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Gail Z. Martin on Monsters and Mayhem

Please welcome Gail Z. Martin to The Qwillery! Scourge, the first Darkhurst novel, will be published on July 11th by Solaris.

Gail Z. Martin on Monsters and Mayhem

Monsters and Mayhem

By Gail Z. Martin

Why should urban fantasy have all the fun?

I love monsters. When I was a kid, I remember sitting in my living room in the dark with a bowl of popcorn, scaring myself silly watching black and white reruns of Them, It Came From Outer Space, and all the Godzilla movies. I loved the Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, the Werewolf and all the famous movie monsters, and I watched every monster-oriented TV show I could find.

I’ve always loved folktales, myths and stories about terrifying beasts and cryptids. The Jersey Devil. The Mothman. Yeti and Sasquatch and the Loch Ness Monster, black dogs and banshees and redcaps and all manner of monsters fascinate me. Whether they’re a created myth, like Slenderman, or something more organic, like tommyknockers, monsters capture my imagination.

My library is full of books about monsters. Yes, I use the books for research, but reading them is just plain fun. And as I read, I can’t help thinking about the right story for the right creature—how to make it all come together.

So when the chance to do a new series came up, it occurred to me that while I’d read a lot of urban fantasy books with monsters, I couldn’t remember many (if any) epic fantasy stories where the monsters were a main focus, not an incidental obstacle. The Darkhurst series was born (the working title was Monster Slayers of Darkhurst—I do agree that Scourge is better).

Why monsters? Because monsters are cool.

With Scourge, the monsters we encounter in the first book are beast-type monsters. I don’t want to give anything away, but there’s a method to the madness of why these types of monsters show up and not others. In the sequel, which I’m currently writing, we get to see a bigger variety of monsters and some that are more sentient and much more dangerous.

In Scourge, the monsters themselves aren’t evil, although their masters may be. The monsters are dangerous and cause a lot of death and harm, but they are creatures of magic and instinct, not true malice (though the same can’t be said for their masters). There’s a time and place for sentient, intentionally malicious monsters, and we’ll see more of that as the series progresses.

I liked playing with the concept of what makes a monster. In my Chronicles of the Necromancer series, Jonmarc Vahanian runs afoul of magicked monsters that kill his family, destroy his village and set him on the path to become a mercenary and smuggler. Monsters created and controlled by magic (and the monstrous people who do so) factor into several plot lines in that series.

In my Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series, haunted and cursed objects are often the conduit that opens a gateway for supernatural monsters of many kinds to enter our world. And in the Iron & Blood Steampunk series (co-written with my husband, Larry N. Martin), monsters take on many forms, from clockwork zombies to vengeful ghosts to an ancient evil woken from the depths of the earth.

In the Ascendant Kingdoms series, one of the antagonists had the magical ability to force regular wild animals to his will for a limited period of time and turn them into killing machines. It created a terrifying scenario, because the ensorcelled animals had no desire of their own to do harm, but could not control themselves, and those against whom they were turned had no choice except to defend themselves.

The monsters in Scourge aren’t quite as sympathetic, but they are affected by magic that is not their own and over which they have no control. Their masters make use of them only as weapons, guaranteeing an eventual, brutal death. So to that end, they’re not ‘monstrous’ in their intent, just thrust into a place they don’t belong doing what instinct demands and coming to a bad end because of it.

Much as I’m a fan of things that go bump in the night, I’m hard pressed to find any monsters more terrifying than mankind. Our ability to hurt other people is seemingly limitless in its depravity, and much more frightening because the ‘monsters’ look just like us. And Scourge has its share of humans who deserve the title of ‘monster’ in addition to the magicked beasts. If you love monsters as much as I do, this is the series for you!

A Darkhurst Novel 1
Solaris, July 11, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Gail Z. Martin on Monsters and Mayhem
Epic new fantasy from the bestselling author of The Summoner. In a city beset by monsters, three brothers must find out who is controlling the abominations.

The city-state of Ravenwood is wealthy, powerful, and corrupt. Merchant Princes and Guild Masters wager fortunes to outmaneuver League rivals for the king’s favor and advantageous trading terms. Lord Mayor Ellor Machison wields assassins, blood witches, and forbidden magic to assure that his powerful patrons get what they want, no matter the cost.

Corran, Rigan, and Kell Valmonde are Guild Undertakers, left to run their family’s business when guards murdered their father and monsters killed their mother. Their grave magic enables them to help souls pass to the After and banish vengeful spirits. Rigan’s magic is unusually strong and enables him to hear the confessions of the dead, the secrets that would otherwise be taken to the grave.

When the toll exacted by monsters and brutal guards hits close to home and ghosts expose the hidden sins of powerful men, Corran, Rigan and Kell become targets in a deadly game and face a choice: obey the Guild, or fight back and risk everything.

An Excerpt from Scourge: A Novel of Darkhurst
By Gail Z. Martin
Chapter One

A HEAVY IRON candleholder slammed against the wall, just missing Corran Valmonde’s head.
     “Son of a bitch!”
     “Try not to make her mad, Corran.”
     Rigan Valmonde knelt on the worn floor, drawing a sigil in charcoal, moving as quickly as he dared. Not quickly enough; a piece of firewood spun from the hearth and flew across the room, slamming him in the shoulder hard enough to make him grunt in pain.
     “Keep her off me!” he snapped, repairing the smudge in the soot line. Sloppy symbols meant sloppy magic, and that could get someone killed.
     “I would if I could see her.” Corran stepped away from the wall, raising his iron sword, putting himself between the fireplace and his brother. His breath misted in the unnaturally cold room and moisture condensed on the wavy glass of the only window.
     “Watch where you step.” Rigan worked on the second sigil, widdershins from the soot marking, this one daubed in ochre. “I don’t want to have to do this again.”
     A small ceramic bowl careened from the mantle, and, for an instant, Rigan glimpsed a young woman in a blood-soaked dress, one hand clutching her heavily pregnant belly. The other hand slipped right through the bowl, even as the dish hurtled at Rigan’s head. Rigan dove to one side and the bowl smashed against the opposite wall. At the same time, Corran’s sword slashed down through the specter. A howl of rage filled the air as the ghost dissipated.
     You have no right to be in my home. The dead woman’s voice echoed in Rigan’s mind.
     Get out of my head.
     You are a confessor. Hear me!
     Not while you’re trying to kill my brother.
     “You’d better hurry.” Corran slowly turned, watching for the ghost.
     “I can’t rush the ritual.” Rigan tried to shut out the ghost’s voice, focusing on the complex chalk sigil. He reached into a pouch and drew a thin curved line of salt, aconite, and powdered amanita, connecting the first sigil to the second, and the second to the third and fourth, working his way to drawing a complete warded circle.
     The ghost materialized without warning on the other side of the line, thrusting a thin arm toward Rigan, her long fingers crabbed into claws, old blood beneath her torn nails. She opened a gash on Rigan’s cheek as he stumbled backward, grabbed a handful of the salt mixture and threw it. The apparition vanished with a wail.
     “Corran!” Rigan’s warning came a breath too late as the ghost appeared right behind his brother, and took a swipe with her sharp, filthy nails, clawing Corran’s left shoulder.
     He wronged me. He let me die, let my baby die— The voice shrieked in Rigan’s mind.
     “Draw the damn signs!” Corran yelled. “I’ll handle her.” He wheeled, and before the blood- smeared ghost could strike again, the tip of his iron blade caught her in the chest. Her image dissipated like smoke, with a shriek that echoed from the walls.
     Avenge me.
     Sorry, lady, Rigan thought as he reached for a pot of pigment. I’m stuck listening to dead people’s dirty little secrets and last regrets, but I just bury people. Take your complaints up with the gods.
     “Last one.” Rigan marked the rune in blue woad. The condensation on the window turned to frost, and he shivered. The ghost flickered, insubstantial but still identifiable as the young woman who had died bringing her stillborn child into the world. Her blood still stained the floor in the center of the warded circle and held her to this world as surely as her grief.
     Wind whipped through the room, and would have scattered the salt and aconite line if Rigan had not daubed the mixture onto the floor in paste. Fragments of the broken bowl scythed through the air. The iron candle holder sailed across the room; Corran dodged it again, and a shard caught the side of his brother’s head, opening a cut on Rigan’s scalp, sending a warm rush of blood down the side of his face.
     The ghost raged on, her anger and grief whipping the air into a whirlwind. I will not leave without justice for myself and my son.
     You don’t really have a choice about it, Rigan replied silently and stepped across the warding, careful not to smudge the lines, pulling an iron knife from his belt. He nodded to Corran and together their voices rose as they chanted the burial rite, harmonizing out of long practice, the words of the Old Language as familiar as their own names.
     The ghostly woman’s image flickered again, solid enough now that Rigan could see the streaks of blood on her pale arms and make out the pattern of her dress. She appeared right next to him, close enough that his shoulder bumped against her chest, and her mouth brushed his ear.
     ’Twas not nature that killed me. My faithless husband let us bleed because he thought the child was not his own.
     The ghost vanished, compelled to reappear in the center of the circle, standing on the blood-stained floor. Rigan extended his trembling right hand and called to the magic, drawing on the old, familiar currents of power. The circle and runes flared with light. The sigils burned in red, white, blue, and black, with the salt-aconite lines a golden glow between them.
     Corran and Rigan’s voices rose as the glow grew steadily brighter, and the ghost raged all the harder against the power that held her, thinning the line between this world and the next, opening a door and forcing her through it.
     One heartbeat she was present; in the next she was gone, though her screams continued to echo.
     Rigan and Corran kept on chanting, finishing the rite as the circle’s glow faded and the sigils dulled to mere pigment once more. Rigan lowered his palm and dispelled the magic, then blew out a deep breath.
     “That was not supposed to happen.” Corran’s scowl deepened as he looked around the room, taking in the shattered bowl and the dented candle holder. He flinched, noticing Rigan’s wounds now that the immediate danger had passed.
     “You’re hurt.”
     Rigan shrugged. “Not as bad as you are.” He wiped blood from his face with his sleeve, then bent to gather the ritual materials.
     “She confessed to you?” Corran bent to help his brother, wincing at the movement.
     “Yeah. And she had her reasons,” Rigan replied. He looked at Corran, frowning at the blood that soaked his shirt. “We’ll need to wash and bind your wounds when we get back to the shop.”
     “Let’s get out of here.”
     They packed up their gear, but Corran did not sheath his iron sword until they were ready to step outside. A small crowd had gathered, no doubt drawn by the shrieks and thuds and the flares of light through the cracked, dirty window.
     “Nothing to see here, folks,” Corran said, exhaustion clear in his voice. “We’re just the undertakers.”
     Once they were convinced the excitement was over, the onlookers dispersed, leaving one man standing to the side. He looked up anxiously as Rigan and Corran approached him.
     “Is it done? Is she gone?” For an instant, eagerness shone too clearly in his eyes. Then his posture shifted, shoulders hunching, gaze dropping, and mask slipped back into place. “I mean, is she at rest? After all she’s been through?”
     Before Corran could answer, Rigan grabbed the man by the collar, pulled him around the corner into an alley and threw him up against the wall. “You can stop the grieving widower act,” he growled. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Corran standing guard at the mouth of the alley, gripping his sword.
     “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” The denial did not reach the man’s eyes.
     “You let her bleed out, you let the baby die, because you didn’t think the child was yours.” Rigan’s voice was rough as gravel, pitched low so that only the trembling man could hear him.
     “She betrayed me—”
     “No.” The word brought the man up short. “No, if she had been lying, her spirit wouldn’t have been trapped here.” Rigan slammed the widower against the wall again to get his attention.
     “Rigan—” Corran cautioned.
     “Lying spirits don’t get trapped.” Rigan had a tight grip on the man’s shirt, enough that he could feel his body trembling. “Your wife. Your baby. Your fault.” He stepped back and let the man down, then threw him aside to land on the cobblestones.
     “The dead are at peace. You’ve got the rest of your life to live with what you did.” With that, he turned on his heel and walked away, as the man choked back a sob.
     Corran sheathed his sword. “I really wish you’d stop beating up paying customers,” he grumbled as they turned to walk back to the shop.
     “Wish I could. Don’t know how to stop being confessor to the dead, not sure what else to do once I know the dirt,” Rigan replied, an edge of pain and bitterness in his voice.
     “So the husband brought us in to clean up his mess?” Corran winced as he walked; the gashes on his arm and back had to be throbbing.
     “I like it better when the ghosts confess something like where they buried their money,” Corran replied.
     “So do I.”
     The sign over the front of the shop read Valmonde Undertakers. Around back, in the alley, the sign over the door just said Bodies. Corran led the way, dropping the small rucksack containing their gear just inside the entrance, and cursed under his breath as the strap raked across raw shoulders.
     “Sit down,” Rigan said, nodding at an unoccupied mortuary table. He tied his brown hair into a queue before washing his hands in a bucket of fresh water drawn from the pump. “Let me have a look at those wounds.”
     Footsteps descended the stairs from the small apartment above.
     “You’re back? How bad was it?” Kell, the youngest of the Valmonde brothers, stopped halfway down the stairs. He had Corran’s coloring, taking after their father, with dark blond hair that curled when it grew long. Rigan’s brown hair favored their mother. All three brothers’ blue eyes were the same shade, making the resemblance impossible to overlook.
     “Shit.” Kell jumped the last several steps as he saw his brothers’ injuries. He grabbed a bucket of water and scanned a row of powders and elixirs, grabbing bottles and measuring out with a practiced eye and long experience. “I thought you said it was just a banishing.”
     “It was supposed to be ‘just’ a banishing,” Rigan said as Corran stripped off his bloody shirt. “But it didn’t go entirely to plan.” He soaked a clean cloth in the bucket Kell held and wrung it out.
     “A murder, not a natural death,” Corran said, and his breath hitched as Rigan daubed his wounds. “Another ghost with more power than it should have had.”
     Rigan saw Kell appraising Corran’s wounds, glancing at the gashes on Rigan’s face and hairline.
     “Mine aren’t as bad,” Rigan said.
     “When you’re done with Corran, I’ll take care of them,” Kell said. “So I’m guessing Mama’s magic kicked in again, if you knew about the murder?”
     “Yeah,” Rigan replied in a flat voice.
     Undertaking, like all the trades in Ravenwood, was a hereditary profession. That it came with its own magic held no surprise; all the trades did. The power and the profession were passed down from one generation to the next. Undertakers could ease a spirit’s transition to the realm beyond, nudge a lost soul onward, or release one held back by unfinished business. Sigils, grave markings, corpse paints, and ritual chants were all part of the job. But none of the other undertakers that Rigan knew had a mama who was part Wanderer. Of the three Valmonde brothers, only Rigan had inherited her ability to hear the confessions of the dead, something not even the temple priests could do. His mother had called it a gift. Most of the time, Rigan regarded it as a burden, sometimes a curse. Usually, it just made things more complicated than they needed to be.
     “Hold still,” Rigan chided as Corran winced. “Ghost wounds draw taint.” He wiped away the blood, cleaned the cuts, and then applied ointment from the jar Kell handed him. All three of them knew the routine; they had done this kind of thing far too many times.
     “There,” he said, binding up Corran’s arm and shoulder with strips of gauze torn from a clean linen shroud. “That should do it.”
     Corran slid off the table to make room for Rigan. While Kell dealt with his brother’s wounds, Corran went to pour them each a whiskey.
     “That’s the second time this month we’ve had a spirit go from angry to dangerous,” Corran said, returning with their drinks. He pushed a glass into Rigan’s hand, and set one aside for Kell, who was busy wiping the blood from his brother’s face.
     “I’d love to know why.” Rigan tried not to wince as Kell probed his wounds. The deep gash where the pottery shard had sliced his hairline bled more freely than the cut on his cheek. Kell swore under his breath as he tried to staunch the bleeding.
     “It’s happening all over Ravenwood, and no one in the Guild seems to know a damn thing about why or what to do about it,” Corran said, knocking his drink back in one shot. “Old Daniels said he’d heard his father talk about the same sort of thing, but that was fifty years ago. So why did the ghosts stop being dangerous then, and what made them start being dangerous now?”
     Rigan started to shake his head, but stopped at a glare from Kell, who said, “Hold still.”
     He let out a long breath and complied, but his mind raced. Until the last few months, banishings were routine. Violence and tragedy sometimes produced ghosts, but in all the years since Rigan and Corran had been undertakers—first helping their father and uncles and then running the business since the older men had passed away—banishings were usually uneventful.
     Make the marks, sing the chant, the ghost goes on and we go home. So what’s changed?
     “I’m sick of being handed my ass by things that aren’t even solid,” Rigan grumbled. “If this keeps up, we’ll need to charge more.”
     Corran snorted. “Good luck convincing Guild Master Orlo to raise the rates.”
     Rigan’s eyes narrowed. “Guild Master Orlo can dodge flying candlesticks and broken pottery. See how he likes it.”
     “Once you’ve finished grumbling we’ve got four new bodies to attend to,” Kell said. “One’s a Guild burial and the others are worth a few silvers a piece.” Rigan did not doubt that Kell had negotiated the best fees possible, he always did.
     “Nice,” Rigan replied, and for the first time noticed that there were corpses on the other tables in the workshop, covered with sheets. “We can probably have these ready to take to the cemetery in the morning.”
     “One of them was killed by a guard,” Kell said, turning his back and keeping his voice carefully neutral.
     “Do you know why?” Corran tensed.
     “His wife said he protested when the guard doubled the ‘protection’ fee. Guess the guard felt he needed to be taught a lesson.” Bribes were part of everyday life in Ravenwood, and residents generally went along with the hated extortion. Guilds promised to shield their members from the guards’ worst abuses, but in reality, the Guild Masters only intervened in the most extreme cases, fearful of drawing the Lord Mayor’s ire. At least, that had been the excuse when Corran sought justice from the Undertakers’ Guild for their father’s murder, a fatal beating on flimsy charges.
Rigan suspected the guards had killed their father because the neighborhood looked up to him, and if he’d decided to speak out in opposition, others might have followed. Even with the passing years, the grief remained sharp, the injustice bitter.
     Kell went to wash his hands in a bucket by the door. “Trent came by while you and Corran were out. There’s been another attack, three dead. He wants you to go have a look and take care of the bodies.”
     Rigan and Corran exchanged a glance. “What kind of attack?”
     Kell sighed. “What kind do you think? Creatures.” He hesitated. “I got the feeling from Trent this was worse than usual.”
     “Did Trent say what kind of creatures?” Corran asked, and Rigan picked up on an edge to his brother’s voice.
     Kell nodded. “Ghouls.”
     Corran swore under his breath and looked away, pushing back old memories. “All right,” he said, not quite managing to hide a shudder. “Let’s go get the bodies before it gets any later. We’re going to have our hands full tonight.”
     “Kell and I can go, if you want to start on the ones here,” Rigan offered.
     Corran shook his head. “No. I’m not much use as an undertaker if I can’t go get the corpses no matter how they came to an end,” Corran said.
     Rigan heard the undercurrent in his tone. Kell glanced at Rigan, who gave a barely perceptible nod, warning Kell to say nothing. Corran’s dealing with the memories the best way he knows how, Rigan thought. I just wish there weren’t so many reminders.
     “I’ll prepare the wash and the pigments, and get the shrouds ready,” Kell said. “I’ll have these folks ready for your part of the ritual by the time you get back.” He gestured to the bodies already laid out. “Might have to park the new ones in the cart for a bit and switch out—tables are scarce.”
     Corran grimaced. “That’ll help.” He turned to Rigan. “Come on. Let’s get this over with.”
     Kell gave them the directions Trent had provided. Corran took up the long poles of the undertaker’s cart, which clattered behind him as they walked. Rigan knew better than to talk to his brother when he was in this kind of mood. At best he could be present, keep Corran from having to deal with the ghouls’ victims alone, and sit up with him afterward.
     It’s only been three months since he buried Jora, since we almost had to bury him. The memory’s raw, although he won’t mention it. But Kell and I both hear what he shouts in his sleep. He’s still fighting them in his dreams, and still losing.
     Rigan’s memories of that night were bad enough—Trent stumbling to the back door of the shop, carrying Corran, bloody and unconscious; Corran’s too-still body on one of the mortuary tables; Kell praying to Doharmu and any god who would listen to stave off death; Trent, covered in Corran’s blood, telling them how he had found their brother and Jora out in the tavern barn, the ghoul that attacked them already feasting on Jora’s fresh corpse.
     Rigan never did understand why Trent had gone to the barn that night, or how he managed to fight off the ghoul. Corran and Jora, no doubt, had slipped away for a tryst, expecting the barn to be safe and private. Corran said little of the attack, and Rigan hoped his brother truly did not remember all the details.
     “We’re here.” Corran’s rough voice and expressionless face revealed more than any words.
     Ross, the farrier, met them at the door. “I’m sorry to have to call you out,” he said.
     “It’s our job,” Corran replied. “I’m just sorry the godsdamned ghouls are back.”
     “Not for long,” Ross said under his breath. A glance passed between Corran and Ross. Rigan filed it away to ask Corran about later.
     The stench hit Rigan as soon as they entered the barn. Two horses lay gutted in their stalls and partially dismembered. Blood spattered the wooden walls and soaked the sawdust. Flies swarmed on what the ghouls had left behind.
     “They’re over here,” Ross said. The bodies of two men and a woman had been tossed aside like discarded bones at a feast. Rigan swallowed down bile. Corran paled, his jaw working as he ground his teeth.
     Rigan and Corran knew better than most what remained of a corpse once a ghoul had finished with it. Belly torn open to get to the soft organs; ribs split wide to access the heart. How much of the flesh remained depended on the ghoul’s hunger and whether or not it feasted undisturbed. Given the state these bodies were in—their faces were the only parts left untouched—the ghouls had taken their time. Rigan closed his eyes and took a deep breath, willing himself not to retch.
     “What about the creatures?” Corran asked.
     “Must have fled when they heard us coming,” Ross said. “We were making plenty of noise.” Ross handed them each a shovel, and took one up himself. “There’s not much left, and what’s there is… loose.”
     “Who were they?” Rigan asked, not sure Corran felt up to asking questions.
     Ross swallowed hard. “One of the men was my cousin, Tad. The other two were customers. They brought in the two horses late in the day, and my cousin said he’d handle it.”
     Rigan heard the guilt in Ross’s tone.
     “Guild honors?” Corran asked, finding his voice, and Ross nodded.
     Rigan brought the cart into the barn, stopping as close as possible to the mangled corpses. The bodies were likely to fall to pieces as soon as they began shoveling.
     “Yeah,” Ross replied, getting past the lump in his throat. “Send them off right.” He shook his head. “They say the monsters are all part of the Balance, like life and death cancel each other out somehow. That’s bullshit, if you ask me.”
     The three men bent to their work, trying not to think of the slippery bones and bloody bits as bodies. Carcasses. Like what’s left when the butcher’s done with a hog, or the vultures are finished with a cow, Rigan thought. The barn smelled of blood and entrails, copper and shit. Rigan looked at what they loaded into the cart. Only the skulls made it possible to tell that the remains had once been human.
     “I’m sorry about this, but I need to do it—to keep them from rising as ghouls or restless spirits,” Rigan said. He pulled a glass bottle from the bag at the front of the wagon, and carefully removed the stopper, sprinkling the bodies with green vitriol to burn the flesh and prevent the corpses from rising. The acid sizzled, sending up noxious tendrils of smoke. Rigan stoppered the bottle and pulled out a bag of the salt-aconite-amanita mixture, dusting it over the bodies, assuring that the spirits would remain at rest.
     Ross nodded. “Better than having them return as one of those… things,” he said, shuddering.
     “We’ll have them buried tomorrow,” Corran said as Rigan secured their grisly load.
     “That’s more than fair,” Ross agreed. “Corran—you know if I’d had a choice about calling you—”
     “It’s our job.” Corran cut off the apology. Ross knew about Jora’s death. That didn’t change the fact that they were the only Guild undertakers in this area of Ravenwood, and Ross was a friend.
     “I’ll be by tomorrow afternoon with the money,” Ross said, accompanying them to the door.
     “We’ll be done by then,” Corran replied. Rigan went to pick up the cart’s poles, but Corran shook his head and lifted them himself.
     Rigan did not argue. Easier for him to haul the wagon; that way he doesn’t have to look at the bodies and remember when Jora’s brother brought her for burial.
     Rigan felt for the reassuring bulk of his knife beneath his cloak—a steel blade rather than the iron weapon they used in the banishing rite. No one knew the true nature of the monsters, or why so many more had started appearing in Ravenwood of late. Ghouls weren’t like angry ghosts or restless spirits that could be banished with salt, aconite, and iron. Whatever darkness spawned them and the rest of their monstrous brethren, they were creatures of skin and bone; only beheading would stop them.
     Rigan kept his blade sharpened.

©2017 Gail Z. Martin. All rights reserved. May not be copied or shared in any format except with the written permission of the author.

About Gail Z. Martin

Gail Z. Martin on Monsters and Mayhem
The Hawthorn Moon is the annual summer blog tour for Gail Z. Martin, and features guest blog posts, giveaways, surprises, excerpts and more on sixteen blogs worldwide. Find the master list of posts and goodies at

Gail Z. Martin is the author of Scourge: A Darkhurst novel, the first in a brand new epic fantasy series from Solaris Books. Also new are: The Shadowed Path, part of the Chronicles of the Necromancer universe (Solaris Books); Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Solaris Books); Shadow and Flame the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books); and Iron and Blood a new Steampunk series (Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin.

She is also author of Ice Forged, Reign of Ash and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen); The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) and the urban fantasy novels Deadly Curiosities . Gail writes three ebook series: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures and The Blaine McFadden Adventures. The Storm and Fury Adventures, steampunk stories set in the Iron & Blood world, are co-authored with Larry N. Martin.

Gail is also the organizer for #HoldOnToTheLight, authors blogging about depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicide, self-harm and other mental health topics to encourage inclusiveness in fandom and stand in solidarity with fans. Learn more at

Find her at, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on, at blog and, on Goodreads and free excerpts on Wattpad

Guest Blog by Victoria Thompson and Review and Giveaway of Murder in the Bowery

Please welcome Victoria Thompson to The Qwillery. Murder in the Bowery, the 19th Gaslight Mystery, was published on May 2nd by Berkley.

Guest Blog by Victoria Thompson and Review and Giveaway of Murder in the Bowery

Newsboy Makes the News
          Newsboys were everywhere in turn of the century New York City. More than a dozen newspapers covered the City’s happenings, and ragged children—mostly boys but a few girls, too—stood on street corners morning and night in all weathers to sell them for a penny or two. Most of these children were homeless orphans or had simply been abandoned by families unable to care for them any longer, so their home was on the street.
          Eventually, charities stepped in to help these children by opening Newsboys’ Lodging Houses. In these houses, the “Newsies”, as they were called, could find a hot meal and a bed for the night for a nickel each, although the boys preferred to “carry the banner,” which was their slang for sleeping on the street. The Newsies didn’t care for charity, and they certainly didn’t appreciate being cheated, so when two of the biggest newspapers raised the price of the papers for the boys without raising the customer’s price, they went on strike. Could a bunch of rag-tag children beat Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst at their own game?
          That’s only one question Private Investigator Frank Malloy and his new bride, Sarah Brandt, must answer in Murder in the Bowery when the search for a missing newsboy leads them to the innocent debutant, a ruthless gangster, and a Bowery “guide” who takes rich men on “slumming” tours of the neighborhood. But none of these people is who or what they seem, and Frank and Sarah have to find the truth before a killer strikes again.

Murder in the Bowery
Series:  A Gaslight Mystery 19
Publisher:  Berkley, May 2, 2017
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  US$26.00 (print); US$12.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781101987117 (print); 9781101987124 (eBook)

Guest Blog by Victoria Thompson and Review and Giveaway of Murder in the Bowery
The latest Gaslight Mystery from the bestselling author of Murder in Morningside Heights finds Sarah Brandt and Frank Malloy searching for a connection between a murdered newsie and a high society woman with dangerous habits.

Frank Malloy’s latest client is the well-dressed Will Bert. He’s searching for his brother, a newsboy named Freddie, so he can share his new financial good fortune. Frank makes quick work of the case and locates Freddie, but a happy reunion between brothers is not in the cards.

When Will’s name is mentioned, Freddie runs off—only to be found dead a short time later. Suspicious, Frank tracks down Will who spins a tale of lust and deceit involving a young society woman, Estelle Longacre, also recently deceased.  Frank can’t be sure if Estelle’s risky behavior and the company she kept was to blame, or if her own ruthless family had a hand in her death.

Frank will need Sarah’s help to unearth the dark secrets of the wealthy Longacres and to discover if there is a connection between Estelle and Freddie’s death. Together they must navigate a perilous underground web of treachery to find the truth.

Jennifer's Review

The latest installment in the long running historical Gaslight Mystery series by Victoria Thompson is entitled Murder in the Bowery. This time we see former society debutante turned midwife, Sarah Brandt Malloy, and her private detective husband, Frank Malloy, return to the seedier side of turn-of-the-century New York in search of a clever killer.

Sarah and Frank are the perfect fictional couple. She is a strong willed yet loving woman and he is a tough former police detective who has a compassionate heart. Since Frank unexpectedly inherited a fortune, left the police force, and finally felt able to marry Sarah, he has opened a detective agency and now takes any client that intrigues him, regardless of they ability to pay him a fee. Sarah and Frank's live in newly renovated home with their children, Frank's deaf son Brian from his first marriage and Sarah's ward Catherine, Maeve, the children's cheeky nursemaid who grew up on the streets, and Malloy's stoic Irish mother. Gino Donatelli, also a former police officer, is a frequent visitor as he is now Frank's assistant and has strong feelings for the sweet but hardened Maeve.

The mystery unfolds as Frank is getting used to having a new private inquiry service and Sarah is busy searching for a property in the slums of New York to turn into a free maternity home. Frank is tasked to find a young newsboy named Freddie “Two-Toes” Bert during the strike that pits the newsies against the rich and powerful newspaper owners by his brother, Will Bert, a handsome and smartly dressed young man. Frank and Gino quickly locate Freddie, who instantly runs off at the mention of Will's name and is later found murdered in an alley. Frank vows to locate the murderer, feeling that he may have led the killer to the poor boy. He discovers that the recent murder of the young Estelle Longacre, a beautiful society girl also found dead in the Bowery, where she had no reason to be, is inextricably linked to Freddie's death.

During the course of the investigation we are introduced to various characters closely linked to the victims, both those in the slums and those in society. In the Bowery we meet Raven and Kid Blink. Raven is a young newsie who was close to Freddie, and Kid Blink is the clever and hard leader of the newsboy strike who looks after the newsies like an older brother, and Black Jack Robinson, a frightening and powerful Bowery gangster who knew both of the victims. On the society side we meet Estelle's extended and dysfunctional family. Estelle's father, Horace Longacre is a miserable tyrant who also happens to be on his death bed and exhibits little tender feelings for his family. Penelope Longacre is Estelle's surly spinster aunt who's only concern is for her ward, Norman Tufts, a hapless young man whom Penelope hoped Estelle would soon marry. The only servants in their household are Marie and Tom, a married couple who serve as maid and man-of-all-work, who prove to be integral to solving the mystery.

As with all of the Gaslight Mysteries, Murder in the Bowery moves seamlessly from the murder plot to the behind the scenes lives of both the main characters and those who are entangled in the murder. The author has such a knack for strong characterization that both the well-loved main characters and the new ones fueling the current mystery practically jump off the page with their realness. Thompson is able to keep the story fresh and interesting and fans of this long running series will not be disappointed with this new installment.

About Victoria

Guest Blog by Victoria Thompson and Review and Giveaway of Murder in the Bowery
Photo by Monica Z
About the author Edgar® and Agatha Nominated author Victoria Thompson writes the Gaslight Mystery Series, set in turn-of-the-century New York City and featuring midwife Sarah Brandt. Her latest, Murder in the Bowery, is a May 2017 release from Berkley Prime Crime. She also contributed to the award winning writing textbook Many Genres/One Craft. Victoria teaches in the Seton Hill University master’s program in writing popular fiction. She lives in Illinois with her husband and a very spoiled little dog. Find out more at Follow her on Facebook at Victoria.Thompson.Author and on Twitter @gaslightvt.

The Giveaway

What:  One entrant will win a copy of Murder in the Bowery by Victoria Thompson from the publisher. US ONLY

  • Send an email to theqwillery . contests @ [remove the spaces]
  • In the subject line, enter “Bowery“ 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 and/or The Qwillery only for that purpose. All other address information will be deleted once the giveaway ends.
Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59PM US Eastern Time on June 7, 2017. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change without any notice.*

Guest Blog by Peter McLean, author of the Burned Man Novels, and Giveaway

Please welcome Peter McLean to The Qwillery. Damnation, the 3rd Burned Man Novel, was published on May 2nd by Angry Robot. You should read this series!

Guest Blog by Peter McLean, author of the Burned Man Novels, and Giveaway

Urban Fantasy: The YA Gateway Drug?

It has apparently been asserted on Twitter (I know, what hasn’t?) that urban fantasy makes for an easy crossover between Young Adult and Adult fantasy fiction, that it’s a “gateway drug” for teens to discover adult fantasy such as A Song Of Ice And Fire or The First Law.

Someone brought this to my attention, saying she thought it was hilarious that books like Ben Aaronovitch’s or mine should be read by young adults and citing the swearing and the violence contained in them as reasons why not. You don’t get violence and swearing in “kids’ books”, right? That’s an interesting point and I can see where she’s coming from, but consider this:

Category Young Adult fiction is marketed at 13-18 year olds, with Middle Grade being the younger market of 8-12 year olds. I’m sure there’s a degree of fudge factor in there depending which publisher’s marketing department you speak to, but that’s roughly how it works. Now, I certainly wouldn’t want an 8 year old reading my books, or even most 13 year olds, but 15+ is a different matter. When I was that age I was reading Stephen King and James Herbert and even Herbert Kastle when nobody was looking (yes, those are pure violence and filth, I admit it) and so was nearly every other lad in my year at school.

Teenagers do things we might like to pretend they don’t, but that doesn’t change the fact of it. Modern YA fiction doesn’t shy away from these things, either. The last YA novel I read was Sarah Pinborough’s brilliant 13 Minutes, and if you read that book you’ll see what I mean. Teenagers do swear and they do take drugs and have sex, and sometimes they kill people too, both in the book and in real life. You can debate whether or not they should until the cows come home, but that doesn’t change the fact that they do. Yes some 16 year-olds are still emotionally and developmentally “kids”, but some (in the UK at least) are already in the army at that age and they really aren’t.

So no, I don’t think swearing and violence makes a book unsuitable for (later) teens. The difference between YA and adult fiction isn’t the swearing and violence, it’s the underlying themes of the story and the life experiences of the characters. Protagonists in YA are usually the same age or a year or two older at most than the target market for the book, so are generally teenagers in the 15-19 year old range. There is a lot more to modern YA fiction than the tried and tested “coming of age story”, and to suggest otherwise does a great disservice to the genre, but not withstanding that YA stories are by definition about things that affect, or are relatable to their target audience. There’s some really great YA fiction about drug dependency, about teenage pregnancy, about self-harm and eating disorders, but as far as I know there is no YA fiction about going through a bitter divorce or trying to find a way to afford to put your kids through college.

Those are adult experiences, not teenage ones, and the themes they would explore (having wasted the best years of your life, social failure, financial stress, wanting your children to have a better life than you had) are broadly adult themes rather than teen ones. That, I think, is the underlying thread that makes my books and Ben’s firmly adult novels. My main character Don Drake is a seedy forty-something magician, not a hip young vampire slayer. His personal demons are long-term addiction, his deeply-buried memories of domestic abuse from a decade when it just wasn’t talked about, and a desperate need not to turn into the man that his father was at his age. Those are adult themes and while I’d be happy to let a 15 year-old read Drake or any of the rest of my books I’m not sure how much of it they would or even could relate to on a personal level.

So no, I don’t think adult urban fantasy is intrinsically unsuitable for teens but neither do I think it is necessarily their obvious first step into adult fantasy in general. These days, that gateway drug is television. Game of Thrones has been a phenomenal success worldwide, and I suspect that a good number of teens have been watching the show despite HBO putting an 18+ rating on it. For those who haven’t, there’s MTV’s Sword of Shannara, or “Beverly Hills 9021Elf” as I’ve heard some wag describe it, and of course the Lord of the Rings movies. Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time is coming to television soon too, apparently.

If I ever write a YA novel, and one day I just might, it’ll be the themes that are the most different from my existing writing. I’ll probably swear a bit less, too, but only a bit.

They’ve heard it all on the Internet already anyway.

A Burned Man Novel 3
Angry Robot, May 2, 2017
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Guest Blog by Peter McLean, author of the Burned Man Novels, and Giveaway
Don Drake is living rough in a sink estate on the outskirts of Edinburgh, doing cheap spells for even cheaper customers while fending off the local lowlifes. Six months ago, Don fled from London to Glasgow to track down his old girlfriend Debbie the alchemist.

With the Burned Man gradually driving him mad, Don meets with an ancient and mysterious tramp-slash-magician, with disastrous consequences. Now his old accomplices must step in to save Don from himself, before he damns himself for good this time.

File Under: Urban Fantasy [ Fallen So Far | Smacked Up | Devil Don’t Care | Hell or Heaven ]


A Burned Man Novel 1
Angry Robot Books, January 5, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Guest Blog by Peter McLean, author of the Burned Man Novels, and Giveaway
Hitman Don Drake owes a gambling debt to a demon. Forced to carry out one more assassination to clear his debt, Don unwittingly kills an innocent child and brings the Furies of Greek myth down upon himself.

Rescued by an almost-fallen angel called Trixie, Don and his magical accomplice the Burned Man, an imprisoned archdemon, are forced to deal with Lucifer himself whilst battling a powerful evil magician.

Now Don must foil Lucifer’s plan to complete Trixie’s fall and save her soul whilst preventing the Burned Man from breaking free from captivity and wreaking havoc on the entire world.

File Under: Urban Fantasy [ One Last Hit / Both Ends Burning / Going Underground / London’s Finest ]

See Qwill's Review here.

A Burned Man Novel 2
Angry Robot, November 1, 2016
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Guest Blog by Peter McLean, author of the Burned Man Novels, and Giveaway
In the tunnels deep under London, the Earth Elementals are dying.

Hunted by something they know only as the Rotman, the Elementals have no one trustworthy they can turn to. Enter Don Drake, drunken diabolist and semi-reformed hitman, and an almost-fallen angel called Trixie.

When Don learns that Rotman is actually the archdemon Bianakith, he knows this is going to be a tough job. The fiend is the foretold spirit of disease and decay whose aura corrupts everything it comes near, and even the most ancient foundations of London will crumble eventually. Now Don, Trixie and his ever-annoying patron the Burned Man have to hatch a plan to keep Bianakith from wiping out the Elementals and bringing down the city. But the Burned Man has other plans and those may have dire consequences for everyone.

The past never stays buried, and old sins must be atoned for. Judgement is coming, and its name is Dominion.

File Under: Urban Fantasy [ The Devil You Knew / Deeped & Down / Great Irresponsibility / London’s Burning ]

See Qwill's Review here.

About Peter

Guest Blog by Peter McLean, author of the Burned Man Novels, and Giveaway
Peter McLean was born near London in 1972, the son of a bank manager and an English teacher. He went to school in the shadow of Norwich Cathedral where he spent most of his time making up stories.

By the time he left school this was probably the thing he was best at, alongside the Taoist kung fu he had begun studying since the age of 13. He grew up in the Norwich alternative scene, alternating dingy nightclubs with studying martial arts and practical magic.

He has since grown up a bit, if not a lot, and spent 25 years working in corporate IT. He is married to Diane and is still making up stories.

You can find Peter online at his website, on Twitter @petemc666 and on Facebook.

The Giveaway

What:  Three sets (three winners - 1 set each) of the Burned Man Novels Drake, Dominion and Damnation by Peter McLean from the publisher. INTERNATIONAL

  • Send an email to theqwillery . contests @ [remove the spaces]
  • In the subject line, enter “Burned Man“ 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(s) and is provided to the publisher 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 mailing address.

When:  The giveaway ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on June 4, 2017. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change without any notice.*

Guest Blog by Baily Cattrell and Review of Nightshade for Warning plus Giveaway

Please welcome Bailey Cattrell to The Qwillery. Nightshade for Warning was published on May 2nd by Berkley.
Bailey believes magic is all around us if we only look for it. After earning degrees in philosophy and English, she held a variety of positions ranging from driver’s license examiner to soap maker. She traveled the world as a localization program manager, but now sticks close to home, where she writes, cooks, and tends to a dozen garden beds. Bailey resides in Colorado with her guy and two felines: Cheesecat the Orange and Minerva the asthmatic wonder kitty. (from Penguin Random House)

Guest Blog by Baily Cattrell and Review of Nightshade for Warning plus Giveaway

Nightshade for Warning is the second in the Enchanted Garden Mystery series featuring aromatherapist and perfumer Elliana Allbright. After divorcing her philandering husband, she opened her dream business, Scents & Nonsense, in her hometown of Poppyville, California. Her almost supernatural sense of smell combined with her ability to intuitively know what fragrances will help her friends and customers overcome difficulty or simply bring them pleasure has made her business take off like a rocket.

The Enchanted Garden behind her shop is chock-full of rambling plants, bird houses and windchimes, winding paths, tumbling terrace beds, and myriad herbs and flowers from which she distills the concentrated scents that are the hallmark of her unique perfumes. For this, she uses the ancient copper alembic her gamma left her along with an illustrated garden journal Ellie has come to realize contains more than a little magic.

The garden is open to her customers and friends to sit, sip tea, and nibble on the cookies that her best friend, Astrid Moneypenny, bakes up every morning. Miniature garden tableaus, gnome doors and fairy gardens are tucked into crevices and nooks all over the space. Dash the corgi and Nabokov the Russian Blue shop cat provide Ellie company and keep an eye on things, while Ellie herself lives in a super-efficient tiny house at the back of the property.

In Nightshade for Warning, Ellie is missing Ritter Nelson, her new beau who is on a research project in the Alaskan tundra. He’s only been gone for a few weeks, but there are months to go. It’s a welcome distraction when journalist Blake Sontag wants to feature her tiny house in a national magazine. She’s proud of her small-scale home, and Ellie’s business group, the Greenstockings, see it as a terrific opportunity to spread the word about their adorable tourist town with its Old West flavor and access to outdoor activities.

Then her little brother, Colby, turns up with his Westfalia van and a new girlfriend, Larken. Ellie adores her brother, and takes to Larken – a wildcrafter and herbalist after her own heart – right away.
Things are looking up until Sontag is poisoned, and the police focus on the last person to see him alive – Colby’s girlfriend, Larken. It doesn’t help that she had extensive herbal knowledge and the poison that killed the journalist was plant-based.

Detective Max Lang has held even more of a grudge against Ellie ever since she proved herself innocent of the murder he tried to pin on her months before, so it’s not easy when Ellie agrees to help Larken. But she plunges in with the help of Astrid and the other members of the Greenstockings to uncover the murder victim’s past in Poppyville, a mysterious land grant, an old family secret – and plenty of motives for murder. In the process, she learns a bit more about her magical abilities, and a new admirer challenges her determination to stay true to Ritter despite his long absence and sometimes confusing communications.

The book includes recipes for Astrid’s Lavender Shortbread Cookies and the Peppermint Foot Polish that Maria Canto loves so much.

Next up? Potions and Pastries, the seventh in the Magical Bakery Mystery series that I write as Bailey Cates, will release in November, 2017, and I’m currently working on the third Enchanted Garden Mystery, tentatively titled Marigolds for Malice.

For more information about all my books (and pen names), please visit

Nightshade for Warning
Author:  Bailey Cattrell
Series:  An Enchanted Garden Mystery 2
Publisher:  Berkley, May 2, 2017
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
List Price:  US$7.99 (print and eBook)
ISBN:  9780451476890 (print); 9780698407190 (eBook)

Guest Blog by Baily Cattrell and Review of Nightshade for Warning plus Giveaway
The second Enchanted Garden Mystery from Bailey Cattrell—author of the New York Times bestselling Magical Bakery Mysteries as Bailey Cates.

Elliana Allbright’s custom-made perfume shop and the Enchanted Garden behind it are garnering all sorts of attention, but a dead body could bury her in bad publicity. . . .

Ellie’s business and personal life have been flourishing in her hometown of Poppyville, California, since she opened Scents & Nonsense. She uses her very special skills to craft perfumes that almost magically ease heartache, inspire change, and bring joy—and her customers love to relax in the beautiful garden behind her shop with her corgi, Dash, and her cat, Nabokov. She even lives right next to the garden, in a compact “tiny house”—and she’s excited to hear that a journalist is going to write a feature about her home and garden for a national magazine.

But then the journalist is found dead, and suspicion falls on the last person to see him—who just happens to be Ellie’s brother’s girlfriend. So before everything goes to seed, Ellie must rely on her powers—observational and otherwise—to pick out the real killer from an ever-expanding bouquet of culprits. . . .

Jennifer's Review

Nightshade for Warning is the second installment in Bailey Cattrell's whimsical Enchanted Garden Mystery series. Elliana Allbright, proprietor of Scents and Nonsense in picturesque Poppyville, California, has recently discovered that her affinity with plants and aromas is more magical than mundane. While trying to carry on a long distance relationship with old friend Ritter, Elliana is getting ready for her tiny home, once a garden shed, to be featured in an article for a national environmental magazine. Little does Ellie know that the interviewer is about to become Poppyville's newest murder victim, and that she will feel compelled to solve the mystery when her half-brother's new girlfriend stands accused of the crime.

Elliana is petite and sweet.. She possesses a curious nature and is exploring what it means to have magical tendencies. She lives quietly and happily in the garden of her beloved gift and aromatherapy shop with her darling Corgi, Dash, and the regal shop cat she acquired with the shopfront, Nabokov. Ellie's best friend, Astrid Moneypenny, a pet whisperer, also helps out in her shop, providing delicious baked treats for Ellie's customers. Maggie Clement is Ellie's part time shop assistant, dividing her time between Scents and Nonsense and the Roux Grill, the eatery now run by Ellie's smarmy ex-husband Harris. Harris turns up in this story like a bad penny, but is only on the sidelines for most of the book.

A character that was only touched on in the previous book in this series is Colby, Elliana's half brother. He has been wandering the country for some time, but has suddenly returned to Poppyville with a stunning new girlfriend in tow. Larken Meadows is as sweet as her name, but she's a staunch environmentalist who gets into a heated argument with the murder victim the evening of his death.

Blake Sontag has a very short cameo in the story before he is murdered. Blake is a Poppyville native who returns for the tiny house story and is a thoroughly unlikable character. His death is not much lamented, even by his former fiancée, local business powerhouse, founder of the women's business association, The Greenstockings, and confirmed man-eater, Cynthia Beck. There are also appearances from the other Greenstockings and various new and old townspeople, including detective Max Lang, Ellie's nemesis from the first novel. Newcomers of note include; Joyous Sontag, Blake's surly, reclusive sister, who hides a secret that proves to be integral to the story, Vaughn Newton, a mysterious giant of a man who also knows Ellie's ex-husband, Tanner Spence, a dreamy photographer who had reason to hate Blake, and Felicity Donovan, manager of the hotel where Blake was murdered, and another person who had a grudge against him.

The plot moves along well throughout the entirety of the novel, not too fast, but not too slow either. The author is able to use scent descriptions to breathe deeper life into scenes and characters that are unique and enhances the entire story line. There are a couple of twists and surprises in the novel that make it stand out from other magical cozy mysteries. This was a fun read and the Enchanted Garden Mysteries are destined to become one of my favorite book series and I am eagerly awaiting future installments.

Note from Qwill: Our reviewer Jennifer is back after taking a break after her daughter's birth. While reading Daisies for Innocence (the first Enchanted Garden Mystery), Jennifer found the name for her daughter - Elliana! Welcome back Jennifer!


Daisies for Innocence
An Enchanted Garden Mystery 1
Berkley, January 5, 2016
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Guest Blog by Baily Cattrell and Review of Nightshade for Warning plus Giveaway
From Bailey Cattrell—who writes the New York Times bestselling Magical Bakery Mysteries as Bailey Cates—comes the first Enchanted Garden Mystery featuring custom perfume maker Elliana Allbright…

The Enchanted Garden behind Elliana Allbright’s perfume shop draws people of all ages with its fragrant flowers and lush greenery. But when the magical serenity is interrupted, it’s up to Ellie to sniff out a killer.

Ellie’s life has blossomed in Poppyville, California, since she opened Scents & Nonsense, a custom-made-perfume store. Her skills with aromas and botanical essences—some from her very own garden—seem almost…supernatural. Her perfumes can evoke emotions, bring about change, or simply make people happy. Customers are flocking to the store to buy her wares or just to sit in her beautiful garden, sip tea and enjoy homemade cookies.

But she smells trouble when she learns that her part-time assistant Josie is dating her ex. And before she can tell the young woman to beware of his charms, she finds Josie dead in the Enchanted Garden. Now the prime suspect in Josie’s murder, Ellie must search for the real culprit in Josie’s past—because it’ll take a miracle to nip this problem in the bud….

See Jennifer's Review here.

The Giveaway

What:  One entrant will win a Mass Market Paperback copy of Nightshade for Warning by Bailey Cattrell from the publisher. US ONLY

  • Send an email to theqwillery . contests @ [remove the spaces]
  • In the subject line, enter “Nightshade“ 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 and/or The Qwillery only for that purpose. All other address information will be deleted once the giveaway ends.
Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59PM US Eastern Time on May 31, 2017. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change without any notice.*

Guest Blog by Titus Chalk - A World of Graphic Novels

Please welcome Titus Chalk to The Qwillery. Generation Decks: The Unofficial History of Magic: The Gathering was published by Solaris on April 11th.

Guest Blog by Titus Chalk - A World of Graphic Novels

A World of Graphic Novels

Author Titus Chalk picks five of his favourite graphic novels with a twist – none of them originated in English, but all of them are now available in translation for readers who enjoy something out of the ordinary.

My new book Generation Decks: The Unofficial History of Magic: The Gathering is not only about a fantasy card game, but also a memoir of my peripatetic life. In fact, I learned to play Magic in rural New Zealand as an awkward teenager, desperate to make friends after a move from England. I’m currently living in my fourth or fifth different country (depending on how you count Scotland!) and along the way, I’ve learned different languages and had my horizons widened by all manner of cultural clutter. I’ve especially come to appreciate graphic novels from international creators – a healthy antidote to Marvel’s sprawling omnipresence. Nothing against American comics or graphic novels – I read them too – but I was raised on Britain’s 2000AD, as well as Tintin and Asterix. I’m sure those early influences helped make my taste in graphic story-telling as cosmopolitan as it is, and for that I’m grateful. So without further ado, I thought I would recommend five graphic novels that all originated in a non-English language – but which are available in translation. This list is completely biased and in no way definitive!

Guest Blog by Titus Chalk - A World of Graphic Novels
First Man: Reimagining Matthew Henson by Stefan Schwarz
The first German graphic novel I read and still amongst my favourites. First Man (or Packeis in German) is a fictionalised account of Matthew Henson’s ground-breaking journey to the geographic North Pole in1909. Henson was an African-American and became the first person to reach what was considered the Pole at the time. Schwarz spins a stunning yarn around Henson – and portrays both his friendship with the Inuits involved in the race to the Pole, as well as his shunning by the American scientific establishment because of his race. The volume is illustrated in a frosty black and blue palette and tugs at the heartstrings in the best way. It also includes an historical appendix so anyone curious about the real Henson can read up on him – and decide for themselves where the story-teller has used his artistic license. Wherever you stand on that issue though, there’s no denying Schwarz is an expert creator and perhaps Germany’s best in the medium.

Guest Blog by Titus Chalk - A World of Graphic Novels
A Distant Neighbourhood by Jiro Taniguchi
The world lost a gifted story-teller in February, when Jiro Taniguhi died at the age of just 69. Still, he did at least leave us with a vast treasure trove of work, including this masterpiece. In it, a Japanese salaryman takes an unexpected journey back to his home town, where he is transported back in time and into the body of his 14-year-old self. As you might expect, it’s a chance for Taniguchi to mine the nostalgia we all have for childhood. To ponder how the choices we made went on to affect our lives. To paint friendships and family ties, relationships we may have left behind, for better or worse. A Distant Neighbourhood is exquisitely melancholy and captures that seemingly omnipresent tension in Japanese culture between the quotidian and the spiritual. Taniguchi’s artwork is beautiful, too, capturing mid-century Japan in clean, uncluttered detail.

Guest Blog by Titus Chalk - A World of Graphic Novels
Blast by Manu Larcenent
An epic and surreal four-parter from France, about a grotesque outcast called Polza Mancini. Interviewed by police about an attempted murder Mancini tells his side of the story – an account that takes in his broken home, his fleeing ordinary life to live like a vagrant and the his discovery of a strange power he calls his “blast”. It’s a trip, an epiphany, an addictive spiritual high, and Mancini dedicates his life to triggering it, in the hope he might escape the body he despises and which is regularly brutalised by other miscreants he encounters. It’s a dark and despairing tale – one brilliantly rendered by Larcenent in brooding black and white, a palette which gives way to delirious, childish Technicolour whenever Mancini blasts. Inventive and poetic.

Guest Blog by Titus Chalk - A World of Graphic Novels
Blacksad by Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guardnido
A hugely popular series of anthropomorphic noir tales by a brilliant Spanish double act. Blacksad is the archetypal private Dick, expect here he’s a black Tom cat in a world of reptilian gangsters, canine cops and, well, molls of all species. The writing wanes in the latest instalments but the first few volumes are packed with wit and the hard-bitten first person narrative we all want out of a good PI. The art is fantastic, packed with period detail and the light-hearted characterisation that casting animals in your work tends to allow. Definitely amongst the best European comic work of the 21st century.

Guest Blog by Titus Chalk - A World of Graphic Novels
Aya: Life in Yop City by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie
A riotous account of life in 1970s Ivory Coast, as told by 19-year-old Aya – part of a sprawling family in the Yop City neighbourhood of the capital Abidjan. Aya is going through all the trials and tribulations of adolescence, well-known to readers wherever they may come from. She’s desperate to avoid the well-trodden path being beaten by her girlfriends – towards some knight in shining armour and a marriage her parents will approve of. She’s a natural rebel and quickly finds herself in all manner of scrapes. It’s impossible not to root for her, as she blazes a trail through Oubrerie’s sun-kissed panels, all scorched oranges and browns, or petrol blues when the characters find respite from the sun. Aya is over-flowing with charm and an essential addition to your bookshelf, if you too like your graphic novels packed with stories from around the world.

Generation Decks: The Unofficial History of Magic: The Gathering
Solaris, April 11, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 356 pages

Guest Blog by Titus Chalk - A World of Graphic Novels
The incredible true story behind the global gaming phenomenon!

Generation Decks tells the story of the mould-breaking fantasy card game Magic: The Gathering.

The brainchild of misfit maths genius Richard Garfield, Magic combines fiendishly complex gameplay with collectability. When it came out in the early '90s it transformed the lives of gamers who had longed for a game that combined challenging mechanics and kick-ass artwork with a chance to connect and compete with likeminded people.

Titus Chalk's tale is part biography, charting the author's own relationship with the game, part history, and part love letter to the card game that made it cool to be a geek.

About Titus

Guest Blog by Titus Chalk - A World of Graphic Novels
Titus Chalk is a freelance journalist based in Berlin, Germany. He writes and broadcasts about sport, culture, and games for outlets including Deutsche Welle, Tagesspiegel, and FourFourTwo. He has been playing Magic since Revised Edition and even occasionally wins. He is on the wrong side of 30, but coping, thank you.

Twitter @tituschalk

Guest Blog by Elizabeth Vaughan

Please welcome Elizabeth Vaughan to The Qwillery. WarDance, the 5th novel in Chronicles of the Warlands, was published on April 11th.

Guest Blog by Elizabeth Vaughan

When the email invitation showed up, I just sat crying, looking at the monitor.

They said I might be invited, and there it was. An invitation to submit a story to the next Valdemar Anthology.

In case you don’t know, Mercedes Lackey created Valdemar with her first book ‘Arrows of the Queen”. She generously opened her world for other authors to write in. The very first anthology ‘Sword of Ice’ was published in 1997.

I am a huge fan, have been ever since I read the first book. And her ‘Last Herald Mage Trilogy’? Oh my God, if I could write half as well. Which is why I sat crying for a moment, and then danced around the room, scaring the cats.

Then, of course, I panicked.

What the heck had I been thinking, daring to imagine that I could come up with a story that would be good enough for Valdemar? For Ms. Lackey? I was out of my mind. Yes, all those doubts crept in and I almost, ALMOST, sent an email back saying I was too busy, making some vague excuse.

But my hands hesitated over the keyboard. Refuse an offer like this and it may never come around again. I could try. I could try as hard as I could to write the best story I could, if only as a gift to Ms. Lackey for the joy her words had given me. Regardless of the possible rejection, regardless of my fear of failure.

So . . . I got out all my Valdemar books. And the Valdemar Companion, which became my bible. And then I re-read a bunch of the anthologies to get an idea of the kind of story that worked well in the world.

Now, I am a tad bit fixated on one character that gets only the slightest of mentions in the ‘Last Herald Mage’ series. Queen Elspeth Peacemaker. A woman who had suffered loss, and sacrificed herself in a loveless marriage for the good of the Kingdom.

Throughout the books there were these quick tantalizing glimpses of her, and the briefest of descriptions. Could I dare to add more to her story?

After putting sticky notes all over my reference materials, checking websites to make sure that I hadn’t screwed up the canon, and re-reading all the anthologies to make sure no one else had written about this character, I dared.

It isn’t a long story. It is really just a moment between two people, in a snowy garden, discussing the past. I made myself cry.

And then I did a very brave thing. I sent the finished story to the editor. And waited on pins and needles, for an indication. Had I offended? Would it be accepted? I held my breath, and probably only checked my email every half-hour.

The story was accepted. ‘Softly Falling Snow’ appeared in Changing the World and Other Tales of Valdemar, 2009.

I don’t make a fortune on these stories. But the compensation I receive goes well beyond the monetary one. In so many ways, I wish I could go back to the young woman reading Ms. Lackey’s books for the very first time and say “You will have a story in her world someday.”

I am honored to have continued to submit stories to these anthologies. I confess that the frisson of fear passes through me each time I hit ‘send’. I have thanked Ms. Lackey in person for allowing me to play in her sandbox. I want to thank her here again, publicly.

And then I am going to get back to work, because I have a deadline for the next story. I will get out all my books, and my sticky notes, and my book-marked websites . . . and try to bring even more joy to a wonderful series.

Chronicles of the Warlands 5
Birch Cove Press, April 11, 2017
eBook, 313 pages

Guest Blog by Elizabeth Vaughan
Spring returns to the Plains, and with it, the Time of the Challenges, when warrior fights warrior in a contest for rank and status. For Simus of the Hawk, now is the time to raise his challenge banner, to fight for the chance to finally become Warlord.

But his deadliest challenge does not come from other warriors, or even the sundered Council of Elders. For on the first night of the Challenges, a mysterious and deadly pillar of white light scorches the night sky—instantly changing everything for the People of the Plains.

Now a warrior-priestess, Snowfall, stands before Simus, who dares to speak of peace, of reconciliation. Her knives are sharp, her tattoos alluring, and her cool grey eyes can look through Simus and see…everything.

Now Simus and Snowfall must solve the mystery of the pillar of white light, and protect their people from all the destruction and chaos it brings. Snowfall fights for her place beside Simus, despite resistance from friend and foe.

The warrior-priests have abused their power for many years. Can Simus face the challenge of trusting Snowfall with his honor? And perhaps . . . with his heart?


Guest Blog by Elizabeth VaughanGuest Blog by Elizabeth Vaughan
Guest Blog by Elizabeth VaughanGuest Blog by Elizabeth Vaughan

About Elizabeth Vaughan

Elizabeth A. Vaughan is the USA Today bestselling author of the Warlands Chronicles series, now available from Berkley Publishing. She loves fantasy and romance novels, and has played Dungeons and Dragons since 1981, both table-top and the online game. Her most recent book, WarDance, comes out on April 11. You can learn more about her books at

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @eavwriter

Annette Marie on Illustrations Words Vs. Art

Please welcome Annette Marie to The Qwillery. Immortal Fire, the 3rd novel in the Red Winter Trilogy, was published on April 11th.

Annette Marie on Illustrations Words Vs. Art

Illustrations Words Vs. Art

Words are an author’s paintbrush. We create vibrant, moving pictures with black and white sentences, and if we do it right, the reader gets to watch a little movie in their head while they read. That’s my goal, anyway. I’m a very visual writer; I “see” everything I write and do my best to make sure the reader sees it too.

But what happens when you actually add some art to the book?

Illustrated novels aren’t a new thing, but they aren’t common in modern contemporary fantasy. For my most recent trilogy Red Winter, I knew very early on that I wanted to include illustrations in each book. Heavily inspired by Japanese mythology, the story is a visual feast and I wanted readers to see the story in a more tangible way that I could create with words alone.

Annette Marie on Illustrations Words Vs. Art

So began my search for an illustrator. That task seemed impossible in itself—not only finding an artist with a style that meshed with the story, but finding someone who would really understand what I wanted. I lucked out with Brittany Jackson of BeaGifted Illustrations. She’s amazingly talented, and she captured so much beauty, story, and character in every illustration.

Annette Marie on Illustrations Words Vs. Art

Once she signed on, I thought the hard part was over, and in a way, it was. But in a completely different way, the trial was only just beginning for me. My world and characters exist in my head, and I can only tell their story in words. Now I was handing my precious creations over to someone else to give them visual life. Like most authors, I can be a little (a lot) possessive of my characters, and sharing them with another artist was unexpectedly challenging.

Annette Marie on Illustrations Words Vs. Art

At some points, I can honestly say it was like magic. Brittany seemed to pluck my characters straight from my muse and paint them beautifully, depicting them even more perfectly than I could have imagined. Some of the illustrations even shifted my perception of the characters, and suddenly I could see something more in them I hadn’t known was there—a slightly different facet of their personality, an emotion I hadn’t expected.

Annette Marie on Illustrations Words Vs. Art

At other points, though, I’m pretty sure Brittany wanted to strangle me. And I probably would have deserved it, but she was astoundingly patient and never once made me feel bad when I got hung up on stupid small details because “that’s how I imagined it in my head.”

But when it comes down to it, no matter how carefully I describe something, no two readers are going to “see” that scene or character in exactly the same way. No two readers will experience the story in the same way—or in the precise way I intended it.

Annette Marie on Illustrations Words Vs. Art

But in Red Winter, I know we all—author and readers—can share the exact same experience of each scene that Brittany brought to life with an illustration. They’re my favorite scenes, every one, and even if the process was hard on my poor control-freak brain, I would do it all over again a hundred times to get to see my characters inside the pages of their books in a way I’d never experienced before.

Find out more about Red Winter:

Immortal Fire
The Red Winter Trilogy 3
Dark Owl Fantasy Inc., April 11, 2017
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 408 pages

Annette Marie on Illustrations Words Vs. Art
Once, Emi believed the heavenly gods were righteous and wise, while the earthly yokai spirits were bloodthirsty and evil. But with a traitorous deity poised to destroy her world, and the yokai standing as humanity's only defense, the lies of her upbringing have toppled to reveal a far more terrifying reality.

Despite the looming threat, Emi can't escape her greatest distraction: Shiro, the fox yokai who has so deftly claimed her heart for his own. Soon—too soon—she will have to break the curse that binds his magic and memories. And once the ancient power inside him awakens, the yokai she loves will be changed forever.

As the earthly gods gather to wage war against the heavens, Emi and Shiro must gamble everything to turn the tide against their immortal, all-powerful foes. Together, they will find a way to save her world—even if it means losing each other.

Excerpt from IMMORTAL FIRE:

Violent shivers pulled Emi from the depths of sleep. The chill in the room cut right through the layers of blanket and kimono, and her toes ached from the cold. Curled in a tight ball beneath her blankets, she exhaled harshly, half expecting her breath to fog the air.

Beyond the thin partition that separated her sleeping quarters from the rest of the room, the windows rattled in a fierce wind. A winter storm? A feverish ache throbbed in her muscles, though she didn’t think she had slept for more than a few hours.

Yawning, she forced her tired body off the futon. Cold hit her like a splash of frigid water but even that wasn’t enough to dispel her drowsy daze. A short, fumbling search uncovered no extra blankets in the closet within her small alcove. Wrapping an arm around herself for warmth, she slid a panel open and peeked into the main room.

The remains of Shiro and Yumei’s late dinner had been cleared from the table, and the unlit brazier was devoid of light or warmth. Across the room, a second futon had been laid out near Shiro’s, and dark shapes filled both.

Trust the yokai to sleep right through the freezing cold. Behind their futons was a larger closet where bedding was stored. Surely there would be an extra blanket in there. She stumbled toward it in exhaustion. Her chest felt hollow and empty, and some of the chill that plagued her emanated from within.

As she crossed the room, an icy breeze rushed across her. Jerking back a step, she turned toward the sliding garden doors. A six-inch gap revealed the night-swathed garden beyond, where snow flew almost horizontally in the wind.

Why on earth had they left the door open? With a tired scowl, she yanked it shut. The room immediately felt warmer. Shaking her head, she stopped at the foot of Shiro’s futon, the light from the window glimmering on his white hair. Not that long ago, she had woken him from a nightmare, and he had thrown her into a wall before rousing enough to realize he was about to rip her throat out. Attempting to sneak between their futons to reach the closet was probably unwise.

“Shiro?” she whispered. “Are you awake?”

He didn’t stir. Neither did Yumei, who slept on his back with his head turned away, his hair splayed untidily across his face in a way that was very unlike the usually reserved yokai. He rarely slept when anyone else was nearby, at least as far as she’d seen. Maybe her ki had tired him.

“Shiro?” she tried again more loudly.

When he again didn’t move, not even a twitch of his ears, a nervous prickle climbed her spine. Shiro wasn’t that deep of a sleeper. And why hadn’t her clumsy banging of the garden door woken them?

A spike of adrenaline cut through her drowsiness as she realized how unlikely it was that Shiro and Yumei would go to sleep with a door ajar. Had the wind blown it open? Or … something else?

She scoured the room, but it was clearly empty. Biting the inside of her cheek, she stepped between the futons and crouched.

“Shiro,” she called. “Wake up!”

No reaction. Hoping he wouldn’t attack her, she touched his shoulder. He slept on, eyes closed, face slack. Her apprehension intensified into real fear.

“Shiro!” She gripped his shoulder and shook it, but he still didn’t wake or so much as stir.

Was she dreaming? Was this a nightmare? She spun around and reached for Yumei.

“Yumei, wake up! Please wake up!” She shook him but he was as unresponsive as Shiro. In desperation, she hit his shoulder with her open palm, yelling his name. “What’s wrong with you? Wake up!”

As she turned, intending to grab a handful of snow from outside to shove in Shiro’s face, the air above him shimmered strangely. She went rigid, squinting into the darkness.

A shadow took form. A small body, thin limbs, ragged black hair. The ghostly child crouched on Shiro’s chest, her blank, bottomless stare fixed on Emi.

Her heart thudded in her ears. A kanashibari, the dream-weaving yokai that had been watching Emi in the bath. That was what she’d forgotten to warn Shiro about! And now it was sitting on him, and he wouldn’t wake up.

She lurched back to Yumei. A second kanashibari appeared before her, perched on his torso. The new one, another little girl with short, stringy hair and a pale kimono, looked up at Emi with empty black eyes.

The child’s lips pulled up in a rictal grin, and her tiny arm shot out.

Emi shoved the yokai away, but her hands passed right through the spectral body, feeling nothing but frosty air.

The yokai reached for her face and a small, frigid, solid palm pressed against her forehead. A wave of burning ice surged into Emi’s skull, blanketing her thoughts. Impossible, unyielding drowsiness crashed through her.

Before she could react, before she could even think about resisting, she collapsed on top of Yumei’s unconscious body and slid into darkness.


Annette Marie on Illustrations Words Vs. Art
Red Winter
The Red Winter Trilogy 1
Dark Owl Fantasy Inc., October 21, 2016
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 324 pages

In a few short months, Emi's mortal life will end when she becomes the human host of an immortal goddess. Carefully hidden from those who would destroy her, she has prepared her mind, body, and soul to unite with the goddess—and not once has she doubted her chosen fate.

Shiro is a spirit of the earth and an enemy of the goddess Emi will soon host. Mystery shrouds his every move and his ruby eyes shine with cunning she can’t match and dares not trust. But she saved his life, and until his debt is paid, he is hers to command—whether she wants him or not.

On the day they meet, everything Emi believes comes undone, swept away like snow upon the winter wind. For the first time, she wants to change her fate—but how can she erase a destiny already wrought in stone? Against the power of the gods, Shiro is her only hope … and hope is all she has left.

Red Winter includes ten beautiful full-page illustrations by award-winning artist Brittany Jackson.

Annette Marie on Illustrations Words Vs. Art
Dark Tempest
The Red Winter Trilogy 2
Dark Owl Fantasy Inc., January 6, 2017
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 327 pages

Emi has dedicated her life to becoming the perfect vessel for the goddess Amaterasu, but the insidious betrayal of another deity has changed everything. Now Amaterasu has charged Emi with an urgent mission: to find and free the earthly gods before mankind is brought to its knees beneath divine tyranny.

At her side is Shiro, the mysterious fox spirit. When she first saved his life, she could never have imagined that behind his cunning and confidence, he was lost—his power bound by a devastating curse and his memories obscured. His veiled history is somehow tied to the missing gods, but he can’t remember how or why.

As their search leads them into the murky depths of the spirit realm, the shadows of Shiro’s past begin to emerge. With each brief awakening of his true self, she loses a little more of him. The fate of the heavens and earth rest in her mortal hands, and she must find the missing gods before time runs out for her world—and for Shiro.

About Annette Marie

Annette Marie on Illustrations Words Vs. Art
Annette Marie is the author of the Amazon best-selling Steel & Stone series, which includes Goodreads Choice Award nominee Yield the Night, and fantasy trilogy Red Winter. Her first love is fantasy, but fast-paced urban fantasy and tantalizing forbidden romances are her guilty pleasures. She lives in the frozen winter wasteland of Alberta, Canada (okay, it's not quite that bad) with her comparatively sensible husband and their furry minion of darkness—sorry, cat—Caesar. When not writing, she can be found elbow-deep in one art project or another while blissfully ignoring all adult responsibilities.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  TwitterGoodreads

Guest Blog by Dan Koboldt - The Portal Fantasy Is Not Dead

Please welcome Dan Koboldt to The Qwillery.  The Island Deception, Gateways to Alissia 2, will be published on April 11th by Harper Voyager Impulse.

Guest Blog by Dan Koboldt - The Portal Fantasy Is Not Dead

The Portal Fantasy Is Not Dead

Have you ever wished you could enter another world through a magic wardrobe, or take a stargate to a parallel dimension? If so, my friend, you’re a fan of the portal fantasy. This is a loose term for science fiction and fantasy stories that connect one world – often Earth, but not always – to another time, place, or dimension. The portal that does the connecting might be of magical, technological, or natural origin. No matter the type, the concept of a portal fantasy is easily defined: someone goes through a thing and ends up somewhere else.

If this concept sounds familiar, that’s because portal fantasy has pervaded literature for decades. Robert Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky (1955) offers a classic take on the idea. The main character, Rod Walker, is a high school student who dreams of becoming a professional colonist. The final test of his advanced survival course is a brutal challenge: to stay alive for several days on a hostile planet. Students reach the planet by way of a “Ramsbotham portal” – a man-made teleportation device that promptly malfunctions, stranding Rod and the other students on an uninhabited world.

Not all portal stories take the reader to hostile worlds, however. In C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, the children depart wartime England for a fantastical world where the beavers can talk and they get to rule as monarchs (the children, not the beavers). Having sold more than 100 million copies in 47 languages, Narnia is probably the work that most readers think of when they hear portal fantasy.

In the last few years, however, some in the publishing world have grumbled that the portal fantasy fad might be over. Done with. Absolutely cannot sell. Some have gone so far as to proclaim that the portal fantasy is dead.

This is a falsehood. Portal fantasy is alive and well in the publishing world. To prove this, I went to Twitter and asked people to share their favorite portal fantasies published in the last couple of years. The responses overwhelmed my feed, and demonstrated just how diverse and vibrant the portal fantasy subgenre has become. Take a look at these recent examples, and you’ll see that we’re well beyond wardrobes, now.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
In this series, there are four parallel versions of London: Red London, where magic is revered, White London, where people fight to control magic and monarchy both, Grey London, where no magic exists at all, and Black London, the forbidden realm no one speaks of. The main character is a rare breed of magician who travels between them as a sort of diplomat, until he unwittingly stumbles upon a dangerous artifact from Black London that must be returned there.

Hollow World by Michael J. Sullivan
Ellis Rogers is just a regular guy who, upon learning that he has a terminal illness, decides to try out the time machine he’s built in his garage. If it works, he might find more than just a cure for his illness: he might find paradise. But first, he’ll have to survive the Hollow World that lies between.

Thief of Lies by Brenda Drake
Don’t you hate it when you finally work up the nerve to talk to that hot guy in the library, only to have him disappear? That’s what happened to Gia Kearns. When she examines the strange book about world libraries that he abandoned, it transports her to a library in Paris. And summons a demonic hound that pursues them until the hit guy and his friends – who are actually magical knights charged with protecting humanity – show up to rescue them. And that’s just the beginning of this adventure.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
I love the synopsis to this book: “Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.”

Nancy tumbled through such a gateway once, but now she’s back. It changed her, but the other children under Miss West’s care understand. They’ve had similar experiences, and each of them searches for a way back to their own fantasy world.

An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows
Saffron Coulter’s dreads going to school every day, where a boy harasses her without mercy. When a stranger shows her a moment of kindness, Saffron follows her and stumbles through a hole in reality. She finds herself trapped in a magical realm on the brink of civil war. She falls in with the wrong faction and must flee to the dubious safety of another country, and it’s still better than a day at high school.

Gateway to Fourline by Pam Brondos
College student Natalie Barns takes a job at a costume shop because she needs tuition money, and in spite of her reservations about a weirdo co-worker. When she stumbles through the strange door in the back of the shop, she finds (of course) a magical world on the other side. But unlike the children in Narnia, she’s not granted royalty status or special abilities. All she knows how to do is run. In a world filled with deadly magic and decaying monsters, she’ll be doing quite a lot of that.

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
In the world of this book, magic is governed by the rise and fall of celestial bodies. At their peak, certain forms of magic are strong enough to create a portal to other realms (none of them Earth). Whether it’s frozen tundra where very little can survive, or a tropical clime where semi-sentient plants can kill, each realm is uniquely complex. Now, a dark chaotic star’s rise will bring all of these worlds together, and only one can survive.

The Island Deception
Gateways to Alissia 2
Harper Voyager Impulse, April 11, 2017
eBook, 352 pages

Guest Blog by Dan Koboldt - The Portal Fantasy Is Not Dead
Continuing the exciting adventures from The Rogue Retrieval, The Island Deception blends fun and mystery into a brilliant new portal fantasy from Dan Koboldt.

What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas. But what happens after you step through a portal to another world, well…

For stage magician Quinn Bradley, he thought his time in Alissia was over. He’d done his job for the mysterious company CASE Global Enterprises, and now his name is finally on the marquee of one of the biggest Vegas casinos. And yet, for all the accolades, he definitely feels something is missing. He can create the most amazing illusions on Earth, but he’s also tasted true power. Real magic.

He misses it.

Luckily—or not—CASE Global is not done with him, and they want him to go back. The first time, he was tasked with finding a missing researcher. Now, though, he has another task:

Help take Richard Holt down.

It’s impossible to be in Vegas and not be a gambler. And while Quinn might not like his odds—a wyvern nearly ate him the last time he was in Alissia—if he plays his cards right, he might be able to aid his friends.

He also might learn how to use real magic himself.


The Rogue Retrieval
Gateways to Alissia 1
Harper Voyager Impulse, January 19, 2016
     eBook, 384 pages
Harper Voyager Impulse, March 1, 2016
     Mass Market Paperback, 416 pages

Guest Blog by Dan Koboldt - The Portal Fantasy Is Not Dead
In the tradition of Terry Brooks' Landover series, Piers Anthony Xanth books, and Terry Pratchett's Discword novels, scientist and blogger Dan Koboldt weaves wonder, humor, and heart into his debut novel, The Rogue Retrieval.

Sleight of hand…in another land

Stage magician Quinn Bradley has one dream: to headline his own show on the Vegas Strip. And with talent scouts in the audience wowed by his latest performance, he knows he’s about to make the big-time.

What he doesn’t expect is an offer to go on a quest to a place where magic is all too real.

That's how he finds himself in Alissia, a world connected to ours by a secret portal owned by a powerful corporation. He’s after an employee who has gone rogue, and that’s the least of his problems. Alissia has true magicians…and the penalty for impersonating one is death. In a world where even a twelve-year-old could beat Quinn in a swordfight, it's only a matter of time until the tricks up his sleeves run out.

About Dan

Guest Blog by Dan Koboldt - The Portal Fantasy Is Not Dead
Dan Koboldt is a genetics researcher and sci-fi/fantasy author from the Midwest. His novel The Rogue Retrieval – about a Vegas magician who infiltrates a medieval world – was published by Harper Voyager in 2016. You can find him on Twitter (@DanKoboldt) and on his website at

Guest Blog by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

Please welcome Alvaro Zinos-Amaro to The Qwillery.

Guest Blog by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

Looking through Robert Silverberg’s bibliography, one doesn’t see a ton of book collaborations. Sure, there are a number of books including his name in shared credit with someone else’s on the cover. In his early days he partnered on a number of tales with Randall Garrett. Two—The Shrouded Planet and The Dawning Light--were published as novels by Robert Randall at the end of the 1950s. A gathering of their collaborative short stories was published in 2009 under the title A Little Intelligence.
Then there’s the debut novel of the “Fire in Winter” series, The Mutant Season, written in collaboration with Karen Haber, Bob’s wife. Obviously that arrangement—the husband-and-wife writing team, who also produced a number of short stories—is not one we’d think Silverberg would enter into with other writers.
What, then, of the three books Bob co-authored with Isaac Asimov: Nightfall, The Positronic Man, and The Ugly Little Boy? In this case Silverberg essentially wrote the novels himself based on approved expansion treatments of Asimov’s original stories.
Let’s examine nonfiction, another field in which Silverberg was very prolific. There is a book bearing the names of Silverberg and Arthur C. Clarke—Into Space—but this was an update by Silverberg of an earlier Clarke title, The Young Traveller in Space.
On the editing front, there’s a few more joint bylines. Volumes 11 and 12 of the famous New Dimensions anthology series were listed as co-edited with Marta Randall, who did the heavy lifting (these were supposed to be two transitional volumes that would pave the way for Marta to undertake Volume 13 solo). Bob also edited three Universe anthologies and a number of yearly Best of volumes with Karen.
That’s the bulk of collaborations.
For someone who’s published fifteen or even twenty books, it would represent a fair percent of collaborative output, but in Bob’s case—hundreds of books—it’s a drop in the ocean.
Looking through these past collaborative ventures made it particularly special to be invited to work on a joint fiction project with Bob. The result was one story, When the Blue Shift Comes, told across two novellas. It wasn’t a strict collaboration at the line level, as we each wrote one novella individually and didn’t meddle with the other’s piece (Mike Resnick was the series editor, and he insured consistency, etc.), but aesthetically and plot-wise it’s one narrative in two halves, not two standalone tales.
Getting to collaborate again with Bob on Traveler of Worlds was more intimate, since it meant spending a fair amount of time at his house and then going through the line edits of the manuscript with him for corrections and final approval. Our words again remain distinct, though, since each question and answer is clearly attributed to one speaker or the other.
Perhaps the closest literary collaboration arose when Bob invited me to contribute a story to an apocalypse anthology he was editing. His editorial suggestions tightened my story and provided an excellent behind-the-scenes look at his process. In a couple of lines, his words intermingled with mine!
Which leads to a nebulous but nevertheless pleasing claim to a unique trifecta:
As far as I know, I’m the only writer with whom Bob has shared authorship on a fiction book (Blue Shift), a non-fiction book (Traveler of Worlds), and whose work Bob has edited (my story “Prayers to the Sun by a Dying Person” appeared in This Way to the End Times).
What does that mean?
Obviously, it’s a testament to Bob’s patience!
Seriously, as I begin my career and his winds down, I’m lucky to have received such generous help and insight from a true master. I’ve learned a lot from each of these three experiences, and I’m excited to put these lessons to work as I craft current and upcoming projects.
Mentor, collaborator, editor—friend. Thank you, Bob.

Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg
Fairwood Press, August 16, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 280 pages

Guest Blog by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
In addition to exploring Silverberg’s career, now in its sixth decade, this collection of transcribed conversations delves into aspects of Silverberg’s life—such as his extensive travel, passion for film, opera and classical music—not covered elsewhere.

A decade-and-a-half-long friendship, and working together on When the Blue Shift Comes, afforded Alvaro the opportunity to speak at length with Silverberg. The result: a remarkably candid series of conversations that will be of interest to science fiction readers and anyone curious about the writing life.

About Alvaro

Guest Blog by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
Alvaro is co-author, with Robert Silverberg, of When The Blue Shift Comes and Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg, which is currently eligible for Hugo nomination in the Best Related category and the Locus Award for best non-fiction.

Alvaro's more than thirty stories have appeared in magazines like Analog, Nature, Lightspeed, Galaxy's Edge, Lackington's, Farrago's Wainscot and Neon, as well as anthologies such as The Mammoth Book of the Adventures of Moriarty, The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper Tales, The 2015 Young Explorer's Adventure Guide, Cyber World, This Way to the End Times, Humanity 2.0, An Alphabet of Embers and The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016.

Alvaro's essays, reviews and interviews have appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, The First Line, Asimov's,, Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, Foundation, The New York Review of Science Fiction and Intergalactic Medicine Show. He also edits the roundtable blog for Locus.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @AZinosAmaro

Guest Blog by James Walley

Please welcome James Walley to The Qwillery. The Fathom Flies Again, Wink 2, is out now from Ragnarok Publications.

Guest Blog by James Walley

At the weekend, I threw caution to the wind and booked a vacation for later on in the year. The world is a sombre and fragile place at the moment, so I figured that could be tempered by the prospect of incoming shenanigans in the not-too-distant. My destination? Well, that much was set in stone from the moment I stepped off the plane back in Blighty last September, after a week in Orlando. Some more of that, please.

Spending a magical seven days with my other half, scampering around Universal Studios like excited children is something that left an indelible stamp on me. Some people love sun holidays, sand holidays, sangria holidays. Truth be told, I am fairly partial to all of the above, but what I got under the baking Florida sun this September past eclipsed all of that. Fun, and ultimate escapism. As a writer, I spend most of my time creating places to escape to, unlikely, larger than life vistas in which to lose myself even as I build them. This, however, was an opportunity to play in someone else’s sandbox, and they had left all of their toys out for me.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, the two theme parks hold everything from superheroes to wizards, giant robots to dinosaurs, and all so immersive that you catch yourself grinning every other minute, as something else that until now only resided in your mind, in a book, or a silver screen walks up and gives you a high five (No mean feat for a T-Rex). This was what I strive to achieve with the words I put into sentences, something so immersive and joyous, that people would want to explore these realms too, if only in their minds. Obviously this wouldn’t work in some genres, or so I thought until the sun went down.

You see, we chose to visit Universal in September, because that is when the nasties come out to play, after the kiddies have been ushered off home, and the attractions are much more likely to eat you. Halloween Horror Nights, they call it, and it put me in my place with regard to exactly how far escapism can take you.

Sure, I’ve harboured secret fantasies about loading up my boomstick and striding out into the zombie apocalypse to have some good old fashioned hijinks with the undead, who hasn’t? What lay in wait for us as we crept back around a transformed amusement park however, was so much more. Exorcists, serial killers, boogeymen, ghosts, banshees and demonic gingerbread men (Yes, that’s a thing) were around every corner, waiting to scare the snot out of anyone who had been brave enough to stick around.

And it was flipping incredible.

Again, meticulously created and flawlessly executed - We were actually there, being chased, lunged at, generally ooga-booga’d to ‘shriek like a pre-schooler’ levels. I don’t think anyone heard me though.

I don’t know why I was so surprised, having grown up on a diet of horror fiction and being utterly exhilarated by it. People love to be scared, as much as they love to be wonder struck or delighted, even if it is in an environment where you know you’re not really going to be possessed, gutted or otherwise horribly dispatched.

I put a little more of a creepy element into The Fathom Flies Again for that very reason. Even if it does stand beside silliness and folly, it serves as a reminder that we love to be given a poke in the feels, whether they’re comfortable or not so comfortable.

Last September, I’d never felt so connected to the things that I had until then only imagined, and it gave me motivation to go deeper down the rabbit hole, paint on a bigger canvas, and yes, use some darker colours where needed. Perhaps that will have a knock on effect in the, as yet untitled third instalment of the Wink trilogy, which I am working on at the moment. Maybe a second trip this coming September will serve to further stoke the creative fires.

At least then I can pass off charging around like a squealing kid on a sugar high as “Research”.

The Fathom Flies Again
Wink 2
Ragnarok Publications, February 1, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 286 pages

Guest Blog by James Walley
It's time to wake up and smell the carnage. Just as every night gives way to dawn, all dreams yield to the break of day. For Marty, that's kind of a problem. When you've fought killer clowns, sailed the seven skies, and generally laid waste to your own dreamspace, real life can be kind of a drag. At least, until your nightmares crawl through the cracks and shadows, and take a liking to your town.

When the jesters come a knocking, it's time to man up. When the unmentionables under your bed come a biting, it's time to grab your trusty, pint-sized pirate compadre and lead a charge against the night terrors.

What does this mean for Marty? It means the crew of The Flying Fathom are back, surfing on rainbows, swashing their buckles, and saving the world, one sleepy little town at a time.

Book one of this series, The Forty First Wink brought you a glimpse of utter, rum-swilling madness. Now& The Fathom Flies Again, pushing you over the edge and chuckling at your plummeting screams, before scuttling off to find something shiny to steal.

Remember, if you hear something under your bed, don't move. Don't make a sound. Draw your cutlass and think of something devilishly witty to shout, because things, my friend, are about to get all too real.


The Forty First Wink
Wink 1
Ragnarok Publications, June 16, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 214 pages

Guest Blog by James Walley
Marty is having a bad morning. Roused from slumber by a gang of polo mallet-wielding monkeys and a mysterious voice in his wardrobe, he must quickly come to terms with the fact that the world outside his door is now the world inside his head. Lying in wait amidst bleak, gloomy streets, deserted theme parks, and circus-themed nightclubs, lurks the oppressive shadow of a myriad of giggling, cackling pursuers, hell bent on throwing a custard pie or two into the works.

Assisted by a string of half-cocked schemes, a troupe of tiny unlikely allies, and (literally) the girl of his dreams, Marty sets out on a heroic quest to wake up and get out of bed.

Early reviews have compared it to Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. Equal parts epic, funny and dark, The Forty First Wink plummets headlong into the realms of askew reality, adding elements of the macabre, and squeezing in an unlikely love story for good measure. It will take you on a journey where not even the sky is the limit, and literally anything could be around the next corner. The question is, do you have the guts (and the sanity) to find out?

About James

Guest Blog by James Walley
Hailing from the mystical isle of Great Britain, James Walley is an author who prefers his reality banana shaped.

His debut novel, The Forty First Wink, released through Ragnarok Publications in 2014 scuttles gleefully into this bracket, with a blend of humour, fantasy and the unusual.

A clutch of follow up work, both short and long (including books two and three in the Wink trilogy) are in the offing, and have a similar demented flavour.

When not writing, James is partial to a spot of singing, the odd horror movie or ten, and is a circus trained juggler.

Facebook  ~  Twitter @JamesWalley74  ~ Goodreads

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