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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Excerpt: Die and Stay Dead by Nicholas Kaufmann

Please welcome Nicholas Kaufmann to The Qwillery with an excerpt from Die and Stay Dead, the sequel to the fabulous Dying is My Business.

Excerpt: Die and Stay Dead by Nicholas Kaufmann

Excerpt of Die and Stay Dead by Nicholas Kaufmann © 2014

         There was nothing in the world like New York City at night. After the last of the sunlight faded and the sky turned black, there were parts of the city that remained as bright as day, shielded from the dark by neon signs and sodium streetlights, by the twinkling galaxies of headlights snaking across the bridge spans and the illuminated pinnacles of skyscrapers like burning spears. All four hundred and sixty-nine square miles of the city raged with so much light that at times the night was no more than perpetual dusk. Yet no matter how brightly the city burned, there were secret places where darkness took root and flourished. Hidden, dark spots where New Yorkers never strayed, steered away by the whispers of some ancient and forgotten instinct. It was on one of those beautiful nights, in one of those secret places, that I was getting the crap beaten out of me by an infected magician named Biddy.
         Joggers had been disappearing from Central Park at night, all of them women, and all of them vanishing from the same area: the dark, wooded, winding paths known as the Ramble. No clues had been left behind and no bodies had been found. The police and the newspapers thought there was a serial killer at work--"Invasion of the Hottie Snatcher!" shouted one New York Post headline--but we suspected something different was happening, something the police weren't equipped to handle. So that night, after the police patrol left the area, we sent Bethany out into the Ramble alone as bait. Isaac, Philip, and I hid at various points nearby, waiting. I watched Bethany through lightweight, high-definition binoculars whose special lenses boosted light transmission for nighttime use. They made her glow and look fuzzy around the edges, like a ghost haunting the park. It wasn't long before Biddy made his move, snatching Bethany up and dragging her into the woods. Isaac and Philip burst from their hiding spots and ran after him. I tucked the binoculars into my trench coat pocket and started running, but like an idiot I tripped one of Biddy's booby-traps. A rope snare caught me by the ankle and hoisted me upside-down into a tree. By the time I got myself loose and followed the trail of scuffed footprints and trampled plants to a camouflaged trapdoor at the base of the bronze Alice in Wonderland statue, I found myself locked out of Biddy's underground lair with the others already inside. It took me another ten minutes to break my way in. Frankly, the rescue part of our plan could have gone better.
         Reeling from Biddy's punches, I stumbled backward, careful to stay away from the edge of the natural stone bridge we stood on. Below us, a wide pit extended farther down than I could see, a bottomless hole in the earth. The sides of the bridge had been lined with rows of black candles that burned with an eerie red flame. Everything about it screamed ritual to me. But what ritual? What the hell was Biddy doing down here?
         I risked a quick glance at Bethany. She was dangling from a long, retractable metal contraption that held her over the yawning black pit, her wrists chained together over her head. Wet, slimy sounds echoed up from below, as if something were moving down there. Suddenly I had a pretty good idea what happened to the missing women. Bethany struggled to free herself, twisting her diminutive, five-foot frame and pinwheeling her legs under her as she strained for any kind of leverage. But there was nothing beneath her, just a straight fall of untold hundreds of feet, all the way down to whatever was making those slithery noises.
         "Trent!" she shouted. "Stop messing around and get me down from here!"
         "What do you think I'm trying to do?" I shouted back. I hated when she got like this. Only Bethany Savory could micromanage her own rescue.
         She nodded at the control panel of levers and knobs at the base of the retractable contraption. "Just get over there and press the damn button that gets me down from here!"
         I turned back to Biddy and wiped blood from my lip. "Do yourself a favor. Let her go and I'll go easy on you."
         Biddy laughed crazily. Crazy enough to remind me that he wasn't just bad, he was infected, which meant he was insane enough to see this through. He fully intended to feed Bethany to whatever was down there, just as he'd fed a dozen other women to it over the past few weeks. He would never let her go.
         The infection had given Biddy's skin a rough, stonelike quality and a tumorous, misshapen head. At least he still looked somewhat human. I'd seen the infection do worse to people. Unfortunately, his fist felt as stony as it looked. As he landed another blow, it was like being punched by a boulder.
He smirked. He had good reason to. He was stronger than me, and I was weaponless. The grip of my          chrome-plated Bersa semiautomatic pistol poked out of the waist of Biddy's pants. Though something told me that even if I had the gun, bullets wouldn't pierce that rocklike skin of his. It wouldn't be the first time I'd gone up against someone bullets couldn't harm, but I always felt better about the odds when I had the gun in my hand. No wonder Bethany had called it my totem.
         "There must be some mistake," Biddy sneered, his voice as deep and hollow as the pit below us. "I thought you were the great and mighty Immortal Storm. I expected a challenge, at least." When he spoke, his lopsided mouth moved like a mudfish's.
         "You're one to talk about funny names, Biddy," I said, spitting more blood onto the ground.
         The Immortal Storm. I hated that name. It had been bestowed on me by the gargoyles as an honorary title after I freed them from their long history of slavery. I'd hoped to keep it private, but word had spread faster than I expected. Who knew gargoyles were such gossips? But it wasn't just modesty that made me uncomfortable with the title. The Immortal Storm was also a prophecy--a bad one, real end of the world stuff--and I didn't like being associated with that.
         "My god and master, Mab-Akarr, will have His feast tonight, as He does every night," Biddy went on. "You cannot stop this, Immortal Storm. He craves flesh, and as His faithful servant, I willingly supply it."
         "Tell me something, Biddy. Does Mab-Akarr insist on only eating women, or was that your idea?" He glared at me. "I thought so. What happened, you get rejected in high school too many times?"
         Biddy sneered and feinted throwing another punch. I flinched. He laughed.
         "Fool. Who are you to question the rites of Mab-Akarr? He does not protect you. He protects me." He thumped one stony hand on his chest for emphasis.
         I looked up at him. "Protects you? You live under Central Park and kidnap women to throw in a pit. You're the one people need protection from."
         He shook his head like he pitied my ignorance. "You do not feel it, do you? It is everywhere around you. It is in the air itself. Something dark and terrible is coming. Something no one can escape. No one but me. Mab-Akarr will protect me from it, as long as I keep Him fed."
         Biddy strode toward the control panel, turning his back to me. I leapt to tackle him, but he was surprisingly fast. He spun and brought up one arm. His palm burst with a seething light, and a blast of something cold and painful caught me by surprise. I couldn't move. Every part of my body raged with agony. I gritted my teeth and bit back a scream.
         Stupid of me. I should have expected a spell. Biddy was infected--of course he was carrying magic inside him.
         He giggled insanely and inched closer. "Kneel."
         "Go fuck yourself," I growled through the pain. You can take the ex-thief out of Brooklyn, but you can't take the Brooklyn out of the ex-thief.
         "Kneel," Biddy repeated, louder.
         The agony of the spell intensified. Magic. Sometimes I hated it. Okay, most of the time. I cried out and fell to my knees. I didn't mean to. I didn't want to give the bastard the satisfaction, but I didn't have a choice. The pain was too much.
         "Trent!" Bethany yelled. Metal jangled loudly as she swung back and forth on the chain, struggling to get her legs high enough to wrap them around the retractable arm. But she was too small. Her legs wouldn't reach.
         Biddy's spell dissipated. The pain subsided, albeit maddeningly slowly. Biddy picked up his sword from where he'd dropped it on the stone bridge. He loomed over me, putting the tip of the blade to my neck. It felt cold and sharp against my throat.
         "The Immortal Storm," he scoffed. "They should have called you the Sniveling Worm instead."
         I moved my fingers desperately along the ground, grasping for anything I could use as a weapon. All I got was a handful of loose dirt and pebbles. It would have to do. I tossed it in Biddy's face. He snarled and backed away, protecting his eyes with his free hand. I jumped to my feet, but Biddy recovered faster than I thought he would. He drove the sword deep into my stomach.
         His lopsided mudfish mouth curled in a sneer. "Now die."
         Hot blood spilled out of me, coursing down my shirt, my pants. I was dying, and I knew what that meant. With my last ounce of strength I grabbed Biddy's lapels, pulled him close, and didn't let go. A cold emptiness blossomed inside me, and I felt the dizzying sensation of falling even though I was still on my feet. The edges of my vision turned gray, then black, and everything went dark very quickly.
         The last thing I heard before I died was Bethany's voice saying, "You shouldn't have done that, Biddy."

Die and Stay Dead
St. Martin's Griffin. September 30, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Excerpt: Die and Stay Dead by Nicholas Kaufmann
In Die and Stay Dead, Nicholas Kaufmann's gripping sequel to Dying is My Business, A brutal murder in Greenwich village puts Trent and the Five-Pointed Star on the trail of Erickson Arkwright, the last surviving member of a doomsday cult. Back in the day, the Aeternis Tenebris cult thought the world would end on New Year's Eve of 2000. When it didn't, they decided to end it themselves by summoning Nahash-Dred, a powerful, terrifying demon known as the Destroyer of Worlds. But something went wrong. The demon massacred the cult, leaving Arkwright the sole survivor.

Now, hiding somewhere in New York City with a new identity, Arkwright plans to summon the demon again and finish the job he started over a decade ago. As Trent rushes to locate a long-lost magical artifact that may be the only way to stop him, the clues begin to mount... Trent's past and Arkwright's might be linked somehow. And if they are, it means the truth of who Trent really is may lie buried in the twisted mind of a madman.

Dying is My Business
St. Martin's Griffin, October 8, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Excerpt: Die and Stay Dead by Nicholas Kaufmann
Given his line of work in the employ of a psychotic Brooklyn crime boss, Trent finds himself on the wrong end of too many bullets. Yet each time he’s killed, he wakes a few minutes later completely healed of his wounds but with no memory of his past identity. What’s worse, each time he cheats death someone else dies in his place.

Sent to steal an antique box from some squatters in an abandoned warehouse near the West Side Highway, Trent soon finds himself stumbling into an age-old struggle between the forces of good and evil, revealing a secret world where dangerous magic turns people into inhuman monstrosities, where impossible creatures hide in plain sight, and where the line between the living and the dead is never quite clear. And when the mysterious box is opened, he discovers he has only twenty-four hours to save New York City from certain destruction, in Dying Is My Business by Nicholas Kaufmann.

About Nicholas

Excerpt: Die and Stay Dead by Nicholas Kaufmann
Nicholas Kaufmann has had his work nominated for the Bram Stoker Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, and the International Thriller Writers Award. He is the critically acclaimed author of Walk in Shadows, General Slocum’s Gold, Chasing the Dragon, Still Life: Nine Stories, Dying Is My Business, and the latest, Die and Stay Dead. His short fiction has appeared in Cemetery Dance, The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 3, City Slab, The Best American Erotica 2007, Zombies vs. Robots: This Means War!, Dark Fusions: Where Monsters Lurk, and others. He used to write the "Dead Air" column for The Internet Review of Science Fiction. He lives in Brooklyn, NY, but you can visit him at

Website  ~  Twitter @TheKaufmann

Excerpt from Clockwork Secrets: Heavy Fire by Dru Pagliassotti - September 27, 2014

Please welcome Dru Pagliassotti to The Qwillery with an excerpt from Clockwork Secrets: Heavy Fire, the final novel in the Clockwork Heart Trilogy.

Excerpt from Clockwork Secrets: Heavy Fire by Dru Pagliassotti - September 27, 2014

Excerpt from Clockwork Secrets: Heavy Fire

         The Firebrand’s starboard cannon boomed and the entire ship gave a slight roll, swiftly compensated for by the alert helms.
         We’re too light, Taya thought. The heavy weapons’ recoil was affecting the ship’s aerodynamics.
         The dirigible to port fired again. This time bullets stitched metal and wood. Taya flinched. Why wasn’t Amcathra taking them out of there?
         The Firebrand’s port cannon gave a thunderous roar. She risked another glance through the rails.
         At least some of their shot had struck the Alzanan ship— the Firebrand’s spotlight revealed damage to the enemy’s gondola and envelope. The Alzanans returned fire. A lictor screamed, thrown overboard by the bullets’ impact. Taya instinctively started to stand, then clenched her fists and crouched back down. There was nothing she could do to help him.
         I want my wings, she thought fiercely, listening to the ships exchange fire. She was useless without her wings.
         More bullets hammered into the ornithopter, this time from starboard. The Firebrand’s cannon answered. Taya looked over her unprotected shoulder and saw the second dirigible looming beside them, its gondola splintering under the impact of the Firebrand’s larger missiles. Gun barrels swung back and forth from the gondola’s windows, and an Alzanan soldier fired down on them from the gunnery platform on top of the dirigible’s envelope.
         This is ridiculous, she thought. If I get killed, Cris will never forgive me.
         But gunfire separated her from the nearest hatch and nobody else was fleeing the barrage. The secondary helmswoman was being protected by one of the diplomatic-staff lictors, Bright, who stood beside her firing his rifle back at the Alzanans. Taya didn’t think he could hit anything at that range, but she admired his fearlessness.
         Faint cheers arose, barely audible over the din of battle. Taya craned her neck and saw the ship to port fall away. The Firebrand’s spotlight played over its smoking engines. Its crew was, no doubt, scrambling to put out the fire before any stray sparks ignited the inflammable gas within its envelope.
         The second vessel continued hammering them. Its small gondola must have been rattling with thrown brass casings, but the nonstop onslaught was having an effect. Lictors fell, bleeding, their replacements standing over their fallen bodies. Taya felt the Firebrand shudder as though something had gone awry with its wings. It banked and she grabbed the rail, her heart in her throat, as they began a descending spiral. Lictors plunged down the hatches, shouting. Taya breathed a prayer to the Lady, wishing she had stayed below. If they were about to die, she wanted to be with her husband when it happened.

Clockwork Secrets: Heavy Fire
Clockwork Heart Trilogy 3
EDGE, September 15, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
Cover Illustration by Timothy Lantz

Excerpt from Clockwork Secrets: Heavy Fire by Dru Pagliassotti - September 27, 2014
The final book in the Clockwork Heart trilogy. Framed for regicide and trapped on a ship crippled by enemy fire, Taya and Ondinium’s diplomatic contingent seem helpless to prevent the well-engineered war their enemies have put into motion. While Alzanan and Demican armies march across Ondinium’s borders, Taya and her husband fight airborne battles from the tropical islands of the Cabisi Thassalocracy to the war-ravaged mountains of Alzana. When Taya falls into her enemy’s hands, she fears that nobody will be able to save Ondinium from the devastating weapon about to be plunged into its mechanically ticking heart.

Clockwork Lies: Iron Wind
Clockwork Heart Trilogy 2
EDGE, March 15, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
Cover Illustration by Timothy Lantz

Excerpt from Clockwork Secrets: Heavy Fire by Dru Pagliassotti - September 27, 2014
Ondinium stands on the brink of war...

Love and duty collide when Taya is appointed attaché to Ondinium's first exalted ambassador and is soon plunged into a sinister world of secrets and lies. After the diplomatic contingent’s hasty withdrawal from Mareaux to avoid an international incident, Taya's faith is shaken by a disastrous crash and a tragic murder, which reveals just how much she has to lose. Now, if she's going to fulfill her duty to her nation, she must risk everything she cares about. As the winds of war whip around Ondinium’s borders, Taya’s metal wings must bear her through storms, gunfire, and explosions as she fights to save them not only from their enemies, but also from their own government — a government that regards them as nothing more than clockwork cogs in a ruthless political machine.

Clockwork Heart
Clockwork Heart Trilogy 1
EDGE, September 15, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
Cover Illustration by Timothy Lantz

Excerpt from Clockwork Secrets: Heavy Fire by Dru Pagliassotti - September 27, 2014
Flight is freedom, but death hangs in the skies..

Taya soars over Ondinium on metal wings. She is an icarus, a courier privileged to travel freely across the city’s sectors and mingle indiscriminately amongst its castes. But even she cannot outfly the web of terrorism, loyalty, murder, and intrigue that snares her after a daring mid-air rescue. Taya finds herself entangled with the Forlore brothers, scions of an upperclass family: handsome, brilliant Alister, who sits on Ondinium’s governing council and writes programs for the Great Engine; and awkward, sharptongued Cristof, who has exiled himself from his caste and repairs clocks in the lowest sector of the city. Both hide dangerous secrets, in the city that beats to the ticking of a clockwork heart.

About Dru

Excerpt from Clockwork Secrets: Heavy Fire by Dru Pagliassotti - September 27, 2014
As a child I discovered that I was happier alone than with others. Words were my best friends, and the secluded laboratory-fortress in which I exercised my crazed imagination was constructed of typewriter keys, paper, and ink. Within its protective walls I created and destroyed individuals, civilizations, and entire worlds for my personal pleasure — a practice I’ve learned to share with others as a tabletop game master and a published writer. But on the whole, I’m afraid that I’m still more comfortable alone with the written word … and maybe a reptile or two.

I can be found on all those online places you'd expect (Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads) and can be emailed at my name at gmail dot com.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @DruPagliassotti  ~  Goodreads

Excerpt from Forged by Desire by Bec McMaster - September 4, 2014

Please welcome Bec McMaster to The Qwillery with an excerpt from Forged by Desire, the 4th novel in the London Steampunk series.

Excerpt from Forged by Desire by Bec McMaster - September 4, 2014

It all starts with a dare.

Garrett Reed, Master of the Nighthawks Guild of thief-catchers, has always equated his partner, Perry, with breeches. For a man who knows women through-and-through, he rarely thinks of her as feminine. And when a case requires Perry to go undercover in a gorgeous red dress, Garrett cannot even imagine his friend pulling it off. Perry? In a dress? The idea is utterly ludicrous.

For Perry, who's been half in love with him for years, Garrett's laughter is like a red flag to a bull. She'll show him - and then the joke will be on him. The problem is, she never expected it to change matters between them forever...

Here's a little excerpt from Forged By Desire, following that life-changing mission:

       Garrett closed the black lacquered door to the steam carriage as he stepped down. Perry had swept her driving goggles up on top of her head, the glossy black strands of her hair tumbling in disarray. Cursing under her breath, she pulled the lever that shut off the oxygen valve to the boilers and waited for the steam carriage to hiss itself into a whispered death. Little half-moons of soot stained her cheeks, a sight that almost brought a smile to his face.
       She didn’t look at him. She hadn’t in over a month, not directly. As though looking at him meant she too would have to confront what had happened at the opera. The turning point in both their lives.
       A sudden reckless frustration swept through him. “Here,” he said, stepping forward and offering her his arm to help her down.
       “You’ve never helped me down before,” Perry said with a sudden scowl. “I know you’re struggling to reconcile the fact that I’m actually female, but that doesn’t suddenly make me useless. Just because I wore a dress, it doesn’t change anything.”
       Swinging her legs off the driver’s seat, she slid down into the spare few inches between his body and the carriage. For a moment Garrett was tempted to step back, give her space.
       Instead he stilled.
       Perry realized only too late, freezing in place as she brushed her gloves off against her tight leather breeches. Slowly she lifted her head, gaslight catching the gleaming gray of her eyes. There was an inch between them at most. A single tantalizing inch that he was too aware of.
       “It’s difficult to stop picturing you in that dress,” he replied, forcing his voice to stay soft. He could almost feel the heat of the hunger swimming through his eyes, threatening to drop him over the edge. “Considering how much of you it flaunted.”
       “You can’t help yourself, can you? I never should have worn the dratted thing.”
       Reaching up, his gloved fingers swept at the sooty rings her goggles had left on her cheeks. The motion soothed some part of him. Maybe this was what he needed. Something to ground him. “I said that you could never pass as a female and you wanted to throw my words back in my face. You succeeded. Admirably.”
       Twirling at the bottom of the stairs, the red skirts sweeping around her and the thick, luscious curls of her wig trailing over her shoulder as she shot him such a direct look he could hardly breathe all of a sudden… “Well?” she’d challenged.
       That moment. The moment it all changed. Like some enormous hand reached out and closed its fingers around his heart and lungs, squeezing, forcing the breath out of him.
       Garrett didn’t know how to react now. Perry had recovered flawlessly, resuming her aloof, taciturn persona as though nothing remotely unusual had occurred that night. Gone was the practiced flirtation, the smiles that lit her from within… But he couldn’t forget them. How did you forget something like that? Pretend it had never happened? Pretend that his eye wasn’t drawn to her now, in a way that was distinctly masculine and not at all friend-like?
       The problem was that he now knew a sensual woman existed beneath her logical, focused exterior. If she were any other woman, he would have pursued her relentlessly until he had what he wanted. But this was Perry. Someone he admired, respected, someone he’d give his life for. To cross that line meant their entire friendship - which was evolving, admittedly - would change. And then? He didn’t have a bloody clue what that would mean. But he knew it meant more than sex, more than friendship. Perry deserved nothing less - he just wasn’t certain he could give her what she wanted.
       “You enjoyed making me act like a fool,” Garrett murmured. “Don’t even try to deny it. And now you have to deal with the consequences.”
       Her eyes suddenly gleamed. “You’re right. I did enjoy making a fool of you. The problem is, that I only ever intended for you to act a fool for one night. Not this whole bleeding month.”
       Sliding past him, leaving behind the ghostly fragrance she washed her clothes in, Perry strode toward the factory.

Forged by Desire
London Steampunk 4
Sourcebooks Casablanca, September 2, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

Excerpt from Forged by Desire by Bec McMaster - September 4, 2014
Ten years ago, Perry fled her thrall contract to find sanctuary among the Nighthawks. In that time, she’s become a respected woman of the Guard, and she’s wanted Garrett Reed for as long as she can remember. But when a new case takes a chillingly familiar turn, Perry finds herself once again in the path of a madman…only this time, there’s nowhere left to run.

Out of their depth and racing against time, Perry and Garrett must learn to trust the desire sparking between them…or risk losing themselves forever to the darkness stalking London’s streets.

And there is a prequel novella to Forged by Desire. It's free until the end of September!

The Curious Case of the Clockwork Menace
London Steampunk 3.5
Bec McMaster, August 14, 2014

Excerpt from Forged by Desire by Bec McMaster - September 4, 2014
Friends, partners, and professionals. So just why is this case coming between them?

In a Victorian London ruled by the blood-drinking elite, Perry Lowell is a logical and accomplished Nighthawk: a rogue blue blood who tracks murderers and thieves for the Guild. So when she and her charming-but-reckless partner, Garrett, are charged with finding a missing theatre starlet, it should be a simple solve.

But with an entire theatre of suspects, including a flirtatious understudy and whispers of a Clockwork Menace haunting the place, tension is brewing between the pair of them. Can they come together to solve the case - or will it be too late, when the murderer turns his gaze on Perry herself?

Warning: This is not a complete HEA. It's a pre-romance novella featuring the couple who will find their HEA in Forged By Desire (available Sept 2014). Heads will butt, tempers will flare - and perhaps one of them might come to realise just what the other truly means to them?

Previously in the Darkest London series

My Lady Quicksilver
London Steampunk 3
Sourcebooks Casablanca, October 1, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

Excerpt from Forged by Desire by Bec McMaster - September 4, 2014
In the mist-shrouded streets of a steam-fueled London, a clockwork army is on the rise, vampire blue bloods rule the streets, and war is brewing...

I Will Come For You...

He will find her no matter what. As a blue-blooded captain of the Nighthawk Guard, his senses are keener than most. Some think he's indestructible. But once he finds the elusive Mercury, what will he do with her?

It's his duty to turn her in—she's a notorious spy and traitor. But after one stolen moment, he can't forget the feel of her in his arms, the taste of her, or the sharp sting of betrayal as she slipped off into the night. Little does Mercury know, no one hunts better than the Nighthawk. And his greatest revenge will be to leave her begging for his touch...

Heart of Iron
London Steampunk 2
Sourcebooks Casablanca, May 7, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

Excerpt from Forged by Desire by Bec McMaster - September 4, 2014
In the mist-shrouded streets of London’s dreaded Whitechapel district, werewolves, vampires and a clockwork army are one step away from battle…

No One to Trust

Dangerous. Unpredictable. That's how people know the hulking Will Carver. And those who don't like pretty words just call him The Beat. No matter how hard Will works to suppress his werewulfen side, certain things drive him beyond all control. And saucy Miss Lena Todd tops the list.

Lena makes the perfect spy against the ruling Echelon blue bloods. No one suspects that under the appearance of flirtatious debutante lies a heart of iron. Not even the ruthless Will Carver, the one man she can't wrap around her finger and the one man whose kiss she can never forget. He's supposed to be protecting her, but he might just be her biggest threat yet...

Tarnished Knight
London Steampunk 1.5
Bec McMasster, April 1, 2013
eNovella, 162 pages

Excerpt from Forged by Desire by Bec McMaster - September 4, 2014
In the steam-fuelled world of Victorian London, vampires, werewolves and slasher gangs stalk the night and a man made partly of metal is about to discover just how far he’ll go to protect the woman he loves…

After a vicious vampire attack left him struggling to leash the dark urges of the craving virus, John ‘Rip’ Doolan, thinks he’s finally starting to master the darkness within. The only thing that threatens to shatter his hard-won control is Esme, his closest friend and the only woman he’s ever wanted. If the stubborn beauty ever realised precisely what was going through his mind, their friendship would be ruined…

For six months Esme has waited for Rip to recover and take her as his thrall, not daring to hope for more. Too afraid to put her heart on the line, she’s devastated when Rip reveals that he never had any intentions of making her his.

But when a savage gang of Slashers start causing havoc in Whitechapel, Rip and Esme have no choice. They must face up to the depth of the passion that burns between them and forge a new relationship… or risk losing each other forever.

Kiss of Steel
London Steampunk 1
Sourcebooks Casablanca, September 4, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

Excerpt from Forged by Desire by Bec McMaster - September 4, 2014
He craves her like no other…

Honoria Todd has no choice. Only in the dreaded Whitechapel district can she escape the long reach of the Duke of Vickers. But seeking refuge there will put her straight into the hands of Blade, legendary master of the rookeries. No one would dare cross him, but what price would he demand to keep her safe?

Ever since Vickers infected him with the craving, Blade has been quicker, stronger, almost immortal—and terrified of losing control of the monster within. Honoria could be his perfect revenge against the duke…or the salvation he never dared to dream of.

About Bec

Excerpt from Forged by Desire by Bec McMaster - September 4, 2014
Award-winning author Bec McMaster lives in a small town in Australia and grew up with her nose in a book. A member of RWA, she writes sexy, dark paranormals and steampunk romance. When not writing, reading, or poring over travel brochures, she loves spending time with her very own hero or daydreaming about new worlds. Read more about her at or follow her on Twitter, @BecMcMaster.

Excerpt from A Curse Awakened by Cecy Robson - August 29, 2014

Please enjoy this excerpt from Cecy Robson's A Curse Awakened, a Weird Girls novella that was published by Loveswept on August 19th.

Excerpt from A Curse Awakened by Cecy Robson - August 29, 2014

(from Chapter One)

       Danny shook his head. “No. He mistook them for Mafia, but I think at best they’re vamps with Mafia ties. There’s this female among them that seems fixated on my father. I think she’s been drinking from him. It’s odd. She’s odd. The whole thing is . . . odd.
       Shayna grimaced. “You mean aside from her drinking blood?”
       Danny tried to stand. “Yeah. I don’t know if vampires can be mentally ill. From what I’ve researched so far, they’re immune to diseases. But nothing I’ve read mentions anything about being immune to insanity.”
       I steadied him with my hand. “Why have you been reading up on vamps? I mean, I know since you’ve learned about us, you’ve been curious, but . . . I’m not a vampire.”
       He sighed, watching me with his dark sad eyes. “Believe it or not, I thought I could help you. You and your sisters have something special.”
       “Ah, no, we don’t.” Taran glared his way. “At best we’re atom bombs ready to detonate.” As if to make a point, a puff of blue and white smoke from her fire popped and sizzled above her head.
       Danny returned the glasses to his face. “I don’t agree. There’re not a lot of books available here in the U.S. about the supernatural―the real kind, I mean―weres, witches, vamps, those types of beings. But I’ve purchased a few ancient volumes from old libraries in Europe, where most legends stem from actual truths. I haven’t been able to find much about what you are or what you could be. In fact, I’m positive you’re different from any race of humans or preternaturals on earth.”
       “Yay for us,” Taran muttered.
       Danny offered a sympathetic smile. “One thing I have learned a great deal about are curses and magic in general.” His gaze skipped to each one of us. “I think you’re all in a bind.”
       “No shit,” Taran snapped. “I’m surprised we haven’t killed each other.”
       Danny held out a hand. “No, that’s not what I mean. I think you’ve been bound―in the magical sense. Sort of like a noose or tie that holds your powers back, and therefore your control.” He focused on me. “Celia, I think you can manage your powers best because your tigress gives you added strength. Picture a pit bull on a leash. You’re going to pull harder against it than another, smaller breed, making it harder to hold you back.”
       Shayna inched forward. “Um, Danny, maybe you should watch the dog references. I understand what you’re trying to say, but Taran’s a little touchier.” She motioned to Taran with a jerk of her head. “Know what I mean, little guy?”
       Taran narrowed her eyes, proving Shayna’s point.
       Danny’s mouth popped open. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to insult you, ladies.”
       I barely heard his apologies, my ears homing in on the rumble of motors. Two cars entered the dead-end street leading to the field and to us. The roar of their engines didn’t sound familiar or appropriate for the area. We were in blue-collar territory and these vehicles were definitely not your standard beaters. And instead of slowing down when they entered the narrow street, they sped faster, like cheetahs who’d found a herd of wounded gazelles.
       My tigress growled a warning. Taran’s blue eyes blanched to white, her magic sensing another’s approach.
       Danny jerked around upon seeing the first car barrel up the small incline. “It’s the vampires. Run!

A Cursed Awakened
A Weird Girl Novella
Loveswept, August 19, 2014
eNovella, 84 pages

Excerpt from A Curse Awakened by Cecy Robson - August 29, 2014
Discover Cecy Robson’s sensational Weird Girls series—or return to where the magic first began—with this eBook original prequel novella about four sisters coming to grips with their unique supernatural powers.

Celia Wird shouldn’t possess the ability to transform into a tigress. Her three sisters should never be able to burst into flames, heal wounds, or transform common objects into deadly weapons. And yet they do.

Before they were born, the Wird Sisters were cursed by a spell that was intended to destroy them, not endow them with extraordinary powers. The sisters’ magic is untamed and explosive at best, and time is running out for them to take command.

Vampires have targeted Celia’s sweet, tragically human ex-boyfriend Danny. The sisters rush to his aid, but in order to take down the vamps, first they must face their dark past and break a spell that’s screwing up their powers. Except this curse wasn’t meant to be broken . . . and the witch who cast it isn’t done toying with them yet.

Qwill's Thoughts

Strap yourself in and get ready for a wild ride as you meet the Wird sisters in this prequel novella to the the Weird Girls series. Cecy Robson walks on the dark side with this after the fact series opener. I'm not going to say much about about the story itself (you can read the description above). This is an extremely fun, somewhat gory, introduction to the sisters, their powers, their background, and Danny!

The novella moves at an extremely fast pace, with crisp and descriptive writing. I really enjoyed this prequel. Robson packs a lot into this novella so if you've never met the Wird sisters A Curse Awakened is a great place to start. However, no matter where you are in the series, this is a must read.

Cursed by Destiny
Weird Girls 3 
Signet, January 7, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Excerpt from A Curse Awakened by Cecy Robson - August 29, 2014
Celia Wird and her three sisters are just like other 20-something girls—with one tiny exception: they're products of a backfired curse that has given each of them unique powers that make them, well, weird…

Celia’s a girl in trouble. Her heart is bound to Aric, but he is a pureblood were who must deny her or risk condemning his species to extinction. And that’s just her love life. She’s also been called to take down a group of demon terrorists looking to overthrow the paranormal world. (No pressure.)

In order to bring them down, Celia must ally herself to Misha, the master vampire who has made no secret of his desire for her.

And if that weren’t enough misfortune for one girl, a clairvoyant’s prediction could destroy Celia and Aric’s love for good. The only way to protect the world from unbridled supernatural terrorism is for Celia to bind herself to her destined mate. And that doesn’t appear to be Aric…

A Cursed Moon
A Weird Girls Novella
Signet Eclipse, December 3, 2013
eNovella, 98 pages

Excerpt from A Curse Awakened by Cecy Robson - August 29, 2014
Meet the furry big brother that the Wird sisters never had…

Bren is a cocky, brash hound of a werewolf who loathes the idea of belonging to Aric’s pack—much less finding a mate. But Bren’s hotheaded behavior lands him in the doghouse when he defies Aric’s authority in front of his pack, bringing up a sore subject that’s bound to make the Alpha wolf’s blood boil…

Luckily for him, no one can stay mad at Bren and his wild charm for long. And when some frightening ghosts launch a hostile paranormal takeover, Bren will team up with Celia Wird to take down the evil ghouls before they hurt someone they both love…

A Cursed Embrace
Weird Girls 2
Signet, July 2, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Excerpt from A Curse Awakened by Cecy Robson - August 29, 2014
Celia Wird and her three sisters are just like other twentysomething girls—with one tiny exception: They are the products of a curse that backfired and gave each of them unique powers that made them, well, a little weird.…

After Celia Wird and her sisters help master vampire Misha save his family, their powers are exposed to the supernatural community of the Lake Tahoe region. But fame comes at a price, and being “weird” isn’t always welcome.

To make matters worse, Celia desires the love of Alpha werewolf Aric, but his pack is bent on destroying their relationship to preserve his pureblood status. And once weres start turning up dead—with evidence pointing to the vampires—she must face the prospect of losing Aric forever. But the chaos only masks a new threat. An evil known as the Tribe has risen—and their sights are set on Celia and her sisters.

Sealed with a Curse
Weird Girls 1
Signet Eclipse, December 31, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Excerpt from A Curse Awakened by Cecy Robson - August 29, 2014
Celia Wird and her three sisters are just like other 20-something girls—with one tiny exception: they're products of a backfired curse that has given each of them unique powers that make them, well, weird…

The Wird sisters are content to avoid the local vampires, werebeasts, and witches of the Lake Tahoe region—until one of them blows up a vampire in self-defense. Everyone knows vampires aren't aggressive, and killing one is punishable by death. But soon more bloodlust-fueled attacks occur, and the community wonders: are the vampires of Tahoe cursed with a plague?

Celia reluctantly agrees to help Misha, the handsome leader of an infected vampire family. But Aric, the head of the werewolf pack determined to destroy Misha's family to keep the region safe, warns Celia to stay out of the fight. Caught between two hot alphas, Celia must find a way to please everyone, save everyone, and oh yeah, not lose her heart to the wrong guy—or die a miserable death. Because now that the evil behind the plague knows who Celia is, it’s coming for her and her sisters. This Wird girl has never had it so tough.

The Weird Girls
Signet Eclipse, December 4, 2012
A Weird Girls Novella

Excerpt from A Curse Awakened by Cecy Robson - August 29, 2014
Celia Wird and her three sisters are just like other 20-something girls—with one tiny exception: they're products of a backfired curse that has given each of them unique powers that make them, well, a little weird…

The Wird sisters are different from every race on earth—human and supernatural. When human society is no longer an option for them, they move in among the resident vampires, werebeasts, and witches of the Lake Tahoe region. Could this be the true home they’ve longed for? Um, not quite. After the sisters accidentally strip a witch of her powers in a bar brawl, they soon realize the mistake will cost them. Because to take on a witch means to take on her coven. And losing the battle isn’t an option.

Includes a preview of the first full-length novel in the Weird Girls series, Sealed with a Curse—as well as introductions to the Weird World, and a letter from the author.


A Cursed Bloodline
Weird Girls 4
Loveswept, November 18, 2014

Excerpt from A Curse Awakened by Cecy Robson - August 29, 2014
The Weird Girls return in another edge-of-your-seat novel from Cecy Robson! Just when Celia thinks the supernatural world can’t turn deadlier, a new rival emerges, proving just how dangerous a power-hungry were can be.

Since being cursed with unique abilities, Celia Wird and her three sisters have fought the most bloodthirsty preternaturals in the Lake Tahoe region. But Celia’s greatest threat is someone she would have never suspected: Anara, a werewolf Elder who has allowed his hatred for Celia to spiral out of control. In a play for dominance, Anara tortures Celia and gives her an ultimatum: sever her mate bond with pureblood were Aric—or Anara will kill everyone she loves.

From the instant they met, Celia and Aric have shared an attraction that cannot be tamed. So keeping Aric away is impossible, and Aric would sooner die than allow anyone to hurt the woman he loves. Misha, master vampire and Celia’s sworn protector, also finds his way into the chaos, seeking blood from those who have harmed her.

Now Celia and her sisters are caught in the middle of a war driven by lust, fueled by hatred, and destined to end in tragedy. For Anara is a force to be reckoned with, and he will not succumb without robbing Celia of those who hold her heart.

About Cecy

Excerpt from A Curse Awakened by Cecy Robson - August 29, 2014
Cecy (pronounced SESSY) Robson is the New Adult Romance author of Once Perfect, Once Loved and Once Pure and the award-winning author of the Weird Girls Urban Fantasy Romance series. A self-proclaimed professional napper, her list of talents includes jaw-dropping knowledge of useless trivia, the ability to make her hair big, and a knack for breaking into song despite her family’s vehement protests. A full-time writer, registered nurse, wife, and mother living in the Great Northwest, Cecy enjoys spending time with her family and silencing the yappy characters in her head by telling their stories.

Website  ~   Twitter @cecyrobson  ~  Facebook  ~  Goodreads

Excerpt from The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton - August 22, 2014

The Qwillery is thrilled to share with you an excerpt from Jessie Burton's debut, The Miniaturist.

Excerpt from The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton - August 22, 2014

Mid-October 1686
The Herengracht canal, Amsterdam

Outside In

         On the step of her new husband’s house, Nella Oortman lifts and drops the dolphin knocker, embarrassed by the thud. No one comes, though she is expected. The time was prearranged and letters written, her mother’s paper so thin compared with Brandt’s expensive vellum. No, she thinks, this is not the best of greetings, given the blink of a marriage ceremony the month before—no garlands, no betrothal cup, no wedding bed. Nella places her small trunk and birdcage on the step. She knows she’ll have to embellish this later for home, when she’s found a way upstairs, a room, a desk.
        Nella turns to the canal as bargemen’s laughter rises up the opposite brickwork. A puny lad has skittled into a woman and her basket of fish, and a half-dead herring slithers down the wide front of the seller’s skirt. The harsh cry of her country voice runs under Nella’s skin. “Idiot! Idiot!” the woman yells. The boy is blind, and he grabs in the dirt for the escaped herring as if it’s a silver charm, his fingers quick, not afraid to feel around. He scoops it, cackling, running up the path with his catch, his free arm out and ready.
        Nella cheers silently and stays to face this rare October warmth, to take it while she can. This part of the Herengracht is known as the Golden Bend, but today the wide stretch is brown and workaday. Looming above the sludge-colored canal, the houses are a phenomenon. Admiring their own symmetry on the water, they are stately and beautiful, jewels set within the city’s pride. Above their rooftops Nature is doing her best to keep up, and the clouds in colors of saffron and apricot echo the spoils of the glorious republic.
        Nella turns back to the door, now slightly ajar. Was it like this before? She cannot be sure. She pushes on it, peering into the void as cool air rises from the marble. “Johannes Brandt?” she calls—loud, a little panicked. Is this a game? she thinks. I’ll be standing here come
January. Peebo, her parakeet, thrills the tips of his feathers against the cage bars, his faint cheep falling on the marble. Even the now-quiet canal behind them seems to hold its breath.
        Nella is sure of one thing as she looks deeper into the shadows. She’s being watched. Come on, Nella Elisabeth, she tells herself, stepping over the threshold. Will her new husband embrace her, kiss her or shake her hand like it’s just business? He didn’t do any of those things at the ceremony, surrounded by her small family and not a single member of his.
        To show that country girls have manners too, she bends down and removes her shoes—dainty, leather, of course her best—although what their point has been she can’t now say. Dignity, her mother said, but dignity is so uncomfortable. She slaps the shoes down, hoping the
noise will arouse somebody, or maybe scare them off. Her mother calls her overimaginative, Nella-in-the-Clouds. The inert shoes lie in anticlimax and Nella simply feels a fool.
        Outside, two women call to each other. Nella turns, but through the open door she sees only the back of one woman, capless, golden-headed and tall, striding away toward the last of the sun. Nella’s own hair has loosened on the journey from Assendelft, the light breeze letting wisps escape. To tuck them away will make her more nervous than she can bear to seem, so she leaves them tickling her face.
        “Are we to have a menagerie?”
        The voice sails sure and swift from the darkness of the hall. Nella’s skin contracts, for being right about her suspicions can’t banish the goose bumps. She watches as a figure glides from the shadows, a hand outstretched—in protest or in greeting, it is hard to tell. It is a woman, straight and slim and dressed in deepest black, the cap on her head starched and pressed to white perfection. Not a wisp of her hair escapes, and she brings with her the vaguest, strangest scent of nutmeg. Her eyes are gray, her mouth is solemn. How long has she been there, watching? Peebo chirrups at the intervention.
        “This is Peebo,” Nella says. “My parakeet.”
        “So I see,” says the woman, gazing down at her. “Or hear. I take it you have not brought any more beasts?”
        “I have a little dog, but he’s at home—”
        “Good. It would mess in our rooms. Scratch the wood. Those small ones are an affectation of the French and Spanish,” the woman observes. “As frivolous as their owners.”
        “And they look like rats,” calls a second voice from somewhere in the hall.
        The woman frowns, briefly closing her eyes, and Nella takes her in, wondering who else is watching this exchange. I must be younger than her by ten years, she thinks, though her skin’s so smooth. As the woman moves past Nella toward the doorframe, there is a grace in her movements, self-aware and unapologetic. She casts a brief, approving glance at the neat shoes by the door and then stares into the cage, her lips pressed tight together. Peebo’s feathers have puffed in fear.
        Nella decides to distract her by joining hands in greeting, but the woman flinches at the touch.
        “Strong bones for seventeen,” the woman says.
        “I’m Nella,” she replies, retracting her hand. “And I’m eighteen.”
        “I know who you are.”
        “My real name is Petronella, but everyone at home calls me—”
        “I heard the first time.”
        “Are you the housekeeper?” Nella asks. A giggle is badly stifled in the hallway shadows. The woman ignores it, looking out into the pearlescent dusk. “Is Johannes here? I’m his new wife.” The woman still says nothing. “We signed our marriage a month ago, in Assendelft,”
Nella persists. It seems there is nothing else to do but to persist.
        “My brother is not in the house.”
        “Your brother?”
        Another giggle from the darkness. The woman looks straight into Nella’s eyes. “I am Marin Brandt,” she says, as if Nella should understand. Marin’s gaze may be hard, but Nella can hear the precision faltering in her voice. “He’s not here,” Marin continues. “We thought
he’d be. But he’s not.”
        “Where is he, then?”
        Marin looks out toward the sky again. Her left hand fronds the air, and from the shadows near the staircase two figures appear. “Otto,” she says.
        A man comes toward them and Nella swallows, pressing her cold feet upon the floor.
        Otto’s skin is dark, dark brown everywhere, his neck coming out from the collar, his wrists and hands from his sleeves—all unending, dark brown skin. His high cheeks, his chin, his wide brow, every inch. Nella has never seen such a man in her life.
        Marin seems to be watching her to see what she will do. The look in Otto’s large eyes makes no acknowledgment of Nella’s ill-concealed fascination. He bows to her and she curtsies, chewing her lip till the taste of blood reminds her to be calm. Nella sees how his skin glows
like a polished nut, how his black hair springs straight up from his scalp. It is a cloud of soft wool, not flat and greasy like other men’s. “I—” she says.
        Peebo begins to chirp. Otto puts his hands out, a pair of pattens resting on his broad palms. “For your feet,” he says.
        His accent is Amsterdam—but he rolls the words, making them warm and liquid. Nella takes the pattens from him and her fingers brush his skin. Clumsily she slips the raised shoes onto her feet. They are too big, but she doesn’t dare say it, and at least they lift her soles off the chilly marble. She’ll tighten the leather straps later, upstairs—if she ever gets there, if they ever let her past this hall.
        “Otto is my brother’s manservant,” says Marin, her eyes still fixed on Nella. “And here is Cornelia, our maid. She will look after you.”
        Cornelia steps forward. She is a little older than Nella, perhaps twenty, twenty-one—and slightly taller. Cornelia pins her with an unfriendly grin, her blue eyes moving over the new bride, seeing the tremor in Nella’s hands. Nella smiles, burnt by the maid’s curiosity, struggling to say some piece of empty thanks. She is half grateful, half ashamed when Marin cuts her off.
        “Let me show you upstairs,” Marin says. “You will want to see your room.”
        Nella nods and a look of amusement flickers to life in Cornelia’s eyes. Blithe pirrips from the cage bounce high up the walls, and Marin indicates to Cornelia with a flick of her wrist that the bird must go to the kitchen.
        “But the cooking fumes,” Nella protests. Marin and Otto turn back to her. “Peebo likes the light.”
        Cornelia takes up the cage and starts swinging it like a pail. “Please, be careful,” says Nella.
        Marin catches Cornelia’s eye. The maid continues to the kitchen, accompanied by the thin melody of Peebo’s worried cheeps.

From The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. Copyright 2014 Jessie Burton. Excerpted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

The Miniaturist
Ecco, August 26, 2014
Hardcover and eBook,416 pages

Excerpt from The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton - August 22, 2014
Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam—a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion—a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant.

”There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . .“

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office—leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist—an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes’ gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand—and fear—the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.

About Jessie

Excerpt from The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton - August 22, 2014
Photo by Wolf Marloh
Jessie Burton was born in London in 1982. She studied at Oxford University and the Central School of Speech and Drama, and still works as an actress in London. She lives in southeast London, not far from where she grew up.

Web  ~  Twitter @jesskatbee

Feature: Excerpt from A Better World by Marcus Sakey - June 25, 2014

The Qwillery is thrilled to share with you an excerpt from A Better World, the second novel in the Brilliance Saga, by Marcus Sakey.

Feature: Excerpt from A Better World by Marcus Sakey - June 25, 2014

       Air Force One was an hour shy of DC when the Secret Service agent told Cooper that he was wanted in the conference room.
       Across a military and agency career, Cooper had ridden on posh private jets and rattling Army transports, had soared in a glider over the Wyoming desert and jumped out of a perfectly good C-17 with a chute on his back. But Air Force One was unlike any aircraft he’d ever been on.
       A customized 747, the plane had three decks, two galleys, luxury sleeping quarters, a fully-equipped surgery, national broadcasting capabilities, first-class seating for the press corps and the secret service, and the capability to fly a third of the way around the world without refueling—which it could do mid-air.
       Cooper unbuckled his seatbelt and walked fore. The agents at the door of the conference room nodded at him.
       The room was a mobile version of the situation room, with a broad conference table and plush chairs. A holo-conferencing screen showed a sharp tri-d of Marla Keevers in her office at the White House. The president sat at the head of the table, with Owen Leahy at his right and Holden Archer at his left.
       Archer glanced at him, said, “Tulsa, Fresno, and Cleveland have lost power.”
       President Clay said, “Marla, how bad is it?”
       “Based off satellite imagery, we estimate that the entire metro area of all three cities has gone dark.”
       “Why based off satellite imagery?” Clay asked.
       “Because engineers in charge of the power grid for each region report no unusual activity. All substations report back green.”
       “A cyber attack,” Leahy said. “A virus tells the system to send massive amounts of power from the grid to individual transformers, blowing them out, while at the same time co-opting the safety systems so that there’s no warning indicator.”
       “Yes,” Keevers said. “That’s what’s got the engineers rattled. Work crews say there’s no damage to the substations. The transformers are working. They’re just not providing power to the cities.”
       “How is that possible?”
       “The Children of Darwin,” Cooper said.
       Keevers nodded. “It would appear our protocols have been rewritten. It would take abnorm programmers to pull that off.”
       “So what you’re telling me,” the president said, “is that a terrorist organization has turned off three cities like they flipped a switch?”
       “I’m afraid so, sir. With some anomalies. In each city, several regions still have power. Two in Fresno, three in Tulsa, and two in Cleveland.”
       The image of Keevers was replaced by live satellite footage. The view was haunting. Instead of the riotous glow of cities at night, the holograms showed deep black marked by faint ribbons of light that must have been highways. The only bright spots were in discreet blocks, roughly rectangular, where things looked normal.
       “So the virus wasn’t a hundred percent effective,” Archer said. “It’s a small comfort, but it’s something.”
       Cooper leaned forward, staring at the maps. There was a pattern, he was—
       Two areas in Fresno, three in Tulsa, two in Cleveland.
       What connects them? Some are on major highways, some nowhere near. Some downtown, some not.
       And yet this doesn’t look random. The virus was too successful everywhere else to have failed completely in these spots.
       These areas were left powered on purpose. Which means that they hold some value.
So what unites these seven areas?
       —certain. “Hospitals,” Cooper said.
       Archer looked at the screens, then back at him. “What?”
       “Those regions all contain major hospitals.”
       “Why would terrorists take out the power to three cities, but leave hospitals functioning?”
       “Because they need them,” Leahy said. He turned to the president. “Sir, I’ve spoken to the director of the FBI and the DAR, as well as the head of the national institute of health. They all believe, and I concur, that this may be the precursor to a biological attack.”
       “That doesn’t make sense,” Archer said. “Why leave the hospitals running if they’re trying to release a biological weapon?”
       “Because,” Leahy retorted, “hospitals are the best way to spread one. People get sick, and they go to the hospital. While there they infect others. Doctors and nurses and receptionists and janitors and patients and families. With a really infectious biological agent, the number of cases can expand massively even under normal circumstances. But because these three cities are lacking food, and now power, the situation is far worse. Instead of resting at home, people will flee. They’ll go to stay with relatives, or to second homes. And in the process, they’ll swiftly vector the disease across the entire country. Sir, we believe the COD created this chaotic situation to mask their real attack.”
       “That’s a huge stretch,” Cooper said. “Abnorms would be just as vulnerable to infection. What good would a biological attack do the COD?”
       “I don’t know,” Leahy said, with a hard look at Cooper. “But the COD are terrorists. We don’t know what their endgame is.”
       “Of course we do. They’re upset over the treatment of abnorms, and they want change.”
       “What are you basing that on, Mr. Cooper? Abnorm intuition?” Leahy smiled coldly. “I understand your sympathy for their situation, but that can’t be allowed to color our response.”
       Would you count my response colored if I called you a close-minded bigot mired in old- world thinking? Instead, Cooper said, “Response to what? You’re wasting time on a hypothetical situation when we have actual disasters in these cities. People are starving. With the power out, they’ll be freezing, getting desperate, violent. Instead of worrying about phantom attacks, why don’t we start getting them some goddamn food and blankets?”
       On the screen, Marla Keevers coughed. Press Secretary Archer made an elaborate show of looking at his watch. Leahy fixed Cooper with an icy stare. “Mr. Cooper, your passion is quite touching, but you’re a bit above your pay grade here. And you’re not qualified to speak to what is or is not hypothetical.”
       “Maybe not,” Cooper said. “But I can speak to what’s right.” He glanced around the room. You guys don’t get me, do you? I don’t even want this job, so I’ve got nothing to lose by telling the truth. “The people need food. They need medicine. They need electricity. That’s what we should focus on. That’s our job.”
       “It’s also our job to protect them from attack,” Leahy fired back. “Food and blankets in Cleveland don’t protect people dying in Los Angeles.”
       Before Cooper could respond, the president said, “Owen, what exactly do you suggest?”
       “Immediate quarantine of all three cities, sir. The National Guard has already been called up. Assume federal command, back them up with Army troops, and shut these cities down completely. No one in or out.”
       For a moment Cooper thought the plane was banking wildly, until he realize that was just his head. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
       “I don’t find anything about this funny.”
       Cooper turned to Clay, expecting to see the same thought, the belief that this was beyond preposterous. Instead, he saw that the president was nervous.
       “Sir, you can’t possibly consider this. You’d be ordering military action on domestic soil. Turning three cities into police states, revoking people’s basic rights. It will cause unimaginable chaos. These cities are already on the brink. Instead of helping, we’re locking them up.”
       “No,” Leahy said. “We’re temporarily suspending freedom of movement for fewer than a million people. In order to protect three hundred million more.”
       “Panic. Hate crimes. Riots. Plus, if soldiers are busy quarantining the city, they can’t distribute food. All based on nothing but a wild theory.”
       “Based,” Leahy said, “on the collective analysis of the best minds in the intelligence and health services. A group that includes plenty of abnorms. Mr. Cooper, I know you’re used to doing things your own way, but this isn’t your personal crusade. We’re trying to save the country, not play some moralistic game.”
       Cooper ignored the barb. “Mr. President, when you asked me to join you, you said that we were on the edge of a precipice.” You’re an intellectual, a historian. You know how these things start. World War One was kicked off when a radical killed an obscure archduke. And nine million people died. “If you do this, we step toward that precipice. Maybe over it.”
       “And if you’re wrong?” Leahy asked. “You say the COD is interested in abnorm rights, but they’ve made no effort at dialogue. What if what they really want is to kill as many Americans as possible? There are a hundred biological weapons against which we have no ready defense—except quarantine.”
       The president looked back and forth between them. His hands were on the table, the fingers knit. His knuckles were pale.
       Come on, Clay. I know you’re scared. We’re all scared. But be the leader we need you to be.
       The president cleared his throat.

Excerpted from A Better World by Marcus Sakey. Copyright 2014. Published By Thomas & Mercer. Used by permission of the publisher. Not for reprint without permission.

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

Feature: Excerpt from A Better World by Marcus Sakey - June 25, 2014
The brilliants changed everything.

Since 1980, 1% 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.

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

Feature: Excerpt from A Better World by Marcus Sakey - June 25, 2014
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.

About Marcus

Feature: Excerpt from A Better World by Marcus Sakey - June 25, 2014
Photo by Jay Franco
Marcus Sakey's thrillers have been nominated for more than fifteen awards, named New York Times Editor's Picks, and selected among Esquire's Top 5 Books of The Year. His novels Good People and Brilliance are both in development as feature films. Marcus is also the host of the acclaimed television show "Hidden City" on Travel Channel, for which he is routinely pepper-sprayed and attacked by dogs. Prior to writing, he worked as a landscaper, a theatrical carpenter, a 3D animator, a woefully unprepared movie reviewer, a tutor, and a graphic designer who couldn't draw. Marcus lives in Chicago with his wife and daughter.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @MarcusSakey

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