Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review: Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig

Star Wars: Aftermath
Series:  Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Author:  Chuck Wendig
Publisher:  LucasBooks, September 4, 2015
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages
List Price:  $28.00 (print); $13.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780345511621 (print); 9780804177665 (eBook)
Review Copy: Reviewer's Own

The second Death Star has been destroyed, the Emperor killed, and Darth Vader struck down. Devastating blows against the Empire, and major victories for the Rebel Alliance. But the battle for freedom is far from over.

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.

Trinitytwo's Point of View

Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig blasts into a galaxy near you by reintroducing an old friend from the original trilogy, Captain Wedge Antilles. Members of the Galactic Empire are scrambling after the destruction of the Death Star and the deaths of the Emperor and Darth Vader. As the New Republic works to eradicate the Empire's iron grip planet by planet, Wedge feels compelled to scout the Outer Rim for Imperial strongholds. Above the planet Akiva, he stumbles upon a covert meeting of high level Imperial personnel and is able to send a local distress call before being taken prisoner. The call is received by returning war hero, native Norra Wexley, who has just reunited with her teenage son Temmin after spending three years off-planet, fighting for the rebel alliance. The fortunes of Norra and Temmin become intertwined with those of bounty hunter Jas Emari and ex-Imperial officer Sinjir Rath Velus. They form an unlikely team as they try to avoid capture, free Wedge, and thwart the Imperial's plans.

I've loved all things Star Wars since I saw the first movie back in the summer of '77. I think it's pertinent to note that I've read many of the books that comprise the Star Wars Expanded Universe and became invested in many of those characters. That being said, the fact that Disney has opted to go in a different direction made no difference to my enjoyment of this book. I was completely caught up as each event unfolded and was rooting for the story's unconventional set of heroes from the get-go. I usually despise Imperials, but I surprised myself by choosing the ex-Imperial as my favorite character. Sinjir plans on drinking himself into oblivion, but being in the wrong place at the wrong time changes everything. His quick wit and snide mannerisms completely won me over. I felt less empathy for Norra and her son, Temmin. I suppose I am worn out by angsty teens with chips on their shoulders and their guilt-ridden parents, but luckily Temmin and his mom turned out to be much more than that. Temmin's a survivor and a brilliant tech wizard. His reworked battle droid, Mister Bones, instantly earned a spot on my "favorite droid ever" list. Norra is brave and courageous in the face of everything that is thrown at her and if she sometimes seems just a bit too brave and too courageous, well, I can overlook that. Rounding out the roster is Jas Emari, the Zabrak bounty hunter whose unique code of ethics makes her strangely appealing. It's a nice change of pace to have such a well-rounded cast of characters.

I also enjoyed the glimpses into the crumbling world of the loyal Imperials. Their squabbling, power plays, and self-serving attitudes seemed on point. Wendig does a great job of fleshing out their motivations which allows the reader insight into perspectives rarely revealed.

My only peeve; Wendig's writing style of repeating short sentence sequences would from time to time distract me from the story.

Aftermath is everything the Star Wars universe deserves: an exhilarating, epic adventure that introduces new characters and reintroduces some old friends. It sets the stage for the highly anticipated movie, The Force Awakens, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to lovers of the Star Wars saga of any age.

Review: William Shakespeare’s The Clone Army Attacketh and William Shakespeare’s Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge by Ian Doescher

William Shakespeare’s The Clone Army Attacketh
     Star Wars Part the Second
Author:  Ian Doescher
Publisher:  Quirk Books, July 7, 2015
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 176 pages
List Price:  $14.95 (print and eBook)
ISBN:  9781594748073 (print); 9781594748202 (eBook)
Review Copy: Provided by the Publisher

In time so long ago begins our play,
In clash-strewn galaxy far, far away.

To Shmi or not to Shmi? Torn between duty to the Jedi, attraction to Padmé, and concern for his beloved mother, yeoman Jedi Anakin Skywalker struggles to be master of his fate. The path he chooses will determine not just his own destiny, but that of the entire Republic. And thereby hangs a tale.

Alack the day! A noble lady in danger. A knight and squire in battle. And a forbidden love that’s written in the stars. Once again, the quill of William Shakespeare meets the galaxy of George Lucas in an insightful reimagining that sets the Star Wars saga on the Elizabethan stage. The characters are familiar, but the masterful meter, insightful soliloquies, and period illustrations will convince you that the Bard himself penned this epic adventure.

Trinitytwo's Point of View

Prerequisite reading: William Shakespeare's The Phantom of Menace (review)

In a galaxy far, far away, Padawan learner, Anakin Skywalker plays the part of Romeo to the fair Senator Padmé Amidala's Juliet. Their forbidden love slowly blossoms amid assassination attempts and ill-fated rescue missions. Obi-Wan Kenobi is sent to the mysterious planet of Kamino where he discovers an army of clones commissioned by the Jedi and encounters Jango and Boba Fett. William Shakespeare's The Clone Army Attacketh is the second installment in the Star Wars prequel trilogy.

At this point in my review, I think I should insert a personal disclaimer: I love all things Star Wars with the exception of the prequels. However, author Ian Doescher does a fantastic job of making me rethink my stance. I have never been a fan of the romance between Anakin and Padmé and that hasn't changed. Yet, I did enjoy Doescher's spin; painting the tragic couple as Romeo and Juliet actually gave their love scenes a sense of grandeur and sacrifice that I felt was missing from the film version. Doescher adds new material in the form of asides and soliloquies that readers should pay special attention to as they never fail to delight. In my opinion, the coolest part of the book was Yoda's kick ass battle scene with Count Dooku. Although the results are the same, it adds so much to the sequence to be allowed the insight of both combatants' thoughts.

With still a few months left in 2015, I am voting The Clone Army Attacketh's cover as my favorite of the year. Nicholas Delort's delightful artwork featuring the nefarious Jango Fett is absolutely stunning.

William Shakespeare’s Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge
     Star Wars Part the Third
Author:  Ian Doescher
Publisher:  Quirk Books, September 8, 2015
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 168 pages
List Price:  $14.95 (print and eBook)
ISBN:  9781594748080 (print); 9781594748219 (eBook)
Review Copy: Provided by the Publisher

The curtain rises once again on that star-crossed galaxy far, faraway—this time, to chronicle a once-heroic knight’s transformation into the darkest of villains. William Shakespeare’s Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge is the climactic conclusion to the fall of the house of Skywalker, a collaboration between William Shakespeare and George Lucas that’s filled with masterful meter, stirring soliloquies, inside jokes, and intricate Elizabethan illustrations. You’ll fall in love with Star Wars—and Shakespeare—all over again. At the same time!

Trinitytwo's Point of View

Grab a cold glass of blue bantha milk and snuggle up with your favorite Wookie for the thrilling conclusion to Ian Doescher's delightful, must-read series, William Shakespeare's Tragedy of the Sith's Revenge. True to its source material, it's the tale of an impressionable young Jedi corrupted by the diabolical machinations of a master Sith. Anakin Skywalker's spiral to the Dark Side of the Force by the malevolent orchestrations of the diabolical Chancellor Palpatine is heartrending. Doescher's version serves to emphasize the Sith's corrupt and violence-ridden brand of evil more than the movie ever could. Another key element to this tragic tale is that Doescher was able to poignantly articulate Padmé's and Obi-Wan's despair and loss at Anakin's transformation.

What's so great about this book and its predecessors is that the reader is allowed insight into situations and characters that can actually change perceptions, or deepen emotional attachments. Doescher's pairing of Shakespeare and Lucas continues to captivate and entertain. Tragedy of the Sith's Revenge, along with the rest of the series is seriously clever, and truly a bright star in the galaxy of mash-ups. I recommend it wholeheartedly to Star Wars fans, Shakespeare fans, educators looking for a way to hook their students, and also art lovers. Art lovers? Yes, because Nicolas Delort's illustrations and covers are amazing.

Honestly, I'm hoping that someone makes these into actual plays because I'll be the first in line screaming "Take my money!"

2015 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - September Winner

The winner of the September 2015 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars is The Machinery by Gerrard Cowan from Harper Voyager UK with 76 votes equaling 39% of all votes. The cover artist is Ben Gardiner.  You may read a guest post by Gerrard about The beginning, middle and end of planning a trilogy here and an interview here.

The Results

The September 2015 Debut Covers

Thank you to everyone who voted, Tweeted, and participated. The 2015 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars will continue with voting on the October Debut covers starting on October 15, 2015.

Review: The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young

The Gates of Evangeline
Author:  Hester Young
Series:  Charlie Cates 1
Publisher:  G.P. Putnam's Sons, September 1, 2015
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages
List Price:  $25.85 (print); $12.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780399174001 (print);  9780698190771 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

From a unique new talent comes a fast-paced debut, introducing a heroine whose dark visions bring to light secrets that will heal or destroy those around her . . .

When New York journalist and recently bereaved mother Charlotte “Charlie” Cates begins to experience vivid dreams about children she’s sure that she’s lost her mind. Yet these are not the nightmares of a grieving parent, she soon realizes. They are messages and warnings that will help Charlie and the children she sees, if only she can make sense of them.

After a little boy in a boat appears in Charlie’s dreams asking for her help, Charlie finds herself entangled in a thirty-year-old missing-child case that has never ceased to haunt Louisiana’s prestigious Deveau family. Armed with an invitation to Evangeline, the family’s sprawling estate, Charlie heads south, where new friendships and an unlikely romance bring healing. But as she uncovers long-buried secrets of love, money, betrayal, and murder, the facts begin to implicate those she most wants to trust—and her visions reveal an evil closer than she could’ve imagined.A Southern Gothic mystery debut that combines literary suspense and romance with a mystical twist, THE GATES OF EVANGELINE is a story that readers of Gillian Flynn, Kate Atkinson, and Alice Sebold won’t be able to put down.

Melanie's Thoughts

Charlie is lost in the pain of her son's tragic death and just when she starts to work up to carrying on with life she is plagued by dreams of young injured or dead children. It is not until she realises that the dreams are not just any ordinary dream but cryptic cries for help. In one dream a young boy asks for Charlie's help to save him from someone truly evil and she realises can't stay idly by. When a new jobs opens up the opportunity to investigate the decades old disappearance of a young boy Charlie jumps at the chance to solve the mystery and hopefully help the young boy from her dream in the process. The journey lands Charlie not only to the lush Louisiana estate of the Deveau family but into the arms of a hunky gardener and, more important, into a morass of secrets and lies.

The Gates of Evangeline is not your average paranormal murder mystery. It is so much more. While the investigation of the disappearance of the youngest Deveau child does take centre stage there is a lot more happening here. The relationships Charlie makes while investigating helps her realise some things about herself that she may not have otherwise. It is as much a story of self discovery as it is about the disappearance and the visions. I feel the story would have the same impact even without the paranormal elements. I also liked the romance between her and Noah, the man she meets while staying at the estate.  Her relationship with Noah wasn't overly romanticized. Young writes 'normal' people who have flaws, who smoke too much, hog the covers or snore too loudly. This lent a level of credibility to the story as Charlie and Noah were written in such a way that you could easily imagine being their friend or neighbour. The Deveau family were a bit more stereotypical and perhaps a little less well developed than other characters but I was happy with that as Charlie very much held centre stage in the story.

My word of advice before sitting this book is - get your housework done, dinner made, send the kids to their friends ...whatever it takes as this is a 'can't put down' kind of book. I was inexplicably gripped from start to finish even though I had guessed all but one of the big reveals. The story and the characters grab you in until the final page. There aren't many books that I want to stay up late to read and this is one of them. Well done to Young for this excellent debut novel. I don't know how she is going to lead Charlie into further adventures and part of me wishes this was a one off as it was so good. Fingers crossed Young is able to write an equally compelling second book. I am looking forward to it already. Put The Gates of Evangeline on your 'must read' list for 2015.

Spotlight: The Art of Language Invention by David J. Peterson

The Art of Language Invention by conlanger David J. Peterson was published on September 29th by Penguin Books. It's an deeply interesting and detailed look at the creation of language as Peterson discusses Sounds, Words, Evolution and The Written Word and makes this fascinating subject accessible. There are even Phrase Books for Dothraki, High Valyrian, and more.

The Art of Language Invention
     From Horse-Lords to Dark Elves, the Words Behind World-Building
Penguin Books, September 29, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

An insider’s tour through the construction of invented languages from the bestselling author and creator of languages for the HBO series Game of Thrones and the Syfy series Defiance

From master language creator David J. Peterson comes a creative guide to language construction for sci-fi and fantasy fans, writers, game creators, and language lovers. Peterson offers a captivating overview of language creation, covering its history from Tolkien’s creations and Klingon to today’s thriving global community of conlangers. He provides the essential tools necessary for inventing and evolving new languages, using examples from a variety of languages including his own creations, punctuated with references to everything from Star Wars to Michael Jackson. Along the way, behind-the-scenes stories lift the curtain on how he built languages like Dothraki for HBO’s Game of Thrones and Shiväisith for Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World, and an included phrasebook will start fans speaking Peterson’s constructed languages. The Art of Language Invention is an inside look at a fascinating culture and an engaging entry into a flourishing art form—and it might be the most fun you’ll ever have with linguistics.

About David

David J. Peterson began creating languages in 2000, received his MA in Linguistics from the University of California, San Diego, in 2005, and cofounded the Language Creation Society in 2007. He has created languages for HBO’s Game of Thrones, Syfy’s Defiance and Dominion, the CW’s Star-Crossed, and Thor: The Dark World. He is also the author of Living Language Dothraki.

Website  ~  Tumblr  ~ Twitter @Dedalvs

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Excerpt from Say Yes to the Death by Susan McBride!

Say Yes to the Death, the latest novel in the Debutante Dropout Mystery series by Susan McBride, is out today from Witness! Say Yes to the Death has high-society dropout Andrea Kendricks thrust back into things when her mom drags her to a fancy wedding. A wedding where, of course, somebody dies. And that's just the beginning!

Prologue, Say Yes to the Death, by Susan McBride

Millicent Draper yawned and nudged her owl-like glasses back up the bridge of her nose, leaving a smudge of ivory fondant on the tortoiseshell frames. Her plastic-gloved fingers were smeared with the stuff. Her knuckles felt stiff, and she could barely keep her eyes open. She’d worked through the night on a wedding cake for Senator Vernon Ryan’s daughter, Penny, and she hadn’t slept a wink.
        Olivia La Belle, the bride’s wedding planner, had phoned at six o’clock the night before— just as Millie was closing up shop— demanding an early delivery. “Sorry, Millie, but the ceremony’s been pushed up a wee bit,” Olivia had said in a honey-sweet twang that implied softness when Olivia was anything but.
        Four whole months was “a wee bit”? Millie thought with a groan.
        “We must have the cake by three o’clock tomorrow sharp,” Olivia had insisted, her sugared drawl turning hard. “The ceremony’s at five with a sit-down dinner reception to follow. If you don’t get this done, it will make me very unhappy. Do you understand what I’m sayin’, sugar?”
        Oh, yeah, sugar, Millie understood. Ticking off Big D’s premier event planner was a big no-no. Olivia might as well have said, “If you don’t get this done, you’re as good as dead in this town.” Ever since Olivia had done weddings for an Oscar winner and the spawn of a former president, her head had blown up as big as Texas. She’d become society’s go-to girl and, not only for Dallas royalty, but honest-to-God foreign royalty and Hollywood’s A-List. She’d even finagled her own reality TV show on a cheesy cable network and used it to promote herself and to punish those who displeased her. Anyone who dared defy The Wedding Belle risked hanging a “Going Out of Business” sign on the front door.
        Millie had seen it happen most recently to Jasper Pippin, a floral designer in Big D for decades. Fed up with Olivia’s lies and demands, he’d finally drawn a line in the sand. “She lied her tight little ass off and said the tulips I had flown in from Amsterdam for the mayor’s wife’s birthday were wilted,” Jasper had told Millie, moaning. “She threatened a drubbing on her TV show if I didn’t eat the cost. I’m going to lose my shirt if she keeps pulling these dirty tricks.”
        “What will you do?” Millie asked him.
        Jasper had drawn in a deep breath and said, “I’m going to let her have it. I am not going to give in.”
        So the always civil Jasper had finally squared his thin shoulders and stood up to Olivia, sure that other vendors who’d been jerked around would follow suit. Only no one dared, and Olivia had bad-mouthed him on her reality show. His orders dried up one by one until Jasper had to shutter his doors, claiming early retirement, though Millie knew better. He’d withdrawn, refusing to return her calls. She had no clue what he was up to, but she knew he wouldn’t give up so easily. Millie hoped he would rise like the phoenix and stick it to Olivia somehow.
        That evil woman had her French-manicured fingers in so many pies around Dallas that everyone who worked with her was scared to death. Even Olivia’s current assistant seemed skittish, and with good reason since the job seemed to involve a revolving door. The gangly twenty-something, Terra, followed her everywhere, taking notes. She never seemed to say anything but “Yes, Olivia” and “Of course, Olivia,” like a well-trained parrot.
        Millie wished she’d had the gumption to tell Olivia that she could take this impossible cake deadline and stuff it, but she couldn’t risk losing everything she’d worked so hard for. She’d started Millie’s Cakes in her own kitchen thirty-five years ago and had built her impressive client list from scratch. She wasn’t ready to give it all up because she’d ticked off the very fickle Ms. La Belle. Unlike Jasper, she had no intention of being forced into early retirement.
Millie swallowed, glancing at the clock on the wall. With a noisy tick-tick, its hands crept toward seven.
        She only had eight hours left and still had to attach the two hundred handmade sugar orchids she’d painted a delicate shade of purple. Her feet ached from standing, and her arthritis was acting up so badly that her fingers felt like unbendable sticks. If the shop wasn’t so busy, she would have turned the whole shebang over to her staff, but they had other orders to fill, cakes that had been on the docket for months and were equally important.
        No, this monkey was squarely on her back.
        If she blew this job for Senator Ryan’s daughter, it would be on her head, no one else’s. She tried to convince herself that she couldn’t blame the bumped-up time frame entirely on Olivia. It was Penelope Ryan who was truly at fault.
        “Silly girl got herself knocked up,” Millie muttered, having heard the gossip that the bride’s belly had begun to pop and that the senator— a button-down conservative if ever there was one— wanted his daughter legally wed ASAP. He couldn’t afford to have the nineteen-year-old college sophomore he’d painted as pure as the driven snow during his campaign get photographed walking down the aisle in a maternity gown.
        “You can put her in a big white dress and marry her off but that doesn’t change anything,” Millie murmured, and she pushed at her glasses again.
Was the senator going to pull one of those “the baby came prematurely” routines when his grandchild popped out in another five months or so? People didn’t seem to have a whole lot of sense these days, but most of them could count, so long as they had enough fingers and toes.
        Ah, well, Millie mused, there would always be brides who got knocked up before their vows. There would always be disappointed fathers who wanted to pretend their darling daughters stayed virginal until their honeymoons. And there would always be bitches like Olivia La Belle behind the scenes, wielding a phone in one hand and cracking a whip with the other, either telling everyone off or telling them or telling them what to do.
        Millie sighed. “Enjoy your moment while it lasts, Queen Olivia, because it won’t be forever,” she whispered, thinking of Marie Antoinette and her date with the guillotine. “As for me, I will let them eat cake,” she added, knowing that Olivia would get her comeuppance one of these days. Women like her always did. She just hoped she’d be around when it happened. Heck, she’d pay good money for a front row seat.
        But for now Millie blinked her bleary eyes and tried to keep her hand from shaking as she delicately affixed the edible orchids to the seven-layered concoction she’d created overnight.
        She would get this damned cake done or die trying.

Excerpted from Say Yes to the Death by Susan McBride. Copyright 2015 by Susan McBride. Published by Witness, an imprint of HarperCollins. Reprinted with permission.

Say Yes to the Death
A Debutante Dropout Mystery
Witness, September 29, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Someone old, someone cruel

Debutante dropout Andrea Kendricks is beyond done with big hair, big gowns, and big egos—so being dragged to a high-society Texas wedding by her socialite mama, Cissy, gives her a bad case of déjà vu. As does running into her old prep-school bully, Olivia La Belle, the wedding planner, who's graduated to berating people for a living on her reality TV show. But for all the times Andy wished her dead, nobody deserves Olivia's fate: lying in a pool of blood, a cake knife in her throat—but did the angry baker do it?

Millicent Draper, the grandmotherly owner of Millie's Cakes, swears she's innocent, and Andy believes her. Unfortunately, the cops don't. Though Andy's fiancé, lawyer Brian Malone, is handling Millie's case, she's determined to spring Millie herself. But where to start? "La Belle from Hell" had enemies galore. Good thing Andy has a BFF who's a reporter— and a blue-blood mother who likes to pull strings.

About Susan

Photo by Sarah Crowder/Ladue News
Susan McBride is the USA Today bestselling author of Blue Blood, the first of the Debutante Dropout Mysteries. The award-winning series includes The Good Girl's Guide to Murder, The Lone Star Lonely Hearts Club, Night of the Living Deb, and Too Pretty to Die. She's also the author of The Truth About Love and Lightning, Little Black Dress, and The Cougar Club, all Target Recommended Reads. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband and daughter. Learn more at her website or on Facebook.

Interview with C.A. Higgins, author of Lightless

Please welcome C.A. Higgins to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Lightless is published on September 29th by Del Rey.

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

CAH:  I’ve written, in some form or another, for as long as I can remember, but in college I started to write more seriously. Writing to complete something, rather than just for the fun of it, gave me a sense of purpose that I found (and still find) very satisfying.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

CAH:  I am such a plotter that friends who are also plotters look at me sideways and say, “Calm down with those outlines, Higgins.”

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

CAH:  The time I have in which to do it—or lack thereof. I work during the week, and if I tried to write after I got home from work, I would end up exhausted. So I write one day out of the weekend, all day, and I defend my time on that day ferociously. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t get anything done.

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

CAH:  I love the 19th century. Dostoevsky is my favorite—the part of THE IDIOT that stretches from about the argument between Aglaia and Nastasya to the end of the novel is the most perfect hundred and fifty pages I’ve ever read. I am also a huge fan of Robin Hobb’s Farseer books.

TQDescribe Lightless in 140 characters or less.

CAH:  “The capture of a criminal on a spaceship has consequences that throw the ship, its crew, and their government into chaos.”

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

CAH:  The book jacket mentions Althea and Ivan, but there is another major character named Ida Stays. Ida is an interrogator, and as much an outsider to the Ananke as Ivan is. Ivan has information that she needs, and there’s very little she wouldn’t be willing to do to get it—including things that might put the Ananke at risk.

TQWhat inspired you to write Lightless? Is Lightless hard SF, Space Opera? Genre-wise how would you describe it?

CAHLightless is a space opera and a thriller. I was inspired to write it in a physics class where we were learning about thermodynamics. We were doing an exercise where we determined the equation of state of particles in a box and I, rather fancifully, imagined those particles as people. A group of people in an isolated container aren’t that much different from an ideal gas—put pressure on them, and things heat up. As for what “box” I would put the characters in, I envisioned this strange spaceship that has a very close relationship with the concept of entropy—and that became the Ananke.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Lightless?

CAH:  I was in college for physics at the time, which was pretty helpful for a science fiction novel, especially since I was concentrating in astronomy! I did take an elective on robotic motion to get a better sense of how the computer of the Ananke would relate to its physical surroundings (and struggled with the class—I am no Althea Bastet). Otherwise, I did a bit of research on some varied psychological topics that related to the characters in the novel. And one very memorable and somewhat traumatizing research session was focused on learning about how bodies decay in different environments, which has surely, surely put me on an FBI watch-list somewhere.

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

CAH:  Ivan was the easiest. I feel the closest connection to him, as troubling as that statement is, and so it was always easy to slip into his skin. Plus, he is the character who incites most of the action. Whenever I wrote a scene with Ivan in it, it never lacked for conflict.

The hardest character was Constance Harper. Like all the characters connected with Ivan’s past, certain truths about her had to be obscured—or at least, there had to be the appearance of obscurity—but Constance always wanted to be very clear and open and bold about herself and her character. Mattie, Milla, and Abigail all have more shadowy personas, but Constance is very inflexible.

TQWhich question about Lightless do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

CAH:  “How did your characters get their names?” I had fun naming them. For the crew of the Ananke: Ananke is the Greek goddess of compulsion. Althea’s name means “healing”, but she was also the mother of Meleager. Domitian is the name of a Roman emperor, and yet it translates to “tamed”. Ida is named after Mount Ida, the birthplace of Zeus. Gagnon means “guard dog”.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Lightless.

CAH:  There’s a character in the novel who speaks more poetically than the other characters do, and I’m very fond of a lot of her language. Unfortunately, everything she says is very spoilery! My favorite non-spoilery lines would have to be:

“She stood silently, ethereal wind stirring the wavelengths of her invented hair, the sightless eyes of the hologram watching Althea without a word.”


““How exciting,” he said, in a tone that contended with the sun side of Mercury for aridity.”

TQWhat's next?

CAH:  LIGHTLESS will have two sequels. The next one, called SUPERNOVA, picks up where things left off in the first book and follows some of the characters as they deal with the effects of the events in LIGHTLESS. It’s got a lot of action, and it was a very exciting book to write.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

CAH:  Thank you for having me!

Del Rey, September 29, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 304 Pages

With deeply moving human drama, nail-biting suspense—and bold speculation informed by a degree in physics—C. A. Higgins spins a riveting science fiction debut guaranteed to catapult readers beyond their expectations.

Serving aboard the Ananke, an experimental military spacecraft launched by the ruthless organization that rules Earth and its solar system, computer scientist Althea has established an intense emotional bond—not with any of her crewmates, but with the ship’s electronic systems, which speak more deeply to her analytical mind than human feelings do. But when a pair of fugitive terrorists gain access to the Ananke, Althea must draw upon her heart and soul for the strength to defend her beloved ship.

While one of the saboteurs remains at large somewhere on board, his captured partner—the enigmatic Ivan—may prove to be more dangerous. The perversely fascinating criminal whose silver tongue is his most effective weapon has long evaded the authorities’ most relentless surveillance—and kept the truth about his methods and motives well hidden.

As the ship’s systems begin to malfunction and the claustrophobic atmosphere is increasingly poisoned by distrust and suspicion, it falls to Althea to penetrate the prisoner’s layers of intrigue and deception before all is lost. But when the true nature of Ivan’s mission is exposed, it will change Althea forever—if it doesn’t kill her first.

About C.A. Higgins

© Lisa Verge-Higgins
C.A. HIGGINS or Caitlin Higgins, is a debut author who writes novels and short stories. She was a runner up in the 2013 Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing and has a B. A. in physics from Cornell University. Lightless is her first novel, written during her time as an undergrad at Cornell.

Website  ~ Twitter @C_A_Higgs

Tumblr  ~  Facebook


Interview with Ilana C. Myer, author of Last Song Before Night

Please welcome Ilana C. Myer to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Last Song Before Night is published on September 29th by Tor Books.

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

Ilana:  Thank you for the welcome! I’ve been writing since I learned to read, basically—I was so enraptured by reading that I knew I wanted to write books.

TQAre you a plotter or a pantser? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Ilana:  I try to plan out a general direction in advance, but most of the major decisions are made while the novel is in progress. For me the biggest challenge is that disparity between what’s on paper and what was in my head. The only solution to that—constant rewrites.

TQYou are a journalist. How does that affect or not your fiction writing?

Ilana:  Journalism, for me, mostly involved talking to lots of interesting and skilled people and extracting their expertise, and this certainly can be useful to a writer of fiction. You never know when a particular bit of information or an insight will be useful.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Ilana:  I’ve been influenced by every book I’ve ever loved, which is a long list! I’m sure somewhere in my writing is evidenced my childhood love of Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game, for example. Other early influences include Lloyd Alexander, E. Nesbit, T.H. White, fairy tales and the magnificent D’Aulaires books of mythology.

Current favorite authors include Helen DeWitt, Dorothy Dunnett, Guy Gavriel Kay, Mary Renault, Robin Hobb, Tad Williams, and Jane Gardam.

TQDescribe Last Song Before Night in 140 characters or less.

IlanaLast Song Before Night is set in a world where art and magic are intertwined, and the protagonists are poets.

TQTell us something about Last Song Before Night that is not found in the book description.

IlanaLast Song is a fast-paced adventure story while simultaneously it is a series of questions about art and its place in the world.

TQWhat inspired you to write Last Song Before Night? What appealed to you about writing Epic Fantasy?

Ilana:  What I most value about fantasy is the opportunity it gives us to explore great questions on a mythic scale. Last Song is about art, power, and the sometimes troubling convergence of the two—among other things.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Last Song Before Night?

Ilana:  I read many, many books, in history and mythology.

TQWhat's next?

Ilana:  Right now I’m hard at work on the sequel, which is different from Last Song in many ways, and introduces new characters and places.

TQ::  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Ilana:  Thank you very much!

Last Song Before Night
Tor Books, September 29, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages

A high fantasy following a young woman's defiance of her culture as she undertakes a dangerous quest to restore her world's lost magic in Ilana C. Myer's Last Song Before Night.

Her name was Kimbralin Amaristoth: sister to a cruel brother, daughter of a hateful family. But that name she has forsworn, and now she is simply Lin, a musician and lyricist of uncommon ability in a land where women are forbidden to answer such callings-a fugitive who must conceal her identity or risk imprisonment and even death.

On the eve of a great festival, Lin learns that an ancient scourge has returned to the land of Eivar, a pandemic both deadly and unnatural. Its resurgence brings with it the memory of an apocalypse that transformed half a continent. Long ago, magic was everywhere, rising from artistic expression-from song, from verse, from stories. But in Eivar, where poets once wove enchantments from their words and harps, the power was lost. Forbidden experiments in blood divination unleashed the plague that is remembered as the Red Death, killing thousands before it was stopped, and Eivar's connection to the Otherworld from which all enchantment flowed, broken.

The Red Death's return can mean only one thing: someone is spilling innocent blood in order to master dark magic. Now poets who thought only to gain fame for their songs face a challenge much greater: galvanized by Valanir Ocune, greatest Seer of the age, Lin and several others set out to reclaim their legacy and reopen the way to the Otherworld-a quest that will test their deepest desires, imperil their lives, and decide the future.

About Ilana

ILANA C. MYER lives in New York City. Last Song Before Night is her first novel.

Website ~ Twitter @IlanaCT

Review: Cinderella Six Feet Under by Maia Chance

Cinderella Six Feet Under
Author:  Maia Chance
Series:  A Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery 2
Publisher:  Berkley, September 1, 2015
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print); $7.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780425271629 (print); 9780698140059 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

This Cinderella goes from ashes to ashes in the new Victorian-era Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery by the author of Snow White Red-Handed . . .

Variety hall actress Ophelia Flax’s plan to reunite her friend Prue with her estranged—and allegedly wealthy—mother, Henrietta, is met with a grim surprise. Not only is the marquise’s Paris mansion a mouse-infested ruin, but Henrietta has inexplicably vanished, leaving behind an evasive husband, two sinister stepsisters, and a bullet-riddled corpse in the pumpkin patch decked out in a ball gown and one glass slipper—a corpse that also happens to be a dead ringer for Prue.

Strangely, no one at 15 rue Garenne seems concerned about who plugged this luckless Cinderella or why, so the investigation is left to Ophelia and Prue. It takes them through the labyrinthine maze of the Paris Opera, down the trail of a legendary fairy tale relic, into the confidence of a wily prince charmless, and makes them vulnerable to the secrets of a mysterious couturière with designs of her own on Prue’s ever-twisting family history.

Jennifer's Review

Cinderella Six Feet Under is the second instalment in Maia Chance’s Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery series. The series follows two American ladies, Ophelia and Prue, former variety hall actresses, as they are making their way through Victorian era Europe. Prue is attempting to find her mother, Henrietta, also a former actress, who abandoned Prue in the states and has since married a French nobleman. Ophelia is hoping she can get back to America once Prue is settled with Henrietta. Things go awry right from the start when the girls discover the dead body of Prue’s long lost older sister, Sybille, murdered in the pumpkin patch. Things get even worse when they learn that Henrietta is also missing from the run down Paris mansion she shares with her husband and two step-daughters. Ophelia and Prue must locate Henrietta, fearing that she may be in danger from the murderer. They must find the killer before he moves on to Prue, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the murdered sister she had never met.

Ophelia is a tenacious and bright young woman, who seems to balk at all of the conventions that Victorian society force upon her. She is also a master of disguise, spending much of the book dressed as a rotund, gray haired, matronly chaperone, Mrs. Brand. Prue is a simple girl, with simple hopes and dreams, to be a respectable wife and mother. To this end, she convinces the slovenly, and often inebriated, housekeeper at the mansion to teach her how to be a good cook and housewife. Neither Prue nor Ophelia expect to get swept up into a murder investigation that centers on the Cinderella fairy tale.

We also meet Gabriel again, the bookish English lord who has a fascination with the truth and history behind common fairy tales. Gabriel is often conflicted by his emerging feelings for Ophelia, as she is not a shy, retiring lady, but a bold and worldly actress. Those conflicted feelings do not stop Gabriel from rushing to Ophelia’s side to help her discover the killer, although the fact that the murder is tied up with a family that claims to be descended from Cinderella is also a factor in his eagerness to help Ophelia. For her part, Ophelia is just as skilled as Gabriel is squashing her tender feelings.

The characters that make up the household at 15 Rue Garenne, the very house that Cinderella may very well have toiled in before fortune smiled upon her and her prince charming, are definitely an odd lot. The patriarch is Malbert, Henrietta’s new husband. Malbert is an unpleasant looking little man who has an obsession with clockwork inventions and seems to be scatterbrained and is decidedly unworried about his bride’s disappearance. Malbert’s daughters are Eglantine and Austorga, two unattractive and frivolous ladies who can easily be envisioned as Cinderella’s wicked step-sisters. Baldewyn is the family’s pretentious butler, who clearly feels that Prue and Ophelia, or Mrs. Brand as she is known at the mansion, are below his notice. Bespectacled Englishwomen Seraphine Smythe and her distracted mother, while not really a part of the household, are frequently guests of the sisters.

Ophelia and Gabriel’s investigation into Sybille’s murder and Henrietta’s disappearance takes them often to the Paris Opera, which is, of course, performing the Cinderella story as a ballet. We meet various characters connected to the ballet. Caleb Grant, a smarmy American transplant, is the dancing master at the opera. Ophelia meets the highly eligible and handsome Slovenian Prince Rupprecht at a performance of the ballet. He is the target of every young debutante in Paris, including the wicked step-sisters. Prince Rupprecht’s close friend, Count de Griffe, is a bear of a man with a decided leonine appearance who is quite smitten with Ophelia, in her role of Gabriel’s American heiress cousin.

Other important characters include Madame Fayette, a sought after clothier, and Josie, her overworked head seamstress, and Monsieur Colifichet, a cunning clockwork inventor, and his young apprentice, Pierre. We also meet Lord and Lady Cruthlach, more English transplants, who are both elderly and frail, with an unhealthy and fanatical desire to obtain a Cinderella artifact that is purported to be somewhere in the mansion where Prue and Ophelia are staying, and their sweet and handsome grandson, Dalziel.

The storyline is multifaceted, often moving swiftly, but flowing well from one concept to the next. The author completely weaves the Cinderella story into the events of the mystery in a way that makes sense and works well. The tension between Ophelia and Gabriel is mounting in this novel and makes the plot very interesting. The banter between the two is clever and funny. I will be very interested in seeing where their relationship goes in the next book in the series, which is entitled Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna.


Snow White Red-Handed
A Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery 1
Berkley, November 4, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Miss Ophelia Flax is a Victorian actress who knows all about making quick changes and even quicker exits. But to solve a fairy-tale crime in the haunted Black Forest, she’ll need more than a bit of charm…

1867: After being fired from her latest variety hall engagement, Ophelia acts her way into a lady’s maid position for a crass American millionaire. But when her new job whisks her off to a foreboding castle straight out of a Grimm tale, she begins to wonder if her fast-talking ways might have been too hasty. The vast grounds contain the suspected remains of Snow White’s cottage, along with a disturbing dwarf skeleton. And when her millionaire boss turns up dead—poisoned by an apple—the fantastic setting turns into a once upon a crime scene.

To keep from rising to the top of the suspect list, Ophelia fights through a bramble of elegant lies, sinister folklore, and priceless treasure, with only a dashing but mysterious scholar as her ally. And as the clock ticks towards midnight, she’ll have to break a cunning killer’s spell before her own time runs out…

See Jennifer's review here.


Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna
A Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery 3
Berkley, February 2, 2016
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

From the author of Cinderella Six Feet Under, a beauty must solve a beastly murder.

Variety hall actress Ophelia Flax knows how to win over an audience. That’s why she’s accepted the marriage proposal of the brutish Comte de Griffe to nettle her occasional investigative partner—and romantic sparring partner—the pompous if dashing Professor Penrose.

But with his boorish table manners, wild mane of hair, and habit of prowling away the wee hours, the comte has shredded Ophelia’s last nerve. She intends to disengage from her feral fiancé at his winter hunting party—until Penrose, his lovely new fiancée, and a stagecoach of stranded travelers arrive at the comte’s sprawling château. Soon she can’t tell the boars from the bores.

When one of the guests is found clawed and bloody in the orangerie, Ophelia is determined to solve the murder before everyone starts believing the local version of Beauty and the Beast. But until the snows melt, she can’t trust her eyes—or her heart—since even the most civilized people hold beastly secrets…

Monday, September 28, 2015

Interview with Paul Cornell

Please welcome Paul Cornell to The Qwillery. Witches of Lychford was published on September 8th by

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. You've written many Doctor Who novels, novels in your own series (e.g. the London Falling series), comics, short fiction, and screenplays. How has your writing process changed from when your first novel was published until now and how does writing for other mediums affect your novel and novella writing?

Paul:  I'm now much more organised, having to divide time between work and family life. I think writing for comics and television is actually very good for one's prose. Every medium is about doing the biggest thing in the smallest space, and those media really ask one to focus. Now when I go off on a big subjective trip in prose I know it's for a good reason, and I try otherwise to be pow pow pow. Mind you, it's good to still have that ability to dig deep with description.

TQAre you a plotter, panster or a hybrid? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Paul:  Errr, panster? I don't know what that means! I do like to write a very detailed plot first, and then I tend to wander off from it, and correct it as I go. Plotting is the hardest bit of anything, but oh, the joy if I've gotten the ending first! That's like swimming toward shore!

TQYour most recent work is a novella published by, Witches of Lychford. Please describe Witches of Lychford in 140 characters or less.

Paul:  3 diverse Cotswolds women unite to fight supernatural evil in the form of a supermarket chain. Modern fantasy about friendship, magic.

TQWitches of Lychford is contemporary fantasy. What appeals to you about writing in this genre?

Paul:  I get to talk about the real world while flinging around dirty great metaphors. It lets my anger out. Also, I get to make the audience laugh.

TQPlease tell us something about Witches of Lychford that is not found in the novella description.

Paul:  It's all about friendship and how terrible losing a friend feels. There's comedy but actually real horror too.

TQIs Lychford based on a real village?

Paul:  It's rather like the town of Fairford, or several small places in the Cotswolds.

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

Paul:  One of my three 'witches' is Autumn, an atheist sceptic who gets a lot of funny lines, so she's easy to write. Another one, Judith is a pensioner, so that's me looking way ahead for myself in a rather uncomfortable way.

TQWhich question about Witches of Lychford do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Paul:  Is one of the 'witches' based on my wife? Yes, kind of, but my wife, thankfully, isn't suffering a bereavement.

TQWhat's next?

Paul:  The third book in my Shadow Police urban fantasy series comes out next June from Tor.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Witches of Lychford
Witches of Lychford 1 Publishing, September 8, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 144 pages

Traveler, Cleric, Witch.

The villagers in the sleepy hamlet of Lychford are divided. A supermarket wants to build a major branch on their border. Some welcome the employment opportunities, while some object to the modernization of the local environment.

Judith Mawson (local crank) knows the truth -- that Lychford lies on the boundary between two worlds, and that the destruction of the border will open wide the gateways to malevolent beings beyond imagination.

But if she is to have her voice heard, she's going to need the assistance of some unlikely allies...

About Paul

Photo by Lou Abercrombie
Paul Cornell started out writing Doctor Who fan fiction, went on to write Doctor Who novels, audio plays and comics, and, having won a BBC contest to get a play on TV, and worked his way up through shows like Casualty and Holby City, became the fan who got to write for the show itself.

He went on to work on other TV series like Robin Hood and Primeval, to write two seasons of his own CITV show, Wavelength, and to break into comics, writing for Marvel, DC and 2000AD on such titles as Captain Britain and MI-13, Young Avengers, Wolverine, Knight and Squire, Batman and Robin, Action Comics, Demon Knights, XTNCT and Pan-African Judges. He created Saucer Country for Vertigo, and has new creator-owned projects in the pipeline.

In the meantime, he’d also achieved his ambition to become a novelist, first having two SF novels, Something More and British Summertime, published by Gollancz, then starting the Shadow Police series with London Falling and The Severed Streets at Tor.

His short fiction, often featuring the character of Jonathan Hamilton, an out-of-uniform soldier in a parallel world where the ‘great game’ of European espionage continues into space, has been published in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Interzone, The Daily Telegraph, The Times and at He’s also written twice for George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards short story anthologies.

He’s the creator of Bernice Summerfield, a Doctor Who companion from the novels who for twenty years now has had her own spinoff line of books and audio plays.

He lives in Gloucestershire with his wife, a priest in the Church of England, and their toddler son, Thomas. His interests include cricket, matters Fortean and Kate Bush.

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter @Paul_Cornell ~ Pinterest ~ Goodreads ~ IMDB