Friday, November 17, 2017

SPFBO 2017 -- Semi-Finalists



The Qwillery is pleased to announce our 6 semi-finalists for the 2017 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. Each of these novels received at least 3 positive votes from the 4 reviewers going through the slush pile. These novels will receive full reviews. One of these novels will be The Qwillery's Finalist!



M. R. Anthony

Soldier's Redemption
First Cohort 1
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook

The land is torn – the savage Duke Warmont sends his armies to murder his rebellious people. The soldiers of the First Cohort have lived through it all – two hundred years of fighting for a man they despise. Their captain, Tyrus Charing, knows that something has to change. His men grow tired of eternal bloodshed.

There is hope for them – a saviour has come and she needs good soldiers in order to overthrow the Duke.

As the First Cohort try to pay for the sins of their past, they discover they’ve taken on far more than they could have imagined. The Duke does not care how many die, so long as he stays in power. Amongst his generals are sorcerers of great power, and an inhuman brute of callous evil, all of whom are eager to face Charing on the battlefield.

Soldiers’ Redemption is a dark fantasy epic, about strength, loyalty and an unwavering determination to beat the odds.





D.K. Holmberg

Soldier Son
Teralin Sword 1
Trade Paperback and eBook

Endric wants only to serve, but he's destined to lead.

As the second son of the general of the Denraen, Endric wants only to fight, not the commission his father demands of him. When a strange attack in the south leads to the loss of someone close to him, only Endric seems concerned about what happened.

All signs point to an attack on the city, and betrayal by someone deep within the Denraen, but his father no longer trusts his judgment. This forces Endric to make another impulsive decision, one that leads him far from the city on a journey where he discovers how little he knew, and how much more he has to understand. If he can prove himself in time, and with the help of his new allies, he can stop a greater disaster.





James Jakins

Son of Thunder
Thunder's War 1
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook

In the country of Sohlgain, all young men are expected to chain a dragon and claim its charge. For Berun Toirnach, the eldest son of the nation’s ruler, this means venturing onto a dragon reserve and hunting a wild dragon. A tradition his family has upheld for generations.

The aftermath of this hunt will shape Berun’s life. He is given a position as a Thunder Priest and gifted the power to control lightning, Berun must decide what to do with this new power. Will he use it selfishly, or will he use it for the benefit of his country?

Years later, in an attempt to escape responsibility for a short time, Berun and his friends take a trip to the idyllic beachside city of Hurthow, where an ancient festival is celebrated by locals and foreigners alike.

But the safety and warmth of the sun and sand is an illusion. Dangerous enemies wait, hiding behind smiles and cold eyes.

Soon the lives of Berun’s friends and family are put in danger, and the young prince must rely on his power and his allies, old and new, to save them. His father's most trusted bodyguard, a disgraced assassin known for his skill and ruthless precision. A young God Mage and her companions. And a coward with a power he's afraid to use. All of them will be needed to save those threatened.
But time is against them and their enemies have secrets of their own.





K. Bird Lincoln

Tiger Lily
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook

"A beautifully-written genderbending tale of rebellious girls, shifting disguises, and forbidden magic, set against the vivid backdrop of ancient Japan."
--Tina Connolly, author of Ironskin

Lily isn't supposed to hunt game in the Daimyo's woods. She's just the cook's daughter. It isn't her place to talk to nobility. And she definitely isn't supposed to sing the forbidden old, Jindo religion songs.

But Lily was born in the year of the Tiger, and can't ever be like other village girls. In the woods snaring rabbits one day, she finds instead the Daimyo's son, Ashikaga, wounded, in the gooseberry brush. When the Pretender Emperor's men arrive to kill Ashikaga, Lily, desperate, sings a forbidden Jindo song.

The song wakes a powerful spirit – as well as Ashikaga's interest. The prickly lord has hidden secrets of his own and a burning desire to prove himself to his father. He will stop at nothing to defeat his father's greatest enemy.

All Lily wants to do is take care of her sisters. But the Pretender-Emperor's forces are drawing near, and now the Daimyo's son knows she communes with Jindo gods. She wants to trust Ashikaga when he swears he will not tell her secret, but he is a noble – and Lily only a peasant. Lily's heart is leading her down a dangerous path. She may have to defy her father, Ashikaga, and even the spirits themselves in order to defeat the Pretender-Emperor's magic and keep safe all that she loves.





Matt Moss

The Path of Man
Soul Stone Trilogy 1
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook

The war has just begun.

The Dark Society has finally emerged from the shadows after years of silence. Their mission is clear and they won't stop until the Order is destroyed.

The Order has been waiting for this day. The Prophet has already assured their victory.

Buried within the riddles of an ancient text lies a place of legend that contains an unspeakable power. Many believe it to be a myth. But if the rumors are true, the Dark Society may already know of its location.

Arkin's world is changed forever when a stranger rides into town. Suddenly, he's thrown into the age-old war between the Order and the Dark Society. Choices made in the past ripple through time as Arkin puts the pieces together. His choices will determine the future of all as he follows the Path of Man.

The Soul Stone Trilogy:
Book 1 - The Path of Man
Book 2 - The Shepherd of Fire
Book 3 - Coming 2018





Pauline M Ross

The Dragon's Egg
Brightmoon 6
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook

A stand-alone epic fantasy set in the Brightmoon world…

Garrett has been many things in his time… street hustler, warrior, professional gambler, spy. He’ll do whatever is asked of him, legal or not. Now he’s paid to search for those with a touch of magic in them. But magic is unpredictable and hard to find, and he doesn’t have much luck until he meets Dru, whose family claim she hatched from a dragon’s egg. She looks different, doesn’t say a lot, and likes to talk to the chickens, though they don’t listen much. There might be real power behind her strangeness, if she could only learn how to reach it.

When Garrett is asked to escort Dru on a journey, accompanied by a scholar, a princess, a guard and a priest, it seems like a simple enough mission, until they fall into the hands of raiders. Garrett has lived on his wits all his life, but he’ll need all his talents, and a little magic too, to get them out of this mess and reach safety.

If he can manage that, maybe he’ll find out the secret of the dragon’s egg, and the girl who hatched from it.

VS, SF Series, Arrives in February


BRUTAL SCI-FI SERIES VS
ARRIVES THIS FEBRUARY


PORTLAND, OR, 11/16/2017 — Superstar artist Esad Ribić (Secret Wars, Uncanny X-Force) will make his creator-owned debut, teaming up with acclaimed writer Ivan Brandon (BLACK CLOUD, DRIFTER) for the darkly satirical sci-fi series VS this February from Image Comics. Painted colors from Nic Klein (DRIFTER) and design by Tom Muller round out the powerhouse creative team.

War has become a spectator sport.

Privately funded armies of superstar soldiers march into battle for fame, profit, and the glory of their sponsor nations. When a new generation of soldiers arrive, top gladiator Satta Flynn is about to discover how fleeting the limelight can be—and how punishing.

DEATH OF LOVE Coming For Valentine's Day


DEATH OF LOVE ARRIVES JUST IN TIME FOR VALENTINE’S DAY

PORTLAND, OR, 11/16/2017 — Writer Justin Jordan (THE FAMILY TRADE, SPREAD) teams up with artist Donal DeLay (You are Not Alone, My Geek Family), colorist Omar Estévez (Heavy Metal Magazine, Batman ‘66), and letterer Rachel Deering (In the Dark, Vertigo Quarterly) for the least romantic Valentine’s comic ever: DEATH OF LOVE.

Love sucks. And Philo Harris is going to do something about it.

After a particularly bad, drunken decision, Philo gains the ability to see the Cupidae, the creatures responsible for all the love in the world, and declares war on love itself. With a chainsaw.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Nintendo Download, November 16, 2017: Battle the Dragons of Skyrim Wherever You Go


This week’s Nintendo Download includes the following featured content:
  • Nintendo eShop on Nintendo Switch
    • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Winner of more than 200 Game of the Year awards, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an open-world masterpiece where you can be anyone and do anything. And now, with the power of the Nintendo Switch system, you can play it anywhere – at home or on the go. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim brings to life a complete virtual world for you to explore any way you choose, including features new to this version of the game like using motion controls and outfits and gear from compatible Legend of Zelda series amiibo figures (sold separately).
    • Battle Chef Brigade – In the fantasy realm of Victusia, the members of the elite Battle Chef Brigade are revered for their ability to skillfully take down monsters and transform their kills into delicious cuisine. But being a part of the Brigade isn’t easy: Chefs from across Victusia must vie for their spot in a high-stakes competition. Follow two contestants, Mina and Thrash, as their journeys through the tournament unfold. In order to become a Brigadier you’ll need to hunt monsters with combo-based attacks and prepare your freshly caught ingredients in puzzle-based cooking challenges to serve up winning dishes to the judges – all while the round clock ticks down. The Battle Chef Brigade game will be available on Nov. 20.
  • Nintendo eShop on Nintendo 3DS
    • Pokémon Ultra Sun / Pokémon Ultra Moon – A new light shines on the Alola region! Take on the role of a Pokémon Trainer and unravel the mystery of the Legendary Pokémon Necrozma’s two new forms: Dusk Mane Necrozma in the Pokémon Ultra Sun game and Dawn Wings Necrozma in the Pokémon Ultra Moon game. You can encounter and battle 400+ Pokémon, including new forms. A brand-new showdown awaits!

Guest Blog by Anton Strout - Writers, Embrace your Suckitude!


Please welcome Anton Strout to The Qwillery!







Writers, Embrace your Suckitude!
By Anton Strout

As Frank Herbert wrote in the Litany Against Fear in DUNE, “Fear is the mind killer,” which was clearly meant to be the inner monologue of writers everywhere.

At each stage of a writer’s career, our destructive troglodyte brains love to try and stump us, to keep us from writing. It’s a process that never goes away, really, at whatever level of your career you might be at from first timer to New York Times bestseller.

The details might differ for you as you read this, but this is sort of a fear ladder that authors go through, starting with the smallest:

I want to write.
I wonder if I can write a whole short story?
Okay, great did that. Now can I write something longer, can I do a whole novel?
Whoa, did that… hmm… wonder if can I do it again?
Yep. Okay. Keen. Can I get one of my novels published?
OMG, a publisher wants it… and now they want more of the same, multiple books in a series. Am I even capable of writing a sequel, keeping a series going?

Right about…. HERE is where I am right now as America’s Favorite Lower Midlist Urban Fantasy Author™, climbing the fear ladder rung by rung. I proved I could get down four books in my first series, the Simon Canderous paranormal detective novels. Then I proved to myself I could launch a second series successfully with the three book Spellmason Chronicles.

But that still leaves me hanging somewhere in the middle of that fear ladder as a writer.

Those higher up than me look down with whimsical nostalgia at how easy those fears were to manage when they were on my rung of the ladder, and those below me look up as they shake their fists, shouting, “Shut up, Strout! You don’t know how good you’ve got it!”

Always remember that fear is a relative thing for a writer, again dependent on which run of the ladder they are desperately clinging to. And of course there are the future fears and woes I worry about, should I ever move up the ladder to, say, making the bestseller lists:

Once I’m on, can I make the list again?
What if readers don’t like the next book?
What if I run out of ideas for the series that is working?

But the super fear lurking behind every stage—word by word, book by book—is: How do I get the words down time and time again, especially in the face of all those fears? And worse, what if I write a book that is terrible? Many wannabe writers I know get stuck at the perfectionist fear stage and barely get a paragraph down, let alone a whole book. So how do I sit down and not give in to the fear of producing a crappy book? I have a simple calming mantra: It’s okay to suck.

In fact, I heartily encourage it. Why?

Because when you first finish your book it is absolutely going to suck. It should. It is, literally, the first draft. That name alone implies there will be many more to follow. The trick to writing isn’t to vomit forth pure gold. It’s to get it down so you have something there to fix.

I can see the holes in a plot or what’s missing in a character once I have that initial draft down and a better feel for where the tale is going. Those are things I can add in later, things I can refine as I stitch the Frankenstein’s Monster of my book together until the reader can no longer see the stitches.

Fear does not keep me from attempting to get my book down. I embrace the suck. I encourage the suck. And then? It’s my job as a writer to beat the suck out of it. Through writing, rewriting, beta readers, editors, copyeditors… once I realized I do not have to get perfection down on the page the first time out—that only many passes will make it whole—I realized there was nothing to fear.

But circling back to DUNE for a moment, sit down at your computer, take a deep breath and incant with me the Litany Against Fear used by the Bene Gesserit to clear your mind and calm yourselves before launching yourself at the page:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

Happy writing!

Are you a writer or do you know a writer who would enjoy the gift of…well, Anton Strout, for the holidays? Anton is auctioning off a read and critique session where authors can have him read a piece of their work and hear what this “Simon Cowell of Writing Critique” has to say! There is only a day left to the auction, however, so don’t miss it! https://www.ebay.com/itm/232557450209





Alchemystic
The Spellmason Chronicles 1
Ace, September 25, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

AN OLD FRIEND OF THE FAMILY…

Alexandra Belarus is a struggling artist living in New York City, even though her family is rich in real estate, including a towering Gothic Gramercy Park building built by her great-great-grandfather. But the truth of her bloodline is revealed when she is attacked on the street and saved by an inhumanly powerful winged figure. A figure who knows the Belarus name…

Lexi’s great-great-grandfather was a Spellmason—an artisan who could work magic on stone. But in his day, dark forces conspired against him and his, so he left a spell of protection on his family. Now that Lexi is in danger, the spell has awoken her ancestor’s most trusted and fearsome creation: a gargoyle named Stanis.

Lexi and Stanis are equally surprised to find themselves bound to each other. But as they learn to work together, they realize that only united can they save the city they both love…



Stonecast
The Spellmason Chronicles 2
Ace, September 24, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

NO STONE UNTURNED…

Alexandra Belarus was an artist stuck working in her New York family’s business…until she discovered her true legacy—a deep and ancient magic. Lexi became the last practicing Spellmason, with the power to breathe life into stone. And as her powers awoke, so did her family’s most faithful protector: a gargoyle named Stanis. But when a centuries-old evil threatened her family and her city, Stanis sacrificed himself to save everything Lexi held dear.

With Stanis gone, Lexi’s efforts to master Spellmasonry—even with the help of her dedicated friends—are faltering. Hidden forces both watch her and threaten her, and she finds herself suddenly under the mysterious wing of a secret religious society determined to keep magic hidden from the world.

But the question of Stanis’s fate haunts her—and as the storm around her grows, so does the fear that she won’t be able to save him in her turn.



Incarnate
The Spellmason Chronicles 3
Ace, September 30, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

HITTING ROCK BOTTOM

When Alexandra Belarus discovered her family’s secret ability to breathe life into stone, she uncovered an entire world of magic hidden within New York City—a world she has accidentally thrown into chaos. A spell gone awry has set thousands of gargoyles loose upon Manhattan, and it’s up to Lexi and her faithful protector, Stanis, to put things right.

But the stress of saving the city is casting a pall over Lexi and Stanis’s relationship, driving them to work separately to solve the problem. As Stanis struggles to unite the gargoyle population, Lexi forges unlikely alliances with witches, alchemists and New York’s Finest to quell an unsettling uprising led by an ancient and deadly foe long thought vanquished.

To save her city, Lexi must wield more power than ever before with the added hope of recovering a mysterious artifact that could change her world—and bring her closer to Stanis than she ever thought possible…





About Anton

Fantasy and science fiction author Anton Strout has given readers equal shares of chills and laughter since the first book of his Simon Canderous paranormal detective series, Dead To Me, came out from Penguin/Ace Books in 2008. He continues his tales of mayhem in Manhattan with his second series, the Spellmason Chronicles, as he treats readers to the story of a girl and her gargoyle, and explores themes of friendship, loyalty, and love with his trademark snarky twist.

The Once & Future Podcast (theonceandfuturepodcast.com) is his latest project, where he endeavors as Curator of Content to bring authors to listener's ear holes one damned episode at a time..
In his scant spare time, his is a writer, a sometimes actor, sometimes musician, occasional RPGer, and the worlds most casual and controller smashing video gamer. He currently works in the exciting world of publishing and yes, it is as glamorous as it sounds.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @antonstrout  ~ The Once & Future Podcast

Artisan's Avenue: Wicked Wall Masks



Artisan's Avenue is a place to showcase fantasy, horror, or sci-fi artists and their creations. As you may have guessed, the name pays homage to Artist's Alley and the wildly talented people I've met at various comic cons. I am continuously fascinated and impressed with their creativity and imagination and I hope our readers feel the same.


Wicked Wall Masks

Tracey/TrinityTwoAs I peruse the vendor sections of comic and horror conventions, I am always on the lookout for new and original artists. This October, I attended Rock and Shock in Worcester, MA and am excited to feature artist Stephen Scholan, whose booth Wicked Wall Masks I found to be wildly original, colorful and exciting.

Stephen, could you please tell our readers a bit about your creative background?

SS:  I had always wanted to be an artist since I was a child. Drawing was my passion in my teens and I started experimenting with clay in my early twenties. All of my sculpting has been self-taught, a lot of trial and error. I still have a lot to learn. The majority of artistic education I've received is through a circle of tattoo artists that taught me about colors and contrast.



TraceyStephen, you obviously have a passion for the macabre. Tell me what it is about this genre that sparks your creative juices.

SS:  I'm fascinated with ancient and extinct cultures, religious deities and the arcane. Most of the wall art I create really doesn't have any true symbolic meaning, my intent is only to spark people's imagination and curiosity.



TraceyWho are some of your personal favorite artists and why?

SS:  Some of my favorite and also the most influential include H.R. Giger, Tim Burton, Brom and Rob Zombie. These artists walked the path less traveled and, like them, I'm always trying to create something spooky, mysterious and original.



TraceyPlease tell us about your current work.

SS:  I am currently working on a set of happy and sad demonic clowns. These are some of the largest pieces I've made and they are a custom order for a collector of mine. After that, I will be creating a traditional Japanese demon. From there, I will be working on another custom order of a Snoopy sculpture hugging a huge heart- that's no joke, though it is a little funny.



TraceyWhat are some of your favorite pieces you have worked on?

SS:  One of my recent favorites is a goat head/raven skull themed clock I created a few months ago. I really enjoy creating clocks as it serves more of a purpose than just a decorative wall mask.




TraceyIs there a cool story you'd like to share about a commission or any of your artwork?

SS:  In the early 2000s I had created two wall masks for the rap duo Twiztid. I wasn't able to give it to them directly, but I caught up with them a few months later at an autograph signing. When I inquired about the wall art I had given them, I was informed that it was hanging up in the house of one of their security guards. Come to find out later that they had gotten rid of the art as quickly as possible because they were unable to sleep with it on their tour bus. Initially, my feelings were hurt but over time I actually took that as a compliment. If my art creeped those two guys out, I must be doing something right!




TraceyThank you so much for joining us at The Qwillery. If you are interested in checking out more of Stephen's creations, head on over to his Instagram or etsy page. Links are provided below.

SS:  All of my current work can be found on my Instagram page. Any art that I have available for sale can be found at my Etsy store @WickedWallMasks

https://www.etsy.com/shop/WickedWallMasks
https://www.facebook.com/wickedwallmasks/
https://www.instagram.com/wicked_wallmasks/








Holiday Offering for the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy



N. SANE OFFERINGS THIS HOLIDAY FOR THE
CRASH BANDICOOT N. SANE TRILOGY

Top-Ranked Remastered Collection for PlayStation 4 to
Delight Fans of all Ages on Black Friday

SANTA MONICA, Calif. – November 15, 2017 – Crash™ fans will have more to be thankful for this holiday season, as Activision, a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ: ATVI), shared today some of the hottest offerings of the season for Crash Bandicoot™ N. Sane Trilogy. On November 24, participating retailers nationwide are getting into the Crash craze with awesome deals, including GameStop and Walmart in the U.S. which will have special Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy Black Friday bundles sure to make any gift giver or recipient happy. Additionally, there’s plenty of officially-licensed Crash loot now available to stock up on before the holiday rush.

Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy reached critical acclaim as the top-selling¹ remastered PlayStation® 4 collection to date in 2017. IGN called the game “N. Credible fun,” while Common Sense Media rated the game “5 out of 5 stars.” Game Informer said, “Vicarious Visions made it fun again, without altering its DNA – a feat that deserves recognition.” Biogamer Girl called it “an insanely addictive throwback.”

Madefire Welcomes Image Comics’ THE WALKING DEAD, SPAWN, and more


Madefire Welcomes Image Comics’ THE WALKING DEAD, SPAWN, and more to its Award-Winning Digital Platform 

Image Comics’ Signature Titles Are Now Available for Reading on the State-of-the-art Madefire App

PORTLAND, OR, 11/15/2017 — Madefire, the award-winning standard in digital comics and innovator of the proprietary Motion Book™ format teams up with Image Comics, the publisher of some of the top selling, award-winning comics in the industry, to make available a trove of back catalog titles to the Madefire platform.

Image Comics is the creator-owned publisher known for a myriad of popular titles, including: Robert Kirkman’s THE WALKING DEAD, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ SAGA, Joshua Williamson and Andrei Bressan’s BIRTHRIGHT, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine DeLandro’s BITCH PLANET, Jonathan Layman and Rob Guillory’s CHEW, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ CRIMINAL, Rick Remender and Wes Craig’s DEADLY CLASS, Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen’s DESCENDER, Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta’s EAST OF WEST, Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s MONSTRESS, Eric Stephenson, Nate Bellegarde, Jordie Bellaire, and Fonografik’s NOWHERE MEN, Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s PAPER GIRLS, Kurtis Wiebe and Roc Upchurch’s RAT QUEENS, Erik Larsen’s SAVAGE DRAGON, Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s SEX CRIMINALS, Jason Aaron and Jason Latour’s SOUTHERN BASTARDS, Todd McFarlane’s SPAWN, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s THE WICKED + THE DIVINE, Marc Silvestri, Brian Haberlin, Michael Turner, and David Wohl’s WITCHBLADE, and more.

Demon Gaze II Is Available In North America For PlayStation4 and PlayStationVita




Official website: http://nisamerica.com/games/demongaze2/ Shine the light of revolution!

About the Game: Blessed by the sun and sea, One nation enjoys complete harmony - Asteria. Behind the facade of peace, exploitation of the people was rampant, and from their pain, the demons were born. Seeking to unmask the evil and create a revolution, one group of new Demon Gazers stood tall... they were known as the Revolutionist Party.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

2017 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - November Debuts





Each month you will be able to vote for your favorite cover from that month's debut novels. At the end of the year the 12 monthly winners will be pitted against each other to choose the 2017 Debut Novel Cover of the Year. Please note that a debut novel cover is eligible in the month in which the novel is published in the US. Cover artist/illustrator/designer information is provided when we have it.

I'm using PollCode for this vote. After you the check the circle next to your favorite, click "Vote" to record your vote. If you'd like to see the real-time results click "View". This will take you to the PollCode site where you may see the results. If you want to come back to The Qwillery click "Back" and you will return to this page. Voting will end sometime on November 30, 2017.

Vote for your favorite November 2017 Debut Cover!
 
pollcode.com free polls









Cover design by Will Staehle










Cover design by Lisa Marie Pompilio
Cover photo by Getty Images










Cover illustration © Adam S. Doyle
Cover design by Jacqueline Nasso Cooke
Cover design © Prometheus Books















Cover design by Alicia Tatone
Cover photos by © Michael Steden/Shutterstock (book); 
© MrVander/Shutterstock (star burst)










Cover artwork and design by Keith Negley





Cover design by Jamie Stafford-Hill
Cover photographs: house by Francey/Sutterstock.com;
stars by NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Interview with Tracy Townsend, author of The Nine


Please welcome Tracy Townsend to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Nine is published on November 14th by Pyr.

Please join The Qwillery in wishing Tracy a very Happy Publication Day!







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

Tracy:  Thanks for having me! I started writing when I was very young -- second or third grade -- and my earliest projects were all comics, mostly featuring talking animals in Sunday morning funnies-type situations. I read broadly, everything from Beverly Cleary to Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. By the time I was in middle school, I’d graduated into creating what folks today would call fan fic, though I don’t know that I knew the term or if it was really widely in use in the early 90s. My first major project was a James Bond fan fic novella written entirely in longhand in a spiral notebook that was supposed to have been for history notes. I wrote because I admired certain storytellers and I wanted to understand how they created these remarkable things I admired so much. I’d gone to writing workshops and been in writing clubs, but all but the best of those experiences felt like the blind leading the blind. The only way to figure out how the magic was done was to crawl up inside the stories and reverse engineer them myself, in my own way. I kept in the habit throughout high school, writing episodic series on demand for friends with really specific tastes, and writing short stories featuring characters my friends and I played in tabletop RPGs. I loved writing to my friends’ prompts best of all; it was this perfect gift for them I could create, something we shared together. It wasn’t until I went to college that I realized I really wanted to write professionally. Prior to meeting some really formative peers and instructors there, it had always just been something I was good at, but felt like a bit of an impostor actually doing.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Tracy:  Oh, I’m definitely a hybrid -- just one trouser leg on at any given time. I tend to start with a very vivid concept or character, and I start building up scenes and situations to explore it. I keep myself moving by jumping from each clearly visualized moment to the next. After I’ve built a good head of steam doing that, I step back to review what I’ve created and figure out what pulls it all together. What are the events I’m focused on, and how are plot beats coming into being? Do I have things in the right order? What’s the throughline? It’s during that pause, answering those questions, that I plot out the gaps in my narrative, and only then do I resume writing. The fact that I love writing in close third from multiple characters’ points of view means this kind of hop-around drafting process works when I’m getting a project off the ground. The downside is that knitting all the pieces together can be intensely surgical -- and sometimes leads to dead ends, scenes that end up on the proverbial cutting room floor. I admire writers with fast, efficient plotting and drafting processes, but I’ve never been able to create a project that interests me if I have to imagine the whole narrative from a cold start.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Tracy:  I work full time as a teacher at a public boarding school for gifted students. I know a lot of other writers who are also teachers and parents, too, of course, but the particular kind of school where I teach involves a level of hands-on stewardship of the students -- involvement in their clubs, their social events, their lives in the early and late hours of the work day -- that’s pretty atypical. Everyone struggles to achieve work-life balance. But in a lot of senses, my work is my life, and I tend to wear myself down serving both masters. I can’t stand disappointing people, so if something’s going to get short shrift when time and energy are at a premium, it will almost always be me.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Tracy:  I grew up reading comics (X-Men, Elfquest, Wolverine, Bone) and playing tabletop board games, so my whole youth revolved around variations on the “mismatched people bound by circumstance save the world” theme. I love that trope and there’s always some piece of it in anything I write. I love it because it’s much less about the “save the world” stuff and really more about a given story’s take on “found family.” I grew up far away from my nearest relatives, aside from my parents and brother, and so the “family” I turned to most often was the family of friends I collected, through school and writing and general geekdom. The way people who love each other because they chose each other bond, and how those bonds push and pull at them just as fiercely as blood-bonds, fascinates me because it’s so much a part of my lived experience. My husband teases me all the time about plot just being my excuse to get people in a room being emotional at each other. Really, he’s not wrong.



TQDescribe The Nine in 140 characters or less.

Tracy:  2 ret. mercs & a teen thief are nobody's 1st choice heroes, but when God's lab book is stolen, its 2nd best or seconds left 2 save humanity



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

Tracy:  I wrote The Nine to be a fantasy work that mashes up a lot of my favorite things -- political machinations, conspiracies, heists, found family, “mandatory unretirement,” steam- and clockpunk stylings, redemption arcs, interspecies conflict, gray morality. That’s far more than back cover copy alone could address, sure. But the thing I’m proudest of was Publishers Weekly’s review of The Nine’s “nearly flawless writing.” I about fell out of my chair in shock -- and relief that the effort had been recognized! I wanted to give my readers a feeling of prose-level care and craft that no back cover copy can effectively promise. I wanted to make a beautiful monster. It’s up to everyone else to decide if I succeeded.



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

Tracy:  The idea for The Nine actually comes from Talmudic legend: the lamed wufniks, which Jorge Luis Borges writes about briefly in his Book of Imaginary Beings. Reading Borges piqued my interest and got me reading the Talmud and Kabbalah for details that eventually became important to the idea of the fate of mankind resting on the shoulders of a kind of “sample” population.

It’s only through a genre like fantasy that I could take my next thought -- that this seemed like a very strange cosmological variation on a scientific experiment -- and turn that into the premise of a novel. I love the slipperiness of fantasy, how it bends everyday logic and supplants it with its own sets of rules of conditions. It can be heroic, cautionary, escapist, political, pessimistic, or hopeful. I knew The Nine needed to be fantasy because I needed to bend and break a lot of rules and fuse together a lot of different visual and narrative styles to pull it off. But really, much more than it being the right tool for this particular story, it was the one I wanted most to explore and push into the shape I desired. They say you should write the book you wish was already out there for you to read. The Nine is the book I needed and wanted but never quite found.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Nine?

Tracy:  Oh, God, so much research. I researched autopsies and human anatomy. I researched Gothic architecture. I researched early photographic technologies, and deadly toxins, and period hats and footwear, guns and ammo, rappelling gear, and particle physics. And all of that was before my first round of revisions.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Nine.

Tracy:  Adam Doyle (whose amazing portfolio of work you can find here) was my cover artist, and I couldn’t be happier. I hope he does the art for the rest of the series. He’s done covers for Chuck Wendig and Maggie Stiefvater (which was great for my six degrees of publishing separation ego, let me tell you) and illustrations for Fantasy Flight Games. That last credit was hugely exciting for my friends and me, because we’ve played many of the games he’s contributed to. Adam starts with sketches and ultimately creates paintings which are later rendered into the cover images. That’s what gives The Nine’s cover that murky, swirling depth. If you look closely, there are a lot of smaller images buried in the background of the city behind the pictured characters -- gears and pipes and skulls, great atmospheric notes. Adam read the book in manuscript form and asked me for some additional information about the named character from it so he could refine his vision of individual figures. I’ve never asked him if he had a specific moment from the book in mind for the cover, but honestly, that’s because I feel I already know the answer, down to chapter and page. This “Avengers, assemble!” moment featuring Rowena, the Alchemist, and Anselm really helps focus the sprawling narrative around the characters whose actions will do the most to shape its outcome.



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

Tracy:  Often, my easiest character to write is Anselm. He’s easy because his way of seeing other people is so entirely alien to me. He’s a cynical, manipulative, self-assured egoist, smart and acid-tongued -- the sort of person you want on your side because it’s too dangerous having him against you. Writing characters less like me is easier than the ones more like me, because I think of it as deep character acting. (I worked in theater quite a bit years ago, and though I’m an indifferent actor, I’m a very good line coach, and in a lot of ways, that’s what writing a close POV really is -- line coaching yourself as author.) When the character itself chafes me, I’m more conscious of the need to stay in character, and that keeps me focused.

Haadiyaa Gammon, on the other hand, is very hard for me to write most days. I understand her completely, and even relate to the pressures she feels. That makes me work harder to ensure I’m examining her choices thoughtfully. She’s done things she regrets, but did them because she didn’t trust anyone else to do the right thing in her place. Gammon isn’t afraid of the sacrifices it takes to serve the pragmatic good or of being the bad guy for the right cause. I’ve been there, in my own way.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Nine?

Tracy:  I don’t even think twice about “including social issues” in my writing because if I’m doing my job right, they’re already there. Part of the reason genre fiction is so powerful is that it defamiliarizes the conditions of our world, or extrapolates them through thought experiment, or supplants them with foreign elements, all with the hope of giving us insight into human nature. Authors and readers stare down a funhouse mirror of reality through so-called “escapist” fiction. Genre has always done this, to varying degrees. It’s just begun to do it more overtly in recent years, which is what makes it seem to some readers as if “social issues” are suddenly everywhere. They always were there. Now, authors are simply doing more to highlight them in their narratives.

As for this book, the world of The Nine is full of the problems caused by plutocracy, imperialism, xenophobia, and exceptionalist ideas of power and influence. Sometimes, these issues are present the way air in a room is. Other times, they’re spoken of directly. Since the crux of the plot is about mankind’s survival -- whether it can prove itself worthy of its place in existence -- I have to hold humanity accountable for what it’s done. That’s where the anxiety about our fate really lies. Are we worth it? Do we deserve this world? Is it too late to make good on the ills we’ve done, as individuals or as a people?



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

Tracy:  You know, nobody asks about character names, and I wish they would. There’s a specific story behind almost every one. I agonize over names. They do a lot to form a character, and often to Easter egg in details about who or what they really are. Probably the best name story of all is Rare’s.

Rare is an important secondary character in The Nine, and part of the web of happenstance and conspiracy that pulls the three main characters (Rowena, Anselm, and the Alchemist) together. I was listening to an excellent BBC radio drama production of Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris at the time I was first drafting The Nine. There was a character whose name I kept hearing as “Rare.” (Important to remember here that the actors all had quite perfect English accents, and so the rhotic pronunciation was strongly in evidence throughout the recording.) I thought it was simply marvelous that this character -- a love interest central to the main character’s emotional trauma -- had such a lovely, unusual name. I also knew the character I was writing at the time was going to be at the center of a lot of bad emotional history for the main characters in The Nine. It was perfect, so like a good little magpie, I stole the name.

Much later, long after the first draft was complete, I was in a used bookshop and saw a copy of Solaris on the shelf. I grabbed it and started leafing through, only to discover that the character in question’s name was actually Rhea. The actors’ rhotic “r” following the “a” had totally thrown me. But by then, I was too attached to Rare being Rare to possibly rename her.



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

Tracy:  It’s up to readers to find where these moments come from. This first one is for the sheer pleasure of banter: “Turpitude is my problem, not degeneracy. A law-abiding life was out of the question from the start.”

This second comes from a moment a little further on: “He could feel his convictions yawning like an unknotted purse, dropping in bits and pieces from his mental vault.”



TQWhat's next?

Tracy:  It’s time for The Nine’s sequel! It has a working title and hopefully it doesn’t change along the way, but I’ll be keeping it secret for at least awhile longer. You can expect to hear more about the series and what’s in store for its characters soon. For now, suffice it to say the drama surrounding the missing book, the Ecclesiastical Commission, and the aigamuxa and lanyani species is far from resolved. Pursuing its loose ends will take the characters outside of Corma, the city setting for the first book, and into the rest of the world the so-called Grand Unity shaped.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Tracy:  Thank you! I’d love to hear from your readers. Talk to me via email at tracy at tracytownsend dot net or on Twitter (@TheStorymatic).





The Nine
Thieves of Fate 1
Pyr, November 14, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

A book that some would kill for…

Black market courier Rowena Downshire is doing everything she can to stay off the streets and earn enough to pay her mother’s way to freedom. But an urgent and unexpected delivery leads her face to face with a creature out of nightmares.

The Alchemist knows things few men have lived to tell about, but when a frightened and empty-handed courier shows up on his doorstep he knows better than to turn her away. What he discovers leads him to ask for help from the last man he wants to see—the former mercenary, Anselm Meteron.

Reverend Phillip Chalmers awakes in a cell, bloodied and bruised, facing a creature twice his size. Translating a stolen book that writes itself may be his only hope for survival; however, he soon learns the text may have been written by the Creator himself, tracking the nine human subjects of his Grand Experiment. In the wrong hands, it could mean the end of humanity.

This unlikely team must try to keep the book from those who would misuse it. But how can they be sure who the enemy is when they can barely trust each other? And what will happen to them when it reveals a secret no human was meant to know?





About Tracy

Photo by Jennifer Bronson
Debut author Tracy Townsend holds a master’s degree in writing and rhetoric from DePaul University and a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from DePauw University, a source of regular consternation when proofreading her credentials. She is chair of the English Department at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, an elite public boarding school, where she teaches creative writing and science fiction and fantasy literature. She has been a martial arts instructor, a stage combat and accent coach, and a short-order cook for houses full of tired gamers. Now she lives in Bolingbrook, Illinois with two bumptious hounds, two remarkable children, and one very patient husband. Her short story “Late Arrivals” was published by Luna Station Quarterly in March 2016.


Website  ~  Twitter @TheStorymatic  ~  Facebook



Talisman: Digital Edition Coming From Nomad Games and Asmodee Digital



Nomad Games and Asmodee Digital Join Forces to Publish Talisman: Digital Edition

Partnership to help grow the Talisman: Digital Edition series and support future development

PARIS - Nov. 13, 2017 - Asmodee Digital and Nomad Games today announced a partnership to lead Talisman: Digital Edition to new heights. Now in its fourth year, Talisman: Digital Edition and its many expansions have garnered a loyal following of digital players. Available on Steam (PC and Mac), the Apple App Store and Google Play for Android devices, Talisman: Digital Edition has to-date been published by Nomad Games, and so the decision to work with a publisher is a strategic one for the company.