The Qwillery | category: 2016 DAC Guest Blog


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Guest Blog by Matthew Franks, author of The Monster Underneath

Please welcome Matthew Franks to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. The Monster Underneath was published on April 5th by Samhain Publishing.

Guest Blog by Matthew Franks, author of The Monster Underneath

My Recurring Dream By Matthew Franks

          Dreams have always fascinated me. Whether a seemingly random collection of images or a specific detail I thought about earlier in the day, I, like many others, wonder why we dream what we dream. After all, it’s a time when we are our truest selves, unhindered by the constraints of reality. Dreams are, in essence, our most unconscious fears, desires, and needs briefly come to life.

          Of all the types of dreams, none have aroused my curiosity more than recurring ones. I’ve heard of people repeatedly falling yet never landing. Others are chased by something every night but can never figure out what it is. In my own recurring dream, however, I’m neither plummeting into the void nor running away from a mysterious entity. In my recurring dream, I’m back in school.

          Mind you, there are variations on the theme. For example, in one version, I’m a second grader in an adult body like Adam Sandler in Billy Madison. In another, I’m in high school again because all of my credits were somehow deleted and my diploma was consequently voided. In yet another variation, I’m back in college forced to retake courses I’d failed but couldn’t remember registering for in the first place.

          In every case, though, once it’s over I feel like Val Kilmer in the eighties comedy classic Top Secret when he dreams he’s in high school only to wake up relieved to discover he’s back in a Nazi prison cell being tortured by two goons. Not that I’d prefer being flogged to going to school but, suffice to say, I’m glad to have that part of my life behind me.

          In The Monster Underneath, recurring dreams play a prominent role. Max Crawford, the protagonist, uses his psychic powers to enter the dreams of prisoners who often dream of the specific crimes that led to their incarceration. By doing so, he’s able to help rehabilitate them. It isn’t until the FBI has him enter the dreams of suspected serial killer William Knox that things get a lot more unpredictable. The dreams he must navigate to get the leverage needed for a confession are the stuff of nightmares and make me thankful that my recurring dream pales in comparison. I hope you’ll check it out.

The Monster Underneath
Samhain Publishing, April 5, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 208 pages

Guest Blog by Matthew Franks, author of The Monster Underneath
Reality can be the difference between a dream and a nightmare…

Max Crawford isn’t a typical prison therapist. He uses his unusual psychic ability to walk with convicts through their dreams, reliving their unspeakable crimes alongside them to show them the error of their ways.

Max always has to be on his toes to keep himself grounded, but the FBI agent waiting for him in his private office immediately puts him on edge. The bureau wants Max to go way outside his comfort zone to enter the dreams of suspected serial killer William Knox.

To get a confession and secure the future of his prison program, Max must gain Knox’s trust by any means necessary—and survive the minefield of secrets waiting inside a murderer’s mind. Secrets that could turn Max’s reality into a living nightmare.

About Matthew

Guest Blog by Matthew Franks, author of The Monster Underneath
Matthew Franks lives in Arlington, Texas with his beautiful wife and children. He studied psychology and creative writing at Louisiana State University then obtained a Master’s Degree in counseling from Texas State University. When he’s not working on his next story, he’s counseling adolescents or trying to keep up with his three highly energetic daughters. You can connect with Matthew at:

Twitter @MatthewFranks7

Guest Blog by Emily B. Martin, author of Woodwalker

Please welcome Emily B. Martin to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Woodwalker will be published on May 17, 2016 (eBook) and June 14, 2016 (print) by Harper Voyager Impulse.

Guest Blog by Emily B. Martin, author of Woodwalker

I am twelve feet off the ground, clinging to the spindly pine trunk with my knees and fumbling to tie a hitch knot in the dark. We’re in bear country, which means anything that smells remotely tasty—chapstick, deodorant, white gas—has to go up in the trees at night. It’s midnight, and we’re exhausted, but a bear bag must be hung.

Somehow I have drawn the short straw.

It’s been a long day. My two companions and I have logged sixteen miles with full packs, three of which were devoid of water thanks to some poor planning on our part. New Mexico will dry a person out, and by the time we drag ourselves into the nearest staffed backcountry camp, we don’t even bother asking if the water is purified before sucking down a few liters from the pump. We refill our water bottles before hoisting our packs again and continuing the last few miles in the dark to the bus turnaround, where we hope to catch the first morning shuttle back to Philmont Scout Ranch base camp or risk the ire of our superiors.

I finish off the knot in the bear bag rope, my fingers sticky with pine sap. The tree bends and sways underneath me. On the ground, my companions are unrolling their sleeping pads. We’re so tired and sore we’re not even bothering to pitch our tents, rain and dew be damned. It’s July, and thunderstorms usually blow up in the afternoon, so we should be okay for the night, but I look up anyway to check the sky.

And as always, I catch my breath.

I’m from back east, where smog and ambient light wash out much of the night sky. Even in my favorite pockets of southern Appalachia, starscapes can be limited by clouds and haze. But not here. Here in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, a southern spur of the Rockies, the night skies are vivid and clear, resplendent with so many stars it’s hard to pick out the ones I know. There’s the tail of Ursa Major, leading me in an arc to Arcturus and further on to Spica. There’s the graceful curve of Corona Borealis and the cluster of the Pleiades, so bright I can easily see the dimmest of the bunch, Celaeno. I forget momentarily about the long, hot haul of the day and the buzzing tiredness in my arms and legs. I simply stop, and I look.

It’s this juxtaposition of pragmatism and awe-filled reverence that, almost eight years later, informed the story of Woodwalker and the protagonist, Mae. As a Woodwalker—a skilled ranger/forester—of the Silverwood Mountains, Mae must have a certain degree of levelheadedness and detachment. She must be able to adapt to nature’s circumstances, read warning signs in the woods, react to immediate threats, and undertake strenuous physical challenges. She must be practical enough to fell stands of dead timber and perceptive enough to reroute her scouts under threat of lightning or flash floods. She has to think quickly, act rationally, and make snap judgements that can affect the lives of her scouts and civilians.

But riding hand-in-hand with this pragmatism is a deep veneration for her home. She recognizes that she is not a master of the forest, but a steward and disciple. Her folk place their origin story deep in the dirt of their homeland, where they had to be taught to crawl and walk and speak by such unassuming creatures as earthworms, mantids, and cicadas. Their spirituality centers around humble things found deep under the trees—moss, and fireflies, and mushrooms that glow in the dark.

Mae knows that she is simultaneously very, very small while still being big enough to cause significant damage to her home. There is no delineation between the two. The same infected tree she fells to prevent blight reminds her of the deeper connectivity between everything in the forest. The same thunderstorm she surveys with a discerning eye also fills her with a welling awe at the power and grandeur building in the sky. Even among her own folk, she tends to be especially astute to both her practical and spiritual relationship with the forest. This is what makes her one of the best Woodwalkers the Silverwood has seen in generations. And this is what makes it so excruciating when she is cast out of her home and forbidden from coming back.

Up in the pine tree in the middle of New Mexico, the wind picks up, and I am forced to clamber back down. I unroll my sleeping bag next to my hiking buddies and lie on my back, gazing up at the stars peeking through the pine boughs. I fall asleep to the wind in the branches and wake up to one of the ranch horses standing over me, snorting curiously. We catch the bus back to Base Camp in time for the breakfast bell. And then, our next set of days off, we do it all over again—the miles, the heavy packs, the bear bags, the lack of proper planning. There is plenty from that adventure, and the ones that followed, to root deep inside me, incubating, nourished by nostalgia and circumstance, waiting for just the right moment to germinate into something new—Woodwalker.

Harper Voyager Impulse, May 17, 2016
     eBook, 336 pages
Harper Voyager Impulse, June 14 , 2016
     Mass Market Paperback, 336 pages

Guest Blog by Emily B. Martin, author of Woodwalker
“What on earth would I gain from that?” I asked him. “Risk my own neck by violating my banishment just to leave you? The sentence placed on me if I return is execution. If I’m entering the mountains again, I’d damn well better get something out of it.”

Exiled from the Silverwood and the people she loves, Mae has few illusions about ever returning to her home. But when she comes across three out-of-place strangers in her wanderings, she finds herself contemplating the unthinkable: risking death to help a deposed queen regain her throne.

And if anyone can help Mona Alastaire of Lumen Lake, it is a former Woodwalker—a ranger whose very being is intimately tied to the woods they are sworn to protect. Mae was once one of the best, and despite the potential of every tree limb to become the gibbet she’s hung from, she not only feels a duty to aide Mona and her brothers, but also to walk beneath her beloved trees once more.

A grand quest in the tradition of great epic fantasies, filled with adventure and the sharp wit—and tongue—of a unique hero, Woodwalker is the perfect novel to start your own journey into the realm of magical fiction.

About Emily

Guest Blog by Emily B. Martin, author of Woodwalker
Park ranger by summer, stay-at-home mom the rest of the year, Emily B. Martin is also a freelance artist and illustrator. An avid hiker and explorer, her experiences as a ranger helped inform the character of Mae and the world of Woodwalker. When not patrolling places like Yellowstone, the Great Smoky Mountains, or Philmont Scout Ranch, she lives in South Carolina with her husband, Will, and two daughters, Lucy and Amelia.

Website  ~  Facebook

Twitter @EmilyBeeMartin

Guest Blog by Mark Tompkins, author of The Last Days of Magic

Please welcome Mark Tompkins to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. The Last Days of Magic was published by Viking on March 1st.

Guest Blog by Mark Tompkins, author of The Last Days of Magic

Creating Rules of Enchantment
For The Last Days of Magic

Magical worlds are wonderful places for readers to inhabit; however, they can be devilishly tricky places for writers to create. A delicate touch is required to strike an effective balance among competing factors. The magic must be powerful enough to be instrumental to the characters and storyline, and yet not so potent that the characters who wield it become indomitable and their stories therefore boring. I believe that flawed, vulnerable, and unpredictable characters are essential elements of a good novel. As I wrote The Last Days of Magic, I also wanted each aspect of the magical system to refer back to historical president or established mythology.

Consistency is key. What magic can and cannot do in the first chapter must be the same in the last. The reader cannot be expected to suspend disbelief and go with the narrative if the rules are not coherent and do not follow each other logically. When I read the final page of a fantasy novel, I want to be able to look back and think that having taken a couple of things on faith, the rest could have happened.

In The Last Days of Magic, all enchantments require energy to function. Magical practitioners can use their own life energy to power minor or mid-level spells. However, doing so exhausts them much like vigorous exercise, and excessive use can cause physical disfiguration and wasting of the body. There are only a few sources for additional energy.

Guest Blog by Mark Tompkins, author of The Last Days of Magic
Dark magic workers use stolen life energy extracted while killing humans and/or magical beings. According to existing precedents, including records of witch trials, the victim must be burned, boiled, or their fat harvested.

The Roman Church’s sorcerers, aka exorcists, use relics that were created by God or angels (e.g. the Ring of Solomon) or in intimate contact with them (e.g. the True Cross of Jesus). They can also use words and symbols of power that were once uttered or written by God or angels and recorded in grimoires – magical books. These provide a thread of connection to divine energy; however, they are too powerful for humans to wield safely and frequently end up corrupting their users.

Guest Blog by Mark Tompkins, author of The Last Days of Magic
Magical beings and noble human witches and sorcerers use natural magic. These enchantments are powered by Ardor, the original energy of conception. God used it to create the universe, angels, and humans. God allowed Ardor to linger on earth so that angels could create and populate the earth with lower life forms and terrestrial features, an effect intended to last a short time. However, some angels exerted their free will, abandoned heaven for earth, and propagated magic-wielding, half-human offspring called Nephilim, which resulted in Ardor remaining on earth. Ardor lingers for as long as Nephilim remain in a land. When Nephilim leave or are driven out, Ardor fades and thins, and becomes like wisps of mist that come and go as if carried on a breeze.

Runes were developed in ancient times to assist with working magic. These symbols can bend, shape, and block enchantments, but bestow no power of their own. For example, a witch can make a divination spell more accurate by inscribing runes on sticks before she tosses them. A witch hunter can paint runes on the skin of a witch to block her from using spells.

By the 14th century, when The Last Days of Magic is set, the Nephilim have been driven out of much of Europe. Ardor remains dense only in Ireland, but powerful forces from within and outside of the country’s borders threaten it, and a world that can still foster natural magic hangs in the balance.

Detail from Agostino Veneziano's The Witches Rout - This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less. This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication
Angel Embracing Human by Daniel Chester French - This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

The Last Days of Magic
Viking, March 1, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

Guest Blog by Mark Tompkins, author of The Last Days of Magic
What became of magic in the world? Who needed to do away with it, and for what reasons? Drawing on myth, legend, fairy tales, and Biblical mysteries, The Last Days of Magic brilliantly imagines answers to these questions, sweeping us back to a world where humans and magical beings co-exist as they had for centuries.

Aisling, a goddess in human form, was born to rule both domains and—with her twin, Anya—unite the Celts with the powerful faeries of the Middle Kingdom. But within medieval Ireland interests are divided, and far from its shores greater forces are mustering. Both England and Rome have a stake in driving magic from the Emerald Isle. Jordan, the Vatican commander tasked with vanquishing the remnants of otherworldly creatures from a disenchanted Europe, has built a career on such plots. But increasingly he finds himself torn between duty and his desire to understand the magic that has been forbidden.

As kings prepare, exorcists gather, and divisions widen between the warring clans of Ireland, Aisling and Jordan must come to terms with powers given and withheld, while a world that can still foster magic hangs in the balance. Loyalties are tested, betrayals sown, and the coming war will have repercussions that ripple centuries later, in today’s world—and in particular for a young graduate student named Sara Hill.

The Last Days of Magic introduces us to unforgettable characters who grapple with quests for power, human frailty, and the longing for knowledge that has been made taboo. Mark Tompkins has crafted a remarkable tale—a feat of world-building that poses astonishing and resonant answers to epic questions.

About Mark

Guest Blog by Mark Tompkins, author of The Last Days of Magic
The Last days of Magic, published by Viking, is Mark Tompkins’s debut novel. He founded the Aspen Writers' Network and serves on the board of Aspen Words, a program of the Aspen Institute. He is a published poet and international award-winning photographer whose work is held in the permanent collections of museums in the United States and abroad. Born in Texas of Irish ancestry, Tompkins divides his time between Aspen, Boston, and Houston.

Website  ~  Facebook

Twitter @MLTompkins

Guest Blog by Amanda Bouchet, author of A Promise of FireGuest Blog by Matthew Franks, author of The Monster UnderneathGuest Blog by Emily B. Martin, author of WoodwalkerGuest Blog by Mark Tompkins, author of The Last Days of Magic

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