The Qwillery | category: Urban Fantasy


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Review: The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig

The Cormorant
Author:  Chuck Wendig
Series:  Miriam Black 3
Publisher:  Angry Robot Books
   December 31, 2013 (US/Canada and eBook)
   January 2, 2014 (UK)
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook,
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780857663382 (print)
Review Copy:  Reviewer's Own

Review: The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig
Miriam is on the road again, having transitioned from “thief”… to “killer”.

Hired by a wealthy businessman, she heads down to Florida to practice the one thing she’s good at. But in her vision she sees her client die by another’s hand – and on the wall, written in blood, is a message just for Miriam.

She’s expected…

File Under: Urban Fantasy [ Plying Her Trade | Inevitable | Touch of Death | No More! ]

Melanie's Thoughts

In The Cormorant, Miriam Black's third story, Chuck Wendig ramps up the action and the tension for the reader. The story starts with Miriam in custody but I didn't know who or why they wanted her. Wendig uses Miriam's custody as the means for telling her story...and boy it is a doozy! Miriam finds herself in Florida on a job to 'see' a client's death but instead she saw a message....a message for her written in the client's blood. It's obvious someone wants her in town and Miriam isn't sure how she is going to get out of this mess. Miriam's mother now lives in Florida and Miriam decides to pay a visit while she is there. Miriam discovers a new and different side to her uber religious mother. Just as she starts to think her life couldn't get any scarier she sees her mother's death in which there is another horrific message from someone from her past. Time is ticking and she hasn't much time to stop the hand of fate.

Miriam is one of those purely unlikeable characters that you just can't help but to cheer for. She is foul mouthed, unrepentant and basically a bit of a 'hot mess'. She stumbles (usually because she has had too much to drink) from one disaster to another and in The Cormorant there are lots of disasters for her to get embroiled in. I thought it was interesting how Wendig had Miriam tell her story while she was in custody. It was a tiny bit confusing at first as there were virtually no clues as to why Miriam had been apprehended or whether or not she was being held by the police, the FBI or the mob. The story also moves from past to present or near present rather seamlessly so I really had to pay attention to make sure I wasn't missing something that would be pivotal to the plot later on. There were a few times when I thought that the plot was a bit dis-jointed but it became clear as the story progressed that Wendig used certain events to develop Miriam's character. Miriam grows as a person and as a character through the story. She continues to learn both the positive and extremely destructive consequences of changing the fate of the person she sees in her visions. She also learns that she is not alone in the world with weird and disturbing powers.

I enjoy Wendig's writing style and really enjoy the Miriam Black series. While gory, gruesome and intense the series just keeps getting better and better. Wendig keeps the reader on their toes throughout The Cormorant as this instalment is action packed from the very start to the very end and has a number of different stories that all culminate into the overall plot. In each review of this series I am always tempted to say that the Miriam Black series is not for the faint hearted but in the case of The Cormorant I really mean it. This instalment veers closer to horror than its urban fantasy roots. There is even an added bonus with this series - check out the covers by Joey Hi-Fi! Endless hours can be spent picking out all the hidden images the covers hold. How many things can you see? This is an excellent series but you really need to start at the beginning with Blackbirds. If you like unlike-able characters, a well executed plot and don't mind a bit of murder and mayhem then this series has it all.

Interview with Rhiannon Held, author of the Silver series - February 18, 2014

Please welcome Rhiannon Held to The Qwillery. Rhiannon is the author of the Silver Urban Fantasy series: Silver, Tarnished and Reflected, which is out today. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Rhiannon a Happy Publication Day!

Interview with Rhiannon Held, author of the Silver series - February 18, 2014

TQ:  Welcome back to The Qwillery. Reflected, the 3rd novel is your Silver series, is out today. How has becoming an author changed your life? Is there any advice that you'd give debut authors?

Rhiannon:  My life hasn’t changed in any way that would be obvious externally. I’m still at my same old day job, still write in the evenings when I come home from work, and still meet once a week with friends to critique our writing. I’ve had to learn a lot of new skills, though, related to publicity. As an introvert, it takes confidence to approach a bookstore about doing a signing or schmooze with industry folks at a convention party. I can’t say I like any of those kind of things now, but I’m pretty comfortable with my competency with them. That’s the life-changing part, because those skills can be applied anywhere, not just to book publicity.

There’s plenty of advice I’ve given at various times, but I think the most over-arching piece is to be smart about picking your advice sources. There’s a lot out there for authors on the internet, and a lot of it’s good, but it’s easy to sink into the flood and not differentiate among sources. The most useful thing I’ve discovered is to look for an advice source who used to be in your situation with the problem in question. It seems obvious, but I’ve seen introverts looking like they’re about to cry at conventions when they ask an extrovert how to network and the extrovert tells them to “just switch on.” In my writing dialogue comes naturally to me, scene-setting I had to sweat blood to learn. If your dialogue sucks, disregard anything I say about how I write mine. That’s not to say that writers can’t empathize and offer advice on problems not their own, but someone who sweated through the process of learning something has a higher probability of being able to articulate it well than someone who understands the struggle only intellectually from watching others. Look for writing tips “for” whatever you are, like networking for introverts.

TQ:  Has your writing process changed from Silver (Book 1) to Reflected (Book 3)?

Rhiannon:  My process is actually fairly similar, if a bit more refined now. I draft steadily, with small wordcounts day after day, rather than impressive large-wordcount bursts. I draft too short (to my eternal frustration) and add material in revision on balance, rather than subtracting it. I’ve learned to consciously “buffer” the scenes I plan to write in a day, by running them in my head while driving or walking. Before, I did that unconsciously, and sometimes had unproductive writing sessions because I hadn’t buffered anything.

Before I finished writing Book 4, I would have said that my revision process has become streamlined, but Book 4 has proved that a dirty lie. What has happened, in fact, is the heavy-lifting of my revisions has moved. A lot from my first drafts makes it into the final book, but I often add scenes and character moments to better highlight the emotional arcs. As I’ve gone along, I’ve bitten off more and more complex character arcs, so I find that I have the same number of revisions but they’re revising different things. In Book 1, I had multiple revisions in which I substantially changed where the book started, and where the action in the book occurred. In Book 3, I had multiple revisions in which I clarified the characters’ motives, and added scenes to drive them later, but the first scene and major plot events remained essentially identical. In Book 4, I apparently had a temporary bout of insanity, because rather picking a major character change I wanted and crafting a climax event to create it, I picked a climax event and tried to figure out how the characters would change following it. As far as my process goes, it was a very “jump and build your wings on the way down” sort of experience that made for extremely hair-tearing critique sessions when I found out—again—it wasn’t working yet.

But I got there eventually! And I think the more complex emotional arcs are totally worth it.

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

Rhiannon:  I wish I knew about The Question before people started asking it of me. As an archaeologist, I’m fairly used to questions from friends and family and well-meaning strangers that are awkward to answer because they have nothing to do with my actual experience. Have I ever been to Egypt? Do I wear a fedora? You get a lot of those kinds of questions as an author. Did you get to pick your cover? Do you know the model in the picture on the cover? Did you get to write the cover blurb? Do you know the demographics of your readers? (For the curious: the answer to all of those in my case is “no.”)

But then there’s The Question: “How’s your latest book doing?” In some cases, it’s asked in the same spirit as “How are you?” from one coworker to another. They want to express polite interest, but they don’t actually want messy or uncomfortable details. “Pretty good, I think,” is an acceptable answer in that case. But some people actually want to know. How is my book doing? How many have I sold?

Let me tell you about sales numbers. My publisher sends me a statement twice a year. It takes about five months to arrive. That means at this moment, February 2014, I received my most recent statement in November 2013, and it included all my sales up to June 30, 2013. So I could tell you how my book was selling eight months ago—except that I can’t. Because bookstore orders are included in my sales numbers, so if they fail to sell them and return them, my total sales can actually tick down. Amazon offers authors Bookscan data, but Bookscan only includes certain sales (only US, no ebooks, not certain distributors). When compared to my statement numbers from a six-month period, Bookscan has been 30% of my real total—approximately. Say I multiply it out, using 30% to get a rough estimate. I have a number! Compared to…what? A few people do publish their sales numbers, but many of them are self-published, and others are more established than me or in other sub-genres. My number is lower than a science fiction author with a decade in the business and six novels behind them. Um, okay?

So the literal answer to “How’s your book doing?” is “I have no effing clue.” I don’t actually say that. I could have used a chance, before I was published, to figure out how answer The Question politely. Because it is, after all, asked by people who are actually friends with good intentions.

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

Rhiannon:  I’ve worked hard over the course of the whole series to create the werewolf culture and religion. It’s intended to mostly end up in the background, but I enjoy explaining the gears turning behind the scenes when people ask. Reflected has a neat little aspect of culture based on weddings of Travellers living in Britain. As it was explained in the documentary I saw, Travellers often marry quite young, but also are very controlling of their young girls, so there’s not much chance for young people to meet and find marriage partners. An exception to this can be other people’s weddings. Everyone is invited, not just close friends and family, and standards of behavior for the attending young people are relaxed somewhat.

In Reflected, one of the protagonists, Andrew, tells his daughter, Felicia, that she has to go to school, get a job, or go roaming. Roaming is my Were cultural answer to the problem of inbreeding. Were packs aren’t large, maybe twenty people or so, so people need to find mates outside of their birth pack. So culturally, North American teens are encouraged to ignore pack territory boundaries in a way adults aren’t allowed to, and wander around the continent visiting other packs until they find a place to settle down. In Europe, the packs are much more aggressive toward each other, so that would never work. That’s where the Travellers come in. It’s not mentioned in the book, but European packs throw huge parties to celebrate the first shifts of all their children. At those parties, European teens can fall into bed and get hustled off to a new pack when their parents find out, and inbreeding is avoided there too.

TQ:  Which character in the Silver series has surprised you the most?

Rhiannon:  Tom. For those not familiar with the series, Tom is an easy-going, puppyish Were in his early twenties by the time of Reflected. I wrote him into the beginning of Book 1 to perform a simple purpose, to humanize (heh) Andrew. Andrew had a pretty bad reputation with the majority of other characters because of past mistakes. I wanted to illustrate how someone who hadn’t heard about his past, in the person of Tom, would actually like him. And all my beta readers loved Tom! I purposely brought him back in Book 2 because he was so much fun to write, and that’s when I finally realized what people were reacting to. In a plot full of emotional tension and drama, it’s nice to have a mellow character who isn’t bothered. It’s a way of winking at the reader and saying “Yeah, they’ll get through this.”

He’d make a terrible protagonist, of course, because protagonists who don’t get upset encourage the readers not to react and get bored. But in Reflected, he’s graduated to an even more important role, being there for Felicia, who is a POV character, to bounce off of. When you have characters with a temper, a mellow character can be a perfect foil. So Tom, after being created for a single scene, is now one of the most important supporting characters in the series, and I had no idea it was going to happen.

TQ:  In the series so far who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? Who is your favorite good 'guy', bad 'guy' or ethically ambiguous character?

Rhiannon:  The simplest answer is the easiest to write is any character who had a POV in a previous book. The hardest is any character that hasn’t had a POV yet. I write in close third, so getting deep into the thoughts of even a character that’s been upgraded from a bit part in a previous book is more of a quantum change than one might expect. It’s not that I have trouble getting characters’ voices into my head, or finding first draft words to put on the page, but I’ve discovered through experience that the voice I construct in my head needs translation before it comes through properly to first readers. I have trouble both directions—sometimes the nuances of the character in my mind don’t make it to the page, leaving them flat or boring to the readers. Sometimes I’m so concerned about making sure a particular personality trait comes through, I overplay it on the page. Either way, in the second draft the character in my head doesn’t change much, but the way I word that character on the page does. It’s tremendously frustrating when what you think you’re saying isn’t what people actually hear! But I’ve learned to trust it will get fixed in revision.

My favorite antagonist is a spoiler for Book 4, so I think I’ll go with my favorite bad guy instead. I’ve really enjoyed getting to write Raul, as someone who is manipulative by personality, rather than being violent or aggressive. Not that one kind of villain is necessarily more exciting than another for readers, but plotting out twisty manipulations is fun! I’ve also enjoyed showing him through Felicia’s eyes, because she grew up with him, so she saw his positive side: protective of his people, and trying to teach Felicia manipulation to protect herself.

TQ:  Why do you think makes werewolves so appealing? Which parts of werewolf mythology have you adopted and which have you changed?

Rhiannon:  It’s probably not the whole story, but I think part of what appeals about werewolves is how they mix qualities we culturally see as being in opposition. Nature vs. humans, control vs. wild urges. Their struggle is a metaphor for our struggle with those qualities. They appeal because it’s a struggle that can loom large in our lives. Personally, I decided to use werewolves as a different metaphor, since werewolves representing animal urges has been well covered by other authors. I’ve tried to make my werewolves represent the struggle between staying true to a minority culture or sub-culture and assimilating into the dominant culture.

To set that up, I did make a few changes to the common mythology. My Were are as science-based as I can make them. They are a separate species, so no human can be turned into one. They shift into full wolves, not a wolf-human hybrid monster. They don’t shift involuntarily, though shifting gets easier with the full moon. Their male-female ratio is roughly even, so as to have a breeding population. They also have their own culture and religion, and history going back thousands of years. They try to keep these secret while living among humans, allowing the metaphor I was talking about above.

TQ:  What's next?

Rhiannon:  The fourth book in the Silver series, as mentioned above, is all written, but my publisher is waiting to see how the third book sells before they decide whether to continue the series. So if you want to see more from these characters, recommend the first three to other folks! I have up to at least book six planned with the same set of characters, and probably more with a secondary character stepping up to carry the series. I have a few ideas for urban fantasy series in completely different universes percolating at the back of my mind, so we’ll see if people are interested in those when the time comes.

At this very moment I’m working on a project to please myself. It’s set in the same universe as the Silver series, with werewolves getting up to shenanigans in an 1870s mill town on the Puget Sound.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery!

Rhiannon:  It’s been so wonderful to get another chance to talk with you!


Silver 3
Tor Books, February 18, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Rhiannon Held, author of the Silver series - February 18, 2014
Rhiannon Held continues the secret lives of the werewolf packs that live and hunt alongside human society in Reflected, the third book of the series that began with her debut novel, Silver. Silver and her mate Andrew Dare are pack leaders of the entire North American werewolf population, and that makes the more traditional packs in Europe very nervous indeed. It’s getting hard to hide from human surveillance.

Silver 2
Tor Books, May 21, 2013
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages
Tor Fantasy, December 31, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Interview with Rhiannon Held, author of the Silver series - February 18, 2014
Andrew Dare has found his mate in Silver, but they haven’t found the pack they can call home. Some of his old friends think he should return and challenge Roanoke for leadership of all the werewolf packs on the East Coast. But Andrew has baggage—his violent history with the packs of Spain and the rumors of his lack of control. And then there’s Silver—the werewolf who has lost her wild self to a monster’s assault, and who can no longer shift forms. But perhaps together they can overcome all the doubters.

The second book in Rhiannon Held's wonderful urban fantasy series, Tarnished plunges readers into the world of the shape-shifter packs who live hidden among us.

Silver 1
Tor Books, June 5, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
Tor Fantasy, April 30, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with Rhiannon Held, author of the Silver series - February 18, 2014
Urban fantasy takes a walk on the wild side with Rhiannon Held's remarkable debut.

Andrew Dare is a werewolf. He’s the enforcer for the Roanoke pack, and responsible for capturing or killing any Were intruders in Roanoke’s territory. But the lone Were he’s tracking doesn’t smell or act like anyone he’s ever encountered. And when he catches her, it doesn’t get any better. She’s beautiful, she’s crazy, and someone has tortured her by injecting silver into her veins. She says her name is Silver, and that she’s lost her wild self and can’t shift any more. The packs in North America have a live-and-let-live attitude and try not to overlap with each other. But Silver represents a terrible threat to every Were on the continent. Andrew and Silver will join forces to track down this menace while discovering their own power…and passion for each other.

About Rhiannon

Interview with Rhiannon Held, author of the Silver series - February 18, 2014
Rhiannon Held is the author of the Silver series, an urban fantasy series from Tor. In her day job she works as a professional archaeologist. Unfortunately, given that it’s real rather than fictional archaeology, fedoras, bullwhips, aliens, and dinosaurs are in short supply. Most of her work is done on the computer, using databases to organize data, and graphics programs to illustrate it.

Website  ~   Facebook  ~  Twitter @RhiannonHeld

Review: Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch

Broken Homes
Author:  Ben Aaronovitch
Series:  Peter Grant / Rivers of London 4
Publisher:  DAW, February 4, 2014
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (Print)
ISBN:  9790756409609 (Print)
Review Copy:  Reviewer's Own (UK Edition)

Review:  Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch
My name is Peter Grant, and I am a keeper of the secret flame -- whatever that is.

Truth be told, there's a lot I still don't know. My superior Nightingale, previously the last of England's wizardly governmental force, is trying to teach me proper schooling for a magician's apprentice. But even he doesn't have all the answers. Mostly I'm just a constable sworn to enforce the Queen’s Peace, with the occasional help from some unusual friends and a well-placed fire blast. With the new year, I have three main objectives, a) pass the detective exam so I can officially become a DC, b) work out what the hell my relationship with Lesley Mai, an old friend from the force and now fellow apprentice, is supposed to be, and most importantly, c) get through the year without destroying a major landmark.

Two out of three isn’t bad, right?

A mutilated body in Crawley means another murderer is on the loose. The prime suspect is one Robert Weil, who may either be a common serial killer or an associate of the twisted magician known as the Faceless Man -- a man whose previous encounters I've barely survived. I've also got a case about a town planner going under a tube train and another about a stolen grimoire.

But then I get word of something very odd happening in Elephant and Castle, on a housing estate designed by a nutter, built by charlatans, and inhabited by the truly desperate. If there's a connection to the Crawley case, I'll be entering some tricky waters of juristiction with the local river spirits. We have a prickly history, to say the least.

Just the typical day for a magician constable.

Melanie's Thoughts:

Broken Homes is the fourth instalment in the Peter Grant story. Peter continues his magical apprenticeship under the watchful eye of his boss Nightingale while continuing as a constable in the covert arm of the Metropolitan police. Peter, Nightingale, Peter's and friend/colleague Lesley keep up the search for the evil Faceless Man, a magician straight from the dark side. The Faceless Man has been at the centre of every evil plot throughout all three books. Their first big clue to his next nefarious plan comes when a man ends up being BBQ'd from the inside out. This time Peter and Lesley end up going under cover, moving out of The Folly and into a run down tower block in the Elephant and Castle area of London to search for more clues. For those that aren't familiar with this less than salubrious part of London Aaronovitch paints the perfect picture of life in an deprived inner London borough.....well one that is magically enhanced with river goddesses and tree nymphs. The heat is on for Peter and his friends to solve this mystery before anyone else gets hurt and be back in time for tea at The Folly.

I waited a long time to buy Broken Homes as I thought it cost too much. It wasn't until a discussion with Qwill that I found out that the book had been released in UK months before it was released in the US. I thoroughly enjoy this series, nay love it but still didn't want to pay more than a tenner (£10) for the e-book version and don't normally buy hardcovers. In the end I am glad that I waited.

I have been enjoying Aaronovitch's unique brand of humour mixed with some pretty spot on observations of the life of a Londoner. While I enjoyed Broken Homes it didn't grab me as quickly as the other books in the series. Normally Aaronovitch has me sniggering, snorting, and generally tee heeing from the first few pages but in this book I had to wait until the final third of the book before I guffawed even once. One could say that humour isn't an essential requirement in any good UF novel but once you have introduced me to some truly hilarious lines then you can't just leave me with normal, mildly amusing prose.

I thought I would share with you one of the funnier lines from book
You don't get to be a senior investigating officer unless you have a degree in scepticism, an MA in distrust and your CV lists suspicious bastard under your hobbies.
or how about this one
Nightingale gave me the same long-suffering look he gives me when I accidentally blow up fire extinguishers, fall asleep when he's talking, or fail to conjugate my Latin verbs.
I could continue but then I would be repeating the latter third of the book! Suffice to say 'the funny' is still there just not as obvious as in previous books.

There wasn't a terrible amount of development of any of the lead characters throughout the story although there is a HUGE development at the very end of the book. One, I did not see coming and I am still shocked about. I kind of felt like Aaronovitch was holding off having anything significant happen to the characters throughout the story as he wanted to 'sock it' to the reader with the ending. This was kind of risky as I really wanted Peter to make some decisions relationship-wise or to have a big breakthrough magic-wise. Saying all of that it is still a great book, a great murder mystery with some laughs along the way. Bring on book 5....quick!

Review: Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson

Royal Street
Author:  Suzanne Johnson
Series:  Sentinels of New Orleans, 1
Publisher:  Tor Books, April  10, 2012
Format:  Trade Paperbook and eBook, 336 pages
List Price:  $14.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780765327796 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson
As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco’s job involves a lot more potion-mixing and pixie-retrieval than sniffing out supernatural bad guys like rogue vampires and lethal were-creatures. DJ's boss and mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that might slip over from the preternatural beyond.

Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans’ fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters.

While winds howled and Lake Pontchartrain surged, the borders between the modern city and the Otherworld crumbled. Now, the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering the soldiers sent to help the city recover.

To make it worse, Gerry has gone missing, the wizards’ Elders have assigned a grenade-toting assassin as DJ’s new partner, and undead pirate Jean Lafitte wants to make her walk his plank. The search for Gerry and for the serial killer turns personal when DJ learns the hard way that loyalty requires sacrifice, allies come from the unlikeliest places, and duty mixed with love creates one bitter gumbo.

Melanie's Thoughts:

Royal Street is set in the historic city of New Orleans just before and during Hurricane Katrina. DJ is a 'sentinel' whose job it is to protect the city from ghosts and demons from 'the beyond'. DJ packs herself off to her grandmother's in Florida to wait out the storm when she gets a call from the wizard Elders to return to the city to hunt for her mentor and substitute father Gerald. Unable to contact Gerald by either technological or magical means has DJ extremely worried as he is a powerful wizard who should be able to protect himself. Returning to New Orleans following the hurricane makes the search for Gerald even more of a challenge with the wide spread devastation caused by the storm. The wizard Elders force DJ to team up with the enforcer Alex as the threat of more incursions of ghosts from the 'Otherworld' into New Orleans makes the city even more dangerous. Just to make her search even more difficult DJ has the centuries old pirate Jean Lafitte, straight from the Otherworld, hot on her tail and looking for revenge. Everything seems to be conspiring against DJ and her quest to find her lost mentor. Time is running out before Hurricane Katrina isn't the only thing that leaves New Orleans devastated.

I have wanted to read Royal Street for a long time and I wasn't disappointed. I thought it was a great start to the series. New Orleans makes for the perfect setting to deliver Johnson's plot with its colourful history in both witchcraft and voodoo. Hurricane Katrina is an excellent plot device to deliver her story as it creates its own challenges for DJ and the mechanism for weakening the barrier between New Orleans and the 'otherworld'. Johnson is spoiled for choice for baddies and she picks several excellent antagonists for this tale. However, DJ felt a little under developed as a character and there were a couple of times I felt like reaching inside the story and giving her a good slap. DJ always seemed to do the opposite of whatever she was told to do. I was almost surprised that she given so much responsibility when she acted with so little of it at times.  I am confident that this character will grow and mature as the series continues, or at least that I am hoping that is the case. I am looking forward to continuing with the Sentinels of New Orleans series to see what else is in store for DJ and how Johnson portrays the re-building of New Orleans.

Guest Blog by Skyla Dawn Cameron - Demons of Oblivion Blog Tour - November 1, 2013

Please welcome Skyla Dawn Cameron to The Qwillery as part of the Demons of Oblivion Blog Tour!

Guest Blog by Skyla Dawn Cameron - Demons of Oblivion Blog Tour - November 1, 2013

The Lesbian Graphic Designer Who Lives in the Suburbs with Her Pacifist Girlfriend 
(On Peri Takata)

By Skyla Dawn Cameron

     Her gaze was dark and dangerous. “I can help,” Peri whispered.
     “Your magic suddenly isn’t blocked?”
     Her lips set in a straight line. Well, there was my answer, but she still argued. “I don’t need demon magic. I was a fucking mercenary.”
     “And now you’re a lesbian* graphic designer who lives in the suburbs with your pacifist girlfriend.”
- Exhumed

The above exchange is from my novel Exhumed, the fourth book in the Demons of Oblivion series. It’s narrated once again by Zara Lain—whose first book was Bloodlines—but the major players in the novel are from the previous two books.

Peri Takata came in to play during the third book, narrating Lineage. She was a hardened mercenary and quarter-demon, whose family—a husband and their twins—had died in Japan several years earlier in an attack meant for her. She was violent, homicidal, and suicidal. As one reader put it, only guilt was standing in the way between her and true sociopathy.

Spoiler alert: Peri doesn’t die at the end of Lineage as she planned to. Instead, she did the very last thing she ever expected to do: she fell in love. With another woman.

Nicolette was introduced in book two, Hunter. She’s a pacifist-ish vampire; despite having the strength and speed of any other vamp, she doesn’t fight. (No, my vamps aren’t like Buffy’s where they awake with inherent kung fu mastery. They have no more innate skills than the average person.) I’d been thinking ahead by this point, always intending to have her as a potential love interest for Peri in the third book.

Then along came the third book. And...I had no idea what would happen.

Chapter after chapter went by. Peri didn’t soften. I wasn’t sure if she even liked girls. Or people at all. 99% of her thoughts were about killing and/or maiming either those around her or herself. Now, I write urban fantasy, not romance. The book didn’t need a love story to work. But I’d woven Nicolette in thinking things would head in this direction and I started to panic. What if this didn’t work? What if Peri, like, killed everyone? What if I’d spent this time building up Nic only to have her...not get to do anything useful?

Still, I kept typing, flinging myself into the darkness and trusting the story to catch me.

It did.

     I nodded. “I just...think I can’t. Ever.” I was opening up to her more than I’d opened up to anyone, talking like I would a counselor though I’d seen a dozen of them over the years and I hadn’t remarked on anything outside of the facts in my file. Why she solicited such a reaction in me, I didn’t know, but it was like my scalp flopped open and she could already see the thoughts inside. “That part in me is...broken or something.” Dead. Blown up in the building with my kids and Ken. Grief was a raw, open wound again, bleeding all around me. I didn’t deserve to be here. Didn’t deserve the breath filling my lungs, the moments that passed. I didn’t even deserve Nicolette’s help, or her quiet, undemanding sympathy.
     “I think,” she began with care, vague French accent lilting and sunny, “that sometimes you only realize you’ve been in the light when it goes dark once more. If you seek out that light again, perhaps you’re not entirely broken.”
- Lineage

It surprised me, despite hoping things would go this way, that little by little Peri thawed. She saw in Nic what I’d hoped the reader would as well: a bright spot of light in a dark room. Though on the surface they seem a case of opposites attracting, deep down they were more similar than even I’d realized: both had lost someone, been changed and damaged. Both were made up of scar tissue. The difference was in how they reacted to grief: one shut down completely, hating the life she had while her loved ones were gone; the other struggled but coped, putting one foot in front of the other and living for what was lost, not in spite of it.

In the end, Peri was still Peri. There were no declarations of love. No particularly intimate scenes. No plans for wedded domestic bliss. But there was potential. There was a light at the end of the tunnel for both of them.

And I’m glad they found each other. It would’ve halted the series pretty quickly if Peri had killed everyone after all.

* Peri is not a lesbian; she’s bisexual. Zara knows this but she doesn’t give much thought to things outside of her own sphere. People with a bisexual orientation often find themselves erased from dialogue or treated as if they don’t exist, and I did want to acknowledge here the reason for Zara’s misnomer.

ISBN: 978-0-9921281-4-2
Guest Blog by Skyla Dawn Cameron - Demons of Oblivion Blog Tour - November 1, 2013
If you're in her way, it sucks to be you.

After three hundred years of unlife, narcissistic vampire Zara Lain has seemingly done it all, and she's now making a living as a successful thief-turned-assassin. Her newest assignment seems simple enough: kill the aging leader of the O'Connor coven and his only heir, and she'll have another ten million in the bank. But in the dangerous world of the supernatural, few things are ever “simple.”

When a massive assault decimates the continent's population of powerful witches and warlocks, and its orchestrator has vampires being hunted down and captured, Zara realizes the tables have turned and now she'll be playing the hero. Forced to join with a smart-mouthed fellow vampire, a demonologist who's also a fan of hers, a recently widowed—and frequently brooding—warlock, and her best friend's mom, Zara's grudgingly willing to do what she can to save the day.

If only people would stop ruining all her outfits...

Warning: contains heavy doses of snark, a sexually confident heroine who likes killing people and has no secret heart of gold, lots of explosions, and very naughty language.

Also, some terrible stuff happens to expensive formal wear. I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry.
Exclusive to Kindle until January 2014: Amazon Kindle
Free from October 28 – November 1

Includes bonus short story “Thrall”, narrated by warlock Nate O’Connor.

ISBN: 978-0-9921281-5-9
Guest Blog by Skyla Dawn Cameron - Demons of Oblivion Blog Tour - November 1, 2013
Predators beware.

Sometimes natural predators need to be kept in check, and for that, there's Ryann David. Orphaned as an infant and raised by an exiled branch of the church to become a warrior for God, she and her fellow members of Venatores Daemonum have trained all their lives with only one purpose: destroy all demons in the mortal realm.

But when Ryann and her team are sent to hunt down a vampire who has killed one of their own, a new world of danger, betrayal, and conspiracy greets her. Allied with an irreverent psychic detective and the very monsters she was raised to kill, Ryann will risk everything—her life, her faith, and her heart—in pursuit of the truth as the black and white existence she knew turns a murky shade of gray.

Warning: This book contains a demon-hunting nun. No, really. And she doesn't swear. At all. This might be quite traumatizing to you after reading Bloodlines. Reader discretion is advised.

Includes bonus short story “Malice”, narrated by Zara Lain.

ISBN: 978-0-9921281-6-6
Guest Blog by Skyla Dawn Cameron - Demons of Oblivion Blog Tour - November 1, 2013
Family reunions suck.

What’s a woman to do when her dad’s the antichrist, her grandma’s the devil, the end of the world is at her doorstep, and she’s out to avenge the murders of her husband and kids?

Kill everything in her way.

Quarter-demon Peri Takata exists with but one goal in mind: annihilate everyone responsible for the death of her family. Then—her need for vengeance quelled—she plans to take her own life.

Her mission brings her to vampire Zara Lain, the only known survivor of the event that destroyed Peri’s family five years ago. Hunting down a secret society of those who don’t want to be found has its challenges, however, especially when forces are working to keep the antichrist’s daughter very much alive. The apocalypse is closing in and Peri may be playing a role in it whether she wants to or not.

And when a heart long-thought dead begins to beat again with love for another, she’s not so sure about anything anymore.

Warning: You’re still here? After the narcissistic assassin in Bloodlines and the demon-hunting nun in Hunter? Well, now you get a sociopathic, quarter-demon mercenary. There’s lots more violence and naughty language in this one. You're welcome.

Includes bonus short story “Sunrise”, narrated by warlock Nate O’Connor.

ISBN: 978-0-9921281-7-3
Guest Blog by Skyla Dawn Cameron - Demons of Oblivion Blog Tour - November 1, 2013
Some people just won't stay buried...

Zara Lain, narcissistic vampire and assassin, cleaned up after a crazy warlock tried to build a vampire army, made some cash when the North American covens were left in shambles, got away when framed for the murder of a Demon Hunter, and dealt with some idiots who tried to jumpstart Armageddon. None of that could prepare her, however, for the moment when her lover of the undead persuasion awakens...

And promptly tries to kill her.

She’s raised a handful of orphaned baby vampires during the past six years and she knows the score: if they don’t get sane again, they have to be staked. And even if she can fix her would-be boyfriend, he’s not the only formerly deceased one in town who wants to kill her. Old enemies are back to put a cramp in her love life, ruin a good pair of heels, and just maybe end the world.

An apocalypse is nigh...and it gets a lot worse than having nothing to wear to the occasion.

Warning: This book may cause you emotional turmoil and feelings of great pain. I'd apologize but it would be a lie; I feed on your tears. Keep 'em coming.

More about Demons of Oblivion

Main Series:

1 – Bloodlines
2 – Hunter
3 – Lineage
4 – Exhumed
5 – Oblivion (Coming Soon)

Guest Blog by Skyla Dawn Cameron - Demons of Oblivion Blog Tour - November 1, 2013

Side Stories and Novellas:

- A Vampire Walked Into a Bar (Tales from Alchemy Red)
- Whiskey Sour
- Home: A Zara Lain Story (Free at My words & pages)
- Damaged: A Zara Lain Novella
- 9 Crimes: A Nate O’Connor Novella
- Hungry Like the Wendigo (Tales from Alchemy Red)
- Kami of Christmas Past: A Peri Takata Novella (Coming Soon)
- Howl: A Juliette Aubrey Novella (Coming Soon)

BLOODLINES is free from October 28th - November 1st; and Hunter, Lineage and Exhumed are half-priced from October 28th - November 1st!

About Skyla Dawn Cameron

Guest Blog by Skyla Dawn Cameron - Demons of Oblivion Blog Tour - November 1, 2013
Award-winning author Skyla Dawn Cameron has been writing approximately forever.

Her early storytelling days were spent acting out strange horror/fairy tales with the help of her many dolls, and little has changed except that she now keeps those stories on paper. She signed her first book contract at age twenty-one for River, a unique werewolf tale, which was released to critical and reader praise alike and won her the 2007 EPPIE Award for Best Fantasy. She now has multiple series on the go to keep her busy, which is great for her attention deficit disorder.

Skyla is a fifth generation crazy cat lady who lives in southern Ontario, where she dabbles in art, is an avid gamer, and watches Buffy reruns. If she ever becomes a grownup, she wants to run her own pub, as well as become world dictator.

You can visit her on the web at When she’s not writing or being glared at by cats, she’s probably on Twitter. You should ping @skyladawn and tell her to get back to work.

Website  ~  Blog  ~  Twitter @skyladawn  ~  Facebook  ~  Goodreads  ~  Pinterest

Review: Broken Elements and Shifting Elements by Mia Marshall

Broken Elements
Author: Mia Marshall
Series:  Elements 1
Publisher:  Match Books, February 26, 2013
Format: Trade Paperback and eBook, 332 pages
Price:  $11.99 (print)
ISBN: 9780988976115 (print)
Review copy:  Provided by the Publisher via NetGalley

“It’s happening again, Aidan. We didn’t stop it, after all.”

As an elemental, Aidan Brook holds the power of water at her fingertips. A descendant of the earth’s oldest magic, she can cause tides to ebb and flow, put out house fires without calling 911, and give anyone who’s annoying her an impromptu shower.

But even her magic has its limits. After it fails her one terrible night, she hides from the world and everyone she once loved, trying to escape the memories that haunt her. Ten years later, her exile is brought to an abrupt end when her former best friend appears on her front porch. An elemental killer is once again murdering her friends, and she must return to the scene of her own crimes.

Lake Tahoe proves more than she bargained for. Between a sadistic killer, some clever FBI agents, an annoyingly attractive landlord, and way too many new roommates, she has a pretty full plate. Add in a past she’s desperate to escape and her own dangerously uncontrollable powers, and Aidan Brook is having a very, very bad month.

Shifting Elements
Author: Mia Marshall
Series:  Elements 2
Publisher:  Match Books, April 16, 2013
Format: Trade Paperback and eBook, 342 pages
Price:  $11.99 (print)
ISBN: 9780988976146 (print)
Review copy:  Provided by the Publisher via NetGalley

Review: Broken Elements and Shifting Elements by Mia Marshall
You can’t fight your nature.

The cover for Shifting SelvesAidan Brook’s world was shattered when the actions of a brutal murderer revealed long-buried secrets about her past–secrets even she didn’t know. A powerful elemental, Aidan discovered she possesses the wrong kind of magic. It’s a secret that could cost her sanity—or even her life.

What she needs is some peace and quiet. What she gets is a phone call from a division of the FBI so secret it doesn’t even have a name, asking for her help with a series of shifter disappearances.

Before Aidan can settle into a new routine of pancakes and evenings by the fire, the case develops claws. She quickly finds herself caught between uptight bears, deadly mountain lions, overprotective parents, and unhappy federal agents. Throw in a stalled romance with an enigmatic shifter and the slow dissolution of her chosen family, and it’s hard to say which will drive her mad first: her magic, or her chaotic life.

Melanie's Thoughts:

I thought I would review both of these books together as I read them one right after another. Broken Elements begins with an introduction to the main characters - Aidan and Sera although the story is told from Aidan's perspective. Both Aidan and Sera are elementals with the ability to control water and fire, respectively. Aidan has been a virtual recluse for the last decade and Sera has hunt her down in order to tell her one of their best friends has been murdered.  Aidan reluctantly agrees to return to Lake Tahoe with Sera to find the serial murderer who is has started killing again after a decade hiatus. As the story progresses we find out why Aidan has been in hiding and why the murderer has started killing again.

Book one, Broken Elements starts out with a gentle introduction to the two elementals - Aidan and Sera, the history of elementals, their society and the personal history of the pair. We are also introduced to their motley crew of friends including Simon the shape shifting cat (domestic that is), Mac the shape shifting bear and Vivian the earth elemental. The friends work together to solve the murders and in the process try not to become the serial killer's next victim. As part of the investigation Aidan discovers the identity of her father. Her mother led her to believe she was only a half breed elemental with one full blood parent (her mother) and a human father. Her mother sheltered her from almost everyone until she went to university and met Sera. Not only does she discover that she's not what she thinks she is but also the identity of her real father.

Book two starts almost immediately afterwards. This time Aidan and Sera have been asked to investigate the disappearance of two teenage shape shifters. There isn't a lot of trust between shape shifters and elementals and it takes all of their 'charm' to convince the shape shifter community that they are capable of finding their children. It isn't an easy job as being smart alecs comes a bit easier than acting competent but it does lead to some amusing scenes. One such scene comes about when Aidan discovers that there are shape shifting otters.  Both Aidan and I share a love of otters.  Who doesn't?  They are adorable. In fact I hazard to guess that some of the funniest lines I have ever read come from Aiden's first encounter with a shape shifting otter -
I wanted to treat her with the respect she was due rather than squealing about the super cute otter, but that was hard to do when I saw her face. She was in a word, adorable. Small ear, enormous, melting brown eyes, round cheeks, and a tiny button nose. I wanted to take her home and feed her and love her and pet her and call her George. Instead, I had to parlay like a reasonable adult. Life really wasn't fair.

I enjoyed these first two books of the series and looking forward to the next installment. Aidan and Sera are amusing but Marshall needs to be careful her characters don't run away with her. While the wise cracks are funny there can be too many or at times that are not convincing. Overall, Marshall has combined likeable characters and mysteries that get more complex as the series progresses. Marshall is taking a break from the Elements series to start another fantasy series but I hope she returns soon as I was just getting into what has started as an engaging series.

Release Day Review - The Rook - 5 Qwills

The Rook
Author:  Daniel O'Malley
Format: Hardcover, 496 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (January 11, 2012)
Price: $25.99
Language: English
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Thriller
ISBN: 9780316098793
Review Copy: Provided by Publisher

Release Day Review - The Rook - 5 Qwills
"The body you are wearing used to be mine." So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.

She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own.

In her quest to uncover which member of the Chequy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.

Filled with characters both fascinating and fantastical, THE ROOK is a richly inventive, suspenseful, and often wry thriller that marks an ambitious debut from a promising young writer.

My thoughts

When I think of The Rook the first word that comes to mind is 'fun.' Great fun actually. But to simply say that The Rook is 'fun' would be facile on my part. The Rook is a terrific read for a lot of reasons.

Foremost The Rook is very well written. The mystery of why Myfanwy Thomas is without her memory and who did what to whom is hard to crack. As soon as I'd thought I'd figured it out, the story proved me wrong. Not because of authorial plot shenanigans, but because the unraveling of the mystery was very well handled. I really enjoyed how this is done with new Myfanwy being aided by information left behind by old Myfanwy.  Myfanwy is a wonderful character. She's trying to figure out how to do her job as Rook and racing against time to find who in the Chequy harmed her and why. The Rook is not a short read (nearly 500 pages), but I barely noticed the length.

The Chequy is itself amazing. It's a fantastical governmental agency. Think FBI/CIA rolled into one that handles supernatural threats. Yes, other supernatural agencies exist in literature, but none quite like the Chequy. How the Chequy functions is explained well, but never bogs down the story. I really enjoyed seeing how the Chequy works, how threats are handled, and meeting the people with whom Myfanwy works, despite that fact that one of them wants her erased. Mr. O'Malley's scrupulous attention to detail creates a believable, if somewhat unusual, governmental agency.

The upper echelon of the Chequy are fascinating characters themselves. Because Myfanwy is trying to figure out which of them might be after her, we get to know each of them well. I certainly enjoyed learning about them and their powers... and trying to figure out who did it and why.

Mr. O'Malley has infused The Rook with wry humor, unusual supernatural beings, and a deeply absorbing mystery. The Rook made me laugh out loud, entertained me, and kept me fascinated from start to finish.

I give The Rook 5 Qwills.

Release Day Review - The Rook - 5 Qwills

Release Day Review - Blood Secrets by Jeannie Holmes - 4 1/2 Qwills

Blood Secrets
AuthorJeannie Holmes
Series:  Alexandra Sabian 2
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 320 pages
Publisher: Dell (July 5, 2011)
Price: $7.99
Language: English
Genre:  Urban Fantasy
Review Copy: Galley Provided by Publisher

Cover and Description:

Release Day Review - Blood Secrets by Jeannie Holmes - 4 1/2 Qwills

Alex allowed a case involving murdered vamps to get personal and is suspended from the Federal Bureau of Preternatural Investigation. Now she’s facing an official inquiry but has a chance to redeem herself. The catch: She must once again work with Varik Baudelaire, her former mentor and ex-fiancé, as he spearheads a search for a missing college student. But Varik has been keeping secrets from Alex, and his mysterious past is on a collision course with his present.

When Alex and Varik discover a carefully handcrafted doll at a crime scene, neither of them can see how close the danger really is or that a killer known as the Dollmaker has made Alex the object of his horrific desire. Now the only way out of the Dollmaker’s lair is through the twilight realm of the Shadowlands, where all secrets—for better or worse—will be revealed.

My thoughts:

Blood Secrets is the second book in the Alexandra Sabian series. It picks up directly after the end of Blood Law.  Alexandra is in trouble in more ways than one. She's up for internal review at the Federal Bureau of Preternatural Investigations (FBPI) for perhaps going rogue. Varik Baudelaire is now in charge of  investigations in Jefferson, Mississippi. Varik and Alex have a history together. It seems like they may be getting back together despite Alex's brother's intense dislike of Varik.

In addition to personal and personnel issues, horrific crimes are being committed.  It's up to Varik to solve the murders. Because of Alex's special talents Varik requests that she be allowed to work the case under his supervision. At the time, no one knows that Alex is firmly in the killer's sights.

Jeannie Holmes writes compelling characters - whether they are good, evil or somewhere in between.  Alex is a complex character. She's got a firm sense of what is right, but will break the rules to pursue what is right. That's what landed her in hot water with the FBPI. She did the right thing, but in the wrong way in Book 1, Blood Law. Now she is dealing with the fallout, while helping Varik investigate the Dollmaker murders.  In Blood Secrets, we find out more and more about Alex's past, about things kept from her that she's yet to find out. I can't wait to see what happens when she does know.

Varik Baudelaire is an alpha male, but with compassion and heart. He's not an over the top alpha. He's someone who is easy to like. Unfortunately, years before he'd promised to keep secrets from Alex. They have a rocky history, but an obvious chemistry. I want Alex and Varik to be together despite their ups and downs. Varik must try to balance his feelings for Alex with his work for the FBPI, which is not easy for him.

While Alex and Varik are very well fleshed out, Jeannie Holmes does not skimp on development of the secondary characters including Alex's mother and brother. Jeannie's especially adept at portraying the in between characters - people who are ethically struggling or are blind to what they are doing because of bigotry (against vampires).  None of the characters in the story are perfect. They all have crossed the line in one way or another - even Alex and Varik. This makes them much more believable.  I'm eagerly looking forward to one of the secondary in between characters getting their comeuppance or coming clean in the following books.

The Dollmaker is creepy and unsettling. I don't think I'll ever look at a doll quite the same way. The plot around him was deftly woven drawing on events from Alex's past. He's pure evil, though even he believes he's doing what he does for a more noble reason.

Blood Secrets is a terrifically written, well paced story that combines Urban Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense, and a touch of Romance. Blood Secrets pulls you in, does not let go and leaves you wanting more.

I give Blood Secrets 4 1/2 Qwills.

Release Day Review - Blood Secrets by Jeannie Holmes - 4 1/2 Qwills

I recommend that you read the series in order.

Prior books in the Alexandra Sabian series:

Blood Law
AuthorJeannie Holmes
Series:  Alexandra Sabian 1
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages
Publisher: Dell (July 6, 2011)
Price: $7.99
Language: English
Genre:  Urban Fantasy

Release Day Review - Blood Secrets by Jeannie Holmes - 4 1/2 Qwills
To stop a vampire killer, she’ll have to slay her own demons first.

A provocative and savvy vampire, Alexandra Sabian moves to the sleepy hamlet of Jefferson, Mississippi—population 6,000, half vampires—to escape the demons lurking in her past. As an enforcer for the Federal Bureau of Preternatural Investigations (FBPI), Alex must maintain the uneasy peace between her kind and humans, including Jefferson’s bigoted sheriff, who’d be happy to see all vampires banished from town. Then really dead vamps start turning up—beheaded, crucified, and defanged, the same gruesome manner in which Alex’s father was murdered decades ago. For Alex, the professional has become way too personal.

Things get even more complicated when the FBPI sends in some unnervingly sexy backup: Alex’s onetime mentor, lover, and fiancé, Varik Baudelaire. Still stinging from the betrayal that ended their short-lived engagement, Alex is determined not to give in to the temptation that soon threatens to short-circuit her investigation. But as the vamp body count grows and the public panic level rises, Varik may be Alex’s only hope to stop a relentless killer who’s got his own score to settle and his own bloody past to put right.

Read an excerpt of Blood Law at the Publisher's site by clicking here.

Read The Qwillery's interview of Jeannie by clicking here.
Interview with Devon Monk, Review of Hell Bent and Stone Cold, and Giveaway - March 24, 2014Review: The Cormorant by Chuck WendigInterview with Rhiannon Held, author of the Silver series - February 18, 2014Review:  Broken Homes by Ben AaronovitchReview: Royal Street by Suzanne JohnsonFaith Hunter Black Arts Blog Tour - Q&A and Giveaway!Guest Blog by Skyla Dawn Cameron - Demons of Oblivion Blog Tour - November 1, 2013Review: Broken Elements and Shifting Elements by Mia Marshall Release Day Review - The Rook - 5 QwillsRelease Day Review - Blood Secrets by Jeannie Holmes - 4 1/2 Qwills

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