Sunday, October 23, 2016

Strange California, Edited by Jaym Gates and J. Daniel Batt

I'm a backer of Strange California: A Speculative Fiction Anthology on Kickstarter and am delighted to host Jaym Gates, one of the co-editors. I used to live in Los Angeles and would love to read this anthology, but that can only happen if the Kickstarter campaign is funded. Please take a look. You only have 4 days left to back Strange California!

California is one of those places that takes a larger-than-life form in stories and memories. So many authors have drawn their inspiration from the state, creating a rich heritage of science fiction and fantasy in the Golden State.

When Jason Batt and I started talking about our shared experiences with the weird side of California, we immediately knew we wanted to work on an anthology inspired by our experiences.

A little less than a year later, Strange California went live on Kickstarter ( We’re now just a few days from the end of the campaign, and pushing hard for our full funding. This anthology developed out of our love for the complexity and diversity of the state–features reflected in both the landscape and the people that inhabit them. California sprawls across a multitude of landscapes and has amassed a history full of the strange and unusual. There are secrets in the desert. Secrets in the cities. Strange and unusual happenings in the odd, dark places of the coastal state.

We have an absolutely beautiful selection of stories put together for the readers with this project. I’ll let them speak about their own stories.

Tim Pratt: Lake Merritt -- "the jewel of Oakland," the nation's first official wildlife refuge, the largest body of salt water within city limits in the country, a misshapen Valentine heart three and a half miles around with a jogging path lit by fairy lights and acres of park all around -- has its own legendary lake cryptid (which almost nobody believes in), the "Oak-ness Monster." It's hard to imagine how an eight-foot-long sea serpent could go even a little bit unnoticed in a tidal lagoon that's only 10 feet deep... but in my story, I do the imagining for you.

Chaz Brenchley: Ever since I moved to Silicon Valley, coming on five years ago, I’ve wanted to write about it. I thought that would be a non-fiction book, which would certainly be called “Uncanny Valley”, in reference to that detectable revulsion people feel in contact with a robot that is almost but not quite human: the gulf between truth and artifice is never greater than when it is most narrow.

But I have a fine history of never writing my non-fictions (there is a whole other book called “State of Grace”, an intimate history of the Vatican, which I have never written nor ever will though I really really want to), and the title with the subject are too good to let run to waste, and short stories are a thing that I am known to do; and there is nowhere in California more weird than Silicon Valley. So I was thinking about that, and about how it used to be the Valley of Heart’s Delight when it was all fruit-orchards and nothing tech at all; and I thought how interesting it would be if a start-up built an app for people’s phones that would show them not the view they’re actually looking at but the way it used to be. (Two weeks later Pokemon Go launched, and suddenly everyone was using their phones to see things that aren’t actually there: but that’s blessedly irrelevant here.)

And once you’ve had the idea, there are really only two ways to go, hereabouts. Either you build the app (which is what everyone else in Silicon Valley would do), or else you write the story. Which is what I did, obviously.

Natania Barron: Being half Canadian and a Yankee, I can never say that the west is in my blood. But my father's side of the family has lived in California since the 70s, so from the youngest of ages I've been able to visit the Golden State. And from its arid deserts to the high reaching redwoods, it's always been tremendously inspiring.

The seeds for my story "Camellias" were planted during my time visiting my beloved late great aunt in Northern California and traveling together to the coast. We'd leave her house in Los Altos Hills and drive through the mountains and arrive at the sea, salt spray in our faces as we walked to the cliffs. Then we'd take a short drive to Pescadero, the little village nestled into the hills, and eat artichoke soup and crab sandwiches at Duarte's tavern.

For me, this part of California has always felt like the end of the world, in the best possible way, with ocean cliffs and farmlands, and green grass after the rainy season. When my great aunt was still healthy, we'd talk during the drive of our mutual love of Japanese and Native American art, and she'd tell me about her trips all around the world. I once asked her which country was her favorite and she said, without hesitation, "China."

So for Strange California I wanted to marry the sublime and wildly diverse landscapes of San Mateo County with a twist on the weird western. Not from the view of a cowboy or a brothel owner, but from the eyes of two young Chinese girls who unleash a powerful magic while working at a textile mill in San Francisco. When they fall in with three sisters escaping a dark past, it's not clear who's saving whom... from what.

Spencer German Ellsworth: The Mojave Desert is not meant for water. It's a landscape of rocks and sudden sand dunes and tons of twisted, weird Joshua trees, of flash floods and windstorms and dust devils.

So when you crest a barren hill, and see this giant artificial river rushing along concrete banks, it's the most otherworldly thing in an already otherworldly landscape. There was not much for a crop of teenagers to do in Lancaster, given that we were a bedroom community for Angelenos and the Air Force. We hiked around the aqueduct a lot, risking a swim in the artificial currents, trying to kill rattlesnakes, and crawling through drainage tunnels.

I originally wrote this story for an anthology of urban legends, and it was rejected because it was not so much an urban legend as just weird. Luckily, it found a home in Charles Coleman Finlay's first issue of F&SF. It's one of my few stories that is a kind of riff, a repeated study on that image of blue Sierra Nevada water transported thousands of miles along a concrete river in a blasted desert.

Nick Mamatas: My inspiration was a brief one: as someone who grew up Greek Orthodox, I am always interested in bits of Orthodoxy in North America, especially when they're not obvious. Few people outside of California give much thought to Russia's presence in the American West, which brought along with it traces of Orthodoxy. It's very strange, and so I thought I'd write about it.

Jim Van Pelt: I attended the U.C. Davis Creative Writing program from 1988-1990. In the summer of '89, after I'd spent the day painting a house, I drove north on U.S. 5 to relax. At sunset, I pulled into a rest stop to eat a peach. Across the fields and the day's dust stood a huge carnival tent and a half dozen rides. By that time the sun sat like a red ball on the horizon, casting an evocative light on the canvas and motionless banners. No one was at the carnival. None of the rides were moving. It was like a ghost carnival. I've never been able to shake the image, and that's what inspired "Roller Coaster."

Christie Yant: A few years ago, while researching the history of my home town, I came across a book by a local writer and historian John McReynolds, about the more than one hundred Japanese families who lived here until the internment of WW2, of which only two families ever returned. An entire community, completely erased. In my story I hope to explore and bring attention to that lost community through the lens of speculative fiction and historical fantasy.

Marion Deeds: Clearly Christina Rossetti’s poem “The Goblin Market” was a big influence on this story, but I have been fascinated since childhood with the influence of the Russian exploration of this stretch of coastline. Although it didn’t go well for the sea otters, it’s difficult to think of the Russian settlement and not include them. One day in late summer a friend and I went on a photo safari through the fields and valleys between the coast and the town of what is now Tomales. The old buildings in the town itself, the stretch of the golden valley, the humming of the wind and in particular an old barn on a hillside got into my head and would not leave, so I came up with a tale of two sisters, a magical mother and a trickster.

For more information on Strange California, and the Kickstarter, please visit us at,, or our recent Reddit AMA

About Jaym

Jaym Gates got her start in editing by making a joke on Twitter six years ago. At the time of writing this bio, she's working on her 15th anthology. The titles include RIGOR AMORTIS, BROKEN TIME BLUES, WAR STORIES, GEEK LOVE, GENIUS LOCI, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, UPSIDE DOWN, ECLIPSE PHASE: AFTER THE FALL, EXALTED: TALES FROM THE AGE OF SORROWS, and VAMPIRE: ENDLESS AGES. She is also a developmental editor for Falstaff Books, and lead editor for the BROKEN CITIES shared-world setting.

Along the way, she's managed to publish fiction, RPGs, comics, nonfiction, and academic nonfiction. Her fiction has appeared in AETHER AGE, KAIJU RISING, HEROES!, Shadowrun: DRAWING DESTINY, Goldfish Grimm, and Grendelsong, and her nonfiction appears in various academic and online outlets. She has a collection of short fiction coming out from Falstaff Books, titled SHATTERED QUEEN. She has written for FIREFLY: SMUGGLER'S GUIDE TO THE RIM, BLUE ROSE 2nd Ed., TIANXIA: Blood, Silk, and Jade, and other RPGs.
In her spare time, Jaym trains and rides horses, collects tea, practices a martial art called Systema, and works in a comic shop in Everett, WA.

Melanie's Week in Review - October 23, 2016

Hello everyone! I would have amazed you with my book reading abilities with 3 separate reviews but alas, I needed some comfort reading on Monday, part of Friday and for a half hour or so on Saturday and did a bit of a mini re-read of Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews. As I have already reviewed this for you I won't do it again (still loved it!). I did however manage to finish 2 books. So what did I read (besides Magic Binds)?

It was a nice surprise when Hexbound by Bec McMaster popped onto my Kindle. I have forgotten I pre-ordered it so what a treat. Normally I leave this to the end of my reviews but check out the cover!  You all know what a cover snob I am and I think this one is gorgeous. I even didn't mind that the models were a tad older looking than what the lead characters, Verity and Adrian were supposed to be (see, I am cover fussy!). As I just told my husband when he mocked my admiration of the cover (currently in my bad books for that one) I love the swirling, twirling colours in the background.

Anyway, I digress. Hexbound is the second instalment in McMaster's Dark Arts series and starts not long after the events of book 1. Adrian Bishop, one of the Prime's sons and part of a doomsday prophecy, is woken up one night when a talented young thief breaks into his house. The thief steals the Chalice which he had sworn to protect and which is one of 3 instruments needed to summon a demon. No one is more surprised than Adrian that the very same thief, the same one he discovers, is a an enticing young lady turns up on his doorstep three days later grievously injured. Verity is part of a gang of thieves who had been raised on the streets since she was a young girl (picture Verity as the female version of Oliver Twist). Her easy gig turns into something much more sinister than expected and she agrees to help Adrian in order to save her own life. Adrian has to fight his attraction to Verity, as well as, fight his particular type of magic which gives him strength and pleasure when he kills. Verity and Adrian are determined to retrieve the Chalice to stop London being destroyed by a malevolent power while fighting their growing attraction to one another.

All the baddies are back for this one including Morgana who everyone (but the reader) thinks died when her son Sebastian (and the 3rd son in the prophecy) brings the house down on her head at the end of book 1. Morgana should win an award for being the meanest Mom ever and you spend most of the booking waiting for her to get her comeuppance. I quite enjoyed this instalment. I thought that while Verity was a bit of a stereotype, I enjoyed reading about the dark and broody Adrian. I appreciated that the sexy bits didn't come in the way of the plot line....not to say that there weren't any but Adrian and Verity weren't getting frisky when they were supposed to be finding the Chalice or trying not to get killed. Overall, a nice little magical, romance dalliance to make the daily commute feel all that much more shorter.

For book 2 I returned to something I started back in July - The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin. This is the third and final instalment of The Passage series. I have to say straight off I really struggled to finish this book. I forced myself to read about 40% back in July/August and almost abandoned it but the hubinator said to persevere so decided to press on through and finish it. The story starts about 20-30 years after the end of book 2 where the virals were killed when Amy sacrifices herself to kill off The Twelve original virals. Well we think Amy has died but has she really? Most of the main characters from book 2 are back and enjoying life with a bit more normality but something more sinister, much more evil is lurking in the shadows and ready to tear away humanity one last time.

What I really didn't like about this book was the level of detail that Cronin went into to describe the life of the very first victim of virus - Fanning. His life was described in minute detail and I felt like Cronin was going to start to tell us how many times Fanning brushed his teeth or hair by one point. Also, the manner in which the story is told - mainly through a dream or hallucination - means I had practically no clue what is going on for most of the first half of the book. The plot doesn't really start to get interesting until you are almost 70% into the book. Considering it is over 600 pages long that is quite an investment of time to be both confused and bored. I also it a struggle to remember who was who as there were so many characters and that it has been a few years since I read The Twelve. As both books are quite long I didn't really want to go back an re-read so overall it was a real struggle to pick back up on the relationships between characters. In my humble opinion if I was going to read this book I would read the first few chapters and then skip to about a quarter from the end as you are unlikely to miss any salient parts of the plot by missing out on the Fanning past life chapters.

That is it for me this week.  I hope you have a great week ahead and wish me luck on getting through some more on my TBR. Happy Reading!

The Dark Arts 2
Lochaber Press Pty. Ltd, October 18, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 356 pages

It should have been an easy task…

Verity Hastings has a little trick: she can find anything, no matter where it’s hidden. It’s a skill that’s kept her safe and fed all the way from the orphanages and workhouses of her youth. But when she steals a mysterious item for a masked man, she knows the con is on her this time.

In order to protect herself from his associates, she can turn to only one person: Adrian Bishop, the sorcerer she stole the relic from.

Scarred recluse Adrian Bishop is rarely surprised anymore. But when a rather enticing little handful turns up on his doorstep, claiming to be his mysterious thief, he doesn’t know what to think. He needs the relic back, no matter the cost, and he’s not above using Verity to find it. But as Verity begins to sneak under his guard, for the first time in years there’s a ray of light in his dark world. He will do anything to protect her – anything – but can Verity ever love him once she learns the truth of his dark talents? And will he be able to protect her from the trap he sent her into himself?

The City of Mirrors
The Passage Trilogy 3
Ballantine Books, May 24, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 624 pages
Trade Paperback, May 16, 2017

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “A thrilling finale to a trilogy that will stand as one of the great achievements in American fantasy fiction.”—Stephen King

You followed The Passage. You faced The Twelve. Now enter The City of Mirrors for the final reckoning. As the bestselling epic races to its breathtaking finale, Justin Cronin’s band of hardened survivors await the second coming of unspeakable darkness.

The world we knew is gone. What world will rise in its place?

The Twelve have been destroyed and the terrifying hundred-year reign of darkness that descended upon the world has ended. The survivors are stepping outside their walls, determined to build society anew—and daring to dream of a hopeful future.

But far from them, in a dead metropolis, he waits: Zero. The First. Father of the Twelve. The anguish that shattered his human life haunts him, and the hatred spawned by his transformation burns bright. His fury will be quenched only when he destroys Amy—humanity’s only hope, the Girl from Nowhere who grew up to rise against him.

One last time light and dark will clash, and at last Amy and her friends will know their fate.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Artisan's Avenue: David Thorn Wenzel

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.

The Qwillery would like to welcome David Thorn Wenzel, an amazing artist who is well-known for his work on The Hobbit graphic novel. I first met David at TerrifiCon and later at NYCC back in 2015. I became enchanted with his art and believe The Qwillery's readers will be as well. David was gracious enough to invite me to his beautiful home and the following is a portion of our conversation/interview.

Tracey MaknisDavid, welcome to The Qwillery. Did you get started drawing as a child?

David Thorn Wenzel: It's interesting. I think art for many people starts really early and it did with me. I know when I was 5 or 6 years old I was actually making up my own cartoon characters and making comic strips about them. I just loved to draw right from that time. I always was drawing.

TMDid you have someone in your family who influenced you?

DTW:  No, I think it was basically television. (Laughter) No, the earliest remembrances I have of actually doing art was in second grade. I drew a picture of a skin diver with a shark going around it with bubbles going up. Now, I didn't know anything about artistic development; children of that age tend to do (drawings) side by side, and to have something overlap and twist around is pretty perceptive. They brought the principal in and I was like 'What? It's just a drawing.'

TMSo then through high school you continued to do art?

DTW:  In high school I was very lucky; I went to a small school in Harvard Massachusetts. I could take art every day which you can't in most high schools. The art teacher literally didn't know what to do with me because I wanted to draw all the time so she said draw whatever you want. So for three years of high school I went to art every day and drew whatever I wanted.

TMSo then from high school...

DTW:  I went to college, I went to Hartford Art School.

So what happened in art school, I was not the best student in my class at all. I didn't really emerge in college right away. And what happened, believe it or not, is I read The Hobbit. And when I read The Hobbit it sort of blended the idea of what I wanted to do in art school with the pen and ink. At that point there were no drawings of The Hobbit out there. It shocked me. We are in a world where we feel like, 'Oh my gosh, I wish this could have existed.' It was a place you could really go in your mind and think you were going someplace that was different than the place that you lived. And of course it touched on the edges of our own history. So anyway, when I found The Hobbit I did all J.R.R. Tolkien drawings for my senior project, which is what inevitably jump started my illustration career.

TMHow did you get into the industry?

DTW:  Back when I got out of college, I had three things that got me work. I put my work in one of the first comics stores out there, in Simsbury, CT. At the same time comic conventions were starting, so I started bringing my stuff down. And I also met an illustrator who lived in Westport who helped me meet some people. I started making cold calls. And in those days you could go to Marvel comics and bring your portfolio and they would look at it. It was pretty awesome; you'd have people that you knew, I think John Romita looked at my portfolio and so it was pretty cool.

But with those little threads - a publisher came in to the comic shop and saw The Hobbit drawings that I had done. They were upgraded from college but he saw those drawings and he wanted to publish a book. And that is how Middle Earth: The World of Tolkien (Illustrated- 1977) got out there. And I'm in my mid twenties at this point, so this is a big deal.

And then I started getting work from Marvel. I was in what they called the British group. Comics in England came out as weeklies. So Marvel would take a book and break it into two or three sections and they would need new splash pages for every break. So that's how they would train us. They would have us do tons of splash pages for all these different books and that's how I started in comics.

TMHow did you get into children's books?

DTW:  I got an agent for children's book work and they started to get me jobs. Children's book work started coming in. I sometimes think I either should have stayed in comics or children's books but I liked them both.

TMHow many children books have you done?

DTW:  Just for Little Bear alone, I've done 14 Little Bear books. I've probably done 30-35 altogether.

TMIf you had to choose between comics and children's books?

DTW:  There are different pluses for each one. One of the reasons I got out of comics and one of the reasons I went back to it for The Hobbit is that I was always under the impression that when I drew a drawing, I could ink it better. And so one of the reasons I left comics for children's books is that I wanted to do the whole job. I wanted to do the coloring. I just didn't want to be a pencil artist. I didn't just want to be an inking artist. And one of the reasons I went back is that I was allowed to do both.

TMSo for The Hobbit you did the whole nuts to bolts?

DTW:  What happened somewhat in the spread between when I left comics and started doing children's books is that the idea of the graphic novel came in and comics started to use full color process which they had not done up until that point. And so the first big full color comic I did was for Joe Orlando called Warlords. It wasn't the Warlords that Mike Grell did for years; it was attached to an Atari product. It was somewhat a Hobbit derivative. And that really established that I could ink and then do the full color painting over the inks. So that was one of the reasons I started to go back to comics. And of course in the years since then, well, they don't even do full colored painting anymore. Everybody does full colored digital finishes.

TMNot only are you inspired by Tolkien, you are inspired by history and fantasy in general. Can you enlarge on that idea?

DTW:  I like the whole idea that humans love to create myths for themselves. They create things that are beyond their imagination. Obviously religious people, the whole God thing, spirit thing. People throughout time have needed to have other worlds that they are not directly connected to but they believe in. When my kids were growing up we always told them there might be gnomes outside. Everybody loves that sort of...fantasy. Is there a Loch Ness Monster? I don't know, but how many TV shows have we spent looking for that and Big Foot? We all love the mysterious. Fantasy ties into that.

TMWhat are you working on for this year?

DTWThe Kingdom of the Dwarves is a book I and writer Robb Walsh created back in the early 80s. It sprang from an idea that I had about this archeological site that proves that dwarves were real. So it's been an number of years since the book came out and I approached IDW Publishing to see if they would be interested in publishing it and they were. A lot of the original book was in black and white so I wanted to color some of those images. Some of the original images I had sold and it seemed logical that I would rework then. So, as a result the book is going to get a complete overhaul. They are going to put a new designer on it and it's going to essentially be a new book. With quite a bit of art from the old book and a lot of pages of new art that I am going to do specifically for the book. The other thing I'm doing is taking some of the pages from the original book- the black and white pages - and I'm going to water color them.

TMThe concept for this book was your idea; can you tell us a little bit about it?

DTW:  It's one of those ideas that percolated in the shower. I was hooked on Tolkien; this was actually before I did The Hobbit graphic novel. I thought, 'wouldn't it be great if some aspect of Tolkien existed in our world?' But I knew nobody was going to buy into a whole tribe of Hobbits. Elves; you could almost swing elves, particularly with the Nordic tales. But then it started to occur to me that Dwarves were really integrated into Western culture; they were in fairy tales. Dwarves were an integral part of the folklore and fairytale tradition. Not only that, but they were very much included in the Norse mythology, so it seemed to me that it would be very interesting if they could be real. And wouldn't you know there was an archaeological site that popped into my head; as I said, an epiphany in the shower.


DTW:  It's probably going to come out next fall, if all the stars align.

TMIs there something I haven't asked you? Something that you'd like our readers to know about?

DTW:  I would like to say that one aspect of my life that I am enjoying is teaching. I teach at Lyme College of Art. It is really interesting to be able to communicate with people who want to become artists. I have been teaching for 7 years. It's a very small school which is one of the reasons I wanted to teach there. You get really attached to your students and so it's really nice when they come back to talk to you. Some are working in design firms and different things. A lot of people want to do concept and fantasy art because it's huge. And it's just a struggle. I always tell them whatever you are looking at now, you've got to be looking for what the next wave is going to be.

TMWhat advice do you give your students? It's a hard industry/field.

DTW:  Art is a hard field to get into. Some of the venues that I used as a way to get in are no longer accessible. I could go into Marvel comics and they would look at my portfolio. I mean, that seemed like a logical thing to me. Now, I don't think you can do that anymore. I follow the track of this. My son Brendan is a book illustrator, and his career arc is heading up, but it took him ten years to really mold everything until he got to the point where he was going to get his first book. And I think that's the difference. I was able to go out of school and cobble together a career pretty quickly.

So what do I tell my students?

It's really difficult to catch on right away because there are so many people doing it now. I tell them that you have to keep drawing, you have to keep improving and you have to make contacts. You have to get yourself out there and figure out who's buying.

TMDavid, thank you very much for sharing your time and your talents with The Qwillery.

To find out more about David's work:



Meet David at Rhode Island Comic Con November 11 - 13, 2016.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Review and Giveaway: Putting on the Witch by Joyce and Jim Lavene

Putting on the Witch
Series:  A Retired Witches Mystery 3
Authors:  Joyce and Jim Lavene
Publisher:  Berkley, October 4, 2016
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  US$7.99 (print and eBook)
ISBN:  9780425268278 (print); 9781101625446 (eBook)

In the latest mystery from the bestselling authors of Looking for Mr. Good Witch, the retired witches of Wilmington, North Carolina, are ready to kick up their heels...

With their coven’s spell book still missing, Molly and Elsie—along with their ghostly friend Olivia, her daughter Dorothy, and her boyfriend Brian—are all on edge, especially now that Dorothy’s infamously wicked father is back in the picture. So when they receive an invitation to an exclusive Witches Ball, the ladies jump at the chance to dress up and have some fun.

The castle locale is spectacular and the party is hopping, but the festivities come to a swift end when a member of the Grand Council of Witches is murdered. With the whole place on lock down, the coven is determined to find the cunning killer, even with an angry council and a real Spanish Inquisitor breathing down their necks...

Qwill's Thoughts

Putting on the Witch is the 3rd novel in the Retired Witches Mystery series by Joyce and Jim Lavene. The series features Mollie Elsie, and Olivia, a coven of 3 witches seeking to retire and pass the Coven on to younger witches. Olivia is a ghost and her daughter, Dorothy, is now part of the Coven. Brian, the son of powerful witches, has also joined the Coven and is Dorothy's boyfriend much to his snobby parents' chagrin.

The novel starts with high tension as Dorothy's father, Drago Rasmun, shows up to purportedly get to know his daughter, Dorothy. Olivia, Mollie and Elsie are very suspicious of Drago showing up unannounced. Olivia hid Dorothy from Drago - he's a renegade and evil. Brian is less than happy at Drago's appearance. There is not much that the Coven can do about it though. Drago is extraordinarily powerful. Combined they feel that their power could not halt Drago. So they have tea instead!

Invitations show up for each of the Coven members for Brian's birthday party at his parent's Castle. Brian has a strained relationship with his parents and is not looking forward to the party. To support Brian, the rest of his Coven will attend. The party starts off nicely enough and things are fine until there is a murder of a high ranking member of the Witches Council who is a progressive and was in favor of easing some rules regarding witches especially concerning witches married to non-witches. The castle is put on lockdown for 24-hours so that the murderer can be found.

Witch politics come to the forefront in Putting on the Witch and it's fascinating. There is so much going on - tension between and among families, between old school witches and more modern witches, the murder mystery, and much more. The main characters - Mollie, Dorothy, Olivia, Elsie, and Brian are written with great warmth and depth. They Coven is determined to figure out who the killer is and they run into all sorts of problems and very real dangers.

I love the members of the Coven. They are all likeable and have distinct personalities. The friendship between Mollie, Olivia and Elsie is lovely. They are incredibly supportive of each other. Even death (Olivia's) can't separate these friends. Putting on the Witch is a wonderful mystery with great characters and plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing until the very end. I highly recommend this entire series.

Note: Sadly both Joyce and Jim Lavene have passed away. Check out all of their mysteries:


Spell Booked
A Retired Witches Mystery 1
Berkley, December 2, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook,304 pages

The national bestselling authors of the Missing Pieces Mysteries summon up the first Retired Witches Mystery in a brand new supernatural series…

Once upon a time in Wilmington, North Carolina, three witches ran a curio shop named Smuggler’s Arcane. But as the years passed, their magical powers started to fade—leaving them no choice but to conjure up a retirement package…

Before they could blink their eyes or twitch their noses, Molly, Elsie, and Olivia somehow became eligible for AARP. But they can’t fly off to Boca Raton just yet. First they must give up their magic, recruit and train three new witches, and pass on their cherished spellbook.

They’ve barely begun to consider potential practitioners when Olivia winds up dead and their spellbook is stolen. To honor their friend and reclaim their spells, Molly and Elsie are about to go wand-to-wand with a dangerous young witch more powerful than the trio was in their prime. And this time they’re going to need more than magic up their sleeves…

See Qwill's review here.

Looking for Mr. Good Witch
A Retired Witches Mystery 2
Berkley, October 6, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

Everyone’s favorite retired witches from Spell Booked have returned and are diving into troubled waters to find a sinister sea witch…


A sea witch has been leaving bodies in her wake up and down the Carolina coast, baffling authorities who are finding drowning victims with no water in their lungs. The fin-icky female will continue to kill young male witches until she finds her perfect man—the one who survives her mating ritual—so she can live for another hundred years. And now coven hopeful Brian Fuller is about to be ensnared in her net.

Retired witches Molly and Elsie, along with the ghost of Olivia and her daughter Dorothy, need all the help they can get to stop the sea witch. Aided by a selkie and a crème puff–craving mermaid, they’re determined to keep Brian out of her murky clutches. But are they all about to get in over their heads?

See Qwill's review here.

The Giveaway

What:  One entrant will win a Mass Market Paperback copy of Putting on the Witch by Joyce and Jim Lavene from the publisher. US ONLY

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

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What's Up for the Debut Author Challenge Authors? - Part 16

This is the sixteenth in this new series of updates about formerly featured Debut Author Challenge authors and their works published since their last update. The year in parentheses after the author's name is the year that author was featured in the Debut Author Challenge.

Part 1 here Part 11 here Part 21 here Part 31 here Part 41 here
Part 2 here Part 12 here Part 22 here Part 32 here Part 42 here
Part 3 here Part 13 here Part 23 here Part 33 here Part 43 here
Part 4 here Part 14 here Part 24 here Part 34 here Part 44 here
Part 5 here Part 15 here Part 25 here Part 35 here Part 45 here
Part 6 here Part 16 here Part 26 here Part 36 here Part 46 here
Part 7 here Part 17 here Part 27 here Part 37 here Part 47 here
Part 8 here Part 18 here Part 28 here Part 38 here Part 48 here
Part 9 here Part 19 here Part 29 here Part 39 here Part 49 here
Part 10 here Part 20 here Part 30 here Part 40 here Part 50 here

Kameron Hurley (2011)

Empire Ascendant
Worldbreaker Saga 2
Angry Robot, November 1, 2016
Mass Market Paperback, 544 pages
Trade Paperback and eBook, October 6, 2015

Loyalties are tested when worlds collide…

Every two thousand years, the dark star Oma appears in the sky, bringing with it a tide of death and destruction. And those who survive must contend with friends and enemies newly imbued with violent powers. The kingdom of Saiduan already lies in ruin, decimated by invaders from another world who share the faces of those they seek to destroy.

Now the nation of Dhai is under siege by the same force. Their only hope for survival lies in the hands of an illegitimate ruler and a scullery maid with a powerful – but unpredictable –magic. As the foreign Empire spreads across the world like a disease, one of their former allies takes up her Empress’s sword again to unseat them, and two enslaved scholars begin a treacherous journey home with a long-lost secret that they hope is the key to the Empire’s undoing.

But when the enemy shares your own face, who can be trusted?

In this devastating sequel to The Mirror Empire, Kameron Hurley transports us back to a land of blood mages and sentient plants, dark magic, and warfare on a scale that spans worlds.

File Under: Fantasy

The Stars Are Legion
Saga Press, February 7, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

Set within a system of decaying world-ships travelling through deep space, this breakout novel of epic science fiction follows a pair of sisters who must wrest control of their war-torn legion of worlds—and may have to destroy everything they know in order to survive.

On the outer rim of the universe, a galactic war has been waged for centuries upon hundreds of world-ships. But these worlds will continue to die through decay and constant war unless a desperate plan succeeds.

Anat, leader of the Katazyrna world-ship and the most fearsome raiding force on the Outer Rim, wants peace. To do so she offers the hand of her daughter, Jayd, to her rival. Jayd has dreamed about leading her mother’s armies to victory her whole life—but she has a unique ability, and that makes her leverage, not a leader. As Anat convinces her to spend the rest of her life wed to her family’s greatest enemy, it is up to Jayd’s sister Zan—with no stomach for war—to lead the cast off warriors she has banded together to victory and rescue Jayd. But the war does not go at all as planned…

In the tradition of The Fall of Hyperion and Dune, The Stars are Legion is an epic and thrilling tale about familial love, revenge, and war as imagined by one of the genre’s most imaginative new writers.

Amy Impellizzeri (2014)

Secrets of Worry Dolls
Wyatt-MacKenzie, December 1, 2016
Trade Paperback, 284 pages

According to Mayan tradition, if you whisper your troubles to the Worry Dolls, they will do the worrying instead of you—therefore, it follows that Worry Dolls are the keepers of a great many secrets . . .

On the eve of the end of the world—according to the Mayan calendar—Mari Guarez Roselli’s secrets are being unraveled by her daughter, Lu.

Lu’s worry dolls are at-capacity as she tries to outrun the ghosts from her past—including loved ones stolen on 9/11—by traveling through her mother’s homeland of Guatemala, to discover the painful reasons behind her own dysfunctional childhood, and why she must trust in the magic of the legend.

Emmi Itäranta (2014)

The Weaver
Harper Voyager, November 1, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

The author of the critically acclaimed Memory of Water returns with this literary ecological tale in the vein of Ursula K. Le Guin and Sheri S. Tepper, in which an innocent young woman becomes entangled in a web of ancient secrets and deadly lies that lie at the dark center of her prosperous island world.

Eliana is a model citizen of the island, a weaver in the prestigious House of Webs. She also harbors a dangerous secret—she can dream, an ability forbidden by the island’s elusive council of elders. No one talks about the dreamers, the undesirables ostracized from society.

But the web of protection Eliana has woven around herself begins to unravel when a young girl is found lying unconscious in a pool of blood on the stones outside the house. Robbed of speech by her attackers, the only clue to her identity is one word tattooed in invisible ink across her palm: Eliana. Why does this mysterious girl bear her name? What links her to the weaver—and could she hold Eliana’s fate in her hand?

As Eliana finds herself growing closer to this injured girl she is bound to in ways she doesn’t understand, the enchanting lies of the island begin to crumble, revealing a deep and ancient corruption. Joining a band of brave rebels determined to expose the island’s dark secrets, Eliana becomes a target of ruthless forces determined to destroy her. To save herself and those she loves, she must call on the power within her she thought was her greatest weakness: her dreams.

Eowyn Ivey (2012)

To the Bright Edge of the World
Little, Brown and Company, August 2, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages

An atmospheric, transporting tale of adventure, love, and survival from the bestselling author of The Snow Child, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

In the winter of 1885, decorated war hero Colonel Allen Forrester leads a small band of men on an expedition that has been deemed impossible: to venture up the Wolverine River and pierce the vast, untamed Alaska Territory. Leaving behind Sophie, his newly pregnant wife, Colonel Forrester records his extraordinary experiences in hopes that his journal will reach her if he doesn't return--once he passes beyond the edge of the known world, there's no telling what awaits him.

The Wolverine River Valley is not only breathtaking and forbidding but also terrifying in ways that the colonel and his men never could have imagined. As they map the territory and gather information on the native tribes, whose understanding of the natural world is unlike anything they have ever encountered, Forrester and his men discover the blurred lines between human and wild animal, the living and the dead. And while the men knew they would face starvation and danger, they cannot escape the sense that some greater, mysterious force threatens their lives.

Meanwhile, on her own at Vancouver Barracks, Sophie chafes under the social restrictions and yearns to travel alongside her husband. She does not know that the winter will require as much of her as it does her husband, that both her courage and faith will be tested to the breaking point. Can her exploration of nature through the new art of photography help her to rediscover her sense of beauty and wonder?

The truths that Allen and Sophie discover over the course of that fateful year change both of their lives--and the lives of those who hear their stories long after they're gone--forever.

Benedict Jacka (2012)

An Alex Verus Novel 8
Ace, April 4, 2017
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Mage Alex Verus is caught between a rock and a hard place in the eighth urban fantasy novel from the national bestselling author of Burned.

Right now I wasn’t seeing Richard as the teacher out of my nightmares, he was just another Dark mage, and I looked into the future to see what would happen if I turned that knife on him instead…

Alex Verus is still haunted by his time apprenticed to Richard Drakh. He’s been free of him for many years, but now the only way to keep his friends from being harmed is to again work for Richard and his deadly ally. Even worse, he’s forced to bring the Light mage Anne into this servitude as well.

After weeks of being hunted and finally cornered into what he thought was his last stand, Alex never thought his life would be spared—and never anticipated at what price. This time, the diviner can see no way out…