The Qwillery | category: 2013 DAC Guest Blog


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Guest Blog by Mark H. Williams - John Masefield and The Box Of Delights - December 12, 2013

Please welcome Mark H. Williams to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs.  Sleepless Knights was published in September 2013 by Atomic Fez Publishing.  You may read an interview with Mark here.

Guest Blog by Mark H. Williams - John Masefield and The Box Of Delights - December 12, 2013

John Masefield and The Box Of Delights

Like many British children of the 1980s, I first encountered the work of John Masefield through the BBC’s 1984 adaptation of his novel, The Box Of Delights. Since then, Masefield has been a constant presence in my life; not least when a project based on his work was a key element in my development as a theatre writer. It was then that I discovered the poetry of this one-time Poet Laureate, in particular Salt-Water Ballads, and found myself entranced by the musical ease with which he evokes a bygone sea-faring age. His Arthurian poems became part of my research for Sleepless Knights, and The Sailing Of Hell Race, a reworking of an Otherworldly expedition, informed my own take on the Grail quest.

But more than anything, it’s The Box Of Delights that has remained with me over the years – particularly the TV adaptation, although the book is no less memorable – a core influence that’s resonated in my writing in countless ways. Re-watching the TV version is an annual ritual as much as decorating the tree, and Christmas doesn’t feel like it’s properly started until those opening titles begin.

Ah, those opening titles. Aside from the Doctor Who theme, I can’t think of another series where music and visuals so perfectly distill the essence of the show they introduce. A spine-tingling arrangement of The First Noel from Victor Hely-Hutchinson’s Carol Symphony (apparently the suggestion of actor Robert Stephens – more on him later) accompanies a selection of dream-like images from the story. Further description wouldn’t do it justice, so if you’ve never had the pleasure, head to YouTube for a moment. I’ll wait here.

Back in 1984, The Box Of Delights was a groundbreaking big-budget bonanza of a production, paving the way for the BBC’s equally ambitious adaptations of The Chronicles Of Narnia, which began four years later. Mixing live action and animation, it’s a period piece on many levels. The 1930s setting throws up Blyton-esque archaic gems, from buttered eggs to bullseye sweets. Then there’s the treasure trove of words and phrases – “that’s just the purple pim!”, and the brilliant “scrobbled”, used to describe the tale’s numerous kidnappings. Some of the special effects, too, belong to a lost world. But, thanks to the fine artistry of the animation in particular, they continue to impress those who refuse to let anything spoil their enjoyment of a good story.

And The Box Of Delights is a good story; albeit one that would barely tick a single box, delightful or otherwise, on today’s screenwriting checklists. But just as a well-structured story offers pleasures all of its own, so do enchanting imagery and dazzling imagination. And when it comes to imagery and imagination, The Box Of Delights is, to borrow a phrase used to describe Phillip Pullman’s Northern Lights, a rich casket of wonders.

There’s the Box itself, of course – small, slightly scruffy, apparently unremarkable. But, much like another fantastical box, its battered everyday exterior hides a doorway into all of time and space. To open it is to step back into the Roman Empire, or onto a dim and distant desert island; or to conjure up a majestic Phoenix within the flames of a fireplace. In one of the series’ still-breathtaking set-pieces, it even lets our hero, Kay Harker, run through a wild wood with Herne The Hunter, transforming himself, in a manner Ted Hughes would surely have approved of, into a stag, a fish, and a wild duck. And that’s not all. Press the outer catch of the Box to the left, and you go swift – flying away from danger in the nick of time. Press it to the right, and you go small – shrunk down into a Borrowers world of ice-skating mice and rancid-cheese-scoffing rats.

The Box is the property of Cole Hawlings, played – in one of those decisions that makes you think if there is a God, he works in casting – by Patrick Troughton. A mysterious Punch & Judy showman, Cole enlists Kay Harker’s help in keeping the Box safe from villain Abner Brown and his cohorts. The twinkle Troughton brought to his Second Doctor is very much in his eye throughout. But his performance here is tempered by a tired vulnerability, not too far from John Hurt’s recent turn as a war-weary Time Lord. And, just as Hurt’s War Doctor was in need of friends to light his darkest hour, so too does Troughton’s ancient magician need Kay’s help; a kindred spirit in his fight against the forces of evil.

As for those forces, Abner’s motive for wanting the Box may appear, on the surface, to be fairly one-dimensional – the non-specific Bond villain staple of “power… over all!” It’s testament to Masefield’s skill as a writer, and Robert Stephens’ commitment as an actor, however, that the question of who possesses the Box of Delights is of vital, world-shattering importance. In the hands of a lesser performer, Abner Brown might provoke the hisses and boos beloved of pantomime baddies. But Stephens never sends up the role. Not for one second does he ‘act down’ to either the material or the audience. His intensity – not least his hatred for the “interfering Kay Harker!” – is chillingly sustained. Even a final scene that threatens to undermine his malevolent menace can’t rob Stephens, or us, of his total conviction.

He’s supported in this by a story that hints, with a subtlety at times comparable to the ghost stories of MR James, at dark and indefinable forces stirring in the bleak midwinter. Abner Brown is a man in league with a witch, summoning imps and demons who predict the future and manipulate the elements. His henchmen can transform themselves into wolves – but this is never seen, or even directly stated. All we have is the shivery ambiguity of the phrase “the wolves are running” – and I’ll take that over any number of psychologically satisfying expositional speeches.

But despite the scares in the dark, Masefield never lets us forget to “look out for fun.” And it’s in this “looking out” where the heart of the story lies for me, an invitation to approach the world with our ears and eyes fully open. It’s there in Kay’s surname – Harker – and in the name of his house, Seekings. It’s there in the affinity between “pagan times” Cole Hawlings and the Christian Bishop – a happy accommodation between different traditions, united in their shared goal of defeating evil in time to celebrate Christmas Eve together. And it’s there in Masefield’s refreshingly modern celebration of family, as being those who are simply your nearest and dearest, heedless of convention – orphan Kay, foster-guardian Caroline Louisa, and fellow parentless adventurers, the Jones children.

That’s why I keep returning to Masefield’s delightful winter’s tale, discovering something new with each visit. It’s a story that inspires us look at the world with fresh eyes. A manifesto of the marvelous, which tells us that, if we only remain alive to meaning, sensitive to subtlety and hungry for enchantment, then all of us can be poets.

Sleepless Knights

Sleepless Knights
Atomic Fez Publishing, September 24, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 418 pages

Guest Blog by Mark H. Williams - John Masefield and The Box Of Delights - December 12, 2013
Sir Lucas is butler to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table — the person who managed every quest from behind the scenes. He’s a man whose average working day involved defeating witches and banishing werewolves, while ensuring the Royal pot of tea never crossed the thin line separating ‘brewed’ from ‘stewed.’ What’s more, 1,500 years after that golden age, he’s still doing it — here in the modern world, right under our noses.

When King Arthur and six of his knights are exposed as living among us, Merlin is unleashed and a grim apocalypse unfolds, uncovering secrets from the past that King Arthur would rather stay buried. When Lucas is forced to confront his own peculiar destiny, will he choose to sacrifice his true love and lay down his life in the service of his master?

Sleepless Knights is a tale of high adventure and warm humour, with a spring in its step, a twinkle in its eye and, at its heart, the ultimate butler.

About Mark
(from the Author's website)

Guest Blog by Mark H. Williams - John Masefield and The Box Of Delights - December 12, 2013
I’m a freelance writer of scripts, books and plays.

Forthcoming productions include Here Be Monsters (Theatr Iolo, touring Wales, July – August 2013) and a stage adaptation of Jason & The Argonauts (Courtyard Hereford, touring England, September – autumn 2013).

My debut novel Sleepless Knights, a fantasy novel about King Arthur’s butler, is published in August 2013 by Atomic Fez books.

I’ve written two UK-touring stage adaptations for The Birmingham Stage Company. Horrible Histories: The Frightful First World War (2009;  nominated for a Manchester Evening News award for Best Family Show) and Horrible Science (2010). Both plays were based on the best-selling books published by Scholastic. Horrible Science is re-touring the UK in the autumn of 2013.

Past theatre projects include The Theatre Of Doom! for the Courtyard Hereford, Zufall for Cwmni Theatr 3D, Young Merlin for the Sherman Theatre Company, Everything Gets Eaten with the Desperate Men Theatre Company, Use It Or Lose It for Dirty Protest and Opera Max: 9 Stories High for Welsh National Opera.

I’ve written extensively for radio, including My Dog’s Got No Nose, Weekend Film Matinee and My Kind Of Wales for BBC Wales, and The Bethan & Huw Show for BBC Radio One. Television work includes the sketch show Lucky Bag, and I was a sitcom finalist in the inaugural BBC Talent scheme.
I’m currently developing new projects with National Theatre Wales, and a main-stage play for a family audience based on Arthurian legend with the Torch Theatre.

Website  ~  Twitter @markhwilliams

Listen to an interview with Mark at Bell, Book & Candle here!

Guest Blog by J. Kathleen Cheney - Secondary Characters - December 5, 2013

Please welcome J. Kathleen Cheney to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. The Golden City was published by Roc on November 5, 2013. You may read an interview with Ms. Cheney here.

Guest Blog by J. Kathleen Cheney - Secondary Characters - December 5, 2013

Secondary Characters

       When readers pick up a book, the writer hopes their imagination is captured by the story of the main characters. The readers follow them along with the story's narrative, learn what they're thinking, and get told the outcome of their adventures. They're who the story's about, after all.

       But sometimes when I read, I find myself just as interested in one of the secondary characters. They may never get the POV job, so we may never see how they think about their world, but it's interesting to imagine what's going on inside their heads. So whenever I'm writing secondary characters, I want them to be as interesting as possible.

       Given, there are characters who merely come in to one scene, drop some information, carry out one little action, or reveal some backstory…and then disappear. But there are others who stick around, making little appearances, and constantly filling in those group scenes. And for those, I always wonder who and what they are.

       As the writer, I have to know.

       I was recently discussing this with another writer who felt guilty. She was writing some backstory scenes for her characters, delineating how they all met. Those scenes would never make it into her book, so why was she spending time writing them out? I understood completely, though. I do that, too. By sitting down and writing it out, we gain a clearer understanding of who those characters are. We have a better chance of knowing why they're in that group shot in the first place.

       In my recent book, one of the characters with a complex backstory, Alessio, is dead at the outset of the book. His death is what provokes his brother Duilio to return home. And while Duilio thinks he knows why his brother died, it turns out he was wrong. In addition, he finds himself dealing with his brother's lovers who fear that Duilio will reveal salacious details about their affairs with Alessio.

       As the writer, I have to know everything about Alessio: I have to know why he had so many lovers, why he wrote it down, and what he was doing that ultimately got him killed. I have to know his political beliefs, his relationship to the Church and to the Monarchy, how he feels about his family. All of that is involved in what brought about his death…and set up the rest of the story.

       So I do write out scenes that will never see publication. I joked with that other writer that I'm writing fan-fic about my own characters, because I'm exploring parts of the story that won't make it into any book (which is, more or less, what writers of fan-fic are doing.) But I think that understanding the characters (even the secondary ones) helps the writer make them more real for the reader.

       And sometime those secondary people become our favorites. Is there a secondary character that you find more intriguing than any of the main characters in their books?

The Golden City

The Golden City
Roc, November 5, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Guest Blog by J. Kathleen Cheney - Secondary Characters - December 5, 2013
For two years, Oriana Paredes has been a spy among the social elite of the Golden City, reporting back to her people, the sereia, sea folk banned from the city’s shores....

When her employer and only confidante decides to elope, Oriana agrees to accompany her to Paris. But before they can depart, the two women are abducted and left to drown. Trapped beneath the waves, Oriana’s heritage allows her to survive while she is forced to watch her only friend die.

Vowing vengeance, Oriana crosses paths with Duilio Ferreira—a police consultant who has been investigating the disappearance of a string of servants from the city’s wealthiest homes. Duilio also has a secret: He is a seer and his gifts have led him to Oriana.

Bound by their secrets, not trusting each other completely yet having no choice but to work together, Oriana and Duilio must expose a twisted plot of magic so dark that it could cause the very fabric of history to come undone....

About J. Kathleen Cheney

Guest Blog by J. Kathleen Cheney - Secondary Characters - December 5, 2013
J. Kathleen Cheney is a former teacher and has taught mathematics ranging from 7th grade to Calculus, with a brief stint as a Gifted and Talented Specialist. Her short fiction has been published in Jim Baen's Universe, Writers of the Future, and Fantasy Magazine, among others, and her novella "Iron Shoes" was a 2010 Nebula Award Finalist. Her novel, "The Golden City" will come out from Penguin, November 5, 2013.

Her website can be found at

Twitter @jkcheney  ~  Facebook  ~  Tumblr

Guest Blog by K.B. Laugheed - Why We Need Stories - October 21, 2013

Please welcome K. B. Laugheed to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. The Spirit Keeper was published on September 24, 2013. You may read an interview with K.B. here.

Why We Need Stories
by K.B. Laugheed

       I have considered myself a writer ever since my 5th grade teacher gushed over a poem I wrote. At the time I appreciated Mrs. Brock’s kind enthusiasm, but over the years I have, on many occasions, cursed the poor woman for setting me on this arduous course. A writer’s life is one in which you no matter how hard you work, you are continuously criticized, rejected, and ignored.
       You have to be crazy to be a writer.
       By the time I reached the age of 50, I had had enough of battering my head bloody against the brick wall that separates “authors” from lowly writers. I vowed never to write again, determined to find pleasure in all the things I’d ignored while always writing. I didn’t want to waste another precious second of my life hunched over a piece of paper, frantically scribbling stories no one wanted to read.
       Days passed. Months passed. Years passed. And a funny thing slowly become apparent to me. Not writing left me feeling far more depressed and miserable than did all the criticism and rejection my writing had garnered over the years. When an artist friend explained she drew pictures not because she was trying to produce great art but because she was trying to keep herself sane, I finally understood what was wrong with me. Writing isn’t something I do for other people; it’s something I do because if I don’t, I soon start frothing at the mouth.
       You, do, after all, have to be crazy to be a writer.
       I have always been intrigued by the prehistoric drawings deep in the caverns of France, drawn by people who were little more than cavemen. Now that I understand why I write, I also finally understand why those distant ancestors of ours scrawled their stories on stone walls. Humans need stories. We need to give our churning brains something solid to chew on, or our restless thoughts will inevitably turn inward, snapping and snarling like rabid wolves until our tender psyches are torn to shreds.
       Humans need stories because we need to focus our thoughts, to make inexplicable things make sense, and to find refuge from our weird and worrisome world. Just as researchers have found our brains can cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder through the use of certain specific mental exercises, I believe our brains are hard-wired to use stories to cope with the infinite stresses of everyday life. Stories are Nature’s anti-depressant.
       Though reality is always beyond your control, you can easily control the stories in your head. Are you bored at your tedious job? Then find an exciting story and get a free rush of real adrenalin. Has it been ages since you fell in love? Then enjoy a romantic story and let your body bask in all those lusty hormones. Are you frustrated, sad, or fearful? Then tell yourself a story that makes you feel powerful, overjoyed, or fierce. Why settle for the basic life you’re living when you can explore an infinity of other lives, other worlds, and other ways?
       In my 55th year I sat down to write The Spirit Keeper, not because I believed this time would be different from all the writing projects that led to criticism, rejection, and despair, but because I needed to restore my sanity. And if you respond to The Spirit Keeper in a positive way, perhaps that’s because you feel it too—the Prozac-like waves of comfort that come from getting lost in a story. It’s the same feeling the cavemen must’ve felt as they stared at those drawings in the flickering firelight of 25,000 years ago, and it’s the same feeling our distant descendants will no doubt feel when they someday watch hologram recreations of our adventures here in the 21st century.
       I only hope the stories they tell about us satisfy them as much as the stories I now write only for myself.

The Spirit Keeper

The Spirit Keeper
Plume (Penguin), September 24, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

This is the account of Katie O Toole, late of Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania, removed from her family by savages on March the 2nd in the year of our Lord 1747

The thirteenth child conceived of miserable Irish exiles, Katie O Toole dreams of a different life. Little does she know that someone far away is dreaming of her.

In 1747, savages raid her family home, and seventeen-year-old Katie is taken captive. Syawa and Hector have been searching for her, guided by Syawa s dreams. A young Holyman, Syawa believes Katie is the subject of his Vision: the Creature of Fire and Ice, destined to bring a great gift to his people. Despite her flaming hair and ice-blue eyes, Katie is certain he is mistaken, but faced with returning to her family, she agrees to join them. She soon discovers that in order to fulfill Syawa s Vision, she must first become his Spirit Keeper, embarking on an epic journey that will change her life and heart forever.

About K.B.

K.B. Laugheed grew up in the shadow of the site of the 1812 Battle of Tippecanoe. She is an organic gardener and master naturalist who has spent a lifetime feeding the earth, and her efforts have culminated in The Spirit Keeper, her first novel and largest contribution to the potluck so far.


Twitter @klaugheed

Guest Blog by Libby McGugan, author of The Eidolon - October 4, 2013

Please welcome Libby McGugan to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. The Eidolon will be published on October 29th in the US and Canada and November 7th in the UK.

Guest Blog by Libby McGugan, author of The Eidolon - October 4, 2013

A big thank you, Sally, for the invitation to join The Qwillery party! It’s a privilege to be here.

Why I wrote The Eidolon and a few thoughts on why anyone writes anything.

Here’s the longer answer to this one. For those with a short attention span, the brief version will be posted in the Debut Author Challenge on 28th October.

Does the world really need another book? According to Google, who actually counted, there are something like 130 million books out there. We’re not short of them. So why bother?

For me, it was something that wouldn’t leave me alone. It was a way to explore some thoughts I’d been chewing on for a long time. I didn’t set out to be a writer, but I did have a story I wanted to tell.

I had a great upbringing. My mum is a Catholic and my dad was a Protestant (a pretty antiestablishment union for its time and place). When my dad was in his twenties, he realized that religion wasn’t working for him, so he turned to science, as a layman, to try to figure out what’s going on. He lived and breathed it. So we had this dichotomy of worldviews in our house – science on one side and religion on the other. They coexisted harmoniously and respectfully, but it did make me think. I grew up with TV science documentaries, New Scientist, Carl Sagan and Arthur C. Clarke. Until my dad died in 2007, we frequently had long discussions into the small hours about cosmology, life on other planets, quantum physics and what it all means. It left me with a sense of wonder about the world that’s still with me. It’s partly why I went into medicine – I was fascinated by the design of the human body. It lets you enjoy a good meal, go to a movie, eat popcorn and you don’t have to think about what your hepatocytes are up to with your Sauvignon Blanc.

I also grew up with George Lucas, Yoda, The Force and all that this represents. I can still tell you pretty much every line, including Greedo’s. (‘Otta-toota, Solo. Jabba wanecheko, bashuniawe kantanya wanya ooska, hey, hey, hey, hey.’ I’m not kidding.) This, too, left me with a sense of magic about the world. But it kind of clashed with the whole science thing.

I love science, with its homage to evidence, fastidious rigor and obsession with facts. But I also love the spirit of life – the thing that makes you feel, love, question, desire. For a long time, I couldn’t square the two – it seemed like science was real but detached and the spirit of life inspiring but intangible.

In the end, I sat down and wrote a book about a scientist who’s exploring these ideas. As it turns out, The Eidolon is the first in a trilogy. It’s dressed up as a thriller (with some unabashed parachuting into fantasyland), but it’s really a story about one man and how his worldview is shaped and changed by his experiences. Once it got hold of me, it snowballed, and I’ve loved the whole journey. Even, and in fact especially, the editing! Given that writing is a fairly solitary process, working with other people – Cornerstone’s Literary Consultancy to begin with, Ian Drury, my agent, and Jonathan Oliver, chief editor at Solaris - to improve what’s on the page, has been thoroughly rewarding. It’s an ongoing apprenticeship and each contribution sharpens the story. I’ve also been lucky to have some really supportive and patient people in my life to allow it to happen.

For me, writing this story and the ones that follow is a chance to explore two apparently disparate ideologies, and I see now that it is that space in between, where the edges blur, that it gets exciting. It’s our curiosity, our foresight, our ability to ask ‘what if?’ that drives science. So from this vantage point, science is an expression of the mind. And the best part is we get to benefit from the daydreams.

So why do we write stories, or for that matter, play music, study physics, climb mountains or do whatever our thing happens to be? Maybe it’s because those passions are the fabric of life. They connect us with ourselves, with other people and with the world around us. It’s the stuff of life, of feeling truly alive.

The Eidolon

The Eidolon
Solaris Books, October 29, 2013 (US/Canada)
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Guest Blog by Libby McGugan, author of The Eidolon - October 4, 2013
A contemporary SF thriller. The divide between science and the human spirit is the setting for a battle for the future.

When physicist Robert Strong loses his job at the Dark Matter research lab and his relationship falls apart, he returns home to Scotland. Then the dead start appearing to him, and Robert begins to question his own sanity. Victor Amos, an enigmatic businessman, arrives and recruits Robert to sabotage CERN’S Large Hadron Collider, convincing him the next step in the collider’s research will bring about disaster. Everything Robert once understood about reality, and the boundaries between life and death, is about to change forever. And the biggest change will be to Robert himself... Mixing science, philosophy and espionage, Libby McGugan’s stunning debut is a thriller like no other.

About Libby

Guest Blog by Libby McGugan, author of The Eidolon - October 4, 2013
Libby McGugan was born 1972 in Airdrie, a small town east of Glasgow in Scotland, to a Catholic mother and a Protestant-turned-atheist father, who loved science. She enjoyed a mixed diet of quantum physics, spiritual instinct, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Her ambition was to grow up and join the Rebel alliance in a galaxy Far, Far away. Instead she went to Glasgow University and studied medicine.

A practising doctor, she has worked in Scotland, in Australia with the Flying Doctors service and, for a few months, in a field hospital in the desert. She loves travelling and the diversity that is the way different people see the world, and has been trekking in the Himalaya of Bhutan, potholing in Sarawak, backpacking in Chile and Europe, and diving in Cairns.

Her biggest influences are Joseph Campbell, Lao Tzu, David Bohm, Brian Greene, and Yoda.

Website  ~  Twitter @LIBBYMcGUGAN  ~  Facebook

Guest Blog by Peter Rawlik, author of Reanimators - September 10, 2013

Please welcome Peter Rawlik to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Reanimators was published on September 3, 2013. The eBook was published on June 4, 2013. You may read Peter's 2013 DAC Interview here.

Guest Blog by Peter Rawlik, author of Reanimators - September 10, 2013

I Never Meant To Write a Novel (I swear)

by Pete Rawlik

It’s funny how things turn out.

Looking back it seems inevitable that I would eventually write Lovecraftian fiction, the clues are all there, I just tried to ignore them for the longest time.

I’ve been writing a long time, since my pre-teens. I can remember a story about Hell being run as a business with corporate board meetings and annual reports. In my trunk there’s a handwritten sequel to Robert E. Howard’s Skull-Face that I did when I was thirteen or so. I have a few chapters of a King pastiche that I did when I was seventeen. In high school I published some poetry. In college I filled a box with notes on world-building: aliens and empires and the things that men could become. It’s a very Herbert and Niven kind of thing. I recall a story I wrote “Hot Peace”, please don’t let anybody find that. After college I started writing what we would now call flash fiction and book reviews for the local SF club. One piece I wrote got picked up by the Infamous IBID. I wrote a post-apocalyptic travelogue “On the Far Side of the Apocalypse” and sold that in 1997 to the esteemed Talebones, my first pro-sale.

Then I went silent.

I was still writing, but nothing was selling. Sophomore slump.

I retreated and locked myself away with my collection of weird fiction. I have always been an avid collector of Lovecraftian books, and this may stem from my father using The Dunwich Horror and The Rats in the Wall as bed time stories. Regardless, I have an immense collection, which includes a thin chapbook published by Necronomicon press. Published in 1995 Joan C. Stanley’s Ex Libris Miskatonici is an absolute gem of pseudo-scholarship documenting the contents of fictional Miskatonic University’s library, and it inspired me to do something similar. It took years of careful reading and note-taking and correlation, but I set myself the task of writing a history of Miskatonic Valley.

Part one of this work was completed and published in issue 104 of Crypt of Cthulhu, but further work on the project came to a screeching halt. I still have the notes, heaping stacks of 3x5 cards in cigar boxes, but the research showed me some things, wonderful things. Lovecraft’s stories did more than just share a setting; they overlapped in time as well. Characters in different stories were within miles of each other. It was too much fun not to take advantage of. So I set out to write a novel about Lovecraft’s characters meeting each other. I wrote some chapters, they are fun, but there was one character I really wanted to use, but I couldn’t, the timelines didn’t work. So I rummaged through Lovecraft found Dr. Hartwell hiding in The Dunwich Horror and plugged him into my crossover novel. He fizzled. He was such a minor character that he had no motivations, no background, and no life.

Easily rectified, write a story about him, fill in his gaps, and create his history. One story turned to another, and another and another, until finally I knew who Hartwell was. When people ask me how long it took to write Reanimators I tell them two years and two weeks. Half the book, about 50,000 words was written over the course of two years, the other 50,000 words were written in about two weeks in marathon sessions at a small café not far from my home that was willing to let me sit there for ten hours a day. Reanimators is an accidental novel. It’s not the novel I wanted, it’s the novel I needed to write, to educate myself for the next one, the one I want to write.

(Which I have by the way, don’t tell anybody. Oh and the third one is about 25% done as well. Did I mention I don’t sleep?)

It’s funny how things turn out.

When I was younger I devoured stories by Ramsey Campbell, Joseph Pulver, Thomas Ligotti, Joe Lansdale, and Wilum Pugmire. Today I find myself fortunate enough to share pages in anthologies and magazines with these literary icons. It’s not luck, its hard work, and I have a lot to learn, and a lot of ideas I want to try. I still go back to the trunk, look at the stuff I wrote before, the pages of alien biology, ecology, religion, technology, and I think maybe someday. And to be honest that’s a cool world in side those boxes, and I could probably have some fun with it. But they say that you should write what you know. Right now I really know Lovecraftian fiction, and I’m having fun writing it, filling in the gaps, building the connections, writing the stuff that I want to read. Joe Pulver likes to talk about the writer’s toolbox, and he’s right, there are lots of tricks. I’ve learned some of these, but I have a long way to go. I’m going to have fun doing it. Reanimators is just the beginning of a very wild ride. It may not be the ride either of us expected or wanted, but I promise you there are enough spills and chills and thrills for everyone (yes even you Dad).

Hang on to your hats, I’m going to try and change everything you ever thought about Lovecraftian fiction (or die trying).


Night Shade Books, September 3, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 280 pages
(The eBook was published on June 4, 2013)

Guest Blog by Peter Rawlik, author of Reanimators - September 10, 2013
Herbert West’s crimes against nature are well-known to those familiar with the darkest secrets of science and resurrection. Obsessed with finding a cure for mankind’s oldest malady, death itself, he has experimented upon the living and dead, leaving behind a trail of monsters, mayhem, and madness. But the story of his greatest rival has never been told — until now.

Dr. Stuart Hartwell, a colleague and contemporary of West, sets out to destroy him by uncovering the secrets of his terrible experiments, only to become what he initially despised: a reanimator of the dead.

For more than twenty years, the two scientists race each other to master the mysteries of life . . . and unlife. From the grisly battlefields of the Great War to the haunted coasts of Dunwich and Innsmouth, from the halls of fabled Miskatonic University to the sinking of the Titanic, their unholy quests leave their mark upon the world — and create monsters of them both.

About Peter

Guest Blog by Peter Rawlik, author of Reanimators - September 10, 2013
Pete Rawlik began collecting Lovecraftian fiction when he was still in elementary school. He has a B.S. in Biology from Florida Tech, and has extensively studied the ecology and issues impacting Florida’s Everglades. For twenty years he ran Dead Ink, specializing in rare and unusual books, but gave up the money and fame to pursue a career in writing. He lives in Royal Palm Beach, Florida, with his wife and three children. Reanimators is his first novel.


Guest Blog by Ann Leckie, author of Ancillary Justice - September 6, 2013

Please welcome Ann Leckie to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Ancillary Justice, Ann's debut novel, will be published on October 1, 2013 by Orbit.

Guest Blog by Ann Leckie, author of Ancillary Justice - September 6, 2013

Who are you? And how do you know who you are?

Some questions look simple, almost pointless. On the surface, it's obvious who you are. "I'm Jane Doe," you say, and your friends and neighbors and family all say, "Yes, I recognize her, she's Jane Doe." You know, without thinking, what's you and what's not you--your body is you, and all the things inside, and the mind that's doing the thinking (What a stupid question!) and the recognizing (Yes, that's me in the mirror all right.)

But little questions chip away at it. What's your body and what's not? Proprioception--your ability to know where various body parts are and what they're doing at any given moment--has as much to do with what your brain is doing as what the rest of your body is. Losing a limb, famously, doesn't always erase your brain's assumption that it's there and doing something. And super cool (and kind of creepy)--recent research suggests that when you use a tool a lot, your brain actually updates its map of your body to include the tool.

Much more creepily, a head injury, or, say, a stroke can result in Somatoparaphrenia, where the patient insists that some part of their body isn't actually theirs. When asked they might say the arm really belongs to their doctor, or to their dead parent.

Similar in some ways, but not exactly the same, is Alien Hand Syndrome:

In this paper, Goldstein described a right-handed woman who had suffered a stroke affecting her left side from which she had partially recovered by the time she was seen. However, her left arm seemed as though it belonged to another person and performed actions that appeared to occur independent of her will.

The patient complained of a feeling of "strangeness" in relationship to the goal-directed movements of the left hand and insisted that "someone else" was moving the left hand, and that she was not moving it herself.

Except, of course, she was moving it herself. Who else would be?

And that's not the only way messing with the brain can mess with the sense of identity. Strokes or brain damage can sometimes cause Cotard's Delusion, where the patient is convinced that they're actually dead. Or there's the case of Suzanne Segal, who describes her experience herself in her book Collision with the Infinite: A Life Beyond the Personal Self:

"I lifted my right foot to step up into the bus and collided head-on with an invisible force that entered my awareness like a silently exploding stick of dynamite, blowing the door of my usual consciousness open and off its hinges, splitting me in two. In the gaping space that appeared, what I had previously called 'me' was forcefully pushed out of its usual location inside me into a new location that was approximately a foot behind and to the left of my head. 'I' was now behind my body looking out at the world without using the body's eyes.

Things didn't stay that way. Eventually her entire sense of herself disappeared. There was a body, that did things and said things, and even thought things, and people recognized that body as Suzanne, but there was no self there, no identity. She did not exist. She died in her forties of a brain tumor, which is a bit suggestive.

Incidentally, one of the things I find very valuable about Ms Segal's account is that it's just that--a first person account of her own experiences. Very often we're reading case studies or essays by doctors or researchers whose assumptions can filter or distort the view they're giving us. Ms Segal had her own assumptions, and her own filters, yes, but she's left us her own story in her own voice. It's important to have that, a woman telling her own story and not just a summary, a case study. An oddity.

The thing is, while the experiences of split-brain patients, stroke victims, or people like Suzanne Segal are extreme, they demonstrate something about typical brain function. Identity is fragile. Your sense of who you are is rooted in your brain, and if the way those parts of your brain works changes, so will your sense of you.

The narrator of my novel Ancillary Justice is an artificially intelligent ship, the troop carrier Justice of Toren. The vast majority of those troops are ancillaries--human bodies slaved to the ship's AI, arms and legs--and eyes and voices--for the ship. They have no identity of their own, they are the ship.

The narrator of my novel Ancillary Justice is a twenty-body unit of ancillaries.

The narrator of my novel is a single ancillary, separated from the rest of the ship, from the other bodies that used to be part of it.

Who is my narrator? How would it be possible to lose your own identity that way, and what would it be like to have an identity that stretched over tens, hundreds, even thousands of bodies? To lose all of them and be left with only one? I realized pretty quickly that this would be a difficult character to write, and in my quest for information that would help me, I discovered just how tenuous our identity is. We often behave as if the question of who anyone is has an obvious answer. But when you look close, you realize it doesn't.

But Ancillary Justice isn't meant to be deep or philosophical. It's meant to be a space opera, with all the shiny space opera things I could fit into it. It's just, once you start asking questions like, "So who is this person, anyway?" it's kind of hard to stop.

About Ancillary Justice

Ancillary Justice
Imperial Radch 1
Orbit, October 1, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 416 pages

Guest Blog by Ann Leckie, author of Ancillary Justice - September 6, 2013
On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.

Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren--a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.

An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose--to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.

Cover art by John Harris.

About Ann

Guest Blog by Ann Leckie, author of Ancillary Justice - September 6, 2013
Photo by MissionPhoto.ORG
Ann Leckie has published short stories in Subterranean MagazineStrange Horizons, and Realms of Fantasy. Her story “Hesperia and Glory” was reprinted in Science Fiction: The Best of the Year, 2007 Edition edited by Rich Horton.

Ann has worked as a waitress, a receptionist, a rodman on a land-surveying crew, and a recording engineer. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband, children, and cats.

Website  ~   Twitter @ann_leckie  ~  Pinterest  ~  Google+

Guest Blog by Elliott James, author of Charming - Hare Extensions - August 24, 2013

Please welcome Elliott James to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Charming, Elliott's debut novel, will be published on September 24, 2013. There are short stories as well!

Guest Blog by Elliott James, author of  Charming - Hare Extensions - August 24, 2013


      I would love to say that Shakespeare inspired me to write Charming, or if not the bard, maybe some other respectable literary influence like J.R.R. Tolkien or Carl Jung or Jack Daniels, but the truth is, if anything inspired me (or deluded me) to write Charming, it was probably Bugs Bunny. Don’t get me wrong, I loved fairy tales and myths and legends and folk lore before I was ever allowed near a television set. My grandmother was an English teacher and an avid collector of such stories, and I was raised in her house while my father was stationed overseas. But long before “Urban Fantasy” became a term, Bugs Bunny was modernizing fables by inserting an anachronistic smart ass right into the middle of them and playing around with story forms and laws of physics and meta-fiction for fun.
      And Bugs is also probably where I got my love of punny titles. This might sound stupid, but one of my favorite things about writing my first book was coming up with chapter titles.
      I don’t know if people are even familiar with the classic Bugs Bunny cartoons anymore. I still don’t watch much T.V, but it seems like I haven’t seen a Bugs Bunny cartoon in a while. I suppose the cartoons might be considered too violent or politically incorrect or something, just like the classic fairy tales come to think of it. Or maybe people are more familiar with the more modern, cleaned up, dumbed down, less wildly creative versions of Bugs Bunny cartoons. Also just like fairy tales now that I think about it. I don’t see what the big deal is myself. I was raised on both Bugs Bunny and the Brothers Grimm, and I turned out…well, okay, I’ll give you that one. Still, it seems kind of a shame. But then, I also haven’t gotten over the Cookie Monster becoming the Vegetable Monster.
      Either way, my favorite Bugs Bunny cartoons were the ones where Bugs entered fantasy stories that I was already familiar with, like the one where he saved Hansel and Gretel by making himself the witch’s target (Witch Hazel, by the way, went on to become a recurring Bugs Bunny character). Or there was my personal favorite, the “What’s Opera Doc” episode where Bugs took on an Elmer Fudd who was channeling bad Wagner with a spear and magic helmet. There was the ”Goldilocks and the Three Bears” spoof, the “Red Riding Hood” parody, the “Three Little Pigs” satire, the “Jack and the Beanstalk” riff, the Frankenstein episode, the wonderful “Ali Baba Bunny” where Bugs and Daffy wind up in the world of 1001 Arabian Nights, the Robin Hood bits, the Abominable Snowman story, various takes on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and probably many others that I can’t remember at the moment.
      It was awesome. Two of my favorite things were coming together in wild and unpredictable ways and anything seemed possible.
      So, now it’s 2013, and my character, John Charming, is a modern day descendant of the original Charmings who all of those Prince Charming stories were based on, but he has a distinctly post-modern attitude. He may have been born into a family with a long and proud tradition of witch finding, monster hunting, and curse breaking, but he came into that world kicking and screaming. John Charming is irreverent, wry, and has a tendency to see the absurd in the potentially lethal situations that he keeps finding himself in.
      The thing is (Spoiler Alert! The thing is NOT a play, so again, no Shakespeare connection dammit): my novel hasn’t been published yet; I’m writing this three months prior, and it is my first book, so I have no idea what kind of reception to expect. But I can say that there are two things which I hope set my book apart, and that’s what this blog is about, right?
      That was actually a real question. That is what this blog is about, right? Sometimes I get confused. Probably all those damn Bugs Bunny cartoons.
      Anyhow, one thing that I think sets my book apart is that I did a lot of research, and I don’t just mean googling or consulting Wikipedia though I won’t lie, I did do some of that too. Charming is not an academic book, but I try to steep it in fables and myths and lore the way you steep a tea bag in a cup to give the concoction flavor. I really love the source material even when my narrator does not. Read the book if you don’t believe me.
      See what I did there? Dance, puppet, dance!
      The second thing that I hope makes the book a little different is also the reason I brought up Bugs Bunny in the first place. There are a lot of genuinely horrific things that happen in the course of the novel (some of them probably grammatical), but my narrator is not a Poe or Lovecraft style character descending helplessly into madness or despair (although I love Poe and Lovecraft), nor is my narrator some petulant pretty boy too sexy for his shirt although the book is a love story. And unlike Bugs Bunny, Charming is not a satire, but my narrator is sometimes absurd, sometimes flippant, sometimes metaphysical, and sometimes given to playing around with words just to amuse or distract himself. It is that contrast with truly dark and unsettling fairy tale and horror elements that is fun and interesting to me.
      Of course, there are differences between the tone of Bugs Bunny cartoons and my book as well. You always know things will work out in a Looney Tuniverse. Nobody ever dies in a Bugs Bunny episode, or if they do, the cartoon immediately flashes to said character sporting a halo or a pitchfork and yelling something humorous from the appropriate afterlife destination. There are no such assurances in John Charming’s world. In fact, when you hunt monsters, happy endings are a statistical unlikelihood. John Charming’s secret (as in, he tries to hide it, not as in the mysterious source of his success) is that he cares anyhow. He cares very much. Humor is John Charming’s defense mechanism. It is what has kept him sane and made a nomadic yet isolated life of one horrible incident after another endurable. If the character is likable at all (and I hope he is) it is because humor is his saving virtue. John Charming might not be able to help becoming broody or moody sometimes, but he fights to keep things in perspective and not take himself too seriously. It’s not about trivializing horror or darkness, it’s about refusing to let those things define him.
      I like that. I hope you do too.


Pax Arcana 1
Orbit, September 24, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Guest Blog by Elliott James, author of  Charming - Hare Extensions - August 24, 2013
John Charming isn't your average Prince...

He comes from a line of Charmings -- an illustrious family of dragon slayers, witch-finders and killers dating back to before the fall of Rome. Trained by a modern day version of the Knights Templar, monster hunters who have updated their methods from chainmail and crossbows to kevlar and shotguns, he was one of the best. That is-- until he became the abomination the Knights were sworn to hunt.

That was a lifetime ago. Now, he tends bar under an assumed name in rural Virginia and leads a peaceful, quiet life. One that shouldn't change just because a vampire and a blonde walked into his bar... Right?

And short stories:

Charmed I'm Sure
Orbit, August 15, 2013
eBook, 75 pages

Guest Blog by Elliott James, author of  Charming - Hare Extensions - August 24, 2013
This is the first in a series of short stories by debut author Elliott James. The first of his novels, Charming, will be out in September 2013.

When Tom Morris encounters a naked man walking along the interstate with no memory of how he got there, the smart thing to do is drive away. The only problem is, Tom Morris has secrets of his own. Like the fact that he comes from a long line of witch finders, monster slayers, and enchantment breakers, or that his real name is Charming. John Charming.

Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls
Orbit, September 17, 2013
eBook, 75 pages

Guest Blog by Elliott James, author of  Charming - Hare Extensions - August 24, 2013
This is the second in a series of short stories by debut author Elliott James. The first of his novels, Charming, will be out in September 2013.

Nothing with the Cunning Folk is ever free. When John Charming goes to Sarah White for help with a minor ghost problem, he soon finds himself dealing with a restless spirit on a completely different scale. And the last thing you want to be when hunting a water spirit is out of your depth...

Pushing Luck
Orbit, October 15, 2013
eBook, 75 pages

Guest Blog by Elliott James, author of  Charming - Hare Extensions - August 24, 2013
This is the third in a series of short stories by debut author Elliott James. The first of his novels, Charming, will be out in September 2013.

Trying to make money off the grid, John Charming discovers an underground poker tournament where the hors d'oeuvres are made of human flesh and the players are gambling with much more than their money. All bets are off.

Surreal Estate
Orbit, January 14, 2014

[cover forthcoming]
This is the fourth in a series of short stories by debut author Elliott James. The first of his novels, Charming, will be out in September 2013.

The line between reality and dream is never entirely clear under the best of circumstances...and when John Charming finds himself being hunted through a nightmare house, it is far from the best of circumstances.

About Elliott

An army brat and gypsy scholar, ELLIOTT JAMES is currently living in the blueridge mountains of southwest Virginia. An avid reader since the age of three (or that's what his family swears anyhow), he has an abiding interest in mythology, martial arts, live music, hiking, and used bookstores. Irrationally convinced that cellphone technology was inserted into human culture by aliens who want to turn us into easily tracked herd beasts, Elliott has one anyhow but keeps it in a locked tinfoil covered box which he will sometimes sit and stare at mistrustfully for hours. Okay, that was a lie. Elliott lies a lot; in fact, he decided to become a writer so that he could get paid for it.

Guest Blog by Chris Willrich, author of The Scroll of Years - August 21, 2013

Please welcome Chris Willrich to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. The Scroll of Years (A Gaunt and Bone Novel) will be published on September 24, 2013 by Pyr.

Guest Blog by Chris Willrich, author of The Scroll of Years -  August 21, 2013

I'm delighted to be here at The Qwillery to talk about The Scroll of Years. By now, you've had a look at Kerem Beyit's beautiful cover. So, what's the deal with the couple in the picture, and where the heck are they?

Sometimes it's fun to make up imaginary Hollywood-style elevator pitches for stories. As in, "It's like George Lucas retelling a Hans Christian Andersen story! In space!" (If you like the sound of that, go check out Joan D. Vinge's The Snow Queen.) Or, "It's like I Am Legend meets The Road Warrior!" (I may have to write that one, actually.)

My imaginary pitch for The Scroll of Years might be, "Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser run away to the land of Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds." Let me unpack that a little.

Ever since Fritz Leiber coined the term "sword and sorcery" to pin down what made his adventurers Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser so different from the noble heroes of J.R.R. Tolkien, fans of sword and sorcery have been debating how to define this subgenre. But however you slice it, Leiber's fierce Northman and his swashbuckling friend are at the heart of sword and sorcery, busting in and out of Thieves' Guilds, facing down weird magic, and staying one step ahead of their creditors. Leiber specifically identified Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan, as a sword and sorcery author also, and so courageous, lusty barbarian wanderers definitely belong here too.

Sometimes sword and sorcery seems like epic fantasy's old pal from the wrong side of the tracks, always dragging epic fantasy into seedy establishments, playing the music too loud, keeping them both up yakking till dawn. But they do have a lot in common -- plenty of action, quirky characters, exciting locations, memorable bad guys.

What I keep coming back to is personal stakes. Even if kingdoms or worlds stand in the balance, the emotional heart of a sword and sorcery story is with its main characters, and whether they get their gold, or their revenge, or just their hard-earned moment of peace. Epic fantasy characters, by and large, want to do the right thing. Sword and sorcery characters can be persuaded to do the right thing, but the greater good is rarely the first thing on their minds.

When I first started writing magazine stories about the poet Persimmon Gaunt and her formerly-enchanted lover, the thief Imago Bone, I realized the biggest footprints I was following were Leiber's, and therefore what I was building was a sword and sorcery series. And so, the stakes needed to be personal. At first Gaunt and Bone were trying to get rid of a magical, doom-laden book that had helped Bone escape a curse. In the beginning that quest was something of a lark; Gaunt and Bone's deeper motivation was to travel their world's equivalent of Europe and the Mediterranean, and to learn more about each other. In time they discovered the book was a threat to their world, but it was still their own necks they really wanted to save.

Once they accomplished their goal, I realized they would have another plan in mind -- to settle down and raise a family.

Now this might seem beyond the pale for sword and sorcery, but I think it does fit. The stakes are as personal as they can get. But people like Gaunt and Bone make enemies, and it seemed likely they would have trouble finding a haven. They might have to flee to make their dream a reality. They might have to run as far away as they could possibly go.

So, there's half the equation. Where does Bridge of Birds fit in?

While I'm not sure where my longstanding interest in China began, I am sure that Bridge of Birds, Barry Hughart's award-winning fantasy of "an ancient China that never was," hit me between the eyes in my impressionable college years. Wonderstruck, I wandered with the dogged Number Ten Ox as he carried around his elderly mentor Master Li, a sage with "a slight flaw in his character." Their convoluted and harrowing quest to save the poisoned children of Ox's village would involve cutthroats, spirits, and gods before reaching its beautiful and bittersweet conclusion. It's likely this book had something to do with my two quarters of Mandarin (it didn't stick, alas) and the elective classes I took on Chinese arts and culture. I remember toying with the idea of writing a China-inspired fantasy setting, but like many such ideas it stayed on the back burner for years.

As fate would have it, however, my wife is of Chinese descent on her mother's side, and so in a quite different way I became newly acquainted with Chinese culture. Most of this information I owe to my late mother-in-law. She emigrated from China after World War Two, as the civil war resumed between the nationalists and the communists. She shared stories of hiding out from Japanese bombers, and of moving to Hong Kong and then the U.S. after her mother and grandmother were killed traveling a mined river. And she would reach further back, describing how it was to be a tomboy of a girl in a much more traditional time and place. She also shared tales she'd heard as a child. Some were purely legends; others were family history. Sometimes legend and history blurred together, but she reported it as she'd heard it. Absorbed by the storytelling, I wrote some of it down. I'm grateful to have heard these tales. I wish I'd written down more.

Now, the place Gaunt and Bone flee to in their search for sanctuary, Qiangguo, the land of walls, is not of course the China of my mother-in-law's stories, nor the China of my reading, nor even Barry Hughart's China. For better or worse it's my own concoction, with a bunch of things thrown into the pot -- fact, fantasy, pulp fiction, philosophy, wuxia movies. Sometimes fusion experiments work well, sometimes not. But I found that throwing a pair of sword-and-sorcery rogues, and the assassins on their trail, into a China-inspired setting resulted in something I had a lot of fun writing. So much so that it grew beyond the bounds of a magazine story, and became Gaunt and Bone's (and my own) first foray into novels.

If the elevator pitch intrigued you, I hope you'll be persuaded to pull up a chair and join them.


"The Demarcation of Sword and Sorcery," by Joseph A. McCullough V. Retrieved from the Black Gate magazine website on August 19, 2013.

The Scroll of Years

The Scroll of Years
A Gaunt and Bone Novel
Pyr, September 24, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 270 pages

Guest Blog by Chris Willrich, author of The Scroll of Years -  August 21, 2013
It's Brent Weeks meets China Mieville in this wildly imaginative fantasy debut featuring high action, elegant writing, and sword and sorcery with a Chinese flare.

Persimmon Gaunt and Imago Bone are a romantic couple and partners in crime. Persimmon is a poet from a well-to-do family, who found herself looking for adventure, while Imago is a thief in his ninth decade who is double-cursed, and his body has not aged in nearly seventy years. Together, their services and wanderlust have taken them into places better left unseen, and against odds best not spoken about. Now, they find themselves looking to get away, to the edge of the world, with Persimmon pregnant with their child, and the most feared duo of assassins hot on their trail. However, all is never what it seems, and a sordid adventure-complete with magic scrolls, gangs of thieves, and dragons both eastern and western-is at hand.

Cover Illustration © Kerem Beyit

About Chris

Guest Blog by Chris Willrich, author of The Scroll of Years -  August 21, 2013

Photo by Richard McCowen

Chris Willrich (Mountain View, CA) is a science fiction and fantasy writer best known for his sword-and-sorcery tales of Persimmon Gaunt and Imago Bone. Until recently he was a children's librarian for the Santa Clara County Library System, in the San Francisco Bay Area. His work has appeared in Asimov's, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Black Gate, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Flashing Swords, The Mythic Circle, and Strange Horizons.

Website  ~  Twitter @WillrichChris  ~  Facebook

Guest Blog by Michael J. Martinez, author of The Daedalus Incident - Voices of the Past - August 15, 2013

Please welcome Michael J. Martinez to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. The Daedalus Incident (Daedalus 1) was published on August 13, 2013 by Night Shade Books. You may read an interview with Michael here.

Guest Blog by Michael J. Martinez, author of The Daedalus Incident - Voices of the Past - August 15, 2013

Voices of the Past

So what, exactly, does a late 18th century British naval officer sound like?

We don’t really know. It’s not like there were digital recorders on the decks of sailing ships, after all.

That was a real challenge for me in writing The Daedalus Incident, in which sailing ships of the 18th century ply the Void between the planets in our Solar System. Voice is such an ephemeral thing in fiction, and yet it’s very important. Done right, voice can bring both character and setting to life in subtle yet profound ways.

The quick and perhaps obvious answer would be to research the written word of the times. However, there’s pitfalls aplenty in doing that. The fiction of the era was quite flowery and purple, with dialogue that doesn’t really lend itself to realistic voice. Seriously, if people actually talked the way they were written in period fiction, nobody would get anything done – they’d still be talking.

Non-fiction, from memoir to written correspondence, is little better. In reading works written during the late 18th century, from The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin to the letters sailors sent home from their far-flung voyages, there was a strong tendency for writers to spruce things up, to make their writing as entertaining as possible. (Given the distinct lack of television and the Internet 200-plus years ago, this isn’t surprising.) Again, you’d end up with flowery speech and a distressing tendency toward show-off vocabularies.

So at the end of the day…I fudged it.

Don’t get me wrong – all the research was helpful. But it was a starting point only. Historic accuracy is nearly impossible, so I ended up running with one of my new favorite words: verisimilitude. Also known as close-enough-for-horseshoes. Without really knowing how people spoke on the decks of frigates, I aimed for something that would sound accurate to the modern ear, with just enough loquaciousness, mannerism and oddball dictionary words to give the voice a time and place, but not enough to spoil the meaning or the flow of the story.

The same goes for the structure of those historical fantasy sections within The Daedalus Incident. If you read the novels of Patrick O’Brian and C.S. Forester, whose 20th century works define the Napoleonic-era naval genre, you see sentence construction and story flow that seems to mimic the time period without going overboard, so to speak.

Voice was important for these sections, because The Daedalus Incident also features a futuristic setting – a 22nd century Martian mining colony. I wanted the voice in those separate settings to be distinct in order to subtly highlight the differences in how people behaved and how stories were told. It provided an interesting contrast between the more genteel, yet also more brutal, past and a more blunt, yet less inherently violent, future.

About The Daedalus Incident

The Daedalus Incident
Daedalus 1
Night Shade Books, August 13, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
(the eBook was published in May 2013)

Guest Blog by Michael J. Martinez, author of The Daedalus Incident - Voices of the Past - August 15, 2013
Mars is supposed to be dead…...a fact Lt. Shaila Jain of the Joint Space Command is beginning to doubt in a bad way.

Freak quakes are rumbling over the long-dormant tectonic plates of the planet, disrupting its trillion-dollar mining operations and driving scientists past the edges of theory and reason. However, when rocks shake off their ancient dust and begin to roll—seemingly of their own volition—carving canals as they converge to form a towering structure amid the ruddy terrain, Lt. Jain and her JSC team realize that their realize that their routine geological survey of a Martian cave system is anything but. The only clues they have stem from the emissions of a mysterious blue radiation, and a 300-year-old journal that is writing itself.

Lt. Thomas Weatherby of His Majesty’s Royal Navy is an honest 18th-century man of modest beginnings, doing his part for King and Country aboard the HMS Daedalus, a frigate sailing the high seas between continents…and the immense Void between the Known Worlds. Across the Solar System and among its colonies—rife with plunder and alien slave trade—through dire battles fraught with strange alchemy, nothing much can shake his resolve. But events are transpiring to change all that.

With the aid of his fierce captain, a drug-addled alchemist, and a servant girl with a remarkable past, Weatherby must track a great and powerful mystic, who has embarked upon a sinister quest to upset the balance of the planets—the consequences of which may reach far beyond the Solar System, threatening the very fabric of space itself.

Set sail among the stars with this uncanny tale, where adventure awaits, and dimensions collide!

About Mike

Guest Blog by Michael J. Martinez, author of The Daedalus Incident - Voices of the Past - August 15, 2013
Photo by Anna Martinez
Michael J. Martinez was a professional journalist and communicator for nearly two decades before he decided to try his hand at fiction. So far, it seems to have worked out well. His debut, The Daedalus Incident, is out now, and its follow-up, The Enceladus Crisis, is due out next spring. He lives in northern New Jersey with his wife, daughter and a very friendly cat.

Twitter @mikemartinez72

Guest Blog by Jaime Lee Moyer, author of Delia's Shadow - The Importance of Heroic Heroines - August 14, 2013

Please welcome Jaime Lee Moyer to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Delia's Shadow will be published on September 17th.

Guest Blog by Jaime Lee Moyer, author of Delia's Shadow - The Importance of Heroic Heroines - August 14, 2013

The Importance of Heroic Heroines

Once upon a time, women and girls didn't do much of anything in most science fiction and fantasy novels. That probably seems weird to many of today's readers, but it's true. Female characters were shuffled off into the roles of damsel in distress, the tomboy girl sidekick, or the girlfriend/wife/sister/daughter who always needed rescue. Women were left behind when the action started.

Almost any part a woman played in the story was passive. The lone woman on the spaceship crew was never the captain, the head of the science department, or the leader of the away team. And if she did actually attempt to take independent action or be heroic, it ended badly. The role of hero or leader was reserved for the men in the story.

Women might as well have been potted plants for all the importance they held in the story. That always seemed odd and strange, and really, really wrong.

One of the easy decisions I made when I started Delia's Shadow was to have the women in this book be the center and the heart of the story. Gabe and Jack do important things, don't get me wrong, but in my eyes this really is Delia, Sadie and Dora's story.

And all the women in this book are heroes, in the way that real women of all ages have always been brave and heroic. They solve the puzzles, think things through, and save the day. This was important to me. Women don't have to do physical battle with villains or monsters to be heroes.

They can, but they don't have to.

My favorite definition of a hero is an ordinary person who finds herself in extraordinary circumstances and faces them head on. A hero not only survives, but does so with as much grace as she can muster. A hero might be tired, scared, and unsure, but she doesn't quit. A hero does what needs to be done.

The women in Delia's Shadow don't quit. They make the smartest choices they can and do what they have to do.

Delia, the title character, finds herself haunted by the ghost of a woman murdered thirty years before. She's seen ghosts since she was a child, but this ghost is different. Shadow, as she comes to call this spirit, demands things of her, shows her horrific things, and opens the gates for more and more ghosts to enter her life. Instead of running from Shadow, or finding a way to send the ghost away forever, Delia learns to cope and solve the mystery of how Shadow died. In the process she discovers how strong she is.

Sadie Larkin, Delia's best friend since childhood, is forced to watch her strong, vibrant mother, Esther, become increasingly childlike as death approaches. As Delia gets drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery of Shadow, so does Sadie. In many ways, Sadie might be the bravest of all.

Dealing with the aftermath of death and spirits causes Isadora Bobet, society medium and closet witch, real physical agony. Dora doesn't have a real stake in Delia's plight and could walk away from the whole mess unscathed. She doesn't. She stays.

Esther's memory fades a bit more each day, her body grows weaker, but her need to protect "her girls" never wavers. Annie is the glue that holds them all together.

Writers make a thousand different decisions on plot and character, on tone and style, and a myriad of things that go into making a book come "alive". All of them are important.

Focusing on women characters, and making them loving, supportive friends, was important to me.

It just felt right.

About Delia's Shadow

Delia's Shadow
Tor Books, September 17, 2013
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Guest Blog by Jaime Lee Moyer, author of Delia's Shadow - The Importance of Heroic Heroines - August 14, 2013
It is the dawn of a new century in San Francisco and Delia Martin is a wealthy young woman whose life appears ideal. But a dark secret colors her life, for Delia’s most loyal companions are ghosts, as she has been gifted (or some would say cursed) with an ability to peer across to the other side.

Since the great quake rocked her city in 1906, Delia has been haunted by an avalanche of the dead clamoring for her help. Delia flees to the other side of the continent, hoping to gain some peace. After several years in New York, Delia believes she is free…until one determined specter appears and she realizes that she must return to the City by the Bay in order to put this tortured soul to rest.

It will not be easy, as the ghost is only one of the many victims of a serial killer who was never caught. A killer who after thirty years is killing again.

And who is now aware of Delia’s existence.

About Jaime Lee Moyer

Jaime Lee Moyer lives in San Antonio with writer Marshall Payne, two cats, three guitars and a growing collection of books and music. Her first novel, DELIA’S SHADOW, will be published by TOR Books in September 2013. Her novels are represented by Tamar Rydzinski of the Laura Dail Literary Agency.

Jaime has sold short fiction to Lone Star Stories, Daily Science Fiction, and to the Triangulations: End of the Rainbow, and Triangulations: Last Contact anthologies. She was poetry editor for Ideomancer Speculative Fiction for five years and edited the 2010 Rhysling Award Anthology for the Science Fiction Poetry Association. A poet in her own right, she’s sold more than her share of poetry.

She writes a lot. She reads as much as she can.

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Guest Blog by Mark H. Williams - John Masefield and The Box Of Delights - December 12, 2013Guest Blog by J. Kathleen Cheney - Secondary Characters - December 5, 2013Guest Blog by K.B. Laugheed - Why We Need Stories - October 21, 2013Guest Blog by Libby McGugan, author of The Eidolon - October 4, 2013Guest Blog by Peter Rawlik, author of Reanimators - September 10, 2013Guest Blog by Ann Leckie, author of Ancillary Justice - September 6, 2013Guest Blog by Elliott James, author of  Charming - Hare Extensions - August 24, 2013Guest Blog by Chris Willrich, author of The Scroll of Years -  August 21, 2013Guest Blog by Michael J. Martinez, author of The Daedalus Incident - Voices of the Past - August 15, 2013Guest Blog by Jaime Lee Moyer, author of Delia's Shadow - The Importance of Heroic Heroines - August 14, 2013

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