Saturday, January 31, 2015

Interview with Kristi Charish, author of Owl and the Japanese Circus - January 31, 2015

Please welcome Kristi Charish to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Owl and the Japanese Circus was published on January 13th by Gallery Books.

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

Kristi:  Oddly enough I only started writing about 5 years ago, February 2010 to be exact. As to why, I was in the process of writing up my PhD thesis and hated it. I’d always loved books and wanted to write fiction, but I’d never had the courage to actually try. I traded off an hour of thesis writing with an hour of fiction writing (turned into two hours fiction, one hour thesis). Once I started I couldn’t stop and so here I am five years later, almost to the day.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Kristi:  Total pantser all the way. ☺

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

Kristi:  Hmmm. Time is always a huge factor, especially at the moment with OWL being a new release, but in general for me it’s pushing through the parts I don’t think are going that great. There’s a real temptation to stop but the only way to make progress is finish the story. I can always go back and fix it later.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Kristi:  In the UF arena I’m a huge fan of Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Kelley Armstrong (she’s Canadian too!), Charlaine Harris, and Diana Rowland. They’ve all influenced my writing in some way and are all on my auto-buy lists.

Outside urban fantasy, some of my favorite authors and influences are Ian Hamilton (Ava Lee series- another Canadian!), James Clavell (King Rat, Tai Pan).

I also love 80’s style adventure movies like Indiana Jones, Big Trouble in Little China, and The Mummy. They are huge influences on my writing.

TQ:  Describe Owl and the Japanese Circus in 140 characters or less.

Kristi:  Owl: Fun adventure staring a modern ‘Indiana Jane’ who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world.

TQ:  Tell us something about Owl and the Japanese Circus that is not in the book description.

Kristi:  The biggest omission from the back cover (that isn’t a spoiler) is that Owl has a Mau cat named Captain who accompanies her everywhere. He also smells out vampires and takes hunting them down a little too seriously. He’s not mentioned in the book description but has fast become many reader’s favorite character.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Owl and the Japanese Circus? Why an ex-archaeology grad student?

Kristi:  I had been struggling for a bit with third person narrative and really wanted to try something in first person. I had just finished a writing prompt exercise for a writing course (where the prompt was ‘When death’s clowns came for me’) and had also just finished reading a mystery novel called ‘The Water Rat of Wanchai’ by Ian Hamilton (Ava Lee series). It was the first mystery I’d read in a while and I thought wouldn’t it be great to write something like that! Prompt and mystery novel idea in hand, I started writing about an antiquities thief...with absolutely no monsters. It was going to be a normal book, a break from fantasy...

That lasted all of twenty pages when I realized I’d accidentally written a dragon into the novel.

There are a few other influences that came into writing Owl past that first chapter – most notably Indiana Jones – but that’s how it got started ☺

As to the archaeology background, when I first started university I was actually enrolled in Anthropology/Archaeology. I lasted about a year before I realized it really wasn’t like Indiana Jones and switched to genetics. I guess this is my way of living out vicariously my undergrad Indiana Jones fantasy.

TQ:  Your biography states that you are a scientist whose specialties are genetics, cell biology, and molecular biology. How does this influence and add to your writing (or not)?

Kristi:  Being a biologist influences my writing hugely – but not in the way you might think. I certainly use my background to add in plausible scientific explanations and details for monsters (if you accept the idea there could be vampires how would they work, etc.), but the problem solving that goes into designing experiments in a lab is probably the aspect of my science training that I use the most when plotting out my novels and trouble shooting logic issues.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Owl and the Japanese Circus?

Kristi:  As far as research goes, I went lighter on techniques and heavy on researching mythology and the archaeological sites Alix/Owl visits. It was a conscious choice to keep inline with the adventure genre. Plot always comes first when I write and after that comes the mythology and accuracy. I did spend a great deal of time referencing Balinese and Japanese mythology and archaeology sites and in most cases I tried to match the plot to mythology that made the most sense.

Google Maps was also my best friend. You can trip plan travel between Tokyo stations and street view is a glorious thing.

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


Easiest: Owl. She’s a fun character with next to no filter and writing from her perspective is a blast. There is something very freeing about sticking yourself in the head of someone who just doesn’t give a F*&k what people think ;-)

Hardest: Owl’s cat, Captain, but he’s also one of my favorites. He’s tricky because there’s no dialogue to fall back on and...well...he’s a cat. I ended up basing a lot of Captain’s behaviors on my own 20 lb Ragdoll monster.

TQ:  Which question about your novel do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Kristi:  The one about Alix’s grad school experience and whether it’s based on mine – (in the book hers is a resounding disaster).

Answer: Man was I ever worried what would happen if/when my old lab read this! Though some of the details about how the academic machine works are coloured by my own experiences (lost thesis a week before a defense anyone?), on the whole my time as a grad student was pretty great. In fact, I’m still working on finishing a paper with my old lab and visit regularly so I can keep one foot in the research science door.

But... there are stories supervisors tell their students. About labs where experiments go awry for no reason and controls disappear overnight. Where grad students are pitted against grad student and sabotage is par for the course. Those stories, always whispered in confidence at conferences, are what I based Alix’s academic experience on.

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Owl and the Japanese Circus.


‘He feinted back and pulled on the leash in an attempt to break my hold and get back to Charles. Nope, not desensitized. Getting better at manipulation.’

‘People are real happy to make friends with you when a two-thousand-year-old mummy knocks off half their team, but returning the favor always pisses them off. No one likes to pay up out of the goodness of their heart; that’s why I usually get cash up front.’

TQ:  What's next?

Kristi:  Next January (2016) the sequel to OWL AND THE JAPANESE CIRCUS, OWL AND THE CITY OF ANGELS. It sees Owl settling into her new job as a contract thief for Vegas mogul Mr. Kurosawa (with mixed results) when he sets his sights on a trio of artifacts sitting in a Los Angeles recluse’s private collection. Owl is sent to fetch them and finds out that the City of Angels is anything but. For reviewers out there ARCs should be available sometime this summer.

I also had Random House Canada pick up my second UF series, KINCAID STRANGE, which is coming out May 2016.

It’s about a voodoo practitioner named Kincaid Strange who lives in Seattle with her roommate, the ghost of deceased 90’s grunge rocker, Nathan Cade. More about the plot later this year but it involves murder, ghost mayhem, and voodoo zombies!

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Kristi:  Thanks for having me!

Owl and the Japanese Circus
Owl 1
Gallery Books, January 13, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages

Fans of Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, and Linda Hamilton will flock to the kick-ass world of Owl, a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world.

Ex-archaeology grad student turned international antiquities thief, Alix—better known now as Owl—has one rule. No supernatural jobs. Ever. Until she crosses paths with Mr. Kurosawa, a red dragon who owns and runs the Japanese Circus Casino in Las Vegas. He insists Owl retrieve an artifact stolen three thousand years ago, and makes her an offer she can’t refuse: he’ll get rid of a pack of vampires that want her dead. A dragon is about the only entity on the planet that can deliver on Owl’s vampire problem – and let’s face it, dragons are known to eat the odd thief.

Owl retraces the steps of Mr. Kurosawa’s ancient thief from Japan to Bali with the help of her best friend, Nadya, and an attractive mercenary. As it turns out though, finding the scroll is the least of her worries. When she figures out one of Mr. Kurosawa’s trusted advisors is orchestrating a plan to use a weapon powerful enough to wipe out a city, things go to hell in a hand basket fast…and Owl has to pick sides.

About Kristi

Kristi is the author of OWL AND THE JAPANESE CIRCUS (Jan 13th, 2015, Simon and Schuster Canada/Pocket Books), an urban fantasy about a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world. She writes what she loves; adventure heavy stories featuring strong, savvy female protagonists, pop culture, and the occasional RPG fantasy game thrown in the mix. The second installment, OWL AND THE CITY OF ANGELS, is scheduled for release Jan 2016. Her second urban fantasy series, KINCAID STRANGE (Random House Canada), about a voodoo practioner living in Seattle, is scheduled for release mid 2016.

Kristi is also a scientist with a BSc and MSc from Simon Fraser University in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and a PhD in Zoology from the University of British Columbia. Her specialties are genetics, cell biology, and molecular biology, all of which she draws upon in her writing. She is represented by Carolyn Forde at Westwood Creative Artists.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @kristicharish  ~  Google+

Review: Cursed by S. J Harper

Author:  S. J. Harper
Series:  Fallen Siren 1
Publisher:  Roc, October 1, 2013
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780425263297 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Meet FBI Agents Emma Monroe and Zack Armstrong.
She's cursed. He's damned. Together, they make one hell of a team.

Emma Monroe is a Siren, cursed by the gods and bound to earth to atone for an ancient failure. She’s had many names and many lives, but only one mission: redemption. Now that she works missing persons cases for the FBI, it could be just a rescue away. Unless her new partner leads her astray.

Special Agent Zack Armstrong just transferred into the San Diego Field Office. He’s a werewolf, doing his best to beat back the demons from his dark and dangerous past. As a former Black Ops sniper, he’s taken enough lives. Now he’s doing penance by saving them.

Emma and Zack’s very first case draws them deep into the realm of the paranormal, and forces them to use their own supernatural abilities. But that leaves each of them vulnerable, and there are lines partners should not cross. As secrets are revealed and more women go missing, one thing becomes clear: as they race to save the victims, Emma and Zack risk losing themselves.


Jennifer's Review

Cursed is the first novel in a new urban fantasy series by S.J. Harper, the pen name for co-authors Samantha Sommersby and Jeanne Stein. The Fallen Siren Series follows Emma Monroe, an ancient siren cursed by the Goddess Demeter to spent eons on earth helping others in need, while seeking her own salvation and hiding her true self. Emma is trying to fulfill her purpose by working in the missing persons section of the FBI. Emma is dismayed when her new partner turns out to be an old flame, werewolf Zack Armstrong. While she deals with her undeniable attraction to Zack, the pair must race against time to stop the menace that is kidnapping area women.

Emma and Zack are both highly intelligent and strong, and they both harbor secrets and carry scars from their past. Neither one is perfect, but together they work perfectly. The chemistry between the two is red hot, creating amazing sexual tension amid the chaos of the cases they are trying to solve. They heat up the pages in some scenes in a wonderfully steamy way. The supernatural side of both Emma and Zack is a vital component to the story and is extremely well done. The world they live in is based on ancient myths in part, but is also enhanced by the imagination of the authors. They add their own flavor to the myths that I found delightful.

The story is told through Emma’s eyes, which was fine, but I found the tense the authors used to be a little off-putting at first. Emma uses the present tense, not something I’ve really seen in the first person very often, if at all. The tense wasn’t enough to detract from the story, but it did take a little getting used to. The plot revolves not only around Emma and Zack, but also their pasts and the current cases they are working on. These are all blended beautifully so that nothing gets pushed aside or lost. There are a few secondary characters of note. Emma’s friend Liz, who is privy to her secret, is a fun character, but the Goddess Demeter tends to steal the scenes when she shows up in all her angry glory. The mystery kept me sufficiently intrigued throughout the book and had a satisfying ending. There are a few surprises that add to the complexity of not only the plot of this book, but also to the world in which it takes place, and while the missing persons cases are solved, the fate of Emma and Zack is left up in that air. This means there will be more to come from this writing duo and I am very interested to see where they take the characters in Reckoning (Book 2) and how far they go with this new supernatural world they have created.

Friday, January 30, 2015

2015 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Devil's Detective by Simon Kurt Unsworth

The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2015 Debut Author Challenge.

Simon Kurt Unsworth

The Devil's Detective
Doubleday, March 3, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

Debut novelist Simon Kurt Unsworth sends the detective novel to Hell. In The Devil's Detective, a sea change is coming to Hell . . . and a man named Thomas Fool is caught in the middle.

Thomas Fool is an Information Man, an investigator tasked with cataloging and filing reports on the endless stream of violence and brutality that flows through Hell. His job holds no reward or satisfaction, because Hell has rules but no justice. Each new crime is stamped "Do Not Investigate" and dutifully filed away in the depths of the Bureaucracy. But when an important political delegation arrives and a human is found murdered in a horrific manner—extravagant even by Hell's standards—everything changes. The murders escalate, and their severity points to the kind of killer not seen for many generations. Something is challenging the rules and order of Hell, so the Bureaucracy sends Fool to identify and track down the killer. . . . But how do you investigate murder in a place where death is common currency? Or when your main suspect pool is a legion of demons? With no memory of his past and only an irresistible need for justice, Fool will piece together clues and follow a trail that leads directly into the heart of a dark and chaotic conspiracy. A revolution is brewing in Hell . . . and nothing is what it seems.

The Devil's Detective is an audacious, highly suspenseful thriller set against a nightmarish and wildly vivid world. Simon Kurt Unsworth has created a phantasmagoric thrill ride filled with stunning set pieces and characters that spring from our deepest nightmares. It will have readers of both thrillers and horror hanging on by their fingernails until the final word. In Hell, hope is your worst enemy.

Review: Echo 8 by Sharon Lynn Fisher

Echo 8
Author:  Sharon Lynn Fisher
Publisher:  Tor Book, February 3, 2015
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 288 pages
List Price:  $15.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780765376374 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Echo 8: a thrilling new science fiction romance from Sharon Lynn Fisher, the author of Ghost Planet and The Ophelia Prophecy.

Three lives.
Two worlds.
Once chance to save it all.

Tess is a parapsychologist, devoting her life to studying paranormal and psychic phenomenon. But when doppelgangers begin appearing from a parallel world, all her training couldn’t prepare her for what is to come.

Jake appeared from another Earth, shocked and angry, and restrained by government investigators for study. But when he unwittingly steals energy from Tess, it causes a ripple effect across two worlds.

Ross is an FBI agent, ordered to protect Tess as she conducts her research into this dangerous phenomenon. His assignment was not random—he and Tess have a history. And when those feelings resurface, Ross will have to choose between his love for Tess, and his duty to protect his world.

Stacey's Thoughts

Set in the not-too-distant future, this story gives a new spin on ghosts, teleporting, and love triangles. Something strange has been happening in 2018. All over the world, “Echoes” have been appearing. An Echo is a soul from another Earth that aren’t solid humans anymore and are hungry. The Echoes find a person, “feed” and sometimes take too much energy from their donor…so much that the donor dies.

Our heroine, Tess, is a parapsychologist (she studies paranormal and psychic phenomenon) and is now the only living person that has the training and education to help the Echoes before all their energy dissipates and they die a second time. Ross is a FBI Special Agent assigned to protect Tess from any Echoes and most importantly from Tess risking her own life. The Echoes have been documented and tracked...this story opens up with “Echo 8,” known on his world as Jake Parker. Tess is the first person Jake comes in contact with and somehow, he doesn’t kill her. Could it be possible that Echoes don’t have to be exterminated on site anymore?

This book is a fast-paced adventure that I devoured. Fisher’s writing is suspenseful, hypnotic, and action-packed. Tess, Ross, and Jake all have with their own problems, insecurities, and painful moments that resurface due to the interactions with each other. Each character works through their problems in their own flawed and (sometimes) lovable way. The story hops between Tess and Ross’s more modern world to Jake’s post-apocalyptic world and back again. But not only do Tess and Ross have to worry about keeping Jake “fed”, they have to protect him from the FBI and the private business that Tess works for who are interested in using the Echoes as future assassins. Tess wants to fight for their rights and right to choose their own (after)life.

This was an exciting read, full of science, action, and new love. The relationships the characters form throughout the book explore trust and fear, hope and betrayal, justice and safety. The characters were interesting and unpredictable and I loved the idea of another Earth. I also laughed out loud several times, which endears me to the author immensely. I look forward to Fisher’s next novel.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

What's Up for the Debut Author Challenge Authors in 2015? - Part 19

This is the nineteenth in a series of updates about formerly featured Debut Author Challenge authors and their upcoming 2015 books. This update covers some of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge authors as well as 2 additional DAC authors from 2012 and 2013. Look for an additional series of updates in late June/early July 2015.

See Part 1 here
See Part 1.5 here
See Part 2 here
See Part 3 here
See Part 4 here
See Part 5 here
See Part 6 here
See Part 7 here
See Part 8 here
See Part 9 here
See Part 10 here
See Part 11 here
See Part 12 here
See Part 13 here
See Part 14 here
See Part 15 here
See Part 16 here
See Part 17 here
See Part 18 here

Thomas Sweterlitsch

Tomorrow and Tomorrow
Berkley, May 5, 2015
Trade Paperback, 368 pages
Previously published in Hardcoer and eBook, July 2014

“A wild mash-up of Raymond Chandler, Philip K. Dick, and William S. Burroughs” (Stewart O’Nan, author of The Odds), the near-future thriller Tomorrow and Tomorrow is an insightful exploration of humanity’s relationship with evolving virtual environments and an accurate portrayal of how the technology that was developed to connect people inevitably isolates them…

Pittsburgh is John Dominic Blaxton’s home even though the city has been uninhabitable ruin and ash for the past decade. The Pittsburgh Dominic lives in is the Archive, an immersive virtual reconstruction of the city’s buildings, parks, and landmarks, as well as the people who once lived there. Including Dominic’s wife and unborn child.

When he’s not reliving every recorded moment with his wife in an endless cycle of desperation and despair, Dominic investigates mysterious deaths preserved in the Archive before Pittsburgh’s destruction. His latest cold case is the apparent murder of a woman whose every appearance is deliberately being deleted from the Archive.

Obsessed with uncovering this woman’s identity and what happened to her, Dominic follows a trail from the virtual world into reality. But finding the truth buried deep within an illusion means risking his sanity and his very existence…

Arianne 'Tex' Thompson

Medicine for the Dead
Children of the Drought 2
Solaris, March 31, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

The story of Appaloosa Elim continues.
Two years ago, the crow-god Marhuk sent his grandson to Sixes.
Two nights ago, a stranger picked up his gun and shot him.
Two hours ago, the funeral party set out for the holy city of Atali'Krah, braving the wastelands to bring home the body of Dulei Marhuk.

Out in the wastes, one more corpse should hardly make a difference. But the blighted landscape has been ravaged by drought, twisted by violence, and warped by magic - and no-one is immune. Vuchak struggles to keep the party safe from monsters, marauders, and his own troubled mind. Weisei is being eaten alive by a strange illness. And fearful, guilt-wracked Elim hopes he's only imagining the sounds coming from Dulei's coffin.

As their supplies dwindle and tensions mount, the desert exacts a terrible price from its pilgrims - one that will be paid with the blood of the living, and the peace of the dead.

Angus Watson

Clash of Iron
Iron Age 2
Orbit, April 14, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 560 pages

The second book in Angus Watson's epic Iron Age fantasy trilogy.


Iron Age warriors Dug and Lowa captured Maidun castle and freed its slaves. But now they must defend it.

A Roman invasion is coming from Gaul, but rather than uniting to defend their home, the British tribes go to battle with each other -- and see Maidun as an easy target.

Meanwhile, Lowa's spies infiltrate Gaul, discovering the Romans have recruited British druids. And Maidunite Ragnall finds his loyalties torn when he meets Rome's charismatic general, Julius Caesar.

War is coming. Who will pay its price?

Ramona Wheeler

Three Princes
Tor Books, January 20, 2015
Trade Paperback, 352 pages
Previously published in Hardcover and eBook, February 2014

Lord Scott Oken, a prince of Albion, and Professor-Prince Mikel Mabruke live in a world where the sun never set on the Egyptian Empire. In the year 1877 of Our Lord Julius Caesar, Pharaoh Djoser-George governs a sprawling realm that spans Europe, Africa, and much of Asia. When the European terrorist Otto von Bismarck touches off an international conspiracy, Scott and Mik are charged with exposing the plot against the Empire.

Their adventure takes them from the sands of Memphis to a lush New World, home of the Incan Tawantinsuyu, a rival empire across the glittering Atlantic Ocean. Encompassing Quetzal airships, operas, blood sacrifice and high diplomacy, Ramona Wheeler's Three Princes is a richly imagined, cinematic vision of a modern Egyptian Empire.

Additional Updates

2012 Debut Author Challenge Author

Benedict Jacka

Alex Verus 6
Ace, August 4, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

National bestselling author Benedict Jacka returns to the world of Alex Verus…

I thought I’d escaped my past. But my old master is back and making a new play for power. And he’s not the only one targeting me…

Diviner Alex Verus and the Council that governs the magical community have never gotten along. But with his former teacher back in Britain, Alex is in desperate need of allies, and he’ll do whatever it takes to get them—even if it means accepting a job with the Keepers, enforcing magical law.

Alex forms an uneasy alliance with his new partner, Caldera, but his attempt at legitimacy quickly turns lethal when a mission puts him in possession of an item that factions both inside and outside of the Council would kill to get their hands on.

Once again caught in the middle of a deadly conflict, Alex will need all his abilities to figure out who his friends are—especially when enemies are hiding on all sides…

2013 Debut Author Challenge Author

Samantha Shannon

The Mime Order
The Bone Season 2
Bloomsbury USA, January 27, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 528 pages

Paige Mahoney has escaped the brutal penal colony of Sheol I, but her problems have only just begun: many of the fugitives are still missing and she is the most wanted person in London.

As Scion turns its all-seeing eye on Paige, the mime-lords and mime-queens of the city’s gangs are invited to a rare meeting of the Unnatural Assembly. Jaxon Hall and his Seven Seals prepare to take center stage, but there are bitter fault lines running through the clairvoyant community and dark secrets around every corner.

Then the Rephaim begin crawling out from the shadows. But where is Warden? Paige must keep moving, from Seven Dials to Grub Street to the secret catacombs of Camden, until the fate of the underworld can be decided. Will Paige know who to trust? The hunt for the dreamwalker is on.

2015 Debut Author Challenge Update - Impulse by Dave Bara

The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2015 Debut Author Challenge.

Dave Bara

The Lightship Chronicles 1
DAW, February 3, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

Lieutenant Peter Cochrane of the Quantar Royal Navy believes he has his future clearly mapped out. It begins with his new assignment as an officer on Her Majesty’s Spaceship Starbound, a Lightship bound for deep space voyages of exploration.

But everything changes when Peter is summoned to the office of his father, Grand Admiral Nathan Cochrane, and given devastating news: the death of a loved one. In a distant solar system, a mysterious and unprovoked attack upon Lightship Impulse resulted in the deaths of Peter’s former girlfriend and many of her shipmates.

Now Peter’s plans are torn asunder as he is transferred to a Unified Space Navy ship under foreign command, en route to an unexpected destination, and surrounded almost entirely by strangers. To top it off, his superiors have given him secret orders that might force him to become a mutineer.

The crisis at hand becomes a gateway to something much more when the ship’s Historian leads Peter and his shipmates into a galaxy of the unknown — of ancient technologies, age-old rivalries, new cultures, and unexpected romance. It’s an overwhelming responsibility for Peter, and one false step could plunge humanity into an apocalyptic interstellar war….

Review: The Dagger's Path by Glenda Larke

The Dagger's Path
Author:  Glenda Larke
Series:  The Forsaken Lands 2
Publisher:  Orbit, January 13, 2015
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 464 pages
List Price:  $16.00 (print)
ISBN:  9780316399685 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher


When sailors came to Ardhi's homeland, they plundered not only its riches, but its magic too. Now disgraced islander Ardhi must retrieve what was stolen, but there are ruthless men after this power, men who will do anything to possess it...

Sorcerers, pirates, and thieves collide in this thrilling sequel to Glenda Larke's epic fantasy adventure, The Lascar's Dagger.
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Book Depository : Books-A-Million : IndieBound

Brannigan's Review

Last year's The Lascar's Dagger was my favorite fantasy book of 2014, so, I'll be honest, I had some pretty high hopes for the second book. Thankfully, The Dagger's Path delivers. It progresses the overall plot of the series, keeps you invested in the characters and introduces new struggles.

Glenda Larke shows great skill at creating engaging characters and perfectly timing their entrance. In the first book, I assumed that Saker Rampion was the protagonist of the series and wondered why Larke spent so much time with Ardhi and Sorrel Redwing. But after reading the second book, I'm convinced this series is more of an ensemble cast of protagonists with seven key players with vital roles that will probably follow into the third book of the series. Despite the large group with varying storylines, I never felt disconnected from them, even when each story was several chapters apart.

At the end of the first book, we left off with Saker, Sorrel and Ardhi on a ship sailing south to the Va-Forsaken Lands. In the second book, we see them struggle to return the golden feathers safely home, while in the Kingdom of Ardrone, Gerelda Brantheld and Peregrine, a 12-year-old boy, are on a mission to discover how the Pitch-men are connected to the Horned Death and Prime Fox. Prince Ryce attempts to free his father from Prime Fox's influence. In the Regality of Lowmeer, Regala Mathilda plots to save her infant son from inheriting his father's family curse.

By spreading her characters out in three different parts of the world, Larke is able to create a fully fleshed-out world. The world continues to grow as we spend time traveling to different locations. We learn more about Ardhi's island home, Chenderawasi, and its unique race; we explore the different factions of the religion of Va and A'Va and their role in the upcoming chaos; and we delve into the character of Prime Fox, his sorcery, and what it might mean for the world at large.

I want to talk for a moment about Larke's pacing and how it differs from traditional fantasy stories. In most cases if an author needs to quicken the pace, we see our heroes battle a monster or some other fast-burning event that makes you rush through the pages. This series is more of a slow burn. It doesn't feel slow while reading it, but there aren't as many battles or monumental events. Instead, Larke creates character struggles that draw you in and your desire to see them resolved makes you continue to read even after you tell yourself you're going to stop for the night.

I'm not saying there aren't battles and action in the book, but I think it's fair to say it's not to the same degree as what most fantasy readers expect. Being a reader that loves a lot of action and battles, I have to say I found just as much enjoyment in this book. So, for any of you who prefer to stick with the ax-wielding dwarves and master swordsmen, give this book a chance.

The Dagger's Path is a wonderful second book in one of the best new series I've read in a while. Larke has created unforgettable characters and an enticing story. The violence is minimal as well as the use of adult language and sexual situations. I would recommend it to older young adults and adults. I'd also recommend it to anyone who likes a page-turner with well-developed characters.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

2015 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Diabolical Miss Hyde by Viola Carr

The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2015 Debut Author Challenge.

Viola Carr

The Diabolical Miss Hyde
Electric Empire 1
Harper Voyager, February 10, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 464 pages

Forensic science, magic, mystery, and romance mix in this edgy steampunk fantasy—a retelling of the horror classic, in which Dr. Eliza Jekyll, daughter of the infamous Dr. Henry Jekyll—pursues a dangerous murderer in an alternate Victorian London.

In an electrified Victorian London, Dr. Eliza Jekyll is a crime scene investigator, hunting killers with newfangled technological gadgets. She will need every advantage available to catch a terrifying new psychopath splattering London with blood. Hidden in the grimy shadows, the fiendish murderer preys on beautiful women, drugging them before slicing off their limbs. Finding the “Slicer” can make Eliza’s career . . . or unmask her darkest secret. Like her father, she has a hidden second self that emerges when she drinks his forbidden magical elixir. Just a few sips, and a seductive and impulsive Lizzie Hyde is unleashed.

The members of the Royal Society do not trust Eliza, and they send their enforcer, the mercurial Captain Lafayette, to prove she’s a dangerous sorceress. The careful doctor knows that one wrong step can make her prey to the clever Lafayette, a man who harbors an evil curse of his own. No matter how much she craves the elixir, she must resist.

But as the Slicer case draws her into London’s luminous magical underworld, Eliza will need the potion’s power to help her . . . even if it might attract the attentions of Lafayette. .

Even if it means setting the wild Lizzie free. . . .

What's Up for the Debut Author Challenge Authors in 2015? - Part 18

This is the eighteenth in a series of updates about formerly featured Debut Author Challenge authors and their upcoming 2015 books. This update covers some of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge authors. What's Up for the Debut Author Challenge Authors in 2015? - Part 19 will cover additional 2014 DAC authors and additional DAC Authors.

See Part 1 here
See Part 1.5 here
See Part 2 here
See Part 3 here
See Part 4 here
See Part 5 here
See Part 6 here
See Part 7 here
See Part 8 here
See Part 9 here
See Part 10 here
See Part 11 here
See Part 12 here
See Part 13 here
See Part 14 here
See Part 15 here
See Part 16 here
See Part 17 here

Jamie Schultz

Arcane Underworld 2
Roc, July 7, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

The author of Premonitions continues his Arcane Underworld saga…

Anna Ruiz is on a mission: Help her friend and partner-in-crime Karyn Ames break free of the tangle of hallucinations and premonitions that have cut her off from reality. With the aid of her crew—ex-soldier Nail and sorcerer Genevieve—she’ll do whatever it takes to get Karyn help, even if it means tracking down every lowlife informant and back alley magic practitioner in the occult underworld of Los Angeles.

But since a magical heist went to hell, the crew has been working for crimelord and doomed magus Enoch Sobell. Between fighting Sobell’s battles with some seriously scary demonic forces and tangling with a group of violent fanatics who want to manipulate Karyn’s abilities for their own gains, Anna, Nail, and Genevieve are beginning to realize they’re in way over their heads.
And now that Karyn’s secret about seeing the future is out, even more unpleasant parties—human and otherwise—are about to come knocking…

Mark Smylie

Black Heart
The Barrow 2
Pyr, August 4, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 800 pages

The last survivors of the raid on the Barrow of Azharad have scattered to the four winds, each walking a separate path. For some, it is the path of noble service, as the households of great kings and warlords beckon, offering a chance to enter the fray of politics with the fate of nations on the line. For others, it is the path of secrets and magic, as the veil of the world parts to reveal the hidden truths that dwell in shadow and spirit.

And for Stjepan Black-Heart, royal cartographer and suspected murderer, it is the path of battle and sacrifice, as he is summoned to attend the household of the Grand Duke Owen Lis Red, the Earl Marshal to the High King of the Middle Kingdoms, on his latest campaign to find and kill Porloss, the Rebel Earl: an elusive quarry lurking behind an army of ruthless renegade knights in the wild hills of the Manon Mole, a land where every step could be your last, and where lie secrets best left undisturbed.

Brian Staveley

The Providence of Fire
Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 2
Tor Books, January 13, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 608 pages

The conspiracy to destroy the ruling family of the Annurian Empire is far from over.

Having learned the identity of her father's assassin, Adare flees the Dawn Palace is search of allies to challenge the coup against her family. Few trust her, but when she is believed to be touched by Intarra, patron goddess of the empire, people rally to help her retake the capital city. As armies prepare to clash, the threat of invasion from barbarian hordes compels the rival forces to unite against their common enemy.

Unknown to Adare, her brother Valyn, renegade member of the empire's most elite fighting force, has allied with the invading nomads. The terrible choices each of them has made may make war between them inevitable.

Between Valyn and Adare is their brother Kaden, rightful heir to the Unhewn Throne, who has infiltrated the Annurian capital with the help of two strange companions. The knowledge they possess of the secret history that shapes these events could save Annur or destroy it.

Adam Sternbergh

Near Enemy
Spademan 2
Crown, January 13, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

The Taut, Unflinching New Thriller from Adam Sternbergh, Author of the Critically-Acclaimed Shovel Ready
New York is toxic—decimated by a dirty bomb years ago.  The limnosphere is a virtual safe haven—if you’re rich enough to buy in.  Spademan is a hit man—box-cutter at the ready.

His latest job is to snuff out Lesser, a lowlife lurking around other people’s fantasies.  As Spademan is about to close the deal, Lesser comes back from the limn with a wild claim: terrorists are planning to attack New York. Again. This time from the inside out.

The warning sends Spademan down a dark path full of unsavory characters and startling revelations.  A shadowy political fixer tells him of a long-running power struggle that goes all the way to City Hall.  A brilliant Egyptian radical brings Spademan to the mysterious far-reaches of the limn.  And a beautiful nurse holds the secret to what, and who, is behind these attacks—and she seems to want to help Spademan stop them.  But he works best alone.  Or so he thinks.

Spademan has always had his share of enemies, but now they’re coming at him from all sides and it’s impossible to know whom to trust.  To stay sharp, his only option might be the one thing he swore he’d never do again.

Karina Sumner-Smith

Towers Trilogy 2
Talos, May 5, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Once, Xhea’s wants were simple: enough to eat, safety in the underground, and the hit of bright payment to transform her gray-cast world into color. But in the aftermath of her rescue of the Radiant ghost Shai, she realizes the life she had known is gone forever.

In the two months since her fall from the City, Xhea has hidden in skyscraper Edren, sheltered and attempting to heal. But soon even she must face the troubling truth that she might never walk again. Shai, ever faithful, has stayed by her side?but the ghost’s very presence has sent untold fortunes into Edren’s coffers and dangerously unbalanced the Lower City’s political balance.

War is brewing. Beyond Edren’s walls, the other skyscrapers have heard tell of the Radiant ghost and the power she holds; rumors, too, speak of the girl who sees ghosts who might be the key to controlling that power. Soon, assassins stalk the skyscrapers’ darkened corridors while armies gather in the streets. But Shai’s magic is not the only prize?nor the only power that could change everything. At last, Xhea begins to learn of her strange dark magic, and why even whispers of its presence are enough to make the Lower City elite tremble in fear.

Together, Xhea and Shai may have the power to stop a war?or become a weapon great enough to bring the City to its knees. That is, if the magic doesn't destroy them first.

Interview with Hilary Scharper, author of Perdita - January 28, 2015

Please welcome Hilary Scharper to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Perdita was published on January 20th by Sourcebooks Landmark.

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

Hilary:  For many years—and like many people it seems—I dreamed about becoming a writer, especially a writer of fiction. Then I hit the age of 40—big shock! I hadn’t (magically) become a writer! And more, I hadn’t really even started the novel I’d always wanted to write. So I went off and began to think about why I hadn’t written “my novel.” Of course I’d been doing other things (namely being a mother, a wife, becoming a university professor), but I tried very hard not to “beat myself up” with accusations of laziness, distraction, procrastination, etc. As result, I realized that there was a dynamic at work in my life—something I called the clearing-the-decks syndrome.

The clearing-the-decks syndrome came from the belief that I had to get everything else done, organized and set BEFORE I could start writing fiction. But the problem was I hardly ever had any moments in my life that resembled a clear deck. (And if I did have them, I usually used quiet moments for reading and enjoying a novel!)

I think that once I realized that a novel was going to have to come out of the “weather” of my life and not clear decks, I discovered a sense of direction and purpose...and just started writing.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Hilary:  I guess I am a bit of both.

I feel that a story is somewhere between my imagination and…something else. (In fact, in my Acknowledgements for Perdita I thank Georgian Bay as a co-author.) To be in that imaginative, co-creative space of the story, I need to be a bit of a “pantser.”

On the other hand, I’ve have to plan, craft and carefully think through things like plot and character development. Even when there are “loose ends” they must be parts of the story that are “skillfully” left open. This definitely requires a “plotter.”

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

Hilary:  Finding time to write!

I’ve since talked to other writers about this dynamic: of trying to establish creative time out of the bits and prices of our lives that are somehow seen as “leftovers,” i.e., as time we have after we’ve done everything else. The thing I discovered was to stop thinking about fiction writing in terms of “left-overs.” Once I took it as a serious and central part of my life, I began to find the time for it.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Hilary:  My reading interests are very wide, but I have a special place in my heart for late 19th century literary classics. At the moment I am exploring “the gothic” and going back into the mid to late 1700s to explore how nature was depicted in some of the earliest gothic novels (Castle of Otranto, The Romance of the Forest, Zofloya, etc.). It’s been fascinating and I’ve been struck by how many women writers turned to the gothic to both critique and confound the rigid social codes of their lives. The gothic genre still does this for us….

TQ:  Describe Perdita in 140 characters or less.

Hilary:  Marged Brice is 134 years old. She’s ready to go if it weren’t for a mysterious presence she calls Perdita. Garth Heller of the Longevity Project doesn’t believe Marged, but reading her diaries from the 1890s might just change his mind.

TQ:  Tell us something about Perdita that is not in the book description.

Hilary:  There were many sources of inspiration for Perdita: Greek mythology, Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, my own interest in aging and longevity, to name a few. One important source, however, was an old photograph. It was of the lighthouse where I was staying for a summer vacation, but taken over 100 years earlier.

Cabot Head Lighthouse, northern Ontario, Canada, c. 1900.

From the very first, I found myself drawn to the young woman standing in the doorway looking out across the landscape and contemplating the remoteness of her location. Somehow I felt as if I could hear her thoughts. Yet it seemed to me that the wind was pulling at her skirts, inviting her to step out into the wild beauty of her “home.” As I wondered what the woman in the photograph did…step outside or go back inside?…the story of Perdita came to me.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Perdita? Perdita has been described as eco-gothic. What is eco-gothic?

Hilary:  The "Eco-Gothic" is a term that my husband came up with after reading a draft of my novel. At the time, he was being a little tongue-in-cheek, but as we both thought about it, we grew to like the term more and more. Soon I began to think about it quite seriously.

The “eco” in my work is distinctive in that it builds on the Gothic’s depiction of Nature as more than a backdrop for plot or character. Rather, Eco-Gothic Nature is a living, acting, creating, and unfolding “other.” It is a Nature that is alive, unpredictable, and certainly capable of influencing events.

More on the eco-gothic:

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Perdita?

Hilary:  I had to do research in many different areas for Perdita.

First and foremost were lighthouses and Great Lakes shipping, shipwrecks and nautical lore. Much of this was done at the Cabot Head lighthouse where I was staying as an assistant lighthouse-keeper with my husband and young son.

Perdita also has a long section that takes place in Toronto at the turn of the last century. I did quite a bit of research for this, particularly by looking at maps and archival images in order to get a better feel for what it would be like to not only live in, but also move around a 19th century city.

Lastly there was research on mythology and then longevity. The first took me deep into Homer, Hesiod and Greek philosophical lexicons, and the latter into scientific research on aging.

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

Hilary:  An interesting question! I’m not sure how to answer this. Marged Brice came very easily to me because she was the first character to arrive and defined the story. Garth Hellyer certainly had his moments of challenge because I wanted to keep him reserved and cautious in contrast to Marged.

TQ:  Which question about your novel do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Hilary:  What does Perdita mean?

Perdita is Latin for “the lost one.” In my novel, Perdita is a mythological figure—the lost child—and she also represents the possibility of “being found.”

I drew on both Greek mythology and Shakespeare to develop her character. In Shakespeare’s play, The Winter’s Tale, for example, Perdita is a child who is “lost” owing to the blind and cruel jealousy of her father. Yet she is also “found” through loving acts of rescue, forgiveness and ultimately self-realization. In order to lose and find “a Perdita,” then, one must first become aware of who or what is lost (including the possibility of being lost yourself).

Ultimately this is the problem for my character, Garth Hellyer. He is a jaded professor and a longevity researcher and he’s convinced that it’s the 134-year-old Marged Brice who is the “lost one.” Marged, however, has her own views and thinks that Garth is really the “lost one”—to himself and to the possibilities of love in his life. This is why Marged insists that Garth stick with the question he asks her at their first meeting: who is Perdita? It is also a central question for the reader.

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Perdita.


“Yes. But I want to know—and you must tell me. What would your trees say about you?” she demanded. “Would your trees tell me to trust you?”

“Their words tested each other in a way that intrigued me: each man with his own hammer striking the other’s surface with skill and listening for the true ring of steel. At times they did it with seriousness and at others with humor, but I felt them drawing out that deep sound from one another…the sound of a good man.”

TQ:  What's next?

Hilary:  I have a second novel finished (titled “Immanence”) and I am also working on sequel to “Perdita” (tentatively titled “Lonely Island.”) In the second volume, Marged Brice journeys to a lighthouse on a remote island and is asked to assist in the care of an ill and bed-ridden light-keepers’s wife.

George, Andrew Reid, Tad, Allan and Dr. McTavish all reappear in the story, and there are some new characters in the form of (possibly) unsavory passengers rescued during a dramatic shipwreck….

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Hilary:  Many thanks to you—it was a pleasure to answer these engaging questions!

Sourcebooks Landmark, January 20, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

Marged Brice is 134 years old.
She’d be ready to go, if it wasn’t for Perdita . . .

The Georgian Bay lighthouse’s single eye keeps watch over storm and calm, and Marged grew up in its shadow, learning the language of the wind and the trees. There’s blustery beauty there, where sea and sky incite each other to mischief… or worse…

Garth Hellyer of the Longevity Project doesn’t believe Marged was a girl coming of age in the 1890s, but reading her diaries in the same wild and unpredictable location where she wrote them might be enough to cast doubt on his common sense.

Everyone knows about death.
It’s life that’s much more mysterious…

About Hilary

I am a Canadian author, living in Toronto. My husband and I have spent over a decade as assistant lighthouse-keepers and stewards at the Cabot Head Lighthouse and Bird Observatory, located on the northern Bruce Peninsula in Ontario, Canada. My major published works of fiction include a novel, Perdita (which draws on my experiences at Cabot Head), and a short story collection, Dream Dresses. I am also an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto.

Website  ~  Twitter @HilaryScharper