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Excerpt from Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay


The Qwillery is thrilled to share with you an excerpt from Guy Gavriel Kay's Children of Earth and Sky which will be published by NAL on May 10th.


Children of Earth and Sky
NAL, May 10, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 592 pages

Excerpt from Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay
The bestselling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay is back with a new book, set in a world inspired by the conflicts and dramas of Renaissance Europe. Against this tumultuous backdrop the lives of men and women unfold on the borderlands—where empires and faiths collide.

From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif at his request—and possibly to do more—and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman, posing as a doctor’s wife, but sent by Seressa as a spy.

The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the accomplished younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he’s been born to live. And farther east a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif—to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming.

As these lives entwine, their fates—and those of many others—will hang in the balance, when the khalif sends out his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world…





Here is a passage from early in the book, introducing one of the central characters and the setting in which she lives. For now.

Excerpted from Children of Earth and Sky, © Guy Gavriel Kay, 2016.

She hadn't intended to bring the dog when she went out on a moonless night to begin the next stage of her life.
        Problem was, Tico jumped in the boat while she was pushing it off the strand and refused to leave when she hissed a command at him. She knew that if she pushed him into the shallow water he'd start barking in protest, and she couldn't allow that.
        So her dog was with her as she began rowing out into the black bay. It could have been comical, except it wasn't because she was here to kill people, and for all her hard, cold reputation in Senjan, she had never done that.
        It was time, Danica thought.
        The Senjani named themselves heroes, warriors of the sun god defending a dangerous border. If she was going to make herself accepted as a raider among them, not just a someday mother of fighters (and daughter of one, and granddaughter), she needed to begin. And she had her own vengeance to pursue. Not against Seressa, but this could be a start.
        No one knew she was out tonight in her family's small boat. She'd been careful. She was unmarried, lived alone now in their house (everyone in her family was dead, since last summer). She could come and go silently at night, and all the young people in Senjan knew how to get through the town walls if they needed to, on the landward side, or down to the stony beach and the boats.
        The raid leaders might punish her after tonight, the emperor's small garrison almost certainly would want to, but she was prepared for that. She just needed to succeed. Recklessness and pride, courage and faith in Jad, and prowess, those were how the Senjani understood themselves. They could punish her and still honour her—if she did what she was out here to do. If she was right about tonight.
        Nor did she find it distressing that the men she intended to kill were fellow worshippers of Jad, not god-denying Osmanlis—like the ones who had destroyed her own village years ago.
        Danica had no trouble summoning hatred for arrogant Seressa across the narrow sea. For one thing, that republic traded greedily with the infidels, betraying the sun god in pursuit of gold.
        For another, Seressa had been blockading Senjan, keeping all the boats pinned in the harbour or on the strand, and the town was hungry now. The Seressinis controlled Hrak Island, which was so near you could swim to it, and they'd forbidden the islanders, on pain of hanging, from dealing with Senjan. (There was some smuggling, but not enough, not nearly so.) They were bent on starving the Senjani, or destroying them if they came out. There was no mystery to it.
        A good-sized overland party of twenty raiders had gone east through the pass into Asharite lands a week ago, but end of winter was not a time to find much in the way of food there, and there were terrible risks.
        It was too early to know if the Osmanlis were advancing towards the imperial fortresses again this year, but they probably would be. Here in the west, the heroes of Senjan could try to capture animals or take villagers for ransom. They could fight the savage hadjuks in fair numbers if they met them, but not if those numbers were greatly increased, and not if the hadjuks had cavalry with them from the east.
        Everything carried risks for ordinary people these days. The great powers in their courts didn't appear to spend much time thinking about the heroes of Senjan—or any of the men and women on the borderlands.
        The triple border, they called it: Osmanli Empire, Holy Jaddite Empire, Republic of Seressa. Ambitions collided here. These lands were where good people suffered and died for their families and faith.
        The loyal heroes of Senjan were useful to their emperor in the north. When there was war with Asharias they'd receive letters of praise on expensive paper from Obravic, and every so often half a dozen more soldiers to be garrisoned in the tall round tower inland from their walls, augmenting the handful usually here. But when the demands of trade, or finance, or conflicts among the Jaddite nations, or the need to end such conflicts, or whatever other factors in the lofty world of courts caused treaties to be made—well, then the raiders of Senjan, the heroes, became expendable. A problem, a threat to harmony if the Osmanli court or aggrieved Seressini ambassadors registered complaints.
        These bloodthirsty savages have violated our sworn peace with the Osmanlis, the terms of a treaty. They have seized shipped goods, raided villages, sold people into slavery . . . So Seressa had notoriously written.
        An emperor, reading that, needed to be more honourable, more aware, Danica thought, rowing quietly under stars. Didn't he understand what they needed from him? Villages or farms on a violent border divided by faith didn't become peaceful because of pen strokes in courts far away.
        If you lived on stony land or by a stony strand you still needed to feed yourself and your children. Heroes and warriors shouldn't be named savages so easily.
        If the emperor didn't pay them to defend his land (their land!), or send soldiers to do it, or allow them to find goods and food for themselves, asking nothing of him, what did he want them to do? Die?
        If Senjani seafarers boarded trading galleys and roundships, it was only for goods belonging to heretics. Jaddite merchants with goods in the holds were protected. Or, well, they were supposed to be. They usually were. No one was going to deny that extremes of need and anger might cause some raiders to be a little careless in sorting which merchant various properties belonged to on a taken ship.
        Why do they ignore us in Obravic? she asked suddenly, in her mind.
        You want honourable behaviour from courts? A foolish wish, her grandfather said.
        I know, she replied, in thought, which was how she spoke with him. He'd been dead almost a year. The plague of last summer.
        It had taken her mother, too, which is why Danica was alone now. There were about seven or eight hundred people in Senjan most of the time (more took refuge if there was trouble inland). Almost two hundred had died here in two successive summers.
        There were no assurances in life, even if you prayed, honoured Jad, lived as decently as you could. Even if you had already suffered what someone might fairly have said was enough. But how did you measure what was enough? Who decided?
        Her mother didn't talk to her in her mind. She was gone. So were her father and older brother, ten years ago in a burning village, other side of the pass. They didn't talk to her.
        Her grandfather was in her head at all times. They spoke to one another, clearly, silently. Had done so from the moment, just about, that he'd died.
        What just happened? he'd said. Exactly that, abruptly, in her mind, as Danica walked away from the pyre where he and her mother had burned with half a dozen other plague victims.
        She had screamed. Wheeled around in a mad, terrified circle, she remembered. Those beside her had thought it was grief.
        How are you here? she'd cried out, silently. Her eyes had been wide open, staring, seeing nothing.
        Danica! I don't know!
        You died!
        I know I did.
        It was impossible, appalling. And became unimaginably comforting. She'd kept it secret, from that day to this night. There were those, and not just clerics, who would burn her if this became known.
        It defined her life now, as much as the deaths of her father and brother had—and the memory of their small, sweet little one, Neven, the younger brother taken by the hadjuks in that night raid years ago. The raid that had brought three of them fleeing to Senjan on the coast: her grandfather, her mother, herself at ten years old.
        So she talked in her thoughts with a man who was dead. She was as good with a bow as anyone in Senjan, better than anyone she knew with knives. Her grandfather had taught her both while he was alive, from when she was only a girl. There were no boys any more in the family to teach. They had both learned to handle boats here. It was what you did in Senjan. She had learned to kill with a thrown knife and a held one, to loose arrows from a boat, judging the movements of the sea. She was extremely good at that. It was why she had a chance to do what she was out here to do tonight.
        She wasn't, Danica knew, an especially conventional young woman.
        She swung her quiver around and checked the arrows: habit, routine. She'd brought a lot of them, odds were very much against a strike with each one, out here on the water. Her bow was dry. She'd been careful. A wet bowstring was next to useless. She wasn't sure how far she'd have to aim tonight—if this even happened. If the Seressinis were indeed coming. It wasn't as if they'd made her a promise.
        It was a mild night, one of the first of a cold spring. Little wind. She couldn't have done this in a rough sea. She dropped her cloak from her shoulders. She looked up at the stars. When she was young, back in their village, sleeping outdoors behind the house on hot summer nights, she used to fall asleep trying to count them. Numbers went on and on, apparently. So did stars. She could almost understand how Asharites might worship them. Except it meant denying Jad, and how could anyone do that?
        Tico was motionless at the prow, facing out to sea as if he were a figurehead. She wasn't able to put into words how much she loved her dog. There was no one to say it to, anyhow.
        Wind now, a little: her grandfather, in her mind.
        I know, she replied quickly, although in truth she'd only become aware of it in the moment he told her. He was acute that way, sharper than she was when it came to certain things. He used her senses now—sight, smell, touch, sound, even taste. She didn't understand how. Neither did he.
        She heard him laugh softly, in her head, at the too-swift reply. He'd been a fighter, a hard, harsh man to the world. Not with his daughter and granddaughter, though. His name had also been Neven, her little brother named for him. She called him “zadek” in her mind, their family's own name for “grandfather,” going back a long way, her mother had told her.
        She knew he was worried tonight, didn't approve of what she was doing. He'd been blunt about it. She had given him her reasons. They hadn't satisfied. She cared about that, but she also didn't. He was with her, but he didn't control her life. He couldn't do anything to stop her from doing what she chose. She also had the ability to close him off in her mind, shut down their exchanges and his ability to sense anything. She could do that any time she wanted. He hated it when she did.
        She didn't like it either, in truth, though there were times (when she was with men, for example) when it was useful and extremely necessary. She was alone without him, though. There was Tico. But still.
        I did know it was changing, she protested.
        The freshening wind was north and east, could become a bura, in fact, which would make the sea dangerous, and also make it almost impossible for a bow. These were her waters, however, her home now, since her first home had burned.
        You weren't supposed to be angry with the god, it was presumption, heresy. Jad's face on the domes and walls of sanctuaries showed his love for his children, the clerics said. Holy books taught his infinite compassion and courage, battling darkness every night for them. But there had been no compassion from the god, or the hadjuks, in her village that night. She dreamed of fires.
        And the proud and glorious Republic of Seressa, self-proclaimed Queen of the Sea, traded with those Osmanlis, by water routes and overland. And because of that trade, that greed, Seressa was starving the heroes of Senjan now, because the infidels were complaining.
        The Seressinis hanged raiders when they captured them, or just killed them on board ships and threw the bodies into the sea without Jad's rites. They worshipped golden coins in Seressa more than the golden god, that was what people said.
        The wind eased again. Not about to be a bura, she thought. She stopped rowing. She was far enough out for now. Her grandfather was silent, leaving her to concentrate on watching in the dark.
        The only thing he'd ever offered as an explanation for this impossible link they shared was that there were traditions in their family—her mother's family, his—of wisewomen and second sight.
        Anything like this? she'd asked.
        No, he'd replied. Nothing I ever heard.
        She'd never experienced anything that suggested a wisewoman's sight in herself, any access to the half-world, anything at all besides a defining anger, skill with a bow and knives, and the best eyesight in Senjan.
        That last was the other thing that made tonight possible. It was black on the water, only stars above, neither moon in the sky—which was why she was here now. She'd been fairly certain that if the Seressinis did do this they would come on a moonless night. They were vicious and arrogant, but never fools.
        Two war galleys, carrying three hundred and fifty oarsmen and mercenary fighters, with new bronze cannons from Seressa's Arsenale, had been blocking the bay, both ends of Hrak Island, since winter's end, but they hadn't been able to do anything but that.
        The galleys were too big to come closer in. These were shallow, rocky, reef-protected seas, and Senjan's walls and their own cannons could handle any shore party sent on foot from a landing farther south. Besides which, putting mercenaries ashore on lands formally ruled by the emperor could be seen as a declaration of war. Seressa and Obravic danced a dance, always, but there were too many other dangers in the world to start a war carelessly.
        The republic had tried to blockade Senjan before, but never with two war galleys. This was a huge investment of money and men and time, and neither ship's captain could be happy sitting in open water with chilled, bored, restless fighters, achieving nothing for his own career.
        The blockade was working, however. It was doing real harm, though it was hard for those on the galleys to know that yet.
        In the past, the Senjani had always found ways of getting offshore, but this was different, with two deadly ships controlling the lanes to north and south of the island that led to sea.
        It seemed the Council of Twelve had decided the raiders had finally become too much of a nuisance to be endured. There had been mockery: songs and poetry. Seressa was not accustomed to being a source of amusement. They claimed this sea, they named it after themselves. And, more importantly, they guaranteed the safety of all ships coming up this way to dock by their canals for their merchants and markets. The heroes of Senjan, raiding to feed themselves, and for the greater glory of Jad, were a problem.
        Danica offered a thought to her grandfather.
        Yes, a thorn in the lion's paw, he agreed.
        The Seressinis called themselves lions. A lion was on their flag and their red document seals. There were apparently lions on columns in the square before their palace, on either side of the slave market.
        Danica preferred to call them wild dogs, devious and dangerous. She thought she could kill some of them tonight, if they sent a skiff into the bay, intending to set fire to the Senjani boats drawn up on the strand below the walls.

He wasn't going to say he loved her or anything like that. That wasn't the way the world went on Hrak Island. But Danica Gradek did drift into his dreams too often for peace of mind, and had done so for a while now. On the island and in Senjan there were women who interpreted dreams for a fee. Mirko didn't need them for these.
        She was unsettling, Danica. Different from any of the girls on Hrak, or in the town when he made his way across to trade fish or wine.
        You had to trade very cautiously these days. Seressa had forbidden anyone to deal with the pirates this spring. There were war galleys here. You'd be flogged or branded if caught, could even be hanged, depending on who did the catching and how much your family could afford in bribes. Seressa almost certainly had spies in Senjan, too, so you needed to be careful that way, as well. Seressa had spies everywhere, was the general view.
        Danica was younger than him but always acted as if she were older. She could laugh, but not always when you'd said something you thought was amusing. She was too cold, the other men said, you'd freeze your balls making love to her. They talked about her, though.
        She handled a bow better than any of them. Better than anyone Mirko knew, anyhow. It was unnatural in a woman, wrong, ought to have been displeasing, but for Mirko it wasn't. He didn't know why. Her father, it was said, had been a famous fighter in his day. A man of reputation. He'd died in a hadjuk village raid, somewhere on the other side of the mountains.
        Danica was tall. Her mother had been, too. She had yellow hair and extremely light blue eyes. There was northern blood in the family. Her grandfather had had eyes like that. He'd been a scary figure when he came to Senjan, scarred and fierce, thick moustaches, a border hero of the old style, men said. He was the one who'd taught his granddaughter how to handle a bow and knives.
        She'd kissed him once, Danica. Just a few days ago, in fact. He'd been ashore south of the town walls with two casks of wine before dawn, thin blue moon setting. She and three others he knew had been waiting on the strand to buy from him. They'd used torches to signal from the beach.
        It happened he had learned something not long before and—on an impulse—he'd asked her to walk a little away from the others. There had been jokes made, of course. Mirko didn't mind, she hadn't looked as if she did. It was hard to read her moods and he wouldn't claim to be good at understanding women, anyhow.
        He told her that three days earlier he'd been part of a group supplying the war galley in the northern channel. He'd overheard talk about sending a boat to fire the Senjani ones drawn up on the strand. Bored men on ships, especially mercenaries, could grow careless. He said if it were him doing it, he'd do it on a no-moons night. Of course, she said.
        He thought if she was the one he told she could reap the benefit of reporting the tidings to the raid captains inside the walls and she'd be happy with him for that.
        Danica Gradek kissed really well, it turned out. Fiercely, even hungrily. She wasn't quite as tall as he was. He wasn't sure, remembering the moment, if it had been passion, or triumph, or the anger everyone said was in her, but he'd wanted more. Of the kiss, of her.
        “Good lad,” she said, stepping back.
        Lad? That he didn't like. “You'll warn the captains?”
        “Of course,” she said.
        It never occurred to him she might be lying.

She was protecting the boy, she'd explained to her zadek. Mirko wasn't a boy, but she thought of him that way. She thought of most of the men her age that way. A few were different—she could admire skill and bravery—but those often turned out to be the ones who most fiercely rejected the idea of a woman as a raider. They hated that she was better with her bow than them, but she wasn't, ever, going to hide what she could do. She'd made that decision a long time ago.
         The heroes of Senjan, devoted equally to Jad and independence, also had a reputation for violence. That last, in the eyes of the world, included their women. There were horrified, wide-eyed stories told of Senjani women streaming down from hills or woods to a triumphant battlefield at day's end—wild, like wolves—to lick and drink the blood from the wounds of slain foes, or even those not yet dead! Tearing or hacking limbs off and letting blood drip down gaping throats. Senjani woman believed, the tale went, that if they drank blood their unborn sons would be stronger warriors.
         Foolish beyond words. But useful. It was a good thing to have people afraid of you if you lived in a dangerous part of the world.
         But Senjan didn't think it good for a woman, not long out of girlhood, to believe—let alone seek to prove—she could equal a man, a real fighter, with her chosen weapons. That, they didn't like much, the heroes.
         At least she wasn't strong with a sword. There was someone who had spied on her throwing daggers at targets outside the walls and, well, according to him she did that extremely well. She ran fast, could handle a boat, knew how to move silently, and . . .
         Some reckless, very brave man, the general view became, needed to marry the ice-cold, pale-eyed Gradek girl and get a baby into her. End this folly of a woman raiding. She might be the daughter of Vuk Gradek, who'd had renown in his day, inland, but she was a daughter of a hero, not a son.
         One of his sons had died with him; the other, a child, had been taken by the hadjuks in the raid on Antunic, their village inland. He was likely a eunuch by now in Asharias or some provincial city, or being trained for the djannis—their elite, Jaddite-born infantry. He might even one day come back attacking them.
         It happened. One of the old, hard sorrows of the border.
         The girl did want to join the raids, it was no secret. She spoke of vengeance for her family and village. Had been talking that way for years.
         She'd openly asked the captains. Wanted to go through the pass into Osmanli lands on a raid for sheep and goats, or men and women to ransom or sell. Or she'd ask to go in the boats chasing merchant ships in the Seressini Sea—which they might actually be able to start doing again if this accursed blockade would only lift.
         Danica knew the talk about her. Of course she did. She'd even let Kukar Miho watch her practising, thinking himself cleverly unseen behind (rustling) bushes, as she threw knives at olives on a tree near the watchtower.
         This past winter the clerics had begun speaking to her about marrying, offering to negotiate with families on her behalf since she had no parent or brother to do so. Some of her mother's friends had made the same offer.
         She was still mourning, she'd said, eyes lowered, as if shy. It hadn't been a year yet, she'd said.
         Her mourning year would end in summer. They'd chant a service for her mother and grandfather in the sanctuary, along with so many others, then she'd need to think of another excuse. Or pick a man.
         She was perfectly happy to sleep with one when a certain mood overtook her. She'd discovered some time ago that cups of wine and lovemaking could ease her nights on occasion. She closed off her grandfather in her mind on those nights, relieved she was able to do so. They never discussed it.
         But being with a man by the strand or in a barn outside the walls (only one time in her own house—it had felt wrong in the morning and she'd never done it again) was as much as she wanted right now. If she married, her life changed. Ended, she was half inclined to say, though she knew that was excessive. A life ended when you died.
         In any case, she'd told her grandfather the truth: she was protecting Mirko of Hrak by not reporting his information to the captains or the military. If the Senjani set a full ambush on the beach for a night attack, the Seressinis would realize someone had given their plan away. They were clever enough to do that, Jad knew, and vicious enough to torture a story out of the islanders. They might or might not arrive at Mirko, but why risk it? One guard out in a boat—that could be routine.
         If she’d revealed Mirko’s story she'd have been asked who told her, and it would have been impossible (and wrong) to not tell the captains. She wanted to join the raiders, not anger them. And the Seressini spy inside the walls (of course there was a spy, there was always a spy) would almost certainly learn whatever she said, see the preparations. They'd likely cancel the attack, if it was happening. If Mirko was right.
         No, doing this alone was the prudent approach, she'd told her grandfather, choosing the word a little mischievously. Unsurprisingly, he had sworn at her. He had been legendary for his tongue in his day. She was developing a little of that reputation, but it was different for a woman.
         Everything in the world was. Danica wondered sometimes why the god had made it so.
         She really did have good eyesight. She saw a flame appear and vanish to her right, north, on the headland that framed that side of their bay. She caught her breath.
         Jad sear his soul! What pustulent, slack-bowelled fucking traitor is that? her grandfather snarled.
         She saw it again, quickly there and gone, moving right to left. A light on the headland could only be there to guide a boat. And to do that in these deadly waters you needed to know the bay and its rocks and shallows.
         Tico had seen it too. He growled in his throat. She silenced him. It was a long bowshot to that headland at night. Too long from a boat. Danica began rowing again, heading that way, north, against the light breeze, but still looking west as she went.
         Quietly, girl!
         I am.
         Nothing else to be seen yet. The Seressinis would have a long way to go past the island from where the galley blocked the channel. But that light on the headland was signalling a path through rocks and reefs. Swinging right now, then left, held briefly in the middle, then hidden, most likely by a cloak. It meant someone was coming, and that he could see them.
         She gauged the distance, shipped her oars, took her bow, nocked an arrow.
         Too far, Danica.
         It isn't, zadek. And if he's up there they are on their way.
         He was silent in her thoughts. Then said, He's holding the lantern in his right hand, guiding them left and right. You can tell where his body is by how—
         I know, zadek. Shh. Please.
         She waited on the wind, the small boat moving as the breeze moved the sea.
         She was still watching two ways: that headland light, and where the channel opened, by the dark bulk of the island.
         She heard them before she saw anything.
         They were rowing, not silently. They were not expecting anyone out here and they were coming towards her.
         Splash of oars in water, Tico stiffening again. Danica hushed him, stared into the night, and then it was there, clearing the dark bulk of the island, one small light. Seressinis on the water, come to burn boats on the strand. She was awake, this was not a dream of fire coming.
         There was anger in her, no fear. She was the hunter tonight. They didn't know that. They thought that they were.
         I don't need to kill him, she murmured in her mind.
         He needs to die.
         Later. If we take him alive we can ask questions.
         In truth, it might have been hard for her, killing that one on the headland: whoever he was, he was going to be someone she knew in town. She had decided it was time to learn how to kill, but she hadn't thought it might be a face she knew right at the start.
         I ought to have realized they'd need someone to guide them in.
         Might have been with them in the boat, her grandfather said. Might still be someone with them. They tend to be cautious.
         She couldn't resist. Like me?
         He swore. She smiled. And suddenly felt calm. She was in the midst of events now, not anticipating they might happen. Time had run, after almost ten years it had carried her to this moment, this boat on black water with her bow.
         She could see the shape of the approaching craft, dark on darkness. They had one light, would mean to douse it when they came nearer to shore. She heard a voice, trying to be quiet, but carrying, if anyone was out in the bay to hear.
         “Over other way, he's saying. Rocks just there.”
         Speaking Seressini. She was glad of that.
         Jad guide your arm and eye, her grandfather said. His voice in her mind was very cold.
         Danica stood up, balanced herself. She had trained for this, so many times. The wind was easy, and the sea. She fitted an arrow to the string, drew the bowstring back. She could see them in the boat now. It looked like six men. Maybe seven.
         She loosed her first arrow. Was nocking the second as that one flew.





About Guy

Excerpt from Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay
Photo by Samantha Kidd
Guy Gavriel Kay is the international bestselling author of twelve previous novels and a book of poetry. He has been awarded the International Goliardos Prize for his work in literature of the fantastic and won the World Fantasy Award for Ysabel in 2008. In 2014 he was named to the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honor. His work has been translated into more than twenty-five languages.






For more information, please visit www.brightweavings.com and follow Guy Gavriel Kay on Twitter @GuyGavrielKay



The Invisible Guardian by Dolores Redondo - Excerpt


The Qwillery is thrilled to share with you an excerpt from the international bestseller The Invisible Guardian by Dolores Redondo.



The Invisible Guardian
Baztan Trilogy 1
Atria Books, March 8, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

The Invisible Guardian by Dolores Redondo - Excerpt
Shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger 2015
Best Spanish Crime Novel of the Year, 2013 by major Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia
Top 10 Crime Novels of the Summer by Le Figaro Magazine, France
“Pluma de plata” (Silver Quill) 2014 by the Basque Booksellers Association
Best Novel of 2013—Creatio Social Media
Best Spanish Novel of the Year, 2013—“Continuarà” TVE Cultural Programme

Already a #1 international bestseller, this tautly written and gripping psychological thriller forces a police inspector to reluctantly return to her hometown in Basque Country—a place engulfed in mythology and superstition—to solve a series of eerie murders.

When the naked body of a teenage girl is found on a riverbank in Basque Country, Spain, homicide inspector Amaia Salazar must return to the hometown she always sought to escape. A dark secret from Amaia’s past plagues her with nightmares, and as her investigation deepens, the old pagan beliefs of the community threaten to derail her astute detective work. The lines between mythology and reality begin to blur, and Amaia must discover whether the crimes are the work of a ritualistic killer or of a mythical creature known as the Basajaun, the Invisible Guardian.

Torn between the rational procedures of her job and the local superstitions of a region shaped by the Spanish Inquisition, Amaia fights against the demons of her past in order to track down a killer on the run.




      Amaia looked at them in silence without replying. It was an in-
timidation tactic that almost never failed, and it worked this time
too. The ranger who had stayed leaning against the Land Rover stood
up and took a step forward.
      “Ma’am. We’ll do everything we can to help. The bear expert from
Huesca arrived an hour ago, he’s parked a bit farther down,” he said,
indicating a bend in the road. “If you’ll come with us, we’ll show you
where they’re working.”
      “Good, and you can call me ‘Inspector.’ ”
      The path became narrower as they went into the wood, opening
out again in small clearings where the grass grew green and fine like
a beautiful garden lawn. In other areas the wood formed a sheltered,
sumptuous, and almost warm maze, an impression reinforced by the
endless carpet of pine needles and leaves that stretched before them.
The water hadn’t penetrated as far into that level, scrubby area as it
had done on the slopes, and great dry, springy patches of windblown
leaves crowded around the bases of the trees as if forming natural
beds for the forest-dwelling lamias. Amaia smiled as she remembered
the legends Aunt Engrasi had told her as a child. In the middle
of the forest it didn’t seem so far-fetched to accept the existence of
the magical creatures that shaped the past of the people of the region.
All forests are powerful, some are frightening by dint of being deep
or mysterious, others because they are dark and sinister. The Baztán
forest is enchanting, with a serene, ancient beauty that effortlessly
brings out people’s most human side, the most childlike part of them,
which believes in the fantastical fairies with their webbed ducks’ feet
that used to live in the forest. These fairies would sleep all day and
come out at nightfall and comb their long blond hair. A lamia would
give her golden comb to any man who was sufficiently seduced by
her beauty to spend the night with her in spite of her ducklike feet,
thus granting him his heart’s desire.
      Amaia felt the presence of such beings in that forest so tangibly
that it seemed easy to believe in a druid culture, the power of trees
over men, and to imagine a time when the communion between
magical beings and humans was a religion throughout the valley.
      “Here they are, the Ghostbusters,” said Gorria, not without a hint
of sarcasm.
      The expert from Huesca and his assistant were wearing garish
orange overalls and were each carrying a silver-colored briefcase
similar to the ones used by forensics officers. When Amaia and
Jonan reached them, they seemed absorbed in observing the trunk
of a beech tree.
      “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Inspector,” said the man, holding
out his hand. “I’m Raúl González and this is Nadia Takchenko. If
you’re wondering why we’re wearing these clothes, it’s because of the
poachers. Nothing appeals to those riffraff like the rumor that there’s
a bear in the area, and you’ll see them popping out from all kinds of
places, even under rocks, and that’s no joke. The big macho Spaniard
sets out to catch a bear, and he’s so terrified that the bear might catch
him first that he’ll shoot at anything that moves . . . It wouldn’t be the
first time they’ve shot at us thinking we were bears, hence the orange
overalls. You can see them two kilometers away. In the Russian forests
everybody wears them.”
      “What have you got to tell me? Habemus bear or not?” asked
Amaia.
      “Dr. Takchenko and I believe it would be too precipitate to confirm
or refute something like that at this stage, Inspector.”
      “But you can at least tell me whether you’ve come across any sign,
any clue . . .”
      “We could say yes, we’ve undoubtedly come across traces that
indicate the presence of large animals, but nothing conclusive. In
any case, we’ve only just arrived. We’ve barely had time to inspect the
area and the light is almost gone,” he said, looking at the sky.
      “Tomorrow at dawn we will get down to work, is that how you say
it?” asked Dr. Takchenko in strongly accented Spanish. “The sample
you sent us is certainly from a plantigrade. It would be very interesting
to have a second sample.”
      Amaia decided it was best not to mention that the sample had
been found on a corpse.
      “You’ll have further samples tomorrow,” said Jonan.

Excerpt from The Invisible Guardian by Dolores Redondo. Copyright © 2012 by Dolores Redondo English-language translation copyright © 2013 by Izzie Kaufeler. Used with permission.

Exclusive Excerpt: Dreaming Death by J. Kathleen Cheney


Please welcome J. Kathleen Cheney to The Qwillery with an exclusive excerpt from Dreaming Death which will be published by Roc on February 2nd.



Exclusive Excerpt: Dreaming Death by J. Kathleen Cheney




“Who?” Dahar asked.

“Eli,” Mikael repeated. “Of the sixteens.”

“I meant for dinner,” Dahar said, sounding vexed.

That was one of the advantages of being a member of the Royal House—no one expected Dahar to control his emotions, even though he’d been trained by the Family. Mikael opened his mouth to answer Dahar’s question, only to stop himself before he blurted out Jannika’s name.

When Mikael had first come to Lucas Province as a nineteen, Dahar had come up with the strange idea that Mikael should marry his daughter Sera. The girl had been a thirteen or fourteen then, and quite obnoxious. No agreement had been signed, but Dahar still had the idea in his head that Mikael should be betrothed to his daughter.

“Just a friend,” Mikael managed. “I’m trying to get some information. And after that I’m going down into the city to meet with one of the writers.”

“Hunting your dead body?” Dahar said dryly.

Mikael didn’t think for a moment that Dahar had missed that he’d not answered the first question. “He’s got a friend in the police.”

“You’re duplicating Cerradine’s efforts, then,” Dahar said.

That wasn’t strictly true. Cerradine was looking for a corpse, while Mikael was only looking for a name. “I’ll be off duty, sir.”

Dahar sighed and strode off, back to his end of the office. Mikael resumed reading, imagining Dahar’s glare on his back. When he glanced in that direction, Dahar stood at the windows, staring moodily outside. Mikael forced his attention to stay on the papers before him.

A crash came from the other side of the room. Mikael jumped to his feet, hand reaching for a pistol he didn’t have.

Just Dahar, he realized a panicked second later.

The fine porcelain tea set that had been sitting on a tray on his desk now lay shattered against the far wall. Dahar strode the length of the office, opened the door, and slammed it on the way out.

What was that about? Mikael felt reasonably safe that it wasn’t his evasive answer that had triggered it. This had to be about Kai and whatever they had been arguing about so quietly before Mikael had arrived. Poor timing on Kai’s part. Dahar was never at his best first thing in the morning, before his tea.

And Kai had been avoiding his father. Kai had other commitments. They all did. There was a schedule on Kai’s desk that showed his teaching duties, his required sessions with the king, and his time to work on his own yeargroup’s schedules and issues. That was why Dahar needed two aides; Kai simply had too many other duties.

Mikael suspected if he asked Kai, he would probably have to listen to a long-winded answer that made perfect sense. Whether it was true or not was another thing altogether.

Sighing, Mikael crossed to the other end of the room, turned over the wooden tray, and began picking up the broken bits of the tea set. It wasn’t as if they let maids into the Daujom’s offices to clean, not without an appointment. And since he was alone now, that left no doubt whose job it was.





Dreaming Death
Palace of Dreams 1
Roc, February 2, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages

Exclusive Excerpt: Dreaming Death by J. Kathleen Cheney
In the Novels of the Golden City, J. Kathleen Cheney created a “mesmerizing” (Publishers Weekly) realm where magic, history, and intrigue combine. Now, she presents a new world ruled by psychic talents and fatal magic…

Shironne Anjir’s status as a sensitive is both a gift and a curse. Her augmented senses allow her to discover and feel things others can’t, but her talents come with a price: a constant assault of emotions and sensations has left her blind. Determined to use her abilities as best she can, Shironne works tirelessly as an investigator for the Larossan army.

A member of the royal family’s guard, Mikael Lee also possesses an overwhelming power—he dreams of the deaths of others, sometimes in vivid, shocking detail, and sometimes in cryptic fragments and half-remembered images.

But then a killer brings a reign of terror to the city, snuffing out his victims with an arcane and deadly blood magic. Only Shironne can sense and interpret Mikael’s dim, dark dreams of the murders. And what they find together will lead them into a nightmare…





About J. Kathleen Cheney

J. Kathleen Cheney is the author of the Novels of the Golden City, including The Shores of Spain, The Seat of Magic, and The Golden City. Her short fiction has been published in such venues as Fantasy Magazine and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and her novella “Iron Shoes” was a Nebula Finalist in 2010. She lives in Oklahoma, and you can visit her online at www.jkathleencheney.com.

Interview with Marcus Sakey and Excerpt from Written in Fire


Please welcome Marcus Sakey to The Qwillery. Written in Fire, the final novel in the Brilliance Trilogy, was published on January 12th by Thomas & Mercer.



Interview with Marcus Sakey and Excerpt from Written in Fire




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

Marcus:  Thanks for having me!

I've wanted to be an author for as long as I can remember. In fact, I made my first “sale” when I was about five years old, a rousing tale about the tooth fairy that I told my mom, who sent it in to our local newspaper, which, for reasons that are unclear to me, printed it. Bam, hooked.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Marcus:  A hybrid, though I lean toward plotting. For me, the notion of just blindly sitting down and typing is akin to hopping in a boat with no provisions and no maps. You'll end up somewhere, sure, but even if the destination happens to me marvelous, the journey will be harrowing.

At the same time, I need flexibility when I write. If a new idea occurs, or a bit of dialogue that changes things, well, that's where the juice lives. So I plan, with the understanding that plans can always change.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Marcus:  The days--or weeks--when you start to doubt everything, from the seed of the idea to the words you're typing. It's tricky because sometimes that doubt is justified, and your subconscious has spotted a problem. But often it's just part of the process. In my experience, the best thing to do is to keep going--while at the same time trying to diagnose the problem.



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

Marcus:  Large swathes of it were written without pants.



TQWhich question about Written in Fire or the Brilliance Trilogy do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Marcus:  It's not exactly a question, but a lot of people have drawn comparisons between the X-Men and the Brilliance Trilogy, and the comparison drives me batshit. Yes, both are about a small percentage of exceptional individuals. So is every myth ever, Norse to Greek to Chinese; so are stories of the knights of the round table, superhero movies, vampire novels, Harry Potter, on and on. I love the X-Men, but this ain't them.

Okay, end rant.



TQIn the Brilliance Trilogy who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? Which character surprised you the most?

Marcus:  I loved writing Nick Cooper, the protagonist. He's a very talented, competent guy, and yet also a full-fleshed person, a devoted father, a patriot, and someone who is doing the best he can to make the world a better place.

But probably the most entertaining was one of the antagonists, a brilliant named Soren, whose 'gift' affects his perception of time. He can't control it, nor can he move any faster than the rest of us, but every second seems like eleven to him. It makes him an incredibly dangerous foe, but also a shattered individual. It was great fun to imagine what the world would look like to someone like that--how simple joys would become unbearable burdens.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in the Brilliance Trilogy?

Marcus:  Because that's the point. Books are about things. The car chases and knife fights are frosting. I love frosting. Everybody loves frosting. But it's a poor idea to eat a plate of nothing but.

The social issues are where the idea was seeded, and they are the parts that mean most to me. Questions of how we handle difference, of intolerance and xenophobia, of our seeming eagerness to embrace a twitchy sort of fear; questions of whether doing the 'right' thing is always the right course of action, and how people are to live in the shades of grey. That's why I read, and that's why I write.

Well, that and knife fights.



TQWhat are your feelings about finishing the Brilliance Trilogy?

Marcus:  They're mixed, honestly. The only thing I've created of which I'm prouder has pigtails and sings about farting. I loved playing in the arena, writing an epic saga that builds one book at a time. So there is sadness at leaving that behind.

On the other hand, I spent about five years working on it, and so there is a part of me that says, "So long, thanks for everything, don't let the door hit your imaginary butt on the way out."



TQWhat's next?

Marcus:  Funny thing about writing novels for a living, by the time one comes out, you're already deep into the next. I'm well into a new book, also a big-idea thriller, this one with an existential bent. It's an idea I've had kicking around my head for years, so I'm having a ball.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Marcus:  Thanks for having me! Cheers.





Written in Fire
The Brilliance Trilogy 3
Thomas & Mercer, January 12, 2016
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 345 pages

Interview with Marcus Sakey and Excerpt from Written in Fire
For thirty years humanity struggled to cope with the brilliants, the one percent of people born with remarkable gifts. For thirty years we tried to avoid a devastating civil war. We failed.

The White House is a smoking ruin. Madison Square Garden is an internment camp. In Wyoming, an armed militia of thousands marches toward a final, apocalyptic battle.

Nick Cooper has spent his life fighting for his children and his country. Now, as the world staggers on the edge of ruin, he must risk everything he loves to face his oldest enemy—a brilliant terrorist so driven by his ideals that he will sacrifice humanity’s future to achieve them.

From “one of our best storytellers” (Michael Connelly) comes the blistering conclusion to the acclaimed series that is a “forget-to-pick-up-milk, forget-to-water-the-plants, forget-to-eat total immersion experience” (Gillian Flynn).

The explosive conclusion to the bestselling Brilliance Trilogy.



        This must be what God feels like.
        A single glance at my outstretched hand and I know the number of hair follicles covering the back of it, can differentiate and quantify the darker androgenic strands from the barely discernible vellus hairs.
        Vellus, from the Latin, meaning fleece.
        I summon the page in Gray’s Anatomy on which I learned the word and examine the diagram of a hair follicle. But also: the texture and weave of the paper. The attenuation of light from the banker’s lamp that illuminates it. The sandalwood scent of the girl three chairs down. I can evoke these details with perfect clarity, this utterly forgettable and forgotten moment that nonetheless was imprinted in a cluster of brain cells in my hippocampus, as every other moment and experience of my life has been. With a whim I can activate those neurons and scrub forward or backward to relive the day with full sensual clarity.
        An unimportant day at Harvard thirty-eight years ago.
        To be precise, thirty-eight years, four months, fifteen hours, five minutes, and forty-two seconds ago. Forty-three. Forty-four.
        I lower my hand, feeling the extension and contraction of each individual muscle.
        The world rushes in.
        Manhattan, the corner of 42nd and Lexington. Cars and construction noises and throngs of lemming-people and cold December air and a snatch of Bing Crosby singing “Silver Bells” from the opening door of a café and the smells of exhaust and falafel and urine. An assault of sensation, unfiltered, overwhelming.
        Like descending a staircase and forgetting the last step, empty air where solid floor was expected.
        Like sitting in a chair, then noticing it’s the cockpit of a fighter jet going three times the speed of sound.
        Like lifting an abandoned hat, only to discover it rests on a severed head.
        Panic drenches my skin, panic envelops my body. My endocrine system dumps adrenaline, my pupils widen my sphincter tightens my fingers clench—
        Control.
        Balance.
        Breath.
        Mantra: You are Dr. Abraham Couzen. You are the first person in history to transcend the boundary between normal and abnormal. Your serum of non-coding RNA has radically altered your gene expression. A genius by any measure, you are now more.
        You are brilliant.
        People flow around me as I stand on the corner, and I can see the vector of each, can predict the moments they will cross and bump, the slowed step, the itched elbow, before they happen. I can, if I wish, screen everything down to lines of motion and force, an interactive map, like a fabric weaving itself.
        A man jostles my shoulder, and I entertain a brief whim of breaking his neck, picturing instantly the steps to do so: a palm on his chin, a handful of his hair, a foot planted for leverage, a fast, sharp swivel building from the hips for maximum force.
        I let him live.
        A woman passes and I read her secrets from her sloped shoulders and the hair falling to screen her peripheral vision, the jump of her eyes at the taxi’s horn, the baggy jacket and ringless finger and comfortable shoes. The hairs on her pant legs are from three different cats, and I can picture the apartment she lives in alone, the train ride in from Brooklyn, perhaps, thought not the fashionable part. I can see the abuse as a child—an uncle or family friend, not her father—that framed her isolation. The slight pallor and trembling hands reveal she drinks at night, most likely wine, judging by the teeth. The haircut indicates she makes at least sixty thousand dollars a year, the handbag assures she makes no more than eighty. An office job with little human interaction, something with numbers. Accounting, probably in a major corporation.
        This must be what God feels.
        Then I realize two things. I’ve got a nosebleed. And I’m being watched.
        It manifests as a tingle, the kind fools attribute to notions of “the collective unconscious.” In truth it’s simply indicators gathered by the senses but not processed by the frontal lobe: a tremor of shadow, a partial reflection in a glass, the almost-but-not-quite undetectable warmth and sound of another body in the room.
        For me, the original stimuli are easily examined, focused like a blurry image in a microscope. I call up my sense memory of the last moments, the texture of the crowd, the smell of humanity, the movement of vehicles. The lines of force tell a tale, much like ripples in water reveal rocks beneath the surface. I am not mistaken.
        They are many, they are armed, and they are here for me.
        I roll my neck and crack my fingers.
        This should be interesting.


Excerpted from Written in Fire by Marcus Sakey. Copyright 2016. Published By Thomas & Mercer. Used by permission of the publisher. Not for reprint without permission.





Previously

Brilliance
The Brilliance Trilogy 1
Thomas & Mercer, July 16, 2013
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 452 pages

Interview with Marcus Sakey and Excerpt from Written in Fire
A 2013 Edgar Award Nominee for Best Paperback Original

In Wyoming, a little girl reads people’s darkest secrets by the way they fold their arms. In New York, a man sensing patterns in the stock market racks up $300 billion. In Chicago, a woman can go invisible by being where no one is looking. They’re called “brilliants,” and since 1980, one percent of people have been born this way. Nick Cooper is among them; a federal agent, Cooper has gifts rendering him exceptional at hunting terrorists. His latest target may be the most dangerous man alive, a brilliant drenched in blood and intent on provoking civil war. But to catch him, Cooper will have to violate everything he believes in—and betray his own kind.

From Marcus Sakey, “a modern master of suspense” (Chicago Sun-Times) and “one of our best storytellers” (Michael Connelly), comes an adventure that’s at once breakneck thriller and shrewd social commentary; a gripping tale of a world fundamentally different and yet horrifyingly similar to our own, where being born gifted can be a terrible curse.



A Better World
The Brilliance Trilogy 2
Thomas & Mercer, June 17, 2014
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 390 pages

Interview with Marcus Sakey and Excerpt from Written in Fire
The brilliants changed everything.

Since 1980, one percent of the world has been born with gifts we’d only dreamed of. The ability to sense a person’s most intimate secrets, or predict the stock market, or move virtually unseen. For thirty years the world has struggled with a growing divide between the exceptional...and the rest of us.

Now a terrorist network led by brilliants has crippled three cities. Supermarket shelves stand empty. 911 calls go unanswered. Fanatics are burning people alive.

Nick Cooper has always fought to make the world better for his children. As both a brilliant and an advisor to the president of the United States, he’s against everything the terrorists represent. But as America slides toward a devastating civil war, Cooper is forced to play a game he dares not lose—because his opponents have their own vision of a better world.

And to reach it, they’re willing to burn this one down.

From Marcus Sakey, “the master of the mindful page turner” (Gillian Flynn) and “one of our best storytellers” (Michael Connelly), Book Two of the Brilliance Saga is a relentless thrill ride that will change the way you look at your world—and the people around you.





About Marcus

Interview with Marcus Sakey and Excerpt from Written in Fire
Photo by Jay Franco
Marcus Sakey’s thrillers have been nominated for more than fifteen awards. They’ve been named New York Times Editors’ Choice picks and have been selected among Esquire’s top five books of the year. His novel Good People was made into a movie starring James Franco and Kate Hudson, and Brilliance is currently in development with Legendary Pictures. Sakey lives in Chicago with his wife and daughter. For more information, visit www.MarcusSakey.com.







Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @MarcusSakey



Excerpt: The Good, the Bad, and the Vampire by Sara Humphreys


Happy Publication Day to Sara Humphreys for The Good, the Bad, and the Vampire out today from Sourcebooks Casablanca.



Excerpt: The Good, the Bad, and the Vampire by Sara Humphreys




The Good, the Bad, and the Vampire
Dead in the City 4
Sourcebooks Casablanca, January 5, 2016
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Excerpt: The Good, the Bad, and the Vampire by Sara Humphreys
Book 4 of the Dead in the City series

Beloved author Sara Humphreys’ acclaimed paranormal romance series continues with sweltering attraction between two vampires who have all the time in the world to satisfy their desires…

He wants eternity?
Dakota Shelton is a vampire cowboy with a penchant for cinnamon lollipops and Johnny Cash. Though highly skilled and deadly dangerous to his enemies, he’s still a Texas good ol’ boy at heart. And he has that heart set on wooing Trixie LaRoux—the most badass punk rock chick in town—the old-fashioned way.

Over her undead body...
Trixie is tough as nails and sharp as a silver stake—the last thing she wants is a man to sit on a porch and not grow old with. So it’ll take going to hell and back fighting a new threat to vampires before she admits Dakota’s courtship makes her blood hum. Turns out chivalry’s not dead after all.


Excerpt:

Trixie couldn’t remember the last time she went to a little girl’s birthday party but it certainly wasn’t since becoming a vampire.

Olivia and Doug might have been two of the world’s most powerful vampires, but they had also become the first vampire parents in recorded history. Today was their daughter Emily’s second birthday and they were throwing her a big old party, complete with birthday cake and balloons.

Trixie had gone back and forth all day long about whether or not to attend.

Being around little Emily was bittersweet on a regular day and the birthday celebration would only heighten Trixie’s struggle. But choosing not to go would have been selfish. Trixie’s personal drama wasn’t Emily’s fault, and she didn’t want to disappoint the adorable little redheaded cherub. Not only that, Emily was Olivia’s daughter and since Olivia was Trixie’s maker, that made her family.

Not showing up would have been rotten.

Olivia would have understood if Trixie bailed out; she knew her better than anyone else. But Olivia’s Bloodmate, Doug, wouldn’t understand her absence from such a celebrated event. Neither would the other members of the coven.

Nope. Trixie decided to do what she always did. She’d put on a smile, make a wise-ass comment or two, and act like nothing and nobody bothered her.

A familiar voice pulled her from her thoughts as she strode down the stone hallways of the Presidium’s underground facility, buried deep beneath Fort Tryon Park and The Cloisters in New York City, “Well, smack my ass and call me Sally.”

The deep southern drawl echoed around her, stopping Trixie dead in her tracks. A shiver of lust whispered beneath her skin as it usually did whenever he was nearby, but she swiftly shoved it aside.

“Okay, Sally.” Trixie rolled her shoulder and fought the buzz of attraction. “But you can smack your own ass.”

“What’s the matter, darlin’?” The rumbling baritone of his voice soaked with that southern twang, drifted over her shoulder but she didn’t spare him a glance. Trixie continued toward Olivia and Doug’s apartment door, forcing herself to put one foot in front of the other. “Don’t I even get a hello?”

“Hello, Dakota,” she said, with a roll of her eyes.

Coming to this little gathering for Emily was difficult enough and his arrival only ratcheted her anxiety up a notch. Damn it. Why wasn’t he out on patrol? Over the past few months, the cocky and admittedly gorgeous sentry, had become more and more present in her little corner of the universe.

Trixie fiddled with the box in her hands, the one she’d wrapped carefully with the pink and white skull and crossbones paper. She didn’t even bother to put a card with it. Everyone would know who’d brought it. She was the only coven member with bright pink hair and a penchant for skulls and crossbones, after all.

“That your present for little Emily?” He asked. “You wrapped it real nice.”

He got closer by the second.

“No,” Trixie snorted. “I just like carrying around a gift wrapped box for the hell of it. You know, for shits and giggles.”

She was being a snot but she couldn’t help herself.

Trixie kept her gaze pinned to the mammoth mahogany door at the end of the hallway and tried not to notice that he’d sidled up next to her, his stride matching hers.

Dakota Shelton, the newest sentry for the Presidium, the vampire government, was not an easy man to ignore.

His six foot two inch broad shouldered frame towered over her easily but there was something else about him that set her on edge. It was the way he carried himself. He moved effortlessly and casually, as if he was just the good-old boy from Texas he claimed to be.

But Trixie knew better.





About Sara

Excerpt: The Good, the Bad, and the Vampire by Sara Humphreys
Sara Humphreys is the award-winning author of the Amoveo Legend series. The third book in the series, UNTAMED, won two PRISM awards--Dark Paranormal and Best of the Best. The first two novels from her Dead in the City series have been nominated for the National Readers Choice Award. Sara was also a professional actress. Some of her television credits include, A&E Biography, Guiding Light, Another World, As the World Turns and Rescue Me.

She loves writing hot heroes and heroines with moxie but above all, Sara adores a satisfying happily-ever-after. She lives in New York with Mr. H., their four amazing sons, and two adorable pups. When she's not writing or hanging out with the men in her life, she can be found working out with Shaun T in her living room or chatting with readers on Facebook.

For a full list of Sara's books and reading order, please visit her website: www.sarahumphreys.com

Facebook  ~  Twitter @authorsara  ~  Pinterest





Previously in Dead in the City

Tall, Dark, and Vampire
Dead in the City 1
Sourcebooks Casablanca, August 6, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Excerpt: The Good, the Bad, and the Vampire by Sara Humphreys
Book 1 of Dead in the City

She always knew Fate was cruel...

The last person Olivia expected to turn up at her club was her one true love. It would normally be great to see him, except he's been dead for centuries. Olivia really thought she had moved on with her immortal life, but as soon as she sees Doug Paxton, she knows she'd rather die than lose him again. And that's a real problem...

But this is beyond the pale...

Doug is a no-nonsense cop by day, but his nights are tormented by dreams of a gorgeous redhead who's so much a part of him, she seems to be in his blood. When he meets Olivia face-to-face, long-buried memories begin to surface. She might be the answer to his prayers...or she might be the dead of him.


Vampire Trouble
Dead in the City 2
Sourcebooks Casablanca, July 1, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Excerpt: The Good, the Bad, and the Vampire by Sara Humphreys
A fledgling vampire ignites a war...

Maya remembers the last moments of her life as a human with haunting clarity, and every man she meets pays the price...until Shane. Finding herself in the middle of a bloody fight between vampires and werewolves, Maya has no choice but to let the devastatingly sexy vampire guard get close to her.

And that’s not all that heats up...

Shane Quesada, a four-century-old vampire sentry, is known for his cold, unemotional precision, but once Maya begins to invade his dreams, his world is changed forever. His job to protect her is swiftly replaced by the all-consuming need to claim her as his own.


Vampires Never Cry Wolf
Dead in the City 3
Sourcebooks Casablanca, March 3, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Excerpt: The Good, the Bad, and the Vampire by Sara Humphreys
Vampires are nothing but trouble...
As far as beautiful vampire Sadie Pemberton is concerned, werewolves shouldn't be sticking their noses into New York's supernatural politics. They don't know jack about running a city-not even that hot-as-sin new vampire-werewolf liaison who's just arrived in town.

Werewolves are too sexy for their own good...
The last thing Killian Bane wanted was to end up in New York City playing nice with vampires. Unfortunately, he's on a mission, and when he encounters the sexiest, most stubborn female vamp he's ever met, he's going to have to turn on a little of that wolfish charm...and Sadie's going to learn a thing or two about what it means to have a wild side...

Excerpt: The Short Drop by Matthew Fitzsimmons


Please welcome Matthew Fitzsimmons to The Qwillery with an excerpt from The Short Drop, the first novel in the Gibson Vaughn series.







         Gibson Vaughn sat alone at the bustling counter of the Nighthawk Diner. The breakfast rush was in full swing as customers milled about, waiting for a seat. Gibson barely registered the crescendo of knives and forks on the plates or the waitress who set his food down. His eyes were fixed on the television behind the counter. The news was playing the video again. It was ubiquitous, part of the American zeitgeist—dissected and analyzed over the years, referenced in film, television shows, and songs. Like most Americans he couldn’t look away no matter how often it aired. How could he? It was all he had left of Suzanne.
         The beginning of the video was grainy and washed out. The picture stuttered and frames dropped; distorted lines rolled up the screen like waves pounding an undiscovered shore. By-products of the store manager having recorded over the same video tape again and again and again.
         Shot down at an angle from behind the cash register, the footage showed the interior of the infamous service station in Breezewood, Pennsylvania. The power of the video was that it could have been anywhere. Your hometown. Your daughter. Viewed in its entirety, the silent security camera footage was a melancholic homage to America’s most prominent missing girl—Suzanne Lombard. The time stamp read 10:47 p.m.
         Beatrice Arnold, a college student working the nightshift was the last known person to speak to the missing girl. At 10:47 p.m., Beatrice was perched on a stool behind the counter, reading a tattered copy of The Second Sex. She would be the first to recall seeing Suzanne Lombard and the first to contact the FBI once the disappearance hit the news.
         At 10:48 p.m., a balding man with long, stringy blond hair entered the store. On the Internet he’d come to be known as Rif-Raf, but the FBI identified him as Davy Oskenberg, a long-haul trucker out of Jacksonville with a history of domestic violence. Oskenberg bought beef jerky and Gatorade. He paid cash and asked for his receipt but idled at the counter, flirting with Beatrice Arnold, in no apparent hurry to get back on the road.
         The first and best suspect in the case, Oskenberg had been questioned repeatedly by the FBI in the weeks and months after the disappearance. His rig was searched and searched again, but no trace of the missing girl was found. Grudgingly, the FBI cleared him, but not before Oskenberg lost his job and received dozens of death threats.
         After his departure the store fell still. An eternity ticked by…and then you saw her for the first time—the fourteen-year-old girl in an oversized hoodie and Phillies baseball cap, a Hello Kitty backpack slung over one shoulder. She’d been in the store the whole time, standing in the camera’s blind spot. To add a layer of intrigue, no one could say for certain how Suzanne came to be in the store in the first place. Beatrice Arnold didn’t remember seeing her enter, and the security tape offered no answers.
         The hoodie hung off her in great, draping folds. She was a pale, fragile stalk of a girl. The media liked to contrast the black-and-white footage with colorful family photographs—the smiling blonde girl in the blue bridesmaid’s dress, the smiling girl at the beach with her mother, the smiling girl reading a book and gazing out the window. They stood in bold relief to the grim-faced kid in the baseball cap, hands thrust deep in pockets, hunched low like an animal, watching warily from its burrow.
         Suzanne wandered up and down the aisles, but her head was cocked toward the front window. One hundred and seventy-nine seconds passed. Something out the window caught her eye, and her posture changed. A vehicle perhaps. She snatched three items off the shelves: Ring Dings, a Dr. Pepper, and a box of red vines licorice. A combination now known eerily as the Lost Girl’s Picnic. Suzanne also paid in cash, dumping crumpled dollar bills, quarters, and pennies on the counter before shoving her purchases into her backpack.
         The security camera caught her eye, and for a long moment Suzanne gazed up at it—an expression frozen in time and, like Mona Lisa’s smile, interpreted a thousand different ways.
         Gibson stared back, as he always did, locking eyes with Suzanne, waiting for her to smile shyly at him the way she had when she wanted to tell him a secret. Waiting for her to tell him what had happened. Why she’d run away. In all the intervening years, he’d never stopped hoping for an answer. But the little girl on the security video wasn’t talking.
         To him or anyone else.
         In a final gesture, Suzanne drew her baseball cap low over her eyes and looked away for good. At 10:56 p.m., she stepped out the door and into the night. Beatrice Arnold would tell the FBI that the girl seemed anxious and that her eyes were red as if she’d been crying. Neither Beatrice nor the couple pumping gas noticed whether she got into a vehicle. One more frustrating dead end in a case of dead ends.
         The FBI failed to turn up a single substantial lead. No one ever came forward to claim the ten-million-dollar reward offered by the family and their supporters. Despite the frenzied media coverage, despite her famous father, Suzanne Lombard walked out of the gas station and vanished. Her disappearance remained an enduring American mystery alongside Jimmy Hoffa, D.B. Cooper, and Virginia Dare.
         The news went to commercials, and Gibson exhaled, unaware that he’d been holding his breath. The tape always left him spent. How much longer were they going to keep showing it? There hadn’t been a development in Suzanne’s case for years. Today’s big breaking story was that Rif-Raf had cut his hair short and earned a college degree while in prison for a felony drug bust. The Internet, in its infinite snark, rechristened him Professor Rif-Raf 2.0. Other than that it was all a maudlin rehash of what everyone already knew, which was nothing.
         But the tenth anniversary of her disappearance loomed, which meant the networks would keep running their retrospectives. Keep exploiting Suzanne’s memory. Keep trotting out anyone with even a passing relationship to the family or to the case. Staging their tasteless reenactments at the service station in Breezewood and using computer models to project what she might look like today.
         Gibson found the mock-ups especially hard to look at. Suzanne would be twenty-four now, a college graduate. The images tempted him into imagining what her life might have been. Where she might live. Her career path—something to do with books, no doubt. He smiled at that, but caught himself. It wasn’t healthy. Wasn’t it time to give her some peace? Give them all some peace?
         “Heck of a thing,” the man beside him said, staring up at the television.
         “Sure is,” Gibson agreed.
         “I remember where I was when I heard she was missing—hotel room in Indianapolis on a business trip. Like it was yesterday. I have three daughters.” The man rapped his knuckles on the wooden counter for luck. “I sat on the edge of the bed for a couple hours watching. Just terrible. Can you imagine not knowing for ten years whether your little girl is alive or dead? Hell of a thing for the family to endure. Lombard’s a good man.”
         The last thing Gibson wanted was to get drawn into a conversation about Benjamin Lombard. He nodded to be agreeable, hoping to put a tourniquet on the subject, but the man would not be deterred that easily.
         “I mean, if some sick bastard, excuse my French, can grab the daughter of the vice president—and get away with it—what hope do the rest of us have?”
         “Well, he wasn’t vice president then.”
         “Yeah, sure, but he was still a senator. That’s no joke either. You don’t think Lombard had juice with the feds back then?”
         In fact, Gibson knew firsthand just how much influence Lombard wielded and precisely how much the man enjoyed wielding it. Vice President Benjamin Lombard was another subject he tried not to think about.
         “I think he’ll make a good president,” the man continued. “To come back from something like this? Get the VP nod when most people would curl up in a ball. And now a run for president? That takes a strength you can’t imagine.”
         As a two-term incumbent VP of a popular president, Lombard had been expected to nail down the nomination early—the convention in August a mere formality, a coronation more than anything else. But Anne Fleming, the governor of California, had come out of nowhere and seemed intent on playing spoiler. The two were currently polling virtually neck and neck. Lombard led in the delegate count and was still the favorite, but Fleming was making him work for it.
         That the tenth anniversary of Suzanne’s disappearance fell during an election year had, in a perverse way, been a boost to Benjamin Lombard’s campaign. That was nothing new, though: championing Suzanne’s Law through the Senate had propelled him onto the national stage in the first place. Of course, Lombard gracefully refused to discuss his daughter. The cynic would argue that there was no need, since the media couldn’t help but do it for him. And, of course, there was his wife. Grace Lombard’s tireless efforts on behalf of the Center for Missing and Exploited Children had been a staple of cable news outlets throughout the primaries. She was, if possible, even more popular than her powerful husband.
         “If he gets the nomination, he’s got my vote in November,” the man said. “Doesn’t even matter who the other side runs. I’m voting for him.”
         “I’m sure he’ll appreciate that,” Gibson said and reached for the ketchup. He poured a generous dollop onto one end of his plate, mixed it with a little mayo, and scrambled it into his hash browns the way his father had taught him when he was a boy. In the immortal words of Duke Vaughn, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, take a big bite and chew slow.”
         Words to live by.





The Short Drop
Gibson Vaughn 1
Thomas & Mercer, December 1, 2015
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 395 pages

A decade ago, fourteen-year-old Suzanne Lombard, the daughter of Benjamin Lombard—then a senator, now a powerful vice president running for the presidency—disappeared in the most sensational missing-person case in the nation’s history. Still unsolved, the mystery remains a national obsession.

For legendary hacker and marine Gibson Vaughn, the case is personal—Suzanne Lombard had been like a sister to him. On the tenth anniversary of her disappearance, the former head of Benjamin Lombard’s security asks for Gibson’s help in a covert investigation of the case, with new evidence in hand.

Haunted by tragic memories, he jumps at the chance to uncover what happened all those years ago. Using his military and technical prowess, he soon discovers multiple conspiracies surrounding the Lombard family—and he encounters powerful, ruthless political players who will do anything to silence him and his team. With new information surfacing that could threaten Lombard’s bid for the presidency, Gibson must stay one step ahead as he navigates a dangerous web to get to the truth.





About Matthew

Serena Kefayeh, Creative-Ideation.com
Matthew FitzSimmons was born in Illinois and grew up in London, England. He now lives in Washington, DC, where he taught English literature and theater at a private high school for over a decade. The Short Drop is his first novel.










Website  ~  Facebook

Twitter @MatthewFitz_1



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