to read, too. Does that mean, then, that I’ve committed to pantsing my way through my next book, too?

Yes and no. My hope is to use what I’ve learned from both of these projects, and to treat all techniques as tools in my belt. Different novels, even different chapters, call for different approaches. I’d like to keep on reinventing the wheel, with memories of the last reinventions informing my process, all the way to the end, when I’m surrounded by these wobbly contraptions—with hopefully one or two that roll smoothly along the way.

I may never know what I’m doing when I sit down at the desk with a new idea. But from here on out, I’ll act as if I did, and build a world—however detailed, however sparse—to suit my mood.

Not quite knowing, but doing it anyway: isn’t that what Real Writers Do?





Viscera
Talos, October 4, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

Guest Blog by Gabriel Squailia - Pantsing vs. Plotting Your World
The Gone-Away gods were real, once, and taller than towers.

But they’re long dead now, buried in the catacombs beneath the city of Eth, where their calcified organs radiate an eldritch power that calls out to anyone hardy enough to live in this cutthroat, war-torn land. Some survivors are human, while others are close enough, but all are struggling to carve out their lives in a world both unforgiving and wondrous.

Darkly comic and viciously original, Viscera is an unforgettable journey through swords-and-sorcery fantasy where strangeness gleams from every nook and cranny.





About Gabriel

Guest Blog by Gabriel Squailia - Pantsing vs. Plotting Your World
Photo by Bill Wright
Gabriel Squailia is an author and professional DJ from Rochester, New York. An alum of the Friends World Program, they studied storytelling and literature in India, Europe, and the Middle East before settling in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts with their partner and daughter. Squailia's first novel, Dead Boys, was published by Talos Press in 2015.






Website  ~  Facebook

Twitter @gabrielsquailia







Also by Gabriel Squailia

Dead Boys
Talos Press, March 3, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Guest Blog by Gabriel Squailia - Pantsing vs. Plotting Your World
A decade dead, Jacob Campbell is a preservationist, providing a kind of taxidermy to keep his clients looking lifelike for as long as the forces of entropy will allow. But in the Land of the Dead, where the currency is time itself and there is little for corpses to do but drink, thieve, and gamble eternity away, Jacob abandons his home and his fortune for an opportunity to meet the man who cheated the rules of life and death entirely.

According to legend, the Living Man is the only adventurer to ever cross into the underworld without dying first. It’s rumored he met his end somewhere in the labyrinth of pubs beneath Dead City’s streets, disappearing without a trace. Now Jacob’s vow to find the Living Man and follow him back to the land of the living sends him on a perilous journey through an underworld where the only certainty is decay.

Accompanying him are the boy Remington, an innocent with mysterious powers over the bones of the dead, and the hanged man Leopold l’Eclair, a flamboyant rogue whose criminal ambitions spark the undesired attention of the shadowy ruler known as the Magnate.

An ambitious debut that mingles the fantastic with the philosophical, Dead Boys twists the well-worn epic quest into a compelling, one-of-a-kind work of weird fiction that transcends genre, recalling the novels of China Miéville and Neil Gaiman.

Interview with Fred Strydom, author of The Raft


Please welcome Fred Strydom to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Raft was published on May 3, 2016 by Talos.



Interview with Fred Strydom, author of The Raft




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

Fred:  Firstly, thanks so much for having me. I suppose I began writing just around the time I began reading. As has always been the case, I only write the stories I wish I could read. Whilst pouring through book after book at my local library, I’d usually come back home and get started on some story I wished I’d been able to find on a shelf. Looking back, I did spend a lot of my youth emulating other authors, working out their various tricks, repackaging the bits ‘n pieces that gripped me most, before finally being able to find my own voice in the later years.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Fred:  A hybrid, I’d say. I go in with a certain idea of how I’d like the book to feel, rather than how I’d like the plot to play out, and give myself a lot of room. I also believe if you don’t surprise yourself as a writer, you’re less likely to surprise anyone else.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Fred:  I’d say the toughest thing is maintaining a consistent voice throughout a project that can last as long as three years to pull together. When you’re young, you’re constantly going through the process of trying to define and redefine your own identity. The things that interested you three years ago aren’t necessarily the same things that interest you today, so it’s all about figuring out how stay on track from an intellectual and emotional standpoint. A reader reads a book in only a few days, so a story that potentially took three years to put together needs to be coherent in terms of theme, tone and approach. The older I get, however, and the more certain I become of who I am, the easier that becomes.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing? How has working as a television writer affected or not your novel writing?

Fred:  I’ve had so many influences over the years. As a kid, it was all about The Hardy Boys and Roald Dahl. As a teen, it was the hi-tech thrillers popularised by authors like Robin Cook and Michael Crichton. As an adult, I’ve dabbled in far more science and anthropological non-fiction, but for escapist fiction, I’ve certainly learned a thing or two from, amongst many others, Haruki Murakami, David Mitchell, Jonathan Carroll, Thomas Ligotti and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. As for writing for television, it’s taught me to be concise with my prose. In television, there are time limits and deadlines, and you need to pack your punches in only a few lines. It’s also taught me to hop from character to character and tone to tone at the drop of a dime, which has been very useful.



TQDescribe The Raft in 140 characters or less.

Fred:  A man searches for his son across a world in which every person on earth has lost their memory.



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

FredThe Raft, a story about people attempting the reconstruct their own identities from scratch, deliberately repackages a number of familiar fairy-tale tropes (Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel in the tower, Pinocchio) as a means of juxtaposing futuristic concepts and elements (related to where we’re potentially heading) with archetypal campfire folklore and mythologies (related to where we’ve come from).



TQWhat inspired you to write The Raft? What appeals to you about writing dystopian science fiction?

FredThe Raft began as nothing more than a single image, that of a man strapped to a raft and drifting aimlessly across the ocean. That was it. All I knew at the time was that this stubborn image wasn’t your run-of-the-mill plane crash survival story; there was something profoundly Sisyphean about him being out there, at the whim of the elements and powerless to control his own fate. I also don’t believe in ideas as a succession of light bulbs. An idea has tentacles, grappling for any surface it can find to pull itself up. As for the label of dystopian, the truth is that I have no specific interest in it as a genre. I didn’t really set out to write a “dystopian” novel at all. In this case, it just so happened to work for the type of story I wanted to tell. More importantly, I’m not entirely convinced it is an entirely dystopian novel. In some ways, depending on where you are in the world, we already live in a sort of dystopia. Therefore, the question about whether or not the loss of our memories (and thus abolishing our constructs of self and society) is dystopian or utopian, remains an open-ended one.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Raft?

Fred:  I get bogged down by research. I am in awe of the kinds of research that goes into historical fiction and hi-tech fiction, but I don’t think I’m built for all of that. That said, I did do a bit of research for the ten percent of tech elements in the novel, as well as browsed through internet texts related to various current and archaic philosophies and religious movements.



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

Fred:  My main character, Kayle, was possible the easiest, which was possibly why I selected him as the primary perspective. Kayle is well-intentioned and just a little lost, and his journey from non-identity to full identity was also one that allowed me to create him gradually and organically from scratch. He’s not a complete, fully-fleshed out character from page one, so I didn’t need to know who he was before I sat down to write him. The hardest was probably Anubis, only because I needed to evoke a sense sympathy for a snarky, self-important character that often reminded me of the worst aspects of myself.



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

Fred:  I didn’t really set out to right a “message” story. However, since our relationships to the often overbearing social issues of our reality are such a key part of who we each turn out to be, I think I’d find it difficult to create convincing characters and plot hurdles without somehow addressing my own latent and not-so-latent hopes and concerns for the world as it is. The fact that many have said my novel addresses numerous social issues is more of a reflection of myself and my world than of the (hopefully) entertaining yarn I set out to write.



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

Fred:

“How has being a South African influenced the way in which you’ve told this globe-hopping, science fiction story?”

There is a nowhere on earth quite like South Africa. It’s a country of contrasts, a hodge-podge of extreme highs and extreme lows. It is also a country in transition. A place that is still finding out how (as a country with eleven official languages and with a very dark and only recently abolished Apartheid past) it’s supposed to go forward and forge a single, national identity. In many ways, even though I did not set out to write a political story, the themes of segregation and identity reconstruction have certainly served as a strong backbone to the text. The book also doesn’t purport to have any solutions to our ongoing struggle for a collective identity, but rather re-enforces the capacity and the right each of us has to constantly question ourselves and our roles in the world. The Raft suggests that by maintaining a probing nature, by accepting nothing at face value, we may receive the answers to questions we haven’t thought, or even yet dared ourselves, to ask. Also, The Raft is a story about the importance of storytelling itself, which I believe to be the key to creating empathy between different people with different backgrounds.



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

Fred:

“Memories are their own strange creatures, flitting between the tall trees of our experiences, inviting us to enter the dark and uncharted woods of our lives, promising nothing.”



TQWhat's next?

Fred:  I’ve just completed my second novel, a twisty homage to Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch entitled “The Inside Out Man”. No sci-fi dystopia in sight! It’s just been picked up and you’ll be hearing all about it sometime next year.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Fred:  And much thanks to you for some really great questions. Cheers.







The Raft
Talos, May 3, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages

Interview with Fred Strydom, author of The Raft
“The day every person on earth lost his and her memory was not a day at all. In people's minds there was no actual event. . . and thus it could be followed by no period of shock or mourning. There could be no catharsis. Everyone was simply reset to zero.”

On Day Zero, the collapse of civilization was as instantaneous as it was inevitable. A mysterious and oppressive movement rose to power in the aftermath, forcing people into isolated communes run like regimes. Kayle Jenner finds himself trapped on a remote beach, and all that remains of his life before is the vague and haunting vision of his son. . .

Kayle finally escapes, only to find a broken world being put back together in strange ways. As more memories from his past life begin returning, the people he meets wandering the face of a scorched earth—some reluctant allies, others dangerous enemies—begin to paint a terrifying picture. In his relentless search for his son, Kayle will discover more than just his lost past. He will discover the truth behind Day Zero—a truth that makes both fools and gods of men.





About Fred

Interview with Fred Strydom, author of The Raft
Fred Strydom studied film and media at the University of Cape Town. He has taught English in South Korea and has published a number of short stories. He currently works as a television writer and producer in Johannesburg, where he lives with his wife, three dogs, cat, and horse. The Raft is his first novel.









Twitter @FredSaidWrite


2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Raft by Fred Strydom


2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Raft by Fred Strydom


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


Fred Strydom

The Raft
Talos, May 3, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Raft by Fred Strydom
“The day every person on earth lost his and her memory was not a day at all. In people's minds there was no actual event. . . and thus it could be followed by no period of shock or mourning. There could be no catharsis. Everyone was simply reset to zero.”

On Day Zero, the collapse of civilization was as instantaneous as it was inevitable. A mysterious and oppressive movement rose to power in the aftermath, forcing people into isolated communes run like regimes. Kayle Jenner finds himself trapped on a remote beach, and all that remains of his life before is the vague and haunting vision of his son. . .

Kayle finally escapes, only to find a broken world being put back together in strange ways. As more memories from his past life begin returning, the people he meets wandering the face of a scorched earth—some reluctant allies, others dangerous enemies—begin to paint a terrifying picture. In his relentless search for his son, Kayle will discover more than just his lost past. He will discover the truth behind Day Zero—a truth that makes both fools and gods of men.

Review: The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M.H. Boroson


The Girl with Ghost Eyes
Author:  M.H. Boroson
Publisher:  Talos, November 3, 2015
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 288 pages
List Price:  $24.99 (print); $16.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781940456362 (print); 9781940456454 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M.H. Boroson
"A brilliant tale of magic, monsters, and kung fu in the San Francisco Chinatown of 1898" —Publishers Weekly, starred review

It’s the end of the nineteenth century in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and ghost hunters from the Maoshan traditions of Daoism keep malevolent spiritual forces at bay. Li-lin, the daughter of a renowned Daoshi exorcist, is a young widow burdened with yin eyes—the unique ability to see the spirit world. Her spiritual visions and the death of her husband bring shame to Li-lin and her father—and shame is not something this immigrant family can afford.

When a sorcerer cripples her father, terrible plans are set in motion, and only Li-lin can stop them. To aid her are her martial arts and a peachwood sword, her burning paper talismans, and a wisecracking spirit in the form of a human eyeball tucked away in her pocket. Navigating the dangerous alleys and backrooms of a male-dominated Chinatown, Li-lin must confront evil spirits, gangsters, and soulstealers before the sorcerer’s ritual summons an ancient evil that could burn Chinatown to the ground.

With a rich and inventive historical setting, nonstop martial arts action, authentic Chinese magic, and bizarre monsters from Asian folklore, The Girl with Ghost Eyes is also the poignant story of a young immigrant searching to find her place beside the long shadow of a demanding father and the stigma of widowhood. In a Chinatown caught between tradition and modernity, one woman may be the key to holding everything together.


Doreen’s Thoughts

The Girl with the Ghost Eyes is a terrific fairytale, filled with magic and martial arts. Set at the end of the 19th Century in San Francisco’s Chinatown, the story centers around Li-lin, the widowed daughter of the local exorcist. The world is filled with spirits, ghosts, and monsters, and Li-lin’s father is responsible to eliminate those for his tong (gang). However, one of the tongs is dissatisfied with the distribution of power in Chinatown and is willing to use black magic to change that.

Normally, Li-lin’s father would handle the situation by burning his paper talismans, but someone cast a spell on Li-lin, and he sacrificed his eye to bring her back from the spirit world. Now he is injured and Li-lin must step up and try to fill his shoes. In the beginning of the novel, Li-lin is certain that her father is, at best, burdened with her. In Chinese culture, all parents desire a boy who can care for them in their old age; as a girl, Li-lin believed she was a disappointment to her father. In addition, her husband Rockie had been killed in a confrontation with a white policeman, so she was forced to return to her father’s home, yet another disappointment.

However, through the novel, Li-lin discovers that her father loves her more than she knows. My favorite character in this story was Mr. Yanqiu. He is a spirit in the shape of an eyeball, basically the result of Li-lin’s father sacrificing his eye. He is fussy and wise, with all of the best characteristics of any father. The banter between Li-lin and Mr. Yanqiu is humorous, and one can tell that Mr. Yanqiu is the manifestation of a father’s love for his daughter.

M. H. Boroson does an excellent job integrating Chinese culture, language, and beliefs into the story. The descriptions of Li-lin burning her paper talismans and releasing spells are precise and exact. There are several kung fu action scenes in the story as well. Boroson describes and names the forms so well, you can almost see the action.

Ultimately, from appearing to be the weakest person in the story, Li-lin ends the story as the strongest character, especially in keeping her word to the many allies that she makes throughout the novel. Her father, who appeared to be so strong, is revealed to be less perfect than Li-lin expected. Overall, Li-lin grows up and begins to see her father in a more realistic light. In fact, all of the men that Li-lin believed to be superior to her are in actuality less than she is. Li-lin takes her place in a world that is halfway between reality and myth, with everyone, including herself, finally acknowledging her strength and power.

Interview with M. H. Boroson, author of The Girl with Ghost Eyes


Please welcome M. H. Boroson to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Girl with Ghost Eyes was published on November 3rd by Talos Press.



Interview with M. H. Boroson, author of The Girl with Ghost Eyes




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

M.H.B.:  I always wrote. Poems and letters when I was a child. I was the kind of kid who had pen pals all over the world. I only started writing fiction in 2010, after I had my Great Big Idea.



TQAre you a plotter or a pantser?

M.H.B.:  I plot a detailed outline so I can write by the seat of my pants.

I know what's going to happen next, so my imagination can focus on surprising me with emotions and images, making *this* moment vivid and powerful, fleshing out the characters in ways I didn't expect.For me, a detailed plot allows me to focus more creative energy into my storytelling rather than the sequence of events.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

M.H.B.:  Perfectionism. It's also one of my sources of strength. Perfectionism drives my research to be top-notch, the details thorough, the language riveting, the plotting edge-of-your-seat. It also paralyzes me with indecision and leaves me second-guessing all my choices.



TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

M.H.B.:  There were three primary inspirations behind The Girl with Ghost Eyes.

1. Huang Ying (黄鹰). His horror-fantasy novels have never been translated into English. His most famous story was adapted into the movie Mr. Vampire. Huang drew on traditional Chinese ghost lore in order to create a Chinese alternative to the Universal Studios monster movies. He created a delightful and gruesome mythos with a great sense of spooky comedy.

2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The tv series showed me that genre stories could be so much bigger than I'd realized.They could be subversive, empowering, and feminist, while still telling a kick-ass story. They could have profound meanings; they could bring laughter and tears. The raw emotion behind some of the twists is still stunning to me.

3. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, by Maxine Hong Kingston. The book makes use of Chinese ghost stories to explore the nature of growing up Chinese and female in America. Some of the language is spectacular.

Other inspirations include:

* Jim Butcher's Dresden Files
* Iris Chang's The Chinese in America
* Charles de Lint's Newford
* Neil Gaiman's Sandman
* Tony Hillerman's Leaphorn and Chee
* Lisa See's On Gold Mountain

And also Hayao Miyazaki's movie, Spirited Away.



TQ Describe The Girl with Ghost Eyes in 140 characters or less.

M.H.B.:  In 1898 a Daoist priestess protects Chinatown from Asian ghosts and demons. The story is full of history, fantasy, and Chinese culture.



TQ Tell us something about The Girl with Ghost Eyes that is not found in the book description.

M.H.B.The Girl with Ghost Eyes is intended as the first novel in an ongoing series. The scope is epic but (I hope) it remains personal.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Girl with Ghost Eyes? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

M.H.B.:  I had a Great Big Idea in 2010. The idea changed my life and set me down a road of discovery. The idea was:

What if someone combined Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior, and a film genre from Hong Kong called Spirit Magic Kung Fu?

I saw the potential for great stories --rip-roaring, stay-up-all-night-to-finish-reading stories -- and it would also be intersectionally feminist. It would have amazing fantasy images on the surface and deeper hidden meanings. It would be an extended love letter to Chinese folklore, spiritualities, and cinema.

I'd studied Mandarin, so I was able to draw from primary sources and bring a wealth of detail -- accurate depictions of magic and monsters that had never been written about in the English language.

Fantasy fiction is a big tent. It can contain awesomeness and explosions, like The Dresden Files; it can be rich,meaningful, and literary, like China Mieville, Maggie Stiefvater, and Tanith Lee. It can contain social observations and delve deep into the religious imaginations of other cultures, like The Girl with Ghost Eyes.



TQWhy did you set The Girl with Ghost Eyes in San Francisco?

M.H.B.:  San Francisco at the end of the Nineteenth Century is a place of fog and cobblestone streets. It's like the setting of a gaslamp fantasy, with seagulls instead of blackbirds. A Chinese ethnic enclave struggles to coexist with the culture outside; laborers work hard, illegal organizations entertain the cultural outsiders, bigots chant "The Chinese must go," Christian missionaries try to teach immigrants the error of their ways, constables patrol the streets, and freed slaves compete for jobs.There's so much conflict there. So many stories. So much potential for drama.

Setting the stories in San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century allowed me to place Li-lin at the crux of many conflicts: male/female, tradition/change, father/daughter, culture/assimilation, Chinese/American. And that simply rocks.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Girl with Ghost Eyes?

M.H.B.:  I interviewed over a hundred Chinese and Chinese American people, asking them to tell me stories about ghosts, demons, Daoist priests, superstitions, folktales, and the afterlife, as well as stories about immigration, assimilation, gender roles, family, class struggles, and inter-generational conflict.

I bought Daoist manuscripts so I could study them. I also studied paper talismans and divination methods. I corresponded with contemporary Daoist priests.

Three semi-modern books of Chinese ghost stories provided me with a great deal of material: Pu Songling's Tales from the Liaozhai, Ji Xiaolan's Straw Hut Notes, and Yuan Mei's What Confucius Omitted. I took detailed notes on these books.

I went further back and took notes on ancient texts like the Shan Hai Jing (Classic of Mountains and Seas), The Investiture of the Gods, and Journey to the West.

I watched hundreds of movies like Mr.Vampire, A Chinese Ghost Story, and Green Snake.

I studied history texts and19th-Century newspapers to learn what life was like at the time and place ofthis story.

In all, I took sixty thousand pages of notes. Yep: 60,000 pages of notes.



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

M.H.B.:  The protagonist, Li-lin, was easy to write. I had placed so much of my imagination into listening to the accounts of people like her; she flowed into the story.

Her father was much harder. Li-lin herself doesn't understand him, so I needed to give his actions an internal logic which would be true to him and yet mystifying to his daughter.



TQWhich question about The Girl with Ghost Eyes do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

M.H.B.:  "What makes the story relevant in today's world?"

I'm glad you asked that! First let's stop a moment and think about vampires. We mined them for horror until they weren’t scary anymore. Then we mined them for erotica until they weren’t sexy anymore.Everyone has gotten tired of vampires and werewolves. Western folklore is exhausted. It’s time to explore fresh myths and images.

In the world of The Girl with Ghost Eyes, men marry ghosts, household objects come to life after a hundred years, corpse-walkers lead dead men on journeys, and burnt paper offerings become real objects in the afterlife. Readers will discover symbols they’ve never seen before. The resonant marvels of an entire civilization are waiting.

As I researched the history, as the stories took shape, I realized that these historical conflicts remain relevant to this day. The struggles of immigrants are timeless and universal. Xenophobia still shapes our discourse around “illegals.” The Chinese Exclusion Laws and the Geary Act echo in the controversy over California’s Prop 187. The Tong Wars provide insight into both small-scale gang violence and large-scale organized crime, which are still part of our society. Again and again, the events of this time and place in history have been re-enacted in today’s headlines. Again and again, the events of this period give us a lens to understand our world better.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Girl with Ghost Eyes.

M.H.B.:

The Pace of Yu would allow me to wander the three realms. I stamped the floor hard with one foot, and dragged the other. I danced the broken, halting steps of Yu the Great, who beat back the floods. Singing, stamping, and dragging, I danced as Yu, who could transform himself into a bear, yet walked with a limp. Yu the king, the sorcerer, nearly a god, who slew the beast with nine heads. His power cascading through me, I danced the same series of limping steps over and over, making intricate magical gestures with my hands.


And:


There was an uncanny beauty to the spirit side of Chinatown, lit by perpetual moonlight, but brighter and more golden than the moon looks from the world of the living. Beautiful and eerie,the world of spirits would be a terrible place to spend eternity; unable to enter the cycle of birth and death and birth again, yet unable to establish a home in the lands of the dead.



TQWhat's next?

M.H.B.:  A lot, I hope.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

M.H.B.:  Thank you for inviting me!





The Girl with Ghost Eyes
Talos Press, November 3, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 288 pages

Interview with M. H. Boroson, author of The Girl with Ghost Eyes
It’s the end of the nineteenth century in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and ghost hunters from the Maoshan traditions of Daoism keep malevolent spiritual forces at bay. Li-lin, the daughter of a renowned Daoshi exorcist, is a young widow burdened with yin eyes—the unique ability to see the spirit world. Her spiritual visions and the death of her husband bring shame to Li-lin and her father—and shame is not something this immigrant family can afford.

When a sorcerer cripples her father, terrible plans are set in motion, and only Li-lin can stop them. To aid her are her martial arts and a peachwood sword, her burning paper talismans, and a wisecracking spirit in the form of a human eyeball tucked away in her pocket. Navigating the dangerous alleys and backrooms of a male-dominated Chinatown, Li-lin must confront evil spirits, gangsters, and soulstealers before the sorcerer’s ritual summons an ancient evil that could burn Chinatown to the ground.

With a rich and inventive historical setting, nonstop martial arts action, authentic Chinese magic, and bizarre monsters from Asian folklore, The Girl with Ghost Eyes is also the poignant story of a young immigrant searching to find her place beside the long shadow of a demanding father and the stigma of widowhood. In a Chinatown caught between tradition and modernity, one woman may be the key to holding everything together.





About M. H. Boroson

Interview with M. H. Boroson, author of The Girl with Ghost Eyes
M. H. Boroson was obsessed with two things as a young man: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and kung fu movies. He has studied Chinese religion at Naropa University and the University of Colorado and now lives in Denver, Colorado, with his wife and three cats. The Girl with Ghost Eyes is his first novel.



Twitter @MHBoroson

The Girl with Ghost Eyes Blog

Facebook


Review: Towers Fall by Karina Sumner-Smith


Towers Fall
Author:  Karina Sumner-Smith
Series:  Towers Trilogy 3
Publisher:  Talos, November 17, 2015
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 396 pages
List Price:  $15.99 (print and eBook)
ISBN:  9781940456416 (print); 9781940456447 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review:  Towers Fall by Karina Sumner-Smith
War. Fire. Destruction. Xhea believed that the Lower City had weathered the worst of its troubles—that their only remaining fight would be the struggle to rebuild before winter. She was wrong.

Now her home is under attack from an unexpected source. The Central Spire, the City’s greatest power, is intent on destroying the heart of the magical entity that resides beneath the Lower City’s streets. The people on the ground have three days to evacuate—or else.

With nowhere to go and time running out, Xhea and the Radiant ghost Shai attempt to rally a defense. Yet with the Spire’s wrath upon them, nothing—not their combined magic, nor their unexpected allies—may be strong enough to protect them from the power of the City.

From Nebula Award–nominated author Karina Sumner-Smith, Towers Fall is a fantastic climax to this amazing and thought-provoking trilogy. 



Brandon's Review

The conclusion to any good trilogy is tough. It is tough for the reader and the author both for different reasons. Karina Sumner-Smith’s concluding book, Towers Fall, brought out the best of the series and left you wanting more from her in future books.

Sumner-Smith manages to continually surprise by pulling out a card you wondered about, but had been too distracted to follow up on. In the third book in the series we follow Xhea and Shia as they struggle separately and together to gather enough support and survivors to help the Lower City weather the announcement of imminent destruction from the Central Spire, the lynchpin to the power and society above. Will the growing sentience of the Lower City evolve quickly enough to protect its citizens against the threat?

Hampered by a binding spell and questioning the reason and purpose of their relationship the ongoing struggles interpersonally and emotionally continue to play out it a sophisticated way. Nothing in this book is as simple as it first appears and the author manages to avoid the easy options for where their relationship might go and where the story ultimately ends. We see the return of many of the same characters, but a depth of character is set down as we explore the childhood relationships of Xhea and Shai as they reach out to allies for help in keeping the Spire from killing the Lower City’s new intelligence and its citizens. Before they can make much progress the upper city’s towers begin to cannibalize the remaining towers below before they are destroyed.

We learn more about how the Spire controls those with dark talents to control the society at large and keep the bright towers in debt to them. The Spire is more than just a central point of control, it is also a conduit for the power of the city in trying to destroy the Lower City, but Xhea and Shai are willing to expend their lives in saving each other and the cities they both love.

I admire an author who can make you glad they didn’t take the shiny happy ending, but also didn’t leave a dystopian book on an overwhelming depressing note. I think the author is adept at using interpersonal and story arcs to question the internal development of the characters and remind me of my own childhood and question the relationships I held dear and how those have shaped the person I’ve become. It also reminded me that as a young person I went through a lot of very tough decisions and feelings that I felt like I didn’t have someone I felt connected to in order to share them with. Ultimately, this sense of connection and the value of friendship drive the world we live in – or at least – this is one of the themes I felt jumped out at me, but read it for yourself and see. I look forward to what the author has in store for us next.





Previously

Radiant
Towers Trilogy 1
Talos, September 30, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Review:  Towers Fall 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.


See Brandon's review here.




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

Review:  Towers Fall 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.


See Brandon's review here.

Interview with Chelsea Mueller, author of Borrowed SoulsInterview with Cat Sparks, Author of Lotus Blue2017 Debut Author Challenge Update - Lotus Blue by Cat SparksCover Reveal - Borrowed Souls by Chelsea MuellerGuest Blog by Gabriel Squailia - Pantsing vs. Plotting Your WorldInterview with Fred Strydom, author of The Raft2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Raft by Fred StrydomReview: The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M.H. BorosonInterview with M. H. Boroson, author of The Girl with Ghost EyesReview:  Towers Fall by Karina Sumner-Smith

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