Monday, February 29, 2016

Guest Blog by Lee Kelly - My Magic Dictionary

Please welcome Lee Kelly to The Qwillery. A Criminal Magic was published by Saga Press on February 2nd.

Plus some sneak peeks inside the world of A CRIMINAL MAGIC
Lee Kelly

My latest novel, A Criminal Magic, just released this month. The story takes place during an alternative Prohibition era, where magic instead of alcohol has been prohibited, and follows a sorcerer and federal agent as they become entangled in the magic underworld. And while I loved crafting the tense scenes between the two protagonists, Joan and Alex, and describing the historical details of this alternative Jazz Age, my very favorite part of writing this book was the magic. And there’s a LOT of it in this one – everything from sleights of hand to full-blown, multi-sorcerer immersive performances.

The tricky thing with magic though is that, while it’s supposed to be fantastical, it also has to make sense. It needs to be internally consistent – there should be rules, and the rules must work together or the “magic of the magic,” so to speak, clumsily falls apart like a bad card trick.

So as I was drafting this novel, I made sure to keep track of all my magic definitions and cross-references . . . and slowly but surely this evolved into a massive, dog-eared, thirty-page “Magic Encyclopedia” (yes seriously). Obviously no one’s seen any of this monster doc before, so I’m pretty excited to share some excerpts now.

Without further ado, here are five magic tricks you can expect to find at work inside the covers of A Criminal Magic:

caging spell (n., magic type: spell). A type of blood-spell whereby an individual with the magic touch a) locks a symbolic item in a vessel with the intention of banishing the evil such symbol represents, b) seals her vessel with drops of her own blood, and c) states the appropriate words of power (see also blood-spell). She removed a sliver of the patient’s infected flesh, put it in her mason jar and sealed it with her own blood, banishing his gangrene forever with the caging spell. (related: tracking spell, protection spell).

Fae dust (n., magic type: contraband). ORIGINS: IRELAND; OTHER REALITY (SPECULATED). A bright-blue, highly addictive powder with questionable magic origins, often used illicitly as a narcotic to produce hallucinations, and known for extreme paranoia-inducing side effects (see also dust, dust sweepers, dust bunnies). Get him to take it a few times, so that he’s hooked. The fae dust should work its own magic from there.

Linked trick (n., magic type: visual and spatial manipulation). A type of double-sided magic manipulation whereby an individual with the magic touch connects or “links” two objects through time and space (see also double-sided trick). The robbers’ getaway plan hinged on the success of a sorcered linked trick, as police claimed three masked men rushed through the bank’s back door and disappeared, only to be spotted by passersby exiting the front door of the bakery next door. (related: separation trick).

Obi (n., magic type: contraband). ORIGINS: BAHAMA ISLANDS. A dark, syrupy elixir-like drug with magic origins, often used illicitly to produce an almost catatonic, hypnotic mental state (see also death brew, Bahamian death brew, ghost brew). I’ve never touched the stuff, but more adventurous Shaw boys say obi lets you see ghosts. That the product only survives the trip across the sea because Satra’s gang made a deal with death, and has trapped damned souls inside their bottles.

Force field (n., magic type: visual and auditory manipulation). A type of protective magic manipulation whereby an individual with the magic touch disguises or hides another object with a charged, magical barrier, which may be invisible or can be itself disguised as another object (i.e., a “magic shell”) (see also protective force field). As soon as I cross the threshold, I feel it, that slow pull of walking straight through a protective force field. Like an unraveling, layer by layer, like I’m being consumed slowly by a thick, black nothing.

A Criminal Magic
Saga Press, February 2, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages

In Lee Kelly’s newest fantasy novel, two young sorcerers experiment with magic and mobsters in 1920s Prohibition when a new elixir is created that turns their lives upside down.

Washington, DC, 1926. Sorcery opponents have succeeded in passing the 18th Amendment, but the Prohibition of magic has only invigorated the city’s underworld. Smuggling rings carry magic contraband in from the coast. Sorcerers cast illusions to aid mobsters’ crime sprees. Gangs have even established “magic havens,” secret venues where the public can lose themselves in immersive magic and consume a mind-bending, highly addictive elixir known as “the sorcerer’s shine.”

Joan Kendrick, a young sorcerer from the backwoods of Norfolk County, accepts an offer to work for DC’s most notorious crime syndicate, The Shaw Gang, when her family’s home is repossessed. Alex Danfrey, first-year Federal Prohibition Unit trainee with a complicated past and talents of his own, becomes tapped to go undercover and infiltrate the Shaws. When Joan meets Alex at the Shaws’ magic haven, she discovers a confidante in her fellow partner and he begins to fall under her spell. But when a new breed of the addictive sorcerer’s shine is created within the walls of the magic haven, Joan and Alex are forced to question their allegiances as they become pitted against one another in a dangerous, heady game of cat-and-mouse.

Also by Lee Kelly

City of Savages
Saga Press, February 2, 2016
Trade Paperback, 432 pages
Hardcover and eBook, February 3, 2015

Red Dawn meets Escape from New York and The Hunger Games” (Booklist) in an action-packed dystopian fantasy filled with “prose [that] is gorgeous and brilliant” and “tells a satisfyingly dark tale through alternating the two sisters’ points of view” (VOYA, starred review).

It’s been nearly two decades since the Red Allies first attacked New York, and Manhattan is now a prisoner-of-war camp, ruled by Rolladin and her brutal, impulsive warlords. For Skyler Miller, Manhattan is a cage that keeps her from the world beyond the city’s borders. But for Sky’s younger sister, Phee, the POW camp is a dangerous playground of possibility, and the only home she’d ever want.

When Sky and Phee discover their mom’s hidden journal from the war’s outbreak, they both realize there’s more to Manhattan—and their mother—than either of them had ever imagined. And after a group of strangers arrives at the annual POW census, the girls begin to uncover the island’s long-kept secrets. The strangers hail from England, a country supposedly destroyed by the Red Allies, and Rolladin’s lies about Manhattan’s captivity begin to unravel.

Hungry for the truth, the sisters set a series of events in motion that end in the death of one of Rolladin’s guards. Now they’re outlaws, forced to join the strange Englishmen on an escape mission through Manhattan. Their flight takes them into subways haunted by cannibals, into the arms of a sadistic cult in the city’s Meatpacking District and, through the pages of their mom’s old journal, into the island’s dark and shocking past.

About Lee

Photo by Pieter M. van Hattem
Lee Kelly is the author of A CRIMINAL MAGIC and CITY OF SAVAGES. She has wanted to write since she was old enough to hold a pencil, but it wasn’t until she began studying for the California Bar Exam that she conveniently started putting pen to paper. An entertainment lawyer by trade, Lee has practiced in Los Angeles and New York. She lives with her husband and two children in Millburn, New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter at @leeykelly and on her website at

Website  ~  Twitter @leeykelly

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Guest Blog by Delia James and Review and Giveaway of A Familiar Tail

Please welcome Delia James to The Qwillery. A Familiar Tail, the 1st Witch's Cat Mystery, was published on February 2nd by Obsidian/NAL.

Introducing Delia James, and the Witch's Cat Mysteries

        Hello. My name is Delia James, and I write mysteries. Specifically, I write mysteries with magic and cats with plenty of attitude. This is no surprise to anybody who knows me.
        I grew up on mysteries. Summers at my grandmother’s in the country, I discovered her Agatha Christie books and was immediately fascinated by Hercule Poirot. TV was filled with mysteries and we never missed them, Colombo, MacMillan & Wife, McCloud, The Rockford Files, Quincy…and of course I was in love with the Hardy Boys as played by Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson (for the record, I was a Parker Girl, all the way). Of course I could quote Sherlock Holmes, chapter and verse. In college, I got introduced to, and fell in love all over again with, Lord Peter Whimsey.
        Despite this, when I started writing, mysteries were not my first choice. I was (confession time) also a major science fiction nerd and it was science fiction I gravitated to first. I don’t regret it at all. Science fiction is fun, and it teaches you a lot about how to build a fictional world along with the characters that fit into it, or don’t. This can be valuable training for a mystery writer who has to construct solid, interesting puzzles the size of small towns, or big bad cities. And of course, along with science fiction, I was also a fan of its sister genre, fantasy, with its elves and hobbits, and witches, and plenty of magic. I learned to read from The Wizard of Oz and had Alice in Wonderland practically memorized.
        With all this swirling around in the background, when I got the chance to write a story featuring a witch and a magical cat in New England, you know I jumped at it. And I am having an absolute blast.
        First of all, it’s given me an excuse to spend more time in New England, which is one of my very favorite places. I love the landscape, the coast and the rivers. I even love the weather, especially the autumn. I love the old cities and towns and all the history tucked up in their streets and odd (some of them very odd) corners. Of course there are mysteries here. Lots of them, some of them old, some of them brand new.
        Cats were another natural for me. I’ve been owned by one cat or another since I was born. From our grumpy old indoor-outdoor tortoiseshell Buttercup, to Isis the Siamese, to our current long-haired gray Buffy the Vermin Slayer, they all at one time or another shared my home, sat on my lap, or curled up on my shoulders, or gotten in between me and…whatever I was doing at the moment. I swear, some of them have in fact been able to vanish and reappear at will, just like Alistair in A Familiar Tail. Of course they couldn’t be kept out of anyplace they really wanted to get into, including the bedroom, the closet, and once, much to everybody’s surprise and embarrassment, the fridge. Again, just like Alistair.
        So, like I said at the beginning, I’m Delia James. Welcome to my world!

A Familiar Tail
Series:  A Witch's Cat Mystery 1
Publisher:  Obsidian/NAL, February 2, 2016
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print and eBook)
ISBN:  9780451476579 (print); 9780698405578 (eBook)

Magic and meows meet in the first enchanting Witch’s Cat mystery!

Unlucky-in-love artist Annabelle Britton decides that a visit to the seaside town of  Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is the perfect way to get over her problems. But when she stumbles upon a smoky gray cat named Alastair, and follows him into a charming cottage, Annabelle finds herself in a whole spellbook full of trouble.

Suddenly saddled with a witch’s wand and a furry familiar, Annabelle soon meets a friendly group of women who use their spells, charms, and potions to keep the people of Portsmouth safe. But despite their gifts, the witches can’t prevent every wicked deed in town….

Soon, the mystery surrounding Alistair’s former owner, who died under unusual circumstances, grows when another local turns up dead. Armed with magic, friends, and the charmed cat who adopted her more than the other way around, Annabelle sets out to paw through the evidence and uncover a killer.

Jennifer's Review

A Familiar Tail by Delia James is the first book in the new Witch’s Cat Mystery series, that introduces readers to Annabelle Amelia Blessingsound Britton, a mysterious cat named Alistair, and an eclectic group of modern day New England Witches who dedicate their craft to keeping their beloved town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire a safe place for their friends and neighbors.

Annabelle is in town for a visit to her longtime friend, Martine Deveraux. Annabelle is a bit adrift in her life at this point, she is a freelance artist and illustrator but has taken a bit of a break from work in her hometown. Martine is one of her best friends and is now the head chef at a popular and successful restaurant in Portsmouth. What is supposed to be a short vacation for Annabelle turns into a more permanent situation when she finds herself wrapped up in the months old possible murder of lifelong resident and witch Dorothy Hawthorne, when she has what she calls a “vibe”, which shows her a sort of vision that Dorothy’s accidental death was anything but. During the course of her investigation into the death of a woman she never actually met, Annabelle discovers that her family has an enigmatic tie to Portsmouth through her adored grandma and namesake, Annabelle Mercy Blessingsound, and begins to find herself drawn even deeper into the local coven and the lives of the townspeople and exploring her long ignored psychic gift.

There are many suspects and friends that emerge over the course of the story that add life and spice to the plot. Frank Hawthorne, Dorothy’s nephew, is a handsome newspaper man who says he is desperate to discover the truth behind his aunt’s death. Ellis Maitland is an aggressive and polished real estate broker with deep ties to the town and a battered friendship with Frank. Brad Thompson is a friend of Frank’s who was a favorite of Dorothy’s, but is obviously troubled in some way. Brad’s wife Laurie, an aspiring artist, and his teenage son Colin, who is surly and protective of his family, are both seemingly troubled and preoccupied. Sean is the devastatingly handsome bartender at Martine’s restaurant who has a budding attraction to Annabelle.

Annabelle is quickly drawn into the world of the local coven, which is made up of a diverse mix of the old families of witchcraft and new women who have an affinity with magic. Julia Parris is a member of one of the old families. She is a formidable witch who runs a local bookstore. Julia is eccentric and powerful and has two miniature wiener dogs named Max & Leo as her constant and protective companions. Elizabeth Maitland, mother of Ellis, is on the outskirts of the coven perhaps due to her icy and often superior attitude, but is also an accomplished witch and a member of an old Portsmouth witch family. Valerie McDermott runs lovely bed and breakfast with her husband Roger and is a newer witch. Another newer member of the coven is Kenisha, who also happens to be a police officer in town, and can either help or hinder Annabelle in her quest Dorothy’s killer. And finally, we come to Alistair, Dorothy’s former familiar, who has now attached himself to Annabelle. Alistair is a beautifully regal gray cat with piecing and intelligent eye who figures heavily into Annabelle’s search and the coven as a whole.

Each character is likeable and realistic and has been given a solid backstory that can be explored more deeply in subsequent books. The plot has many facets and the author does a wonderful job of adding local color and charm to the town of Portsmouth and its residents. A Familiar Tail is a wonderful introduction to a fun new series. I can see this series continuing for many books to come and look forward to learning more about the townspeople and coven and seeing where Annabelle’s newfound relationship with witchcraft and magic will take her.


By Familiar Means
A Witch's Cat Mystery 2
Obsidian/NAL, September 20, 2016
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

In the latest from the author of A Familiar Tail, a witch and her familiar find trouble brewing at a coffee house.

After discovering her mystical heritage—and being adopted by furry feline familiar Alistair—artist Annabelle Britton has decided to make picturesque Portsmouth, New Hampshire, her new home. Now, she can take the time to figure out her new abilities and welcome her grandmother, who is visiting Portsmouth, and her old coven, for the first time in thirty years.

But being a witch doesn’t magically put money in the bank. When she’s hired to paint the murals for a new coffee house, it seems like a wish come true. But then a series of spooky sounds and strange happenings convince the owners that their new shop is haunted. They want Anna and her coven to evict the restless spirit before the grand opening.

Annabelle is certain the haunted happenings at the shop are just hocus pocus. But when her search reveals hidden smugglers’ tunnels beneath the shop—and a dead body—Annabelle, Alastair, and the coven suddenly find themselves in a cat and mouse game with a killer…

About Delia

Born in California and raised in Michigan, Delia James writes her tales of magic, cats, and mystery from her hundred-year-old bungalow home. She is the author of the Witch’s Cat mysteries, which began with A Familiar Tail. When not writing, she hikes, swims, gardens, cooks, reads, and raises her rapidly growing son.

Twitter @MysteryDelia

The Giveaway

What:  One entrant will win a Mass Market Paperback copy of A Familiar Tail by Delia James from the publisher. US ONLY

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

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on March 9, 2016. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

2016 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February Winner

The winner of the February 2016 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars is Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase from G.P. Putnam's Sons with 37% of all votes. The jacket was designed by Tal Goretsky. Jacket images: (latticework) Danita Delimont / Getty Images; (castle) Ray Hems / Getty Images.

Black Rabbit Hall
G.P. Putnam's Sons, February 9, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages
(US Debut)

For fans of Kate Morton and Sarah Waters, here’s a magnetic debut novel of wrenching family secrets, forbidden love, and heartbreaking loss housed within the grand gothic manor of Black Rabbit Hall.

Ghosts are everywhere, not just the ghost of Momma in the woods, but ghosts of us too, what we used to be like in those long summers . . .
Amber Alton knows that the hours pass differently at Black Rabbit Hall, her London family’s country estate, where no two clocks read the same. Summers there are perfect, timeless. Not much ever happens. Until, of course, it does.

More than three decades later, Lorna is determined to be married within the grand, ivy-covered walls of Pencraw Hall, known as Black Rabbit Hall among the locals. But as she’s drawn deeper into the overgrown grounds, half-buried memories of her mother begin to surface and Lorna soon finds herself ensnared within the manor’s labyrinthine history, overcome with an insatiable need for answers about her own past and that of the once-happy family whose memory still haunts the estate.

Stunning and atmospheric, this debut novel is a thrilling spiral into the hearts of two women separated by decades but inescapably linked by the dark and tangled secrets of Black Rabbit Hall.

The Results

The February 2016 Debuts

Thank you to everyone who voted, Tweeted, and participated. The 2016 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars will continue with voting on the March Debut covers starting on March 15, 2016.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Spotlight - The Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin

There is wonderful news for Raine Benares fans (and fans of Fantasy Adventure novels)! Wedding Bells, Magic Spells, the 7th Raine Benares novel, by Lisa Shearin was published on February 15th!

Wedding Bells, Magic Spells
Raine Benares 7
NLA Digital LLC (February 15, 2016)
Trade Paperback and eBook, 312 pages

I’ve successfully destroyed the Saghred (AKA, a legendary soul-sucking rock).I’ve sent an evil goblin demigod to the Lower Hells.I’m coming to terms with my burgeoning new powers. I’m marrying super sexy paladin Mychael Eiliesor.You’d think I could handle a wedding and meeting my soon-to-be mother-in-law without another calamity brewing. You’d be wrong!

The new, thankfully non-psychotic, Goblin King is willing to come to the table to discuss a peace treaty. The Isle of Mid is the site of these delicate negotiations, meaning all hands on deck for Mychael and his Conclave Guardians. When the head of elven intelligence (and my wedding guest) Duke Markus Sevelien is nearly assassinated upon his arrival, I suspect my mother-in-law will be the least of my concerns. Sabotaging the peace talks is the first salvo in a treacherous and deadly new apocalyptic plot.

Mychael and I might not make it to the altar after all!


Magic Lost, Trouble Found
Raine Benares 1
Ace, May 29, 2007
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Raine Benares is a Sorceress Seeker of average ability until she comes into possession of an amulet that amplifies her powers-and her enemies.

Armed & Magical
Raine Benares 2
Ace, April 29, 2008
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

My name is Raine Benares. Until last week I was a seeker—a finder of things lost and people missing. Now I’m psychic roommates with the Saghred, an ancient stone with cataclysmic powers. Just me, the stone, and all the souls it’s ingested over the centuries. Crowded doesn’t even begin to describe it. All I want is my life back—which means getting rid of the stone and the power it possesses. To sort things out, I head for the Isle of Mid, home to the most prestigious sorcery school, as well as the Conclave, the governing body for all magic users. It’s also home to power- grubbing mages who want me dead and goblins who see me as a thief. As if that’s not enough, Mid’s best student spellsingers are disappearing left and right, and I’m expected to find them. Lives are at stake, goblins are threatening to sue, mages are getting greedier, and the stone’s power is getting stronger by the hour. This could get ugly.

The Trouble with Demons
Raine Benares 3
Ace, April 28, 2009
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

For seeker Raine Benares, a demon infestation on the Isle of Mid couldn't come at a worse time. Already fighting the influence of the Saghred, a soul-stealing stone, Raine discovers she is also magically bonded to a dark mage and a white knight, two dangerous and powerful men on opposing sides.

Turns out, the demons want the key to unlock the Saghred. As a seeker, Raine should be able to find it first. As the axis of light and dark powers, she's a magical cataclysm waiting to happen.

Bewitched & Betrayed
Raine Benares 4
Ace, April 27, 2010
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Raine Benares is a seeker. She finds lost things and missing people- usually alive. But now she's been bonde with the Saghred, a soul- stealing stone of unlimited power, and must hunt down its escapees. Especially since one of them is also hunting her...

Con & Conjure
Raine Benares 5
Ace, March 29, 2011
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Raine Benares is a seeker who finds lost things and people. Ever since the Saghred, a soul-stealing stone that's given her unlimited power, has bonded to her, the goblin king and the elves have wanted to possess its magic themselves. Which means a goblin thief and her ex-fiancé-an elven assassin-are after her. To survive, she'll need the help of her notorious criminal family.

All Spell Breaks Loose
Raine Benares 6
Ace, May 29, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

My name is Raine Benares—and it sucks to be me right now.

I’m a seeker who found the Saghred, a soul-stealing stone that gave me unlimited powers I never wanted. Now I’ve lost the rock—and the magic it gave me—to a goblin dark mage whose main goals are my death and world domination. This is more than incentive enough for a little trip to the goblin capital of Regor with a small band of good friends, not-so-good friends, and one outright enemy. Don’t ask.

All we need to do is destroy the Saghred, kill the mage, and put a renegade goblin prince on the throne. Did I mention I’ll be doing that with no magic?

Wild Card
A Raine Benares Novella
NLA Digital LLC, November 25, 2014
eBook, 83 pages

My name is Raine Benares. I'm a seeker, a finder of things lost and people missing. I've never had to do both in one day, or had this many lives at stake--including mine.

The search for a missing ring leads me to the abduction of eight magically gifted children. Their souls were stolen while they slept, and unless I find those souls by sunrise, their bodies will die.

Both cases have one thing in common--they're linked to a goblin secret society high-stakes poker game, whose members are practitioners of the blackest of black magic. As a seeker, I can track those captured children's souls, but to spring them will take magic I haven't got.

That's where Tamnais Nathrach comes in. He's the seductive embodiment of sin itself. He's also a goblin dark mage with an even darker past, the owner of the city's most notorious casino--and the only person with magic enough to reach the kids in time.

Why are the most dangerous predators the most beautiful?

The stakes are high; the odds of success are low. And I'm betting with my life--a life I'll have to trust to a darkly tempting goblin mage I just met.

About Lisa

Contrary to popular belief, most authors do have day jobs just like everyone else. Lisa’s happily freelancing for an advertising agency as an editor and proofreader. In her previous corporate life, she’s been a magazine editor, advertising copywriter, and writer of corporate marketing materials of every description.

Lisa is the national bestselling author of The Raine Benares novels, a series of six comedic fantasy adventures. Her second series—The SPI Files—is an urban fantasy that’s been described as Stephanie Plum meets Men in Black.

Lisa is a voracious collector of fountain pens both vintage and modern. She lives on a small farm in North Carolina with her husband, three spoiled-rotten retired racing greyhounds, and enough woodland creatures to fill a Disney movie.

Website  ~   Twitter @LisaShearin  ~  Facebook  ~  Goodreads

Melanie's Week in Review - February 28, 2016

Happy almost Leap Day. Yes ladies, the one day of the year when you can propose to your fellas is almost upon you. I hope you have all had good weeks. I had another pretty good week on the reading front, at least. I did almost freeze my chubby little fingers off today by forgetting to wear a scarf, hat or gloves outside today.  I momentarily forgot that it was actually still winter despite seeing my magnolia in half bloom outside my front window.  This global warming is no fun. Anyway, I digress. What did I read this week?

If you read my WIR last week you will remember that I had discovered Rod Duncan's The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire series and told you about book 1 - The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter. This week I am going to tell you what I thought of book 2 - Unseemly Science. In this instalment Elizabeth is still trying to survive in a male dominated world. In order to do so Elizabeth continues to impersonate her non-existent twin brother. As in book 1 she is well and truly leading a double life. When her 'brother' Edward is asked to investigate a missing person's case on behalf of a charity for orphans and other waifs and strays Elizabeth finds that she can't resist, especially as her own friend and confident Julia Swain has unwittingly become embroiled in the middle of what turns out to be a sinister body snatching plot.

I felt that Unseemly Science was quite different to The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter and not just in the choice of storyline. In book 1 the plot focused on a case that Elizabeth (or her pretend twin) had been contracted to solve whereas this time it was out of friendship that caused Elizabeth to put herself in harms way. Also this plot was much more political. There was a prominent theme of fascism and discrimination which starts with all refugees of the Kingdom (including Elizabeth) being required to register and identify themselves as such. An extradition treaty between the Kingdom and the Republic is about to be signed and its not long before Elizabeth is being rounded up, interned and awaits deportation like some of her undeserving countrymen. This puts her once again, in the path of the Patent's Office very own American John Farthing. The cards are stacking up and not in Elizabeth's favour. This was a tense read and very dramatic especially towards the end. At certain points I wasn't sure that Elizabeth was going to come through this unscathed. The biggest surprise for me was learning about the timeline. I had thought this book was set in the late 1800's but it was actually set in present day (or near present day). This raises many questions and just added to the allure of this steampunky, noir crime novel. Great novel and definitely worth a read.

Book 2 for me this week was Steve Bein's Disciple of the Wind. I have enjoyed this series although I struggled a bit with book 2 of the Fated Blades series - Year of the Demon. Once again Bein tells the story of Mariko, who in 2010 tries to capture the Jo-Ko Daishi who is the leader of a cult who is single handedly bringing Tokyo to a standstill. Suspended from the job that she loves Mariko only has her ancient sword - Glorious Victory Unsought - to keep her company and help her find a way to defeat a foe that survives just about everything.

Bein also takes us back to 1588 CE and to the life of the exiled Diagoro. He is has given up almost everything - his home, his livelihood, his wife but not his honour in order to defeat the evil Shichio. Controlled by the evil mask Shichio wants nothing more in return than to defeat the 'Bear Cub' and obtain the famous Izuama blade - Glorious Victory Unsought. This part of the story is hair-raising indeed and as much of a history lesson of the samurai as it is of the period in history.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Bein starts with a bit of a lesson on Japanese pronunciation and spelling which really drew me into the story. It really helped me to understand what was written and made me really want to learn Japanese. I found this book was much more balanced between past and present and a much more enjoyable read. I love Mariko. She is tenacious, honourable and very, very kick-ass. My kind of heroine.

That is all for me for this week. I hope you all have something enjoyable to read and until next week happy reading.

Unseemly Science
The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire
Angry Robot Books, May 5, 2015 (North America Print and ebook)
  May 7, 2015 (UK Print)
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages
Cover Art by Will Staehle

In the divided land of England, Elizabeth Barnabus has been living a double life – as both herself and as her brother, the private detective. Witnessing the brutal hanging of someone very close to her, Elizabeth resolves to throw the Bullet Catcher’s Handbook into the fire, and forget her past. If only it were that easy!

There is a new charitable organisation in town, run by some highly respectable women. But something doesn’t feel right to Elizabeth. Perhaps it is time for her fictional brother to come out of retirement for one last case? Her unstoppable curiosity leads her to a dark world of body-snatching, unseemly experimentation, politics and scandal. Never was it harder for a woman in a man’s world…

File Under: Fantasy

Disciple of the Wind
Fated Blades 3
Roc, March 1, 2016
Mass Market Paperback, 528 Pages
Trade Paperback and eBook, April 7, 2015
Cover Art by Chris McGrath

Tokyo’s only female detective fights to keep her city safe in the third novel in the fantasy series that “combines the best parts of police procedurals, buddy-cop films, historical fantasy, and intrigue-laden adventure.”*

After a deadly terrorist attack in Tokyo, Detective Sergeant Mariko Oshiro urges her commanding officers to arrest an insane zealot who was just released from police custody. When her pleas fall on deaf ears, she loses her temper and then her badge.

Armed with only her cunning and her famed Inazuma blade, Mariko must work outside the system to stop the terrorist. But going rogue draws the attention of the Wind—an underground syndicate that has controlled Japanese politics for centuries, using mystical relics to achieve their nefarious ends.

Now, Mariko is left with a perilous choice: join an illicit insurgency to thwart a deadly villain, or remain true to the law. Either way, she cannot escape her sword’s curse. As sure as the blade will bring her to victory, it also promises to destroy her…

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Guest Blog by Duncan McGeary: Reading and Writing are the same.

Please welcome Duncan McGeary to The Qwillery. Duncan is the author of the Tuskers series for Ragnarok Publications in addition to other works including the recently released The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders: Blood of the Succubus.

Reading and Writing are the same.

When I'm reading a book, I get lost in it. I'm not conscious of reading, I'm involved in the story.

The same thing happens to me when I'm writing. I'm involved in the story and I'm not really conscious of the words. The story invades the same space in my mind that a good book does. When I'm really on a roll, I might as well be reading something that someone else wrote. Not to get all mystical and everything, but it really does seem to be coming from a place outside of myself.

I'm surprised by what my own characters do, by sudden twists in the plot, by an especially elegant phrasing or a deep (for me) insight. When the writing is good, I notice it in the same way I notice when I'm reading.

I've come to the conclusion that writing and reading inhabit the same psychic space. Call it the Story Space.

This is both a problem and a blessing.

I always have difficulty reading for pleasure when I'm actively writing. And since I'm always actively writing these days, that's a problem.

I tend to get too critical of what I'm reading. I see the tricks and to not forgive the small mistakes. I over-analyze the stories. (This over-thinking is especially noticeable with TV and movies, who can be terribly transparent in their plots sometimes. The sleight-of-hands and red herrings are just too noticeable.)

In my first writing career, back in the 80's, the problem of not reading got so bad that I had to force myself to read, to overlook the flaws, to just read for pleasure. As years went by without me writing, I settled back into my old pattern of enjoying the story, overlooking flaws, of accepting the writer's made up world.

When I'm reading -- but not writing -- I tend to be much more forgiving. In fact, I most often go along with what the writer has done. The writer has to do something pretty egregious to pull me out of the Story Space.

Here's where the two processes intersect. While I may feel completely absorbed by my writing when it's going well, when it isn't go well I notice it much more than I do as a casual reader. I forgive myself less for weaknesses in my own plots and characters and writing than I do other writers.

I suppose this is good for my writing. I try to be sure to stay within the Story Space, because if I'm not there, I can't expect my reader to be there. I try very hard not to do anything to pull the reader out of the story.

By relaxing into the telling of the story, I make it possible for me to write by realizing that it is all the same space, that I am a writer because I'm tapping into the same Story Space that has given me so much pleasure over the years.

My writing and other people's writing tend to blur in my mind, as if the Story Space is occupied by everyone who writes, including me.

If all the above is true, it means that anyone who reads can probably become a writer, just by telling the story.

The Story-Space is the same, whether you are writing it or whether you are reading it.

Wild Pig Apocalypse 1
Angelic Knight Press, January 12, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 238 pages

Barry had created a little piece of paradise in his southern Arizona backyard—until the javelinas came.

His battle to rid his property of the wild pigs soon escalated into war. Too late, he realized these weren't ordinary animals. They were something new, something meaner and smarter. These pigs weren't just at war with him; they were at war with the human race.

And the humans were losing.

Tuskers II: Day of the Long Pig
Wild Pig Apocalypse 2
Angelic Knight Press, May 25, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 258 pages

Barry and Jenny inherited a fortune, with a single stipulation: that they hunt down and eradicate the Tuskers. They can only hope the Tuskers are gone. They aren't sure they can follow through on the genocide of an entire new species.

Genghis, the smartest and most ruthless of the Tuskers, survives. Deep in the desert, he breeds with the wild pig population. These mutants learn from humans, and quickly surpass them.

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders: Blood of the Succubus
Sagewind Publishing, February 1, 2016
eBook, 310 pages

URBAN DICTIONARY: Manic Pixie Dream Girl or MPDG: A pretty, outgoing, whacky female...whose sole purpose is to help broody male characters lighten up and enjoy their lives.

When Doug goes hiking with Suzanne in the Cascades, he thinks he's lucked out. She's his dream girl.

But that night in the tent, she turns into something else, something out of his nightmares.

The Succubus has many names and shapes, but she's perfected the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, every young man's sexual fantasy. She leaves a trail of bodies behind her.

Serena sees through the beguiling persona, tracking the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, determined to stop her. She is joined by Rick, the last of the Guardians, and by the friends of her last victim.

The Succubus calls on her sisters, the Daughters of Lilith, for help. Once they were goddesses. Imprisoned for millennia by the Guardians, drained of their life giving blood, the Succubae vow vengeance upon men, preying on their sexual desires.

When these forces converge, the Succubae and humans confront their true natures.

About Duncan

I've lived in Bend, OR, my whole life (which is becoming increasingly rare in this boom town.) After graduating from the U of O in the '80s, I wrote the fantasy novels Star Axe, Snowcastles and Icetowers. While trying to write full time, I started filling in at a local book/comic book store called Pegasus Books and eventually became manager—then 30 years ago, I bought the store from Mike Richardson, who is now the publisher of Dark Horse Comics.

In the last few years, Pegasus Books has become stable and I've returned to writing like crazy. I sold a four-book deal to Books of the Dead Press, followed by another trilogy, The Vampire Evolution, which consists of Death of An Immortal, Rule of Vampire, and Blood of Gold.

I've been very busy with several other books in the works, and I'm proud to have sold my Wild Pig Apocalypse, Tuskers, to Ragnarok. I hope you guys will check out all my books, as I try to make them entertaining, fast reads.

WebsiteTwitter @PegasusBooks

Retro Reviews: A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

A Princess of Mars
Author:  Edgar Rice Burroughs
Series:  Barsoom 1
Original Book Publisher and Date:  A.C. McClurg, October 10, 1917
Still in Print: Yes
Current Formats: Print and eBook
Availability: Yes - used and new

Brief History

Edgar Rice Burroughs was born in Chicago, IL on September 1, 1875 and died in Encino, CA on March 19, 1950. His father was a civil war veteran. In 1911, Burroughs was working as a pencil-sharpener wholesaler when he began to write fiction. In 1912, Burroughs had his first story, Under the Moons of Mars, serialized in The All-Story magazine from February to July 1912. Tarzan is his most famous character with John Carter close behind. Burroughs has written over 80 books in many different genres, including Science Fiction, Adventure, Westerns, Romance and even Historical. Ray Bradbury said of Burroughs in The Paris Review Spring 2010 No. 192, “I love to say it because it upsets everyone terribly—Burroughs is probably the most influential writer in the entire history of the world. By giving romance and adventure to a whole generation of boys, Burroughs caused them to go out and decide to become special. That’s what we have to do for everyone, give the gift of life with our books.”

A Princess of Mars was originally published as a serial in the February-July 1912 issues of All-Story Magazine under the title of Under the Moons of Mars. Burroughs was influenced in his portrayal of Mars by the astronomer Percival Lowell. On October 10, 1917, the first book edition was printed by A.C. McClurg. The book is now in public domain in the United States.


A World to Conquer.

Suddenly projected to Mars, John Carter found himself captive of the savage green men of Thark. With him was Dejah Thoris, lovely Princess of Helium. And between them and rescue lay a thousand miles of deadly enemies and unknown dangers.

Brannigan's Review

This is the second book I've read and reviewed by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I'll be honest I was a little nervous to read it. I wanted to like it and I've heard so many people say how wonderful it was that I was afraid it wouldn't live up to my expectations. So, for you, dear readers, I conquered my fears and read A Princess of Mars.

Burroughs does a splendid job of developing characters for a such a short book and considering its time frame. John Carter is a man of principles and doesn't falter from standing up for what's right. He also shows tact and patience in his affections towards Dejah. Even the green martians show depth and evolution as the story progresses. Tars Tarkas and Sola show very little in their relationship at the beginning of the story, but their relationship becomes much more complicated as secrets are revealed.

The world building shows depth and is revealed in such a way that it truly makes the world feel old and on the brink of extinction. Burroughs introduces several different alien flora and fauna. He also takes time to explain the differences between the green and red martians by color and within their own respective groups. It shows a great deal of detail for such a short book.

The pacing was a lot faster than I expected but not as fast as modern books. However, I wasn't bothered or bored since Burroughs did a wonderful job keeping my attention through the story. The fact that there's so many different genres within one book, like western, science-fiction, romance, and adventure, also helped to keep my attention.

A Princess of Mars lives up to all it praise and history. I would call it a foundation stone to the genre. It made me giddy and happy as I became immersed in the pulp. I'd recommend this book to youth and adults. There is minor violence. I'd recommend you buy a copy. It truly is one of the pioneer texts in the science fiction genre and should be read and owned by anyone who professes a love of  science fiction.

Favorite quote from the book

“God help the coward, for cowardice is of a surety its own punishment.” page 7