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Cover Reveal and Excerpt - Windhome by Kristin Landon


The Qwillery is thrilled to help reveal the cover for Windhome by Kristin Landon coming in December from Candlemark & Gleam. The fabulous cover is by Julie Dillon.

See the full Wrap Cover Reveal and another excerpt from Windhome at Candlemark & Gleam here.


Windhome
Candlemark & Gleam, December 11, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 346 pages

Cover Reveal and Excerpt - Windhome by Kristin Landon
Earth has sent out exploratory expeditions in a desperate attempt to discover the nature of the alien force that wiped out at least one extrasolar civilization and now threatens Earth itself. One of the exploratory starships is stealth-attacked by the hostile aliens. The survivors, marooned among the pre-technological inhabitants of the icy world of Windhome, struggle to survive, to understand this harsh world and its few, grim people—and, somehow, to fulfill their mission. Thrown into an unwilling alliance with a Windhome outsider faction, exiled into wilderness, two of the human crew must live by this world’s bitter laws, accept the ways of its people—and eventually make a terrifying choice.





Excerpt

        Only here, on all of Windhome, was music studied as an art. Here the crowds were smaller, but they stood in silence to listen. The music troubled Pierre. The men’s deep, warm voices shaped long, curving branches of melody over a firm ground. It was music potent with mystery, heavy with the considered grief of years. The strange scale, like and yet unlike any music of Earth—the sense of searching, searching, for a center, for return, and just as it seemed the music might come to rest there, the voices would fade....
        Pierre knew what he was hearing in that music, and behind that music. He could not allow the dark, ravenous longing for home to begin again. Yet the memories came: The songs and dances in his village, handed down from generation to generation on the fringe of the Covenant world. The singing in the church at Christmas. And at last, his own son’s face, pinched with distress—Why are you going away? Was I bad? Pierre knotted his hands together, gripped until the bones hurt.
        He could not allow himself to remember that now. He straightened, stood firm, watching Kelru’s tall figure moving through the crowd, always looking down. And still he listened to the music. The words were simpler than the harmonies that carried them. Perhaps if he concentrated on the words— The singers’ faces were intent, disciplined. Over those mountains is my home, they sang. In this broad valley is the land where I will die. Worldwind, carry my ashes high. Carry them higher than those mountains, O wind.
        Pierre’s breath caught in his throat and he looked up, up at the stars, which trembled at first, trembled and then stilled as he won his battle yet again. Thousands of stars burned there, a bitter glory. He had never seen such stars in the dusty skies of Earth. Here the night was a flawless emptiness between himself and infinity. He stood exposed on the backbone of an alien world, waiting for death to find him. To find them all.





About Kristin

Kristin Landon lives in Oregon with her husband Tom and an imperious Cavalier spaniel named Lucy. In addition to writing science fiction, she works as a freelance copyeditor of a wide range of scholarly and medical books. Her novelette “From the Depths” appeared in the highly acclaimed science fiction anthology To Shape the Dark (Candlemark & Gleam, 2016). She is also the author of the Hidden Worlds trilogy: The Hidden Worlds, The Cold Minds, and The Dark Reaches (Ace Books).

Website  ~  Twitter @kristinlandon

Dark Matter by Black Crouch - Excerpt, Interview, Review


Dark Matter by Blake Crouch was published in Trade Paperback on May 2nd by Broadway Books. Today we are sharing an excerpt from Dark Matter and re-posting our interview with Blake and review from July 2016.







An Excerpt from Dark Matter

TWO
I’m aware of someone gripping my ankles.
     As hands slide under my shoulders, a woman says, “How’d he get out of the box?”
     A man responds: “No idea. Look, he’s coming to.”
     I open my eyes, but all I see is blurred movement and light.
     The man barks, “Let’s get him the hell out of here.”
     I try to speak, but the words fall out of my mouth, garbled and formless.
     The woman says, “Dr. Dessen? Can you hear me? We’re going to lift you onto a gurney now.”
     I look toward my feet, and the man’s face racks into focus. He’s staring at me through the face shield of an aluminized hazmat suit with a self-contained breathing apparatus.
     Glancing at the woman behind my head, he says, “One, two, three.”
     They hoist me onto a gurney and lock padded restraints around
my ankles and wrists.
     “Only for your protection, Dr. Dessen.”
     I watch the ceiling scroll past, forty or fifty feet above.
     Where the hell am I? A hangar?
     I catch a glint of memory—a needle puncturing my neck. I was injected with something. This is some crazy hallucination.
     A radio squawks, “Extraction team, report. Over.”
     The woman says with excitement bleeding through her voice, "We have Dessen. We're en route. Over."
     I hear the squeak of wheels rolling.
     "Copy that. Initial condition assessment? Over."
     She reaches down with a gloved hand and wakes some kind of monitoring device that's been Velcroed to my left arm.
     "Pulse rate: one-fifteen. BP: one-forty over ninety-two. Temp: ninety-eight-point-nine. Oh-two sat: ninety-five percent. Gamma: point-eight seven. ETA thirty seconds. Out."
     A buzzing sound startles me.
     We move through a pair of vaultlike doors that are slowly opening.
     Jesus Christ.
     Stay calm. This isn't real.
     The wheels squeak faster, more urgently.
     We're in a corridor lined with plastic, my eyes squinting against the onslaught of light from fluorescent bulbs shining overhead.
     The doors behind us slam shut with an ominous clang, like the gates to a keep.
     They wheel me into an operating room toward an imposing figure
in a positive pressure suit, standing under an array of surgical lights.
     He smiles down at me through his face shield and says, as if he knows me, "Welcome back, Jason. Congratulations. You did it."
     Back?
     I can only see his eyes, but they don't remind me of anyone I've ever met.
     ''Are you experiencing any pain?" he asks.
     I shake my head.
     "Do you know how you got the cuts and bruises on your face?''
     Shake.
     "Do you know who you are?"
     I nod.
     "Do you know where you are?"
     Shake.
     "Do you recognize me?"
     Shake.
     'Tm Leighton Vance, chief executive and medical officer. We're
colleagues and friends." He holds up a pair of surgical shears. "I need to get you out of these clothes."
     He removes the monitoring device and goes to work on my jeans and boxer shorts, tossing them into a metal tray. As he cuts off my shirt, I gaze up at the lights burning down on me, trying not to panic.
     But I'm naked and strapped to a gurney.
     No, I remind myself, I'm hallucinating that I'm naked and strapped to a gurney. Because none of this is real.
     Leighton lifts the tray holding my shoes and clothes and hands it to someone behind my head, outside my line of sight. "Test every­ thing."
     Footsteps rush out of the room.
     I note the sharp bite of isopropyl alcohol a second before Leighton cleans a swatch of skin on the underside of my arm.
     He ties a tourniquet above my elbow.
     "Tust drawing some blood," he says, taking a large-gauge hypoder­-
mic needle from the instrument tray.
     He's good. I don't even feel the sting.
     When he's finished, Leighton rolls the gurney toward the far side of the OR to a glass door with a touchscreen mounted on the wall beside it.
     "Wish I could tell you this is the fun part," he says. "If you're too
disoriented to remember what's about to happen, that's probably for the best."
     I try to ask what's happening, but words still elude me. Leigh­ ton's fingers dance across the touchscreen. The glass door opens, and he pushes me into a chamber that's just large enough to hold the gurney.
     "Ninety seconds," he says. "You'll be fine. It never killed any of the test subjects."
Excerpted from DARK MATTER. Copyright © 2017 by Blake Crouch. Published by Broadway Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.









TQWelcome to The Qwillery. You've written over a dozen novels. Has your writing process changed (or not) over the years? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Blake:  Thanks for having me! My writing process has definitely evolved and is continuing to evolve from book to book. The hardest thing for me is finding the right idea. It involves lots of hemming and hawing and self-doubting and journaling and outlining before I finally commit to something and get underway with the writing itself.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Blake:  I would describe myself as a plotter who, along the way, is very open to becoming a pantser when inspiration strikes. In other words, I go into a book having a pretty good notion of what the first half of the book is going to be and a vaguer idea of the latter half. But along the way, I want to be surprised. By characters. By sudden reversals I never planned. So I go into the process with a game plan that I hope inspiration and magic will dramatically alter.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Blake:  Lately, it’s a combination of two things. 1. My own life: the challenges and struggles I face seem to work their way into the psychology of my main characters (and sometimes villains). 2. A strong interest in emerging technologies and how they are changing our world, our species.



TQDescribe Dark Matter in 140 characters or less.

Blake:  If Christopher Nolan directed It’s a Wonderful Life.



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

Blake:  At it’s heart, it’s a love story.



TQWhat inspired you to write Dark Matter? What appeals to you about writing Thrillers?

Blake:  I wrote it because I’m fascinated by quantum mechanics and what that field of science suggests about the universe we live in. I love writing thrillers because I love reading thrillers. I write the kinds of books I would want to read.



TQDo Dark Matter and the Wayward Pine Trilogy (Pines, Wayward, and The Last Town) share anything thematically?

Blake:  Yes. They share man questioning his reality, and at times, his identity. They also share the idea that as we progress as a species and reach higher levels of scientific achievement, that threatens to not only change the world around us, but also what it means to be human.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Dark Matter?

Blake:  I read books, articles, abstracts for the last decade, just trying to wrap my brain around quantum mechanics. I still don’t fully understand it. To truly grasp the insanity of how sub-atomic particles behave requires advanced mathematics degrees, and I took as few of those courses as possible in college. When I finished Dark Matter I sent the book to a physicist named Clifford Johnson who teaches at USC. He was kind of enough to read the science-heavy passages and make sure I hadn’t gotten too far off track in my representation of certain theories.



TQ:   In Dark Matter who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Blake:  Jason was far and away the easiest because I feel like he and I are pulled in similar direction in terms of career vs. family. And being in my mid-thirties, I find myself looking more and more back toward the path not taken. Amanda was the hardest character for me, not to write, but to do justice to. She’s a fairly minor character in the book, but she is with Jason during his hardest moments. I didn’t want to short shrift her character, while at the same time, I didn’t want her journey to overshadow my main character’s.



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

Blake:

Q: Was this the hardest book you ever wrote?

A: By a factor of about 10.



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

Blake:  I really like this one, from early on in the book. We’re deep in the main character (Jason’s) head here and beginning to understand where he is in life:
“There’s an energy to these autumn nights that touches something primal inside of me. Something from long ago. From my childhood in western Iowa. I think of high school football games and the stadium lights blazing down on the players. I smell ripening apples, and the sour reek of beer from keg parties in the cornfields. I feel the wind in my face as I ride in the bed of an old pickup truck down a country road at night, dust swirling red in the taillights and the entire span of my life yawning out ahead of me.

It’s the beautiful thing about youth.

There’s a weightlessness that permeates everything because no damning choices have been made, no paths committed to, and the road forking out ahead is pure, unlimited potential.

I love my life, but I haven’t felt that lightness of being in ages. Autumn nights like this are as close as I get.”


TQWhat's next?

Blake:  That’s a great question. Remember what I said about how hard it is for me to fall in love with a new idea? I’m speed-dating a bunch of them right now.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Blake:  Thank YOU! Awesome questions.





Dark Matter
Broadway Books, May 2, 2017
Trade Paperback,368 pages
Hardcover and eBook, July 26, 2016

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.” 

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.



Qwill's Thoughts

Jason Dessen's life is about to change dramatically. He's kidnapped. His life is wrenched away from him. And all he wants is not the fame and glory of the new world he wakes up in, he just wants his wife and son and the life they've made. Jason is not a typical hero. He starts out a happy man who understands what he has potentially given up to have the life he has with the woman he loves deeply and their son he loves as much. This love is palpable and deeply felt. He will do what he has to do to get home if he can while coming to a deeper understanding of what makes the world around him his world. I didn't always like Jason's attitude and some of things he did, but I understood and respected his decisions.

Dark Matter is tightly plotted and beautifully written. There are moments of deep introspection and of pulse-pounding action. There is science that stretches the boundaries of what we know and what is possible. Crouch raises questions about identity, the multiverse and who we are and wraps these questions in an extremely entertaining, often tense, moving SF thriller.

Dark Matter is, for me, essentially a story about a man's love for his wife and family and his journey to be with them. And it's about quantum mechanics and human entanglement. It's about perseverance in the face of nearly insurmountable odds and finding your way home. It's also mind-blowingly twisty and wonderful. Dark Matter will make you think, question and wonder.





About Blake

Photo by Jesse Giddings
Blake Crouch is a bestselling novelist and screenwriter. He is the author of the novel, Dark Matter, for which he is writing the screenplay for Sony Pictures. His international-bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy was adapted into a television series for FOX, executive produced by M. Night Shyamalan, that was Summer 2015's #1 show. With Chad Hodge, Crouch also created Good Behavior, the TNT television show starring Michelle Dockery based on his Letty Dobesh novellas. He has written more than a dozen novels that have been translated into over thirty languages and his short fiction has appeared in numerous publications including Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Crouch lives in Colorado.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @blakecrouch1

Annette Marie on Illustrations Words Vs. Art


Please welcome Annette Marie to The Qwillery. Immortal Fire, the 3rd novel in the Red Winter Trilogy, was published on April 11th.



Annette Marie on Illustrations Words Vs. Art




Illustrations Words Vs. Art

Words are an author’s paintbrush. We create vibrant, moving pictures with black and white sentences, and if we do it right, the reader gets to watch a little movie in their head while they read. That’s my goal, anyway. I’m a very visual writer; I “see” everything I write and do my best to make sure the reader sees it too.

But what happens when you actually add some art to the book?

Illustrated novels aren’t a new thing, but they aren’t common in modern contemporary fantasy. For my most recent trilogy Red Winter, I knew very early on that I wanted to include illustrations in each book. Heavily inspired by Japanese mythology, the story is a visual feast and I wanted readers to see the story in a more tangible way that I could create with words alone.

Annette Marie on Illustrations Words Vs. Art

So began my search for an illustrator. That task seemed impossible in itself—not only finding an artist with a style that meshed with the story, but finding someone who would really understand what I wanted. I lucked out with Brittany Jackson of BeaGifted Illustrations. She’s amazingly talented, and she captured so much beauty, story, and character in every illustration.

Annette Marie on Illustrations Words Vs. Art

Once she signed on, I thought the hard part was over, and in a way, it was. But in a completely different way, the trial was only just beginning for me. My world and characters exist in my head, and I can only tell their story in words. Now I was handing my precious creations over to someone else to give them visual life. Like most authors, I can be a little (a lot) possessive of my characters, and sharing them with another artist was unexpectedly challenging.

Annette Marie on Illustrations Words Vs. Art

At some points, I can honestly say it was like magic. Brittany seemed to pluck my characters straight from my muse and paint them beautifully, depicting them even more perfectly than I could have imagined. Some of the illustrations even shifted my perception of the characters, and suddenly I could see something more in them I hadn’t known was there—a slightly different facet of their personality, an emotion I hadn’t expected.

Annette Marie on Illustrations Words Vs. Art

At other points, though, I’m pretty sure Brittany wanted to strangle me. And I probably would have deserved it, but she was astoundingly patient and never once made me feel bad when I got hung up on stupid small details because “that’s how I imagined it in my head.”

But when it comes down to it, no matter how carefully I describe something, no two readers are going to “see” that scene or character in exactly the same way. No two readers will experience the story in the same way—or in the precise way I intended it.

Annette Marie on Illustrations Words Vs. Art

But in Red Winter, I know we all—author and readers—can share the exact same experience of each scene that Brittany brought to life with an illustration. They’re my favorite scenes, every one, and even if the process was hard on my poor control-freak brain, I would do it all over again a hundred times to get to see my characters inside the pages of their books in a way I’d never experienced before.

Find out more about Red Winter: www.redwintertrilogy.com



Immortal Fire
The Red Winter Trilogy 3
Dark Owl Fantasy Inc., April 11, 2017
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 408 pages

Annette Marie on Illustrations Words Vs. Art
Once, Emi believed the heavenly gods were righteous and wise, while the earthly yokai spirits were bloodthirsty and evil. But with a traitorous deity poised to destroy her world, and the yokai standing as humanity's only defense, the lies of her upbringing have toppled to reveal a far more terrifying reality.

Despite the looming threat, Emi can't escape her greatest distraction: Shiro, the fox yokai who has so deftly claimed her heart for his own. Soon—too soon—she will have to break the curse that binds his magic and memories. And once the ancient power inside him awakens, the yokai she loves will be changed forever.

As the earthly gods gather to wage war against the heavens, Emi and Shiro must gamble everything to turn the tide against their immortal, all-powerful foes. Together, they will find a way to save her world—even if it means losing each other.



Excerpt from IMMORTAL FIRE:

Violent shivers pulled Emi from the depths of sleep. The chill in the room cut right through the layers of blanket and kimono, and her toes ached from the cold. Curled in a tight ball beneath her blankets, she exhaled harshly, half expecting her breath to fog the air.

Beyond the thin partition that separated her sleeping quarters from the rest of the room, the windows rattled in a fierce wind. A winter storm? A feverish ache throbbed in her muscles, though she didn’t think she had slept for more than a few hours.

Yawning, she forced her tired body off the futon. Cold hit her like a splash of frigid water but even that wasn’t enough to dispel her drowsy daze. A short, fumbling search uncovered no extra blankets in the closet within her small alcove. Wrapping an arm around herself for warmth, she slid a panel open and peeked into the main room.

The remains of Shiro and Yumei’s late dinner had been cleared from the table, and the unlit brazier was devoid of light or warmth. Across the room, a second futon had been laid out near Shiro’s, and dark shapes filled both.

Trust the yokai to sleep right through the freezing cold. Behind their futons was a larger closet where bedding was stored. Surely there would be an extra blanket in there. She stumbled toward it in exhaustion. Her chest felt hollow and empty, and some of the chill that plagued her emanated from within.

As she crossed the room, an icy breeze rushed across her. Jerking back a step, she turned toward the sliding garden doors. A six-inch gap revealed the night-swathed garden beyond, where snow flew almost horizontally in the wind.

Why on earth had they left the door open? With a tired scowl, she yanked it shut. The room immediately felt warmer. Shaking her head, she stopped at the foot of Shiro’s futon, the light from the window glimmering on his white hair. Not that long ago, she had woken him from a nightmare, and he had thrown her into a wall before rousing enough to realize he was about to rip her throat out. Attempting to sneak between their futons to reach the closet was probably unwise.

“Shiro?” she whispered. “Are you awake?”

He didn’t stir. Neither did Yumei, who slept on his back with his head turned away, his hair splayed untidily across his face in a way that was very unlike the usually reserved yokai. He rarely slept when anyone else was nearby, at least as far as she’d seen. Maybe her ki had tired him.

“Shiro?” she tried again more loudly.

When he again didn’t move, not even a twitch of his ears, a nervous prickle climbed her spine. Shiro wasn’t that deep of a sleeper. And why hadn’t her clumsy banging of the garden door woken them?

A spike of adrenaline cut through her drowsiness as she realized how unlikely it was that Shiro and Yumei would go to sleep with a door ajar. Had the wind blown it open? Or … something else?

She scoured the room, but it was clearly empty. Biting the inside of her cheek, she stepped between the futons and crouched.

“Shiro,” she called. “Wake up!”

No reaction. Hoping he wouldn’t attack her, she touched his shoulder. He slept on, eyes closed, face slack. Her apprehension intensified into real fear.

“Shiro!” She gripped his shoulder and shook it, but he still didn’t wake or so much as stir.

Was she dreaming? Was this a nightmare? She spun around and reached for Yumei.

“Yumei, wake up! Please wake up!” She shook him but he was as unresponsive as Shiro. In desperation, she hit his shoulder with her open palm, yelling his name. “What’s wrong with you? Wake up!”

As she turned, intending to grab a handful of snow from outside to shove in Shiro’s face, the air above him shimmered strangely. She went rigid, squinting into the darkness.

A shadow took form. A small body, thin limbs, ragged black hair. The ghostly child crouched on Shiro’s chest, her blank, bottomless stare fixed on Emi.

Her heart thudded in her ears. A kanashibari, the dream-weaving yokai that had been watching Emi in the bath. That was what she’d forgotten to warn Shiro about! And now it was sitting on him, and he wouldn’t wake up.

She lurched back to Yumei. A second kanashibari appeared before her, perched on his torso. The new one, another little girl with short, stringy hair and a pale kimono, looked up at Emi with empty black eyes.

The child’s lips pulled up in a rictal grin, and her tiny arm shot out.

Emi shoved the yokai away, but her hands passed right through the spectral body, feeling nothing but frosty air.

The yokai reached for her face and a small, frigid, solid palm pressed against her forehead. A wave of burning ice surged into Emi’s skull, blanketing her thoughts. Impossible, unyielding drowsiness crashed through her.

Before she could react, before she could even think about resisting, she collapsed on top of Yumei’s unconscious body and slid into darkness.





Previously

Annette Marie on Illustrations Words Vs. Art
Red Winter
The Red Winter Trilogy 1
Dark Owl Fantasy Inc., October 21, 2016
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 324 pages

In a few short months, Emi's mortal life will end when she becomes the human host of an immortal goddess. Carefully hidden from those who would destroy her, she has prepared her mind, body, and soul to unite with the goddess—and not once has she doubted her chosen fate.

Shiro is a spirit of the earth and an enemy of the goddess Emi will soon host. Mystery shrouds his every move and his ruby eyes shine with cunning she can’t match and dares not trust. But she saved his life, and until his debt is paid, he is hers to command—whether she wants him or not.

On the day they meet, everything Emi believes comes undone, swept away like snow upon the winter wind. For the first time, she wants to change her fate—but how can she erase a destiny already wrought in stone? Against the power of the gods, Shiro is her only hope … and hope is all she has left.

Red Winter includes ten beautiful full-page illustrations by award-winning artist Brittany Jackson.


Annette Marie on Illustrations Words Vs. Art
Dark Tempest
The Red Winter Trilogy 2
Dark Owl Fantasy Inc., January 6, 2017
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 327 pages

Emi has dedicated her life to becoming the perfect vessel for the goddess Amaterasu, but the insidious betrayal of another deity has changed everything. Now Amaterasu has charged Emi with an urgent mission: to find and free the earthly gods before mankind is brought to its knees beneath divine tyranny.

At her side is Shiro, the mysterious fox spirit. When she first saved his life, she could never have imagined that behind his cunning and confidence, he was lost—his power bound by a devastating curse and his memories obscured. His veiled history is somehow tied to the missing gods, but he can’t remember how or why.

As their search leads them into the murky depths of the spirit realm, the shadows of Shiro’s past begin to emerge. With each brief awakening of his true self, she loses a little more of him. The fate of the heavens and earth rest in her mortal hands, and she must find the missing gods before time runs out for her world—and for Shiro.





About Annette Marie

Annette Marie on Illustrations Words Vs. Art
Annette Marie is the author of the Amazon best-selling Steel & Stone series, which includes Goodreads Choice Award nominee Yield the Night, and fantasy trilogy Red Winter. Her first love is fantasy, but fast-paced urban fantasy and tantalizing forbidden romances are her guilty pleasures. She lives in the frozen winter wasteland of Alberta, Canada (okay, it's not quite that bad) with her comparatively sensible husband and their furry minion of darkness—sorry, cat—Caesar. When not writing, she can be found elbow-deep in one art project or another while blissfully ignoring all adult responsibilities.


Website  ~  Facebook  ~  TwitterGoodreads


Review, Excerpt and Giveaway - The Holver Alley Crew by Marshall Ryan Maresca


The Holver Alley Crew
Author:  Marshall Ryan Maresca
Series:  A Streets of Maradaine Novel
Publisher:  DAW, March 7, 2017
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages
List Price:  US$7.99 (print and eBook)
ISBN9780756412609 (print); 9780756412616 (eBook)

Review, Excerpt and Giveaway - The Holver Alley Crew by Marshall Ryan Maresca
The exciting debut to Marshall Ryan Maresca’s Streets of Maradaine series, blending fast-paced heists with epic and urban fantasy across interconnected series of novels

The Rynax brothers had gone legit after Asti Rynax’s service in Druth Intelligence had shattered his nerves, and marriage and fatherhood convinced Verci Rynax to leave his life of thievery. They settled back in their old neighborhood in West Maradaine and bought themselves a shop, eager for a simple, honest life.

Then the Holver Alley Fire incinerated their plans. With no home, no shop, and no honest income—and saddled with a looming debt—they fall back on their old skills and old friends.

With a crew of other fire victims, Asti and Verci plan a simple carriage heist, but the job spirals out of control as they learn that the fire was no accident. Lives in Holver Alley were destroyed out of a sadistic scheme to buy the land.

Smoldering for revenge, burdened with Asti’s crumbling sanity, the brothers and their crew of amateurs and washouts swear to take down those responsible for the fire, no matter the cost.



Doreen's Thoughts

With his newest book, Marshal Ryan Maresca continues to develop his fantasy world, Maradaine. His first two novels focused on the criminal side of the world while his second two looked at the constabulary, those individuals catching the criminals. With The Holver Alley Crew, Maresca looks at the commoners who live on the streets and often are caught in the middle.

The story opens in the midst of a horrific fire, catching Verci Rynax, his brother Asti, his wife, and their daughter in their home by the flames. They rescue themselves and some of their neighbors, while waiting for the fire crews, but the firefighters appear too late. The fire eventually takes out not only their building, but a huge chunk of the neighborhood, including the shop the brothers had planned to open in their efforts to leave the criminal life.

Because of the debt they owed on the building, Verci and Asti are forced to seek criminal work once again. However, when it becomes apparent that the fire was set intentionally, the boys vow to find those responsible and hold them accountable using a ragtag team of their fellow victims.

Maresca excels at this type of rollicking adventure. His writing exemplifies showing, rather than telling. While he gives hints in the beginning about his characters’ backstories, the story itself reveals more about their personalities and problems. Maresca hints early on that Asti’s work as a spy had not ended well, but he leaves the nuts and bolts of the story and its aftermath for later. For example, the reader immediately sees that Asti is having problems controlling his violence by his reaction to seeing a shopkeeper attacked by thugs. It seems obvious that this is related to his past.

In addition to developing his characters, Maresca also outdoes himself with action. From the opening scene until the close, there always is some type of action taking place. Maresca does not use much introspection or dialogue when an old-fashioned brawl will do. His action scenes, such as the opening fire, go on for pages. He offers lots of fights, chases, and crashes, and he does so joyfully.

It is obvious that Maresca has a lot of fun writing his stories. He genuinely likes the characters that he is describing, even the so-called “bad” guys. While the Rynax brothers are technically thieves, they steal because circumstances force them to do so. Ultimately, they believe in a concept of justice, which is why they choose to go after those who set the fire. The same is true of Veranix, who is a vigilante fighting against a major crime lord. In Maradaine, very few people are ever solely good or wholly bad. Just as in real life, Maresca’s characters have a humanity that allows for shades of grey.




Excerpt

“Julien!” he called. The big man pushed his way through the crowd, Asti meeting him partway.

“You all right, Jules? Your house all right?”

“No,” Julien said, his wide, sad face covered in ash and soot.

“I’m sorry, Julien,” Asti said. “Win Greenfield and his family are still trapped.”

Julien nodded, and charged without further prodding. Verci scrambled out of the way as

Julien smashed his shoulder into the door. It splintered and cracked.

“Asti Rynax, what in the name of the blasted saints do you think you’re doing?” Helene Kesser, Julien’s cousin, had come up right behind him, grabbing his wrist tightly. Her face and nightclothes were covered in ashes, black hair a tangled mess, and bare arms scraped and bleeding. “I barely got Jules out of our house. Don’t you dare have him—”

“I just need the door open,” Asti said. He glanced over at Raych, still crying at Verci to come away from the burning building. “Keep everyone else out, Hel. Especially Verci.”

“How the blazes—”

“Just do it,” Asti said. He took off his pack and handed it to Helene. Without another word, he pulled a cloak out and took it to the well spigot nearest Greenfield’s shop. He pumped it hard, but only a trickle of water came out. While he was doing that, Julien broke the door off its hinges with a loud crunch. Smoke poured out through the open frame.

Asti took a deep breath, put on the damp cloak, and ran into the shop. He could hear Helene yelling from outside, telling Julien not to go in after him.

Asti couldn’t see anything; thick smoke filled the shop. Eyes shut, cloak over his face, he went by memory to the back counter. He didn’t need to see to find his way; it was five steps straight, and then three to the right to the door leading to Win’s workshop.
“Win!” he called out. He could barely hear his own voice over the roar of fire. Blindly he found the door to the back room, and gave a silent prayer that it would be unlocked. He pushed his way in and tripped over something on the ground.

The fire blazed throughout the workshop, but on the floor the smoke was thinner. He had tripped over Green- field’s body. Winthym lay flat on his face, breathing shallowly.
Asti shook him. “Win, come on.” Asti shook him again, but he didn’t wake.

Through the smoke, a hand touched Asti on the shoulder. Verci came crawling in, stopping right in front of Win’s body.

“What are you doing?” Asti shouted at his brother. “Same as you,” Verci said. The ceiling crackled and creaked above them.





The Giveaway

What:  One copy of The Holver Alley Crew by Marshall Ryan Maresca from the publisher. US / Canada Only

How:
  • Send an email to theqwillery . contests @ gmail.com [remove the spaces]
  • In the subject line, enter “Holver Alley“
  • In the body of the email, please provide your name and full mailing address. The winning address is used only to mail the prize and is provided to the publisher and/or The Qwillery only for that purpose. All other address information will be deleted once the giveaway ends.

Who:  The giveaway is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US or Canadian mailing address.

When:  The giveaway ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on March 17, 2017. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

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





About Marshall

Review, Excerpt and Giveaway - The Holver Alley Crew by Marshall Ryan Maresca
Photo: © Kimberley Mead
Marshall Ryan Maresca grew up in upstate New York and studied film and video production at Penn State. He now lives Austin with his wife and son. His work appeared in Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction and Rick Klaw’s anthology Rayguns Over Texas. He also has had several short plays produced and has worked as a stage actor, a theatrical director and an amateur chef. His novels The Thorn of Dentonhill and A Murder of Mages each begin their own fantasy series, both set in the port city of Maradaine. For more information, visit Marshall’s website at www.mrmaresca.com.




Twitter @marshallmaresca







Previously in Maradaine

Review, Excerpt and Giveaway - The Holver Alley Crew by Marshall Ryan Maresca
The Thorn of Dentonhill
A Novel of Maradaine 1
DAW, February 3, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Veranix Calbert leads a double life. By day, he’s a struggling magic student at the University of Maradaine. At night, he spoils the drug trade of Willem Fenmere, crime boss of Dentonhill and murderer of Veranix’s father. He’s determined to shut Fenmere down.

With that goal in mind, Veranix disrupts the delivery of two magical artifacts meant for Fenmere’s clients, the mages of the Blue Hand Circle. Using these power-filled objects in his fight, he quickly becomes a real thorn in Fenmere’s side.

So much so that soon not only Fenmere, but powerful mages, assassins, and street gangs all want a piece of “The Thorn.” And with professors and prefects on the verge of discovering his secrets, Veranix’s double life might just fall apart. Unless, of course, Fenmere puts an end to it first.



See Doreen's review here.



Review, Excerpt and Giveaway - The Holver Alley Crew by Marshall Ryan Maresca
A Murder of Mages
A novel of the Maradaine Constabulary 1
DAW, July 7, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

A Murder of Mages marks the debut of Marshall Ryan Maresca’s novels of The Maradaine Constabulary, his second series set amid the bustling streets and crime-ridden districts of the exotic city called Maradaine. A Murder of Mages introduces us to this spellbinding port city as seen through the eyes of the people who strive to maintain law and order, the hardworking men and women of the Maradaine Constabulary.

Satrine Rainey—former street rat, ex-spy, mother of two, and wife to a Constabulary Inspector who lies on the edge of death, injured in the line of duty—has been forced to fake her way into the post of Constabulary Inspector to support her family.

Minox Welling is a brilliant, unorthodox Inspector and an Uncircled mage—almost a crime in itself. Nicknamed “the jinx” because of the misfortunes that seem to befall anyone around him, Minox has been partnered with Satrine because no one else will work with either of them.

Their first case together—the ritual murder of a Circled mage— sends Satrine back to the streets she grew up on and brings Minox face-to-face with mage politics he’s desperate to avoid. As the body count rises, Satrine and Minox must race to catch the killer before their own secrets are exposed and they, too, become targets.



See Doreen's review here.



Review, Excerpt and Giveaway - The Holver Alley Crew by Marshall Ryan Maresca
The Alchemy of Chaos
A Novel of Maradaine 2
DAW, February 2, 2016
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Veranix Calbert is The Thorn—the street vigilante-turned-legend—and a danger to Willem Fenmere, the drug kingpin of Dentonhill. Veranix is determined to stop Fenmere and the effitte drug trade, especially when he discovers that Fenmere is planning on using the Red Rabbits gang in his neighborhood. But Veranix is also a magic student at the University of Maradaine, and it’s exam week. With his academic career riding on his performance, there’s no time to go after Fenmere or the Red Rabbits. But when a series of pranks on campus grow deadly, it’s clear that someone has a vendetta against the university, and Veranix may be the only one who can stop them…




See Doreen's review here.



Review, Excerpt and Giveaway - The Holver Alley Crew by Marshall Ryan Maresca
An Import of Intrigue
A novel of The Maradaine Constabulary 2
DAW, November 1, 2016
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

The neighborhood of the Little East is a collision of cultures, languages, and traditions, hidden away in the city of Maradaine. A set of streets to be avoided or ignored. When a foreign dignitary is murdered, solving the crime falls to the most unpopular inspectors in the Maradaine Constabulary: exposed fraud Satrine Rainey, and Uncircled mage Minox Welling.

With a murder scene deliberately constructed to point blame toward the rival groups resident in this exotic section of Maradaine, Rainey is forced to confront her former life, while Welling’s ignorance of his own power threatens to consume him. And the conflicts erupting in the Little East will spark a citywide war unless the Constabulary solves the case quickly.



See Melanie's review here.





Upcoming

The Imposters of Aventil
A Novel of Maradaine 3
DAW, October 3, 2017
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

[cover not yet revealed]
Blending vigilante justice with epic fantasy, this third Maradaine novel finds student Veranix Calbert returning to fight crime • “Veranix is Batman, if Batman were a teenager and magically talented.” —Library Journal

Summer and the Grand Tournament of High Colleges have come to the University of Maradaine. If the heat and the crowds weren’t enough to bring the campus and the neighborhood of Aventil to a boiling point, rumors that The Thorn is on the warpath—killing the last of the Red Rabbits—is enough to tip all of Maradaine into the fire.

Except Veranix Calbert, magic student at the University, is The Thorn, and he’s not the one viciously hunting the Red Rabbits. Veranix has his hands full with his share of responsibilities for the Tournament, and as The Thorn he’s been trying to find the source of the mind-destroying effitte being sold on campus. He’s as confused as anyone about the rumors.

When The Thorn imposter publicly attacks the local Aventil constables, the Constabulary bring in their own special investigators: Inspectors Minox Welling and Satrine Rainey from the Maradaine Grand Inspectors Unit. Can Veranix find out who the imposter is and stop him before Welling and Rainey arrest him for the imposter’s crimes?

Excerpt: The People's Police by Norman Spinrad - and Giveaway


The Qwillery is delighted to share with you an excerpt from The People's Police by Norman Spinrad.



Excerpt: The People's Police by Norman Spinrad - and Giveaway




Chapter 1


Some folks are still bitching that the Eternal Mardi Gras is a Disney version, what with the traditional Krewes’ parading limited to the traditional lead-up to Fat Tuesday while the big budget corporate floats from Hollywood, Bollywood, and Pornywood parade all year, all long, all over New Orleans, which is sort of true, given that it was Disney I brought in first.

But whining that the Mouse has gone and done to the French Quarter what it did to Times Square, and oozed out into the rest of New Orleans like the annual dose of mud during the Hurricane Season, and calling yours truly, Jean-Baptiste Lafitte, a swamp rat traitor to the true soul of the city is going a tad too far, seeing as how the Quarter had fallen far off its fabled glory days even before Katrina.

You expect me to apologize for saving the city from drowning to death?

Oh yes, I did!

Everyone knows New Orleans had been on its economic ass for decades, barely able to pay the cops to keep the Swamp Alligators down in their lowlands swamps and out of the New Orleans Proper high grounds.

And the Hurricane Season wasn’t going away, now was it, and what the Dutch were demanding in order to save what was left of the Big Easy from finally going under would’ve been about the total budget of the city government for the next decade or two. No high-priced, high-tech Hans Brinker seawalls and solar windmill pumping stations back then, need I remind you?

I guess I do.

Amazing what short memories ingrates have.

New Orleans featured itself as the Big Easy since before Mickey Mouse was even a gleam in Uncle Walt’s evil eye, but just because the truth wouldn’t look so good in the tourist guides doesn’t mean we don’t all know that it’s always really been the Big Sleazy, now does it?

This city was making its living as a haven for pirates and slavers and the riverboat gamblers, saloon keepers and whorehouse impresarios like yours more or less truly, rollers high, low, and medium, who serviced their trade since before the Louisiana Purchase.

The Big Easy was born as the Big Sleazy. Easy?

Yeah, sure.

Born between a bend in the mighty and mighty ornery Mississip and a briny marsh presumed to call itself Lake Pontchartrain serving as an overflowing catch-basin for tidal surges when the major hurricanes hit and a giant mud puddle in-between.

Easy?

First built precariously on the natural levees of the Mississippi, expanding greedily and stupidly into the back swamps. Tossed around like a beachball between the French and the Spanish. Finally sold to the Americans by Napoleon on the cheap because he knows he’s gonna lose it to the British anyway if he doesn’t. Flooded every few decades even before Katrina, before there even was an annual Hurricane Season, squeezing what remained onto what high ground was left to it after the sea level rose. The population cut almost in half, forced to live off the tourist and entertainment trade alone when the Gulf oil dried up, just about surrounded by the Alligator Swamp and what crawled up out of it if its back was turned.

You call that Easy?

Those who adapt survive, like the Cajuns from icy Quebec said when they found themselves in the steamin’ bayous of the Delta, like the Alligator Swamp nutria hunters turning a plague into protein. Those who don’t ain’t been heard from lately. So making legal what the Big Easy always was to pull our terminal condition from the mud is not “selling out the soul of the city” or “whoring ourselves to the mavens of show business.”

Because the Big Easy has always been a whore, a charming, sleazy, free-wheeling, good-natured hooker with a heart of gold and an eye for the main chance, which is what makes her easy, and bein’ easy is the name of the game in this business, which has always been the main game in town. And let an old bordello impresario tell you, who would ever hire a hooker who wasn’t all of the above, and good-lookin’ too?

In case you’re forgetting, the Big Easy wasn’t exactly looking as appetizing as a platter of Oysters Bienville back in the day before Mama Legba and Her Supernatural Krewe. She’s all spiffed up and lit up and giving herself the star treatment now, to the point where ingrates and ignoramuses and Creole romantics looking back over their shoulders can afford to complain about how New Orleans is peddling her previously jazzy derrière to less than the genteel bohemian trade of their absinthe fantasies.

Whoever wrote that song about there being no business like show business sure got it wrong. As things stand now, there’s no business but show business and we all are in it. Not that we haven’t always been. The only difference now is that it’s making the good times roll again after all those years in the deep dark shit, and that’s good enough for me, and if it’s not good enough for you, this ain’t your town, you’d best leave and go somewhere more to your tight-assholed liking.

But y’all come back on vacation from the salt mines, y’hear! Whatever your pleasure, we got it, and if we don’t, don’t worry, no matter how pervo it may seem to your sweaty vestigial morality, we’ll get it for you. Here in the Eternal Mardi Gras of the Big Easy, we make no such judgments, we’re impossible to scandalize, de gustibus non est disputandum.


What pays here, stays here, and never fear, we do still want your money.


Copyright © 2017 by Norman Spinrad





The People's Police
Tor Books, February 7, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 288 pages

Excerpt: The People's Police by Norman Spinrad - and Giveaway
Norman Spinrad, a National Book Award finalist for his short fiction collection The Star-Spangled Future, has now written The People's Police, a sharp commentary on politics with a contemporary, speculative twist. Martin Luther Martin is a hard-working New Orleans cop, who has come up from the gangland of Alligator Swamp through hard work. When he has to serve his own eviction notice, he decides he's had enough and agrees to spearhead a police strike.

Brothel owner and entrepreneur J. B. Lafitte also finds himself in a tight spot when his whorehouse in the Garden District goes into foreclosure. Those same Fat Cats responsible for the real estate collapse after Katrina didn't differentiate between social strata or vocation.

MaryLou Boudreau, aka Mama Legba, is a television star and voodoo queen—with a difference. The loa really do ride and speak through her.

These three, disparate people are pulled together by a single moment in the television studio when Martin, hoping for publicity and support from the people against the banks, corporate fat cats, and corrupt politicians. But no one expects Papa Legba himself to answer, and his question changes everything.

"What do you offer?"





About Norman

Norman Spinrad is a science fiction icon and the author of more than twenty novels which have been translated into over a dozen languages. His 1969 novel, Bug Jack Barron, was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Awards and his short fiction collection, The Star-Spangled Future, was a National Book Award finalist. He has also written screenplays for American television series, including the original Star Trek. He lives in Paris. For more information, visit normanspinradatlarge.blogspot.com.

Twitter @normanspinrad





The Giveaway

What:  Two copies of The People's Police by Norman Spinrad from Tor Books. US / Canada Only

How:
  • Send an email to theqwillery . contests @ gmail.com [remove the spaces]
  • In the subject line, enter “The People's Police“
  • In the body of the email, please provide your name and full mailing address. The winning address is used only to mail the prize and is provided to the publisher and/or The Qwillery only for that purpose. All other address information will be deleted once the giveaway ends.

Who:  The giveaway is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US or Canadian mailing address.

When:  The giveaway ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on February 17, 2017. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

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

Review and Excerpt of The Seventh Plague and Q&A with James Rollins


The Seventh Plague
A Sigma Force Novel 12
William Morrow, December 13, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 448 pages

Review and Excerpt of The Seventh Plague and Q&A with James Rollins
In a breathtaking blend of scientific intrigue and historical mystery, #1 New York Times bestselling mastermind, James Rollins, reveals an ancient threat hidden within the pages of the Bible, one that threatens the modern world in The Seventh Plague

If the biblical plagues of Egypt truly happened—could they happen again—on a global scale?

Two years after vanishing into the Sudanese desert, the leader of a British archeological expedition, Professor Harold McCabe, comes stumbling out of the sands, frantic and delirious, but he dies before he can tell his story. The mystery deepens when an autopsy uncovers a bizarre corruption: someone had begun to mummify the professor’s body—while he was still alive.

His strange remains are returned to London for further study, when alarming news arrives from Egypt. The medical team who had performed the man’s autopsy has fallen ill with an unknown disease, one that is quickly spreading throughout Cairo. Fearing the worst, a colleague of the professor reaches out to a longtime friend: Painter Crowe, the director of Sigma Force. The call is urgent, for Professor McCabe had vanished into the desert while searching for proof of the ten plagues of Moses. As the pandemic grows, a disturbing question arises.

Are those plagues starting again?

Before Director Crowe can investigate, a mysterious group of assassins leaves behind a fiery wake of destruction and death, erasing all evidence. With the professor’s body incinerated, his home firebombed, Sigma Force must turn to the archaeologist’s only daughter, Jane McCabe, for help. While sifting through what’s left of her father’s work, she discovers a puzzling connection tying the current threat to a shocking historical mystery, one involving the travels of Mark Twain, the genius of Nikola Tesla, and the adventures of famous explorer Henry Morgan Stanley.

To unravel a secret going back millennia, Director Crowe and Commander Grayson Pierce will be thrust to opposite sides of the globe. One will search for the truth, traveling from the plague-ridden streets of Cairo to a vast ancient tomb buried under the burning sands of the Sudan; the other will struggle to stop a mad genius locked within a remote Arctic engineering complex, risking the lives of all those he holds dear.

As the global crisis grows ever larger, Sigma Force will confront a threat born of the ancient past and made real by the latest science—a danger that will unleash a cascading series of plagues, culminating in a scourge that could kill all of the world’s children . . . decimating humankind forever.



Qwill's Thoughts

The Seventh Plague by James Rollins is only the 2nd Sigma Force novel that I've read. I have to ask myself why I haven't read them all? The Seventh Plague is fabulous. It weaves together science, history, historical figures, and myth into a breathtaking thrill-ride.

The Seventh Plague is beautifully researched. The focus on the biblical plagues and what could have caused them and allow them to happen again is thoughtful and well-done. It all makes sense and is seemingly plausible, which is what I look for in an historical mystery. It works even when Rollins stretches things more than a bit because the historical and scientific foundation for the story is so well set out. There are maps and drawings and nuggets of historical fact that are just tantalizing. The places in the story are all easy to picture as Rollins is masterful in his descriptions.

Rollins does his research whether biblical history, locale or cutting edge science which lends great depth to the story. But equally important, Rollins does not skimp on characters and their stories. The personalities and depth of emotion that fill the pages are wonderful. From the head of Sigma Force to the misguided villain to the operatives out in the field, each character is distinct and an integral part of the story. Each of the main characters' struggles are laid bare along with their worries and concerns, their loves and hopes. There is a large cast of characters but you will remember each of them. If you've never read a Sigma Force novel you needn't worry - everything you need to know is here.

I enjoyed every minute reading The Seventh Plague. This is a deeply engaging novel with well-researched historical and scientific underpinnings, a thrilling mystery, terrific characters, and nail-biting excitement.

Don't skip the Author's Note to Readers at the end where Rollins lays out science, history and his fabrications, but read that after you read the novel.





EXCERPT FROM THE SEVENTH PLAGUE BY JAMES ROLLINS

9:34 P.M. EST
March 2, 1895
New York City
          Now this is more like it…
          With his goal in sight, Samuel Clemens—better known by his penname Mark Twain—led his reluctant companion through Gramercy Park. Directly ahead, gaslights beckoned on the far side of the street, illuminating the columns, portico, and ironwork of the Players Club. Both men were members of this exclusive establishment.
          Drawn by the promise of laughter, spirits, and good company, Twain increased his pace, moving in great, purposeful strides, trailing a cloud of cigar smoke through the crisp night air. “What do you say, Nikola?” he called back to his chum. “According to my pocket watch and my stomach, Players must still be serving dinner. And barring that I could use some brandy to go with this cigar.”
          Younger by almost two decades, Nikola Tesla was dressed in a stiff suit, worn at the elbows to a dull sheen. He kept swiping at his dark hair and darting glances around. When he was nervous, like now, the man’s Serbian accent grew as thick as his mustache.
          “Samuel, my friend, the night is late, and I still have work to finish at my lab. I appreciate the tickets to the theater, but I should be off.”
          “Nonsense. Too much work makes for a dull man.”
          “Then you must be exceptionally exciting…what with your life of such extreme leisure.”
          Twain glanced back with an exaggerated huff. “I’ll have you know I’m working on another book.”
          “Let me guess,” Nikola offered with a wry smile. “Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer get into more trouble.”
          “If only those two bastards would!” Twain chuckled, drawing the eye of a passerby. “Then I might be able to pay off my creditors.”
          Though Twain kept it quiet, he had declared bankruptcy last year, turning over all of his copyrights to his wife, Olivia. To help pay off his debts, he was due to head out on an around-the-world lecture tour over the next twelve months.
          Still, the mention of money had soured the moment. Twain kicked himself for mentioning it, knowing Nikola was struggling as much as he was with financial hardships, despite his friend being a veritable genius, a polymath who was equal parts inventor, electrical engineer, and physicist. Twain had spent many afternoons at the man’s South Fifth Avenue laboratory, the two becoming great friends.
          “Maybe one drink,” Nikola conceded with a sigh.
          They headed across the street toward the portico under the hissing gas lamps. But before they could reach the entrance, a figure stepped from the shadows to accost them both.
          “Thank God,” the man said as he ambushed them. “I heard from your doorman that you might end up here tonight.”
          Momentarily taken aback, Twain finally recognized the fellow. Surprised and delighted, he clapped his old friend on the shoulder. “Well met, Stanley! What are you doing here? I thought you were still in England?”
          “I only arrived back yesterday.”
          “Wonderful! Then let’s celebrate your return to our shores by raising a glass or two. Maybe even three.”
          Twain moved to draw the other two men inside with him, only to be stopped by Stanley at the threshold.
          “As I understand it,” Stanley said, “you have the ear of Thomas Edison.”
          “I…I suppose I do,” Twain answered hesitantly, knowing all too well of the deep-seated friction between Edison and his companion this night, Nikola Tesla.
          “I have a matter of urgency to discuss with the inventor, something to show him, a task given to me by the Crown.”
          “Truly? What a tantalizing bit of intrigue.”
          “Perhaps I could help,” Nikola offered.
          As the two men were unacquainted, Twain made proper introductions, acting as a potential matchmaker for this strange affair. “Nikola, this is Henry Morton Stanley—soon to be Sir Stanley if the rumors hold true—famed not only as an explorer in his own right but also regaled for his discovery of David Livingstone, a fellow explorer lost in the darkest heart of Africa.”
          “Ah,” Nikola said, “I remember now, especially how you greeted him. ‘Doctor Livingstone, I presume?’
          Stanley groaned. “I never said those exact words.”
          Twain smiled and turned to his other friend. “And this is Nikola Tesla, as much a genius in his own right as Edison, perhaps more so.”
          Stanley’s eyes grew wider upon this introduction. “Of course. I should have recognized you.”
          This drew some color to Nikola’s pale cheeks.
          “So,” Twain began, “upon what dire mission has the British Crown assigned you?”
          Stanley wiped a damp palm across his thinning gray hair. “As you know, Livingstone was lost in Africa while seeking the true source of the Nile. Something I’ve sought myself in the past.”
          “Yes, you and many other Brits. Apparently it’s a quest on par with finding the Holy Grail for you all.”
          Stanley scowled but did not discount his words.
          Twain suspected that the drive behind such a concerted search by the British had less to do with geographical curiosity than it did with the country’s colonial ambitions in Africa, but for once he held his tongue, fearing he might scare his friend off before the night’s mystery revealed itself.
          “So how does the source of the Nile concern the British Crown?” Twain pressed.
          Stanley drew him closer and pulled a small object from his pocket. It was a glass vial full of a dark liquid. “This was only recently discovered among the relics of David Livingstone’s estate. A Nubian warrior—someone whom Livingstone had helped by saving the man’s sick son—had given David an ancient talisman, a small vessel sealed with wax and carved with hieroglyphics. This vial holds a small sample of the water found inside that talisman, water which the tribesman claimed came from the Nile itself.”
          Twain shrugged. “Why’s that significant?”
          Stanley stepped away and raised the vial toward one of the gas lamps. Under the flickering flame, the liquid inside glowed a rich crimson.
          “According to Livingstone’s papers, the water was said to be thousands of years old, drawn from the ancient Nile when the river had turned to blood.”
          “Turned to blood?” Nikola asked. “Like in the Old Testament?”
          Twain smiled, suspecting Stanley was trying to set him up. The explorer knew of his personal disdain for organized religion. They’d had many heated discourses on that very subject. “So you’re claiming this came from Moses’ Biblical plague, the first of the ten he cast upon the Egyptians?”
          Stanley’s expression never wavered. “I know how this sounds.”
          “It can’t possibly—”
          “Twenty-two men are dead at the British Royal Society. Slain when the Nubian talisman was first opened and its contents tested in a laboratory.”
          A moment of stunned silence followed.
          “How did they die?” Nikola finally asked. “Was it a poison?”
          Stanley had paled. Here was a man who had faced all manner of dread beast, debilitating fever, and cannibal savages with nary a sign of fear. He now looked terrified.
          “Not a poison.”
          “Then what?” Twain asked.
          With deadpan seriousness, Stanley answered, “A curse.” He closed his fist around the vial. “This is indeed a remnant of God’s ancient wrath upon the Egyptians—but it’s only the beginning if we don’t stop what is to come.”
          “What can be done?” Twain asked.
          Stanley turned to Nikola. “You must come to England.”
          “To do what?” Twain asked.
          “To stop the next plague.”





A Dozen Questions about THE SEVENTH PLAGUE by James Rollins

(1)     Can you tell us a little about The Seventh Plague, your latest Sigma thriller? What’s it about?

The story starts when an archaeologist—who vanished along with a survey team into the Egyptian desert two years prior—comes stumbling back out and dies in a small village. But what’s strange is that his body is already partly mummified, as if someone had forced him to undergo the painful and gruesome ritual while he was still alive. Unfortunately when he came stumbling out of the desert, he wasn’t alone. He was carrying a plague organism, one that traces back to Moses’s ten plagues from the Bible. As this disease spreads and threatens to trigger the other nine Biblical plagues, Sigma Force is called in to search for a way to stop it. From there the story blows up into a global adventure spanning from Africa all the way up to the Arctic Circle. It’s one of Sigma’s biggest adventures yet.


(2)     Is it actually possible for people to mummify themselves while still alive?

Shockingly it is. Sokushinbutsu—or Buddhas in the flesh—can be found in Japan, where the practitioners underwent great and excruciating lengths to preserve their tissues after death. This involves fasting, consuming special bark and teas, and swallowing stones—then as death nears, they entomb themselves while still alive. You’ll also find similar practices in China and India.


(3     Back to those ten plagues from the Bible…could they really happen again?

This novel deals with an alternate timeline for the events featured in the Book of Exodus—the story of Moses, the plagues, and the flight of the Israelites from Egypt. It proves that these were historical events, not mere myths or legends. It’s a view well researched by Egyptologist and archaeologist David Rohl. Likewise, the plagues themselves have a rational and scientific explanation that not only shows they could have happened—but that they could indeed happen again.


(4)     Speaking of those plagues, you also tie this book to the current crisis involving the spread of the Zika virus. What does Zika have to do with your story?

The Zika virus originated in a monkey in Uganda, yet it’s grown into a tragic disease spreading around the world and now into the United States, causing crippling and deadly birth defects. Yet, as you can see from the media, we’re struggling to address it as it hits our shores. The organism in my novel is in the same family of viruses and causes birth defects and death, but only in male children, very much like Moses tenth plague—the deaths of the firstborn sons. So this novel serves as a cautionary tale about Zika and about our inability to face such crises.


(5)     Your novel also features “electric bacteria.” Those can’t possibly be real, can they?

They are very real. They’ve only recently been identified, but over a dozen different specimens have been found. These are microbes that feed directly on electricity, sucking electrons out of the environment and using them as an energy source. They’re so unique that a slew of labs are exploring practical applications for them—from growing them into living biocables that could conduct electricity to using them to power nano-machines capable of all sorts of industrial uses, including cleaning up the environment.


(6)     During this adventure, you also raise concerns about climate change. How does that play out in your book?

While I don’t intend my novel to be a diatribe about climate change, it’s hard to deny that the Arctic is getting warmer, the ice caps are getting smaller, and it’s opening up the entire north to exploration. Cruise ships are already plying the Northwest Passage, a trek once considered too hazardous to even contemplate and led to the deaths of countless explorers. Even more concerning, the whole region has become a political hotbed because the extensive melting is allowing easier access to the Arctic’s rich resources. Russia, Denmark, and Canada are fighting to divvy up the territory found under the Arctic Ice cap, with lots of butting heads, and Russian submarines are already patrolling under the ice, trying to stake a claim. It’s a powder keg waiting to explode.


(7)     You also look at a unique way of combating climate change, something called geo-engineering. What’s that?

These are massive projects, basically Hail Mary passes to save the planet. Most climate scientists believe we are near, at, or past the tipping point to do anything. So looking beyond just lowering carbon emissions, researchers are contemplating projects much larger: like enclosing the earth in a solar shield, or flooding Death Valley, or even wrapping Greenland in a blanket. The only problem—beyond the feasibility of funding or accomplishing them—is the danger of unintended consequences, disasters that no one could predict because the number of variables is so huge when talking about a global-wide engineering project. So, of course, I wanted to explore what might happen if someone actually attempted one of these projects.


(8)     The project featured in your book is tied to something actually up in the Arctic already.

It does. It ties to an Air Force installation called HAARP, which is an elaborate antenna array shooting energy up to the earth’s ionosphere, the electrically charged layer of our atmosphere. The installation has been the focus for many conspiracy theories, believing it might be a weather-control device or used to read minds. There were even concerns that is might set the sky on fire. So in my story, I built a larger, scarier version up in Canada—and make those fears come real.


(9)     As usual, you also fold some intriguing history into your novel, like featuring Mark Twain and his friendships with other historical figures, like the inventor Nicola Tesla.

I’ve always found it fascinating that so many bigger-than-life historical figures not only knew each other, but were involved in each other’s lives. Like how Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla were great buddies. Twain even spent time in Tesla’s lab, helping with experiments, and I’m sure being a general nuisance. I love one anecdote. Twain wanted to test Tesla’s “earthquake machine” to help with his constipation. Twain stepped onto the inventor’s large oscillating device and had to promptly and hurriedly excuse himself to the restroom. It’s such a fun relationship that I wanted to give that pair—a writer and an inventor—a great adventure of their own. And that’s what happens in this novel.


(10)     Besides Mark Twain, you even have Donald Trump’s uncle connected to Tesla’s story. Was that true?

Yes, and it ties into a great mystery surrounding Nikola Tesla. Tesla was a visionary genius, and later in life in The New York Times, he made the bold claim that he had discovered a new, and never-before-seen energy source, one that would change the world. But he never revealed his secret, so when he died, the U.S. government cleared out all of his papers and research journals, including notebook that Tesla had warned his nephew to secure upon his death. All of Tesla’s confiscated work was reviewed by the National Defense Research Committee, a group led at the time by John G. Trump, the uncle of a certain New York real estate magnate. Eventually, pressured by Tesla’s nephew, those papers were returned to his family, but not all of them. One conspicuous piece was missing—that notebook. In my book, it’s found.


(11)     Your stories are known for featuring animals in prominent roles. Is that the case with The Seventh Plague?

As a veterinarian, I love to fold animals into my story, and this book is no exception. I feature a young lion cub named Roho, but the emphasis is on the ingenuity of elephants. Elephants have the largest brains of any land mammal. In fact, they even have the same number of neurons and synapses in their cerebral cortexes as we do. And they put all that brainpower to good use. They use tools, are excellent problem solvers, show altruistic behavior, even self awareness. They are great painters, with a canvas done by a Picasso elephant named Ruby at the Phoenix Zoo selling for $25,000. They are also tremendous mimics, able to imitate other animals’ vocalizations, even surprisingly the sound of human speech. So I wanted to feature these great big beasts in my book, to highlight their majesty and intelligence.


(12)     Finally, as I understand it, this book is also very personal for you. Would you care to go into it?

I dedicated this book to my mother and father, who both recently passed away from complications secondary to Alzheimer's. In fact, my dad passed away while I was writing this book. In my series, the main character—Commander Gray Pierce—has been dealing with similar challenges of aging parents, including a father whose Alzheimer’s has been steadily worsening throughout the series. In this book, all of that comes to a head, as Gray tries to balance his professional and personal lives. It’s something we all struggle with in varying regards, so I think Gray’s struggle—and his shocking decision at the end of the novel—is something that will resonate with readers long after they close the book.





About James Rollins

Review and Excerpt of The Seventh Plague and Q&A with James Rollins
Credit James Rollins
JAMES ROLLINS is the New York Times bestselling author of international thrillers, translated into more than forty languages. His Sigma series has been lauded as one of the “top crowd pleasers” (New York Times) and one of the “hottest summer reads” (People Magazine). In each novel, acclaimed for its originality, Rollins unveils unseen worlds, scientific breakthroughs, and historical secrets--and he does it all at breakneck speed and with stunning insight.


Website  ~   Twitter @amesrollins  ~  Facebook





JAMES ROLLINS will appear in the following venues to promote
THE SEVENTH PLAGUE

Please check http://jamesrollins.com/appearances/ for additional appearances

Review and Excerpt of The Seventh Plague and Q&A with James Rollins

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