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Guest Blog by Linnea Hartsuyker - Some of my favorite Genre-Bending Historical Fantasy Novels

Please welcome Linnea Hartsuyker to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. The Half-Drowned King will be published on August 1st by Harper.

Guest Blog by Linnea Hartsuyker - Some of my favorite Genre-Bending Historical Fantasy Novels

Some of my favorite Genre-Bending Historical Fantasy Novels

I’ve always loved historical fiction and fantasy, and some of my favorite books mix the two genres. The first book that made me want to be an author was The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, which retells the Arthurian Legends from the points of view of Morgan le Fay and Guinevere. Here are some stand-outs from the last thirty years from a genre that inspired me when writing The Half-Drowned King.

The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Mists of Avalon is better known, but The Firebrand, Bradley’s retelling of The Illiad, from the point of view the prophet Kassandra, condemned by Apollo to be disbelieved as she predicts Troy’s doom, is my favorite of her novels. Bradley frames the Trojan War as both a political conflict between Troy and the Greeks, as well as a conflict between the Greek gods with which we are familiar, and the older goddess-centric worship of the Anatolian peninsula. The gods intervene literally, as they do in Homer’s version, but the story is also grounded in the archeology of the time, painting a vivid picture of Ancient Troy and the surrounding kingdoms, replete with details of sandals and chariots, rituals and feasts.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Just as in Men in Black, aliens hide among the strangeness and vast numbers of people and cultures in New York City, so does the melting pot of nineteenth century New York hide magical creatures in The Golem and the Jinni. It is a slow moving and engrossing tale of these two creatures, a female golem freed from her masters who finds the world’s infinite choices, and her attunement to human’s desires, daunting, and a Jinni who chafes at any strictures. This book does a beautiful job evoking nineteenth century New York and the Jewish and Syrian communities that formed their own little worlds within the huge city.

Finn MacCool by Morgan Llywelyn

Finn MacCool was a legendary Irish warrior, or perhaps giant. I grew up with a picture book about Finn’s trickster wife running off a much bigger giant who wanted to do Finn harm. When I read Llywelyn’s Finn MacCool as a teenager, I discovered a much different version, a Bronze-Age Irish warrior trying to rise above his uncertain birth, falling in love with a fairy woman, and in his middle age, weathering the loss of a young wife and his pride. This book evokes the strange customs of Bronze-Age Ireland, and gives Finn a wonderful supporting cast of brother warriors whose stories are as compelling as his.

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

Fantasy and horror have always been kissing cousins, and in Lovecraft Country Matt Ruff explores the more fantastical side of Lovecraft, while also delving into the precarious, dangerous position occupied by a black family in Jim Crow era US. Ruff uses the more fantastical elements of the Lovecraft mythos to tell this story, and in his hands, Lovecraft’s obsessions with blood and contagions are used to illuminate the horrors of racism. Still, this book is not relentlessly bleak. The characters approach the weird situations they encounter with a gallows humor, and cleverly outwit their antagonists, making it an enjoyable and thoughtful read.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Another take on The Illiad, this time focusing on a romance between Achilles and Patroclus, strained when Achilles is overcome with the madness of battle, moving further and further from the gentle Patroclus. This novel invents Patroclus’s upbringing in the court of his father and later with the centaur Chiron. A more intimate novel than The Firebrand, The Song of Achilles deals with the Trojan War’s impact on one couple, and shows how harmful violence is even to its perpetrators.

The Flower Reader by Elizabeth Loupas

On the surface, the plot of The Flower Reader seems as though it would be at home in a Phillippa Gregory book, but it approaches the story differently because the heroine, Rinette, can tell the future from flowers. It is a charming device that provides some of the most compelling scenes in the novel and makes it easy to believe in its reality in this novel’s world. When Rinette’s husband is murdered she comes into possession of a casket that contains documents her enemies will kill for. She uses her talent and her cleverness to outwit her more obvious enemies and those who would use her affections against her.

The Mabinogion Tetralogy by Evangeline Walton

Predating The Mists of Avalon by almost 50 years, The Mabinogion Tetralogy by Evangeline Walton is a set of four books that re-tell the Mabinogion, the Welsh creation legends, and mythological underpinnings of the Arthurian legend. Fans of Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain will recognize re-workings of his source material in these books, with Prince Arawn of Annwyn, who is no villain here, and the hero Gwydion and his brothers, who are not nearly as noble in the original mythology or Walton’s retelling of it. Walton’s sparse prose suits the legends, and paints vivid characters, like Prince Pwyll, a haughty young man who loves hunting above all, and because of his single minded pursuit of his prey has to spend a year in the land of the dead. These books are as fresh and strange today as when they were first written in the 1930s and 40s.

The Half-Drowned King
Harper, August 1, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 448 pages

Guest Blog by Linnea Hartsuyker - Some of my favorite Genre-Bending Historical Fantasy Novels
"Lovers of epic rejoice! Hartsuyker illuminates these old stories with authority and visceral detail, bringing to life the adventure, bleak beauty, and human struggle that lie at their heart. A vivid and gripping read." —Madeline Miller, bestselling author of The Song of Achilles

"Linnea Hartsuyker brings myth and legend roaring to life in this superbly good page-turning saga of Viking-era Norway. Hartsuyker is fearless as she navigates a harsh, exacting, and hair-raising world, with icy fjords and raiding seasons and ancient blood feuds. But the book’s fiercest magic shines in the characters of Ragnvald and Svanhild, as unforgettable a brother and sister duo as I can remember in recent literature. Linnea Hartsuyker is an exciting, original voice in historical fiction, and The Half-Drowned King is nothing short of mesmerizing."—Paula McLain, bestselling author of The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun

An exhilarating saga of the Vikings that conjures a brutal, superstitious, and thrilling ninth-century world and the birth of a kingdom—the debut installment in a historical literary trilogy that combines the bold imagination and sweeping narrative power of Game of Thrones, Vikings, and Outlander.
Centuries ago, in a blood-soaked land ruled by legendary gods and warring men, a prophecy foretold of a high king who would come to reign over all of the north. . . .

Ragnvald Eysteinsson, the son and grandson of kings, grew up believing that he would one day take his dead father’s place as chief of his family’s lands. But, sailing home from a raiding trip to Ireland, the young warrior is betrayed and left for dead by men in the pay of his greedy stepfather, Olaf. Rescued by a fisherman, Ragnvald is determined to have revenge for his stepfather’s betrayal, claim his birthright and the woman he loves, and rescue his beloved sister Svanhild. Opportunity may lie with Harald of Vestfold, the strong young Norse warrior rumored to be the prophesied king. Ragnvald pledges his sword to King Harald, a choice that will hold enormous consequence in the years to come.

While Ragnvald’s duty is to fight—and even die—for his honor, Svanhild must make an advantageous marriage, though her adventurous spirit yearns to see the world. Her stepfather, Olaf, has arranged a husband for her—a hard old man she neither loves nor desires. When the chance to escape Olaf’s cruelty comes at the hands of her brother’s arch rival, the shrewd young woman is forced to make a heartbreaking choice: family or freedom.

Set in a mystical and violent world defined by honor, loyalty, deceit, passion, and courage, The Half-Drowned King is an electrifying adventure that breathtakingly illuminates the Viking world and the birth of Scandinavia.

About Linnea

Guest Blog by Linnea Hartsuyker - Some of my favorite Genre-Bending Historical Fantasy Novels
Linnea Hartsuyker grew up in the middle of the woods outside Ithaca, New York, and studied Engineering at Cornell University. After a decade of working at internet startups, and writing in her spare time, she attended NYU and received an MFA in Creative Writing. She lives in New York City with her husband.

Website  ~  Twitter @linneaharts

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Guest Blog by Michael Johnston - My Inspiration for Soleri - and Giveaway

Please welcome Michael Johnston to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Soleri, Michael's solo debut, will published on June 13th by Tor Books.

Guest Blog by Michael Johnston - My Inspiration for Soleri - and Giveaway

My Inspiration for Soleri
by Michael Johnston

“May you share the sun’s fate.”

I saw the words on a pyramidion, which is a little gold pyramid that sits atop an actual much, much larger pyramid. You know, like the big ones in the deserts of Egypt. I was at the British Museum in London when I saw the little pyramidion and the words weren’t written in English, but in hieroglyphs. I had to read the plaque below it to understand.

I was an architect at the time, so I was interested in these things; I always read the captions. As a writer I’m still interested in this stuff, but it’s the words that grab my attention more than the objects. I love the intersection of myth and architecture, so this particular phrase stuck in my head. Years later, when I began writing an epic fantasy novel that took place in a society that was a lot like ancient Egypt, the phrase came back to me. In my novel, Soleri, “May you share the sun’s fate” is a kind of farewell. It’s a means of saying goodbye, adios. But it’s also a theme in Soleri. It resonates on one or two levels, perhaps more.

Maybe it just says, hey, I hope you live through the day, that you wake up in the morning and rise from bed. In ancient times, living through the day meant a lot more than it does now. People didn’t live as long back then and their day-to-day lives were a lot tougher than ours. The characters in Soleri happened to lead particularly dangerous lives, so the phrase carries a bit more weight for the characters. Death follows them and it catches up to a few...which takes us to the phrase’s second meaning.

There’s a reason why the ancient Egyptians placed that passage atop some of their pyramids. It was a prayer. They were asking to rise again, but not in this world. They imagined a vast afterlife and spent a great deal of time and effort preparing for their place within it. I play with this second meaning in Soleri. Some of my characters spend their days just trying to survive. And they’re happy enough to see the sun rise each day. But a few of them might just welcome death, and they might not want to rise again from it.

When I set out to write the novel, I wanted to take my old career as an architect and fuse it with my new one as a writer. It didn’t always work out. The first draft had page after page of unnecessary and overly detailed descriptions of buildings. At times I had to separate the two professions. Not everyone cares how the Egyptians built in stone, or what tools they had available at what time. But there were places in the writing where my former career and my new one intersected beautifully. One informed the other. “May you share the sun’s fate” was just one of them, but it was probably my favorite. After all, who wouldn’t want to rise from their own grave?

Tor Books, June 13, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages

Guest Blog by Michael Johnston - My Inspiration for Soleri - and Giveaway
Michael Johnston brings you the first in a new epic fantasy series inspired by ancient Egyptian history and King Lear.

The ruling family of the Soleri Empire has been in power longer than even the calendars that stretch back 2,826 years. Those records tell a history of conquest and domination by a people descended from gods, older than anything in the known world. No living person has seen them for centuries, yet their grip on their four subjugate kingdoms remains tighter than ever.

On the day of the annual eclipse, the Harkan king, Arko-Hark Wadi, sets off on a hunt and shirks his duty rather than bow to the emperor. Ren, his son and heir, is a prisoner in the capital, while his daughters struggle against their own chains. Merit, the eldest, has found a way to stand against imperial law and marry the man she desires, but needs her sister’s help, and Kepi has her own ideas.

Meanwhile, Sarra Amunet, Mother Priestess of the sun god’s cult, holds the keys to the end of an empire and a past betrayal that could shatter her family.

Detailed and historical, vast in scope and intricate in conception, Soleri bristles with primal magic and unexpected violence. It is a world of ancient and elaborate rites, of unseen power and kingdoms ravaged by war, where victory comes with a price, and every truth conceals a deeper secret.

About Michael

Guest Blog by Michael Johnston - My Inspiration for Soleri - and Giveaway
Photo by Cathryn Farnsworth
Michael Johnson was born in Cleveland, Ohio and is a life-long avid reader of science fiction and fantasy. He studied architecture and ancient history at Lehigh University and earned a master’s degree in architecture from Columbia University. After working as an architect in New York City, he switched to writing full-time. He lives in Los Angeles, with his wife Melissa de la Cruz and daughter. Visit or follow him on Twitter: @mjohnstonauthor

The Giveaway

What:  3 Advance Readers Copies (ARCs) - 3 Winners - of Soleri by Michael Johnston. US Only

  • Send an email to theqwillery . contests @ [remove the spaces]
  • In the subject line, enter “Soleri“ with or without the quote marks.
  • In the body of the email, please provide your name and full mailing address. The winning address is used only to mail the novel and is provided to the publisher, the publicist and/or The Qwillery only for that purpose. All other address information will be deleted by The Qwillery once the giveaway ends.
Who:  The giveaway is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US mailing address.

When:  The giveaway ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on May 20, 2017. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

Guest Blog by Thoraiya Dyer - Five Favourite Bush Fruits

Please welcome Thoraiya Dyer to The Qwillery as part of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Crossroads of Canopy is published on January 31st by Tor Books.

Guest Blog by Thoraiya Dyer - Five Favourite Bush Fruits

Five Favourite Bush Fruits

by Thoraiya Dyer

If you go for a stroll in an English forest, you might be able to forage for such familiar fruits as plums, raspberries, blackberries and wild strawberries. Ditto for a Malaysian forest, home of mangosteen, pomelo and rambutan. But would you recognise good fruit when you saw it in my backyard? What are the tastiest (IMO) fruits to be found at random while hiking in the Australian bush?

Here are my top five!

(1) Magenta cherry (aka magenta lilli pilli, Syzygium paniculatum). There are many tasty, snack-sized lilli pillies out there, but this one is my favourite. I love the crisp texture, like a nashi pear, and the slight sourness with a hint of turpentine aftertaste. They can get quite big, hovering between grape sized and date sized, not only in wild rainforests but when people who water their plants every day use them for suburban hedging purposes. And they’re so pretty. No hesitation naming magenta cherries as my number one!

(2) Finger lime (Citrus australasica) comes a close second, although if I’m truthful I’ve never seen one in the wild and it seems they’re threatened in their native range due to land clearing. You can find them in most Australian nurseries, however. The plant itself is just wonderful, painfully thorny with tiny, perfect, three-petalled flowers that attract tiny, perfect native bees. And the fruit, full of round vesicles full of lime juice that snooty restaurants have christened vegetarian caviar, are sublime to eat straight off the tree. Or in cheesecake (see recipe below!). Or in salad dressing. Or on smoked salmon and crackers. Etc.

Guest Blog by Thoraiya Dyer - Five Favourite Bush Fruits

(3) Blue quandong (Elaeocarpus angustifolius) is even more sour than finger lime, and a little bit bitter, but is so satisfying to suck on as you hike through the forest that I’ve foolishly started trying to grow one here in Sydney. These towering hardwoods aren’t really practical for climbing without ropes and harnesses, but flighted birds have usually been squabbling in the branches, knocking down plenty of ripe fruit for both humans and flightless cassowaries to enjoy. Just make sure you wash it so you don’t get rabies-like diseases from flying fox saliva. The luminous blue skin is a structural, light-bending thing which quandong fruit have in common with blue Ulysses butterflies (Papilio ulysses) in a fine example of convergent evolution.

(4) Sandpaper fig (Ficus coronata) is pretty much everywhere up and down the eastern seaboard of Australia. I’ve picked and eaten them straight off wild-growing trees in Cairns, Port Stephens, the Wollemi and, most recently, Palm Beach in Sydney. Sometimes they’ll be dry and hard and nasty. Other times, they’ll be squirming with fly larvae. But occasionally, you’ll get one so syrupy and full of concentrated figgy flavour that it makes all the other attempts worthwhile!

(5) Pine leaf geebung (Persoonia pinifolia). This geebung is from drier climes, one that thrives in the devastation that follows a good bushfire. Eat these straight from the tree, and discover the unique experience of pouring dirty turps in your mouth. However, pick the ripe, fallen fruit up from the forest floor, after a period of good rainfall, and geebung fruit are sweet, refreshing and unique.

And finally, honourable mention…(6) White mangrove (Avicennia marina). I’ve heard that though these fruits are mainly used for medicinal purposes and can be toxic when untreated, there is a way to render them delicious! Sadly, I am not wise in such ways. So the white mangrove fruit must go untasted for now, lest I die before I finish my trilogy. Let this be a reminder not to eat anything that hasn’t been properly identified!

Guest Blog by Thoraiya Dyer - Five Favourite Bush Fruits

Recipe for Finger Lime Cheesecake:

Crush 100g hazelnuts and 100g chocolate tiny teddies in a mixing bowl. Add about 2 tbsp of melted butter - just enough to make it stick - and press into the bottom of a 20cm diameter cake tin to form the base.

Take your 250g block of not-in-the-fridge cream cheese and beat it in another mixing bowl with 400g melted white chocolate (don't bother about fancy double-bowled chocolate melting, just chop the stuff into a saucepan and heat it on the lowest possible setting until melted). Add 1 cup caster sugar, a 300mL tub of sour cream, and keep beating until the sugar's dissolved.

Squeeze out the insides of a bowl of Australian finger limes. These are the pink variety but they come in yellow, green and red. I’ve used about 1.5 cups of finger lime "caviar" (read: tiny sacks of sweet-sour lime juice)...this is a great workout for your fingers.

Stir the lime pulp into the white chocolate mixture. Add 3 egg yolks one at a time, beating well in between each one. Whip the whites of those 3 eggs in another bowl before folding in gently. Pour this mixture into the tin.

1 hour in a 180C oven did the trick for me, but others have had this set (firm and brown on top) in as little as 35 minutes, so keep an eye on it. Serve with whipped cream.

Crossroads of Canopy
Titan's Forest 1
Tor Books, January 31, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Guest Blog by Thoraiya Dyer - Five Favourite Bush Fruits
The highly-anticipated fantasy debut from Aurealis and Ditmar Award-winning author Thoraiya Dyer, set in a giant mythical rainforest controlled by living gods

At the highest level of a giant forest, thirteen kingdoms fit seamlessly together to form the great city of Canopy. Thirteen goddesses and gods rule this realm and are continuously reincarnated into human bodies. Canopy’s position in the sun, however, is not without its dark side. The nation’s opulence comes from the labor of slaves, and below its fruitful boughs are two other realms: Understorey and Floor, whose deprived citizens yearn for Canopy’s splendor.

Unar, a determined but destitute young woman, escapes her parents’ plot to sell her into slavery by being selected to serve in the Garden under the goddess Audblayin, ruler of growth and fertility. As a Gardener, she wishes to become Audblayin’s next Bodyguard while also growing sympathetic towards Canopy's slaves.

When Audblayin dies, Unar sees her opportunity for glory – at the risk of descending into the unknown dangers of Understorey to look for a newborn god. In its depths, she discovers new forms of magic, lost family connections, and murmurs of a revolution that could cost Unar her chance…or grant it by destroying the home she loves.

“I am majorly impressed with Thoraiya Dyer's Crossroads of Canopy. A unique, gorgeous, and dangerous world, a stubborn female hero, and a writer to watch!”—Tamora Pierce

About Thoraiya Dyer

Guest Blog by Thoraiya Dyer - Five Favourite Bush Fruits
Photo by Cat Sparks
THORAIYA DYER is an Australian writer whose more than 30 short stories, as well as a novella and short fiction collection published since 2008 have racked up 7 wins from 17 Aurealis and Ditmar Award nominations between them. Her debut fantasy TITAN'S FOREST TRILOGY is published by Tor Books.

Website  ~  Twitter @ThoraiyaDyer

Guest Blog by Linnea Hartsuyker - Some of my favorite Genre-Bending Historical Fantasy NovelsGuest Blog by Michael Johnston - My Inspiration for Soleri - and GiveawayGuest Blog by Thoraiya Dyer - Five Favourite Bush Fruits

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