Sunday, June 30, 2013

Interview with Maureen McGowan, author of The Dust Chronicles - June 30, 2013

Please welcome Maureen McGowan to The Qwillery. Compliance (The Dust Chronicles 2), Maureen's latest novel, was published on June 4, 2013.

TQ:  Welcome back to The Qwillery. Since we last 'spoke' you have a new series out - The Dust Chronicles. Can you tell us why you wrote this series?

Maureen:  The initial idea sparked when global travel was interrupted by the 2010 eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland. I imagined what might happen if the world suffered a similar event, but on a much larger and more catastrophic scale.

Then I started researching asteroids and really got scared! I realized it’s entirely possible that Earth could suffer asteroid strikes. And the strikes could conceivably trigger earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

I wondered, if something like that happened, would governments react quickly enough? If they couldn’t save everyone how could they choose who lived? And what if corporations took charge, instead of governments?

At the time, I was working on an urban fantasy story idea about a female double agent (with a supernatural power) who had to hide her true identity from everyone in her life—especially from the two men whose love puts her life in great danger. That idea was originally for an adult series, but when I started to develop Glory as a character with deadly emotions, I realized how well that fit with a teen character. When you’re a teen, all your emotions are heightened, so I imagined how horrible life might be for a teen girl whose emotions could kill!

By melding those two ideas, The Dust Chronicles was born.

TQ:  What is most challenging thing about writing a series? More generally, what is the most challenging thing about writing for you?

Maureen:  The most challenging thing about writing a trilogy (for me) was to ensure each book stands on its own, while having the series tell an overarching story. I expect that the trilogy is best enjoyed in order: Deviants (2012), Compliance (June 2013), Glory (June 2014). But I also hope that readers, who dive into the trilogy at any book, can enjoy it as a standalone. My goal was to spark enough interest in readers, of any of the books, that they’d want to read the others. But at the same time I wanted to entertain readers of each of the books separately. ☺

For generally, one of the hardest things in writing for me is not losing faith mid-way through my first draft. No matter how excited I am about a story idea, there’s always a point when I decide it’s garbage and not worth finishing. That’s when I rely on my writer friends and my fabulous agent to give me honest feedback and remind me that I always feel that way at some point.

TQ:  What sort of research have you done for The Dust Chronicles, Deviants and Compliance?

Maureen:  I did some research about asteroids, and some other aspects of the events that happened 75 years before the books begin. But one of the things that I love about writing speculative fiction is that most of the world-building for the story came out of my imagination. That might sound easier, and in some ways it is I suppose, but even in fantastical, imagined worlds, authors need to create and adhere to a story’s internal “rules”, and ensure that all the world’s elements are fully fleshed out, interesting, understandable—and if not realistic, internally consistent.

I had a previous career in the corporate world, so I could argue that my life to date was research for Haven, the domed, corporate-run city in The Dust Chronicles. ☺

Because of my background, I loved speculating about which corporate departments might become most powerful and important. For example, departments like sales or marketing or customer relations might be less important—or redundant—whereas the compliance (or internal audit) department, might become the defacto police.

In Haven, the enforcers are Compliance Officers, or Comps. They make sure everyone follows company policies (the new laws) and their investigations are called audits. The human resources department is powerful in Haven, too. Not only to they assign everyone to jobs, but they also approve whom everyone dates and marries.

Before teens can date in Haven, the potential couple needs a dating license, in the form of bracelets. I figured that was a logical step beyond the legal releases many companies now make employees sign before starting a relationship with a fellow employee.

TQ:  The second book in The Dust Chronicles, Compliance, was recently published. Tell us something about Compliance that is not in the book description.

MaureenCompliance explores the blurry line between right and wrong, and when and if the ends justify the means. In Compliance, we also learn a lot more about the Health and Safety department, the VP of that department, and the dreaded Hospital she runs.

Readers will learn more about Shredders, (the sadistic scab-covered monsters outside the dome), and, of course, Glory’s love life will grow even more complicated. (It’s hard to find love when your emotions can kill your boyfriend if you look into his eyes.)

TQ:  Which character in the series so far has surprised you the most?

Maureen:  Surprised me? Hmm... Great question, but one I’m having trouble answering without giving spoilers. ☺ The plot of my series is fairly “twisty”.

In Compliance, I think Burn will surprise a lot of readers who read Deviants. But if you already fell for Burn in Deviants, don’t judge him too soon! When Glory first encounters him in Compliance, she doesn’t know what’s going on.

TQ:  You write YA fiction. Are there any plans to write for adults? Do you think that The Dust Chronicles has cross-over appeal?

Maureen:  The Dust Chronicles definitely has cross-over appeal! In fact, based on my Amazon reviews and the readers I’ve heard from directly, I think that, to date, I’ve had more adult than teen readers. I think that’s because the hardcover is hard to find in physical stores—due to conflict between my publisher and the big book chains—and fewer teens read on kindles, as compared to adults. Therefore, more adults are discovering the series than teens. Luckily, most seem to love the books!

I have written adult fiction in the past, and signed with my first literary agent with an adult book, but to date my one published work for adults is a short story in The Mammoth Book of Time Travel Romance. I definitely enjoy writing for adults, and will again. But right now, I’m loving how wide open and exciting the YA market is.

I love how the publishers (and readers) want great stories, without worrying about genre conventions. I’m finding that in YA, more than in adult fiction, I’m allowed to color outside the lines. ☺ The Dust Chronicles, is a sci-fi thriller series with a post-apocalyptic setting, and elements of dystopian fiction, romance and even a dash of horror. Try selling that to an adult publisher!

I read a great quote lately, attributed to author Nick Hornby. “I see now that dismissing YA books because you’re not a young adult is a little bit like refusing to watch thrillers on the grounds that you’re not a policeman or a dangerous criminal...”

TQ:  What's next?

MaureenGlory, book 3 in The Dust Chronicles has a planned release date of June 10, 2014. I’m working on a few other things... One is another YA sci-fi (with aliens!) and another is a “New Adult” book. But I can’t really talk about either of them, yet.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Maureen:  Thank you!!! I love stopping by here, and enjoyed answering your questions.

I’d like to ask your readers a question if I may.

In The Dust Chronicles, asteroid dust has mutated the DNA of some humans, giving them special survival powers for the new, cruel world. (Inside the dome of Haven, those with powers are called Deviants.)

If you could have some kind of super-human power, what would you choose?

One commenter will receive a signed hardcover edition of Compliance! (Or Deviants, if the winner prefers.) And their very own dating bracelet!

(Note:  See the Rafflecopter below for Maureen's giveaway.)

About The Dust Chronicles

Series:  The Dust Chronicles 2
Publisher:  Skyscape, June 4, 2013
Format:  Hardcover and Kindle eBook, 378 pages
Price:  $16.99 (print)
ISBN:  978-1477816530 (print)

Haven Equals Safety.

This slogan is emblazoned on the minds of every Haven employee. But for Glory, life inside Haven is anything but safe. She must hide her Deviant gift--the ability to kill with her eyes--or face death. Training to be a Compliance Officer, expected to hunt her own kind, she secretly works undercover to save fellow Deviants, but when people she trusts turn against her and a powerful member of Management takes her under her wing, Glory questions everything she believes and can no longer tell her allies from her enemies.

Series:  The Dust Chronicles 1
Publisher:  Skyscape, October 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover and Kindle eBook, 312 pages
Price: $16.99 (print)
ISBN:  978-1612183671 (print)

In Glory's world, different means deviant--and dead.

In a post-apocalyptic world, where the earth is buried by asteroid dust that’s mutated the DNA of some humans, orphaned, sixteen-year-old Glory must hide and protect her younger brother. If their Deviant abilities are discovered, they’ll be expunged—kicked out of the dome to be tortured and killed by the Shredders. Glory would give anything to get rid of her unique ability to kill with her emotions, especially when Cal, the boy she’s always liked, becomes a spy for the authorities. But when her brother is discovered, and she learns their father, who was expunged for killing their mother, is still alive, she must escape the domed city that’s been her entire world.

Outside in the ruins, they’re pursued by the authorities and by sadistic, scab-covered Shredders who are addicted to the lethal-to-humans dust now covering the planet. Glory’s quests to transport herself and her brother to safety make up the thrilling and fascinating first volume of The Dust Chronicles.

About Maureen

Maureen McGowan always loved writing fiction, but side-tracked by a persistent practical side, it took her a few years to channel her energy into novels. After leaving a career in finance and accounting, she hasn't looked back.

Aside from her love of books, she's passionate about films, fine handcrafted objects and shoes. Maureen grew up in various Canadian cities and her previous career moved her to Palo Alto and Philadelphia, before she settled in Toronto, Canada where she attends the Toronto International Film Festival each year.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @MaureenMcGowan  ~  Join Maureen's Newsletter

The Giveaway

What:  One commenter will win a signed hardcover edition of Compliance or Deviants (winner's choice) along with a dating bracelet from Maureen.

How:  Log into and follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth a mailing address. This contest will be judged subjectively. Contest ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on July 9 , 2013. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 13 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change.*

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Melanie's Week in Review - June 30, 2013

Hello everyone! I had a slightly more productive week this week than last.  I actually beat my all time reading low from last week.  Hurrah!

I finished The Big Reap by Chris F. Holm. The lovely Qwill will be reviewing this one on The Qwillery so I don't want to give too much away. I will say this  - I didn't think it was possible for The Collector series to get better but Mr. Holm has outdone himself with The Big Reap. I am just glad that I don't have to rate this one...there aren't enough qwills, stars or 10's to describe it. This is a must read series so get to it if you haven't already.

I found an excerpt in one of the books I had for Caged Warrior by Lindsey Piper and thought it didn't sound half bad so I ordered it. It wasn't until I was writing this review that it dawned on me that the author had been interviewed on The Qwillery back in April. In case you didn't have a chance to read that interview the book was about a woman who had been captured with her young son, tortured, raped and all sorts of nasty things for being a 'dragon kin'. I wasn't really sure what a dragon kin was when I started the book and still wasn't even by the end.  From what I could gather they were a race where each dragon kin family had a super power, kind of like the X-Men. The heroine, Nan (also named Audrey...confused?) was freed from the labs where she had been experimented on and left to fight for her freedom in cage fights....which sounded a bit like gladiator fights. Her trainer, Leto had spent his whole life, underground, enduring similar abuses for his family. What I didn't realise until partway through the book (because I wasn't paying attention when I ordered it) was that it was really PNR and large part of the novel was about Nan and Leto's growing sexual attraction. I have a slight problem with the fact that Nan was so horrifically treated by almost every male, including Leto but was still lusting over his perfectly formed abs. There was also quite a bit of missing background about the dragon kin and their mythology. I felt like I had skipped a few books of the series but this was the first one, unless more background is covered in the prequel.  I am usually very particular about what PNR I will read and couldn't really rationalise Nan's treatment to her behaviour towards Leto later on in the novel. Stockholm syndrome perhaps but overall  I am not sure this series is my cup of tea.

Just today I started The Devils Looking Glass by Mark Chadbourn. I started this book about a month ago and for some reason put it down. I thought I better finish reading it as I am due to review it.  Better get it finished.

All sorts of excitement next week 1) I start my new job.....TENSE!!!  2) Its Paranormal Cozy Mystery Month (ParaCozyMysMo) here at The Qwillery.  I have to admit I had no idea what a cozy was until I came across ParaCozyMysMo and as it turns out I have read quite a few of them over the years.  I am looking forward to all the great things coming up during ParaCozyMysMo. 3) Its Canada Day on Monday. Yeah! .....or should I say 'eh'.  Until next week Happy Reading. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Guest Blog by Jennifer Harlow - I Heart Supervillains - June 29, 2013

Please welcome Jennifer Harlow to The Qwillery. Jennifer's latest novel is Justice.

(Note: If you haven't seen the latest Star Trek movie and have heard nothing about it skip the end of third full paragraph of the Guest Blog.)

I Heart Supervillains 

       “A hero is only as good as his villain.”

       I have a thing for monsters. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been drawn to “the dark side” of life. (Hence by blog’s name Tales From the Darkside). I loathe romantic comedies but devour horror movies. I’d choose an afternoon chat with Hannibal Lecter over a ball at Pemberly without a moment’s hesitation. There is absolutely no reason for this quirk of mine. I grew up in a supportive, middle class suburban background with parents who love me unconditionally, provided stability, taught me strong morals and even honor, and knock wood never had violence or crime invade my life. Yet at least creatively I’ve always gravitated to monsters, even routing for them (at least the fictional ones) over the heroes. And if Tumblr is any indication, I am not the only one who would rather fight next to Loki, or at least dress his wounds after his epic battle, than join The Avengers.

       I remember my first. It was my first in many ways, and would be the quintessential event of my childhood. Yes, of course I am talking about when my dad took me to see Tim Burton’s Batman (told you I had a relatively dull childhood.) I was six, my brother was three, and Dad had to watch us for an afternoon. It was the big movie, and the only other option was letting us kill each other at home. Hurrah for the electronic babysitter! That movie blew my young mind. I walked out of that theater ga-ga for Gotham and head over heels in love with The Joker. And by head over heels I mean, I drew a million pictures, wrote a million letters to Jack Nicholson, had to own everything Batman and Joker I could get my tiny hands on. The Joker was just so dynamic. He was funny and evil and charismatic and smart and he did whatever he wanted. Plus he had a cool look (which every member of Loki’s Army or Cumberbitch knows adds 4+ charisma points). My love of The Joker didn’t wane until it was transferred to another evil yet awesome bastard, Ralph Fiennes at age twelve when I first watched Schindler’s List. One look at him, doing his evil bastard snarl as a Nazi (the vilest villains of them all), and I was a goner. My crush didn’t even wane when he was Voldemort, another evil supervillain, and he had no nose. I am a loyal sort.

       It was also around this time that I was introduced to the magic of comic books by my then best friend Heather Winger. Growing up with brothers I was far more exposed to boy toys than girls. I played with Ghostbusters and Ninja Turtles but they never get into comics. Thank the gods for Heather. She introduced me to a world filled with people with special powers, powers that made them feel like outsiders just as I always had. My favorite was X-Men but especially Remy LeBeau AKA Gambit. Sure he was a good guy, but he had edge, bordering even on an anti-hero. He was a hustler and thief but fought for good. I even named my cat after him. It was also during this time I began obsessing about serial killers (told you I was weird). I read every book and watched as many shows and movies as I could. I tuned out whenever Jodie Foster was on-screen but watched with my mouth hung open as Anthony Hopkins brought Hannibal to life. My love of villains continued through the rest of my life. Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter, Heath Ledger as The Joker, Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan, tell me you weren’t also kind of hoping they’d win or at least get more screen time just like me.

       So, why wasn’t Christian Bale nominated for his Batman but Heath won for Joker? Why are millions of teenage girls hanging up Loki posters instead of Thor? Why did Charlaine Harris get death threats (which, really? Seriously?) for having Sookie break up with killer, semi-evil and dead Eric while ending up with a nice, stable guy? And why do I enjoy writing the scenes with killers than heroes? Because they’re more fun. They’re people who let their Id take the driver’s seat like we want to sometimes. Because being good and stable is damn hard work. I know there are days I wish I could rob a bank instead of working 9 to 5, or eat that rude clerk’s liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. But damn my conscious and skin that’d make prison orange look terrible on me. At least for the length of a book or movie, I can live vicariously through Hannibal or The Joker or the supervillain in my new book Justice, Alkaline and get my bad on. At least until they really serve cookies on the darkside.

       What about you? Who are your favorite villains? Why? And do you think Loki would be just as hot without his antlers and coat? I think not. Discuss below.

About Justice

The Galilee Falls Trilogy 1
Devil on the Left Books, May 2013
Kindle eBook and Trade Paperback

It’s hard being a regular police officer in Galilee Falls, a city with the highest concentration of superheroes and villains in the country. It’s even harder watching your best friend, the man you’re secretly in love with your whole life, planning to marry another woman. Detective Joanna Fallon has to contend with both. When the vilest supervillain in the city’s history, Alkaline, the former crime boss who can shoot acid from his wrists, escapes from the maximum security prison, the whole city is gripped by panic. Leading the pursuit is Captain Harry O’Hara, Joanna’s boss and secret lover, and the city’s champion superhero Justice, who caught the villain last time, much to Joanna’s chagrin. Before her father was murdered in a mugging twenty years earlier, Joanna worshiped the hero, but when he disappeared and failed to save her father, that adoration turned to contempt for all supers. After Alkaline attacks too close to home and targets Joanna as his next victim, tough-as-nail Joanna has to contend with her increasing fear while struggling to choose between her life-long crush and her new-found love.

At turns vulnerable and fierce, equally mordant and winsome, Joanna is an earnest yet emotionally damaged heroine, who despite the tough breaks of her childhood sees the good in people and vow to protect her beloved city at all costs. An ass-kicking petite firecracker with no superpowers of her own, she charges after supervillains unflinchingly, never losing her wit even when facing her toughest fight. With a coy blend of whimsy and vivid imagination, she delivers both humor and thrills in an action-packed and edgy blend of comic book cool, fantasy-noir, and bitter-sweet romance.



     The wolves are at the gate.
     I count thirty police officers on my security monitors, including SWAT, all armed to the gills led by him. I always knew this day would come. It has been almost twenty years in the making, but now it’s here…this must have been how Nero felt as he played that fiddle. My Rome is burning. Soon my freedom will be gone and yet I could still manage a tune. First things first.
     Waverly, one of my loyal employees these two years, runs into the study. His fear does not inspire confidence. “Sir, what are we supposed to do? The police and—”
     “Stop sniveling for one,” I say, taking a sip of my Scotch. I will miss this.
     “Did Grace—”
     The bullet I put between his eyes stops the rest of that sentence. I don’t have time to answer a million questions. Company’s coming. I down the rest of my drink as I run the electromagnet over my computer. Cleaner than the day I bought it. Must leave things tidy. I’ve already set the timers in the file cabinets. Thirty more seconds before, like Nero, all that remains of my empire is ashes.
     The bombs detonate as I walk down the hall, no louder than gunshots but still rocking the walls sprinkling dust on my paintings. I wonder what will happen to my art. Probably sold for victim reparations. The Degas alone will cover the cost of the library we destroyed today. Smith and Rees are waiting in what is left of my living room. Just looking at it, especially what’s left of Bradley under that bloody sheet, I feel embarrassed for myself. I never lose control like that. I don’t know what I was thinking. I suppose I’m paying the price now.
     “Sir, where do you want us?” Smith, a five year veteran of my service, asks.
     I turn over the couch with a sigh. “Gentlemen, I want to thank you both for your loyal service through the years. You have both been invaluable. I wish things could have gone a different way. I apologize.” I fire a single shot into Smith’s forehead. Poor Rees is too shocked to even draw on me before he meets the same ending. The loose ends are no more. The rest is in the hands of the fates.
     The last of my security doors fall, the sound of steel hitting marble echoing through the room. I cross my leg, wipe the speckles of dust off my costume, and put a smile on my face. The bane of my existence, the man I hate, who has consumed my life for years, super-speeds into my living room as if he owns it. And the press calls me arrogant.
     “Alkaline,” he says beneath that dark mask.
     “Justice,” I say with a nod. We stare at each other for a few seconds, even now locked in battle. “Grace?”
     “She’s safe. You can’t hurt her or anyone else ever again.” He pauses for dramatic effect, or to savor his victory. “Will this be easy or hard?”
     For a moment, I consider an attack. It always gives me almost orgasmic pleasure when my fist hits his body and he cries out in pain. One last taste for the road? No, I quell this urge. My body has not completely healed from our fight a few hours ago and quite frankly, I need a break. Being the scourge of the city is exhausting. “You may take me to jail now.”
      As I’m led out past the frightened police and gawking bystanders, I keep that smile on my face. Not because I’m arrogant, not to save face, because…I may have lost this battle, but the war has just begun.
      Then Rome will truly burn.

About Jennifer

Jennifer Harlow spent her restless childhood fighting with her three brothers and scaring the heck out of herself with horror movies and books. She grew up to earn a degree at the University of Virginia which she put to use as a radio DJ, crisis hotline volunteer, bookseller, lab assistant, wedding coordinator, and government investigator. Currently she calls Northern Virginia home but that restless itch is ever present. In her free time, she continues to scare the beejepers out of herself watching scary movies and opening her credit card bills. She is the author of the Amazon best-selling F.R.E.A.K.S. Squad and Midnight Magic Mystery series. For the soundtrack to her books and other goodies visit her at

Website ~ Tales From the Darkside Blog ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Goodreads ~ Pinterest 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Interview with Ian Doescher, author of William Shakespeare's Star Wars® - June 28, 2013

Please welcome Ian Doescher to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. William Shakespeare's Star Wars® will be published on July 2, 2013 by Quirk Books.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery.

Ian:  Thank you so much.

TQ:  When and why did you start writing?

Ian:  When I was in college, I was in a class with my roommate Ethan and our English professor compared my writing unfavorably with Ethan's -- I think the phrase was, "You're not exactly the writer Ethan is." Ouch. So, after college, I got serious about writing both by reading obsessively and by learning what makes good writing good from Larry Rothe, the Publications Director at the San Francisco Symphony (where I worked from 1999-2001). I've been writing casually and professionally ever since, most recently as the Creative Director and primary copywriter for Pivot Group, the marketing agency I work at in Portland. But I've also written a dissertation and worked as a pastor, so I figured if I ever wrote a book it would be an academic book. Imagine my surprise...

TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Ian:  Undoubtedly it's that I'm the weirdo who likes writing in iambic pentameter. Also, I'm a compulsive saver -- I'll work on a manuscript for a while and then email both the file and just the text to myself (the poor man's version of cloud computing). I'm a little neurotic about it. But I've also never lost a manuscript (fingers crossed).

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Ian:  At this point in my life, because I work a full-time job and am the parent of two boys, the most challenging thing is finding the time to write. I wrote William Shakespeare's Star Wars® in two- and three-hour chunks late in the evening, while my kids were asleep and my wife was immersed in a British murder mystery series.

TQ:  What is iambic pentameter?

Ian:  Iambic pentameter is a line of poetry with a very specific syllabic pattern. An “iamb” has two syllables—the first is unstressed and the second is stressed. An iamb sounds like da-DUM. "Pentameter" means there should be five iambs in a line, so iambic pentameter is a line of ten syllables: da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM. Simon and Garfunkel have a great line of iambic pentameter in one of their songs: "I'd rather be a hammer than a nail." Shakespeare used iambic pentameter as the meter for his plays, to the chagrin of high school students everywhere. But he also broke the ten-syllable rule as often as he kept it.

TQ:  What inspired you to write William Shakespeare's Star Wars®?

Ian:  Last year, I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, watched the Star Wars trilogy for the millionth time and attended the Oregon Shakespeare Festival with my family. At the Festival, my wife and I saw the funny, gay-marriage-themed, modern adaptation The Very Merry Wives of Windsor, Iowa by Alison Carey. So I had mashups, Star Wars, and Shakespeare on my mind, and the morning after seeing The Very Merry Wives of Windsor, Iowa I had the idea for William Shakespeare’s Star Wars®.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for William Shakespeare's Star Wars®?

Ian:  Most of the research for the book took place long before I knew I would write it. I read through all of Shakespeare's plays and poems in 1999 and grew up watching Star Wars, so I know it backward and forward. That was my primary research. As I wrote the manuscript, I also got to talk with Lucasfilm about some of the particulars of what is and is not okay within the Star Wars universe. For example, I had written a soliloquy for Darth Vader in which he questions whether the Empire should be killing innocent people. Lucasfilm asked me to cut it, because as of A New Hope Vader has no remorse, period. That was a fascinating process for me as both a writer and a Star Wars fan. I also got a sheet with the official transliterated speech of the Jawas, Greedo and Jabba the Hutt. Fun stuff.

TQ:  Which was the most difficult scene to write?

Ian:  It wasn't difficult scenes so much as difficult lines. I felt a lot of pressure around how I would handle certain famous lines. The one that dogged me the most was Luke's line, "But I was going into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters!" My original attempt at it was "But Tosche Station wish I to go to, / And there obtain some pow'r converters. Fie!" The first line was just so awkward. I hated it, but couldn't seem to come up with another way to say it. It wasn't until the second proof of the book -- just before it went to press, in other words -- that inspiration hit: "But unto Tosche Station would I go, / And there obtain some pow'r converters. Fie!" Much better.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in William Shakespeare's Star Wars®?

Ian:  My favorite scene in the book is the only truly new scene, which is a dialogue between the two stormtroopers who keep watch outside the Millennium Falcon once it has been taken into the Death Star. I had a lot of fun with that dialogue... I won't give away too much, but it makes clear one of the unspoken rules of Star Wars: for the events of the movie to take place as they do, the Empire and its minions have to be just plain stupid at times.

TQ:  What's next?

Ian:  There are several ideas in play right now, and one manuscript in process. I'd love to write other adaptations in verse, maybe more Shakespearean parodies or something in the style of Dr. Seuss. Of course, it would be great fun to write The Empire Striketh Back...

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Ian:  Thank you. And may the Force be with thee e'er, TQ!

About William Shakespeare's Star Wars®

William Shakespeare's Star Wars®
Publisher:  Quirk Books, July 2, 2013
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 176 pages
Price:  $14.95 (print)
Genre:  MashUp / Science Fiction (print)
ISBN:  9781594746376

Return once more to a galaxy far, far away with this sublime retelling of George Lucas’s epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. ’Tis a tale told by fretful droids, full of faithful Wookiees and fearstome stormtroopers, signifying...pretty much everything.

Reimagined in glorious iambic pentameter—and complete with twenty gorgeous Elizabethan illustrations--William Shakespeare’s Star Wars will astound and edify Rebels and Imperials alike. Zounds! This is the book you’re looking for.

About Ian

IAN DOESCHER has loved Shakespeare since eighth grade and was born 45 days after Star Wars Episode IV was released. He has a B.A. in Music from Yale University, a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, and a Ph.D. in Ethics from Union Theological Seminary. Ian lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and two sons. This is his first book.

Website  ~  Twitter 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Guest Blog by Shona Husk - What happens after the myth? - June 27, 2013

Please welcome Shona Husk to The Qwillery. The Outcast Prince, the first novel in Shona's new Annwyn series, will be published on July 2, 2013.

What happens after the myth?

The stories about the fairies of old had been handed orally for hundreds of years before being written down. Gwyn ap Nudd fought his brother for the thrown of Annwyn, Arawn was the Hunter (or sometimes king depending on the version read). Depending on whether you lived in Wales or Ireland also depended on the fairies name. In some King Arthur made an appearance. Until verbal lore was written it changed and different nuances were added by the story teller.

But all of it is old.

While humans have moved on, and downgraded fairies from gods to little fluttterbys of children’s tales, what have the fairies been up to?

This was the question I faced when I started writing about Annwyn. I like to draw on myth as I like to give my stories a base in the reality they once existed in. Annwyn is the underworld, and it once held significance to humans, as did the exploits of the fairies. They kidnapped women, unravelled clothing and played tricks on travellers. They tried to catch human’s in deals and take their souls or first born. They were dangerous and beautiful. They could be kind or cruel. I loved all of that, but would Gwyn still be king after all this time? And the Hunter what happened to him?

Imagining those changes is where my stories came from. Gwyn still looks young and beautiful but he is old and dying. Arawn the Hunter went mad and a new Hunter took his place during the renaissance. Felan is the Crown Prince and readying to take the throne…but he needs a human wife to have children as in my world fairies need a human to reproduce (thus the reason why they were so fond of seducing and/or taking humans and tricking them into staying in Annwyn, and only a child born in Annwyn will be fairy).

But what if a fairy’s child was born in our world instead of Annwyn? What did that make them? I decided that made them a changeling. Not quite fairy and not quite human they belong in neither world and yet both.

Tangled up in all the fairy law are the dark fairies, or the unseelie court. Ugly and generally considered evil I figured they needed a reason, so they became the banished fairies in my world, sentenced to a slow and death cut off from the magic of Annwyn.

While the old myths are an interesting starting point, I keep in mind that they were the tales humans told about fairies—not the tales a fairy would tell. When writing about the Court of Annwyn I wanted to create a new world that breathes life into the old myths and brings the happenings in Annwyn into the present day. Fairies are dangerous and deserve to be treated with caution…but they also make great heroes as they realise that they have one weakness: falling in love.

About The Outcast Prince

The Outcast Prince
Annwyn 1
Sourcebooks Casablanca, July 2, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Caspian Mort can feel the history in anything he touches, a gift he inherited from his father, the Crown Prince of Annwyn. Devastated over his ex-wife's infidelity, Caspian has withdrawn from human contact except when working as an antiques dealer.

While assessing the contents of the historic Callaway House he encounters the beautiful Lydia Callaway and senses that her home is haunted by a banished fairy. But what does the dangerous exile want? Unbeknownst to Lydia, she's the owner of the last remaining portal to Annwyn—a mirror hidden somewhere in the house. To keep Lydia safe, Caspian will have to divulge the secrets of his heritage, and risk losing his heart again.

Lord of the Hunt (Annwyn 2) will be published in January 2014 followed by To Love a King (Annwyn 3) in October 2014.

About Shona

Three time ARRA finalist Shona Husk lives in Western Australia at the edge of the Indian Ocean. Blessed with a lively imagination she spent most of her childhood making up stories. As an adult she discovered romance novels and hasn't looked back. Drawing on history and myth, she weaves new worlds and writes heroes who aren't afraid to get hurt while falling in love.

With stories ranging from sensual to scorching, she is published with Ellora's Cave, Samhain Publishing, Carina Press and Sourcebooks. She is represented by the Ruben Agency.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @ShonaHusk  ~  Goodreads

The Giveaway

What:  One commenter will win a Mass Market Paperback copy of The Outcast Prince (Annwyn 1) by Shona Husk from The Qwillery.

How:   Log into and follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below.

Who and When: The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on July 7, 2013. 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.*

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Guest Blogs by Ennis Drake and S. P. Miskowski - Finalists for The Shirley Jackson Awards - June 26, 2013

We have a terrific double author post for you today from Ennis Drake and S.P. Miskowski who have novellas that are finalists for The Shirley Jackson Awards.

The Shirley Jackson Awards are for given for works of "psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic."  You may see the entire list of finalists for the 2012 Awards here.  The Shirley Jackson Awards will be presented at Readercon 24 on July 14th.

Both of today's Guest Blogs are about Setting as Character.

Ennis Drake
When I began Twenty-Eight Teeth of Rage, I knew I needed a setting that lived in its own very real way. It was absolutely essential, given the absurdity of what was to come. I needed to be grounded without doubt, realist without the slightest hint of contrivance. Without that realism, the story would not work. It would have asked entirely too much of the reader. I thought the best way to do this was to hang the story on that old maxim: write what you know. So I set the book in a fictionalized version of Lake County (where I grew up). It gave me an almost unbelievably rich and (unpleasant and seldom seen) American history to draw from, for both place and its people, and enhanced the novel in ways even I didn’t initially predict.

The event in the prologue--the Fort Sanford gold robbery--is drawn from local legend. General Abraham Eustis is drawn from both the historical figure and Andrew Jackson (e.g. the Seminole Wars and the “conquest of Florida“). So much of the book is historical in fact, or in nuance, it’s difficult for me to separate the fiction from it. This is true not just of the setting, but of many of the characters. I spent at least as much time researching the history of Eustis (the city), as I did Strom’s condition (of which the documentary Body of War, and the man Tomas Young, whose experiences as an Iraqi vet the film told, were vital), the Marine Corps, the Army (modern and pre-Civil War), Desert Storm, the Battle of Nasiriyah, the Seminole, the Cherokee, the Creek, as well as the Toltecs, Karankawa, and the Anasazi (all who inspired the Yoholo in my story), Muskogean philology, etc.

Specific is best. Richness of setting is its own reward. Everyone and everything (even thematics) must have roots. Charles Olson wrote: “...leave the roots on, let them dangle, and the dirt, just to make clear where they come from.“

The thing people have most often said about “Twenty-Eight Teeth” is that I made the “impossible“, the absurd, work. Without treating the setting as an entity in its own right, the book would have failed miserably. The least important aspect of the book, in my opinion, is in fact, the Kill Saw. It is, was, a blatant device. Metaphor and symbol. Nothing more, nothing less.

S.P. Miskowski
My novel, Knock Knock, and a trio of novellas comprise The Skillute Cycle. The series is set in a fictional small town called Skillute in the southwest corner of Washington State. Here a combination of history, superstition, and economic reality shapes the lives of three women who are lifelong friends.

Originally, when I created the town of Skillute it was to serve as the backdrop for a novel about a couple whose inherited property is haunted. That was the basic idea. I wanted to tell this story and I needed a place where people who relocated from the city might feel isolated despite the technology available to them. So I assembled a lumber town where new and long-term residents might clash, where local legends could rise from tall tales and anecdotes.

I decided on a fictional setting for the sake of flexibility. If a church were needed on a particular road, or if the story demanded that there be only a certain number of stores and taverns, it could be so. The downside to choosing a fictional town was that everything had to be invented. I could look at nearby places and use some of their characteristics. But the look and feel and specific history of Skillute had to come from my imagination.

Early on, in the first or second draft, I began to draw maps of Skillute. This helped me to visualize and locate the action. For example, if a character walked or drove two miles, the map reminded me exactly where she would end up and what she would see when she got there. Visualizing the town also gave me reference points and landmarks. Drawing maps gave the story a sort of infrastructure.

While I brought Skillute to life on paper something strange began to happen. The cast of characters grew as the place exerted its influence. I wrote the history of each character, and the novel took on new layers. The people emerging from Skillute offered different perspectives on the events I described, creating new social conflicts and associations. Out of this population a few individuals emerged whose experiences embodied the ideas in the novel. I invented Skillute, and the town gave me my story.

About Twenty-Eight Teeth of Rage

Twenty-Eight Teeth of Rage
by Ennis Drake
Omnium Gatherum Media, May 22, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 126 pages

One man ravaged by disease, the other by war, their stories--and fates--bound by an ancient entity that thrives on suffering. For Detective Ernest Riley, the path to damnation begins with an anonymously mailed recording detailing a series of grisly murders. Can Riley unravel its secrets without sacrificing his humanity? Or will he surrender to the RAGE inside him?

Strom Wheldon has returned from Iraq a literal half-man. But he’s lost more than his legs to that desert Hell. He’s lost his will to live. Can love save him from the RAGE eating him from within? Or will a gift given in innocence cost him everything?Is death the worst that can happen? What does it mean for men to carry deadly Rage in their flesh and bones? What would they do to live? Would they kill? Would they surrender their body and sell their souls?

About Ennis Drake

Ennis Drake's short fiction has appeared in various publications online and in print, including: "Love: The Breath of Eagleray", at Underland Press (publisher of Jeff VanderMeer's "Finch", John Shirley’s “In Extremis”, Brian Evenson's "Last Days", among others); "The Dark That Keeps Her", published in Twisted Legends, an anthology from Pill Hill Press (honorably mentioned in Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 2); and "The Fishing of Dahlia", published in the Bram Stoker-nominated and Black Quill Award winning +Horror Library+ Volume 4. "The Fishing of Dahlia" also received an honorable mention in Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 3. Forthcoming from Word Horde (summer 2013), "The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick-Maker", will appear in the anthology, Tales of Jack the Ripper, edited by Ross Lockhart.

His debut novel, "Twenty-Eight Teeth of Rage", was released May 31st, 2012, from Omnium Gatherum Media, and is a finalist for The Shirley Jackson Award.

Most recently, his collected novelettes, "The Day and the Hour" and "Drone", were released by Omnium Gatherum Media (Feb. 2013).

Facebook  ~  Goodreads

About Delphine Dodd

Delphine Dodd
by S.P. Miskowski
Omnium Gatherum Media, September 21, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 106 pages

Before the town had a name, people buried their dead on the mountainside. Now Mont des Morts exists only in memory, but its ghosts still haunt Delphine's family. First in a series of three novellas set in the world of Shirley Jackson Award nominated Knock Knock.

About S.P. Miskowski

Miskowski's work has received two Swarthout fiction prizes and two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships. Her debut novel, Knock Knock, a 2012 finalist for a Shirley Jackson Award, is the central book in The Skillute Cycle, which includes a trio of novellas set in the same area in Southwest Washington.

The first novella in the cycle, Delphine Dodd, is a finalist for a Shirley Jackson Award in 2013. The second, Astoria, is set to be published by Omnium Gatherum this summer. The final novella, In the Light, is scheduled for publication by OG later in the year.

Raised on Flannery O'Connor and Edgar Allan Poe in Decatur, Georgia, Miskowski now lives in California with her husband, fantasy and sci-fi author Cory J. Herndon.

Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Goodreads 

Review - Virus Thirteen by Joshua Alan Parry - June 26, 2013

Virus Thirteen
Author:  Joshua Alan Parry
Publisher:  Tor Books, March 26, 2013
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780765369543 (print)
Review Copy:  Mass Market Paperback provided by the Publisher

Virus Thirteen is an irreverent and contagious thriller from debut author Joshua Alan Parry.

Scientists James Logan and his wife, Linda, have their dream careers at the world’s leading biotech company, GeneFirm, Inc. But their happiness is interrupted by a devastating bioterrorist attack: a deadly superflu that quickly becomes a global pandemic. The GeneFirm complex goes into lockdown and Linda’s research team is sent to high-security underground labs to develop a vaccine.

Above ground, James learns that GeneFirm security has been breached and Linda is in danger. To save her he must confront a desperate terrorist, armed government agents, and an invisible killer: Virus Thirteen.

trinitytwo's point of view:

In the sci-fi thriller, Virus Thirteen, our world has become so overpopulated and polluted that global warming has gone too far to be stopped. Our over-controlling government rules Health Care with an iron fist, so smoking, being overweight and free birth is now illegal; it's just too expensive. The scientists at GeneFirm, one of the last privately owned medical facilities, have been able to engineer conception so that no future progeny will be born with cells that can contract cancer. Dr James Logan and his wife, Dr Linda Nguyen head the gene therapy department and are in the middle of revealing their newest breakthrough when the unthinkable happens. James is struck down with an illness that tests reveal is cancer. Impossible, since cancer was eradicated 40 years previously. As James researches his illness, Homeland Health Care agents Mac and Marnoy are assigned to check out reports of an aggressive flu bug and quarantine procedures at a local airport. Before long, people start dying from the virus, which is now deemed a bioterrorist attack, and GeneFirm must discover a vaccine before time runs out.

If I'm going to be honest, when Sally handed me Virus Thirteen by Joshua Alan Parry, I inwardly shuddered. Scenes from the movies Outbreak and Contagion flashed before my eyes. I'm really not a fan of "mega virus wipes out humanity" tales but all that changed before the end of the first chapter. This gripping thriller of a global pandemic and the events surrounding it, hooked me from the get go. Debut author, Parry, who happens to be a resident at the Mayo Clinic and has a B.S. in molecular and cellular biology, obviously knows his stuff. I like the fact that the author doesn't drag out the superflu symptoms but focused on the action and intrigue. The story developed, much like a relay race, passing the baton back and forth between a handful of characters that I was instantly drawn to. Some are smart, some are funny, some are diabolical and one is just plain chubby, but like pieces of a puzzle they fit together in a very satisfying fashion. The reality of a world where "Homeland Health Care" agents have free rein to harass and brutalize smokers, the overweight and the misguided doesn't seem so farfetched with the current political climate. The plot may have been a tiny bit predicable, but there were enough twists to keep me madly turning pages. I read this book in one day; it was just too hard to put down. I've caught the Virus Thirteen bug and I don't want to be cured!

Read Joshua Alan Parry's 2013 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blog - Pink Girl in a Cruel World - here and his Interview here.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June 2013 Winner

The 2013 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars winner for June is Ecko Rising (Ecko 1) by Danie Ware with 34% of the votes cast just beating Sea Change which has 29% of the votes. Ecko Rising was published by Titan Books in the US  on June11, 2013.  The cover is by Martin Stiff of Amazing15

The Final Results:

The June Debut Covers

Thank you to everyone who voted, Tweeted, and participated. The 2013 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars will continue soon with voting on the July 2013 Debut covers.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Interview with Jason M. Hough, author of The Dire Earth Cycle - June 24, 2013

Please welcome Jason M. Hough to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Darwin Elevator (The Dire Earth Cycle 1) will be published on July 30, 2013 by Del Rey.  The second and third novels in The Dire Earth Cycle, The Exodus Towers and The Plague Forge, will follow in August and September.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Jason:  After I left the game industry I'd been looking for a creative outlet, and writing felt like a good choice because success or failure would be almost entirely up to me. That was around 2004, but after only producing eight pages in the next four years, I knew I needed get my rear in gear or just stop pretending. So I tried Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2007, and finally realized the benefits of turning off all editorial instinct and simply writing. I participated again in 2008, and that was where The Darwin Elevator was born. I've written almost every day since.

TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Jason:  To proofread I take a 50 page chunk with me in the car, park at the beach, and read aloud while listening to the waves.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Jason:  A plotter! I tried the pantser lifestyle with my 2007 Nanowrimo effort, and it all fell apart around the halfway mark. In 2008 with The Darwin Elevator I spent the month leading up to November coming up with a solid outline. It really works well for me. I keep my outlines simple now, just three to five words per chapter, so that there's plenty of room for creativity during the writing stage. I think the process really helped me once I was under contract with Del Rey, because there was simply no room in the schedule to ditch a half-done manuscript and start over.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Jason:  I'd say my instincts are still a little off when it comes to providing the right amount of emotional response to big events. A lot of the notes my editors gave me went something like, "this is a HUGE moment and he barely flinches. C'mon, more MORE!"

TQ:  Describe The Darwin Elevator (The Dire Earth Cycle 1) in 140 characters or less. 

Jason:  A ragtag group must unravel the mystery of failing alien space elevator that is the only thing keeping the remnants of the human race alive.

TQ:  What inspired you to write The Darwin Elevator?

Jason:  Partly my own desire to see more stuff like "Firefly" in the SF world, and also more accessible novels like the works of John Scalzi. Other authors had certainly gone through that door before John, but for me he's the one who kicked in the door and shouted "LET'S ROCK!" while firing twin machine guns from the hip.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Darwin Elevator?

Jason:  Lots of research on Darwin, Australia where most of the book is set. It's a place I've never been, and even though the novels are set well into the future, I still felt it important to have a reasonable grasp of the location. I studied space elevators plenty, too, but not enough to where I'd be tempted to bog the book down in the real science of such a thing. The device in the book came from mysterious origins, so I felt it was important that the characters were just as amazed and puzzled by it as readers would be.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Jason:  Samantha was the easiest because she's based on a friend of mine (hi Sam!). Blackfield was the hardest because he's such an ass, and also very random -- he lives by the mantra "vary the pattern." He's basically a guy who does the opposite of me in any situation. He was also the most fun to write.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The Darwin Elevator?

Jason:  Hard to do this without spoilers! There's a scene where Neil Platz has to, well, let's say delete something important. It's a chapter I added late in the third draft, and I love how it flows and the extra dimension it adds to the whole story.

There's another scene where Skyler and Sam are sharing stories about a fallen friend. It's short and not really germane to the story, but I've always been proud of it.

TQ:  What's next?

Jason:  As of now I've finished all three books in the trilogy, so I'm working on some short stories that will be used to promote the books and flesh out the backstory a bit. Once those are done I'm planning to dive into a fantasy I've been wanting to write for a while, until I know if the publisher wants more Dire Earth books.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Jason:  My pleasure!

The Dire Earth Cycle

The Darwin Elevator
The Dire Earth Cycle 1
Del Rey, July 30, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 496 pages

Jason M. Hough’s pulse-pounding debut combines the drama, swagger, and vivid characters of Joss Whedon’s Firefly with the talent of sci-fi author John Scalzi.

In the mid-23rd century, Darwin, Australia, stands as the last human city on Earth. The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures. The planet’s refugees flock to Darwin, where a space elevator—created by the architects of this apocalypse, the Builders—emits a plague-suppressing aura.

Skyler Luiken has a rare immunity to the plague. Backed by an international crew of fellow “immunes,” he leads missions into the dangerous wasteland beyond the aura’s edge to find the resources Darwin needs to stave off collapse. But when the Elevator starts to malfunction, Skyler is tapped—along with the brilliant scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma—to solve the mystery of the failing alien technology and save the ragged remnants of humanity.

The Exodus Towers
The Dire Earth Cycle 2
Del Rey, August 27, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 544 pages

The Exodus Towers features all the high-octane action and richly imagined characters of The Darwin Elevator—only the stakes have never been higher.

The Plague Forge
The Dire Earth Cycle 3
Del Rey, September 24, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

The Plague Forge delivers an unbeatable combination of knockout action and kick-ass characters as the secrets to the ultimate alien mystery from The Darwin Elevator and The Exodus Towers are about to be unraveled.

Check out the 'Books' section of Jason's website to see the UK Covers.

About Jason
(from the author's website)

Photo by Nathan
Jason M. Hough (pronounced 'Huff') is a former 3D Artist and Game Designer (Metal FatigueAliens vs. Predator: Extinction, and many others).  Writing fiction became a hobby for him in 2007 and quickly turned into an obsession.  He started writing THE DARWIN ELEVATOR in 2008 as a Nanowrimo project, and kept refining the manuscript until 2011 when it sold to Del Rey along with a contract for two sequels.  The trilogy, collectively called THE DIRE EARTH CYCLE, will be released in the summer of 2013.

He lives in San Diego, California with his wife and two young sons. Currently he works at Qualcomm, Inc. designing software that uses machine learning to make smartphones more efficient and user-friendly.

Website  ~  Twitter @JasonMHough  ~  Facebook  ~  G+  ~  Blog