The Qwillery | category: trinitytwo | (page 2 of 8)


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with April Daniels and Review of Dreadnought

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

Interview with April Daniels and Review of Dreadnought

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

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

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

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

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

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

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

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

TQDescribe Dreadnought in 140 characters or less.

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

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

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

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

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

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Dreadnought?

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

TQPlease tell us about Dreadnought's cover.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

A: Sure!

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

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

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

TQWhat's next?

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

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

April:  Thanks for having me!

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

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

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

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

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

Tracey's Review

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

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

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

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

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

About April

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

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

Website  ~  Twitter @1aprildaniels  ~  Facebook  ~  Tumblr

Review: Clown Wars: Blood & Aspic by Jeremy Drysdale and Joseph D'Lacey

Clown Wars: Blood & Aspic
Authors:  Jeremy Drysdale and Joseph D'Lacey
Series: Clown Wars 1
Publisher:  Self, April 2016
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 247 pages
ISBN:  9781537231396 (print); ASIN:  B01ETVYFG0 (eBook)

Review: Clown Wars: Blood & Aspic by Jeremy Drysdale and Joseph D'Lacey
For as long as anyone can remember, the Clowns and Humans of Blueville have co-existed peacefully. Sure, each species thinks the other is a little weird but that's never been something to fight about.

Until, that is, a series of freakish terrorist attacks - seemingly perpetrated by clowns - turn the two bloodlines against each other. When war breaks out, the future of both species hangs in the balance. It's going to take a suicide mission to stop the carnage and only misfit circus trainee Colin Clarke and his three best friends have the courage to volunteer for this impossible task.

Their quest takes them to the mean streets of Cheadle, the most dangerous city in the world. There, in a final bid to defeat their true enemy, they must confront the darkness lurking at the very heart of clownkind.

"Jeremy Drysdale writes with razor-blade precision: You'll laugh, you'll squirm, and you won't be able to stop turning the pages." Will Hill, author of the Department 19 series.

"Joseph D'Lacey Rocks!" Stephen King.

Tracey's / Trinitytwo's Review

Life is practically perfect in BlueVille: the sun shines every day, the citizens are unusually cheerful, and crime is a rarity. Although its inhabitants come from two very different cultures, Normals and Clowns, they have lived in harmony for as long as people can remember. Naturally, the happy little town is stunned when a series of lesser crimes culminates in a gory mass murder at St. Saintly's hospital and the evidence implicates Clowns. A second horrific attack on the innocent population of BlueVille increases racial tensions, exactly as Aspic, the leader of the anti-clown army, intended. The Normals, desperate to end the bloodshed, accept Aspic's aid in ridding BlueVille of the Clown population. And so begins the Clown Wars.

Clown Wars: Blood and Aspic is a dark, yet humorous tale that will appeal to lovers of the horror genre. I quite enjoy the idea of clowns gone bad and the unique horrors that they might inflict on a unsuspecting world. With the exception of Grout, whose speech impediment makes it difficult at times to decipher his dialogue, I feel the antics of the "Crooked Noses" shine brightest. For instance, Fluster, Aspic's Lieutenant, is undoubtedly malicious and evil, but there is something about his compulsive neatness and disdain for his cohorts that I find oddly endearing. Aspic, in all his diabolical glory, positively oozes hatred and vindictiveness. His actions are thoroughly repugnant and yet I couldn't help but chuckle at his shocking unpredictability; especially as he launches a genetically engineered kitten onto an unsuspecting victim or severs a tongue from a foolishly talkative minion.

The heroes, Kaboom, Mojo, Stitches and Colin, find themselves on a journey in search of a weapon that has the power to defeat the anti-clown army. These four young misfits are earnest in their quest, but slightly dull in comparison to the antagonists. Colin and Kaboom stand out and show significant development as the story progresses. I enjoyed their coming of age adventures outside the boundaries of Blueville.

Not being an aficionado of clowns, I was both intrigued and confused while reading this story. Although coauthors Drysdale and D'Lacey thoroughly explain the Clown bloodlines and their characteristics, I had some difficulty remembering them and reread their descriptions often. I had no trouble, however, in identifying the significance of a tyrant who begins with segregation but intends to wipe one segment of the populace from the face of the earth, and the parallels it shares with our own history.

The current trend of creepy clown sightings makes book one of this new series even more appealing. I would definitely recommend Clown Wars: Blood and Aspic to readers who enjoy a dose of humor with their horror. Let me close with this final thought: Imagine Pleasantville meets Ash vs Evil Dead, but with clowns; now that's a pretty wild ride.

Review: Brightwood by Tania Unsworth

Author:  Tania Unsworth
Publisher:  Algonquin Young Readers, September 27, 2016
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 272 pages
List Price:  US$16.95 (print and eBook)
ISBN:  9781616203306 (print); 9781616206598 (eBook)

Review: Brightwood by Tania Unsworth
In this spine-tingling tale where the line between imagination and madness is sometimes hard to find, a girl fights to save her home and her life from a mysterious stranger.

Daisy Fitzjohn knows there are two worlds: the outside world and the world of Brightwood Hall, her home—and the only place she’s ever been. Daisy and her mother have never needed a life beyond Brightwood Hall, with its labyrinth of rooms, many animals, and stores of supplies. Daisy has no computer or phone, but she has all the friends she could want, including a mischievous talking rat named Tar and a ghostly presence of a long-ago explorer who calls herself Frank.

When Daisy’s mother leaves one morning without saying goodbye, a strange visitor, James Gritting, arrives on the estate claiming to be a distant cousin. But as the days tick by and Daisy’s mother doesn’t return, Gritting becomes more and more menacing. He wants to claim Brightwood for himself, and Daisy soon realizes he will do anything to get it. With no one to help her but her imaginary friends, Daisy must use her wits and her courage to survive.

Tania Unsworth takes readers on a twisting, heart-pounding journey through dark corridors and wild, untamed gardens in this novel perfect for fans of Doll Bones and Coraline.

Tracey's / Trinitytwo's Point of View

Eleven year old Daisy loves Brightwood Hall. Although Daisy and her mother live there alone, Daisy has many unique friends that keep her company. For example, Tar, her pet rat, joins her for meals, and she enjoys feeding the birds and the rabbits that live in the overgrown lawn. The portraits of long deceased relatives speak to her, as do the stone lions guarding the gate of the crumbling estate. One morning, Daisy's mother leaves on an errand and simply doesn't return. Daisy is anxious and confused. They have no telephone and in all her eleven years, Daisy has never left Brightwood. Ever. When a strange man appears on the premises, Daisy must undertake a journey of self-discovery and introspection or she may lose everything she holds dear.

I didn't know what to expect from Brightwood. The book's beautiful cover made me think it would be somewhat whimsical and it is, right before it becomes scary. It has a Tim Burton-esque feel to it that is eerily appealing. Although the villain is motivated by a common theme, the presentation and the setting of this story make it unique and interesting. The events take place in the span of one week which ratchets up the tension masterfully. And Daisy is a great heroine; despite living an oddly sheltered life, she is able to problem solve and make deductions with only a little help from Tar and an unexpected spectral visitor. At the heart of the story, author Tania Unsworth tackles topics such as mental illness, grief, and depression, yet she also celebrates resiliency, determination and ingenuity. I would definitely recommend this YA book to tweens and young teens who enjoy a thrilling page-turner. Brightwood is a winner.

Review: The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan

The Waking Fire
Author:  Anthony Ryan
Series:  The Draconis Memoria 1
Publisher:  Ace, July 5, 2016
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 592 pages
List Price:  US$28.00 (print); US$11.99 (eBook)
ISBN9781101987858 (print); 9781101987865 (eBook)

Review: The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan
The New York Times bestselling Raven’s Shadow Trilogy was a perfect read for “fans of broadscale epic fantasy along the lines of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series and George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire novels.”* Now, Anthony Ryan begins a new saga, The Draconis Memoria…

Throughout the vast lands controlled by the Ironship Syndicate, nothing is more prized than the blood of drakes. Harvested from the veins of captive or hunted Reds, Green, Blues and Blacks, it can be distilled into elixirs that give fearsome powers to the rare men and women who have the ability harness them—known as the blood-blessed.

But not many know the truth: that the lines of drakes are weakening. If they fail, war with the neighboring Corvantine Empire will follow swiftly. The Syndicate’s last hope resides in whispers of the existence of another breed of drake, far more powerful than the rest, and the few who have been chosen by fate to seek it.

Claydon Torcreek is a petty thief and an unregistered blood-blessed, who finds himself pressed into service by the protectorate and sent to wild, uncharted territories in search of a creature he believes is little more than legend. Lizanne Lethridge is a formidable spy and assassin, facing gravest danger on an espionage mission deep into the heart of enemy territory. And Corrick Hilemore is the second lieutenant of an ironship, whose pursuit of ruthless brigands leads him to a far greater threat at the edge of the world.

As lives and empires clash and intertwine, as the unknown and the known collide, all three must fight to turn the tide of a coming war, or drown in its wake.

*Library Journal

Tracey's Review

At the dawn of the Corporate Age, the Mandinorian nobility replaced their properties and privileges for shares in the Iron Trading Syndicate. Their pursuit of profit reigns supreme and the most sought after commodity comes from the "Interior" of the untamed continent of Arradsia. Indigenous to the Interior are several species of drakes, (dragons) whose blood can be distilled into a miraculous mixture called "product". However the blood of drakes is dangerous to all but the small percentage of humans, called Blood-blessed, who can safely consume it. Product is extremely valuable because once used by a Blood-blessed, it temporarily provides enhancements comparable to superpowers.

Overhunting and exploitation of the drakes has seen a drop in the amount of product available and a shortage in product would mean a sharp reduction in profit. Lodima Bondersil, a prominent member of the Iron Trading Syndicate, believes there may be a solution. An artifact has recently been recovered that can be linked to the ill-fated Wittler Expedition. Over thirty years ago, Wittler and his team had been searching a particularly dangerous section of the Interior for the nesting place of the elusive White Drake. Legend has it, that the White Drake is the most powerful of all its brethren. The explorers, along with Ethelynne Drystone, one of Lodima's prized pupils disappeared without a trace, but not before sending a communication to Lodima of a vital discovery.

Setting her secret plans into motion, Lodima plans to succeed where Wittler failed. She hopes that even the remains of a White will boost the projected decline in the economy. But complications arise as the aggressive Corvantine Empire's desire for conquest blossoms and war between the two hegemonic regimes becomes imminent.

The Waking Fire is the first book in author Anthony Ryan's second series; The Draconis Memoria. And by the way; it's awesome. A complete departure from the world he created in his previous Raven's Shadow series, The Waking Fire is set in a complex and beautifully detailed steampunk-esque era. Ryan is a skilled world-builder and his expertise is demonstrated throughout this nearly six hundred page book. I was immediately impressed with the particulars of this world's settings and the fact that his descriptions are as rich in texture as they are to the senses of sight and sound. Ryan effortlessly transports his readers from a hideout concealed in a decaying church in the slums, to life aboard an Ironship war vessel, and easily transitions to the deserts, mountains, and jungles of the danger-fraught Interior.

The Waking Fire is a detailed account, written in the perspective of three characters, each important players in the unfolding events. Efficient and ruthless, Lizanne Lethridge, is this world's version of Agent 007. Being Blood-blessed allows Lizanne the opportunity to perform fantastic feats that are utterly kickass and believable. Clay Torcreek is an orphan and a thief who uses the fact that he is an unregistered Blood-blessed to his every advantage. Clay is one step away from leaving the slums forever when the consequences of his life of crime catch up with him. Motivated by guilt and the promise of freedom, he is coerced into joining his uncle's expedition into the Interior. I really like that Lizanne and Clay start off somewhat unlikeable, but gradually grew in my affections. The third main POV, 2nd Lt. Corrick Hilemore, is an honorable naval officer who is compassionate as well as brave. Although he is involved in some amazing battles at sea, his thread doesn't shine as bright as Lizanne's or Clay's, and his story arc stagnates during the last portion of the book. I am assuming that he is intended for bigger and better things in book two.

This gorgeous new world, fraught with peril at every turn, delivers a breathtaking ride through battles, across oceans, and deep into the heart of the jungle. Its characters are well-written and three-dimensional; dealing with topics such as political intrigue, greed, and impending war. I absolutely love this book and have high hopes for the series. Anthony Ryan weaves an intricate tale that is part Raiders of the Lost Ark, part James Bond, and part Master and Commander, but with dragons. Calling all lovers of epic fantasy; you don't want to miss The Waking Fire.

Artisan's Avenue: David Thorn Wenzel

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

Artisan's Avenue: David Thorn Wenzel

The Qwillery would like to welcome David Thorn Wenzel, an amazing artist who is well-known for his work on The Hobbit graphic novel. I first met David at TerrifiCon and later at NYCC back in 2015. I became enchanted with his art and believe The Qwillery's readers will be as well. David was gracious enough to invite me to his beautiful home and the following is a portion of our conversation/interview.

Artisan's Avenue: David Thorn Wenzel

Tracey MaknisDavid, welcome to The Qwillery. Did you get started drawing as a child?

David Thorn Wenzel: It's interesting. I think art for many people starts really early and it did with me. I know when I was 5 or 6 years old I was actually making up my own cartoon characters and making comic strips about them. I just loved to draw right from that time. I always was drawing.

TMDid you have someone in your family who influenced you?

DTW:  No, I think it was basically television. (Laughter) No, the earliest remembrances I have of actually doing art was in second grade. I drew a picture of a skin diver with a shark going around it with bubbles going up. Now, I didn't know anything about artistic development; children of that age tend to do (drawings) side by side, and to have something overlap and twist around is pretty perceptive. They brought the principal in and I was like 'What? It's just a drawing.'

TMSo then through high school you continued to do art?

DTW:  In high school I was very lucky; I went to a small school in Harvard Massachusetts. I could take art every day which you can't in most high schools. The art teacher literally didn't know what to do with me because I wanted to draw all the time so she said draw whatever you want. So for three years of high school I went to art every day and drew whatever I wanted.

TMSo then from high school...

DTW:  I went to college, I went to Hartford Art School.

So what happened in art school, I was not the best student in my class at all. I didn't really emerge in college right away. And what happened, believe it or not, is I read The Hobbit. And when I read The Hobbit it sort of blended the idea of what I wanted to do in art school with the pen and ink. At that point there were no drawings of The Hobbit out there. It shocked me. We are in a world where we feel like, 'Oh my gosh, I wish this could have existed.' It was a place you could really go in your mind and think you were going someplace that was different than the place that you lived. And of course it touched on the edges of our own history. So anyway, when I found The Hobbit I did all J.R.R. Tolkien drawings for my senior project, which is what inevitably jump started my illustration career.

TMHow did you get into the industry?

Artisan's Avenue: David Thorn Wenzel
DTW:  Back when I got out of college, I had three things that got me work. I put my work in one of the first comics stores out there, in Simsbury, CT. At the same time comic conventions were starting, so I started bringing my stuff down. And I also met an illustrator who lived in Westport who helped me meet some people. I started making cold calls. And in those days you could go to Marvel comics and bring your portfolio and they would look at it. It was pretty awesome; you'd have people that you knew, I think John Romita looked at my portfolio and so it was pretty cool.

But with those little threads - a publisher came in to the comic shop and saw The Hobbit drawings that I had done. They were upgraded from college but he saw those drawings and he wanted to publish a book. And that is how Middle Earth: The World of Tolkien (Illustrated- 1977) got out there. And I'm in my mid twenties at this point, so this is a big deal.

And then I started getting work from Marvel. I was in what they called the British group. Comics in England came out as weeklies. So Marvel would take a book and break it into two or three sections and they would need new splash pages for every break. So that's how they would train us. They would have us do tons of splash pages for all these different books and that's how I started in comics.

TMHow did you get into children's books?

DTW:  I got an agent for children's book work and they started to get me jobs. Children's book work started coming in. I sometimes think I either should have stayed in comics or children's books but I liked them both.

TMHow many children books have you done?

DTW:  Just for Little Bear alone, I've done 14 Little Bear books. I've probably done 30-35 altogether.

TMIf you had to choose between comics and children's books?

DTW:  There are different pluses for each one. One of the reasons I got out of comics and one of the reasons I went back to it for The Hobbit is that I was always under the impression that when I drew a drawing, I could ink it better. And so one of the reasons I left comics for children's books is that I wanted to do the whole job. I wanted to do the coloring. I just didn't want to be a pencil artist. I didn't just want to be an inking artist. And one of the reasons I went back is that I was allowed to do both.

TMSo for The Hobbit you did the whole nuts to bolts?

Artisan's Avenue: David Thorn Wenzel
DTW:  What happened somewhat in the spread between when I left comics and started doing children's books is that the idea of the graphic novel came in and comics started to use full color process which they had not done up until that point. And so the first big full color comic I did was for Joe Orlando called Warlords. It wasn't the Warlords that Mike Grell did for years; it was attached to an Atari product. It was somewhat a Hobbit derivative. And that really established that I could ink and then do the full color painting over the inks. So that was one of the reasons I started to go back to comics. And of course in the years since then, well, they don't even do full colored painting anymore. Everybody does full colored digital finishes.

TMNot only are you inspired by Tolkien, you are inspired by history and fantasy in general. Can you enlarge on that idea?

DTW:  I like the whole idea that humans love to create myths for themselves. They create things that are beyond their imagination. Obviously religious people, the whole God thing, spirit thing. People throughout time have needed to have other worlds that they are not directly connected to but they believe in. When my kids were growing up we always told them there might be gnomes outside. Everybody loves that sort of...fantasy. Is there a Loch Ness Monster? I don't know, but how many TV shows have we spent looking for that and Big Foot? We all love the mysterious. Fantasy ties into that.

TMIs there something I haven't asked you? Something that you'd like our readers to know about?

DTW:  I would like to say that one aspect of my life that I am enjoying is teaching. I teach at Lyme College of Art. It is really interesting to be able to communicate with people who want to become artists. I have been teaching for 7 years. It's a very small school which is one of the reasons I wanted to teach there. You get really attached to your students and so it's really nice when they come back to talk to you. Some are working in design firms and different things. A lot of people want to do concept and fantasy art because it's huge. And it's just a struggle. I always tell them whatever you are looking at now, you've got to be looking for what the next wave is going to be.

TMWhat advice do you give your students? It's a hard industry/field.

DTW:  Art is a hard field to get into. Some of the venues that I used as a way to get in are no longer accessible. I could go into Marvel comics and they would look at my portfolio. I mean, that seemed like a logical thing to me. Now, I don't think you can do that anymore. I follow the track of this. My son Brendan is a book illustrator, and his career arc is heading up, but it took him ten years to really mold everything until he got to the point where he was going to get his first book. And I think that's the difference. I was able to go out of school and cobble together a career pretty quickly.

So what do I tell my students?

It's really difficult to catch on right away because there are so many people doing it now. I tell them that you have to keep drawing, you have to keep improving and you have to make contacts. You have to get yourself out there and figure out who's buying.

Artisan's Avenue: David Thorn Wenzel

TMDavid, thank you very much for sharing your time and your talents with The Qwillery.

To find out more about David's work:



Meet David at Rhode Island Comic Con November 11 - 13, 2016.

Artisan's Avenue: David Thorn Wenzel
Artisan's Avenue: David Thorn Wenzel

Artisan's Avenue: David Thorn WenzelArtisan's Avenue: David Thorn Wenzel

Artisan's Avenue: David Thorn Wenzel

Artisan's Avenue: David Thorn Wenzel

Artisan's Avenue: David Thorn Wenzel

Guest Blog by Michael J. Martinez and Review of MJ-12: Inception

Please welcome Michael J. Martinez to The Qwillery writing about his new series: MAJESTIC-12. The first novel in this series, MJ-12: Inception, was published on September 6th by Night Shade Books.

Guest Blog by Michael J. Martinez and Review of MJ-12: Inception

Here We Go Again: Starting a New Series

By Michael J. Martinez

I won’t kid you. Starting a brand new series is daunting.

I started writing the book that became The Daedalus Incident in 2010, and I had worldbuilding notes on it dating from 2003. The book came out in 2013, with The Enceladus Crisis in 2014 and The Venusian Gambit last year.

Basically, I spent at least six years with these characters, and well over a decade with the whole notion of Napoleonic era sailing ships in space. That’s a long time to get comfortable with something, and I think if you read all three books, you’ll see me get better as a writer and storyteller as you go.

And now for something completely different.

I certainly could’ve told more Daedalus stories; there are large gaps in the timeline that could’ve been fun to fill in. Maybe I’ll go back and do that someday. But it struck me that it was time to try a new thing, to stretch writerly muscles that hadn’t been used much when writing Daedalus and the others.

I wanted to do something darker and more nuanced, and my teenaged love of spy thrillers kept popping into my head. It was time to give it a whirl. The MAJESTIC-12 series is the result, starting with MJ-12: Inception, out this week in hardcover.

The trick here, of course, was to try to make something that really was different. It couldn’t be the same swashbuckling adventure as the Daedalus series. The characters in MJ-12: Inception shouldn’t be papered-over characters from the other books. I was really conscious of trying to differentiate, and that’s the daunting part. I didn’t want to be formulaic.

If you’ve read Dan Brown, you’ll know what I mean. If you look at the plots of The Da Vinci Code and Deception Point, you’ll find some really striking similarities – a code to crack, a shadowy conspiracy, a mentor-figure that switches sides at the last minute, global repercussions. Honestly, and with all due respect to Dan and his success, I found the similarities in plot beats striking.

But you could say the same thing about many authors – there’s a formula to what they do, and it works. More power to ‘em. I wanted to be different.

That meant building MAJESTIC-12 from the ground up, with a variety of different and nuanced characters, with a different pace and different plot devices. To me, the only real similarities between Daedalus and MJ-12: Inception is that they’re both historical fantasy, they both mash-up a variety of genres, and I wrote ‘em.

I learned a lot writing the Daedalus books, and I’m hopeful that the learning has translated well into the MAJESTIC-12 series. I’m already as comfortable with these characters and this setting as I ever was with those in the Daedalus series, which I consider a plus. They feel right.

I feel like if I’m going to start a new series, then for better or worse, it’s going to be a very different thing, even if it means more work for me, and more risk as well. As my alleged career progresses, I may find I have a firmer footing in certain genres or subgenres, or a facility with certain tropes or themes more than others. But I’m still finding out. And as I do…thanks for coming along for the ride.

MJ-12: Inception
Series:  MAJESTIC-12 #1
Publisher:  Night Shade Books, September 6, 2016
Format:  Hardcover and eBook,
List Price:  US$24.99 (print); US$16.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  978-1-59780-877-4 (print): 978-1-59780-887-3 (eBook)

Guest Blog by Michael J. Martinez and Review of MJ-12: Inception
A team of superhuman covert operatives emerges from the ashes of World War II in a Cold War-era paranormal espionage thriller from acclaimed genre-bender Michael J. Martinez.

It is a new world, stunned by the horrors that linger in the aftermath of total war. The United States and Soviet Union are squaring off in a different kind of conflict, one that’s fought in the shadows, where there are whispers of strange and mysterious developments. . .

Normal people across the United States have inexplicably gained paranormal abilities. A factory worker can heal the sick and injured. A schoolteacher bends emotions to her will. A car salesman alters matter with a simple touch. A former soldier speaks to the dying and gains their memories as they pass on.

They are the Variants, controlled by a secret government program called MAJESTIC-12 to open a new front in the Cold War.

From the deserts of Nevada to the palaces of Istanbul, the halls of power in Washington to the dark, oppressive streets of Prague, the Variants are thrown into a deadly game of shifting alliances. Amidst the seedy underbelly of nations, these once-ordinary Americans dropped in extraordinary circumstances will struggle to come to terms with their abilities as they fight to carve out a place for themselves in a world that may ultimately turn against them.

And as the MAJESTIC-12 program will soon discover, there are others out there like them, some with far more malevolent goals. . .

Tracey's/Trinitytwo's Point of View

MJ-12: Inception is the first novel in an early Atomic Age, paranormal spy series by Michael J. Martinez, author of the Daedalus series. It opens with a devastating post WWII situation during a routine night patrol in the American sector of Berlin. Only Lieutenant Frank Lodge survives the ambush, but he emerges changed. A few months later in Hiroshima, U.S. Navy Lt. Danny Wallace investigates an anomaly given top secret priority. In the tunnels below the wreckage of a hospital, Wallace discovers a phenomenon of intense white light thought to have a connection with the detonation of the A-bomb. This light is believed by an elite few to be linked to the changes experienced by several unsuspecting Americans. U.S. officials call these people Variants; normal people who have been spontaneously endowed with unique abilities that they are not sure how to control and don't fully understand. President Harry S. Truman green lights a highly classified agenda designed to contain, control, and possibly exploit these metahumans' abilities and, in doing so, Operation Majestic Twelve is born.

The main characters in this story are feared because they possess paranormal powers. It's all too easy to believe that our government would go to great lengths to keep their existence a secret. It's also conceivable that they would immediately try to use them as spies. Martinez brilliantly introduces the U.S. government's first paranormal team, Frank, Cal, Ellis, and Maggie, by revealing their bios via confidential reports, and by narrating in the POVs of the Variants themselves. The story follows them through their military quarantine and training, as they learn to control their abilities and work as a unit. I was fascinated by the psychological impact that becoming a metahuman under the government's influence had on each of the Variants.

Martinez also takes the time to detail some of the social injustices experienced by his diverse cast of characters in this Cold War era tale. I was outraged for Cal, the African American factory worker who is definitely my favorite character. His interactions with the bigoted Ellis alternately made me uncomfortable and frustrated by the lack of justice in the world. Through it all, Cal maintains his compassionate nature and I never stopped rooting for him. Maggie, the school teacher who can manipulate people's emotions, is the most terrifying. Her lack of deep emotional commitment or connection to anyone makes her truly scary. Martinez achieves a perfect balance of delving just deep enough into each character to give the reader a detailed understanding while still leaving a tantalizing amount of information open for exploration in future novels in the MAJESTIC-12 series.

Martinez is truly a gifted writer in that MJ:12 Inception has a distinct and utterly different flavor than his previous series. Although I only know about organizations like the CIA from books, movies and literature, his portrayal of the inner workings of government programs seems authentic. I enjoyed reading the confidential reports written from the perspective of top officials in the CIA. Martinez, a master at genre blending, has created an exciting new series by mixing a pinch of James Bond to a dash of the X-Men and then combining that with a dose of politics and old-fashioned cloak and dagger espionage.

With MJ-12 Inception, Martinez weaves an intense tale of patriotism, Cold War politics, the U.S. spy network, and the nuances of human relationships which I simply couldn't put down.

About Michael

Guest Blog by Michael J. Martinez and Review of MJ-12: Inception
Photo by Anna Martinez
I’m a husband, father and writer living the dream in the Garden State. I’ve spent nearly 20 years as a professional writer and journalist, including stints at The Associated Press and After telling other people’s stories for the bulk of my career, I’m happy that I can now be telling a few of my own creation. I’m a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and International Thriller Writers.

When not being a husband, parent or writer, I enjoy beer and homebrewing, cooking and eating, the outdoors and travel. If you’re curious about our travels,  my wife does a far better job of describing our adventures, so check out her blog at

Website  ~  Twitter @mikemartinez72

Review: Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig

Aftermath: Life Debt
Author:  Chuck Wendig
Series:  The Aftermath Trilogy 2
Publisher:  Del Rey, July 12, 2016
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 448 pages
List Price:  US$28.99 (print); US$14.99 (eBook)
ISBN9781101966938 (print); 9781101966945 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Reviewer's Own

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

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

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

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

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

Tracey/Trinitytwo's Point of View

Aftermath: Life Debt picks up shortly after the events of Aftermath. Norra Wexley's eclectic team has made a name for itself and works steadily for the New Republic. Their mission: capture and deliver important Imperials to Chandrila, where they will stand trial for their crimes against the galaxy. After returning from a particularly harrowing mission, Norra is approached by Princess Leia Organa who announces that her husband, Han Solo, is missing after a failed attempt to free Chewbacca from incarceration by the Empire. Although her request is not sanctioned by the leaders of the New Republic, Leia asks Norra and her team to find Han.

Life Debt screams into action almost immediately and its pace never lessens. Wendig hits his stride in this second installment and the choppiness I noted in book one of the trilogy has transitioned into a smooth ride through hyperspace. Although its storyline is complex, it's particularly well orchestrated. Each component fits together like an intricate puzzle that is extremely satisfying when completed.

I have grown quite fond of Norra Wexley and her diverse team of risk takers. Of note, Norra's son Temmin, whose chip on his shoulder was so large that he was often unlikeable in book one, has shown clear growth. His mixture of confusion, anger, and budding maturity are appropriate for a teenager. Norra has also grown more realistic. I empathize with her struggle to balance both her responsibilities as a single mom and her position in the New Republic. Jas Emari, the bounty hunter, Sinjir Rath Velus, the ex-Imperial, Jom Barell, formerly New Republic Spec-Forces and Mister Bones, Temmin's maniacal B1 Battle Droid, round out the team. Wendig allows each member to seamlessly get his, her, or its moment in the sun. In fact, Wendig does a fantastic job of keeping this large ensemble cast of characters three dimensional and hits every note with bittersweet accuracy.

Wendig provides insight into Grand Admiral Rae Sloane's motivation. Sloane's determination to champion the Empire's way of life and her desire to preserve its "order and stability" is key to the plot. Wendig humanizes her while also providing purpose and a plausibility that is often missing in antagonists that are simply greedy or hungry for power.

Aftermath tantalizes readers with glimpses of many favorites from the original Star Wars film trilogy: notably Han Solo and Chewbacca. Life Debt will assuredly thrill readers by continuing Han and Chewie's adventures after Return of the Jedi. As a diehard fan of the franchise, I enjoyed learning more about the complicated relationships between the princess, the scoundrel and the Wookie. Without any spoilerish details, there is one passage between Han and Chewie that brought tears to my eyes. Well done, Wendig!

Life Debt speaks of the injustices of inequality, slavery, prejudice and poverty in a galaxy far, far away, and yet it also served to remind me of the suffering in our world today. This is brilliant writing! I am truly impressed with the overall message Wendig sends out while at the same time entertaining readers with a rich, complex and riveting story set in the Star Wars universe. I thoroughly enjoyed book one, but book two is even better. Aftermath: Life Debt leaves me excited to get my hands on Book 3, Aftermath: Empire's End. I recommend if you haven't started this series, start reading now. This is definitely the Star Wars series you've been looking for!

Note: Aftermath: Life Debt is the second book in the Aftermath Trilogy following Aftermath (See Trinitytwo's Review here..  I recommend reading them in order, although the author does a great job of reintroducing characters and conflicts in book two.


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

Review: Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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

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

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

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

See Trinitytwo's Review here.


Aftermath: Empire's End
The Aftermath Trilogy 3
Del Rey, February 21, 2017
Hardcover and ebook, 320 pages

Review: Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig
Following Star Wars: Aftermath and Star Wars: Life Debt, Chuck Wendig delivers the exhilarating conclusion to the New York Times bestselling trilogy set in the years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.

SPFBO 2016 - Some Reviews by Trinitytwo

Trinitytwo / Tracey reviews 5 of the novels that The Qwillery is assigned for the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2016.  With the exception of a few novels that we knocked out early upon a read of the first few chapters we are reading all of the novels though some end up not fully read even after initial interest. We will recap all of this in a post announcing the novel we are putting through .... soon.

SPFBO 2016 - Some Reviews by Trinitytwo
A Facet for the Gem
The Tale of Eaglefriend - Book One
by C. L. Murray

Orphaned and unwanted, sixteen year old Morlen has never fit in with the citizens of Korindelf. Morlen's one unlikely friend is the king's advisor, the wizard Nottleforf. As Morlen prepares to leave his birth city behind, the unthinkable occurs. The dying king learns of his son Felkoth's many treacheries against his kingdom and their loyal allies, the Eaglemasters. The king denies him the crown and the depth of Felkoth's malevolence is revealed. Felkoth seeks the mystical powers of the Goldshard to secure his bid for absolute power but is enraged to discover that Nottleforf has beat him to the prize. Before Felkoth can recover the shard, Nottleforf entrusts it into Morlen's care and helps him to escape to the magical Forbidden Isle. it is only when Morlen reaches the Forbidden Isle that his quest to discover his true self can begin. Meanwhile, Felkoth's tyranny has only begun.

C.L. Murray's tale of a young man fleeing for his life and running straight into the arms of destiny is a top notch epic fantasy adventure. Morlen is a likeable hero whose strengths and weaknesses hit all the right marks. The villain, Felkoth is the quintessential megalomaniac. Each heinous act he perpetrates adds to the desperateness of the hero's situation and greatly accelerates the plot. The budding friendship between Morlen and the eagle Roftome is a definite highlight . I also enjoyed learning the secrets of both Morlen's and Felkoth's heritage. My biggest complaint is that there is only one strong female character and although I admire Valeine's bravery, I didn't really connect to her.

I enjoyed the mythos of Murray's world and learning about some of its history. Packed with marvelous creatures, exciting action sequences and a journey of self-discovery, I wholeheartedly recommend A Facet for the Gem to any lover of fantasy.

SPFBO 2016 - Some Reviews by Trinitytwo
Dance of the Goblins
Goblin Series Book One
by Jaq D Hawkins

In a post apocalyptic world, humankind reacts violently when it is discovered that goblins live close by. Fear and blind hatred breed an angry mob that sets out to eradicate the presumed goblin threat. Only Count Anton and his community of magicians seeks to maintain peaceful relations with the goblin race. Count Anton works with goblins Hagruf and Talla to prevent a prophesy of potential death and destruction for all. Only by working together can they bring a balance and an understanding between the two races.

Dance of the Goblins piqued my interest with the promise of Goblin mythology. Hawkins sprinkled her story with information of their habits, ethics and way of life that captured my imagination. I was delighted to learn that there are more than one type of goblin and how each type fits into the goblin society. However, as the story progressed, Hawkins became preachy about humanity's endless list of faults. Hawkins' endless call outs of the human race for their arrogance, vanity, disrespect of women, and worshiping a sterile God, just to name a few, made for some tedious reading.

Count Anton was a bit too perfect for my tastes. A handsome, powerful shape shifter, he is one of the only reasonable humans in a world tainted by ignorance. I rooted for his endeavors but didn't feel much of a connection. The goblins, as I believe the author intended, were more to my liking and I enjoyed reading about Hagruf's and Talla's back stories immensely.

Dance of the Goblins has some interesting themes but because I felt bombarded with a constant negativity toward the human race, it raised my hackles. Although this is the only fault I find with this story, for me it is a major one. I enjoyed Hawkins' goblin history and really liked the fact that out of the three main POV's, only one was human. Unfortunately, I was not drawn into the dance but there were moments when I enjoyed it just the same.

SPFBO 2016 - Some Reviews by Trinitytwo
The Mighty
Book One of The Druid's Guise
by Michael J Sanford

Fifteen year old Wyatt is unique because he lives in two worlds. On Earth, Wyatt's grandmother and caretaker is hospitalized and he is sent to Shepherd's Crook, an institution for troubled children. He avoids dealing with the trauma of his situation by immersing himself in his imagination, naming himself Wyatt the Mighty and hurling fireballs, lightning, and ice spears at his enemies. Life is unbearable, until with the help of his pendant made of jade and driftwood, Wyatt is mysteriously transported to Hagion, a world where magic abounds. But Hagion is dangerous and Wyatt finds himself in peril almost immediately upon his arrival. Rescued by Rozen, a female warrior of the Draygan race, he is befriended by Mareck and Gareck, a duo from a benign race called the Children. As they teach Wyatt about his new environment and the ways of the Mother, Wyatt learns firsthand about the violent reign of the brutal Regency and boldly vows to free Hagion's inhabitants from their cruelty. For all Wyatt's blustering and assurances of his magical Druid's power, he is still a clumsy fifteen year old; can he really save them?

I feel somewhat ambivalent about The Mighty. The protagonist, Wyatt is not very likeable. I found it difficult to feel sympathy for him, and his habit of sloppy smiles and pushing up his glasses irritated me. However, I kept reading because I wanted to know what was really going on with this troubled teen. Sanford's technique of allowing the reader only brief glimpses into Wyatt's earthly situation will appeal to mystery lovers. Wyatt is clearly emotionally disturbed but although The Mighty contains numerous clues, Sanford leaves unanswered the very real question of Wyatt's sanity

I also really liked Wyatt's odd assortment of friends when he was transported to Hagion. Sanford's characters are really well written and practically burst from the pages. Although I didn't find Wyatt likeable, he was three dimensional. I also enjoyed the cast of supporting characters who were diverse and interesting. The gradual blossoming of Wyatt's relationship with his newfound friends as they encountered a multitude of obstacles on their quest is near perfect.

Problematic are the transitions from chapter to chapter. I was often confused and had to reread passages to figure out where Wyatt was or how he got into certain situations. I feel that some of this is intentional but at other times is not. The story is largely dark and rape, suicide, and mental illness are some of the stronger issues that make up this tale. I would only recommend this YA to older teens as I feel it's too disturbing for younger readers.

The Mighty reminds me of Michael Ende's The Neverending Story but without the emotional connection to Wyatt that I felt with Bastian. As this is only book one I am not sure where Sanford is taking Wyatt, but I fear that the story will get even darker and sadder. Frankly, I'm still on the fence about whether to continue reading future books in the series.

SPFBO 2016 - Some Reviews by Trinitytwo
The Music Box Girl
by K. A. Stewart

The Music Box Girl opens as a young man seeks his fortune at the famous Detroit Opera House. Tony is grateful to be hired as a stagehand but he aspires to one day sing on stage. A mysterious cloaked woman promises to give him voice lessons with the stipulation that she remains anonymous. Tony agrees, believing her to be the mysterious ghost that the other stagehands have warned him about. Though odd, Melody's musical knowledge and talent is undeniable and he honors her request as he hones his skill. Tony gets his big break when the temperamental star tenor walks out on the production and he triumphantly steps in. Bess, a close friend from Tony's childhood, happens to be in the audience and the two quickly get reacquainted much to his tutor's displeasure. This complication begins a series of events leading to mayhem, murder and a mechanical monster.

The Music Box Girl is a delightful steampunk adventure that features a few of my favorite things: secret passages, automatons, a dirigible, and a very interesting love triangle. Tony, the would-be tenor, is a genuinely good guy with a heart of gold. He has strong feelings for both the dangerously single-minded Melody, and Bess, the bold explorer. Stewart's third person narrative showcases these characters' wildly diverse motivations and left me hard-pressed to pick a favorite.

There are plenty of action sequences that ramp up the excitement. My favorite is a game of cat and mouse in the many secret passages of the old opera house. Stewart's antagonist garners some sympathy which, coupled with the entertaining descriptions of the backstage antics and inner workings of the opera house, serve to enhance the complexity of the plot. I highly recommend The Music Box Girl; it's a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable adventure that I found difficult to put down.

SPFBO 2016 - Some Reviews by Trinitytwo
Yesterday's Prince
By HD Lynn

Yesterday's Prince intrigued me with its opening. While on campaign against his uncle, the wizard Arniel Gains, prince Uther wakes disoriented and tied up in an unfamiliar marshland. As he struggles to escape his bonds, he is discovered by one of his loyal soldiers, yet Brinn looks upon him with hatred. Confused, he chances to glimpse his reflection in the water and realizes he has been somehow cursed to inhabit his uncle's body. Brinn attempts to take him back to camp for execution but the fae intercede on his behalf. He is brought to the home of Malmordra, a fae of exceptional powers, to recover. But how does one recover from a curse?

Yesterday's Prince is a solid fantasy. Lynn does a good job of conveying Uther's range of emotions. Trapped in his uncle's body, he alternates between being scared, frustrated, angry and full of despair. I like the idea of a curse that forces the young prince into his uncle's much older body and allows Arniel to inhabit his nephew's form and easily rule in Uther's stead. Uther's best friend Septimus is also a wizard and although young and nowhere near as powerful as Arniel, he is smart enough to realize that something is wrong. At the start of the story, Septimus is interesting and well-rounded but unfortunately as the story progresses he becomes rather flat and predictable.

There are some continuity problems as Septimus starts out as a wizard who is afraid to perform real magic but once in danger leaps full bore into some pretty grisly blood magic. His spells compel other humans to essentially become his puppets. Lynn mentions at one point near the end of the book what a powerful wizard Septimus is which confused me. When did that happen? Yesterday's Prince needs a bit more editing as typos also abound.

The parts that really drew me in and kept me reading are Uther's interactions with the fae. Malmordra and her daughters and their nonhuman way of thinking kept me entertained and turning pages. I hope Lynn plans on revealing Malmordra's past association with Arniel which is alluded to often in the course of the story. I am also quite attached to the goblin, whom Uther names Rosebud, and think that her relationship with the cursed prince is simply adorable.

Yesterday's Prince has some great fantasy elements and I think readers will root for Uther and his companions. Regrettably, the story lost steam near the end and didn't have much in the way of resolution. However, it shows promise and I'm definitely interested in reading about Uther's further adventures after some of the editing problems get worked out.

An Interview with Ian Doescher

Tracey / Trinitytwo caught up with Ian Doescher at New York Comic Con last year. Ian is the author of the William Shakespeare's Star Wars® series, which number six volumes. In honor of the Bard, we give you an interview with Ian Doescher.

William Shakespeare's Star Wars®
Quirk Books, July 2, 2013
Hardcover and eBook, 176 pages

Return once more to a galaxy far, far away with this sublime retelling of George Lucas’s epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. ’Tis a tale told by fretful droids, full of faithful Wookiees and fearstome stormtroopers, signifying...pretty much everything.

Reimagined in glorious iambic pentameter—and complete with twenty gorgeous Elizabethan illustrations--William Shakespeare’s Star Wars will astound and edify Rebels and Imperials alike. Zounds! This is the book you’re looking for.

William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back
     Star Wars® Part the Fifth
Quirk Books, March 18, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 176 pages

The saga that began with the interstellar best seller William Shakespeare’s Star Wars continues with this merry reimagining of George Lucas's enduring classic The Empire Strikes Back.

Many a fortnight have passed since the destruction of the Death Star. Young Luke Skywalker and his friends have taken refuge on the ice planet of Hoth, where the evil Darth Vader has hatched a cold-blooded plan to capture them. Only with the help of a little green Jedi Master—and a swaggering rascal named Lando Calrissian—can our heroes escape the Empire's wrath. And only then will Lord Vader learn how sharper than a tauntaun's tooth it is to have a Jedi child.

What light through Yoda's window breaks? Methinks you'll find out in the pages of The Empire Striketh Back!

William Shakespeare's The Jedi Doth Return
     Star Wars® Part the Sixth
Quirk Books, July 1, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 176 pages

Hot on the heels of the New York Times best seller William Shakespeare’s Star Wars comes the next two installments of the original trilogy: William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back and William Shakespeare’s The Jed Doth Return. Return to the star-crossed galaxy far, far away as the brooding young hero, a power-mad emperor, and their jesting droids match wits, struggle for power, and soliloquize in elegant and impeccable iambic pentameter.

Illustrated with beautiful black-and-white Elizabethan-style artwork, these two plays offer essential reading for all ages. Something Wookiee this way comes!

William Shakespeare's The Phantom of Menace
     Star Wars® Part the First
Quirk Books, April 7, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 176 pages

Join us, good gentles, for a merry reimagining of Star Wars: episode 1 as only Shakespeare could have written it. The entire saga starts here, with a thrilling tale featuring a disguised queen, a young hero, and two fearless knights facing a hidden, vengeful enemy.

’Tis a true Shakespearean drama, filled with sword fights, soliloquies, and doomed romance . . . all in glorious iambic pentameter and coupled with twenty gorgeous Elizabethan illustrations. Hold on to your midi-chlorians:
 The play’s the thing, wherein you’ll catch the rise of Anakin!

William Shakespeare’s The Clone Army Attacketh
     Star Wars® Part the Second
Quirk Books, July 7, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 176 pages

In time so long ago begins our play,
In clash-strewn galaxy far, far away.

To Shmi or not to Shmi? Torn between duty to the Jedi, attraction to Padmé, and concern for his beloved mother, yeoman Jedi Anakin Skywalker struggles to be master of his fate. The path he chooses will determine not just his own destiny, but that of the entire Republic. And thereby hangs a tale.

Alack the day! A noble lady in danger. A knight and squire in battle. And a forbidden love that’s written in the stars. Once again, the quill of William Shakespeare meets the galaxy of George Lucas in an insightful reimagining that sets the Star Wars saga on the Elizabethan stage. The characters are familiar, but the masterful meter, insightful soliloquies, and period illustrations will convince you that the Bard himself penned this epic adventure.

William Shakespeare’s Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge
     Star Wars® Part the Third
Quirk Books, September 8, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 168 pages

The curtain rises once again on that star-crossed galaxy far, faraway—this time, to chronicle a once-heroic knight’s transformation into the darkest of villains. William Shakespeare’s Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge is the climactic conclusion to the fall of the house of Skywalker, a collaboration between William Shakespeare and George Lucas that’s filled with masterful meter, stirring soliloquies, inside jokes, and intricate Elizabethan illustrations. You’ll fall in love with Star Wars—and Shakespeare—all over again. At the same time!

Interview with April Daniels and Review of DreadnoughtReview and Giveaway - Pocket Full of Tinder by Jill ArcherReview: Clown Wars: Blood & Aspic by Jeremy Drysdale and Joseph D'LaceyReview: Brightwood by Tania UnsworthReview: The Waking Fire by Anthony RyanArtisan's Avenue: David Thorn WenzelGuest Blog by Michael J. Martinez and Review of MJ-12: InceptionReview: Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck WendigSPFBO 2016 - Some Reviews by TrinitytwoAn Interview with Ian Doescher

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