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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The God Wave by Patrick Hemstreet

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The God Wave by Patrick Hemstreet

The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2016 Debut Author Challenge.

Patrick Hemstreet

The God Wave
The God Wave Trilogy 1
Harper Voyager, May 17, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The God Wave by Patrick Hemstreet
A team of neuroscientists uncover amazing new capabilities in the brain that may steer human evolution toward miraculous and deadly frontiers in this spectacular debut work of speculative science fiction—Limitless meets James Rollins—that combines spirituality and science in an inventive, mind-blowing fashion.

For decades, scientists have speculated about the untapped potential of the human brain. Now, neuroscientist Chuck Brenton has made an astonishing breakthrough. He has discovered the key—the crucial combination of practice and conditioning—to access the incredible power dormant in ninety percent of our brains. Applying his methods to test subjects, he has stimulated abilities that elevate brain function to seemingly “godlike” levels.

These extraordinary abilities can transform the world, replacing fear and suffering with tranquility and stability. But in an age of increasing militarization, corporate exploitation, and explosive technological discovery, a group of influential power brokers are determined to control Brenton’s new superbeings for their own manipulative ends—and their motives may be far from peaceful.

Guest Blog by Beth Cato

Pleas welcome Beth Cato to The Qwillery. Final Flight, the third Clockwork Dagger story, is published on April 26th by Harper Voyager Impulse. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Beth a Happy Publication Day!

Guest Blog by Beth Cato

Final Flight: A Father and Son Story in the World of Clockwork Dagger

by Beth Cato

There are many ways to tell a love story, and in "Final Flight," I explore the bond of a father and son.

Captain Hue commands the airship Argus, a passenger vessel that suffered tremendous strife in my first book, The Clockwork Dagger. While my heroine was on board, the ship became a battleground. In the thick of the action, Captain Hue's son, a crewman, was held hostage to force Hue to stand down.

Weeks later, Captain Hue is haunted by what happened. He was badly beaten during the attack aboard his ship, and now he moves and feels like an old man. Every time he looks at his gawky teenage son, Sheridan, he sees the healing cut across the boy's throat. His airship smells of fresh carpet and new paint, but the vessel is not the cozy home it once was.

All Hue wants to do is to run his ship and keep his boy safe, and the rest of his crew as well. That isn't to be.

The story begins with the Argus under siege yet again, this time by soldiers from Hue's own corrupt kingdom. They are led by a Clockwork Dagger, an agent of the Queen. A Dagger is either a valiant hero for the crown or a ruthless spy, depending on who is telling the tale, and Hue is certain that his ship in now being commanded by the latter.

As the Argus is forced to fly a dangerous covert mission, Captain Hue faces terrible choices about the fate of his ship and his crew, and realizes that countless civilians will live or die by his actions, too. For him, though, the central concern is the life of his son Sheridan. He needs his boy safe and alive, no matter the cost... and the cost might be quite high indeed.

Final Flight
A Clockwork Dagger Story
Harper Voyager Impulse, April 26, 2016
eBook, 48 pages

Guest Blog by Beth Cato
Another breathtaking short story from the author of The Clockwork Dagger and The Clockwork Crown, set in the same world…

Captain Hue hoped he was rid of his troubles once Octavia Leander and Alonzo Garrett disembarked from his airship Argus. But he was quickly proved wrong when his ship was commandeered by Caskentian soldiers. He is ordered on a covert and deadly mission by the smarmy Julius Corrado, an elite Clockwork Dagger.

Now Captain Hue must start a mutiny to regain control of his airship, which means putting his entire crew at risk—including his teenage son Sheridan. As the weather worsens and time runs out, it’ll take incredible bravery to bring the Argus down….perhaps for good.


The Clockwork Dagger
Clockwork Dagger 1
Harper Voyager, September 16, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Guest Blog by Beth Cato
Full of magic, mystery, and romance, an enchanting steampunk fantasy debut in the bestselling vein of Trudi Canavan and Gail Carriger.

Orphaned as a child, Octavia Leander was doomed to grow up on the streets until Miss Percival saved her and taught her to become a medician. Gifted with incredible powers, the young healer is about to embark on her first mission, visiting suffering cities in the far reaches of the war-scarred realm. But the airship on which she is traveling is plagued by a series of strange and disturbing occurrences, including murder, and Octavia herself is threatened.

Suddenly, she is caught up in a flurry of intrigue: the dashingly attractive steward may be one of the infamous Clockwork Daggers—the Queen’s spies and assassins—and her cabin-mate harbors disturbing secrets. But the danger is only beginning, for Octavia discovers that the deadly conspiracy aboard the airship may reach the crown itself.

The Deepest Poison
A Clockwork Dagger Story
Harper Voyager Impulse, April 28, 2015
eBook, 48 pages

Guest Blog by Beth Cato
Octavia Leander, a young healer with incredible powers, has found her place among Miss Percival's medicians-in-training. Called to the frontlines of a never-ending war between Caskentia and the immoral Wasters, the two women must uncover the source of a devastating illness that is killing thousands of soldiers. But when Octavia's natural talents far outshine her teacher's, jealousy threatens to destroy their relationship—as time runs out to save the encampment.

Fans of Beth Cato's debut, The Clockwork Dagger, will love this journey into Octavia's past—as well as an exclusive excerpt from the sequel, The Clockwork Crown!

The Clockwork Crown
Clockwork Dagger 2
Harper Voyager, June 9, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Guest Blog by Beth Cato
Rich in atmosphere, imagination, and fun, the action-packed, magic-filled sequel to The Clockwork Dagger is an enchanting steampunk fantasy, evocative of the works of Trudi Canavan and Gail Carriger.

Narrowly surviving assassination and capture, Octavia Leander, a powerful magical healer, is on the run with handsome Alonzo Garrett, the Clockwork Dagger who forfeited his career with the Queen’s secret society of spies and killers—and possibly his life—to save her. Now, they are on a dangerous quest to find safety and answers: Why is Octavia so powerful? Why does she seem to be undergoing a transformation unlike any witnessed for hundreds of years?

The truth may rest with the source of her mysterious healing power—the Lady’s Tree. But the tree lies somewhere in a rough, inhospitable territory known as the Waste. Eons ago, this land was made barren and uninhabitable by an evil spell, until a few hardy souls dared to return over the last century. For years, the Waste has waged a bloody battle against the royal court to win its independence—and they need Octavia’s powers to succeed.

Joined by unlikely allies, including a menagerie of gremlin companions, she must evade killers and Clockwork Daggers on a dangerous journey through a world on the brink of deadly civil war.

Wings of Sorrow and Bone
A Clockwork Dagger Story
Harper Voyager Impulse, November 10, 2015
eBook, 149 pages

Guest Blog by Beth Cato
From the author of The Clockwork Dagger comes an exciting novella set in the same world…

After being rescued by Octavia Leander from the slums of Caskentia, Rivka Stout is adjusting to her new life in Tamarania. But it’s hard for a blossoming machinist like herself to fit in with proper society, and she’d much rather be tinkering with her tools than at a hoity-toity party any day.

When Rivka stumbles into a laboratory run by the powerful Balthazar Cody, she also discovers a sinister plot involving chimera gremlins and the violent Arena game Warriors. The innocent creatures will end up hurt, or worse, if Rivka doesn’t find a way to stop Mr. Cody. And to do that means she will have to rely on some unexpected new friends.

About Beth

Guest Blog by Beth Cato
Beth Cato is the author of the fantasy dulogy The Clockwork Dagger and The Clockwork Crown; the former was nominated for Best First Novel by Locus. Beth hails from Hanford, California, but currently writes and bakes cookies in a lair outside of Phoenix, Arizona. She shares the household with a hockey-loving husband, a numbers-obsessed son, and a cat the size of a canned ham

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @BethCato  ~  Pinterest

Spotlight on Grim Tidings by Caitlin Kittredge

Grim Tidings, the 2nd novel in the Hellhound Chronicles by Caitlin Kittredge, is published today by Harper Voyager. Check out this series!

Grim Tidings
Hellhound Chronicles 2
Harper Voyager, April 19, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 272 pages

Spotlight on Grim Tidings by Caitlin Kittredge
In this thrilling sequel to Black Dog—the first volume of award-winning Caitlin Kittredge’s dark urban fantasy series, Hellhound Chronicles—a soul catcher must stop demonic monsters from her past from infecting the world.

After winning her freedom from a reaper and facing off against a fearsome demon boss, Ava is now a masterless hellhound. Her friend, Leo, has found a new life after death: He’s returned as the Grim Reaper—the first in centuries. As both try to adjust to their new circumstances, Ava’s dark past comes back to wreak havoc on her . . . and the entire world.

A breed of monsters as smart as vampires—but who behave like zombies—has been sighted in Kansas. Ava can’t believe these “zompires” are back. She thought she’d kicked their asses for good when she first battled them in a Nazi death camp. Now, they’re spreading their infection across America’s heartland thanks to a nasty piece of business named Cain.

Free at last after being locked up in Hell for millennia, Cain has some scores to settle. To stop him, Ava must form an unholy alliance with some old foes . . . a bargain that will lead her to uncover deeply buried truths about her past—and Leo’s future.


Black Dog
Hellhound Chronicles 1
Harper Voyager, October 28, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Spotlight on Grim Tidings by Caitlin Kittredge
The first installment in a fabulous dark urban fantasy series—think Kill Bill with demons and gangsters instead of martial arts—from the award-winning author of the Iron Codex trilogy and Vertigo comic Coffin Hill.

Ava has spent the last hundred years as a hellhound, the indentured servant of a reaper who hunts errant souls and sends them to Hell. When a human necromancer convinces her to steal her reaper’s scythe, Ava incurs the wrath of the demon Lilith, her reaper’s boss.

As punishment for her transgression, Lilith orders Ava to track down the last soul in her reaper’s ledger . . . or die trying.

But after a hundred years of servitude, it’s time for payback. And Hell hath no fury like an avenging Ava. . . .

Review: Jericho by Alex Gordon

Author:  Alex Gordon
Publisher:  Harper Voyager, April 5, 2016
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 464 pages
List Price:  $14.99 (print); $10.99 (digital)
ISBN:  9780061687389 (print); 9780062102331 (digital)

Review: Jericho by Alex Gordon
In this follow-up to the masterful debut Gideon, a young witch must risk death and damnation to defeat a powerful ancient evil.

In unearthing her father’s secret past, Lauren Reardon discovered a shocking truth about herself. She is a Child of Endor, a sect of witches who believe they are the guardians of the “thin places”—areas across the globe where evil can seep through the divide between the worlds separating the living and the restless dead. At any time, she can be called upon to close one of these breaches and prevent demons from infiltrating our realm. When Lauren has a disturbing vision of an Oregon forest, she is drawn back to the familiar woods of the misty Pacific Northwest to investigate.

Locals had long whispered about an abandoned logging camp known as Jericho—of the strange disappearances and eerie sounds heard in the woods deep in the night. But these ghost stories only hint at the true evil lurking within the camp’s dilapidated buildings, a primeval malevolence far more terrifying than Lauren’s darkest imaginings. And now, Lauren must face this evil, even if it takes her life . . . even if it costs her soul.

Tracey's/Trinitwo's Point of View

The residents of Gideon, Illinois are witches who follow the teachings of the Lady of Endor. They are entrusted to guard the thin places where supernatural evil seeks to gain entrance into our world. Newcomer Lauren Reardon has been acknowledged as their most powerful practitioner since her victory over the demons that assailed the town six months earlier.

Lauren begins hearing voices beckoning her to a thin place somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. She reluctantly agrees to travel to the secluded woods of Portland Oregon to a gathering of people with similar talents sponsored by business mogul Andrew Carmody.

Upon arrival, Lauren recognizes that her host has ulterior motives for inviting her and the others to his home. Carmody's Peak is said to be cursed and at the nearby abandoned logging town of Jericho, Lauren senses an otherworldly malevolence lurking in its many shadows. As events unfold, Lauren realizes that the abandoned town of Jericho may not be as empty as she was led to believe.

Jericho, Alex Gordon's second book featuring Lauren Reardon, is fraught with tense action and page turning mystery. Due to the setting of Andrew Carmody's high powered world, Jericho has a more modern feel than its predecessor Gideon. This changes the tone of the series slightly which is worth noting because readers looking for the same type of glimpses into the past provided in Gideon may be disappointed. Unlike Gideon, Jericho and its enigmas are as much a puzzle to the protagonist as they are to the reader.

Lauren is a very sympathetic character. Although she's still reeling from the events in Gideon and the secret past her father kept hidden from his family, she continues to persevere. She is appealing because despite her flaws, she's a strong hero that is both compassionate and courageous.

Jericho weaves a web of thrills and chills that is filled with startling plot twists and nail biting action. The woods and their mysterious inhabitants are tangibly ominous, and Jericho's repugnant evil is the stuff of nightmares. However, the plot is somewhat convoluted and I was left feeling both partially disappointed that some of the mysteries remained unanswered, and partially relieved that the graphic details were not disclosed.

I enjoyed Jericho's fast pace, its strong female protagonist and its supernatural elements. Overall, Jericho is engaging and eerie and I would recommend this story to readers who delight in things that go bump in the night. Alex Gordon's series featuring Lauren Reardon is a winner. There's a new witch in town so evil beware!

Jericho can be read as a standalone but I recommend readers start with Gideon, because that's where the story really begins.


Harper Voyager, January 6, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages

Review: Jericho by Alex Gordon
Preston & Child meets Kim Harrison in this edge-of-your-seat debut thriller—a superb blend of mystery, urban fantasy, horror, romance, and the supernatural.

When Lauren’s father dies, she makes a shocking discovery. The man she knew as John Reardon was once a completely different person, with a different name. Now, she’s determined to find out who he really was, even though her only clues are an old photograph, some letters, and the name of a town—Gideon.

But someone—or something—doesn’t want her to discover the truth. A strange man is stalking her, appearing everywhere she turns, and those who try to help her end up dead. Neither a shadowy enemy nor her own fear are going to prevent her from solving the mystery of her father—and unlocking the secrets of her own life.

Making her way to Gideon, Lauren finds herself more confused than ever. Nothing in this small Midwestern town is what it seems, including time itself. Residents start going missing, and Lauren is threatened by almost every townsperson she encounters. Two hundred years ago, a witch was burned at the stake, but in Gideon, the past feels all too chillingly present . . .

See Tracey's Review here.

Review: Gideon by Alex Gordon

Author:  Alex Gordon
Publisher:  Harper Voyager, January 6, 2015
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages
List Price:  $14.99 (print); $7.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780061687372 (print); 9780062091765 (eBook)

Review: Gideon by Alex Gordon
Preston & Child meets Kim Harrison in this edge-of-your-seat debut thriller—a superb blend of mystery, urban fantasy, horror, romance, and the supernatural.

When Lauren’s father dies, she makes a shocking discovery. The man she knew as John Reardon was once a completely different person, with a different name. Now, she’s determined to find out who he really was, even though her only clues are an old photograph, some letters, and the name of a town—Gideon.

But someone—or something—doesn’t want her to discover the truth. A strange man is stalking her, appearing everywhere she turns, and those who try to help her end up dead. Neither a shadowy enemy nor her own fear are going to prevent her from solving the mystery of her father—and unlocking the secrets of her own life.

Making her way to Gideon, Lauren finds herself more confused than ever. Nothing in this small Midwestern town is what it seems, including time itself. Residents start going missing, and Lauren is threatened by almost every townsperson she encounters. Two hundred years ago, a witch was burned at the stake, but in Gideon, the past feels all too chillingly present . . .

Trinitytwo's Point of View

December 20, 1836 began abnormally warm. It was the day murderer Nicholas Blaine was to be judged at the stake. The Council had decided against hanging, saying he should suffer like the innocent girl he so callously killed. Blaine was more than a cold-blooded killer, he was also a wielder of potent magic. Gideon's residents had power of their own; they are children of Endor, adhering to the word of the Lady. Their duty lies in guarding the "thin places" from the demons who seek to cross the borders of the "wilderness" where they are damned to wander for eternity.

A lethal and unnatural freeze follows hard on the heels of Blaine's death and the ice storm kills the men of Gideon right where they stand. The women and children, who wait in security two miles away, are grief-stricken by their losses. All the while, Blaine's soul awaits the spell from his accomplice that will bring him back more powerful than he was before. Eliza, despite the mistrust of the community, is able to thwart the plot, binding Blaine with a spell of her own to the underground chamber where he has been laid to rest. As the years pass, Blaine's malevolent spirit hungrily waits and the people of Gideon conveniently forget the evil lingering in their vaults.

In the here and now, Lauren Reardon mourns the death of her beloved father, John. While going through her father's personal effects, she finds a small leather bound book called The Book of Endor. Printed inside is the name Matthew James Mullin and a location, Gideon Illinois. Curious, she scans the book's pages and finds a newspaper clipping wedged inside with a photo of teenaged Matthew Mullin. Lauren is shocked to discover her father and Mullin are one and the same.

Desperate to uncover the secrets of her father's hidden past, Lauren goes to Gideon for answers. But Gideon is falling into disrepair and the grudges of its people have not been forgotten. Being an outsider and a Mullin puts Lauren in danger. She senses the palpable enmity of its occupants and the malignant spirit who has become impatient to be freed.

Gideon is appealing on many levels. The author took actual tragic historical events such as Chicago's "Sudden Freeze" of 1836 and the subsequent "Great Fire" in 1871 and intertwined them to provide a gripping and realistic background. The eerie tone of the town's growing despair and impending doom paired with the author's descriptions of the "in between" places was frightful.

Lauren is a terrific heroine. She's smart and strong and when things start to go bad, she's bold enough to face the supernatural challenges head on. The supporting cast of characters were also well-written and some of them definitely had me fooled. In Gideon, I was never sure which members of the Society of Endor were working for good and which had sided with evil. This uncertainty ratcheted up the tension levels and made for some exciting and unexpected twists and turns to the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed the sojourn into Gideon's past and rooted for both Eliza and Lauren as they fought their monsters; both human and demonic. Gordon artfully spreads Nicholas Blaine's malignant presence slowly, like a disease whose evil taints the town and the souls that live there. Alex Gordon's Gideon is a delightfully dark tale that kept me under its spell from start to finish.


Harper Voyager, April 5, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 464 pages

Review: Gideon by Alex Gordon
In this follow-up to the masterful debut Gideon, a young witch must risk death and damnation to defeat a powerful ancient evil.

In unearthing her father’s secret past, Lauren Reardon discovered a shocking truth about herself. She is a Child of Endor, a sect of witches who believe they are the guardians of the “thin places”—areas across the globe where evil can seep through the divide between the worlds separating the living and the restless dead. At any time, she can be called upon to close one of these breaches and prevent demons from infiltrating our realm. When Lauren has a disturbing vision of an Oregon forest, she is drawn back to the familiar woods of the misty Pacific Northwest to investigate.

Locals had long whispered about an abandoned logging camp known as Jericho—of the strange disappearances and eerie sounds heard in the woods deep in the night. But these ghost stories only hint at the true evil lurking within the camp’s dilapidated buildings, a primeval malevolence far more terrifying than Lauren’s darkest imaginings. And now, Lauren must face this evil, even if it takes her life . . . even if it costs her soul.

Interview with Sabrina Benulis, author of The Books of Raziel

Please welcome Sabrina Benulis to The Qwillery. Angelus is published today by Harper Voyager. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Sabrina a Happy Publication Day!

Interview with Sabrina Benulis, author of The Books of Raziel

TQWelcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel, Angelus (Books of Raziel 3), is published on February 9th. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote Archon (2011) to Angelus? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Sabrina Benulis:  Hello, and thank you again for taking the time to interview me! It's hard for me to believe it's been a few years since I wrote Archon. Of course, in answer to your question, my writing style has evolved. But it's mainly a matter of perspective now. I've learned a few tricks and methods from being observant about other books I read, but on the whole, I'm just much less demanding of myself now. I'm a perfectionist, and it's taken me a while to relax when it comes to whatever mistakes I might make. I think that is the most challenging thing about writing, actually. We can be too critical of ourselves, and fearful of readers, and it can paralyze us as writers. The most important thing you can do as a writer is to tell your story as best you can. In the end, nothing else matters half as much, because if fear stifles you, you'll never share the world you've created with anyone.

TQWhat do you wish that you knew about book publishing when Archon came out that you know now?

SB:  So much has changed in the publishing industry since Archon first arrived on shelves, that it's mind-boggling. When I sold Archon, e-books were just starting to become popular, and very few authors started their careers by self-publishing anything digitally. It's hard to believe that was only back in 2010. Most of us still had to travel the long and challenging route of finding an agent, and then hopefully a publisher, and more often than not, a book wouldn't sell. I was lucky enough to sell Archon and its sequels relatively quickly all things considered. To be honest, there is incredible opportunity nowadays. In fact, it would be fair to say that a writer's career never has to be over anymore, because the options to publish your work are now more accessible than ever. You still can't match the marketing and publicity powerhouse of a traditional publisher, but it's still amazing to know that so many paths to reach your dreams exist. So if there is one thing I wish I knew back then, it would be that despite setbacks, persistence truly pays off even more than you're initially led to believe.

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

SB:  Angelus is a book that takes risks in how the story ends. I wanted an epic and original conclusion to a story that was, in all honesty, probably too big for only three novels. But I'm really happy with it, and I'm hoping readers will be too. A lot of people didn't understand where I was going with the story that began in Archon, but trust me when I say, it all truly comes together at the end.

TQWhich character in the Books of Raziel trilogy has surprised you the most? Who has been the hardest character to write and why?

SB:  Unlike most authors I know, I had the most surprises and problems with my main character, Angela Mathers. You will understand why once you read the end of Angelus, and you will probably commiserate with me, but I mean that in a good way. Angela turned out to be an incredible character with an amazing past and future. But she constantly evolved and was difficult to pin down. Whereas most authors tends to reflect themselves in their main character, Angela has few personal traits in common with me, which was both refreshing and a true challenge, because I was always getting to know her just like the reader. But overall, writing her character was a truly enriching and rewarding experience from beginning to end. I really felt like I was on a journey with her.

TQAngelus is described as "a gothic supernatural tale". In your opinion, what makes a story "gothic"?

SB:  A story being 'gothic' is really all about the atmosphere. It's the world you create and how you convey it. The gothic has a lot to do with the contrast between light and darkness, characters that have strong passions that are ironically difficult to define as good or evil, and underlying currents of otherworldliness and dread. You might not get scared when you read a gothic novel, but you will probably feel uneasy, and definitely absorbed in a world that's familiar but frightening at the same time. In the gothic, there is a beauty to the darkness that draws you in and refuses to let go.

TQPlease give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Angelus.

SB:  There is one line in Angelus, spoken by a very important character named Sophia, that basically sums up the entirety of the story. "A mother does anything and everything for her children--until they are beyond all possible help." Angela's story begins and eventually ends there. It is the central point around which the entire trilogy pivots. And I'm sure any of you Moms out there will agree with that quote one hundred percent. The world of Angelus is ultimately our world, and though it's characters might be angels, demons, or other supernatural creatures, they still live by the same fundamental truths as you and me.

TQWhat does is feel like to end the Books of Raziel trilogy?

SB:  It's a surreal feeling to have finally concluded the trilogy. I've inhabited Angela's world and known the characters for a long, long time. And I'm including years before the first novel Archon was even published. So much has changed since then and I've learned and grown so much more as a writer (because writers are always learning and growing like any artist), that it's incredible to think I am now moving on to new worlds, stories, and people who inhabit them. I will miss Angela and her world, but I'm also ready to move on. That's just life.

TQWhat's next?

SB:  It's hard for me to steer too far from fantasy fiction. Every time I write, something supernatural or fantastical always seems to creep in, no matter what I do. Maybe it's in my blood. Archon, Covenant, and Angelus were books that focused on Western mythology and religious elements like angels and demons. I find myself now moving on to mythologies from other cultures. I've really been wanting to write a great fantasy based in Asian mythology. Then again, I also have a great idea for a dark urban fantasy, and even a dystopian novel.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

SB:  Thank you again for interviewing me, and for the opportunity to share my thoughts on writing and a little bit about Angelus. I'm so excited for people to read it, and I'm grateful you could help me spread the news to readers out there!

The Books of Raziel 3
Harper Voyager, February 9, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Sabrina Benulis, author of The Books of Raziel
The heart-pounding conclusion to the Books of Raziel trilogy, a gothic supernatural tale about a girl who discovers that she holds the keys to both Heaven and Hell—and that angels, demons, and all the creatures in between who will stop at nothing to possess her and control the power she holds.

The war begun by three powerful angel siblings—Raziel, Lucifel, and Israfel—has divided the kingdoms of both Heaven and Hell, and the destruction is spilling over into the human world.

The last hope for a crumbling world is the Archon—the human Angela Mathers who has the power to control the supernatural universe. Angela alone can successfully oppose Lucifel and open Raziel’s Book, to use its power for good. But to do so would mean murdering her best friend, a sacrifice Angela refuses to contemplate.

Angela sits on the throne of Hell, fulfilling a prophecy of ruin. But ruin does not always mean destruction—sometimes it means revolution. Time is running out for both Angela and the universe, and former enemies are eager to see her fail. As she enters the Angelus duel for the crown of Heaven, she can only pray that she’ll see her friends again.


The Books of Raziel 1
Harper Voyager, November 6, 2012
Trade Paperback, 400 pages
Hardcover and eBook, December 27, 2011

Interview with Sabrina Benulis, author of The Books of Raziel
Angels and demons do battle for a girl possessed by the spirit of a powerful, dead angel in this fabulous paranormal debut by Sabrina Benulis. Archon is the first of the Books of Raziel, a truly fantastic and very hip new take on heaven’s warriors that readers of the angelic novels of Danielle Trussoni, Lauren Kate, Becca Fitzpatrick, and Alexandra Adornetto are sure to adore. Archon is new wave urban fantasy, a tale of the supernatural that brilliantly blends passion, obsession, horror, and suspense in a way that will appeal to dark fantasy fans and paranormal romance readers equally. Sabrina Benulis’s angels are creepy, sexy, and totally awesome—and, like Anne Rice’s amoral, ambiguous, and addicting vampires, they will seduce and terrify you at the same time.

The Books of Raziel 2
Harper Voyager, April 1, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Sabrina Benulis, author of The Books of Raziel
The haunting gothic tale started in Archon continues-a mesmerizing work of the paranormal in which a young woman discovers that she is caught in a labyrinth of intrigue where angels, demons, and all the creatures between Heaven and Hell will stop at nothing to possess her.

A year ago, Angela Mathers, a talented artist with a tortured soul, enrolled at the Westwood Academy and encountered the angels who haunted her dreams. Then she discovered the dark truth … she is the Archon, a being of supreme power who will determine the fate of the universe. But with such power comes great danger, and for every force seeking to aid Angela there is another burning to stop her. After a scheming demon kidnaps the Book of Raziel, Angela must find her way through a nightmarish game and enter the Door to Hell to rescue her only friend before it is too late.

The perilous fate of both Heaven and Hell rests on her success.

About Sabrina

Interview with Sabrina Benulis, author of The Books of Raziel
Photo by Sharon J. Naples
Sabrina Benulis graduated with a masters in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She currently resides in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania with her husband and a spoiled cockatiel.

Website  ~  Blog  ~  Facebook

Twitter @SabrinaBenulis

Interview with Helen Lowe

Please welcome Helen Lowe to The Qwillery! Daughter of Blood, the third novel in The Wall of Night series, was published on January 26, 2016 by Harper Voyager.

Interview with Helen Lowe

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

Helen Lowe:  Thank you or having me here today, it’s a real pleasure.

Very shortly after I began reading independently as a kid (as opposed to being read to), I also began writing my own stories, poems and plays. I think my first “full length” poem (which was hugely derivate of William Wordsworth’s “I wandered lonely as a cloud”, aka “the Daffodils”) was completed at around age 8. As for ‘why’, I believe I wanted to emulate what I already loved by creating my own stories through poetry and prose.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

HL:  Definitely a hybrid. My stories and characters are always with me and I’m always thinking about them and their permutations, which is effectively “plotting”, albeit in my head. Although when the going gets tough I do story wrangle with pen and paper as well. But from the moment I start writing, whatever plan I’ve made regarding story and characters immediately begins to take life – and that means that sooner or later it’s going to flow into its own path. Also, especially when writing a series, the further I get from the start point, the “broader brush” the preliminary planning becomes. So I find I have to write and throw away more often to get the story right.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

HL:  Deadlines, for sure. I always know the overall story and the characters’ path, but because they do take on a life of their own as I write (which I think is a good thing, by the way, rather than storytelling as a series of look-alike cardboard cutouts), fitting that creative process into the time constraints imposed by commercial deadlines is a constant tension, if not downright agony at times. However, I also think some sort of deadline is important to keep me focused on moving the project forward, rather than giving into distractions—even if they are simply rising to other, real-life challenges. So although Joanne Harris says she won’t have a deadline for her writing (and that clearly works for her because she is very productive) I feel that having some sort of target is necessary, even if it not infrequently makes me feel “under pressure.” (I think I’ll have to go listen to the Queen/David Bowie song after writing that!)

TQHow does writing poetry influence (or not) your prose writing?

HL:  For me, poetry and prose are just two different faces assumed by the creative impulse (or more accurately, compulsion.) For example, I have written a poem called Penelope Dreaming, which is a riff on Penelope of Ithaca, whom we chiefly know via Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey. I have also written a short story called Ithaca, which offers another interpretation of Penelope’s story. Yet like two countries with a common border, the creative boundary between the poem and the short story immediately adjoin, so journeying back and forth is simply a process of crossing over.
If your readers would like to read the poem and the story, they can do so by clicking on the titles:

Penelope Dreaming


TQDescribe Daughter of Blood in 140 characters or less.

HL:  All epic fantasy deals with heroes (or anti-heroes) and the fate of worlds, but for Daughter of Blood in particular:

“Intrigue, war, & friendship in the face of darkness as two heroes race against time to find a lost shield and solve a 400 year-old mystery”

TQTell us something about Daughter of Blood that is not found in the book description.

HL:  I believe I can promise readers a truly glorious cavalry charge in the face of overwhelming odds. How does that sound? Like much epic fantasy, Daughter of Blood is a big story, and when looking to pare it back I wondered if perhaps this charge (among other material) and the captain who leads it might perhaps be omitted from the book. But when I raised this possibility with my beta readers, they all replied (pretty much with one voice): “No! You can’t!” So I haven’t. The charge and the captain both remain in the story and I hope readers will enjoy both.

TQWhat appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

HL:  I have always loved fantastic stories in all their permutations of myth, legend, fairytale, and folklore, as well as enjoying their various tellings and retellings through different media: novels and short fiction, poetry and music, drama and film. And after all, magic and adventure, peril and mystery, bands of brothers – and sisters – with the fate of worlds in their hands: what’s not to like? Although I’m talking about epic fantasy in particular, I think the answer, with only very slight adjustment, holds true across much of the genre. The other, main reason that I write fantasy is because all my ideas for novels come to me in the guise of Fantasy and it’s hard to argue against that.

TQIn The Wall of Night series who has been the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

HL:  The answer to this particular question can shift about a lot, because the characters tend to be easy or difficult depending on the circumstances of the story. So it’s not only a different answer for each of the three books to date, but may even vary within different parts of the same book. However, if I focus on Daughter of Blood and the series’ two main characters, Malian and Kalan, Kalan was definitely the easier of the two to write this time, possibly because his path through the story was more straightforward. After events at the end of the second book, The Gathering of the Lost, Malian’s original course has taken an unexpected fork (for her as the character, not me as the author) and both her situation and her response to it has grown more complex – which correspondingly required thought and care in writing.

TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Wall of Night series?

HL:  I think any story that involves people and societies is going to involve social issues of some kind. In my original one-sentence summary of THE WALL OF NIGHT series, I said that it was fundamentally concerned a society that sees itself as the champion of good, but is divided by prejudice, suspicion, and fear. That underlying theme assumes different permutations in each of the books: for example, the Derai’s xenophobia and enforced caste system in The Heir of Night, and rebuilding a society that has been riven by civil war in The Gathering of the Lost. Both these themes inform Daughter of Blood as well. Nonetheless, I still use the word “inform” advisedly, because the WALL series is primarily about epic storytelling and the characters’ journeys, both physical and emotional, within that context – at which point I must now refer readers back to my answer to the question on why writing fantasy appeals to me.☺

TQWhich question about Daughter of Blood or The Wall of Night series do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

HL:  I’m really not sure that I have an answer to this question. As the author, I do my best to do the story justice by telling it as well as I possibly can – but I know every reader’s response to a book will be different, depending on the experiences and world view she or he brings to the story. I also know that what a reader gets out of the story may vary from what I envisage when writing it. So in that sense there could be as many questions as there are readers – and some of their answers may surprise me, too. For example, I was surprised when my Voyager editor told me that The Gathering of the Lost is a book about friendship, for that was not what I intended when writing it. But I realised as soon as she said it that it was true! So if I wished for anything, beyond that readers may enjoy the story, it would be for more insightful observations of that kind.

TQWhat's next?

HL:  That question at least is very easy: the next literary quest-journey has to be completing The Chaos Gate, the fourth and final novel in THE WALL OF NIGHT series. After that, there are a number of other stories already gathered in the wings but it will be up to fate and the muses as to which gets written: so may they both be kind!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

HL:  Thank you again for hosting me here today; it’s been fun.

Daughter of Blood
The Wall of Night 3
Harper Voyager, January 26, 2016
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 768 pages

Interview with Helen Lowe
A Gemmell Award-Winning Series

Malian of Night and Kalan, her trusted ally, are returning to the Wall of Night—but already it may be too late. The Wall is dangerously weakened, the Nine Houses of the Derai fractured by rivalry and hate. And now, the Darkswarm is rising . . .

Among Grayharbor backstreets, an orphan boy falls foul of dark forces. On the Wall, a Daughter of Blood must be married off to the Earl of Night, a pawn in the web of her family's ambition. On the Field of Blood, Kalan fights for a place in the bride's honor guard, while Malian dodges deadly pursuers in a hunt against time for the fabled Shield of Heaven. But the Darkswarm is gaining strength, and time is running out—for Malian, for Kalan, and for all of Haarth . . .


The Heir of Night
The Wall of Night 1
Harper Voyager, September 28, 2010
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 480 pages

Interview with Helen Lowe
“A richly told tale of strange magic, dark treachery, and conflicting loyalties, set in a well realized world.”
—Robin Hobb, author of Dragon Keeper

An award-winning poet and acclaimed author of Young Adult fiction, Helen Lowe now brings us The Heir of Night—the first book in her four-volume Wall of Night series, a brilliant new epic fantasy saga of war, prophecy, betrayal, history, and destiny. A thrilling excursion into a  richly imagined realm of strife and sacrifice, where the fate of a dangerously divided world rests in the hands of one young ;woman, The Heir of Night is a fantasy classic in the making, sure to stand alongside the much beloved works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Robin McKinley, and Guy Gavriel Kay.

The Gathering of the Lost
The Wall of Night 2
Harper Voyager,  March 27, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 672 pages

Interview with Helen Lowe
“Strange magic, dark treachery and conflicting loyalties, set in a well realized world.”
—Robin Hobb, author of Dragon Haven

“[Lowe] reinvigorates the epic fantasy with appealing characters and a richly detailed world.”
Library Journal

Sure to become an epic fantasy classic, Helen Lowe’s magnificent Wall of Night series is big, ambitious, and gorgeously drawn—a story of bravery, treachery, and cataclysm in a richly imagined world. The Gathering of the Lost is the second of four books set in a fantastic imperiled realm garrisoned by nine great Houses and protected from the terrible Darkswarm by the towering mountain range that gives the series its name. Supremely literate, brilliantly imagined and executed fantasy in the vein of Brandon Sanderson, Guy Gavriel Kay, and Barbara Hambly, The Gathering of the Lost is populated by a grand cast of unforgettable characters, some still holding to the beleaguered Wall, others scattered in their quest for the fabled Heir of Night, who vanished from their midst five years earlier.

About Helen

Interview with Helen Lowe
Photo by John McCombe
Helen Lowe, is a novelist, poet, interviewer and blogger whose first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. Her second, The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012. The sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013. Daughter Of Blood, (The Wall Of Night Series, Book Three), is published on January 26, 2016. Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we.

Cover Revealed: Breath of Earth by Beth Cato

In What's Up for the Debut Author Challenge Authors? - Part 23 (here) I shared an upcoming novel by Beth Cato - Breath of Earth. The fabulous cover has been revealed at and here it is in case you missed it! I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this novel!

Breath of Earth
Harper Voyager, August 23, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 362 pages

Cover Revealed: Breath of Earth by Beth Cato
After the Earth’s power is suddenly left unprotected, a young geomancer must rely on her unique magical powers to survive in in this fresh fantasy standalone from the author of acclaimed The Clockwork Dagger.

In an alternate 1906, the United States and Japan have forged a powerful confederation—the Unified Pacific—in an attempt to dominate the world. Their first target is a vulnerable China. In San Francisco, headstrong Ingrid Carmichael is assisting a group of powerful geomancer Wardens who have no idea of the depth of her power—or that she is the only woman to possess such skills.

When assassins kill the Wardens, Ingrid and her mentor are protected by her incredible magic. But the pair is far from safe. Without its full force of guardian geomancers, the city is on the brink of a cataclysmic earthquake that will expose Earth’s powers to masterminds determined to control the energy for their own dark ends. The danger escalates when Chinese refugees, preparing to fight the encroaching American and Japanese, fracture the uneasy alliance between the Pacific allies, transforming the city into a veritable powder keg. And the slightest tremor will set it off. . . .

Forced on the run, Ingrid makes some shocking discoveries about herself. Her powerful magic has grown even more fearsome . . . and she may be the fulcrum on which the balance of world power rests.

[description from the author's website]

Reviews: Krampus the Yule Lord by Brom and Krampus (the film)

It's the Holiday season, so why not immerse oneself in the frightening folklore of Krampus? Before this year I had never even heard of this European legend. Apparently, he looks like a demon with cloven hooves, large horns, a long pointed tongue, and sharp teeth. This counterpart to Saint Nicholas is said to punish wicked children with beatings or carry them away to Hell. Two recent adaptations of this legend is "Krampus", a film by Michael Dougherty and Krampus the Yule Lord, story and illustrations by Brom. Both renditions have unique attributes and both are worthy of your consideration, so read each review and choose wisely because Krampus is coming to town.

Krampus the Yule Lord
Author and ArtistBrom
Publisher:  Harper Voyager, October 27, 2015
Format:  Trade Paperback, 368 pages
     Hardcover and eBook,  October 30, 2012
List Price:  $19.99 (Trade Paperback)
ISBN:  9780062095664 (Trade Paperback)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Santa Claus, my dear old friend, you are a thief, a traitor, a slanderer, a murderer, a liar, but worst of all you are a mockery of everything for which I stood. You have sung your last ho, ho, ho, for I am coming for your head. . . . I am coming to take back what is mine, to take back Yuletide . . .

The author and artist of The Child Thief returns with a modern fabulist tale of Krampus, the Lord of Yule and the dark enemy of Santa Claus

One Christmas Eve in a small hollow in Boone County, West Virginia, struggling songwriter Jesse Walker witnesses a strange spectacle: seven devilish figures chasing a man in a red suit toward a sleigh and eight reindeer. When the reindeer leap skyward, taking the sleigh, devil men, and Santa into the clouds, screams follow. Moments later, a large sack plummets back to earth, a magical sack that thrusts the down-on-his-luck singer into the clutches of the terrifying Yule Lord, Krampus. But the lines between good and evil become blurred as Jesse's new master reveals many dark secrets about the cherry-cheeked Santa Claus, including how half a millennium ago the jolly old saint imprisoned Krampus and usurped his magic.

Now Santa's time is running short, for the Yule Lord is determined to have his retribution and reclaim Yuletide. If Jesse can survive this ancient feud, he might have the chance to redeem himself in his family's eyes, to save his own broken dreams . . . and to help bring the magic of Yule to the impoverished fold of Boone County.

Tracey's/Trinitytwo's Point of View

In the wee hours of Christmas morning, wannabe musician Jesse Walker contemplates the mess he's made of his life. He hates himself for failing his family and knows he's been a constant disappointment to his estranged wife, Linda, and five year-old daughter, Abigail. Now that Linda and Chief Dillard are in a relationship, Jesse is tortured by the fact that another man is providing them with the finer things in life. Sitting outside his trailer, wallowing in self-pity and contemplating suicide, Jesse is shocked when a man dressed as Santa frantically dashes by, pursued by shadowy figures with glowing orange eyes and horns. Santa leaps into a crimson sleigh complete with reindeer, but before he can achieve lift-off the attackers pounce. Jesse watches as the assailants battle the man in red and the sleigh disappears upward out of sight. Screams follow and a figure plummets from the sky, smashing into the windshield of a neighbor's car. Seconds later, he hears another crash as something plunges through the roof of his trailer. As he investigates his mobile home, he discovers Santa's red sack sitting on his bed. Desperate to give his daughter a Christmas present, he picks up the bag, hoping for a miracle. The sack is indeed miraculous but two powerful entities vie for its possession: Santa Claus and Krampus, the Yule Lord. Jesse's possession of the sack leads to Krampus's minions, called Belsnickels, taking Jesse hostage and bringing him and the sack to the cave where the Yule Lord is held prisoner. Krampus has been languishing in shackles for centuries and is weak from his imprisonment, but with the magical sack back in his possession he can finally free himself. The Yule Lord thirsts for revenge and, against his will, Jesse becomes involved in a supernatural vendetta between the two deities. The reinvigorated Krampus's innate ability to punish the wicked wreaks death and destruction upon the human world as the Yule Lord embarks upon his quest to regain his rightful place in human legends and slay his nemesis; Santa Claus.

Krampus the Yule Lord by Brom is two stories intertwined; one, an amazing tale of legends sprung to life and two, a story of human redemption. I thoroughly enjoyed Brom's rendition of the mythological origins of Krampus and Santa and their links to Odin and Loki. Since they are immortals, they each have their own agendas, and I especially enjoyed how human concerns such as breaking and entering, vandalism, and murder didn't merit Krampus's attention. He simply punishes or rewards whom he sees fit. This story is fresh and fantastic; I was surprised that somewhere along the way I began rooting for Krampus over Santa. It's wonderful not to have any clue where the story is going and to root for the bad guy for a change.

Jesse's story is tense, exciting, and thoroughly captivating. His journey is all the more poignant because the guy is a complete loser and garners little to no sympathy from the start. Brom masterfully draws his readers to Jesse by gradually depicting where his life went wrong, how he got caught up with the wrong people, and how he stopped believing in himself. As the story unfolds and Krampus teaches Jesse some hard life lessons, it evolves into one wild ride littered with danger and dead bodies.

This trade paperback edition is packed with luscious illustrations by the multi-talented Brom which enhanced my reading pleasure. I absolutely love this book and plan on rereading it every year during the Yule season. Its multiple cautionary messages about the environment, technology, and being good are worth heeding. Krampus the Yule Lord is a dark and thrilling tale that I would wholeheartedly recommend to horror enthusiasts everywhere, with one proviso: if you don't enjoy eviscerations or intense violence, this is definitely not for you.

Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures
December 4, 2015 (USA)
Rated PG-13

When his dysfunctional family clashes over the holidays, young Max (Emjay Anthony) is disillusioned and turns his back on Christmas. Little does he know, this lack of festive spirit has unleashed the wrath of Krampus: a demonic force of ancient evil intent on punishing non-believers.

All hell breaks loose as beloved holiday icons take on a monstrous life of their own, laying siege to the fractured family’s home and forcing them to fight for each other if they hope to survive.

Tracey's/Trinitytwo's Point of View

Folklore tells of Saint Nicholas's counterpart, a horned figure with a lolling tongue who punishes the naughty with beatings and then spirits them away to his lair. "Krampus", the movie, (directed by Michael Dougherty) centers around two dysfunctional families joined together for the holidays. Max (Emjay Anthony) shares his love of Christmas with his sweet German grandmother, Omi, (Krista Stadler) but is dismayed by his unhappy parents (Toni Collette and Adam Scott), his self-absorbed sister (Stefania LaVie Owen), and their obnoxious relatives (Conchata Ferrell, Allison Tolman, David Koechner). Max finishes his letter to Santa only to have it intercepted by his cousins who humiliate him for still believing. In a fit of anguish, he tears up the letter and throws it out his window. This act of disbelief heralds the arrival of someone less jolly than old Saint Nick. Krampus and his helpers come to town with the sole purpose of teaching Max and his quarrelsome family the consequences of their outrageous behavior.

"Krampus" is an enjoyable alternative to traditional holiday films. The cast was terrific; displaying great versatility in both the comedic and horror elements of the film. I especially enjoyed Tolman and Koechner as the heads of household from the redneck side of the family. Koechner and Ferrell deliver some of the funniest lines but Koechner's "Honey, I just got my ass kicked by a bunch of Christmas cookies" has to be one of the best.

Krampus's demonic servants, scary snowmen and possessed gingerbread men, provided a feeling of impending doom and dread. Krampus, when finally revealed, was not quite what I was expecting, but still eminently creepy. The film's effects, both digital and practical, were well executed. The animated segment of Omi's past encounter with Krampus is delightfully eerie and reminiscent of the movies "Coraline" and "Nightmare before Christmas". Listen for the song, Krampus- Karol of the Bells at the end credits, it's my new favorite Christmas song.

I was disappointed that with its PG-13 rating, "Krampus" had no guts or gore to back up its grim warning of the payback for a lack of Christmas spirit. I would still recommend the film to both the naughty and nice, because "Krampus" delivers its fair share of laughs, thrills and chills.

Interview with Jay Allan

Please welcome Jay Allan to The Qwillery.  Enemy in the Dark (Far Stars 2) was published on December 1st by Harper Voyager.

Interview with Jay Allan

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. You've written many novels in several series. What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Jay:  Thank you. It is great to be here.

I am without question a pantser, though deep down I want to be a plotter. I sometimes dream of detailed outlines and rich bibles full of character traits and motivations, but I always end up just diving in. For better or worse, my stories come as I’m writing, and all my attempts at serious plotting turn into sessions of staring at a legal pad.

TQYour most recently published novel is Enemy in the Dark, the 2nd novel in the Far Stars Trilogy. Please tell us something about Enemy in the Dark that is not found in the book description.

Jay:  It’s hard to answer this too deeply without giving away spoilers, but Enemy in the Dark is definitely the pivot point in the series. There are a lot of hints about Blackhawk’s past in Shadow of Empire, but in book two it all catches up with him in a profound way, and he is forced to take some drastic actions as a result. The first book hints about Blackhawk’s history, but in Enemy in the Dark it comes front and center, for the reader and for the other characters.

I’d also say Enemy in the Dark is where Blackhawk and his people join the fight against the empire in a complete and wholehearted way. In book one their commitment is conditional, but by the end of Enemy in the Dark they are all in and damned the cost.

TQWhat inspired you to write the Far Stars Trilogy? What appeals to you about writing Military Science Fiction? What distinguishes Military SF from other types of SF?

Jay:  The short (and less philosophical) answer is that it’s something I’ve read for a very long time, so when I sat down to write, I naturally gravitated to it. On a slightly deeper level, I’m a bit of an amateur historian, and it doesn’t take too intensive a study of the past to speculate that there will be enormous conflict in the future. I don’t find utopian science fiction to be terribly believable, and if I’m going to tell the story of a dark and dangerous future, why not do it from the perspective of those on the front lines?

To me, the basic definition of military science fiction is that it tells a story more or less from the perspective of those fighting in some kind of conflict. They could be soldiers or revolutionaries…or just a group of adventurers caught in some kind of struggle. I do think there are several levels to the genre however, and different readers will have different standards, including some more literal interpretations of the “military” in military science fiction.

Writing a series is such a consuming task, looking back and identifying the initial inspiration isn’t always easy. My writing seems to tend toward reluctant heroes, often dragged somewhat unwillingly into whatever drama is unfolding in the book. The Far Stars began in my mind as the idea of this kind of hero, but this time one with a really dark past, one who had been a villain…and a victim too. Without going into any spoilers, I wanted to write a series around this kind of struggle, one that tests the limits of redemption. So I’d have to say I had Blackhawk pretty well thought out early on, and I built the rest of the series around him.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for the Far Stars Trilogy?

Jay:  It’s very tempting to talk of endless hours digging through obscure tomes by flickering candlelight, but the truth is, The Far Stars is pretty much a pure space opera, and there was almost no real research involved. My education is in engineering, so I’ve got enough physics to handle general plausibility in a science fiction setting, and I really didn’t need anything else for the series. I’m sure I drew on some aspects of history in crafting the storyline, but nothing that drove me to the books, so to speak. My earlier Crimson Worlds series is harder military science fiction, and when I was writing that I did a fair amount of research into military customs, tactics, and equipment.

TQWhich themes do you touch on the Far Stars Trilogy?

Jay:  Redemption, certainly. Blackhawk is a character who has done terrible things…but he is also the hero of the series, who ultimately puts himself on the line to save the Far Stars from imperial domination. I tried to keep that arc of the story fairly complex, something beyond, “he did a bad thing and then he did a good thing to make up for it.” Blackhawk certainly earns some level of redemption, but his past continues to affect his life and his choices throughout the series, in ways that I think are quite powerful. I tend to like characters with complex motivations and drives, and not so much the “snow white” hero and “dark as night” villain.

Duty is another central theme, and leadership as well. I tend to think that in the real world, the selfless, great leader is more often a myth than a reality, something that exists mostly in peoples’ minds because it is comforting to believe in. I generally don’t like to utterly ignore reality in my books, but I think we all find the dedicated leader, uninterested in personal aggrandizement and devoted to making a real difference, to be incredibly compelling. It flies in the face of my normal cynicism, but then this is fiction, after all. A guilty pleasure, perhaps.

TQIn the Far Stars Trilogy who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Jay:  I’d say Marshal Lucerne was the easiest in many ways. He’s a creature of duty, one whose entire life has been devoted to a cause. I wanted to be sure to show the cost of his steadfastness on those around him, and the sorrow he carries for how his loved ones have been neglected and hurt by the relentlessness of his quest. Still, even with all of that, he just came together easily. I had a clear image of him when I sat down to start typing, and the end character is just what I had envisioned on day one.

Blackhawk was the hardest, for a lot of reasons. I don’t like unspotted heroes and the simplified, pasteurized morality that goes with them. Human beings are more complex than that, and I think fictional characters should be too. But Blackhawk takes that to another level. This character has a very dark past, one that torments him and in many ways drives him. One of the biggest challenges in writing him was keeping much of that a mystery, revealing bits and pieces, but not too much, too quickly. That was a significant challenge, as the character’s past is central to what drives him. There is both good and evil inside him, and even while he is fighting to save the Far Stars, he draws much of his strength from his dark side. Showing what makes Blackhawk tick turned out to be pretty complicated, but my awesome editor David over at Harper Voyager helped me round things out and really bring the character to life. I was very satisfied with the result.

TQWhich question about the Far Stars Trilogy do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Jay:  Where can I buy it?

Okay, seriously, I guess it would be, “What did you set out to do differently in The Far Stars as compared to your other books, and why?”

As I noted, my Crimson Worlds series and most of my other books are pretty much mainstream military science fiction. I paid a lot of attention to the details of the battles and the science in those books, and the settings are plausible futures extrapolated from the real world (in a science fiction sense, of course). I’m very happy with those books, and they have all done very well, but I always wanted to write a pure space opera. I didn’t abandon scientific plausibility or serious descriptions of the fighting in the Far Stars, but there is definitely an air of swashbuckling adventure that belongs to this series alone among my works. And there was a decided lack of swordplay in my other books, something I can assure readers is not a problem with the Far Stars!

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from either Shadow of Empire or Enemy in the Dark.

Jay:  It’s not easy to come up with something without a touch of spoiler to it, but there is a scene where Blackhawk encounters someone from his past, his dark, long-ago past. The imperial tries to coax Blackhawk into giving up, promising to help him gain the emperor’s forgiveness and favor, but he answers that he doesn’t want the emperor’s approval. Then he says, “Those days you view as a time of glory—they are my great shame.” To me, this is where Blackhawk goes from running from his past and trying to hide to actively committing to the fight against the empire and truly seeking to atone for all his sins.

TQWhat's next?

Jay:  I’ve got two projects in the works right now. One is called Newton-5, and it will be a book that explores the future of artificial intelligence and its potential impact on the world. I think this is a pretty compelling topic right now, as technology in the real world is getting to the point where a lot of science fiction themes seem downright plausible, the very helpful and the very dangerous AI being two of them. I’m still at an early stage, and I don’t want to give too much away, but I’m really excited about this one. The Far Stars was something a bit different from what I had done before, and this will be as well. This will be my first book set more or less in the present day (perhaps twenty years in the future). And if I’m back here next year talking about this book, it will be a great one for the question on research, because it’s requiring a ton!

I’m also starting a new series called Uprising. It’s going to be harder military science fiction than the Far Stars series, and it will follow the outbreak of a revolution on a colony world, and the progression of that conflict to its final resolution. I find rebellion to be a fascinating subject, and I intend to get deep inside the motivations of the participants and to cover the darker aspects that can emerge during such historical events. Think Washington and Lafayette alongside Robespierre and the Jacobins…with a little bit of Lenin and Stalin thrown in for good measure.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Jay:  Thank you for having me!

Shadow of Empire
Far Stars 1
Harper Voyager, November 3, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Interview with Jay Allan
The first installment in the Far Star series, a swashbuckling space saga that introduces the daring pirate Blackhawk and the loyal crew of the Wolf’s Claw, from the author of the bestselling Crimson Worlds saga.

Smuggler and mercenary Arkarin Blackhawk and the crew of the ship Wolf’s Claw are freelance adventurers who live on the fringe of human society in the Far Stars. A veteran fighter as deadly with a blade as he is with a gun, Blackhawk is a man haunted by a dark past. Even his cynicism cannot banish the guilt and pain that threaten his sanity.

Sent to rescue the kidnapped daughter of his longtime friend Marshal Augustin Lucerne, Blackhawk and his crew find themselves drawn into one deadly fight after another. When the Wolf’s Claw is damaged, they are forced to land on a remote planet subsumed by civil war. Pulled unwittingly into the conflict, they uncover disturbing information about secret imperial involvement that could upset the plans of Lucerne.

For the Marshal is determined to forge a Far Stars Confederation powerful enough to eliminate all imperial influence and threats in the sector. He needs a skilled warrior like Blackhawk on his side, but the mercenary, plagued by dark memories from the past, refuses to join the cause. All too soon, though, he and his crew will have to take a stand.

Enemy in the Dark
Far Stars 2
Harper Voyager, December 1, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

Interview with Jay Allan
The second book in the Far Star series follows Blackhawk and the crew of the Wolf’s Claw as they are gradually (and unwillingly) drawn more deeply into Marshal Lucerne’s campaign to form a united power bloc in the Far Stars to resist imperial encroachment.

Successfully completing their mission to rescue Marshal Augustin Lucerne’s daughter, Astra, the crew of the Wolf’s Claw are enjoying some well-deserved rest—all, that is, except Blackhawk. The space gun for hire cannot escape Lucerne’s relentless pleas for help against growing imperial control in the Far Stars. While Blackhawk deeply respects his friend, he fears that the power Lucerne offers will lead him back to his old dark ways.

His resistance crumbles, however, when Lucerne presents evidence that the imperial governor has been manipulating the conflicts in the Far Stars. Convinced of the deadly danger of imperial domination, Blackhawk and his crew board the Wolf’s Claw once more and set out to gather intelligence on the Empire’s movements—the proof Lucerne needs to unite the fractured and feuding worlds of the Far Stars into single power bloc capable of resisting imperial aggression. But deep in the sparsely populated territory of the Far Stars, he discovers that the imperial governor’s machinations are far reaching—and threaten the independence of every world this side of the Void.

A man seemingly running from himself, Blackhawk is beginning to realize he can no longer remain a prisoner to his own past while the future of the Far Stars is in jeopardy.


Funeral Games
Far Stars 3
Harper Voyager, January 19, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 464 pages

Interview with Jay Allan
The Far Stars stands on the edge of a precipice. The forces of Governor Vos have surged forth, conquering worlds and imposing the emperor’s brutal rule over millions. Only one thing stands in the way of total victory: Marshal Augustin Lucerne’s newly created confederation. Vos has a simple plan: assassinate the marshal and manipulate his generals to fight over his legacy, destroying one another in the process.

But another threat lurks—Arkarin Blackhawk. The smuggler and mercenary has been the marshal’s ally, working in the shadows and unraveling Vos’s plans. The governor can only hope the mysterious adventurer continues to resist a formal position with the confederation.
Or he can have Blackhawk assassinated, too.

Because if Blackhawk succeeds Lucerne, the black-and-gold imperial flags will be stained red with blood. Blackhawk’s past is a dark and dangerous one, and if he is put at the helm of the confederation armies, the brutal imperial general he once was may rise again.

The Far Stars is facing the final battle. The imperials seem unstoppable. But if Blackhawk somehow survives—and can come to grips with the horror deep within him—he just might be able to save the Far Stars from the iron hand of the empire.

About Jay

Interview with Jay Allan
JAY ALLAN is a former investor and the author of the Crimson Worlds series. When not writing, he enjoys traveling, running, hiking and reading. He loves hearing from readers and always answers e-mails. He currently lives in New York City.

Crimson Worlds  ~  Blog

Google+  ~ Twitter @jayallanwrites

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