Thursday, December 31, 2015

Guest Blog by Gail Z. Martin - The World Behind Vendetta

Please welcome Gail Z. Martin to The Qwillery. Vendetta, the 2nd Deadly Curiosities novel, was published on December 29th by Solaris.

The World Behind Vendetta

By Gail Z. Martin

Vendetta, my new urban fantasy novel, is the second book in the Deadly Curiosities world, set in historic, haunted Charleston, South Carolina. It continues the adventures of Cassidy Kincaide, Teag Logan and Sorren as they hunt down and destroy dangerous magical objects and fight against the supernatural threats that endanger Charleston and the world.

Some readers have commented that the fictitious world of Deadly Curiosities seems comfortably well-worn and lived in, although there are only two books (Vendetta and Deadly Curiosities). That’s because the novels are part of a much larger set of stories, which continues to give me elbow room to create, explore and define the characters and their world.

Cassidy Kincaide is a psychometric who can read the history and magic of objects by touch. The magic runs in her family, and the person whose magical gift is strongest inherits Trifles and Folly, an antique and curio shop in Charleston that has existed for over three hundred and fifty years. Cassidy also inherited the secret family business, using her gift in service to the Alliance, a coalition of mortals and immortals dedicated to getting magically malicious objects off the market and out of the wrong hands, and fighting off supernatural danger.

Teag Logan is Cassidy’s assistant store manager, and he has his own magical ability. He’s a Weaver, able to weave spells into cloth and disparate data streams into information, making him one hell of a hacker. Cassidy’s inheritance also came with a business partner—a nearly six hundred year-old vampire named Sorren who founded Trifles and Folly back in the 1600s and maintains a network of similar teams and stores around the world in service to the Alliance.

The first stories I wrote in what became the Deadly Curiosities universe were set in the 1780s, featuring Dante and Coltt, two young men who became privateers through a series of misadventures and who end up working with Sorren and with Cassidy’s ancestor, who owns Trifles and Folly. The stories were originally written for pirate-and-magic themed anthologies, but the world really captivated me, and I decided to explore it further. The stories offer a glimpse of Charleston around the time of the American Revolution, still a place of magic, mystery and supernatural danger.

The second set of stories focus on Sorren as the main character and occur in Belgium in the 1500s. Sorren is young in the Dark Gift, just one hundred years old, still learning about being a vampire and about the Alliance from his maker, Alard. It’s an interesting contrast to the experienced, self-assured Sorren we meet in the Deadly Curiosities books. These stories also resonate through the series, because old grudges between immortals last a long, long time. Echoes of these stories show up in both Deadly Curiosities and in Vendetta, and will play out in future tales.

The majority of stories and novellas are set in modern-day Charleston and feature Cassidy, Teag and Sorren plus a large and growing cast of allies in their fight against dark magic and dangerous monsters. In fact, it was the story Buttons that inspired the book series. I wrote Buttons at the invitation of Jon Oliver for Solaris’s award-winning Magic: The Esoteric and Arcane anthology, and Solaris liked the world building enough to ask me to write a series based on the world in the short story.

Some of the Deadly Curiosities Adventures short stories have appeared in other anthologies, like Athena’s Daughters, which was, at the time of its campaign, Kickstarter’s most successful literary project. Most of the short stories and novellas were written as continuing adventures, enabling readers to remain connected to Cassidy, Teag and Sorren between novels and giving me a sandbox in which to flesh out the world. It’s a lot of fun getting the opportunity to provide deeper glimpses into recurring characters, introduce new allies and explore additional situations. I think of the novels as movies and the short stories and novellas as TV episodes.

Readers don’t have to read the short stories to enjoy the novels. However, those who read both will learn more about the backgrounds of the main characters and gain insights into their allies in the fight against supernatural mayhem. In the short stories, the danger usually arises from tainted objects, and the plots tie into people and events from Charleston’s past, real and imagined.

For those who like to binge-read a series in the same way many people prefer to binge-watch a TV season, the short stories and novellas offer the chance to further immerse yourself in the world of Deadly Curiosities. You can enjoy the novels, and stay connected with the characters between full-length books.

I’m excited about the launch of Vendetta, the newest novel in the Deadly Curiosities world. It’s always fun to have the chance to take readers deeper into a world I’ve created and share a full-length adventure. If you enjoy Deadly Curiosities and Vendetta, consider exploring the short stories and novellas to follow Cassidy, Teag and Sorren in their continuing adventures. There are plenty more tales to tell!

Deadly Curiosities 2
Solaris, December 29, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 416 pages

The engaging follow up to the urban fantasy series set in Charlotte, North Carolina.

An old enemy of Sorren’s is back in town. Sariel is a nephilmancer, a powerful sorcerer able to summon the nephilim, tainted eternal spirits that watch humanity and stand in judgment. Sariel is looking for vengeance because a century ago, during their last battle, Sorren killed Sariel’s son and helped the Alliance send Sariel into harsh exile. Because of Sorren’s long affiliation with Charleston, Sariel has decided that the city must be destroyed, and in retaliation for his own loss, Sariel vows to destroy the mortal helpers Sorren protects. To do this, Sariel must bring five of the Watchers through a portal from another realm. When all five are present, judgment will fall, and the nephilim will reap and feed on the souls of the dead.

     Deadly Curiosities : Vendetta
     By Gail Z Martin

     Chapter One

     “Watch out, Cassidy!” Teag’s warning was a heartbeat too late. The dark wraith screeched in fury and his clawed hand raked across my shoulder, opening four bloody cuts. I ducked out of reach and flung up my left hand with its protective bracelet. The ghostly figure of a large, angry dog appeared by my side, teeth bared, snarling at the wraith.
     The ghost dog sprang at the wraith, striking it square on, driving it back so I could get out of the way. It wasn’t the first time a soul-sucking creature of death showed up in the break room of my store, but it also wasn’t something I had planned on when I opened the velvet jewelry box.
     “Cover me!” I shouted to Teag, trying to figure out how fast I could get to a weapon that I could use against the billowing, monstrous shape.
     “Go!” Teag said to me. He turned to the wraith with a wicked grin and snatched down a fishing net made of clothesline rope from a hook on the wall. “See how you like this!” he yelled, throwing the net over the wraith.
     Normal rope would have gone right through the wraith’s dark form. Wraiths are like that – solid when they want to be, insubstantial when you want to hit them. But the magic woven into the net meant it stuck, catching the wraith in a web of power. It wouldn’t hold forever, but it could buy us precious seconds, and that delay might be the difference between life and death.
     If I’d expected a fight to the death, I would have made sure my weapons were closer. I had to dive for the door to my office and grab my athame from atop my desk. The athame focused my magic, and I opened myself to the powerful memories and emotions that I connected with it, drawing strength. The wraith surged forward, straining at the energy of the rope net that glowed like silver. The ghost dog harried the wraith, snapping at its heels, keeping it occupied.
     I swung back into the room and leveled the athame at the wraith, channeling my magic. A cone of blinding white light surged from the athame, and when the cold power struck the wraith, it shrieked and twisted, forced back toward the wall. It looked as if the white light was burning through the wraith, like fire on paper, and with one last ear-piercing scream, the deadly apparition vanished.
     The ghost dog looked back at me, wagged its tail, and winked out. I slumped back against the wall, feeling suddenly drained. Magic takes energy, and I was still pretty new at learning to channel mine for big stuff, like fighting off monsters. Then again, with the amount of practice we’d been getting lately, I figured I’d be up to speed in no time.
     “Nice net,” I said, managing a grin.
     Teag returned a tired smile. “Good shooting.” His expression grew serious. “You’re bleeding.”
     I sighed and sat down in one of the chairs at the small table, eying the overturned jewelry box mistrustfully. For now, at least, the box seemed harmless. “I didn’t move fast enough,” I said.
     “You weren’t expecting an attack,” Teag replied.
     “I’m beginning to think I should always expect an attack, and be pleasantly surprised when an antique is just an antique, instead of a demon portal to the realms of the dead.” The wraith’s claws must have taken a swipe at my energy as well as my shoulder, and I hoped that didn’t include shreds of my soul as well. Teag retrieved the souped-up first aid kit we keep in one of the cupboards. Unfortunately, we need it a lot. It’s not your average office supply store kit. It’s got surgical needles and sutures, sterile bandages, prescription painkillers and antibiotics, plus healing herbs and potions supplied by our friendly neighborhood Voodoo mambo and root workers.
     Then again, Trifles and Folly wasn’t your average antique store, and Teag and I had a few extra abilities they don’t teach in business school.
     I’m Cassidy Kincaide, the current owner of Trifles and Folly, an antique and curio store in beautiful, historic, haunted Charleston, South Carolina. The store has been in my family almost since Charleston was founded, close to three hundred and fifty years ago, and we have a big secret to go with that success. We do much more than sell interesting, expensive, old stuff. Our real job is getting dangerous magical items off the market and out of the wrong hands. When we succeed, nobody notices. When we fail, lots of people die.
     I inherited Trifles and Folly from my Uncle Evan. Teag is my assistant store manager, best friend and occasional bodyguard, and Sorren is my silent partner – a nearly six-hundred-year-old vampire who is part of a secret collaboration of mortals and immortals called the Alliance, dedicated to getting rid of items with dark magic before they can hurt anyone. The antiques that don’t have any magical juice, Trifles and Folly resells. Those that are just unsettling but not dangerous, we neutralize so that they won’t cause a problem. Items that are magically malicious or so tainted with bad emotions that they will hurt people, we lock up or destroy.
     I shrugged out of the shoulder of my shirt and winced as Teag cleaned the deep scratches. “Do you think it’ll come back?” Teag asked as he daubed carefully at the damage the wraith had done.
I sighed. “No way to tell until we know more about what it was and why it came in the first place. And that means taking a look at what’s in that jewelry box.”
     Magic runs in my family, and the person chosen to run Trifles and Folly needs all the magic he or she can summon, because we keep Charleston – and the world – safe from things that go bump in the night. My magic is psychometry, the ability to read the history of an object by touching it. Not every object, thank goodness, just those that have been touched by strong emotion or powerful energy. Heartfelt emotion is one of the strongest sources of power. That’s why a tattered old dog collar is my protective bracelet – summoning the ghost of my golden retriever, Bo – and my grandmother’s mixing spoon is my athame, used handle-side out. Both items have a strong emotional connection for me, and in both cases, the protection of the beings associated with the items resonates enough to fend off some seriously nasty creatures.
     The salve Teag smoothed on my cuts included plantain, comfrey, and rose to prevent infection and slow the bleeding. The herbs had been mixed by Mrs. Teller, a powerful root worker, so they carried a supernatural level of healing and protection. Teag covered the scratches with gauze and then pulled out a small woven patch of cloth imbued with his magic, which he taped down over the gauze to keep it in place. Teag is a Weaver, someone who can send energy and intent into woven and knotted fabric. He’s also able to weave together strands of information that would elude a regular person, making him an awesome researcher and an amazing hacker.
     “Is that one of the patches you made?” I asked, slipping my shoulder back into my shirt.
     Teag grinned. “Yeah, you’ll have to let me know how that works. The patches are a bit of an experiment right now.”
     I paused for a moment, focusing on my wounded shoulder. “There’s a tingle of magic from the salve and from the patch,” I said, paying close attention to what I was feeling. “The cuts don’t hurt as much as they did before, and where you bandaged it feels warm… like sunlight on a summer day.”
     Teag nodded. “That means that the poultice and the patch I wove are speeding the healing and driving out infection.” Supernatural predators often had bad stuff on their claws, either poison or a taint that could be as deadly as the cuts themselves.
     I went over to the fridge and poured us both glasses of iced tea, made the Charleston way, so sweet the fillings in your teeth stand up and wave. I needed a moment before I took on handling that antique jewelry box, and I figured that Teag wouldn’t mind a break either in case something else tried to kill us. Fortunately, the shop was closed, so we didn’t have to worry about the safety of customers or our part-time assistant, Maggie.
     We drank the iced tea in silence, stealing glances toward the little velvet box on the table. Both of us knew we had to deal with it, and given what we had just survived, neither of us were looking forward to the prospect.
     I finished my sweet tea, and couldn’t postpone the inevitable. “Okay,” I said. “Let’s see what was so special about this little jewelry box.”
     “You feel up to it?” Teag asked.
     I gave him a look that didn’t need words. “As ready as I’m going to be. And you’re supposed to be having dinner with Anthony tonight. That gives us about an hour and a half for me to read the mojo on the jewelry box, get knocked flat on my ass, and come back to my senses without making you late for your date.” I was being intentionally flippant, but the reality was much more dangerous, and we both knew it.
     “Do you think we should wait for Sorren?” Teag asked.
     I thought about it for a moment, then shook my head. “Kinda late now, don’t ya think?” I asked with a wry half-smile. “Besides, he’s in Boston, taking care of whatever-it-was that made him up and leave on a moment’s notice. I think I’ll be okay. Let’s get it over with.” I moved my chair closer to the box on the table.
     The velvet was worn and faded. It was too big for a ring box, and I wondered if it had originally held a pair of earrings, or maybe a dainty bracelet. The wraith had shown up a few seconds after I opened the box, but as I thought back over what had happened, I realized that the wraith hadn’t come from the box. That was important, because it meant the wraith hadn’t been trapped inside. But why had it shown up at all?
     Hard experience taught me to look before I touched. I was also learning to see what I could learn without making contact with an item. Practice was sharpening my ability to use the magic I was born with but had only recently begun trying to control. I held out my hand, palm down, over the faded blue velvet and closed my eyes, concentrating.
     The sense of overwhelming loss made me sway in my chair. Second-hand grief welled up in my throat, as tears stung my eyes. Beneath those darker emotions, I felt the remnants of something joyful, sullied now by whatever had been taken away. Dimly, as if in a faded photograph, I saw an image of a couple in their twenties, hand in hand. Then, as I watched, the young man’s image faded away to nothing, leaving the woman all alone.
     Magical seeing – things like psychometry, clairvoyance, and being a psychic – requires a lot of reading between the lines. I wish it were as clear-cut as it seems on television, where ghosts speak in complete sentences and visions are in high-definition with the volume turned up. In real life, images are distorted, murky, and incomplete. Spirits move their mouths, but often no sound emerges. The little snip of stone tape memory we see leaves a lot of room for interpretation. And that’s the problem. When we don’t have full information, we have to guess. Sometimes, we’re right and the problem gets solved. Other times, we guess wrong, and someone gets dead.
     Then I realized what was causing the extra buzz that my magic had picked up from the velvet-flocked box; this item came with its very own ghost.
     In general, my psychic gift of reading the history of objects doesn’t give me any special power to see ghosts. Oh, I’ve seen more than a few ghosts – then again, I live in Charleston, which is one of the most haunted cities in North America. I think it’s written somewhere that every house built before 1950 has to be haunted, and every native-born Charlestonian has a yearly quota of ghostly sightings. Given the nature of what we do at Trifles and Folly, seeing ghosts comes with the territory. Some of the spirits have been helpful. Others have been lost, not even sure that they are really dead. And some of those ghosts have been downright pissed off and dangerous.
     In this case, the ghost was terrified out of its everlovin’ mind.
     As I reached toward the box again, my fingers hovering over the velvet, the ghost welled up at me in a rush, so fast that I rocked onto the back legs of the chair, and might have gone over backward if Teag hadn’t been standing behind me. Most of the time, ghosts hang back, but this one got right in my face, so to speak, screaming soundlessly, eyes wide with fear.
     “Are you okay?” Teag was worried. I gestured to him that I was fine. So far, this ghost wasn’t trying to hurt me. It just really wanted to get my attention. Maybe I had been the first living person it had ever had a chance to contact. Or maybe the wraith that had come after Teag and me wasn’t really looking for us at all. Perhaps it had a different kind of prey in mind.
     That left me stuck between two bad options. I really didn’t want to make the level of connection that would happen if I touched or held the jewelry box. It was already clear that the box had a history of tragedy, and if I made contact, I would feel that sad background as forcefully as if I had lived it myself. On the other hand, whoever’s spirit was still connected to the jewelry box was in torment, and might suffer forever if I didn’t do something about it.
     I reached out and picked up the box.
     The first image I saw was of pearl earrings; dainty round balls with a lustrous glow, classy and always in style. Judging from the box, and the name of a local jewelry store I knew had gone out of business before 1900, I figured that the gift had been given back in the Victorian period. Then I looked into the box, and I knew for certain. Inside was a dark round circle, braided from brown, human hair.
     Gotta love the Victorians; they knew how to make mourning a life-long, high-art spectacle. By modern standards, the old customs seem mawkish, even macabre. But in a time when most families buried as many of their children as they saw live to adulthood, when few people lived past their forties and a lot of folks died young from cholera, smallpox, and other terrors we’ve since vanquished, and when the Civil War killed half a million young husbands, lovers, fathers, sons, and brothers, our great-great grandparents had a lot to mourn.
     They mourned in style, with whole wardrobes of black crepe clothing, elaborate social rituals and an entire etiquette for grief. On the other hand, these were real people and their loss was just as real as it is for modern folks. They tried to hang on to the memory of their departed beloveds. Sometimes, they took pictures of the corpse, dressed up in its Sunday best, perhaps the only picture of the person they would ever have. And other times, they clipped a lock or two of hair and plaited it into jewelry, something to remember the person by, or something they could keep with them all the time. These were memento mori in the full, original meaning of the word, ‘to remember death’.
     The beautiful, ghastly wreath of hair was a piece of Victorian death jewelry.
     The vision was sudden and overwhelming.
     I was cold, so cold. One moment I had been sweating on a battlefield in Virginia, and the next… the next there was nothing. They say you never hear the bullet that gets you. How could you, when all around you the sound of hundreds of rifles crashes like thunder? I remembered a loud noise, a sharp, sudden pain and then falling into darkness.
     And waking up. Only, not really. When I emerged from the darkness, my body didn’t come with me. Women sobbed. Men pretended that they weren’t crying. My little sister fainted and had to be carried from the room. I wanted to tell them I was still there, wanted to tell them how much I loved them, but ‘I’ wasn’t ‘me’ anymore. I was up here, and the rest of me was down there, not moving, gray with death.
     I thought I had been frightened on the battlefield. That fear paled in comparison to how terrified I was now. I thought that the Almighty would have gathered me to his bosom by now, if I were worthy. I’d heard tell all my life about bright lights and a land of milk and honey. Since I was still here, maybe that bright light wasn’t going to come for me. I didn’t have words for how afraid I was of what that meant for my immortal soul, so I just stayed where I was, looking for Amelia, my beloved. She always knew how to make sense of things.
     Then I saw her. Oh dear Lord, had grief for me done that to her? My pretty Amelia, so young and happy, looked gaunt and frail, hollow-eyed. Her father walked her to the casket, as if she could barely stand. She nearly collapsed, sagging almost to her knees, before he collected her and helped her stand next to me to say good-bye.
     I wanted to touch her, to tell her I was near, but I couldn’t. And then she leaned over and kissed my forehead, and carefully snipped some of my hair where it was the longest. Hot tears fell on my cold skin, but somehow, I felt them. No one faulted her for weeping. We were going to marry in the spring.
     I couldn’t go back and I couldn’t go on, so I followed my Amelia home. And since the Almighty didn’t seem to want me, I did the best I could, watching over my girl. I had nowhere else to be. She plaited my hair into a memorial wreath, and she wore it on a chain around her neck. And if, when she touched it, she thought she imagined my presence, I was closer than she knew.
     Abruptly, I was Cassidy again. I saw time flow by like an old movie. The scene changed, years passed. Amelia died, still grieving her lost love. The hair wreath went into the velvet box that had once held a gift that gave great joy. The young man’s ghost remained, too afraid to move on. And then, the shadows came.
     This time, I didn’t enter the ghost’s thoughts as fully as before, except to feel terror in every cell and sinew of my body. After a hundred years of quiet darkness, not exactly heaven but far removed from hell, something appeared in the everlasting night. It was not the Father Almighty.
     Like watching a movie with the sound turned off, something I could see but not influence, I saw the wraith stalk the young man’s ghost. Tad. His name had been Tad. Thaddeus, maybe, but no one called him that. Just Tad. Lonely, afraid, desperate for company, he had gotten too close the first time, only to lose part of what little he had left to the wraith’s hunger. After that, there was terror. Hiding. Fear of being found, of having the last little bit of self destroyed after all these long years. The darkness was so vast. Suddenly, the everlasting night that had seemed to be the enemy became an ally, a place to play a deadly game of hide-and-seek. And finally, the young man’s spirit got the answer it had been seeking. There are some things worse than death. Being consumed is one of them.
     When I came back to myself, I was screaming. Teag held me by the shoulders, shaking me gently, calling my name. We’ve done this a lot, unfortunately.
     “Come back, Cassidy!” His eyes were worried. I guessed that I’d been pretty far gone. I’ve never gone so deep into a vision that I haven’t been able to find my way back, but there’s always a first time. And if there was a first time, it was likely to be the last time.
     I nodded groggily, like a drunk sobering up on coffee. The terror and loss of the young man from the vision stayed with me, frightening and sad. “I’m okay,” I managed. Teag’s look told me that he sincerely doubted that.
     Instead of arguing, he pushed another glass of sweet tea into my hand, and waited while I gulped it down. The icy cold liquid shocked me back to myself, and the sugar rushed through my veins like elixir. Only then did I realize I was shaking and sobbing, grieving for two lovers who had been dead for more than a hundred and fifty years.
     I dragged the back of my hand over my eyes and took a deep breath to steady myself. Teag waited patiently. “I saw the story behind the memorial jewelry,” I said, carefully laying the velvet box aside. “Young lovers. Civil War.” Unfortunately, that story was a common refrain with the pieces we often saw at Trifles and Folly, although rarely had the past made such an impact. “I’d expect a piece like that to have a lot of mojo,” I added, trying to get my voice to stop quailing. “But there’s a ghost attached to it, and the thing we fought off tried to destroy him.”
     Teag frowned, alarmed. “That monster attacks ghosts?”
     I nodded. “Yeah. It took a bite out of him. And I have the feeling that whatever that thing was, it went away, but it’s not really gone.”
     “Then we’ve got a big problem,” Teag said. “Because Charleston is a spookfest, and that monster is going to have an all-you-can-eat buffet if we don’t do something about it.”


Deadly Curiosities
Deadly Curiosities 1
Solaris, June 24, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 464 pages

Welcome to Trifles & Folly, and antique and curio shop with a dark secret. Proprietor Cassidy Kincaide continues a family tradition begun in 1670 - acquiring and neutralizing dangerous supernatural items. It's the perfect job for Cassidy, whose psychic gift lets her touch an object and know its history.

Together with her business partner Sorren, a 500-year-old vampire and former jewel thief, Cassidy makes it her business to get infernal objects off the market. When mundane antiques suddenly become magically malicious, it's time for Cassidy and Sorren to get rid of these Deadly Curiosities before the bodies start piling up.

The Deadly Curiosities Adventures
(clicking on a cover will take you to more information 
at Gail Z. Martin's website)

About Gail

Gail Z. Martin is the author of Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Dec. 2015, Solaris Books); Shadow and Flame the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (March 2016, Orbit Books); The Shadowed Path (June 2016, Solaris Books) and Iron and Blood a new Steampunk series (Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin.

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

Her work has appeared in over 20 US/UK anthologies. Newest anthologies include: The Big Bad 2, Athena’s Daughters, Heroes, Space, Contact Light, With Great Power, The Weird Wild West, The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, Alien Artifacts, Cinched: Imagination Unbound, Realms of Imagination, Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens.

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

The Giveaway

What:  Two entrants each will win a copy of Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z. Martin!

How:  Log into and follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below. Note that comments are moderated.

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 January 8, 2016. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

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

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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What's Up for the Debut Author Challenge Authors? - Part 14

This is the fourteenth in a series of updates about formerly featured Debut Author Challenge authors and their 2015 works published since the last update and any upcoming works for 2016. This is the Chuck Wendig edition of the updates! The year in parentheses after the author's name is the year she/he was featured in the Debut Author Challenge.

Part 1 herePart 11 here
Part 2 herePart 12 here
Part 3 herePart 13 here
Part 4 here
Part 5 here
Part 6 here
Part 7 here
Part 8 here
Part 9 here
Part 10 here

Chuck Wendig (2012)

Three Slices
  with Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
May 5, 2015
eBook, 166 pages
Illustrated by Galen Dara

Three Slices presents three novellas by modern fantasy writers:

A Prelude to War by Kevin Hearne
After an old friend is murdered in retaliation for his mercenary strikes against the oldest vampires in the world, Atticus O'Sullivan must solicit the aid of another old friend in Ethiopia if he's going to have a chance of finishing a war he never wanted. Meanwhile, Granuaile MacTiernan starts a private war of her own against Loki, the lord of lies, and if it brings Ragnarok early—so be it.

Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys by Delilah S. Dawson
The number one rule of the circus? Don't kill your volunteers, even accidentally. That's how young magician Criminy Stain ends up on the run in a forest, where he meets a beautiful woman holding a bucket of blood. But is Merissa the answer to his prayers-- or the orchestrator of his ruin?

Interlude: Swallow by Chuck Wendig
Miriam Black is back. Miriam is tired of her curse and finally believes she knows how to be rid of her ability to see when and how other people die. She follows a lead to the mountains of Colorado, where she believes she sees signs of a serial killer she thought she already killed. (Set between THE CORMORANT and THUNDERBIRD.)

Zer0es 1
Harper Voyager, August 18, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages
Mass Market Paperback, May 31, 2016

An exhilarating thrill-ride through the underbelly of cyber espionage in the vein of David Ignatius’s The Director and the television series Leverage, CSI: Cyber, and Person of Interest, which follows five iconoclastic hackers who are coerced into serving the U.S. government.

An Anonymous-style rabble rouser, an Arab spring hactivist, a black-hat hacker, an old-school cipherpunk, and an online troll are each offered a choice: go to prison or help protect the United States, putting their brains and skills to work for the government for one year.

But being a white-hat doesn’t always mean you work for the good guys. The would-be cyberspies discover that behind the scenes lurks a sinister NSA program, an artificial intelligence code-named Typhon, that has origins and an evolution both dangerous and disturbing. And if it’s not brought down, will soon be uncontrollable.

Can the hackers escape their federal watchers and confront Typhon and its mysterious creator? And what does the government really want them to do? If they decide to turn the tables, will their own secrets be exposed—and their lives erased like lines of bad code?

Combining the scientific-based, propulsive narrative style of Michael Crichton with the eerie atmosphere and conspiracy themes of The X-Files and the imaginative, speculative edge of Neal Stephenson and William Gibson, Zer0es explores our deep-seated fears about government surveillance and hacking in an inventive fast-paced novel sure to earn Chuck Wendig the widespread acclaim he deserves.

Aftermath: Star Wars
Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy 1
LucasBooks, September 4, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages
Mass Market Paperback, March 29, 2016

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: Aftermath [reveals] what happened after the events of 1983’s Return of the Jedi. It turns out, there’s more than just the Empire for the good guys to worry about.”—The Hollywood Reporter

As the Empire reels from its critical defeats at the Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance—now a fledgling New Republic—presses its advantage by hunting down the enemy’s scattered forces before they can regroup and retaliate. But above the remote planet Akiva, an ominous show of the enemy’s strength is unfolding. Out on a lone reconnaissance mission, pilot Wedge Antilles watches Imperial Star Destroyers gather like birds of prey circling for a kill, but he’s taken captive before he can report back to the New Republic leaders.

Meanwhile, on the planet’s surface, former rebel fighter Norra Wexley has returned to her native world—war weary, ready to reunite with her estranged son, and eager to build a new life in some distant place. But when Norra intercepts Wedge Antilles’s urgent distress call, she realizes her time as a freedom fighter is not yet over. What she doesn’t know is just how close the enemy is—or how decisive and dangerous her new mission will be.

Determined to preserve the Empire’s power, the surviving Imperial elite are converging on Akiva for a top-secret emergency summit—to consolidate their forces and rally for a counterstrike. But they haven’t reckoned on Norra and her newfound allies—her technical-genius son, a Zabrak bounty hunter, and a reprobate Imperial defector—who are prepared to do whatever they must to end the Empire’s oppressive reign once and for all.

Miriam Black 1
Saga Press, September 15, 2015
Trade Paperback, 320 pages
Hardcover, 288 pages
eBook May 5, 2015

The first book in the Miriam Black series: “A sassy, hard-boiled thriller with a paranormal slant” (The Guardian) about a young woman who can see the darkest corners of the future.

Miriam Black knows how you’re going to die. This makes her daily life a living hell, especially when you can’t do anything about it, or stop trying to. She’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, and suicides. She merely needs to touch you—skin to skin contact—and she knows how and when your final moments will occur. Miriam has given up trying to save people; that only makes their deaths happen. But then she hitches a ride with Louis Darling and shakes his hand, and she sees in thirty days that Louis will be murdered while he calls her name. Louis will die because he met her, and Miriam will be the next victim. No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

“Think Six Feet Under co-written by Stephen King and Chuck Palahniuk” (SFX), and you have Blackbirds: a visceral, exciting novel about life on the edge.

Miriam Black 2
Saga Press, October 20, 2015
Trade Paperback, 368 pages
Hardcover, 336 pages
eBook, May 5, 2015

Miriam Black is trying to live an ordinary life, keeping her ability to see how someone dies hidden...until a serial killer crosses her path. This is the second book in the Miriam Black series.

“Visceral and often brutal, this tale vibrates with emotional rawness that helps to paint a bleak, unrelenting picture of life on the edge.” —Publishers Weekly

Miriam is trying. Really, she is. But this whole “settling down thing” just isn’t working out.

She lives on Long Beach Island all year in a run-down, double-wide trailer. She works at a grocery store as a checkout girl. And her relationship with Louis—who’s on the road half the time in his truck—is subject to the mood swings Miriam brings to everything she does. It just isn’t going well.

Still, she’s keeping her psychic ability—to see when and how someone is going to die just by touching them—in check. But even that feels wrong somehow. Like she’s keeping a tornado stopped up in a tiny bottle. Then comes the one bad day that turns it all on her ear.

The Complete Double Dead
Abaddon, February 9, 2016
Trade Paperback, 448 pages

A Vampire in Zombieland.

You wouldn’t like Coburn. People don’t, as a rule; he’s not a nice man. And that’s okay, because he doesn’t like people much either. People are food. You see, Coburn’s a vampire, and has been for close on a century.

Five years ago, Coburn went to sleep – wasn’t exactly planned – and he’s just woken up to find most everybody in the world dead. And not cool, interesting dead like him; oh, no. Coburn looks basically human, and these guys... really don’t. He likes blood, and they like flesh. He’s smart; them, not so much. But they outnumber him by about a million to one, and their clotted blood cannot sustain him.

Now he’s starving, and on the run, and more pissed-off than a beestung rattlesnake. The vampire has to find blood, soon, and – like it or not – he’s gonna have to keep an eye on the frail flesh-bags he finds it in. Time for the wolf to turn shepherd.

No, Coburn doesn’t like people. But he’s gonna have to learn to.

The Complete Double Dead collects Chuck Wendig’s first novel and the follow-up novella, Bad Blood. Follow Coburn as he runs a gauntlet of supermarket cannibals, juggalos, super-zombies, and a ketamine-trip cult of zombie-worshipping New Age weirdos. It’s a road that’ll take him right back to himself, and onto the trail of his own vampiric sire. And on the way, he’ll become something entirely new.

The Hunt
Atlants Burns 2
Skyscape, February 9, 2016
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 330 pages

It’s Atlanta’s senior year of high school, and she is officially infamous. Not only has she saved herself from a predator, brought down an untouchable dogfighting ring, and battled a pack of high-school bullies, but she’s also proclaimed to the Internet her willingness to fight for anyone who needs help. And Atlanta can’t believe what’s coming out of the woodwork. From an old friend to a troop of troubled girls with connections to a local fracking company, there’s definitely fire in the water. As always, the girl with the unforgettable name is not afraid to burn it all down if it means making things right. But as high school races toward its inevitable end and the hornets begin to swarm from all directions, Atlanta must decide how much of herself and her growing group of friends she is willing to risk…before it’s too late.

The Cormorant
Miriam Black 3
Saga Press, February 23, 2016
Hardcover, Trade Paperback, 352 pages
eBook, May 5, 2015

In the third installment of the suspenseful Miriam Black series, Miriam is on the road again, having transitioned from “thief” to “killer.” Miriam Black is being developed as a TV series on Starz with the producers of Breaking Bad.

Hired by a wealthy businessman, Miriam heads down to Florida to practice the one thing she’s good at: knowing when people are going to die. In her vision she sees the businessman murdered by another’s hand and on the wall written in blood is a message just for her:

She’s expected…

Harper Voyager, May 31, 2016
Zer0es 1
Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages
Hardcover and eBook, August 18, 2015

An exhilarating thrill-ride through the underbelly of cyber espionage in the vein of David Ignatius’s The Director and the television series Leverage, CSI: Cyber, and Person of Interest, which follows five iconoclastic hackers who are coerced into serving the U.S. government.

An Anonymous-style rabble rouser, an Arab spring hactivist, a black-hat hacker, an old-school cipherpunk, and an online troll are each offered a choice: go to prison or help protect the United States, putting their brains and skills to work for the government for one year.

But being a white-hat doesn’t always mean you work for the good guys. The would-be cyberspies discover that behind the scenes lurks a sinister NSA program, an artificial intelligence code-named Typhon, that has origins and an evolution both dangerous and disturbing. And if it’s not brought down, will soon be uncontrollable.

Can the hackers escape their federal watchers and confront Typhon and its mysterious creator? And what does the government really want them to do? If they decide to turn the tables, will their own secrets be exposed—and their lives erased like lines of bad code?

Combining the scientific-based, propulsive narrative style of Michael Crichton with the eerie atmosphere and conspiracy themes of The X-Files and the imaginative, speculative edge of Neal Stephenson and William Gibson, Zer0es explores our deep-seated fears about government surveillance and hacking in an inventive fast-paced novel sure to earn Chuck Wendig the widespread acclaim he deserves.

Life Debt: Aftermath
Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy 2
LucaBooks, July 19, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 320 page

Set between the events of Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, the never-before-told story that began with Star Wars: Aftermath continues in this thrilling novel, the second book of Chuck Wendig’s New York Times bestselling trilogy.

The Shield, Vol. 1 : Daughter of the Revolution
     Written by Adam Christopher and Chuck Wendig
Dark Circle, August 23, 2016

Trade Paperback, 144 pages

[cover not yet available]
Over the centuries, in our nation's times of need, a supernatural force appears to battle back the enemies of the United States: THE SHIELD.

Today, the country--the whole world--is on the edge of chaos. The middle class is dying as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Global warming's effects on the environment are drastic and dramatic, with superstorms and deadly droughts a common occurrence. The government increases its grip on the lives of ordinary people, controlling information and curtailing freedoms and privacy. For some, the government itself has become an enemy of the people, and revolution is on the minds of Americans all across the country.

The Shield returns--but what happens when she's not sure who the enemy is?

A modern action and conspiracy thriller by bestselling novelists Adam Christopher and Chuck Wendig featuring the dynamic artwork of David Williams, THE SHIELD: DAUGHTER OF THE REVOLUTION gives readers a topical, relevant and jarring new take on the classic hero.

THE SHIELD, VOL. 1: DAUGHTER OF THE REVOLUTION collects the first story arc of the ongoing THE SHIELD comic book series.

Zer0es 2
Harper Voyager, November 8, 2016
9780062351579, 0062351575
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

[description not yet available]

Miriam Black 4
Saga Press, February 28, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

[description not yet available]

Barsk Blog Tour: Interview with Lawrence M. Schoen and Review of Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard

Please welcome Lawrence M. Schoen to The Qwillery. Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard was published on December 29th by Tor Books.

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

Lawrence:  I think I started writing at about age seven or eight. I used to spend every weekend working with my father at the swap meet. We were regulars, same stall every week, different merchandise depending on whether my father owned a clothing store or was just turning over other stuff to make ends meet. I did this every Saturday and Sunday from age five to eighteen (when college set me free). It probably started out as babysitting but turned into education, both in learning to sell and to understanding psychology. Anyway, after set-up and in between customers, I would sit in the back of the open van, take out a spiral notebook bought that morning, and write stories.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser, or hybrid?

Lawrence:  I used to be a panster, but I’m a born-again outliner now, with maybe a touch of throwback because before I start blocking out every freaking scene from start to finish, I first flesh out in my head who my characters are. For me, all stories start with characters, which was probably why I started out as a panster: I’d have a cool character in a starting place, and an idea for a transformed and even cooler character at some ending place, and then had to forge ahead until I wrote myself a path from point A to point B.

But by outlining, I’ve learned to step back and address the logical concerns of the plot, fold in the needed elements of pacing, so that my route is focused and serves the story, rather than just hoping I get lucky and arrive at my destination.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Lawrence:  Facing down the need to do better than I did the day before, when the proposition of doing so, day after day, makes me want to run and hide. Seriously, it’s a crazy way to approach the craft.

TQDescribe Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard in 140 characters or less.

Lawrence:  DUNE meets THE SIXTH SENSE. With Elephants. In Space!

TQTell us something about Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard that is not found in the book description.

Lawrence:  Without actually calling it such, I play with “time travel” in a way that I don’t think anyone has before. I have a character from the past who travels forward through the use of prophecy and telepathy, and other characters who travel back in time by conversing with the dead. No one actually “goes” anywhere, but information passes both ways. I think it’s kind of cool.

TQWhat inspired you to write Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard? What appeals to you about Science Fiction?

Lawrence:  Some of the books I read in my youth fell into the “sense o’ wonder” camp. Characters and plots and concepts would frequently leave me gobsmacked. SF like that is a powerful and highly addictive drug and I still can’t get enough. It’s not simply the awesome ideas, it’s the way in which they transported me to other worlds and times, and allowed me to bring a little of that back to my own circumstances after I turned the last page.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard?

Lawrence:  I bought a membership to the Philadelphia Zoo (America’s first zoo, by the way). I spent a lot of time there, sometimes going four or five times a week and just sitting watching the animals for hours at a time. I spent so much time in the elephant house that the residents came to recognize me as an individual and would greet me with a wave of their trunks when I arrived — something they didn’t do for other visitors. Naturally, I learned to hold an arm in front of my face and wave back. Sigh. I miss those guys.

TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Lawrence:  More than a few people have pointed out that my protagonist, Jorl, is semi-autobiographical (except for the part that I’m not an anthropomorphic elephant). That made him pretty easy to write. I’d put him in a scene and simply ask myself what I would do in that situation. The hardest is something of a tie between the Matriarch and the Senator, probably because in many ways they have the same mindset and credo. They both believe they’re doing what’s best to serve the greater good as they see it. And both are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals, without so much as a blink about the consequences along the way. And of course both shared the risk of becoming two-dimensional characters, villains with no conscience. Putting them center stage as POV characters ensured that they were more than their plans, and forced the characters around them to see them as fully realized as well.

TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard?

Lawrence:  It’s hard to imagine writing so much as a scene that isn’t influenced by social issues. A character eats a BLT; huh, who picked the lettuce? A different character walks into a laboratory to acquire some gear; huh, why are all the lab techs male (or female)? Social issues are all around us and if you’re on the wrong end of the privilege stick you can’t move without bumping into them, just as if you’re at the other extreme it’s easy to blithely and obliviously walk on by.

The real question is, how do the characters respond to these forces, how does the world react to their choices? In Barsk, the most obvious social bit that I examine is tolerance. I have a race of people who have been scooped up from planets all over the galaxy and forcibly relocated to a world no one else wanted, simply because they don’t look like everyone else. And yet, on that same world, these same people are seen practicing a terrifying discrimination of their own, one which is not shared by the people who put them there in the first place. The challenge was to show both sides without getting too heavy-handed or allegorical.

TQWhich question about Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Lawrence:  Do the trees and rocks and waves and the very moons of the planet Barsk really speak to Pizlo?

Well, yes and no. He’s a weird little kid, but he’s not psychotic. He’s precognitive, and has been for as long as he can remember — which given that he’s only six isn’t all that long — and because he’s never had anyone explain this stuff to him, this is the metaphor his unconscious came up with to explain what he experiences. It’s probably also a manifestation of his longing to have someone, anyone, talk to him, because being a cultural abomination he’s not exactly overrun with opportunities to converse.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard.


“I don’t want to be dead. But it’s like complaining about the rain. We don’t get the weather we want.”

“I do not need your consent, but I do require you to be fully conscious. Can you tell me your name?”

“Words are precious things. Don’t waste what might be the last ones you have.”

TQWhat's next?

Lawrence:  I have proposals for two sequels to Barsk sitting on my editor’s desk. I’ve barely begun to explore this planet and these people and I have quite a bit more to say. I’m also developing a new series of books that deal with lost cities and the rediscovery of one of them from the mid-fifth century. And I’d like to return to writing the lighter novels and novellae of the Amazing Conroy and his alien companion animal, Reggie. On the Klingon front, I anticipate publishing a translation of Sun Tsu’s The Art of War by late summer.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Lawrence:  It’s been my pleasure. Let’s do this again. Seriously, for every book! Okay?


Barsk: The Elephant's Graveyard
Tor, December 29, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

The Sixth Sense meets Planet of the Apes in a moving science fiction novel set so far in the future, humanity is gone and forgotten in Lawrence M. Schoen's Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard

An historian who speaks with the dead is ensnared by the past. A child who feels no pain and who should not exist sees the future. Between them are truths that will shake worlds.

In a distant future, no remnants of human beings remain, but their successors thrive throughout the galaxy. These are the offspring of humanity's genius-animals uplifted into walking, talking, sentient beings. The Fant are one such species: anthropomorphic elephants ostracized by other races, and long ago exiled to the rainy ghetto world of Barsk. There, they develop medicines upon which all species now depend. The most coveted of these drugs is koph, which allows a small number of users to interact with the recently deceased and learn their secrets.

To break the Fant's control of koph, an offworld shadow group attempts to force the Fant to surrender their knowledge. Jorl, a Fant Speaker with the dead, is compelled to question his deceased best friend, who years ago mysteriously committed suicide. In so doing, Jorl unearths a secret the powers that be would prefer to keep buried forever. Meanwhile, his dead friend's son, a physically challenged young Fant named Pizlo, is driven by disturbing visions to take his first unsteady steps toward an uncertain future.

Qwill's Thoughts

Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard is an outstanding novel that deftly explores issues of racism, prejudice, power imbalances, rain forest medicines and more all wrapped up in a captivating story of sentient animals with the focus on the planet Barsk. The population of Barsk consists of two types of Elephants, Eleph and Lox, who are collectively known as Fants. They are widely reviled throughout the Alliance of many planets, which are all inhabited by various sentient animals. All of these animals are more than sentient - they are anthropomorphic with opposable thumbs and all. They work as would humans and are historians, officers in the military, Senators, doctors, scientists, etc. Anything a human could do they can do. And like humans some of them are good and some of them are bad.

Even within Barsk, there is prejudice against certain individuals. This is brought to life in the character of Pizlo, an albino Fant born before his parents were officially bonded. Children born before the bonding ceremony are always different, reviled and ignored. Pizlo's parents chose not to do that to him, but with the exception of Jorl (an historian and Speaker to the dead), no one even acknowledges Pizlo's presence, which often works to his advantage.

The novel turns around the desire of some to control koph, the drug that allows Speakers to speak with the dead. It is only created from natural resources on Barsk, which is protected by a Compact with the Alliance.

The novel brings together the major characters in unexpected ways. Jorl begins a quest to discover why he can not summon the recent dead. They have gone silent. Prophecies come into play that are truly susceptible of different interpretations.

Jorl, Pizlo and all the main characters are wonderfully realized and deeply relatable. Schoen has created a story filled with twist after twist that are exquisitely logical. There are moments of joy, sorrow and even horror as events unfold to bring the novel to a remarkably satisfying conclusion. Barsk is fascinating, moving, and beautifully written and will stick with you long after you've finished reading. Bravo!

About Lawrence

Lawrence M. Schoen holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics. He’s also one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Klingon language, and the publisher of a speculative fiction small press, Paper Golem. He’s been a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award, the Hugo Award, and the Nebula Award. Lawrence lives near Philadelphia. You can find him online at and @KlingonGuy.