The Qwillery | category: Tracey


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Review: The Wolf's Call by Anthony Ryan

The Wolf's Call
Author:  Anthony Ryan
Series:  A Raven's Blade Novel 1
Publisher:  Ace, July 23, 2019
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages
List Price:  US$28.00 (print); US$14.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780451492517 (print); 9780451492531 (eBook)

Review: The Wolf's Call by Anthony Ryan

Anthony Ryan’s debut novel Blood Song—the first book of the Raven’s Shadow series—took the fantasy world by storm. Now, he continues that saga with The Wolf’s Call, which begins a thrilling new story of razor-sharp action and epic adventure.

Peace never lasts.

Vaelin Al Sorna is a living legend, his name known across the Realm. It was his leadership that overthrew empires, his blade that won hard-fought battles – and his sacrifice that defeated an evil more terrifying than anything the world had ever seen. He won titles aplenty, only to cast aside his earned glory for a quiet life in the Realm’s northern reaches.

Yet whispers have come from across the sea – rumours of an army called the Steel Horde, led by a man who believes himself a god. Vaelin has no wish to fight another war, but when he learns that Sherin, the woman he lost long ago, has fallen into the Horde’s grasp, he resolves to confront this powerful new threat.

To this end, Vaelin travels to the realms of the Merchant Kings, a land ruled by honor and intrigue. There, as the drums of war thunder across kingdoms riven by conflict, Vaelin learns a terrible truth: that there are some battles that even he may not be strong enough to win.

Tracey's Review

Vaelin Al Sorna has served Queen Lyrna, also known as the Fire Queen, as Tower Lord of the Northern Reaches since the end of the Liberation War. Now, word has come of the Stalhast, a powerful enemy rising in the Far West, led by Kehlbrand, who is regarded as a god by his people. Kehlbrand is a man whose lust for domination over all free people knows no limits and who will raise his bloody fist in challenge to the Fire Queen if not stopped. Vaelin may have been content to wait until the Stalhast became a tangible threat, but he soon learns that the healer Sherin, a woman he sent to the Venerable Kingdom to ensure her well-being years ago, is directly in their deadly path. And so Vaelin sets out to assure her safety and assess this new threat first-hand.

Full disclosure: I am a huge Anthony Ryan fan. His first book Blood Song, which I reviewed in 2013, was my favorite read that year. The Wolf’s Call, a Raven’s Blade Novel which succeeds A Raven’s Shadow trilogy, begins a new chapter for Vaelin, the veteran warrior and defender of the Unified Realm. Ryan hits the ground running with his newest installment and I couldn’t be more delighted. Although the first trilogy tied things up nicely, it was very satisfying to learn what befell the characters I knew so well in the aftermath of the Liberation War’s destruction.

Ryan really knows how to create characters that readers can admire, distrust, pity, or fear. In Vaelin al Sorna he has created a character that readers really care about and root for. Vaelin’s no-nonsense reasoning, coupled with his fighting skills, and amazing sense of loyalty to those he loves makes him special. The Wolf’s Call is a great blend of familiar characters and brand-new additions. For instance, Nortah, Vaelin’s Brother of the Sixth Order, hearkens back to his early years, while his niece Ellese has just recently been sent to the Northern Reaches for training. Although Ellese is young, she is smart and her fighting skills are daunting, but it’s her attitude - the perfect balance of insubordination and rebellion - that bring her to life. Vaelin’s newest enemy, the Stalhast, were interesting to learn about. Kehlbrand is arrogant, brutal and a master manipulator which makes him a powerful threat. His sister, Luralyn has gifts and talents of her own and shares her thoughts through her own POV narrative which makes for effective story telling.

The Wolf’s Call comes in the form of a threat and warning from an old enemy. As I mentioned before this time it's personal as one of the few people still alive that Vaelin loves is being threatened. In true epic adventure form Vaelin assembles a diverse, yet trustworthy company to find the healer and protect her from harm’s way. Ryan effortlessly introduces new characters who are almost instantly relatable in the context of his consummate worldbuilding skills. He is also a master strategist, and keeps the adrenaline pumping during this action-packed volume. I really enjoyed The Wolf’s Call; I didn’t want to put it down and certainly did not want it to end. If you are looking for epic adventure, answer The Wolf’s Call.

Artisan's Avenue - Heroicouture

Artisan's Avenue - Heroicouture

The Qwillery would like to welcome Sandra Botero Mounts of Heroicouture. I met Sandra at Ace Comic Con held in Long Island this past December. The first things I noticed about her was her contagious smile and her killer outfit. I inquired about her Wonder Woman-themed dress and was amazed that she designed and created it herself.

Tracey Maknis: Sandra, could you please tell our readers a bit about Heroicouture?

Sandra Botero Mounts: I’ve been a huge Wonder Woman fan since I was 7 years old and began reading comics, back when girls didn’t do that sort of thing. Fast forward to a few years ago when I started going to Comic Conventions with my husband, Paul Mounts, who is a comic color artist. I wanted to wear clothing that showed my “geekiness/nerdiness” in my favorite fandoms. I didn’t find much clothing that fit my criteria: sophisticated, flattering, and appropriate for a woman in her forties to wear. There is a lot of beautiful nerd fashion out there that meets 1 or 2 parts of the criteria, but not all three. Therefore, I just started making my own clothing. The first con I wore my clothing to, I had a lot of positive comments and requests to make the same items for other women. The next con after that was the same. I finally decided now that I am 50, it is time to take this idea to the public and offer my designs to women who are looking for something different.

TMWhat career path were you on prior to designing Geek and Nerd Fashions?

SBM:  Would you believe that my career is far different than designing fashion? I am a Spanish High School teacher and have been teaching for 20 years. I teach at an online public school for the state I live in and it offers great flexibility instead of being in a brick and mortar school, so I’m able to do both my job and my passion as well as travel to cons.

TMHow big is your current collection and do you take commissions?

SBM:  Due to the fact that Heroicouture is in the inception stage, the collection is quite small right now. I have 5 different dress silhouettes, 2 skirts and 2 tops that I offer right now with a choice in fabric design. I absolutely take commissions!

TMYou obviously have a passion for the entertainment industry; tell us how it helps to spark your creative juices.

SBM:  Growing up in the 70’s, during the Women’s movement and the ERA, I just felt that Wonder Woman was someone I wanted to be like; strong, compassionate, intelligent, and honestly, also pretty. I wanted to learn all I could about Wonder Woman and in doing my research as a young girl, I realized that she was based off of the Roman Goddess Diana in mythology. I started to read all mythology I could find and then realized that there is a strong connection between Ancient Art and Masters Art and mythology. I kept finding correlations between art and mythology and I would see that appear in the comics as well. From then on, I also fell in love with art and even went to Spain to study Art History and Antiquities when I was in my 20’s. Mix all my passions in blender and you get “fandom fashion”!

TMWho are some of your favorite artists and why.

SBM:  This is a tough one! I’m going to stick with the comic world exclusively for this question. I am in constant awe of the work my daughter (Jamie L. Botero) does as an up and coming illustrator. She is truly amazing! She has even designed some fabrics for our collection. My husband (Paul Mounts) is like a sorcerer with his skills. He plainly brings life to black and white drawings. All the nuances he includes are simply incredible. Now, as a fan and a Wonder Woman fan, I must say the José Luis Garcia López is the master! He is the artist of the Wonder Woman of the 70’s that I read in my youth. I even refer to him as “El Maestro”.

TMWhat is your favorite piece to date?

SBM:  No, I can’t choose! Don’t make me!

TMIs there a cool story you'd like to share about a commission or a convention?

SBM:  It wasn’t exactly a commission, but I was fortunate enough to meet Gal Gadot ON my 50th birthday thanks to my husband. I wore a dress that I made just for the occasion. I also made a special one of a kind scarf with hand embroidery to give to Gal Gadot. She was so gracious when I gave it to her and just kept asking me “You made this? You did this; you made this with your own hands?” It was the best birthday I’ve ever had!

TMWhat's new and exciting for 2018?

SBM:  I’m working with some companies right now trying to get licensing to make custom fabrics for our designs. Hopefully that will all work out. If not, then the timing is just off, but it doesn’t mean “no”. We’re still and infant company therefore, there are a lot of aspects that we are working on to really get Heroicouture going.

You can find Sandra and Heroicouture on her website, Instagram @heroicouture, or Facebook page.

Artisan's Avenue - Heroicouture Artisan's Avenue - Heroicouture
Artisan's Avenue - Heroicouture Artisan's Avenue - Heroicouture
Artisan's Avenue - Heroicouture Artisan's Avenue - Heroicouture
Artisan's Avenue - Heroicouture

The Qwillery is Ten and What Tracey Did at Book Expo America

The Qwillery is Ten and What Tracey Did at Book Expo America


The Qwillery is 10 years old as of October 1st. I actually forgot until I was chatting with Mihir Wanchoo of Fantasy Book Critic. Thank you for tweeting about it, Mihir!

This year has been incredibly challenging for me in terms of work / life / blog balance. I have a new job which requires a much longer commute than my old job so that is time lost for non-work related things. I'm still reading and writing reviews, of course, but not as many as I'd like. Additionally, I am near the end of reading the slush pile for the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO) and we will be announcing our semi-finalists soon. Let me say that this is the toughest year so far for SPFBO. There are too many good books. I know, not really a problem!

So I feel a bit like I'm not doing as much for The Qwillery and its readers as I should. Hopefully, everything will sort itself and I'll be able to do that soon. In the meantime, I'm probably not going to post much on weekends so I have time for my family and reading.

I want to thank my reviewers, Tracey, Melanie, Doreen, Deb, and Jennifer for their hard work. I need to send all of you books to review. Thank you to Brannigan who is a reviewer emeritus now. You are always welcome here.

Thank you to my fellow Speculative Fiction bloggers. You inspire me daily to keep going.

Thank you to all of the authors and publicists who have been so patient with me getting questions to them over the last few months and probably for the next few months.

And a huge thank you to The Qwillery's wonderful readers. You have no idea how much you all mean to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

BTW, giveaways below!


Book Expo America was held this past May 30 through June 1st at the Javits Center in New York City. BEA is an annual event where authors, publishers, booksellers, librarians, bloggers, distributors, literary agents and others in the literary world can meet face-to-face and discuss what's new in publishing, establish contacts, and really take the pulse of new trends in the marketplace.

One of my favorite things about covering this event for The Qwillery is meeting authors and talking about their books. My typical day at Book Expo is filled with discovering debut authors, learning what's next on the horizon for favorite authors, and connecting with publishers. Of course, the opportunity to get books signed by the author and/or illustrator is always a thrill. This year was no exception.

The Qwillery is Ten and What Tracey Did at Book Expo America
It's always a pleasure to see Chuck Wendig author of the Star Wars Aftermath trilogy, the Miriam Black thrillers, and The Heartland Trilogy among others. Chuck was on hand to sign copies of his Damn Fine Story: Mastering the Tools of a Powerful Narrative. Writers from teens to nonagenarians will pick up great writing tips while being highly entertained by Wendig's sense of humor and pop fiction references.

The Qwillery is Ten and What Tracey Did at Book Expo America
Charlie Jane Anders, 2017 Nebula Award winning author for best novel, All the Birds in the Sky, was signing an excerpt from her new YA sci-fi trilogy entitled The City in the Middle of the Night set for a publication date of January 15, 2019 by Tor Books. I had a chance to read this sneak peek into her next series and it promises to be both exciting and thought-provoking; I have already it put on my TBR list.

The Qwillery is Ten and What Tracey Did at Book Expo America
I was super excited to get a signed copy of Furyborn by Claire Legrand. Furyborn is the story of two very different women; the Sun Queen the and the Blood Queen. Legrand did the coolest thing: she brought a red and a gold sharpie and autographed each book according to the vibe the person gave off. Mine was autographed in gold, ala Sun Queen, and that plus its gorgeous cover, inspired me to read this book as soon as I got home. Review to follow at a later post but I will say I flew through the pages. It was a welcome excuse to stay off my sore feet after a long weekend at the Javits, and I was swept into Legrand's world with pleasure.

Also seen:

The Qwillery is Ten and What Tracey Did at Book Expo America
Seth Dickinson, author of The Masquarade series -
The Traitor Baru Cormorant and
The Monster Baru Cormorant
The Qwillery is Ten and What Tracey Did at Book Expo America
Kristi Charish, author of The Owl Series and the
Kincaid Strange Series -
Voodoo Killings and Lipstick Voodoo

The Qwillery is Ten and What Tracey Did at Book Expo America
Charles Soule, author of
The Oracle Year (debut)
The Qwillery is Ten and What Tracey Did at Book Expo America
Hester Fox, author of
The Witch of Willow Hall (debut)

The Qwillery is Ten and What Tracey Did at Book Expo America
Deborah Harkness with Time's Convert
The Qwillery is Ten and What Tracey Did at Book Expo America
S. L. Huang, author of
Zero Sum Game (debut)

We have two glorious BEA giveaways to help celebrate The Qwillery's 10th Blogversary. The first consists of some delicious book related loot and YA books.

Giveaway 1

The Qwillery is Ten and What Tracey Did at Book Expo America
Fresh Ink: An Anthology - signed ARC by Nicola Yoon,
author of short story 'Super Human'
The Qwillery is Ten and What Tracey Did at Book Expo America
A signed Uncorrected Proof of Shadow of the Fox
by Julie Kagawa

The Qwillery is Ten and What Tracey Did at Book Expo America
A Curse So Dark and Lonely ARC signed by
author Brigid Kemmerer
The Qwillery is Ten and What Tracey Did at Book Expo America
See description below.

Description: Bookmark and sticker from Claire Legrand's Furyborn: the "Winter is a Scream" pin collection from Penguin Random House Canada, bookmark and pin from When Elephants Fly by Nancy Richardson Fischer, along with a purple Hachette "On the Go" slingpack (not pictured) (Authors not included in giveaway)

The second giveaway from BEA:

Giveaway 2

The Qwillery is Ten and What Tracey Did at Book Expo America
A signed a copy of Fade to Black
by Heather Graham
The Qwillery is Ten and What Tracey Did at Book Expo America
A signed ARC of Bellewether
by Susanna Kearsley

The Qwillery is Ten and What Tracey Did at Book Expo America
A signed Uncorrected Proof of The Iron Flower
by Laurie Forest
The Qwillery is Ten and What Tracey Did at Book Expo America
A signed Uncorrected Proof of The Good Demon
by Jimmy Cajoleas

And two giveaways from The Qwillery (not from BEA):

Giveaway 3

Tomorrow Factory: Collected Fiction by Rich Larson


The Best Science Fiction of the Year, Volume 3, Edited by Neil Clarke

The Qwillery is Ten and What Tracey Did at Book Expo America

Giveaway 4

Foundryside (The Founders Trilogy 1) by Robert Jackson Bennett


The Song of All (The Legacy of the Heavens 1) by Tina LeCount Myers

The Qwillery is Ten and What Tracey Did at Book Expo America

The Giveaway Rules

What: 4 Giveaways: Giveaway 1, Giveaway 2, Giveaway 3. and Giveaway 4. You can only win one of the giveaways!

How: You must do the following 2 things:

  • Leave a comment listing the giveaways in your order of preference. (E.g., 1, 2. 3, 4 or 4, 1,2, 3, etc.)

    NOTE: Four commenters names will be randomly chosen. Commenters must list the giveaways in their order of preference in your comment! If you do not list the giveaways in order of preference your entry will not be counted. The first commenter chosen will get his/her first choice, the second commenter chosen will get the highest of his/her choices that has not been given away, etc. until all 4 giveaways have been given away.

  • Send an email to theqwillery . contests @ [remove the spaces]

    In the subject line, enter “Anniversary“ with or without the quotation marks.

    In the body of the email, please provide your name and full mailing address. The winning address is used only to mail the novel(s), etc. and is provided The Qwillery only for that purpose. All other address information will be deleted by The Qwillery once the giveaway ends.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address.  Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Sunday, October 20, 2018. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change without any notice.*

ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis

ConnectiCon XVI was held at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, CT on July 12-15. In my opinion, ConnectiCon is not your typical Comic Convention; it is more of a multi-fandom convention that caters to enthusiasts of all things pop culture. This includes anime, manga, video games, board games, role playing games, animation, comic books, speculative fiction, cosplay, and the TV/movie industry.

I always enjoy chatting with the featured guests, and this year Lisle Wilkerson and Steve Blum were definitely the most interesting. Lisle is the voice behind Tekken's "Nina Williams" and "Christie Monteiro" among others. For non-gamers, Tekken is a fighting video game franchise that was created, developed and published by Namco. Lisle also appeared in the Academy Award winning film Lost in Translation as well as playing a principal role in the indie film Kamataki. Lisle is super cool and very personable. She shared tales of growing up in Japan which lead to her fluency in the Japanese language. She currently works as a freelance voice-over actor, and because she is based in Los Angeles, works as a local correspondent for the Academy Awards, Emmys, Golden Globes, and Grammys for Japan. As an interpreter, she's worked with Keanu Reeves, Makoto Shinkai, author Marie Kondo, and Morning Musume. My three favorite things about meeting Lisle were her smile, her behind-the-scenes story of her MMA match and the fact that she toured Studio Ghibli. Not the museum, the actual working studio!

Then there's Steve Blum. Steve is a voiceover actor with hundreds of credits in his career. For instance Steve voiced "Starscream" in the Emmy award-winning Transformers: Prime, "Wolverine" in X-Men animated movies, TV, and games, and recently voiced "Zeb Orrelios" in Star Wars: Rebels. In 2013, Steve was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records for being the Most Prolific Voice Actor in video games, with 333 credited appearances. Steve shared interesting stories about his career, citing the character "Steve Spiegel" from the anime Cowboy Bebop as one of his favorites. He delighted fans by briefly getting into character when signing autographs. For instance, while standing in line I heard "Guilmon" from Digimon and "Reptile" from Mortal Kombat X. He told one fan that "Guilmon" holds a special place for him as he was the first nice character that Steve ever played. I love the fact that Steve was genuinely interested in his fans' stories and memorabilia, no matter how obscure. He was hysterical in his panel with fellow voiceover actors Nolan North and Troy Baker, which was the highpoint of my Sunday.

ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Lisle Wilkerson with fan Mitchell Maknis
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Steve Blum

ConnectiCon had a really strong Artist Colony as well as some amazing vendors in the Dealer room this year. One of my favorite things about conventions is discovering artists or catching up on new work by artists I am already familiar with. I may have gone a little crazy, but there were so many great things to choose from. Here are some of my purchases:

ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Skull notebook by Dreaming Doe
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
"Owl Prince" by David Woehr of Grinning
Narwhal Industries
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Sweet Creature" Succulent planter
by Soojin "Sandy" Kim of Skimlines
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Wonder Woman & Little Mermaid
Wallet as well as a Disney Villain pouch
by Jolly Otter Studio Shoppe
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Scooter modeling the Marvel's Avengers Dog
Neckerchief by My Nerdy Pet
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Witch Mug and Wonder Woman
pillow by Argama Witch
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Pins and Washi tape from
Maya Kern
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Art by Khelekmir from Quite
Contrary Creations Artist
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Cruella de Vil & Wonder Woman
sketches by Michelle
LaBranche of Chell Studios
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Pins from Kristilyn of Zombie
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Monstah Box created by Jose Souza III
His name is Horny
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Shattuckite necklace created by Skully Kouture

As a voracious reader I am always impressed when conventions have cool authors. Two of my family's favorites at ConnectiCon were Dan Wells and Jason Fry. Both were on hand to autograph their books.

Dan Wells, a Hugo and Campbell award nominee, writes horror and sci-fi and is the author of the John Cleaver series, the Mirador series, the Partials Sequence as well as numerous standalone books. Dan won a Hugo in 2013 for his book Writing Excuses Season Seven that he co wrote with Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler and Jordan Sanderson. My son became a fan after seeing the film adaptation of his book I Am Not a Serial Killer starring Christopher Lloyd and spoke with Dan about the John Cleaver series. Dan shared that when he wrote I Am Not a Serial Killer, his publisher asked him to expand it into a trilogy. Dan said that complex characters enable a writer to expand on the original story, so the transition from standalone to a trilogy to six in the series was a natural progression. Dan also took some inspiration from the film adaptation of his book and wrote Over Your Dead Body soon after viewing the movie.

Jason Fry appeared on The New York Times Best Seller list for the novelization of Star Wars The Last Jedi and has written over 40 books and short stories that are set in the Star Wars galaxy. He is also the author of his own YA sci-fi series; The Jupiter Pirates. I've been a fan of Star Wars since the original movie hit screens in 1977 so I immediately targeted Jason as someone to visit. Jason picked up on my Star Wars vibe immediately and we engaged in a thoughtful and enjoyable conversation about the franchise. We even agree on our top three favorite Star Wars films: (in no particular order) A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Rogue One. One thing I really enjoyed learning is that The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson gave Jason access to alternate script versions to expand this official adaptation of the film into something quite unique. His newest offering, Solo: A Star Wars Story: Tales from Vandor will hit bookstores this September.

ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Dan Wells
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Jason Fry
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey MaknisConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis

Cosplay is always big at ConnectiCon and this year was no exception. I cosplayed as "Cruella de Vil" on Saturday and was delighted to find my son "Carlos" from Disney's Descendants 1 and 2 among the attendees. My friend "Madame Medusa" and I were fortunate to encounter a posse of Disney villains including another fabulous Cruella! Followed by a few photos from my favorite fandoms:

ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Cruella catches up with Uma, Carlos, Harry Hook, and Gil
from Disney's Descendants 2

ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Madame Medusa (The Rescuers), Cruella de Vil (101
Dalmatians) [x 2], Hades (Hercules), Captain Hook
(Peter Pan), and Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty)

ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Solaire of Astoria from the role-playing
game Dark Souls
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Marvel villain Doctor Doom
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
DC Bombshell Wonder Woman
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
The Dark Lord Sauron
Lord of the Rings
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
From anime Full Metal Alchemist
ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Gajeel Redfox from the anime Fairy Tail

ConnectiCon XVI by Tracey Maknis
Tales from the Borderlands characters
featuring Hologram Handsome Jack

This small vignette of my experience at ConnectiCon 2018 is really just the tip of the iceberg. If you're interested in attending next year, mark your calendars: ConnectiCon 2019 is scheduled for July 11th through the 14th. You can check out their website at:

Artisan's Avenue: Wicked Wall Masks

Artisan's Avenue: Wicked Wall Masks

Artisan's Avenue is a place to showcase fantasy, horror, or sci-fi artists and their creations. As you may have guessed, the name pays homage to Artist's Alley and the wildly talented people I've met at various comic cons. I am continuously fascinated and impressed with their creativity and imagination and I hope our readers feel the same.

Wicked Wall Masks

Tracey/TrinityTwoAs I peruse the vendor sections of comic and horror conventions, I am always on the lookout for new and original artists. This October, I attended Rock and Shock in Worcester, MA and am excited to feature artist Stephen Scholan, whose booth Wicked Wall Masks I found to be wildly original, colorful and exciting.

Artisan's Avenue: Wicked Wall Masks
Stephen, could you please tell our readers a bit about your creative background?

SS:  I had always wanted to be an artist since I was a child. Drawing was my passion in my teens and I started experimenting with clay in my early twenties. All of my sculpting has been self-taught, a lot of trial and error. I still have a lot to learn. The majority of artistic education I've received is through a circle of tattoo artists that taught me about colors and contrast.

TraceyStephen, you obviously have a passion for the macabre. Tell me what it is about this genre that sparks your creative juices.

SS:  I'm fascinated with ancient and extinct cultures, religious deities and the arcane. Most of the wall art I create really doesn't have any true symbolic meaning, my intent is only to spark people's imagination and curiosity.

TraceyWho are some of your personal favorite artists and why?

SS:  Some of my favorite and also the most influential include H.R. Giger, Tim Burton, Brom and Rob Zombie. These artists walked the path less traveled and, like them, I'm always trying to create something spooky, mysterious and original.

TraceyPlease tell us about your current work.

SS:  I am currently working on a set of happy and sad demonic clowns. These are some of the largest pieces I've made and they are a custom order for a collector of mine. After that, I will be creating a traditional Japanese demon. From there, I will be working on another custom order of a Snoopy sculpture hugging a huge heart- that's no joke, though it is a little funny.

TraceyWhat are some of your favorite pieces you have worked on?

SS:  One of my recent favorites is a goat head/raven skull themed clock I created a few months ago. I really enjoy creating clocks as it serves more of a purpose than just a decorative wall mask.

Artisan's Avenue: Wicked Wall Masks

TraceyIs there a cool story you'd like to share about a commission or any of your artwork?

SS:  In the early 2000s I had created two wall masks for the rap duo Twiztid. I wasn't able to give it to them directly, but I caught up with them a few months later at an autograph signing. When I inquired about the wall art I had given them, I was informed that it was hanging up in the house of one of their security guards. Come to find out later that they had gotten rid of the art as quickly as possible because they were unable to sleep with it on their tour bus. Initially, my feelings were hurt but over time I actually took that as a compliment. If my art creeped those two guys out, I must be doing something right!

Artisan's Avenue: Wicked Wall Masks

TraceyThank you so much for joining us at The Qwillery. If you are interested in checking out more of Stephen's creations, head on over to his Instagram or etsy page. Links are provided below.

SS:  All of my current work can be found on my Instagram page. Any art that I have available for sale can be found at my Etsy store @WickedWallMasks

Artisan's Avenue: Wicked Wall Masks

Artisan's Avenue: Wicked Wall Masks

Artisan's Avenue: Wicked Wall Masks

Review: The Legion of Flame by Anthony Ryan

The Legion of Flame
Author:  Anthony Ryan
Series:  The Draconis Memoria 2
Publisher:  Ace, June 27, 2017
Format:  Hardcover and eBook,  576 pages
List Price:  US$28.00 (print); US$11.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781101987896 (print); 9781101987902 (eBook)

Review: The Legion of Flame by Anthony Ryan
Empires clash and a fell power stakes its claim in the second in a new series from the New York Times bestselling author of the Raven’s Shadow Trilogy.

For centuries, the vast Ironship Trading Syndicate relied on drake blood—and the extraordinary powers it confers to those known as the Blood-blessed—to fuel and protect its empire. But now, a fearsome power has arisen—a drake so mighty that the world will tremble before it.

Rogue Blood-blessed Claydon Torcreek, Syndicate agent Lizanne Lethridge, and ironship captain Corrick Hilemore embark upon perilous quests to chase down clues that offer faint hopes of salvation. As the world burns around them, and the fires of revolution are ignited, these few are the last hope for the empire and for all of civilization.

Trinitytwo's / Tracey's Review

Review for The Waking Fire (Draconis Memoria 1) here.

The Legion of Flame, the second book in the Draconis Memoria series, picks up in the aftermath of the destruction wreaked upon the people of the Corvantine Empire by the ruthless White Drake and its army of lesser drakes and Spoiled humans. Unlike its kin, this legendary dragon is enormously powerful and has the ability to transform the humans it takes as captives into slaves by compelling them to stare into mysterious crystals. The slaves, called the Spoiled, remain humanoid in appearance but their yellow eyes and the scaled ridges on their faces make their presence easy to identify. The White is able to command the Spoiled nonverbally, and although a portion of their individuality remains, they are largely a collective mind. As the Spoiled army systematically wipes out settlement after settlement, it also amasses more recruits. Their assimilation results in shared knowledge and abilities that the White plans to use to for its goal of permanently subjugating humankind.

In this action-packed, quest-driven sequel to The Waking Fire, author Anthony Ryan focuses each chapter on the exploits of one of the four main characters. Each POV storyline successfully navigates the balance of adrenaline-filled action with eye-opening exposition. Sirus, a new POV character, gives the reader the opportunity to understand the mutated Spoiled's perspective. Sirus' quick intellect and ability to lead make him a valuable asset. And although he is filled with self-loathing, he is consistent and very successful in furthering the White's plans. Sirus' chapters were the most difficult for me to read. It was unsettling to watch him devise ingenious methods to kill and capture humans. But although it was uncomfortable, I also found it illuminating and fascinating. Through Sirus, Ryan is able to share the very alien nature of the drakes and the White in particular, in a very natural and uncontrived setting.

Corrick Hilemore and Clay Torcreek set sail to the frigid southern isles with the purpose of discovering the true nature of their enemy and perhaps a means to destroy it. Although Hilemore and Clay begin their journey together, they soon become separated, which leads both protagonists through harrowing experiences. Though Hilemore has an important role to play, it is Clay that provides the back-story of the White's origins. Similar to The Waking Fire, Hilemore is relegated to the position of secondary character and although he is extremely earnest and likeable, I'm beginning to wonder if his sole purpose is to fill in some of the series' blanks. Clay's travels are much more vital and quickly take an unexpected turn. His subterranean passage is especially exhilarating and extremely informative.

Lizanne Lethridge and her mission engaged me the most. Seeking a fabled weapons inventor, she must infiltrate the virtually impenetrable prison city of Scorazin. Lizanne's skill set as a spy and assassin are sorely tested in a fortress city whose only inhabitants are hardened criminals. Most admirably, Lizanne never quits no matter how many obstacles are thrown in her path or how many detours she is forced to endure. Hands down my favorite character, her foray in Scorazin and her interactions with its denizens kept me turning pages late into the night.

Always impeccable, Anthony Ryan's world building skills do not fail to amaze. In the Draconis Memoria series, he completely immerses his readers in a steampunk-esque world where the struggle for survival is palpable against an emerging army of ferocious drakes. I especially appreciated the premise of short-sightedness by the power-hungry. Mirroring current world events, this theme is resoundingly appropriate.

The Legion of Flame pits human perseverance and ingenuity against the brute force and intellect of a race vying for its own place in history. Pure and simple, it is brilliant story-telling. This series is top notch and not to be missed.

Review: The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter
Author:  Theodora Goss
Publisher:  Saga Press, June 20, 2017
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages
List Price:  US$24.99 (print); US$7.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781481466509 (print); 9781481466523 (eBook)

Review: The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss
Based on some of literature’s horror and science fiction classics, this is the story of a remarkable group of women who come together to solve the mystery of a series of gruesome murders—and the bigger mystery of their own origins.

Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes.

But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde, and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.

Tracey's / Trinitytwo's Review

Mary Jekyll has led a sheltered life, even for a woman in the late 1800's. Her father, Dr. Henry Jekyll, died over a decade ago, leaving his wealth mysteriously inaccessible to his family. Although appearances were maintained, the truth behind the facade is that Mary was forced to sell almost everything of value over the years in order to retain a few key members of the household staff and hire a nurse to help care for her mentally-ill mother. After her mother's death, Mary realizes she is quickly running out of funds. She begins to investigate her mother's legal papers in the hope of discovering a way to provide for herself and her faithful housekeeper. Mary is astounded to learn her mother had a secret bank account with a monthly withdrawal earmarked "for the care and keeping of Hyde". Could this be a reference to the notorious Mr. Hyde who is still wanted for the brutal murder of an elderly gentleman? And if that is the case, would the authorities still offer a reward for his whereabouts even though the crime was committed so long ago? Mary visits the famous detective Sherlock Holmes for advice, hoping this information might lead to some financial security. Instead, Mary finds that nothing in her mundane life is quite what it seems.

The cast of characters spring from some of literature's most well-known horror stories. The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter features not only Dr. Jekyll's daughter, but also the daughters of doctors Frankenstein, Moreau, and Rappaccini. Each character is well-formed and has her own unique voice. Although introducing the offspring of iconic fictional figures is nothing new, author Theodora Goss offers an original plot and an engrossing mystery that keeps the story appealing and fresh.

Another unique feature of the book is an intriguing story within the story. The daughters are reading a written account of their exploits, much like Dr. Watson's documentation of Sherlock Holmes' adventures. Each chapter features conversations between the women, commenting on the authenticity of the writer's interpretations, giving more accurate and often amusing insights into their personalities. This commentary allows each of the daughters' fascinating backstories to blend seamlessly into the action. For instance, through this plot device it becomes obvious that the insults directed at the incorrigible Diana Hyde actually come from a place of love and indulgence.

Goss does an expert job of clearly exposing who the real monsters are, as well as exploring the idea that the bonds forged from friendship can be the strongest of all. Other strong themes included are those of sisterhood, loyalty and feminism. Goss left a few mysteries unsolved, and hopefully they will be addressed in her next book. Overall, her formula of monsters, mystery, and the macabre is highly entertaining and I definitely recommend The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter.

Review: Skullsworn by Brian Staveley

Author:  Brian Staveley
Series:  Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne World
Publisher:  Tor Books, April 25, 2017
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  US$25.99 (print); US$12.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765389879 (print); 9780765389893 (eBook)

Review: Skullsworn by Brian Staveley
Brian Staveley’s new standalone returns to the critically acclaimed Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne universe, following a priestess-assassin for the God of Death.

“Brilliant.” —V. E. Schwab, New York Times bestselling author

From the award-winning epic fantasy world of The Emperor’s Blades

Pyrre Lakatur is not, to her mind, an assassin, not a murderer—she is a priestess. At least, she will be once she passes her final trial.

The problem isn’t the killing. The problem, rather, is love. For to complete her trial, Pyrre has ten days to kill the seven people enumerated in an ancient song, including “the one who made your mind and body sing with love / who will not come again.”

Pyrre isn’t sure she’s ever been in love. And if she fails to find someone who can draw such passion from her, or fails to kill that someone, her order will give her to their god, the God of Death. Pyrre’s not afraid to die, but she hates to fail, and so, as her trial is set to begin, she returns to the city of her birth in the hope of finding love . . . and ending it on the edge of her sword.

"A complex and richly detailed world filled with elite soldier-assassins, mystic warrior monks, serpentine politics, and ancient secrets." —Library Journal, starred review, on The Emperor's Blades

Tracey's/Trinitytwo's Review

Pyrre Lakatur must kill seven people in fourteen days or she will die. Pyrre however, is not afraid of death- rather, she is troubled by the thought of failure. Killing seven people would be easy for Pyrre, who belongs to a religion known among the populace as Skullsworn. She is accomplished in the many ways a life can be offered to Ananshael, the God of Death. However, to become a priestess, she must adhere to certain requirements; one of which is to kill the individual she loves. Love is something Pyrre has never experienced, so in desperation she has chosen Dombâng, the city of her youth for her Trial. There she will attempt to rekindle the passion she shared with former lover, Ruc Lan Lac, who now presides as constable over the troubled city. Accompanying Pyrre as witnesses are vivacious and deadly Ela, a legendary priestess of her order, and Kossal, a gruff older priest. Her Trial hinges on the hope that Ruc will let her get close enough so they can fall in love. Then she can kill him.

Skullsworn is set in the world of Brian Staveley's Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne series. Although Pyrre had a part to play in that trilogy, this standalone novel takes place years before those events. I like that Pyrre tells her own narrative in first person. It allows the reader to fully appreciate her history, motivations, and inner workings. She is a distinctive protagonist who is definitely more comfortable with her blades than her emotions. I particularly enjoyed her interactions with Ela, whose lessons are a delightful combination of philosophy, humor, and combat.

The city of Dombâng plays an integral role in the story. It still seethes under the martial law imposed upon it by the Annurian Empire centuries ago. Worship to its fierce gods is outlawed, but its people still believe in the forbidden sacrificial rituals, which leaves it ripe for rebellion. The deadly deltas and marshes that surround it are rife with a plethora of creatures that survive by preying on the weak. I really enjoyed the political intrigues and colorful, yet lethal locations that kept the action progressing in unexpected and exhilarating ways.

Because of her devotion to her deity, Pyrre's heartfelt journey of self-discovery is unlike any that comes to mind. Skullsworn kept me mesmerized from start to finish. I love the story's epilogue; it took me by surprise and left a smile on my face. Brian Staveley is both a master of the English language and an accomplished storyteller which makes this book a pleasure to read. Unique, bold, and exciting, Skullsworn is not to be missed.

Review - Aftermath: Empire's End (Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy 3) by Chuck Wendig

Aftermath: Empire's End
Author:  Chuck Wendig
Series:  Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy 3
Publisher:  Del Rey, February 21, 2017
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 448 pages
List Price: US$28.99 (print); US$14.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781101966969 (print); 9781101966976 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Reviewer's Own

Review - Aftermath: Empire's End (Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy 3) by Chuck Wendig
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Following Star Wars: Aftermath and Star Wars: Life Debt, Chuck Wendig delivers the exhilarating conclusion to the New York Times bestselling trilogy set in the years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.


As the final showdown between the New Republic and the Empire draws near, all eyes turn to a once-isolated planet: Jakku.

The Battle of Endor shattered the Empire, scattering its remaining forces across the galaxy. But the months following the Rebellion’s victory have not been easy. The fledgling New Republic has suffered a devastating attack from the Imperial remnant, forcing the new democracy to escalate their hunt for the hidden enemy.

For her role in the deadly ambush, Grand Admiral Rae Sloane is the most wanted Imperial war criminal—and one-time rebel pilot Norra Wexley, back in service at Leia’s urgent request, is leading the hunt. But more than just loyalty to the New Republic drives Norra forward: Her husband was turned into a murderous pawn in Sloane’s assassination plot, and now she wants vengeance as much as justice.

But Sloane, too, is on a furious quest: pursuing the treacherous Gallius Rax to the barren planet Jakku. As the true mastermind behind the Empire’s devastating attack, Rax has led the Empire to its defining moment. The cunning strategist has gathered the powerful remnants of the Empire’s war machine, preparing to execute the late Emperor Palpatine’s final plan. As the Imperial fleet orbits Jakku, an armada of Republic fighters closes in to finish what began at Endor. Norra and her crew soar into the heart of an apocalyptic clash that will leave land and sky alike scorched. And the future of the galaxy will finally be decided.

Trinitytwo's / Tracey's Review

Star Wars: Aftermath: Empire's End, the stunning conclusion to Chuck Wendig's Star Wars: Aftermath series, tidily wraps up the adventures of an unlikely group of New Republic heroes. In the wake of the devastation caused by the bloodbath on Chandrila, Norra Wexley, leader of a team of "Imperial Hunters", uncovers information that Grand Admiral Rae Sloane has fled to the desert planet of Jakku. For Norra, bringing Sloane to justice, is personal. Her husband was one of the released Imperial captives that was programmed, via implant, to assassinate high ranking New Republic personnel during the Liberation Day celebrations. Norra is determined to make Sloane pay for the pain and anguish that was inflicted on the innocent.

But Norra and the New Republic are wrong: Sloane was not responsible for the terrorist attack. She's tracked the organizer of the slaughter, Gallius Rax, to Jakku. Sloane's agenda is simple: for his perversion of her beloved Empire, she will find him and kill him. Norra and her squad are hot on Sloane's trail, but as they drop out of hyperspace they are alarmed to discover that what's left of the Imperial fleet is orbiting this remote planet. But to what purpose? Will this discovery set off a chain of events that will lead to the Empire's ultimate end?

Empire's End is a beautifully written finale to the Aftermath series. Wendig meticulously ties up the multitude of story arcs into a neat package. Fans of the film will definitely appreciate how the final battle sets the stage for Episode VII. But by laying the necessary groundwork for the film, I felt the main characters' stories suffered slightly. I got the feeling that Empire's End was much more of a staging area for the film than Aftermath or Aftermath: Life Debt. This doesn't necessarily make the story bad, in fact, it's pretty darn good. I really enjoy Wendig's characters and feel that they were a bit short-changed.

For instance, I simply did not get enough of ex-Imperial loyalty officer Sinjir Rath Velus. I always enjoy Sinjir's exploits; whether he is extracting information from an unwilling bounty hunter, or on a covert mission to expose corrupt senators. I especially like his interactions with bounty hunter Jas Emari, Chancellor Mon Mothma, and his relationship with tech slicer Conder Kyl.

The modified B1 battle droid, Mister Bones, is always a favorite. Although Bones is a supporting character, he is totally unforgettable. I am seriously excited because Wendig tantalizes readers with a few of the maniacal droid's memories; proving that there is much more to Mister Bones that meets the eye.

Who doesn't love reuniting with old friends? Wendig's story is peppered with interludes, some of which feature the suave scoundrel Lando Calrissian retaking Bespin, a certain infamous Gungan on Naboo, and the ongoing struggles on Kashyyyk featuring Chewbacca.

Aftermath: Empire's End is an exciting and entertaining book. It seems to have been given the momentous task of taking a galaxy of loose threads and tying them together. Wendig does this brilliantly. Lovers of the Star Wars Universe shouldn't pass up the book, or the series; it provides tons of insight into future events and succeeds by being both appealing and exhilarating.


Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy 1
Del Rey, March 29, 2016
Mass Market Paperback, 432 pages
Hardcover and eBook, September 4, 2015

Review - Aftermath: Empire's End (Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy 3) by Chuck Wendig
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: Aftermath [reveals] what happened after the events of 1983’s Return of the Jedi. It turns out, there’s more than just the Empire for the good guys to worry about.”—The Hollywood Reporter

As the Empire reels from its critical defeats at the Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance—now a fledgling New Republic—presses its advantage by hunting down the enemy’s scattered forces before they can regroup and retaliate. But above the remote planet Akiva, an ominous show of the enemy’s strength is unfolding. Out on a lone reconnaissance mission, pilot Wedge Antilles watches Imperial Star Destroyers gather like birds of prey circling for a kill, but he’s taken captive before he can report back to the New Republic leaders.

Meanwhile, on the planet’s surface, former rebel fighter Norra Wexley has returned to her native world—war weary, ready to reunite with her estranged son, and eager to build a new life in some distant place. But when Norra intercepts Wedge Antilles’s urgent distress call, she realizes her time as a freedom fighter is not yet over. What she doesn’t know is just how close the enemy is—or how decisive and dangerous her new mission will be.

Determined to preserve the Empire’s power, the surviving Imperial elite are converging on Akiva for a top-secret emergency summit—to consolidate their forces and rally for a counterstrike. But they haven’t reckoned on Norra and her newfound allies—her technical-genius son, a Zabrak bounty hunter, and a reprobate Imperial defector—who are prepared to do whatever they must to end the Empire’s oppressive reign once and for all.

Read Tracey's Review here.

Aftermath: Life Debt
Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy 2
Del Rey, March 28, 2017
Mass Market Paperback, 512 pages
Hardcover and eBook, July 19, 2016

Review - Aftermath: Empire's End (Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy 3) by Chuck Wendig
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Set between the events of Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, the never-before-told story that began with Star Wars: Aftermath continues in this thrilling novel, the second book of Chuck Wendig’s bestselling trilogy.

It is a dark time for the Empire. . . .

The Emperor is dead, and the remnants of his former Empire are in retreat. As the New Republic fights to restore a lasting peace to the galaxy, some dare to imagine new beginnings and new destinies. For Han Solo, that means settling his last outstanding debt, by helping Chewbacca liberate the Wookiee’s homeworld of Kashyyyk.

Meanwhile, Norra Wexley and her band of Imperial hunters pursue Grand Admiral Rae Sloane and the Empire’s remaining leadership across the galaxy. Even as more and more officers are brought to justice, Sloane continues to elude the New Republic, and Norra fears Sloane may be searching for a means to save the crumbling Empire from oblivion. But the hunt for Sloane is cut short when Norra receives an urgent request from Princess Leia Organa. The attempt to liberate Kashyyyk has carried Han Solo, Chewbacca, and a band of smugglers into an ambush—resulting in Chewie’s capture and Han’s disappearance.

Breaking away from their official mission and racing toward the Millennium Falcon’s last known location, Norra and her crew prepare for any challenge that stands between them and their missing comrades. But they can’t anticipate the true depth of the danger that awaits them—or the ruthlessness of the enemy drawing them into his crosshairs.

Read Tracey's Review here.

Interview with April Daniels and Review of Dreadnought

Please welcome April Daniels to The Qwillery as part of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge interviews! Dreadnought was published on January 24th by Diversion Books.

Interview with April Daniels and Review of Dreadnought

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

April:  Hi! Happy to be here. I started writing fanfic in high school and it sort of blossomed from there.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

April:  Oh Goddess, this is a tricky one. I’ve done both, but I’m not sure I’d say I’m a hybrid. It sort of depends on the project. When I plot ahead of time, my writing is more propulsive and tighter, but when I pants I think I end up with some more creative decisions than I would make otherwise.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

April:  Right now? Just getting the damn words down. It’s very common for an author to get seriously blocked after signing her first contract, and that has happened to me. I’ve been blocked for more than a year and I can’t wait for Dreadnought to get published so I can move past this.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

April:  I have always had a very hard time answering these sort of questions because everything I read and see goes into the stew. It bubbles away for months or years, and then when I sit down to write, it comes out in the writing. I don’t sit down to write with an influence in mind, I just write how it makes sense for the story to work.

TQDescribe Dreadnought in 140 characters or less.

April:  Trans girl superhero gets cool clothes and then beats up robots to save the world.

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

April:  It’s mainly about child abuse. The big thing people know about this book is that it stars a transgender superhero, but the gender stuff is not the thematic focus of the book. Danielle knows who she is and is comfortable with that. The gender stuff is only ever a problem for her because abusive people in her life make it a problem for her.

TQWhat inspired you to write Dreadnought? What appeals to you about writing about a superhero?

April:  I wanted to write the book I wish I’d had when I was 15.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Dreadnought?

April:  None whatsoever. Wait, no, that’s not true. I looked up what kind of nuclear reactors were on theoretical drawing boards.

TQPlease tell us about Dreadnought's cover.

April:  It was made by a staff artist at Diversion books. If you look carefully it’s got the colors of the trans flag represented on the skyline.

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

April:  Calamity, hands down, was the easiest to write. This is mainly because she was the most fun to write.

The hardest to write was Graywytch. She went through three or four revisions. Initially she spoke almost entirely in real-life TERF quotes, but that came off as cartoonish—nobody would believe anyone was really that evil! I had to tone her down again and again until I got the balance right.

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

April:  When you write about a transgender protagonist, you are forced to write about social issues no matter what. People will make it political, even if you don’t want it to be. So I leaned into that. The first draft was a little preachy, and I toned it down. I think it’s got a good balance now.

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


Q: Can we give you a giant pile of money to adapt this into a feature length film?

A: Sure!

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

April:  There’s an entire chapter that I refer to as Post Structuralism For Kidz, but I think that would be too long to quote here. I guess I’ll quote the section that made me fall in love with writing Calamity’s dialog. In this scene she’s just found a newly-transformed Danielle over Dreadnought’s dead body in the aftermath of a fiery explosion.

            Calamity is silent for a long time. “Well, Danny.” She reaches up and taps a curly wire leading to an earbud taped into her ear. “The cops say they’ll be here in a few moments, so we’d best be leaving.”
            “If the police find you here, they’ll want you to testify against a supervillain.” Calamity shrugs. “I’ll not claim expertise on how things work from where you’re from, but in my experience of the world, that is a poor choice of behavior. Might be you decide to keep your mouth shut. Might be Utopia doesn’t take the chance. Best be leaving.”
            When she puts it that way, I’m throwing all my crap into my bag and running next to her as she sprints for the parking garage’s rear.

TQWhat's next?

April:  The sequel to Dreadnought is called Sovereign and I’m currently doing revisions for it. Right now we’ve scheduled it to come out in July.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

April:  Thanks for having me!

Nemesis 1
Diversion Books, January 24, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 280 pages

Interview with April Daniels and Review of Dreadnought
An action-packed series-starter perfect for fans of The Heroine Complex and Not Your Sidekick.

Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of Dreadnought, the world’s greatest superhero. Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, Danny was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But before he expired, Dreadnought passed his mantle to her, and those secondhand superpowers transformed Danny’s body into what she’s always thought it should be. Now there’s no hiding that she’s a girl.

It should be the happiest time of her life, but Danny’s first weeks finally living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined. Between her father’s dangerous obsession with “curing” her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her, and her fellow superheroes arguing over her place in their ranks, Danny feels like she’s in over her head.

She doesn’t have time to adjust. Dreadnought’s murderer—a cyborg named Utopia—still haunts the streets of New Port City, threatening destruction. If Danny can’t sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction.

Tracey's Review

Dreadnought, New Port City's most powerful superhero, has been mortally wounded during an unexpected battle with another metahuman. He lands near Daniel Tozer, a fifteen year old high school student, in a secluded area in back of the mall. Despite the danger, Danny attempts to help by dragging him to safety. The dying superhero urges Danny to flee but the teen refuses. As Dreadnought feels his life force extinguishing, he bestows his powers on Danny. The results are unexpected. Dreadnought's powers are transferred but somehow they transform the teen from Daniel to Danielle. Danny, a trans woman, has always felt trapped in her own skin, so although she is saddened by Dreadnought's passing, she can't help but rejoice at the gift that he's given her. But there is the issue of her new superpowers. Danny wants to find a way to repay the superhero for all that he has done for her. Should she accept the mantle of Dreadnought with the responsibilities and sacrifices that come with it? And how on earth will she explain all this to her parents?

Dreadnought is a YA with definite adult crossover appeal. The story is told through a first person narrative, and although I had some trouble getting accustomed to Danny's adolescent voice, by the third chapter I was hooked. Author April Daniels has written an inspiring tale that blends the perils involved in learning to use brand new superpowers with the emotional journey of a transgender teen.

This story is special because Danny is a superhero with whom readers can empathize. She has lived her young life in fear: fear of her verbally abusive father, fear of being thought of as a freak, fear of not being strong, or brave, or smart enough, and fear of never being allowed to be herself. The joy she feels about her physical transformation is short-lived as the negative reaction of her parents, friends, and doctor rings with a brutal truthfulness that is painful to witness. Yet, happily, Danny perseveres and her strength of character allows readers to see her as a fully realized human.

There is a second part to the story that is equally engaging. Dreadnought is also about a teen's decision to embrace or reject the obligations and consequences of becoming a superhero. Danny's first venture into flexing her super muscles to help people really stands out. Her attempt at rescuing a commercial airliner on the verge of crashing is particularly exhilarating. Another highlight for me is Danny's friendship with Calamity and the dangers that their youthful exuberance land them in. Calamity's acceptance and support are a welcome departure from the many narrow-minded characters that populate Danny's world.

Dreadnought is an ambitious book that balances terrific metahuman battles with a myriad of topics including domestic abuse, bullying, government corruption, racism, sexism, and intolerance. April Daniels has written a insightful novel that is thoughtful without being preachy. Due to the complex, and often stressful, emotional conflicts, I would recommend this book to ages 13 and up. I think Danny's story can serve as a stepping stone to great discussions and conversations. In my opinion, Danny's heart-wrenchingly bittersweet attempt to make the people she cares about understand and accept that she is a transgender lesbian is written beautifully and needs to be shared. In the end, Dreadnought had me cheering while bringing tears to my eyes. Absolutely brilliant.

About April

Interview with April Daniels and Review of Dreadnought
April Daniels graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in literature. She completed her first manuscript by scribbling a few sentences at a time between calls while working in the customer support department for a well-known video game console.

She has a number of hobbies, most of which are boring and predictable. As nostalgia for the 1990s comes into its full bloom, she has become ever more convinced that she was born two or three years too late and missed all the good stuff the first time around.

Website  ~  Twitter @1aprildaniels  ~  Facebook  ~  Tumblr

Review: The Wolf's Call by Anthony RyanArtisan's Avenue - HeroicoutureThe Qwillery is Ten and What Tracey Did at Book Expo AmericaConnectiCon XVI by Tracey MaknisArtisan's Avenue: Wicked Wall MasksReview: The Legion of Flame by Anthony RyanReview: The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora GossReview: Skullsworn by Brian StaveleyReview - Aftermath: Empire's End (Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy 3) by Chuck WendigInterview with April Daniels and Review of Dreadnought

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