Sunday, July 31, 2016

2016 DAC Cover Wars - July Winner

The winner of the July 2016 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars is Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine from Tor Books with 34% of all votes.

The Jacket Art is by Stephan Martiniere with Jacket Design by Peter Lutjen.

Arabella of Mars
The Adventures of Arabella Ashby 1
Tor Books, July 12, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages
Jacket Art: Stephan Martiniere
Jacket Design: Peter Lutjen

Since Newton witnessed a bubble rising from his bathtub, mankind has sought the stars. When William III of England commissioned Capt. William Kidd to command the first expedition to Mars in the late 1600s, he proved that space travel was both possible and profitable.

Now, one century later, a plantation in a flourishing British colony on Mars is home to Arabella Ashby, a young woman who is perfectly content growing up in the untamed frontier. But days spent working on complex automata with her father or stalking her brother Michael with her Martian nanny is not the proper behavior of an English lady. That is something her mother plans to remedy with a move to an exotic world Arabella has never seen: London, England.

However, when events transpire that threaten her home on Mars, Arabella decides that sometimes doing the right thing is far more important than behaving as expected. She disguises herself as a boy and joins the crew of the Diana, a ship serving the Mars Trading Company, where she meets a mysterious captain who is intrigued by her knack with clockwork creations. Now Arabella just has to weather the naval war currently raging between Britain and France, learn how to sail, and deal with a mutinous crew…if she hopes to save her family remaining on Mars.

Arabella of Mars, the debut novel by Hugo-winning author David D. Levine offers adventure, romance, political intrigue, and Napoleon in space!

The Results

The July 2016 Debut Covers

Melanie's Week in Review - July 31, 2016

Hello! Happy end of July.  I can't believe it is halfway through summer already and I have only had 1 week of nice weather. Boo!  On the upside I am starting a new job in August and this was my penultimate week in my current one.  I got to see half of my fave colleagues and the other half this week coming. My new job means I will have more time commuting on the tube which should mean I read more.  Fingers crossed, as that is the plan.  I read two great books this week.  Let me tell you all about them.

Lucky me got a copy of The Thief Who Knocked on Sorrow's Gate by Michael McClung from the publisher, Ragnarok Publications. Mainly because I was practically crying I couldn't buy the next instalment! Thank you to the generous publisher. McClung was the winner of the very first SPFBO with The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids. I really enjoyed it and book number 2 - The Thief that Spat in Luck's Good Eye.

In this instalment Amra is enjoying her new life in her lovely big mansion with the former mage Holgren. Well she was enjoying it until she receives a box containing the head of an enemy from her hometown of Bellarius. Despite never wanting to step foot in Bellarius every again she finds herself back and trying to outwit one assassination attempt after another. The gods have decided to meddle in human affairs and the Eighthfold Goddess particularly likes to meddle with Amra. It's not long before Amra discovers that a very special knife - The Knife that Parts the Night has been found which will be used to tear the fabric of reality apart....well unless Amra can stop it, of course. Another dangerous adventure for the reformed thief.

I really enjoyed this instalment of the series. We learn a bit more about Amra's past and how she ended up as a thief. It isn't a pleasant tale and one that Amra wishes she could forget. We also find out about Amra's family and what happened to her parents. The purging of the street children of Bellarius right before Amra escaped was a key theme of the story and one that weaves itself into the overall plot. The ending was very dramatic and we are left almost falling off a Mount Everest sized cliff hanger. Book 4 won't be released until later this year and it can't come soon enough.

See all of Michael McClung's novels at Ragnarok here.

Book number 2 for me was also book number 2 of the Unhuman series by Wilkie Martin - Inspector Hobbes and the Curse. This series is addictive and very, very funny. We are back with the accident prone Andy Caplet who is still living with Inspector Hobbes, Mrs. Goodfellow who can cook a mean curry and Dregs the dog. When some local sheep end up dead Hobbes and Andy are on the case which takes them to the local wild animal park where Andy meets the beautiful Violet. Immediately infatuated Andy tries his best to impress but fails miserably, much to my amusement. Sightings of big cats, escaped elephants and a murder or two are the all pieces of the case that Hobbes, with Andy's help, must solve before anyone else gets hurt.

Martin has the gift for merging some really funny situations with a good mystery. I was laughing even more at Andy's antics and internal musings than I was at book 1. There is the most hilarious scene when Andy falls foul of the local cider at the town fair. Luckily I was at home when reading this scene so didn't have to suffer any quizzical looks from fellow commuters as I laughed out loud. Andy and Hobbes are a great pair and their adventures make for a series that you can't stop reading.

See Wilkie Martin's novels at his website here.

That is it for me this week. I hope you have had a good week and until next Happy Reading.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Interview with Jen Williams, author of The Copper Promise

Please welcome Jen Williams to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Copper Promise was published on July 5th in North America by Angry Robot.

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

Jen:  Like most writers, I’ve been writing for about as long as I can remember – the first Christmas and birthday presents I can remember asking for were a typewriter and a desk (nerdy child, nerdy grown-up). I wrote a number of grim short stories as a young adult, usually involving someone getting eaten by cats at the end, but never thought I had the stamina to write a book. One day in my early twenties I came home from a particularly rubbish day at work and decided that to make myself feel better, I would write a scene that had been hanging around in my head for weeks. The scene grew, and spawned other scenes, and after about a year and a half I had a book. A terrible, wonky mess of a book, but still. From then on writing books was all I wanted to do.

TQAre you a plotter or a pantser?

Jen:  I tend to start with a very rough plan, and a lot of detailed character notes. My books are very character driven, so for me the most important starting point is knowing everything I can about them, and I like to have some idea of how they change over the course of the story. From there though, I let the first draft guide me, and often the final draft barely resembles the plan I started with. I recently took down the planning post-its from my corkboard for a new novel I’m writing called The Ninth Rain, and as I read them back I was amused by how much of my plan never made it into the book.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Jen:  Maintaining stamina, I think. Writing a novel is a marathon rather than a sprint, and it involves a lot of work over a long period of time, and often throughout a lot of that time you are very unsure of what you are doing. I usually have a crisis of confidence about halfway through the first draft, and it can be very hard to throw yourself back into the work when you know you’ve still got a very long way to go. However, I’ve learnt that this period of uncertainty pops up with every book, and I’ve started to get quite good at ignoring it. In the end, writing a book requires you to be incredibly stubborn in a lot of ways, and that’s certainly a character trait I have.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Jen:  This is always a tricky question to answer, because I think often the things that really influence us slip under our skin and become invisible threads holding our work together – they’re there, and they’re vital, but they’re very difficult to see. Certainly Terry Pratchett has been a big influence. When I was a young person, the Discworld was fantasy to me, and those books taught me how important humour is. Likewise, reading Stephen King as a kid instilled in me the idea that readability is key – you want the reader to come on a journey with you, so don’t make it difficult for them. The Copper Promise was specifically influenced by Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories (the book is essentially a love letter to that sort of sword and sorcery) and the video game Dragon Age. I hadn’t written any ‘traditional’ fantasy for a long time, and Dragon Age gave me a kick up the butt, while reminding me that it’s totally possible to write funny modern fantasy that also features dungeons and dragons.

TQDescribe The Copper Promise in 140 characters or less.

Jen:  A pair of mercenaries accidentally awaken an elder god bent on destroying the world. And then things get worse.

TQTell us something about The Copper Promise that is not found in the book description.

Jen:  The dragon/elder god has a bunch of minions called the brood army. They are murderous dragon women, who cause all sorts of trouble, but also go through a sort of identity crisis…Huge fun to write, but very tricky to squeeze into the blurb.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Copper Promise? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Jen:  I wanted to write something that had all the stuff I’ve always loved about fantasy – adventure, wild magic, outlandish monsters, dungeons, flashy weapons etc. Basically, I wrote it to please myself. I’ve always loved fiction that transports the reader to an entirely new world, and fantasy is the genre where you can take that to its extreme. I love creating new worlds, new histories and then exploring them.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Copper Promise?

Jen:  I sampled a lot of mead. Does that count?

TQIn The Copper Promise who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Jen:  Wydrin, the wisecracking rogue, was certainly the easiest to write. Her voice has always been very clear to me, and it’s just a case of being quiet and listening to her. Sebastian, the knight who is her business partner and closest friend, was much trickier. Seb has a lot of internal conflicts; deeply honourable and kind, he also has a lot of reasons to be very angry. Seb’s journey through the books is not a straightforward one, and it was always important to me that although he makes some bad decisions, it’s vital that the reader understands why he makes them, and feels empathy for him.

TQWhich question about The Copper Promise do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!


Q: Which bit of The Copper Promise always makes you smile when you read it?

A: Ah well, I’m so glad you asked that! There’s a scene where Wydrin forces Lord Frith to jump from the top of a tower, and it makes me laugh every time. That sounds pretty weird out of context, but honestly it amuses me so much.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Copper Promise.


‘I changed my mind. It’s been a slow morning and I am easily bored. You, fresh meat. Would you like to die first?’ She held up one of her daggers, showing it to the youngest guard. ‘This one is called Frostling, and the other is Ashes.’
          ‘That’s the Copper Cat,’ he blurted. ‘She’ll kill us all, and take our bodies back to Crosshaven to feed to the Graces!’
          Triumphant, Wydrin turned to smile at Sebastian.
          ‘And you said that rumour wouldn’t stick –‘

TQWhat's next?

Jen:  Currently I’m in the middle of writing the first book of a new trilogy. It takes place on an entirely new world, with new characters, and so far it’s been a lot of fun. The first book is called The Ninth Rain.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The Copper Promise
Copper Cat 1
Angry Robot, July 5, 2016
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

There are some tall stories about the caverns beneath the Citadel – about magic and mages and monsters and gods.

Wydrin of Crosshaven has heard them all, but she’s spent long enough trawling caverns and taverns with her companion Sir Sebastian to learn that there’s no money to be made in chasing rumours.

But then a crippled nobleman with a dead man’s name offers them a job: exploring the Citadel’s darkest depths. It sounds like just another quest with gold and adventure … if they’re lucky, they might even have a tale of their own to tell once it’s over.

These reckless adventurers will soon learn that sometimes there is truth in rumour. Sometimes a story can save your life.

File Under: Fantasy  [ Beware of the Gods | Dungeon Crawlers | The Brood Rises | Prince of Wounds ]

About Jen

Jen Williams lives in London with her partner and their cat. She started writing about pirates and dragons as a young girl and has never stopped. Her short stories have featured in numerous anthologies and she was nominated for Best Newcomer in the 2015 British Fantasy Awards.

You can find Jen online at her website:, on Twitter @sennydreadful and on Facebook.

Note: The Copper Cat series is published in the UK by Headline. The 3 novels are already published there.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Interview with Blake Crouch and review of Dark Matter

Please welcome Blake Crouch to The Qwillery. Dark Matter was published on July 26th by Crown and I highly recommend it!

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. You've written over a dozen novels. Has your writing process changed (or not) over the years? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Blake:  Thanks for having me! My writing process has definitely evolved and is continuing to evolve from book to book. The hardest thing for me is finding the right idea. It involves lots of hemming and hawing and self-doubting and journaling and outlining before I finally commit to something and get underway with the writing itself.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Blake:  I would describe myself as a plotter who, along the way, is very open to becoming a pantser when inspiration strikes. In other words, I go into a book having a pretty good notion of what the first half of the book is going to be and a vaguer idea of the latter half. But along the way, I want to be surprised. By characters. By sudden reversals I never planned. So I go into the process with a game plan that I hope inspiration and magic will dramatically alter.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Blake:  Lately, it’s a combination of two things. 1. My own life: the challenges and struggles I face seem to work their way into the psychology of my main characters (and sometimes villains). 2. A strong interest in emerging technologies and how they are changing our world, our species.

TQDescribe Dark Matter in 140 characters or less.

Blake:  If Christopher Nolan directed It’s a Wonderful Life.

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

Blake:  At it’s heart, it’s a love story.

TQWhat inspired you to write Dark Matter? What appeals to you about writing Thrillers?

Blake:  I wrote it because I’m fascinated by quantum mechanics and what that field of science suggests about the universe we live in. I love writing thrillers because I love reading thrillers. I write the kinds of books I would want to read.

TQDo Dark Matter and the Wayward Pine Trilogy (Pines, Wayward, and The Last Town) share anything thematically?

Blake:  Yes. They share man questioning his reality, and at times, his identity. They also share the idea that as we progress as a species and reach higher levels of scientific achievement, that threatens to not only change the world around us, but also what it means to be human.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Dark Matter?

Blake:  I read books, articles, abstracts for the last decade, just trying to wrap my brain around quantum mechanics. I still don’t fully understand it. To truly grasp the insanity of how sub-atomic particles behave requires advanced mathematics degrees, and I took as few of those courses as possible in college. When I finished Dark Matter I sent the book to a physicist named Clifford Johnson who teaches at USC. He was kind of enough to read the science-heavy passages and make sure I hadn’t gotten too far off track in my representation of certain theories.

TQ:   In Dark Matter who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Blake:  Jason was far and away the easiest because I feel like he and I are pulled in similar direction in terms of career vs. family. And being in my mid-thirties, I find myself looking more and more back toward the path not taken. Amanda was the hardest character for me, not to write, but to do justice to. She’s a fairly minor character in the book, but she is with Jason during his hardest moments. I didn’t want to short shrift her character, while at the same time, I didn’t want her journey to overshadow my main character’s.

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


Q: Was this the hardest book you ever wrote?

A: By a factor of about 10.

TQ:   Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Dark Matter.

Blake:  I really like this one, from early on in the book. We’re deep in the main character (Jason’s) head here and beginning to understand where he is in life:
“There’s an energy to these autumn nights that touches something primal inside of me. Something from long ago. From my childhood in western Iowa. I think of high school football games and the stadium lights blazing down on the players. I smell ripening apples, and the sour reek of beer from keg parties in the cornfields. I feel the wind in my face as I ride in the bed of an old pickup truck down a country road at night, dust swirling red in the taillights and the entire span of my life yawning out ahead of me.

It’s the beautiful thing about youth.

There’s a weightlessness that permeates everything because no damning choices have been made, no paths committed to, and the road forking out ahead is pure, unlimited potential.

I love my life, but I haven’t felt that lightness of being in ages. Autumn nights like this are as close as I get.”

TQWhat's next?

Blake:  That’s a great question. Remember what I said about how hard it is for me to fall in love with a new idea? I’m speed-dating a bunch of them right now.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Blake:  Thank YOU! Awesome questions.

Dark Matter
Crown, July 26, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages

A brilliantly plotted, relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller from the author of the bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.” 

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.

Qwill's Thoughts

Jason Dessen's life is about to change dramatically. He's kidnapped. His life is wrenched away from him. And all he wants is not the fame and glory of the new world he wakes up in, he just wants his wife and son and the life they've made. Jason is not a typical hero. He starts out a happy man who understands what he has potentially given up to have the life he has with the woman he loves deeply and their son he loves as much. This love is palpable and deeply felt. He will do what he has to do to get home if he can while coming to a deeper understanding of what makes the world around him his world. I didn't always like Jason's attitude and some of things he did, but I understood and respected his decisions.

Dark Matter is tightly plotted and beautifully written. There are moments of deep introspection and of pulse-pounding action. There is science that stretches the boundaries of what we know and what is possible. Crouch raises questions about identity, the multiverse and who we are and wraps these questions in an extremely entertaining, often tense, moving SF thriller.

Dark Matter is, for me, essentially a story about a man's love for his wife and family and his journey to be with them. And it's about quantum mechanics and human entanglement. It's about perseverance in the face of nearly insurmountable odds and finding your way home. It's also mind-blowingly twisty and wonderful. Dark Matter will make you think, question and wonder.

About Blake

Photo by Jesse Giddings
Blake Crouch is a bestselling novelist and screenwriter. His international-bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy was adapted into a television series for FOX, and he is the co-creator of the TNT show Good Behavior, based on his Letty Dobesh novellas. He has written over a dozen novels that have been translated into more than thirty languages, and his books have sold over two million copies. Crouch lives in Colorado with his family.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @blakecrouch1

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Interview with K.S. Merbeth, author of Bite

Please welcome K.S. Merbeth to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Bite was published on July 26th by Orbit.

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

KSM:  Hi, thanks for having me! I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. As a kid I always had my face in a book and dreamed about being an author someday. I started writing my own stories in elementary school, and never stopped. My head is always full of ideas and characters and plots. I feel like I need to get them down on the page for my own peace of mind.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

KSM:  I’m a hybrid. When I first get an idea, I like to jump right in while I’m excited about it. After I word-vomit out the first few chapters, I pause and figure out where I’m going with it. As far as plotting, I use what I’ve heard called the “road trip” technique. I like to know where the story begins, where it ends, and some of the major stops along the way, but I figure out everything else as I go. It helps me maintain the sense of adventure while preventing me from getting lost.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

KSM:  The hardest thing for me is sticking with one idea. I have a long list of stories I’d love to write, and my brain would gladly jump around writing bits and pieces of each, but I’d never get anything finished that way. I’ve become a lot more disciplined over the years, but new ideas are still very tantalizing.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

KSM:  Mostly, I just try to write the kinds of books I’d want to read – and I’m a picky reader. I like to be surprised. I like things that are fresh and different and thought-provoking. I like complicated morality and main characters who aren’t really “heroes” in a traditional sense. Whenever I’m reading, or watching a movie, or playing a game, I’m always thinking about what is working or not working for me in the story, and I bring that with me whenever I sit down to write.

TQDescribe Bite in 140 characters or less.

KSM:  In a brutal desert wasteland, a girl finds a family in a crew of outlaws, and they cause a shitload of trouble.

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

KSM:  While there’s a lot of violence and grit and horror in Bite, there’s also quite a bit of humor! Of course it’s very dark humor that mostly revolves around cannibalism and similarly unsavory topics, but still, I think the story will get more than a couple laughs out of readers.

TQIn the About section on your website (here) you say that Bite is, in part, "...inspired by my love of villains... ." Who are some of your favorite villains? What else inspired Bite?

KSM:  Ooh, there are so many! I love Harley Quinn and the Joker, Bellatrix Lestrange, Gogo Yubari, Negan from the Walking Dead... I have a soft spot for female villains, and for villains that are both evil and funny. As far as other inspiration, I really love the post-apocalyptic setting, but I wanted to take it in a direction that hadn’t been explored before. It’s a setting ripe for violence and villainy, and as soon as I started to wonder about the “bad guys” in such a bleak world, the story began to come together.

TQWhat appeals to you about writing post-apocalyptic SF?

KSM:  I love the gritty, high stakes nature of the setting. The world has fallen apart, civilization has collapsed, and everyone is doing whatever they can to survive. In a world like that, you can really dig into the darker parts of human nature and explore exactly how far people will go to stay alive.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Bite?

KSM:  I did a lot of research into how people would survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Growing up in Arizona, it wasn’t too hard to imagine the desert-like setting and what kind of survival challenges it would pose, but I wanted to include as much realism as I could. I researched things like heatstroke and dehydration, the longevity of various kinds of canned food, and how water would be purified.

TQIn Bite who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

KSM:  Kid was the easiest to write. Her voice came really naturally – in part, I think, because her narration is so deeply entwined with the story in my mind. Bite wouldn’t be the story that it is without Kid telling it. I also relate to her because she’s not some badass or killing machine. She’s just a girl who’s figuring out where she belongs in the world.

The crew’s leader, Wolf, was the hardest for me. He wasn’t difficult to write on a surface level, but it was harder to figure out who he is beneath all the profanity and ridiculous one-liners, and harder still to get him to show it a little over the course of the book.

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


Q: Have you ever drawn inspiration from an unexpected source?

A: What a coincidence, this sets me up perfectly for a story I’ve been dying to tell! ;)

Early into the first draft of Bite, I was working on it at home. I had put Kid in a pretty shitty situation – dying of dehydration and separated from most of the crew – and was puzzling over how to get her out of it. While I was brainstorming, my little brother (who was 12 or 13 at the time) asked me what I was working on. I gave him a quick run-down, and he listened and nodded and advised, in a very serious voice: “You should put a lizard in it.”

And, just like that, I knew how to write myself out of the corner I was stuck in. Thanks, Lucas!

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Bite.

KSM:  Here’s an excerpt!
     “Is that a map?” I ask. I can’t read a word of it, but I recognize the shapes of mountains and roads.
     “Again with the stupid questions,” Wolf says. “Of course it’s a damn map. See, it’s got all the towns and shit.”
     “Wow.” This piece of paper holds more of the world than I’ve ever seen, not that it means much. Before I left town, I knew other places like it existed, but certainly not their locations or names. “You guys made this?”
     “Got it off a caravan,” Pretty Boy says.
     “So you stole it?”
     “It doesn’t count as stealing if they’re dead,” Wolf objects.
     “I think it still counts if you killed them for the map…”
     “I never said we killed them,” he says. “And no. That would count as looting, ain’t that right?”
     “Isn’t that worse than stealing?”

TQWhat's next?

KSM:  Expect a sequel to BITE next year!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Orbit, July 26, 2016
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 416 pages

Kid is trying to survive in a world gone mad.

Hungry, thirsty and alone in a desert wasteland, she's picked up on the side of the road by Wolf, Dolly, Tank and Pretty Boy - outlaws with big reputations and even bigger guns.

But as they journey across the wild together, Kid learns that her newfound crew may not be the heroes she was hoping for. And in a world that's lost its humanity, everyone has a bit of monster within them...

About K.S. Merbeth

Photo by Mauri Mobray
Debut author K.S. Merbeth is obsessed with SFF, food, video games, and her cat and resides in Tuscon, Arizona.

Website  ~ Twitter @ksmerbeth


Spotlight - A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet - and Giveaway

The Qwillery is thrilled to share with you an excerpt from Amanda Bouchet's debut novel - A Promise of Fire. And don't forget to enter the giveaway below to win a copy from Sourcebooks Casablanca!

A Promise of Fire
Kingmaker Chronicles 1
Sourcebooks Casablanca, August 2, 2016
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 448 pages


Catalia "Cat" Fisa lives disguised as a soothsayer in a traveling circus. She is perfectly content avoiding the danger and destiny the Gods—and her homicidal mother—have saddled her with. That is, until Griffin, an ambitious warlord from the magic-deprived south, fixes her with his steely gaze and upsets her illusion of safety forever.

Griffin knows Cat is the Kingmaker, the woman who divines the truth through lies. He wants her as a powerful weapon for his newly conquered realm—until he realizes he wants her for much more than her magic. Cat fights him at every turn, but Griffin's fairness, loyalty, and smoldering advances make him increasingly hard to resist and leave her wondering if life really does have to be short, and lived alone.

Sourcebooks Casablanca is thrilled to announce that we are releasing our very first fantasy romance! Coming August 2016 from debut author Amanda Bouchet is the un-put-downable
A Promise of Fire, the first in the Kingmaker Chronicles series.

To celebrate, we’re giving you the first FIVE chapters to read FOR FREE!

Download the first five chapters here.

To get you started, we’ve included the first few pages below.

Chapter 1

I pluck at my crimson tunic, tenting the lightweight linen away from my sticky skin. The southern Sintan climate isn’t my worst nightmare, but it sometimes ranks pretty high, right along with the stifling layers of cosmetics masking my face, my leather pants, and my knee-high boots.
         Heat and leather and heels don’t mix, but at least looking like a brigand means blending into the circus. Here, discreet only gets you noticed.
         Craning my neck for a breath of fresh air, I navigate my way through the beehive of tables already set up for the circus fair. The performers on the center stage are the main attraction. The rest of us surround them, carving out places for ourselves amid the crowd. Tonight, hemmed in on all sides in an amphitheater lit by hundreds of torches and filled to capacity, I feel like a Cyclops is sitting on my chest—suffocated.
         Damp curls cling to my neck. I peel them off and tuck them back into my braid, scanning the crowd as I walk. I recognize some of the regulars. Others I don’t know. My eyes trip over a man and get stuck. He’s looking at me, and it’s hard not to look back. He’s striking in a dark, magnetic way, his size, weapons, and bearing all telling me he’s a tribal warlord. His build is strong and masculine, his gait perfectly balanced and fluid. He walks with predatory confidence, unhurried, and yet there’s no mistaking his potential for swift, explosive violence. It’s not latent or hidden, just leashed.
         Watchful, alert, he’s aware of everything in his vicinity. Especially me.
         Our gazes collide, and something in me freezes. His eyes remind me of Poseidon’s wrath—stormy, gray, intense—the kind of eyes that draw you in, hold you there, and might not let you go.
         Adrenaline surges through me, ratcheting up my pulse. My heart thumping, I blink and take in the rest of him. Intelligent brow. Strong jaw. Wide mouth. Hawkish nose. Black hair brushes a corded neck atop broad shoulders that have no doubt been swinging a sword since before he could walk. Body toned to perfection, skin darkened by a lifetime in the sun, he’s battle-chiseled and hard, the type of man who can cleave an enemy in two with little effort and even less consequence to his conscience.
         He keeps staring at me, and a shiver prickles my spine. Is this man my enemy?
         There’s no reason to think so, but I didn’t stay alive this long without the help of a healthy dose of paranoia.
         Wary, I sit at my table, keeping an eye on him as he weaves a bold path through an array of potions, trinkets, and charms. He’s flanked by four similar men. Their coloring varies, but they all have the same sure look about them, although they pale in comparison to the warlord in both authority and allure. The man with the gray eyes is a born leader, and only an idiot would mistake him for anything else.
         He stares for so long that I start to wonder if he can somehow bore through my layers of face paint and unmask me, but I’ve never seen him before, and he can’t possibly know the person underneath. I’m from the north of Fisa, where magic is might. He’s from the south of Sinta, where muscle and cunning decide who lives or dies. Our paths would never have crossed in the past, and warlords don’t usually frequent the circus.
         I look away, hoping he’ll do the same. There are plenty of reasons a man stares at a woman. An exotic face and generous figure attract as much attention as a good mystery, if not more, and the warlord’s intense scrutiny feels more appreciative than alarming.
         Ignoring the flush now creeping into my cheeks, I smooth the wrinkles from the coarse wool blanket covering my table and arrange my paraphernalia like usual. My glittering, gold-lettered sign advertises Cat the Magnificent—Soothsayer Extraordinaire, even though flashes of the future only come here and there, usually in dreams. Luckily, it only takes a few questions for truths to reveal themselves like flowers opening for the sun. I read people’s body language and glean who they are, what they want, and maybe even what they’re capable of. It’s about knowledge and illusion. I get a copper for it, which is more than a fair deal for me. I won’t peddle futures. I have an idea of my own, and that’s more than enough.
         My leg starts a nervous bounce. Prophecies can be interpreted loosely, right?
         The audience gasps, and I turn to see what’s happening on the stage. Vasili is throwing knives at his wife. She’s strapped to the flat side of a vertical, rotating wheel, and he’s blindfolded. He’s never hit her, but my heart still comes to a complete standstill every time they perform. Tonight is no exception, and I hold my breath, both riveted and terrified, until he runs out of knives.
         The crowd is too caught up in the circus to take advantage of the fair, so I get up again and head to the performers’ gate to watch the end of the show and put some distance between the warlord and me. He’s still looking when he shouldn’t be.
         The air coming through the gate is fresher, bringing with it the sound of Cerberus’s chuffing breaths and the scent of sweaty dog. He’s Hades’s pet, so I doubt the heat bothers him. I toss him a wave, and two of his three upper lips curl in a snarl of acknowledgment. One of these days, I’ll get all three, although in eight years I never have. I think his middle head just doesn’t like me.
         Finished with his performance, Vasili unstraps his wife while Aetos launches himself onto the stage with a triple flip and lands in a fighter’s crouch that shakes the platform. The solid wood creaks under his colossal weight, and the rapt crowd murmurs in awe. Aetos straightens, pounds his chest, tears the horse pelt off his giant back, and catches fire. His roar shakes the amphitheater. No one can roar like Aetos. I’ve seen him perform hundreds of times, and I still get chills.
         Seven and a half feet tall, muscle-bound, and tattooed blue from head to toe with Tarvan tribal swirls, he moves his hands in an impossibly fast dance, weaving fire until he’s encased in a sphere of living flame. He bursts through the crackling barrier with another roar. The explosion blasts the hair away from my face and dries out the inside of my nose. I’m forty feet away but feel like I’m in the furnaces of the Underworld. Fanning myself is useless. I’ll never get used to the southern heat, and with Aetos performing, it’s even worse.
         The Sintan Hoi Polloi can barely contain themselves. It’s like doing tricks for children—everything enchants. For them, the circus is a whirlwind of power and impossible magical delights. Everywhere from the hard-packed dirt floor surrounding the fair tables and stage to the high, far reaches of the circular stone seating, people jump up and down, hooting and stomping their feet.
         My feet tap along with the crowd’s, my eyes following Aetos around the stage. What a relief to be back in Sinta, even with all the dust and heat. I do whatever I can to stay on the west side of Thalyria. Our recent sojourn in the middle realm of Tarva made my lungs tight and my fingers itch for a knife. I’d probably start jumping at shadows if the circus ever went all the way east to Fisa. Just the thought of my home realm makes my sweat turn cold.
         Sinta. Tarva. Fisa. West to east. Here to… Nothing I’m going to think about.
         The audience whoops in approval of Aetos’s fiery moves. Hoi Polloi in the amphitheater are ecstatic—and not only with the show. They’ve been celebrating ever since a warlord from the tribal south hacked his way north to Castle Sinta to put his own sister on the throne. You’d think Dionysus had dumped a three-month supply of wine over the entire realm. Temples are overflowing with Sintans offering prayers of gratitude, their holy men overcome with gifts to help clothe and feed the poor. Statues of Athena, who is apparently well loved by the conquering warlord, have been spontaneously erected in towns and villages from here to the Ice Plains in Sinta’s north. Happiness and generosity abound, and I don’t even want to think about how many sheep have been slaughtered for celebratory feasts.
         For the first time ever, the magicless majority is in charge, and Hoi Polloi are literally dancing in the streets—but only when they’re not throwing themselves in abject loyalty at the feet of the new royal family. Or so I’ve heard. I haven’t actually seen the new royals, but news spreads fast when there’s something to say. After the warlord and his southern army secured the Sintan throne last spring, his family took weeks just to move north. Not because they’re slow, but because of the sheer number of adoring people in their way.
         It’s no secret the northern-born Magoi royals here in Sinta were despots, just like everywhere else in Thalyria. Hoi Polloi know they’re better off with one of their own in charge.
         But royals without magic? My cynical snort is lost in the boisterousness of the crowd. It’ll never last.

Want more? Download the first FIVE chapters here.

Click here to learn more about A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet.

About Amanda

Award-winning author Amanda Bouchet grew up in New England and studied French at the undergraduate and graduate levels. She moved to Paris, France, in 2001. Her first novel, A Promise of Fire, won several Romance Writers of America chapter contests, including the Orange Rose Contest and the paranormal category of the prestigious Golden Pen.

Publisher Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Interview with W.C. Bauers, author of the Chronicles of Promise Paen

Please welcome W.C. Bauers to The Qwillery. Indomitable, the second novel in the Chronicles of Promise Paen, was published on July 26th by Tor Books.

TQWelcome back to The Qwillery. Your newest novel, Indomitable (Chronicles of Promise Paen 2), was published on July 26th. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote Unbreakable (Promise Paen 1) to Indomitable?

WCB:  Writing UNBREAKABLE was like navigating in the fog of war. I never knew what was around the corner or who was about to die. I didn't kill off any of my characters. I simply found them dead. Well...INDOMITABLE came to me differently. At first I plotted and schemed, down to the very death. I already had a world to write within and characters living on the page, and I wanted to be true to what I’d already written in UNBREAKABLE. At some point I realized I had to get out of my head and back to the stream-of-conscious flow that had served me so well for UNBREAKABLE. Too much planning makes for dull reading.

TQWhat do you wish that you knew about book publishing when Unbreakable came out that you know now?

WCB:  There’s an ancient Hebrew proverb that says, “This too shall pass.” Typically, it’s associated with trying times. But, it’s just as relevant for the extraordinary moments of life. Publishing a book is one of the later. I spent a year writing UNBREAKABLE, and then a year finding an agent, and then more than a year waiting for the book to release. I was very future focused. I wanted the book out, now. Looking back, I wished I’d slowed down more to simply enjoy the process leading up to the publication of the book. I’m trying to do that now with INDOMITABLE. Living in the meantime is a great deal of fun.

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

WCB:  My main character, Promise, is an orphan. That's no secret. In INDOMITABLE she meets a young girl not unlike herself and through some mishaps rediscovers the meaning of family. It's a part of the book I'm very proud of. Rather than spoil that part of the plot I'll stop there.

TQWhich character in the The Chronicles of Promise Paen (so far) surprised you the most? Who has been the hardest character to write and why?

WCB:  That's easy. Promise's mother, Sandra, is both my most surprising and most difficult character to write. I never saw her coming. And, she scares me. She's very unpredictable.

TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Indomitable and Unbreakable?

WCB:  Much has been said about women in combat roles. Can they? Should they? What about the physiological differences between the sexes? Won't men treat women differently, and won't that lead to compromised units and a decrease in readiness? That line of questioning illustrates what you might call the gender combat gap. Because I write military SF, and since my main character is a woman, you might expect me to say something on the matter. And I do in my own way. My books avoid the ideological trench warfare were now seeing regarding combat roles of all kinds opening to women. Instead they tell a story of what it looks like for a young, capable woman to lead a company of mechsuited Marines. Promise leads from the front, and rather well if you ask me.

TQWhich question about The Chronicles of Promise Paen do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

WCB:  Why hasn't Katee Sackhoff optioned the filmed rights to the series and accepted the lead role? She'd make a perfect Promise Paen. Funny you should ask. I keep asking myself the same question.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Indomitable.

WCB:  For some reason this quote has stayed with me. When we get to this place in the book, Promise has just met her new commanding officer. He begins to ask her hard, probing questions about her past, specifically about an operation that didn’t go to plan, an operation where a lot of Marines died under her command. At times, Promise has very thick skin. But she can also wear her emotions on her sleeves, just like she does here:

“You want to know how I live with my dead, sir? By remembering them. I remember them every day of my life. I see their faces before lights-out. I dream about them. BUMED says to give it time. Well, sir, it’s a slow fade. Maybe that’s the true burden of command, living with your dead. Frankly, I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.”

    -   Lieutenant Promise T. Paen, Victor Company

TQWhat's next?

WCB:  I have a twelve-page synopsis ready to go for books three and four in the Chronicle of Promise Paen. Book three, UNCOMPROMISED, is the story of Promise becoming a special operator. I hope to get to this book soon. There are several short stories calling to me. I haven't yet published a short. Contributing to an anthology is on my bucket list. I’m working on a picture book idea, which I hope finds a home. And there's that partially finished young adult novel in the virtual drawer.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

WCB:  Thank you for having me and for being an earlier supporter of the books. That means more than I can say.

Chronicles of Promise Paen 2
Tor Books, July 26, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages

Indomitable: the second in W. C. Bauers's Chronciles of Promise Paen, character-driven military science fiction featuring a female space marine.
Promise Paen, captain of Victor Company's mechanized armored infantry, is back for another adventure protecting the Republic of Aligned Worlds.

Lieutenant Paen barely survived her last encounter with the Lusitanian Empire. She's returned home to heal. But the nightmares won't stop. And she's got a newly reconstituted unit of green marines to whip into shape before they deploy. If the enemies of the RAW don't kill them first, she just might do the job herself.

Light-years away, on the edge of the Verge, a massive vein of rare ore is discovered on the mining planet of Sheol, which ignites an arms race and a proxy war between the Republic and the Lusitanians. Paen and Victor Company are ordered to Sheol, to reinforce the planet and hold it at all costs.

On the eve of their deployment, a friendly fire incident occurs, putting Paen's career in jeopardy and stripping her of her command. When the Lusitanians send mercenaries to raid Sheol and destabilize its mining operations, matters reach crisis levels. Disgraced and angry, Promise is offered one shot to get back into her mechsuit. But she'll have to jump across the galaxy and possibly storm the gates of hell itself.


Chronicles of Promise Paen 1
Tor Books, July 5, 2016
Trade Paperback, 384 pages
Hardcover and eBook, January 13, 2015

The colonists of the planet Montana are accustomed to being ignored. Situated in the buffer zone between two rival human empires, their world is a backwater: remote, provincial, independently minded. Even as a provisional member of the Republic of Aligned Worlds, Montana merits little consideration—until it becomes the flashpoint in an impending interstellar war.

When pirate raids threaten to destabilize the region, the RAW deploys its mechanized armored infantry to deal with the situation. Leading the assault is Marine Corps Lieutenant and Montanan expatriate Promise Paen of Victor Company. Years earlier, Promise was driven to join the Marines after her father was killed by such a raid. Payback is sweet, but it comes at a tremendous and devastating cost. And Promise is in no way happy to be back on her birthworld, not even when she is hailed as a hero by the planet's populace, including its colorful president. Making matters even worse: Promise is persistently haunted by the voice of her dead mother.

Meanwhile, the RAW's most bitter rival, the Lusitanian Empire, has been watching events unfold in the Montana system with interest. Their forces have been awaiting the right moment to gain a beachhead in Republic territory, and with Promise's Marines decimated, they believe the time to strike is now.

Unbreakable by W.C. Bauers is character-driven military science fiction featuring a female marine caught between two empires.

About W. C. Bauers

Heather Bauers Photography
W. C. Bauers works in sales and publishing during the day and writes military science fiction and space opera at night. His first novel, UNBREAKABLE, was an Amazon and B&N, Science Fiction and Fantasy Best Book of the Month pick, for January 2015. His second, INDOMITABLE, is a B&N and Kirkus Best of the Month Pick, for SF/F, for July 2016.

​Bauers's interests include Taekwondo, military history, all varieties of Munchkin, and drinking hot caf. He lives in the Rocky Mountains with his wife, three boys, and the best rescue in the world.

Website  ~  Facebook
Twitter @WCBauers

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2016 Debut Author Challenge.

Lily Brooks-Dalton

Good Morning, Midnight
Random House, August 9, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 272 pages

For readers of Station Eleven and The Snow Child, Lily Brooks-Dalton’s haunting debut is the unforgettable story of two outsiders—a lonely scientist in the Arctic and an astronaut trying to return to Earth—as they grapple with love, regret, and survival in a world transformed.

Augustine, a brilliant, aging astronomer, is consumed by the stars. For years he has lived in remote outposts, studying the sky for evidence of how the universe began. At his latest posting, in a research center in the Arctic, news of a catastrophic event arrives. The scientists are forced to evacuate, but Augustine stubbornly refuses to abandon his work. Shortly after the others have gone, Augustine discovers a mysterious child, Iris, and realizes that the airwaves have gone silent. They are alone.

At the same time, Mission Specialist Sullivan is aboard the Aether on its return flight from Jupiter. The astronauts are the first human beings to delve this deep into space, and Sully has made peace with the sacrifices required of her: a daughter left behind, a marriage ended. So far the journey has been a success. But when Mission Control falls inexplicably silent, Sully and her crewmates are forced to wonder if they will ever get home.

As Augustine and Sully each face an uncertain future against forbidding yet beautiful landscapes, their stories gradually intertwine in a profound and unexpected conclusion. In crystalline prose, Good Morning, Midnight poses the most important questions: What endures at the end of the world? How do we make sense of our lives? Lily Brooks-Dalton’s captivating debut is a meditation on the power of love and the bravery of the human heart.

#DASHNERDASH Giveaway - The Death Cure by James Dashner

The #DashnerDash Binge Read started on May 27th and we're going to be giving away signed copies of the first 4 novels in James Dashner's The Maze Runner series. This is a great opportunity to reread the series or read it for the first time. Adults can read along with their Young Adults or why not read the series for yourself?

The reread kicked off with The Maze Runner. You can submit questions via the Maze Runner Facebook page and selected questions will then be discussed by James Dashner and his editor, Krista Marino, in a series of live Google Hangouts during the last week of each month.

There is a Google Hangout with James Dashner and Krista Marino taking place on July 27th at 8pm EDT here. That's tonight! Are you ready to discuss The Scorch Trials?

The reread of The Death Cure will begin on July 27th, followed by The Kill Order on August 27th. The Google Hangout for The Kill Order at the end of August will lead right into the publication of The Fever Code on September 27th.

The Qwillery is giving away 1 signed copy of The Death Cure. Enter via the Rafflecopter below.

The Death Cure
The Maze Runner Series 3
Delacorte Press, January 8, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Read the third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series, perfect for fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent. The first and second books, The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials, are now major motion pictures featuring the star of MTV’s Teen Wolf, Dylan O’Brien; Kaya Scodelario; Aml Ameen; Will Poulter; and Thomas Brodie-Sangster! Also look for James Dashner’s newest series, the Mortality Doctrine: The Eye of Minds, The Rule of Thoughts, and The Game of Lives.

It’s the end of the line.

WICKED has taken everything from Thomas: his life, his memories, and now his only friends—the Gladers. But it’s finally over. The trials are complete, after one final test.

Will anyone survive?

What WICKED doesn’t know is that Thomas remembers far more than they think. And it’s enough to prove that he can’t believe a word of what they say.

The truth will be terrifying.

Thomas beat the Maze. He survived the Scorch. He’ll risk anything to save his friends. But the truth might be what ends it all.

The time for lies is over.

The Giveaway

What:  One entrant will win one signed copy of the THE DEATH CURE by James Dashner from the publisher. US / CANADA ONLY

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

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US or Canadian mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on August 15, 2016. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 13 years old or older to enter.

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway