Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Interview with Michael Mammay, author of Planetside

Please welcome Michael Mammay to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Planetside is published on July 31st by Harper Voyager.

Please join The Qwillery in wishing Michael a Happy Publication Day!

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece you remember writing?

Michael:  I wrote some in college. I had a couple of funny essays published in The Pointer, at West Point. While I’ve known that I wanted to write fiction since I was about 18 or 19, I never really started to do it seriously until much later in life.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Michael:  I definitely started out as a pantser, and probably still am, though I do plot certain elements. So maybe a hybrid? I tend to write to events. So I might pants the first act, but I have a pretty good idea what the end of that act looks like. Then I’ll write to the midpoint. So I kind of plot out what each quarter of the book looks like. But inside of scenes, I’m definitely a pantser. Half the time I get characters together, they do something I don’t plan for them to do. It keeps things interesting.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Michael:  Not immediately hating what I’ve written. It took me a long time to believe that Planetside is good. Even past the point where I knew it was going to be published, which is of course ridiculous. So when I write new stuff--and at the time I write it, it’s not as good--I hate it. Depending on the day, I either hate it a little, or I hate it a lot. I rely a lot on other people to help me know what is good and what needs work. I wouldn’t call myself a perfectionist, because I don’t obsess over it. It’s more like a thing where it only affects me when I think about it. But yeah, I’m highly critical of my own work.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Michael:  I read a lot. While I mostly read sci-fi and fantasy, I also teach literature, so I’m pretty well read in the classics, too. For Planetside, the two biggest influences weren’t sci-fi at all. The thing I was reading that got me to start writing Planetside was reading Gone Girl. I’d been writing third person, and was reading GG and it has this amazing first person voice that just punches you in the face from the first chapter. I knew immediately that that’s how I needed to write Planetside. I sat down that night and banged out a chapter which I sent to a few readers. That fast…just sent them a draft. Their reaction to it was all the motivation I needed. There’s also a lot of Heart of Darkness influence in it.

TQDescribe Planetside using only 5 words.

Michael:  NCIS in space combat zone

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

Michael:  It’s actually got some pretty funny parts. It’s not a comedy by any means, but Carl Butler, the main character, doesn’t take himself too seriously, even when the situation around him might be pretty dire. He can be a sarcastic bastard.

TQWhat inspired you to write Planetside? What appeals to you about writing Military SF?

Michael:  I did three year-long tours in Iraq, and another year in Afghanistan, so writing Military SF comes pretty natural to me because the characters are real. None of them are based on real people, but for people who have served in combat, they’re going to recognize a lot of these people. As far as the book itself, the ideas mostly came from my time in Afghanistan. I didn’t do a front line job there, so not the combat part of the book. More the politics and the command structure, and how those people work with each other (real life was nowhere near as dysfunctional as it is in the book!)

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Planetside?

Michael:  I spent a long time in the army. Seriously, I’m pretty light on the science in this book, so I didn’t do a ton of research. I did research stars, and what type would support life. Recently I went to a conference called Launchpad (sponsored by SFWA) and learned a ton of science stuff, so I think there will be more in later books.

TQHow does the military in Planetside differ (or not) from your own experiences with the U.S. Army?

Michael:  The thing that really comes from my time in the army is the relationships between the characters. That’s pretty real. Officers are in charge and enlisted follow orders from them, but it’s more subtle than that. There’s not an undying loyalty to a cause or unwavering support. They know who the boss is, and they treat him with respect, but it’s a two-way street. Good leaders also give respect, and the people they lead feel it, and do better because of it. The other thing that I think comes across, I hope, is I tried to write how it feels to be in a situation where bad things are happening. What it feels like when something explodes. In the combat scenes, I wanted to put the reader as close to it as I could.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Planetside.

Michael:  I love my cover. Sebastien Hue did the art, and I think it’s just beautiful. It kind of provides a big picture of the setting, though a part you never seen in the novel. Planetside is set on a space station orbiting a planet, with a war going on down below. The cover shows part of the station and a distant view of the planet, both of which, in the book, you see from closer up. Butler is inside the station and he’s down on the planet.

Only one side of the war has space technology, so if you’re on the station, you’re kind of away from the war zone. This leads to a situation where there are really two different war experiences…the support of the war, spaceside, and the shooting war, planetside. This isn’t unlike some of our current conflicts where some soldiers are in base camps and others are out on missions. That’s another aspect I wanted to capture, and I think from a larger perspective that’s something the cover shows.

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

Michael:  Butler was the easiest. He just spoke to me from day one. It’s his story, and he told it to me. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true. The hardest, I think…there are two. I’m writing about Dr. Elliott in some detail for another site, so I’ll go with Lex Alenda here. Lex was hard to write because I didn’t know her role in the story when I wrote the first draft. First off, in the first draft, she was a man. When I changed her to a woman in a later draft, she got some life. She went from being just a character who Butler used to do basic errands to a three-dimensional person who had her own thoughts on things and played her own role in the greater story. She develops a lot throughout, and the relationship between her and Butler has a lot of depth. Trying to get their scene together at the end right was something I had to go back to several times…it was probably the hardest scene to get right.

TQDoes Planetside touch on any social issues?

Michael:  There are definitely some colonialism issues. Humans have basically taken over a planet with life on it because they want the resources. I don’t spend a ton of time with that, but it’s there, underlying everything. We’re not necessarily the good guys.

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

Michael:  Well my favorite question to answer is when people ask me how much of this is real, and happened to me while I was in the army. I get a real serious look on my face and say ‘All of it. It’s all true. I went to a distant planet and fought aliens.’ Seriously, though, there are a lot of twists in Planetside, so almost anything I say here is going to be a spoiler, and I don’t want to do that. I love talking about the book with people after they read it. There are always great questions.

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

Michael:  Oh man, that’s tough. I’ve been working on other books for so long now. Here’s one where Butler is describing what it feels like to come out of sedation after space travel:

I’m not sure what to compare it to, as it’s unlike anything else I’ve ever done. I had one colleague compare it to finishing a twenty-kilometer run, combined with a hangover and vertigo.
   In other words, it sucks.

Another non-spoilery one that I really like is an interchange between Butler and a reporter named Karen Plazz, where she’s trying to get information from him and he’s being a bit of a dick, trying to avoid the questions. I really like these two characters together.

“So what can you tell me about the attack?” asked Plazz.
I shrugged. “Certainly nothing you don’t know.”
“But you’re in danger.”
I looked around suspiciously. “Am I?”
“You have three armed soldiers walking with you.”
I glanced over at my guards. “Yeah, but I don’t think they’re that dangerous.”
“You’re avoiding the question.”
“I really am.”

TQWhat's next?

Michael:  Planetside 2 (not it’s real name) is done and with my editor, and I expect that will come out next year. It’s the further adventures of Carl Butler, a couple years after the events of Planetside. I’m on a two book deal, so right now I’m working on a couple different projects that I want to write; developing the concepts, doing the research, and writing the pitches. Which will get written and when depends on a lot of different factors, but I’m excited about both of them.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery!

Harper Voyager, July 31, 2018
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

--“PLANETSIDE is a smart and fast-paced blend of mystery and boots-in-the-dirt military SF that reads like a high-speed collision between Courage Under Fire and Heart of Darkness.” – Marko Kloos, bestselling author of the Frontline series

--“Not just for military SF fans—although military SF fans will love it—Planetside is an amazing debut novel, and I’m looking forward to what Mammay writes next.” – Tanya Huff, author of the Confederation and Peacekeeper series

--“A tough, authentic-feeling story that starts out fast and accelerates from there.” – Jack Campbell, author of Ascendant

--“Definitely the best military sci-fi debut I’ve come across in a while.” – Gavin Smith, author of Bastard Legion and Age of Scorpio

A seasoned military officer uncovers a deadly conspiracy on a distant, war-torn planet…

War heroes aren't usually called out of semi-retirement and sent to the far reaches of the galaxy for a routine investigation. So when Colonel Carl Butler answers the call from an old and powerful friend, he knows it's something big—and he's not being told the whole story. A high councilor's son has gone MIA out of Cappa Base, the space station orbiting a battle-ravaged planet. The young lieutenant had been wounded and evacuated—but there's no record of him having ever arrived at hospital command.

The colonel quickly finds Cappa Base to be a labyrinth of dead ends and sabotage: the hospital commander stonewalls him, the Special Ops leader won't come off the planet, witnesses go missing, radar data disappears, and that’s before he encounters the alien enemy. Butler has no choice but to drop down onto a hostile planet—because someone is using the war zone as a cover. The answers are there—Butler just has to make it back alive…

About Michael

Photo by Lisa K. Davis
Michael Mammay is a retired army officer and a graduate of the United States Military Academy. He has a master’s degree in military history and is a veteran of Desert Storm, Somalia, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He lives with his family in Georgia.


Twitter @MichaelMammay

Monday, July 30, 2018

The View From Monday - July 30, 2018

Happy last Monday in July! This post covers only the remainder of July. Look for the August release list and the 2018 DAC August Debuts on August 1st.

There is one debut this week:

Planetside by Michael Mammay

Clicking on a novel's cover will take you to its Amazon page.

From formerly featured DAC Authors:

Zero Day (The Hatching 3) by Ezekiel Boone is out in Trade Paperback;

Arabella The Traitor of Mars (The Adventures of Arabella Ashby 3) by David D. Levine;

Dreadful Company (A Dr. Greta Helsing Novel 2) by Vivian Shaw;


A Wolf Apart (The Legend of the All Wolves) by Maria Vale.

Clicking on a novel's cover will take you to its Amazon page.

Debut novels are highlighted in blue. Novels, etc. by formerly featured DAC Authors are highlighted in green.

July 30, 2018
Krewe of Hunters Collection Volume 7: Dying Breath\Dark Rites\Wicked Deeds (e) Heather Graham SupTh/PNR - Krewe of Hunters Series 21

July 31, 2018
Portents: A Collection of Cainsville Tales Kelley Armstrong F - Cainsville Collection
Clementine: A Song for the End of the World John T Biggs MR/GenEng/PA - Clementine 1
Zero Day (h2tp) Ezekiel Boone H - The Hatching Series 3
The Core (h2mm) Peter V. Brett F - The Demon Cycle 5
Shadow's Bane Karen Chance UF - Dorina Basarab 4
Keepers Brenda Cooper SF/AP/PA - Project Earth 2
The Marvellous Equations of the Dread: A Novel in Bass Riddim Marcia Douglas LF/MR
Red Vengeance (tp2mm) Brendan DuBois SF - Dark Victory 2
Pale as Death Heather Graham RS/SupTh/PNR/GH - Krewe of Hunters 25
Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction (3rd Edition) James Gunn HC/SF
Stranger in a Strange Land (ri) Robert A. Heinlein SF/AC/LF
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (ri) Robert A. Heinlein SF/Pol
Punishment: A Thriller (h2tp) Scott J. Holliday PP - Detective Barnes 1
Dragonsworn (h2mm) Sherrilyn Kenyon FR/P/UF - Dark-Hunter Novels 21
Dark Light: Dawn (h2mm) Jon Land
Fabrizio Boccardi (Cr)
The Gathering Edge (h2mm) Sharon Lee
Steve Miller
SF - Liaden Universe 20
Swords Against Death (ri) Fritz Leiber F
Arabella The Traitor of Mars David D. Levine SF/SP - The Adventures of Arabella Ashby 3
Planetside (D) Michael Mammay SF
Wychwood (tp2mm) George Mann F/M
The Predator: Hunters And Hunted Official Movie Prequel James A. Moore MTI/SF/AC - Predator
A Study in Honor Claire O'Dell SF
A Dune Companion Donald E. Palumbo (Ed)
C.W. Sullivan III (Ed)
Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy 62
I Am Legend As American Myth: Race and Masculinity in the Novel and Its Film Adaptations Amy J. Ransom HC/SF/F
Dreadful Company Vivian Shaw CF/P/UF - A Dr. Greta Helsing Novel 2
Ant-Man: Natural Enemy: A Novel of the Marvel Universe Jason Starr MTI/SH - Marvel Novels 5
Armistice: The Hot War (h2mm) Harry Turtledove AH/SF - The Hot War 3
A Wolf Apart Maria Vale PNR/FR - The Legend of All Wolves 2
The Future Is Blue Catherynne M. Valente F - Collection
The Killing of Worlds (ri) Scott Westerfeld SF/SO - Succession 2
Gears and God: Technocratic Fiction, Faith, and Empire in Mark Twain's America Nathaniel Williams HC/SF
Quillifer (h2tp) Walter Jon Williams F - Quillifer 1
The Descent of Monsters JY Yang F - The Tensorate Series 3

Cr - Creator
D - Debut
e - eBook
Ed - Editor
h2mm - Hardcover to Mass Market Paperback
h2tp - Hardcover to Trade Paperback
ri - reissue or reprint
tp2mm - Trade Paperback to Mass Market Paperback
Tr - Translator

AC - Alien Contact
AH - Alternate History
AP - Apocalyptic
CF - Contemporary Fantasy
CoA - Coming of Age
Cr - Crime
CW - Contemporary Woman
CyP - Cyberpunk
DF - Dark Fantasy
Dys - Dystopian
F - Fantasy
FairyT - Fairy Tales
Fict - Fiction
FL - Family Life
FolkT - Folk Tales
FR - Fantasy Romance
GenEng - Genetic Engineering
GH - Ghost(s)
Gothic - Gothic
H - Horror
HC - History and Criticism
Hist - Historical
HistF - Historical Fantasy
HSF - Hard Science Fiction
HU - Humor
HuF - Humorous Fantasy
LF - Literary Fiction
LM - Legend and Mythology
M - Mystery
MR - Magical Realism
MTI - Media Tie-In
MU - Mash Up
Occ - Occult
P - Paranormal
PA - Post Apocalyptic
PI - Private Investigator
PNR - Paranormal Romance
Pol - Political
Psy - Psychological
PsyTh - Psychological Thriller
R - Romance
RF - Romantic Fantasy
RS - Romantic Suspense
SF - Science Fiction
SH - Superheroes
SO - Space Opera
SS - Short Stories
SP - Steampunk
Sup - Supernatural
SupM - Supernatural Mystery
SupTh - Supernatural Thriller
Sus - Suspense
Th - Thriller
TT - Time Travel
UF - Urban Fantasy

Note: Not all genres and formats are found in the books, etc. listed above.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Review: In the Valley of the Devil by Hank Early

In the Valley of the Devil
Author:  Hank Early
Series:  An Earl Marcus Mystery 2
Publisher:  Crooked Lane Books, July 10, 2018
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages
List Price:  US$26.99 (print);  US$12.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781683315926 (print); 9781683315933 (eBook)

Earl Marcus found new hope after confronting the unspeakable evil unleashed by his father’s fundamentalist Church of the Holy Flame. Now plying his trade as a private investigator in the North Georgia mountains, he’s drawn once again into a dark abyss of depravity, and murder.

Tasked with what seems like a routine job, Earl stumbles into a mysterious cornfield where an old mountain legend appears to have awakened. Just as he begins to hear rumors of a place in the woods behind a dark cornfield where a killer collects human skulls, his partner Mary Hawkins vanishes.

As the litany of terror grows, the poisoned spirits of Earl’s past return to claim their final victims. And on an old train trestle over a swift-running river at the edge of a cornfield Earl will confront his worst fears. Time is running out for Mary—and unless Earl can wrest her from the control of a secretive cabal comprised of some of the area’s most elite—and wealthiest—citizens, she could be lost to him forever in In the Valley of the Devil, the second harrowing installment of the Earl Marcus mysteries by Hank Early.

Doreen's Review

Early’s first book, Heaven’s Crooked Finger, focused on Earl Marcus’s relationship with his father, the preacher of a fundamentalist church that used snakes as part of its rituals. Having been bitten in the face during a ritual, Earl had fled the church and his father and vowed never to return. But that novel found him investigating and then bringing down the crooked institution.

In the second novel, In the Valley of the Devil, Earl has found some peace. He has returned to the hills of his childhood, is plying his investigative skills successfully, and has a girlfriend, Mary, a sheriff’s deputy he met in the first book. In doing a favor for his frenemy, Ronnie, he finds a cornfield where criminal activities may be taking place, and Mary disappears into the corn.

Whereas Early's first book focused on religion and the damage it can sometimes cause, he focuses on racism here, both blatant and subtle. It appears that Mary was taken, not just because she was investigating with Earl, but more importantly, because she is black.

Early’s books always have some touch of the supernatural, whether there is a rational explanation or not. Here, there is a monster called Old Nathaniel, a former Confederate soldier who attacks blacks and takes their skulls as trophies. Earl must discover whether Mary has been taken by this demon or by a group of rich citizens acting out their racist fantasies. This little piece of mysticism adds to the tension and mystery of the story.

Early also could be a poet. His descriptions are lyrical, especially when he is describing the moon, the cornfields, and the overall beauty of rural Georgia. He quickly is becoming one of my favorite mystery writers because of the intriguing mysteries and the poetic language he uses. I cannot wait to see what he writes next.

Also by Hank Early

Heaven's Crooked Finger
An Earl Marcus Mystery 1
Crooked Lane Books, June 12, 2018
Trade Paperback, 330 pages
Hardcover and eBook, November 7, 2017

2018 Next Generation Indie Book Award Winner!

Eerie, intense, and masterfully-crafted, Hank Early’s gripping series debut Heaven’s Crooked Finger transports readers to a secretive community in the Georgia mountains.

Earl Marcus thought he had left the mountains of Georgia behind forever, and with them, the painful memories of a childhood spent under the fundamentalist rule of his father RJ’s church―a church built on fear, penance, and the twisting, writhing mass of snakes. But then an ominous photo of RJ is delivered to Earl’s home. The photograph is dated long after his father’s burial, and there’s no doubt that the man in the picture is very much alive.

As Earl returns to Church of the Holy Flame searching for the truth, faithful followers insist that his father has risen to a holy place high in the mountains. Nobody will talk about the teenage girls who go missing, only to return with strange tattoo-like marks on their skin. Rumors swirl about an old well that sits atop one of the mountains, a place of unimaginable power and secrets. Earl doesn’t know what to believe, but he has long been haunted by his father, forever lurking in the shadows of his life. Desperate to leave his sinful Holy Flame childhood in the past, Earl digs up deeply buried secrets to discover the truth before time runs out and he’s the one put underground in Heaven’s Crooked Finger, Hank Early’s thrilling series debut.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

2018 World Fantasy Awards - Nominees

Statuette created by Vincent Villafranca

The nominees for the 2018 World Fantasy Awards have been announced. The winners will be announced at the World Fantasy Convention, November 1-4, 2018 in Baltimore, MD.

Lifetime Achievement Awards will be presented to Charles de Lint and Elizabeth Wolheim.

The judges for the 2018 World Fantasy Awards are David Anthony Durham, Christopher Golden, Juliet E. McKenna, Charles Vess, and Kaaron Warren. 

  • The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty (Harper Voyager)
  • Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymir by John Crowley (Saga Press)
  • The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss (Saga Press)
  • Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory (Bond Street Books CA/Knopf US/riverrun UK)
  • The Changeling by Victor LaValle (Spiegal & Grau)
  • Jade City by Fonda Lee (Orbit)

LONG FICTION (10,000 to 40,000 words)
  • The Teardrop Method by Simon Avery (TTA Press)
  • In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle (Tachyon Publications)
  • Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones (Tor.com)
  • Passing Strange by Ellen Klages (Tor.com)
  • The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang (Tor.com)

SHORT FICTION (under 10,000 words)
  • Old Souls” by Fonda Lee (Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy)
  • Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™” by Rebecca Roanhorse (Apex Magazine, Aug. 2017)
  • The Birding: A Fairy Tale” by Natalia Theodoridou (Strange Horizons, Dec. 18, 2017)
  • Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand” by Fran Wilde (Uncanny Magazine, Sept.-Oct. 2017)
  • Carnival Nine” by Caroline Yoachim (Beneath Ceasless Skies, May 11, 2017)

  • The New Voices of Fantasy, edited by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman (Tachyon Publications)
  • Black Feathers: Dark Avian Tales, edited by Ellen Datlow (Pegasus Books)
  • The Book of Swords, edited by Gardner Dozois (Bantam Books US/Harper Voyager UK)
  • The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories, edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin (Solaris)
  • The Best of Subterranean edited by William Schafer (Subterranean Press)

  • Wicked Wonders by Ellen Klages (Tachyon Publications)
  • Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (Graywolf Press)
  • Down and Out in Purgatory: The Collected Stories of Tim Powers by Tim Powers (Baen Books)
  • Tender by Sofia Samatar (Small Beer Press)
  • The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen (Tachyon Publications)

  • Gregory Manchess
  • Victo Ngai
  • Omar Rayyan
  • Rima Staines
  • Fiona Staples

  • Harry Brockway, Patrick McGrath, and Danel Olson for Writing Madness (Centipede Press)
  • C. C. Finlay, for F&SF editing
  • Irene Gallo, for Art Direction at Tor Books and Tor.com
  • Greg Ketter, for DreamHaven Books
  • Leslie Klinger, for The New Annotated Frankenstein (Liveright Publishing Corp.)

  • Scott H. Andrews, for Beneath Ceaseless Skies: Literary Adventure Fantasy
  • Justina Ireland and Troy L. Wiggins, for FIYAH: Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction
  • Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali and Jen R Albert, for PodCastle
  • Ray B. Russell and Rosalie Parker, for Tartarus Press
  • Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, for Uncanny Magazine

  • Charles de Lint
  • Elizabeth Wollheim

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Nintendo Download, July 26, 2018: Summer Vacation

This week’s Nintendo Download includes the following featured content:
  • Nintendo eShop on Nintendo Switch
    • Go Vacation – Welcome to Kawawii Island, a paradise resort where friends and family can enjoy 50+ co-op and competitive activities. There are all sorts of exciting ways to explore the island, from horseback to buggies, snowmobiles to in-line skates. And to add to the fun, up to four players can enjoy visiting and discovering every corner of the island together. Go Vacation will be available on July 27. (Additional accessories may be required for multiplayer mode. Sold separately.)
    • Banner Saga 3Banner Saga 3 is the dramatic final chapter in the mature, story-driven Viking RPG series, which has won more than 20 awards and has been nominated for four BAFTAs. As the world continues to crumble around you, who can you trust, how will you protect your allies and what choices will you make as the Darkness draws near?

Interview with Danie Ware

Please welcome Danie Ware to The Qwillery. Danie's most recent novel, Children of Artifice, was published on June 16th by Fox Spirit Books.

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece you remember writing?

Danie:  Was a long and windy horsey story written as a pre-teen. It was called The Fire Saddle and illustrated throughout… and (other than the front cover) I can’t honestly remember a thing about it. Other than it was awful. Obviously.

TQChildren of Artifice is your 4th novel after the 3 novel Ecko series. What do you wish that you knew about book publishing when the 1st Ecko novel came out that you know now?

Danie:  The sheer amount of hard work that goes into producing a novel – not just the writing, but the complex layers of agents and editors and copy-editors and cover artists and publishers and reps and bookstores… You may produce the basic story, but that’s only the beginning of a very long journey indeed. And it’s hard work for all involved!

TQDescribe Children of Artifice with only 5 words.

Danie:  Science fantasy, urban love story.

TQTell us something about Children of Artifice that is not found in the book description.

Danie:  Children of Artifice deals a lot with identity – with what a name really means, what responsibilities it carries, and what happens if you lose or wish to lose it. It also deals with family – there are many layers of narrative that are about ties of blood and ties of love, and how they can pull you to pieces.

TQWhat inspired you to write Children of Artifice? What appeals to you about writing fantasy?

Danie:  I love writing fantasy because the sky’s the limit and your world’s your own – you can dream as big as you like. The trick, though, is to keep the themes and feelings that we can understand and identify with – in this case, falling unexpectedly in love.

The inspiration came from exploring the relationship of the two main characters, how they interact, how they are pulled together almost in spite of themselves. And how they get caught in the centre of the whirlpool that surrounds them.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Children of Artifice?

Danie:  A lot work on alchemy, mining, volcanoes, and volcanic rock (thanks to Simon ‘Doc of Rocks’ Morden for his help), as well as into the culture and demographics of Dickensian London, and (slightly bizarrely) the Edo period of medieval Japan. Setting a story in a sealed location also means a lot of restrictions, and I had to think through how everything would work – and how essentially water-based agriculture would change the most basic ‘taken-for-granted’ things about a fantasy society.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Children of Artifice.

Danie:  Cover art is by Sarah Anne Langton, and shows the rock of the city’s mineworkings, overlaid with the symbolism of the urban magic/metallurgy that threads throughout the book. It was originally intended to be copper-coloured, but the shade came out looking brown – so the blue is the colour that copper makes when it burns. And copper is rather integral to the story!

TQIn Children of Artifice who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Danie:  Caph was the easiest – his thoughts and reactions and emotions have always been second nature, very easy to feel and follow. Proteus was the hardest – he’s a character concept that I’ve struggled with, on and off, for many years. And I was SO pleased to finally get him (and them) right!

TQDoes Children of Artifice touch on any social issues?

Danie:  A gay relationship is the central thread of the story – but I wanted to step away from the old clichés and do something slightly different. They still have their barriers to cross – but those barriers are more about class and caste, rather than sexuality. There’s also a thread about Caph have been bullied/abused by his ex, and about his father’s unforgiving attitude that it makes him ‘less than a man’. It’s not easy to have been a victim, and his breaking free of the self-blame is critical.

TQDoes Children of Artifice share anything thematically with the Ecko series (Ecko Rising, Ecko Burning, and Ecko Endgame)?

Danie:  Only that is doesn’t fit into tidy genre boundaries!

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

Danie:  Maybe: how long did it take you to write? And the answer is a year – and four previous drafts, the first one in about 1993. Never throw your writing away!

TQGive us one or two of your favourite non-spoilery quotes from Children of Artifice.


‘Slowly, the red sky darkened to lavender and the lamps gleamed in the dusk. The blue moon rose, a sliver like a promise. The dockers and loaders, their shifts over, put flame to swaying strings of lanterns and settled in groups to drink and brag. Clouds of midges round around them occasionally flashing to incendiary doom.’

“Holding down his tension, Proteus turned off the tight, stone roadway and took the steps two at a time, He came up to the cluttered porch panting sheened in a dirty sweat. It stank up here, of piss and breakfast, of life and humanity. Layers of noise drifted up from the tangle below – a crying child, a blazing row, the grunts of married sex.”

TQWhat's next?

Danie:  There is a second book, which I’m about halfway through, but I keep getting distracted. I have more Black Library fiction coming very soon – and there will be even more news towards the end of the year!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Danie:  Thank you for having me!

Children of Artiface
Fox Spirit Books, June 16, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

An ancient city, sealed in a vast crater. A history of metallurgical magic, and of Builders that could craft the living, breathing stone.

Caphen Talmar is the high-born son of an elite family, descended from the Builders themselves, his artistic career ruined when his ex-lover broke his fingers.

One night, gambling down at the wharfside – somewhere he shouldn’t have been in the first place – he meets Aden. An uncomplicated, rough-edged dockworker, Aden is everything Caph needs to forget the pressures of his father’s constant criticism.

But this isn’t just another one-night stand. Aden is trying to find his sister, and he needs Caph’s help. Soon, they find themselves tangled in a deadly game of trust, lies and political rebellion.

And, as Caph begins to understand the real depth of the horrors they’ve uncovered, he learns that Aden is not what he seems. And Aden knows more about the coming destruction than Caph could ever have guessed.

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About Danie

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Ecko Rising
Ecko 1
Titan Books, April 26, 2016
Mass Market Paperback, 528 pages
Trade Paperback and eBook, June 11, 2013

Ecko is an unlikely saviour: a savage gleefully cynical rebel/assassin, he operates out of hi-tech London, making his own rules in a repressed and subdued society. When the biggest job of his life goes horribly wrong, Ecko awakes in a world he doesn’t recognise: a world without tech, weapons, cams, cables – anything that makes sense to him. Can this be his own creation, a virtual Rorschach designed just for him, or is it something much more? Ecko finds himself immersed in a world just as troubled as his own, striving to conquer his deepest fears and save it from extinction.

If Ecko can win through, then he might just learn to care - or break the progam and get home.

Ecko Burning
Ecko 2
Titan Books, June 3, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 528 pages

Ruthless and ambitious, Lord Phylos has control of Fhaveon city, and is using her forces to bring the grasslands under his command. His last opponent is an elderly scribe who’s lost his best friend and wants only to do the right thing.

Seeking weapons, Ecko and his companions follow a trail of myth and rumour to a ruined city where both nightmare and shocking truth lie in wait.

Back in London, the Bard is offered the opportunity to realise everything he has ever wanted – if he will give up his soul.

When all of these things come together, the world will change beyond recognition.

Ecko Endgame
Ecko 3
Titan Books, November 10, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 528 pages

Winter has come to the Varchinde – and with it, the fatal spread of the blight. The grass is dead, and the plains’ cities are falling to the loss of crops and trade.

Now, the Kas take their chance to rise from Rammouthe. Overmatched, betrayed and abandoned by his own forces, Rhan takes the ultimate gamble – he will abandon Fhaveon to lure the Kas into a final confrontation.

But the world’s memory is returning. And, as the battle rages round him, Ecko begins to realise that everything they have done has been for a purpose. If they can fit the pieces together, then they might just win the war.

Yet, even if they do defeat the Kas, the blight is still there. And to save both the Varchinde and himself, Ecko must face the worst fear of all – the one that has come from his own world.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Island of the Mad by Laurie R. King - Excerpt

Chapter One
          Sherlock Holmes and I stood shoulder to shoulder, gazing down sadly at the tiny charred corpse.
          “She should never have left us alone,” I told him.
          “She had no great choice in the matter.”
          “There’s always a choice.”
          “Strictly speaking, perhaps. But it’s best that she disappear, at least for a time. Even putting aside the death penalty, I cannot see her thriving in prison.”
          I had to agree. “She is probably better off in Monte Carlo.” And so saying, I snatched up the smouldering pan and tipped my attempt at a chicken dinner into the rubbish bin. Our long-time housekeeper, Mrs Hudson, had recently abandoned us, selfishly choosing freedom over being tried for murder—and thereby risking our lives to my poisonous culinary skills. “Cheese sandwiches, then? Or shall we walk up to the Tiger?”
          He glanced at the kitchen clock. “Do you suppose Tillie might have a table, up at the Monk’s Tun?”
          Three hours later, we were making our leisurely way towards the gate in the stone wall encircling our house. I had pocketed a torch as we left, but the midsummer sky held enough lingering brightness that we did not need it as we returned across the Sussex Downs. Tillie had outdone herself, with a perfection of cool dishes on a warm afternoon: subtle lettuces, an iced soup, cold meats, hot rolls, and a strawberry tart the likes of none in the land.
          The one drawback was, the Monk’s Tun had begun to collect a reputation. Not that I begrudged Tillie her success—although I might wish we had not chosen to stop in the same night as a carload of Young Things on their way up from Dover.
          Not that they were drunk, merely festive; nor were they loud, exactly, merely difficult to ignore. They were my age—in fact, two of them I dimly recognised: a young man with dark Byronic curls who had been the year before me at Oxford, and a girl whose face appeared in the illustrated Society pages of the newspapers. My eyes kept going to them, two sleek girls in Paris frocks, two clean, tanned lads in casually worn suits that would have cost Tillie’s barman a year of his salary.
          The second time Holmes had needed to repeat something, he craned around to look at the table of merrymakers on the other side of the old room.
          “Friends of yours?”
          “Good heavens, no.”
          “Then why are you watching them so closely?”
          “I wasn’t. Not really. Just—they seem like an alien race, down here in Sussex. Don’t you think?”
          His grey eyes fixed on me, but before he could speak, Tillie came up to greet us, and the next course arrived, and the moment was lost.
          However, Holmes never forgot anything. When he pushed open the gate an hour later, he said, “Russell, do you regret the choices you made?”
          Little point in pretending I didn’t understand. “Regret? Never. I might occasionally wonder what life would have been, had things been different, but it’s mere speculation. Like . . . like trying on a dress I’d never actually wear, just to see what it feels like.”
            He closed the gate and worked the latch. We picked our way through the grassy orchard, hearing the faint texture of sound from the hives—drones cooling their homes from the day’s heat. Near the house, the sweet odour from the old-fashioned climbing rose drew us forward.
          Mrs Hudson had planted the flower, long before I knew her. Mrs Hudson, now gone away, to . . . But before yearning could overcome me, the night was broken by the jangle of the telephone bell.
          Neither of us hurried to catch it.
          And neither of us suggested, when the machine ceased its clamour before we were halfway through the kitchen, that we ask the Exchange to restore the connection.
          Instead, Holmes pulled a corkscrew from the drawer and a bottle of chilled honey wine from the cooler. I fetched a pair of glasses from the cupboard. We left the door open, to chase away the aroma of cremated chicken, and settled into our garden chairs. The night smelled of blossoms and honey. The low pulse of waves against the Sussex cliffs obscured the sound from the hives. The wine was cool, but faintly sad as its summer freshness faded, giving a hint of bitterness to come.
          And the telephone rang again. At this time of night, the sound was ominous.
          With a sigh, I put my half-empty glass onto the stones and went through the terrace doors.
          I spoke our number by way of greeting, to be answered by a voice from the local Exchange. “Evening, Mrs Holmes, sorry to ring so late but the lady said it was an emergency, so I told her I’d keep trying you. And the girl at the Monk’s Tun said you’d left there. Do you want me to connect you again?”
          Life in a rural area is rich in many things, but privacy is not one of them. “Hold on a moment, I’ll get Holmes.” The word emergency generally summoned Sherlock Holmes.
          But to my surprise, she said the woman had asked for me.
          “Did she leave a name?”
          “She said to tell you it was Veronica Fitzwarren.”
          Ronnie. Oh dear.
          I pulled up the chair we kept near the telephone, and sat. “Yes, you’d better put me through.”

Chapter Twenty
          The train came to its end on Sunday, two days and four nations after we’d stepped out of our Sussex door.
          The ideal approach to Venice is from the sea, standing at a ship’s rails as the faint traces of buildings take form through the mists. She resembles (and I must agree with tradition here: Venice is feminine) a queen seated on a throne in a wide, fat field. Solitary and regal, she waits in patience for those who would come to do homage.
          Instead of that entry to la Serenissima, we puffed across two miles of water on hundreds of stone arches, waited while the customs men came to check our hand luggage, and climbed down into the cacophony of any railway station on the planet. The salty air churned with the sounds of shouting porters and crashing equipment, customs inspectors and street urchins, the hiss of venting steam and the slams of compartment doors, cries of greeting and the occasional shriek of a traveller seeing her bags vanish into the crowd.
          And yet, this was different. There was no stink of idling taxis, for one thing, no clop of hooves or rumble of motor lorries or whine of motor-cycles. We were in a port city, yet there was no sign of heavy-goods traffic. Groups of laughing foreigners suggested a resort town, yet bright holiday clothing was more than balanced by workaday garments. Uniforms of various kinds put the crowd into order, funneling traffic from iron rails to waterborne craft.
          I watched the familiar scene with pleasure, until my eye was drawn to an oddity: two black-clad figures created an eddy in the swarm, in a way that even the customs men did not. Most of the people giving them wide berth seemed unaware that they were doing so, but even the laughing tourists subsided a touch as they approached the Blackshirts, and their laughter resumed only when they were out of earshot from the two Fascist representatives.
          I shook of the creeping awareness of the outside world and turned my mind to our next moves.
          The previous Friday, when Thomas Cook & Co. had proven a broken reed and failed to come up with adequate rooms, I had dredged the name of a hotel from the depths of memory and sent them a wire. We had left Sussex before any response could arrive, and since the tourist season was clearly well under way—despite heat, Fascists, mosquitoes, and the stench of summer canals—I only hoped that someone had recalled my mother’s name with enough affection to offer us a servant’s room under the sweltering eaves.
          As I prepared to join the milling crowds heading towards the water and thus the Venetian equivalent of a taxi, I became aware that there was a person standing before me, very still and quite close. I adjusted my eyes, and found a trim young man in hotel livery, with a name in fancy stitching on his breast:
Beau Rivage
          “Signore and Signora Russell?”
          “Yes,” Holmes said. Thanks to Mycroft, he even had a passport in the name of Sheldon Russell, an ebony-haired gent, pampered and well glossed from the tips of his shoes to the teeth behind his pencil-thin moustache. Thin disguise, but along with the change in his stance and the languid air he wore, even someone who knew him would hesitate, wondering, might this be a cousin . . . ?
          “The keys to your luggage, please? I shall see it through Customs. Come, your boat is just here.”
          I followed his pointing finger, and saw a sleek steam launch with a man in the same uniform. I held out the keys and my valise, but told him, “We’ll walk, thanks. It’s been a long train ride. Oh—and tell the maid not to unpack the bags. We prefer to do so on our own.” And had, ever since the day one inexplicably thorough hotel maid had happened across a hidden compartment, dutifully removed the contents for cleaning, and sent a bullet whizzing through the next room.
          The hotel man bowed, cheerfully acknowledging our English eccentricity, accepted my tip, and trotted to the hotel launch with our valises.
          As he explained, hands gesturing, that these mad English guests wanted to walk to the hotel, the even sleeker launch beside it drew in its gangway and let out a belch of steam. This one bore the name Hotel Excelsior, and it turned away with an air of disdain, as if to show that its guests did not need to wait along with hoi polloi. The launch went serenely off, ignoring the gondolas, cargo transports, fishing boats with furled sails, many varieties of shallow-hulled canal boats, and one lone rowing skiff.
          Holmes scowled at our own waiting launch. “Do you suppose we shall ever see our possessions again?” he asked me.
          “It’s quite a good hotel, Holmes.”
          “All the more reason for a thief to pick their jacket out of a laundry.”
          Was I being naïve, gullible—touristic? I did not think so. “Venice has little serious crime, and a very clear sense of honour.”
          “Amongst thieves,” he grumbled, so I slid my arm through his and urged my husband and partner towards the foot-bridge linking the modern world with the timeless city known as la Serenissima.
          This most unlikely of cities grew out of the waters centuries ago, a refuge from chaos following the disintegration of the Roman Empire (another power that kept the trains running, metaphorically speaking).
          Its residents expanded their literal footholds in the lagoon by driving trees down into the mud and perching buildings on top. Before long, its ships ruled—and plundered—the known world.
          In the process, Venice gave rise to an idiosyncratic, oddly democratic, and utterly ruthless system of government. The Doge and his Council were absolute rulers, and yet a constant and precarious balance of power ensured that no one man—or even family—could establish a permanent authority over the others. A Doge’s salary was small, forcing him to maintain his interest in healthy commerce. After a Doge died—and the number of Doges who failed to succumb to natural causes served as a cautionary tale to each successor—his estate was reviewed, and pillaged if there was found any trace of misdoing.
          This inborn system of stalemate proved popular with the Venetians themselves, since it allowed them to carry on the business of business while the government squabbled and bickered and compromised itself into stability. It also, incidentally, laid the groundwork for America’s three governmental branches, designed to frustrate each other into tiny increments of progress.
          For eleven centuries, the Venetian system held—until Europe on the one hand took to the seas and cut out the Venetian middleman, while the Ottomans on the other side grew powerful enough to block the formerly bottomless stream of trade from the East. When Bonaparte passed through Venice in 1797 on his way to a more important enemy, he decided, like any lesser tourist, to ship home his pick of the city’s riches. “I shall be an Attila to the state of Venice,” he thundered. Since the Venetian Navy consisted of but a dozen galleys, its Doge abdicated, and a thousand years of Republic quietly ended.
          Under the Bonaparte régime, La Serenissima lost her independence, her authority, her vast agricultural hinterland, and a great deal of her art. (Most of which, to be honest, had been stolen in the first place.) Stripped and powerless, she was thrown to Austria in the peace accord. But her stones remained. Like many other crossroads of trade—Jerusalem, Cairo, Tokyo—the wealth of the city lay indoors, hidden from passers-by behind inscrutable faces.
          As inscrutable as the faces of the residents.
          “Venetians seem to have a very clear sense of Us and Them,” I mused. “Or rather, Us and You. Anyone who isn’t Venetian is by definition a customer, brought for the express purpose of having money removed from their pockets. But like any people who spread out across the world, they’re not fussy about how people claim residency. If you eat at a restaurant three times, you’re part of the family. If you hire a gondolier for a season, you’re expected to hire him the next time you show up, or God help you.”
          As we walked, as my reflections on Venetian history eventually brought me back to the idea of our luggage sailing off with a clever thief, I felt Holmes glance down at me in growing consternation. Finally, he dropped his arm.
          “Russell, how are you so familiar with this place?”
          It is very seldom that one can achieve superiority over Sherlock Holmes, but I concealed my gloating expression behind a serenity fitting of our locale.

Chapter Twenty-Two
          We were on our balcony at dawn, watching the city creep into existence. Shapes emerged from the darkness, shy, deceptive. Across the San Marco basin, the pale front of Palladio’s San Giorgio took on substance: a domed outline, the tower. Off to my left grew the hump and jumble of trees in the public gardens, their organic shapes foreign in a city where soft referred to marble and lead. The pale curve of the Riva degli Schiavoni described the water’s edge before its route veered towards the Arsenale, that centuries-old ship-yard that had been the base of Venice’s immense power. Venice was full of that kind of invisible pull, with patterns and shapes that only a knowledge of history would explain—and even then, mere explanation was rarely sufficient. It was a city with a feminine face over masculine muscles. Where larch pillars sunk in mud held up palaces of Istrian stone—stone that itself was a product of the sea. A place where one’s main floor was above the ground, where a thousand years of work could be wiped out by a wave, where a city ruler could be felled by an anonymous note or a labourer’s family sleep beneath a Tiepolo fresco.
          Venice begged for metaphor, and at the same time, defied any attempt at reducing it to words, notes, or pigment. For centuries, Venice had fascinated artists of the ineffable, keeping Tintoretto and Titian and Veronese busy with one attempt after another at capturing the essence beneath its surface beauty. The city was a poem one never truly understood, a piece of art that kept pulling the eye. This must be what music was to Holmes: a surface texture that suggested a deeper meaning.
          The island across from me shimmered beneath the growing dawn. I could now see masts from the marina at San Giorgio’s base. Closer in, a gondolier plied his way towards the Grand Canal, and I became aware of his voice, greeting the rising sun with song: “O sole mio . . .”
          And with cliché, the magic shattered and I laughed aloud.

[From Island of the Mad by Laurie R. King,
pub date June 12, 2018]

Island of the Mad
Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes 15
Bantam, June 12, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 320 Pages

Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are back in Laurie R. King’s New York Times bestselling series—“the most sustained feat of imagination in mystery fiction today” (Lee Child).

With Mrs. Hudson gone from their lives and domestic chaos building, the last thing Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes, need is to help an old friend with her mad and missing aunt.

Lady Vivian Beaconsfield has spent most of her adult life in one asylum after another, since the loss of her brother and father in the Great War. And although her mental state seemed to be improving, she’s now disappeared after an outing from Bethlem Royal Hospital . . . better known as Bedlam.

Russell wants nothing to do with the case—but she can’t say no. And at least it will get her away from the challenges of housework and back to the familiar business of investigation. To track down the vanished woman, she brings to the fore her deductive instincts and talent for subterfuge—and of course enlists her husband’s legendary prowess. Together, Russell and Holmes travel from the grim confines of Bedlam to the winding canals and sun-drenched Lido cabarets of Venice—only to find the foreboding shadow of Benito Mussolini darkening the fate of a city, an era, and a tormented English lady of privilege.

Blackbird Coming in October


PORTLAND, OR, 07/24/2018 — Co-creators Sam Humphries (Harley Quinn, Nightwing) and Jen Bartel (The Mighty Thor, America) team up for BLACKBIRD, an all-new modern fantasy series previously announced at Image Expo and launching this October.

“We really wanted to create a story that felt fresh and different—something that appealed to experienced comic readers but was also extremely accessible to newcomers—and we really feel like BLACKBIRD encompasses that,” said Humphries. “It’s ultimately about a world of magic that exists just beneath the surface of everyday places and things, but it’s through the lens of a modern, sexy, neon-lit drama. It’s Harry Potter meets Riverdale.”

Everyone thinks Nina’s crazy, just because she’s convinced there’s a secret world ruled by ruthless cabals of magic users hiding in plain sight. What’s really crazy? She’s absolutely right. And when her sister is kidnapped by a mythical beast, Nina is the only one who can save her.

“I'm thrilled to finally be bringing BLACKBIRD to life,” said Bartel. “It’s a project Sam and I started working on back in 2016, and it evolved naturally out of conversations about what kinds of stories we’d like to see in comic shops. After all the anticipation from fans who have wanted interior art from me over the last two years, I’m excited to reveal everything I’ve been cooking up. I can’t wait for readers to meet the characters and world that we’ve built.”

BLACKBIRD #1, Cover A by Bartel (Diamond code: AUG180013) and Cover B by Fiona Staples (Diamond code: AUG180014), will hit stores on Wednesday, October 3rd. The final order cutoff deadline for comics retailers is Monday, September 10th.

Image Comics is a comic book and graphic novel publisher founded in 1992 by a collective of bestselling artists. Image has since gone on to become one of the largest comics publishers in the United States. Image currently has five partners: Robert Kirkman, Erik Larsen, Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri, and Jim Valentino. It consists of five major houses: Todd McFarlane Productions, Top Cow Productions, Shadowline Comics, Skybound Entertainment, and Image Central. Image publishes comics and graphic novels in nearly every genre, sub-genre, and style imaginable. It offers science fiction, fantasy, romance, horror, crime fiction, historical fiction, humor and more by the finest artists and writers working in the medium today. For more information, visit