Wednesday, October 01, 2014

ParaMysMo 2014 - Ali Brandon, author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mysteries

Today we kick off Paranormal Mystery Month (ParaMysMo) at The Qwillery. Throughout the month, paranormal mystery authors will be sharing how they or one of their characters celebrate Halloween. There will be giveaways as well!  To start us off, please welcome Ali Brandon, author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mysteries.

By Ali Brandon

         “I’m doing stuff…things…”

                    --Rick Grimes, The Walking Dead

        Just like all the rest of you, I LOVE Halloween. I’ve considered it my favorite holiday ever since I was a child. Trick-or-treating! Dressing up! Running around the neighborhood at night, and without a parent! Compared to all that, Christmas came in a poor second on the fun scale.
        But perhaps the very best part about October 31 was spending the week or two before decking the halls with everything orange and black. Unfortunately, back when I was of trick-or-treating age, our family didn’t have money to spare for scary accoutrements. And so, if you wanted Halloween decorations, you made them yourself.
        This meant that—aside from the requisite jack-o-lantern that our dad carved—everything was handcrafted by me and my siblings. From the pillow cases hung from the ceiling as ghosts, to the crayoned pumpkin drawings, to the paper grocery bags decorated with construction paper black cats to use as trick-or-treat sacks, we did it all. But while all these crafty projects were a fun diversion, deep down I always had a hankering for store-bought Halloween stuff…and things.
        You know what I mean. The boxed costumes with those plastic molded masks that covered your entire face; the little plastic jack-o’-lanterns and cat heads meant to be filled with candy corn; the black-and-orange tin noisemakers printed with witches and bats that you shook or spun to create a racket. I’d sigh over all these luxuries in the dime store, lingering in the Halloween department until the exasperated sales clerk finally shooed me away, empty-handed.
        Flash forward to adulthood. Now, I could finally channel my inner witchy version of Martha Stewart and treat myself to all kinds of Halloween stuff…all the things I’d missed out on as a kid. Sure, my husband would roll his eyes throughout the month of October each time I came home with something new, but to his credit he never protested. (Maybe because I let him indulge his fishing gear passion all summer!)
        Not that I’ve gone to extremes over the years. I’ve learned to buy small, so that most of my favorite finds can be displayed together on the same couple of shelves. This means I can enjoy my Halloween-y stuff year round.
        My annual ritual begins sometime in September, as soon as the stores start unpacking the stuffed black cats and ceramic ghosts. Just like in the dime store days, I wander the Halloween aisles (real and virtual) ooh’ing and aah’ing over all the fun new decorations. It’s only now October, and to celebrate Halloween 2014 I’ve already bought: The Nightmare Before Christmas pen set; a Jack Skellington mug; a Jinxy Beanie Baby black kitten; a set of Ghost Tarot cards; a set of Halloween Lenormand cards; Day of the Dead kitty sugar skull earrings; and rose-and-sugar skull Day of the Dead earrings.
        But I’m just getting warmed up. I’ll be hitting the thrift stores, too, in case some cool vintage Halloween stuff and things from my childhood slips past the clerks and ends up on the shelves. And I can’t forget to shop the pet superstores. Gotta get the yearly batch of new Halloween squeaky toys for my dogs!
        But it doesn’t end on October 31. Just when I think I’ve satisfied my need for black and orange, here come the after-Halloween markdowns. Time to whip out credit card again! But the heck with the 75% off bags of candy that all the other middle-aged broads are piling into their shopping carts. I’m not in the mood for mini chocolate bars.
        You’ll find me the next aisle over looking for stuff…and things.

Black Cat Bookshop Mysteries

Literally Murder
A Black Cat Bookshop Mystery 4
Berkley, September 30, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

From her Brooklyn bookstore, Darla Pettistone not only sells mysteries, but solves them, aided by her big-boned black cat, Hamlet—who has suddenly pounced into the spotlight after unleashing his fists of furry…  

After a video of Darla and Hamlet performing at a martial arts tournament goes viral, the Florida chapter of the Feline Society of America invites the “Karate Kitty” to be the guest of honor at their championship cat show in Fort Lauderdale.

Upon arrival, Darla discovers that not everyone in the Sunshine State has a sunny disposition. Animal rights activists are on the march, and a cat show contestant stages his own angry protest when his special breed Minx—half Sphynx, half Manx—doesn’t win. Then Hamlet disappears—only to be found next a dead man's body. Now it’s up to Darla and Hamlet to take best in show and collar the killer…

Words with Fiends
A Black Cat Bookshop Mystery 3
Berkley, November 5, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

Brooklyn bookstore owner Darla Pettistone and her oversized black cat, Hamlet, have solved a few complicated capers. But after a recent brush with danger, Darla needs to get Hamlet out of a feline funk…

Lately, Hamlet hasn’t been chasing customers or being his obnoxious self—something Darla surprisingly misses. Concerned, she hires a cat whisperer to probe Hamlet’s feline psyche and then decides to get out of her own funk by taking up karate to learn how to defend herself in case the need arises again.

But when Darla finds her sensei dead at the dojo, it seems that even a master can be felled by foul play. Darla decides to investigate the matter herself, and the promise of a mystery snaps Hamlet out of his bad mood. After all, Darla may be the sleuth, but Hamlet’s got a black belt in detection.

A Novel Way to Die
A Black Cat Bookshop Mystery 2
Berkley, November 6, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

Darla Pettistone may have inherited her great aunt Dee’s Brooklyn bookstore, but it’s the store’s mascot—an oversized black cat named Hamlet—who acts like he owns the place. And when someone turns up dead, Hamlet smells something rotten in Brooklyn…

As the owner of Pettistone’s Fine Books, Darla is settling nicely into her new life, even reaching an uneasy truce with Hamlet. Unfortunately, when she needs to hire a new clerk, the finicky feline decides to lend a paw to the hiring process. He chases away applicants who don’t meet his approval, finally settling on an unlikely candidate: Robert, a book-loving Goth kid who has a secret only Hamlet knows.

And Hamlet can’t seem to stay out of trouble. One of the bookstore’s regular customers, a man who is renovating a local brownstone, claims he’s seen Hamlet prowling the neighborhood. When the man’s business partner is found dead, Darla discovers that Hamlet may have been the only witness to what could be murder. With the crafty cat’s help, she wonders if they just might be able to pounce on a killer...

Double Booked for Death
A Black Cat Bookshop Mystery 1
Berkley, December 6, 2011
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

As the new owner of Pettistone's Fine Books, Darla Pettistone is determined to prove herself a worthy successor to her late great-aunt Dee...and equally determined to outwit Hamlet, the smarter-than-thou cat she inherited along with the shop. Darla's first store event is a real coup: the hottest bestselling author of the moment is holding a signing there. But when the author meets an untimely end during the event, it's ruled an accident-until Hamlet digs up a clue that seems to indicate otherwise...

About Ali

Ali Brandon is the New York Times bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. Book Four in the series, LITERALLY MURDER, is out in time for Halloween. Writing under her real name, Diane A.S. Stuckart, she penned the popular Leonardo da Vinci historical mystery series, which has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, as well as a Florida Book Award. A native Texan with a degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma, Diane a/k/a Ali now lives in South Florida. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and the Cat Writers Association and proudly displays her The Walking Dead action figures at her day job. Visit her at, and be sure to “like” Hamlet on Facebook:

The Giveaway

What:  One entrant will win a Mass Market Paperback copy of Literally Murder by Ali Brandon.

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

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59PM US Eastern Time on October 15, 2014. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

2014 Debut Author Challenge - October Debuts

There are 9 debuts (so far) for October. Please note that we use the publisher's publication date in the United States, not copyright dates or non-US publication dates.

The October debut authors and their novels are listed in alphabetical order by author (not book title or publication date). Take a good look at the covers. Voting for your favorite October cover for the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars will take place starting on October 15th.

If you are participating as a reader in the Challenge, please let us know in the comments what you are thinking of reading or email us at "DAC . TheQwillery  @  gmail . com" (remove the spaces and quotation marks). Please note that we list all debuts for the month (of which we are aware), but not all of these authors will be 2014 Debut Author Challenge featured authors. However, any of these novels may be read by Challenge readers to meet the goal for September. The list is correct as of the day posted.

James Tadd Adcox

Does Not Love
Curbside Splendor Publishing, October 14, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 200 pages

Set in an archly comedic, alternate-reality Indianapolis that is completely overrun by Big Pharma, James Tadd Adcox's debut novel chronicles Robert and Viola's attempts to overcome loss through the miracles of modern pharmaceuticals. Their marriage crumbling after a series of miscarriages, Viola finds herself in an affair with the FBI agent who has recently appeared at her workplace, while her husband Robert becomes enmeshed in an elaborate conspiracy designed to look like a drug study.

Forrest Aguirre

Heraclix and Pomp: A Novel of the Fabricated and the Fey
Underland Press, October 7, 20114
Hardcover and eBook, 280 pages

Heraclix and Pomp, Aguirre’s first full-length novel, explores the ideas of identity and immortality through the eyes of a man-like golem and a time-bending fairy who can barely grasp the idea of now, much less the dangers of what’s to come.

Before being sewn-together, Heraclix was dead—merely a pile of mismatched pieces, collected from the corpses of many troubled men. And Pomp was immortal—at least, so she thought. That was before her impossible near-murder at the hands of the necromancer, Heraclix’s creator. But when playing God, even the smallest error is a gargantuan weakness. When the necromancer makes his, Heraclix and Pomp begin their epic flight.

As they travel from Vienna to Prague to Istanbul and, even, to Hell itself, they struggle to understand who and what they are: who was Heraclix before his death and rebirth? What is mortality, and why does it suddenly concern Pomp? As they journey through an unruly eighteenth century, they discover that the necromancer they thought dead might not be quite so after all. In fact, he may have sealed his immortality at the expense of everyone alive . . .

Heraclix and Pomp is a richly textured and decadent read, filled with Baroque ideology and Byzantine political intrigue. Fans of fantasy and historical fiction alike will revel in Aguirre’s layered prose and vivid characterizations. Heraclix and Pomp brings the surreal and the macabre to one of history’s most violent eras, and it does so in a voice sure to resonate among this season’s best new releases.

Rebecca Alexander

The Secrets of Life and Death
Broadway Books, October 7, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages
(US Debut)

In modern day England, Professor Felix Guichard is called in to identify occult symbols found on the corpse of a young girl. His investigation brings him in contact with a mysterious woman, Jackdaw Hammond, who guards a monumental secret--She's Dead. Or she would be, were it not for magic which has artificially extended her life. But someone else knows her secret. Someone very old and very powerful, who won't rest until they've taken the magic that keeps her alive....

In Krakow in 1585, Dr John Dee, the Elizabethan Alchemist and Occultist, and his assistant Edward Kelley have been summoned by the King of Poland to save the life of his niece, the infamous Countess Elisabeth Bathory. But they soon realize that the only thing worse than the Countess' malady, is the magic that might be able to save her...

As Jackdaw and Felix race to uncover the truth about the person hunting her, it becomes clear that the answers they seek can only be found in the ancient diary of John Dee's assistant, Edward Kelley. Together they must solve a mystery centuries in the making, or die trying.

Alis Franklin

Wyrd 1
Hydra, October 7, 2014
eBook, 308 pages

At the intersection of the magical and the mundane, Alis Franklin’s thrilling debut novel reimagines mythology for a modern world—where gods and mortals walk side by side.

Working in low-level IT support for a company that’s the toast of the tech world, Sigmund Sussman finds himself content, if not particularly inspired. As compensation for telling people to restart their computer a few times a day, Sigmund earns enough disposable income to gorge on comics and has plenty of free time to devote to his gaming group.

Then in walks the new guy with the unpronounceable last name who immediately becomes IT’s most popular team member. Lain Laufeyjarson is charming and good-looking, with a story for any occasion; shy, awkward Sigmund is none of those things, which is why he finds it odd when Lain flirts with him. But Lain seems cool, even if he’s a little different—though Sigmund never suspects just how different he could be. After all, who would expect a Norse god to be doing server reboots?

As Sigmund gets to know his mysterious new boyfriend, fate—in the form of an ancient force known as the Wyrd—begins to reveal the threads that weave their lives together. Sigmund doesn’t have the first clue where this adventure will take him, but as Lain says, only fools mess with the Wyrd. Why? Because the Wyrd messes back.

Amy Impellizzeri

Lemongrass Hope
Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing, October 8, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 302 pages

Set in the past, and present, Lemongrass Hope is a captivating and unpredictable love story, with a dose of magical realism and time travel.

Lemongrass Hope weaves together ordinary lives and events to tell an extraordinary tale of connection, loss, renewal, and of course, hope.

As Kate Sutton’s decade-long marriage to Rob erodes and unravels, Kate fears that the secrets she guards from the world, including Rob’s emergency room proposal, and a whirlwind love affair from her past, have always doomed her fate. When she unwittingly receives a glimpse at what her life could have been like had she made different choices all those years ago, it is indeed all she could have ever wanted. A confirmation of her greatest hope, and her greatest fears.

Lemongrass Hope will draw you in with characters so relatable and real, you will cheer for them one moment and flinch the next. A tale that invites you to suspend disbelief—or perhaps decide to believe once and for all—in the potent power of love and connection over time and choice.

Oh, and the dress. There’s this lemongrass dress . . .

Rajan Khanna

Falling Sky
Pyr, October 7, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 260 pages
Cover Artist: Chris McGrath

Ben Gold lives in dangerous times. Two generations ago, a virulent disease turned the population of most of North America into little more than beasts called Ferals. Some of those who survived took to the air, scratching out a living on airships and dirigibles soaring over the dangerous ground.

Ben has his own airship, a family heirloom, and has signed up to help a group of scientists looking for a cure. But that's not as easy as it sounds, especially with a power-hungry air city looking to raid any nearby settlements. To make matters worse, his airship, the only home he's ever known, is stolen. Ben must try to survive on the ground while trying to get his ship back.

This brings him to Gastown, a city in the air recently conquered by belligerent and expansionist pirates. When events turn deadly, Ben must decide what really matters-whether to risk it all on a desperate chance for a better future or to truly remain on his own.

Mike Meginnis

Fat Man and Little Boy
Black Balloon Publishing, October 14, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 416 pages

Two bombs over Japan. Two shells.

One called Little Boy, one called Fat Man. Three days apart. The one implicit in the other.


The winner of the 2013 Horatio Nelson Fiction Prize, Fat Man and Little Boy pulses with magical realism in an unprecedented approach to its tragic subject matter.

In this powerful debut novel, the atomic bombs dropped on Japan are personified, born on impact as human beings—as a Fat Man and a Little Boy. Their small measure of humanity is a cruelty the brother bombs must suffer. Given life from death, they travel west from Japan to France and later to America. Their journey is one of surreal and unsettling discovery, and author Mike Meginnis transforms these symbols of mass destruction into beacons of longing and hope.

Ethan Reid

The Undying: An Apocalyptic Thriller
Simon451, October 7, 2014
eBook, 272 pages

In this riveting apocalyptic thriller for fans of The Passage and The Walking Dead, a mysterious event plunges Paris into darkness and a young American must lead her friends to safety—and escape the ravenous “undying” who now roam the crumbling city.

Jeanie and Ben arrive in Paris just in time for a festive New Year’s Eve celebration with local friends. They eat and drink and carry on until suddenly, at midnight, all the lights go out. Everywhere they look, buildings and streets are dark, as though the legendary Parisian revelry has somehow short circuited the entire city.

By the next morning, all hell has broken loose. Fireballs rain down from the sky, the temperatures are rising, and people run screaming through the streets. Whatever has happened in Paris—rumors are of a comet striking the earth—Jeanie and Ben have no way of knowing how far it has spread, or how much worse it will get. As they attempt to flee the burning Latin Quarter—a harrowing journey that takes them across the city, descending deep into the catacombs, and eventually to a makeshift barracks at the Louvre Museum—Jeanie knows the worst is yet to come. So far, only she has witnessed pale, vampiric survivors who seem to exert a powerful hold on her whenever she catches them in her sights.

These cunning, ravenous beings will come to be known as les moribund—the undying—and their numbers increase by the hour. When fate places a newborn boy in her care, Jeanie will stop at nothing to keep the infant safe and get out of Paris—even if it means facing off against the moribund and leaving Ben—and any hope of rescue—behind.

Martin Rose

Bring Me Flesh, I'll Bring Hell: A Horror Novel
Talos, October 28, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 232 pages

Vitus Adamson is falling apart. As a pre-deceased private investigator, he takes the prescription Atroxipine hourly to keep his undead body upright and functioning. Whenever he is injured, he seeks Niko, a bombshell mortician with bedroom eyes and a way with corpses, to piece him back together. Decomposition, however, is the least of his worries when two clients posing his most dangerous job yet appear at his door looking for their lost son.

Vitus is horrified to discover the photo of the couple's missing son is a picture-perfect reproduction of his long dead son. This leads him to question the events of his tormented past; he must face the possibility that the wife and child he believed he murdered ten years ago in a zombie-fugue have somehow survived . . . or is it just wishful thinking designed to pull him into an elaborate trap?

Unfolding like a classic film noir mixed with elements of a B-movie, Bring Me Flesh, I'll Bring Hell is an imaginative spin on the hard-boiled detective genre and a new twist on the zombie novel. In Vitus Adamson, you will find a protagonist you can care about and invest in as he takes you through his emotional journey of betrayal and quest for redemption.

The Qwillery is 6 and other things - October 1, 2014

The Qwillery is 6 years old today. For me, that is hard to believe. As I've mentioned on previous anniversaries, the blog originally was not devoted to books. That changed in May 2010. It's gone from a one person operation to now include additional reviewers. A big thank you to Melanie, Tracey, Brannigan, Doreen, and Stacey. They are all fabulous reviewers and enrich my experience at The Qwillery every day.

We're gearing up for New York Comic Con (NYCC), which is next week. Today is the start of Paranormal Mystery Month in which authors answer 1 question: "How do you or one of your characters celebrate Halloween?" More on that later. We'll be hosting an Anniversary Giveaway after NYCC. This is the 4th year of the Debut Author Challenge. Melanie writes her fabulous Week in Review every week. Brannigan has started his Retro Reviews feature. We have more fun things planned for you over the next year. Oh, and we're nearing 1 million pageviews (987,265 as of a few minutes ago).

From the bottom of my heart, thank you to all of you who read, comment, stop by and support The Qwillery. Thank you to all the wonderful authors who answer my questions every year and write amazing and interesting blog posts. The Qwillery would not be what it is without all of you. Here's to another 6 years and more.

Sally / Qwill

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Interview with Peyton Marshall, author of Goodhouse - September 30, 2014

Please welcome Peyton Marshall to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Goodhouse is published today by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Peyton a Happy Publication Day!

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Peyton:  For me, writing came out of reading. I loved to read as a child and often I felt a bigger connection with the stories than I did with reality.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Peyton:  I’d love to be a plotter. But I can’t stick to an outline. I get caught up in a scene and then write something that destroys all of my best-laid plans. I long for predictability and surety in writing but perhaps that’s only because I experience it so rarely.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Peyton:  Finding the time. Or allowing myself to have the time to make mistakes—to explore.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Peyton:  I’m an omnivore. My dad got me hooked on historical military fiction, on adventure stories, on history books. But I like to read classic novels—and pulpy ones, as well. Recently, I read The Goldfinch, and I’m not sure which category that fits into.

TQ:  Describe Goodhouse in 140 characters or less.

PeytonGoodhouse is a book about how society treats its most vulnerable constituents. It's a book about how hope can endure—and survive—trauma.

TQ:  Tell us something about Goodhouse that is not in the book description.

Peyton:  Despite the fact that Goodhouse is set in a speculative future and despite the fact that the novel’s protagonist, James Goodhouse, is subject to the pressures of a very different world—the book is really about James struggle to reach outside the confines of his childhood, to define his own truth. It’s about the difficulties of doing this—within the confines of a system.

TQ:  In Goodhouse, who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Peyton:  Bethany was the easiest to write. I wanted to her to stand in contrast to James’ world, to be somebody for whom he would have no context.

Often, I just got out of the way and let her talk—let her be her devious, determined, and unpredictable self.

In some ways, Bethany’s father was the hardest character to write. I couldn’t decide how to build him. I kept changing my mind about his motivations. It was almost as if the character was withholding information from me, the writer; it wasn’t until the end when the plot really came together that I fully understood him, understood where things had been going all along.

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Goodhouse.

Peyton:  The boys are preparing to go out on their first day in the community:

        “Just keep your mouth shut,” Owen said. “And look really grateful, no matter what they say. And don’t touch anything,” he said. “They hate that and it’s hard to do when they have candy dishes and little glass elephants and once this kid had a plastic box full of ants that he said he was farming.”
        I stared at him. “Farming?” I asked. “For food?”
        “Who knows,” he shrugged. “It’s always a freak show and they write detailed reports about you afterwards and staff pays a lot of attention to them.”

TQ:  What's next?

Peyton:  A trip to Morocco.

I’m moving overseas for six months with the family. Should be interesting. I’ve already started another book and I look forward to sitting in a cafĂ© in Marrakech—drinking that strong coffee.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Peyton:  Thank you!

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, September 30, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

A bighearted dystopian novel about the corrosive effects of fear and the redemptive power of love.

With soaring literary prose and the tense pacing of a thriller, the first-time novelist Peyton Marshall imagines a grim and startling future. At the end of the twenty-first century—in a transformed America—the sons of convicted felons are tested for a set of genetic markers. Boys who test positive become compulsory wards of the state—removed from their homes and raised on "Goodhouse" campuses, where they learn to reform their darkest thoughts and impulses. Goodhouse is a savage place—part prison, part boarding school—and now a radical religious group, the Holy Redeemer’s Church of Purity, is intent on destroying each campus and purifying every child with fire.

We see all this through the eyes of James, a transfer student who watched as the radicals set fire to his old Goodhouse and killed nearly everyone he’d ever known. In addition to adjusting to a new campus with new rules, James now has to contend with Bethany, a brilliant, medically fragile girl who wants to save him, and with her father, the school’s sinister director of medical studies. Soon, however, James realizes that the biggest threat might already be there, inside the fortified walls of Goodhouse itself.

Partly based on the true story of the nineteenth-century Preston School of Industry, Goodhouse explores questions of identity and free will—and what it means to test the limits of human endurance.

About Peyton

Photo by Mike Palmeri
Born in 1972 in Pennsylvania, Peyton grew up near Washington DC -- in a wooded, leafy town that is now part of the sprawling DC metroplex. She attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Before enrolling in the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Peyton spent many years remodeling Craftsman-style homes.

​Her work is rooted in ideas about love and the potential brutalities of human life -- in the ways people misunderstand each other. Goodhouse is her first novel.

Website ~ Twitter @PeytonMMarshall