Friday, May 27, 2016

Interview with Martin Seay, author of The Mirror Thief

Please welcome Martin Seay to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Mirror Thief was published on May 10th by Melville House.

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

Martin:  Thanks! I have gradually come to realize that my impulse to write comes mostly from the satisfaction of getting something exactly right. In most undertakings—creative and otherwise—we have to accommodate the limitations of our materials and circumstances, but since writing gives us all of language to work with, as well as the freedom to decide for ourselves what “exactly right” looks like, it’s an area where this kind of exactitude seems, or feels, possible.

So that’s probably why. As to when, I’ve written stuff for as long (or longer) than I can remember. I wrote a few things that would probably qualify as functional short stories when I was in high school and college, and I started getting serious about it—taking classes, reading clinically and rigorously, writing stuff meant to be read by people I don’t personally know—in about 2000. My first published story came out in Gargoyle in 2003.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Martin:  A plotter, but I’m not fundamentalist about it. I once heard the novelist Kathryn Davis say something smart about doing research that I will now attempt to paraphrase and probably get wrong: She said that she does research whenever she gets stuck, but then stops doing research as soon as she’s not stuck anymore. (The general idea is that it’s way easier to just keep researching than it is to get back to writing, and that you’ll probably make the best and most crucial discoveries about your story by writing it, not by reading.) I think a similar principle probably applies to outlining plot: I want to know where I’m going, but I also want the story to feel like a trip, not like a map.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Martin:  Finding time! My process tends to be very revision-intensive—I’ll go over and over a particular chapter to polish it before I move on to the next one—and that means my progress is often painfully slow. While I was writing The Mirror Thief I kept a quote from Moby-Dick taped to my monitor: “God keep me from ever completing anything. This whole book is but a draught—nay, but the draught of a draught. Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!”

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

MartinAll the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy was the first novel by a living writer I read that made me aware of what novels are still able to do, in terms of their capacity to deal with big metaphysical questions while still telling a fun story. I read Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye around the same time, and it taught me a lot about how to write characters with complex pasts and distinctive points of view. The aforementioned Moby-Dick dramatically elevated my standards for what qualifies as fearless and ambitious. A couple of nonfiction selections: Lipstick Traces—Greil Marcus’s book about the Sex Pistols and the hidden radical tradition that includes them—opened a bunch of doors for me. The art critic Rosalind E. Krauss’s book The Optical Unconscious helped me think in new ways about the act of seeing, which is not an easy thing to do.

In the portion of my life where I interact with people face-to-face, not through books, I have been influenced by a number of teachers and friends who are also writers. I should make special mention of the novelist Jane Alison, my thesis advisor in grad school, who masterfully articulated the value of fiction as a way of modeling sympathetic understanding of people who are unlike us, and who also taught me a ton about what it means to be an honest and responsible storyteller. (I also can’t overstate the value of the example of her own writing, which is uniformly excellent and which I highly recommend.)

This is going to be the part of the interview where people go “aww,” but I am honestly most inspired by my spouse, the writer Kathleen Rooney, who during the time I have been working on The Mirror Thief has 1) changed the lives of dozens of college students, 2) started a successful publishing venture (Rose Metal Press) and a successful typewriter-poetry collective (Poems While You Wait), and 3) written eleven books and chapbooks of poetry, fiction, memoir, and criticism, each of which is brilliant and quite unlike its siblings. (She has also recently coedited the first English-language edition of the selected writings of the Belgian painter and philosopher René Magritte, coming out later this year, and written her second novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, forthcoming from St. Martin’s Press in January of 2017.) She’s a great writer and a great literary citizen, in addition to being a real treat to be married to.

TQDescribe The Mirror Thief in 140 characters or less.

Martin:  Las Vegas 2003, Los Angeles 1958, Venice 1592. Soldiers, gamblers, thieves, poets, alchemists, spies. LET US NOW CONSIDER THE MIRROR.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Mirror Thief? Why did you set the core of the novel in Venice, Italy?

Martin:  Venice came first, actually. I had visited it a few years prior to starting the novel and thought it was cool. While I was there, it felt like something I would eventually try to write about.

It’s hard to say why, exactly. One of the things that most struck me about it is the degree to which it’s a purely constructed environment: the vast majority of its structures aren’t built on islands, but on wood pilings pounded into shallow areas of the lagoon. The city is literally built on the water, and took its shape based less on geography than on the stubborn will of its residents.

This creation from nothing seemed to make it analogous (to an even greater extent than other cities are) to a work of art, and especially to a work of literature, which is made from nothing but language, and which is also shaped collaboratively by its writer and those who choose to inhabit it.

The Russian critic Viktor Shklovsky—who I think was pretty sharp—wrote that art functions by “making objects ‘unfamiliar,’ making forms difficult, increasing the difficulty and length of perception, because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged.” Venice works a similar trick on us due to the strangeness of its form: where many old European cities are walled fortresses, it’s infinitely permeable; where they’re straight-lined and right-angled, it’s curved. It seems to have been constructed according to a highly idiosyncratic but internally consistent logic that can’t help but suggest a dream. It practically writes about itself.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Mirror Thief?

MartinExtensive research! The novel is set in Las Vegas in 2003, in Los Angeles in 1958, and in the city-state of Venice in 1592; although I had been to all three cities prior to starting the book, I wasn’t able to visit them while I was writing it. Consequently I learned almost everything I needed to know from books, films, paintings, and (of course) the internet. Topics of inquiry included the United States Marine Corps, blackjack card-counting, casino administration and security, the hermetic–cabalist intellectual tradition in early-modern Europe, the Beat movement in Southern California, English-language poetry pre- and post-Pound, mid-twentieth-century esoteric religious practices, pinball machines, Mutoscope films, alchemy, glassmaking, mirrormaking, printing, and a whole bunch of cultural, political, military, scientific, and art history.

That said, I didn’t become an expert on anything while writing the book. Researching a novel is very different from academic research; I didn’t need to achieve any kind of mastery. (And per Kathryn Davis’s point quoted above, that level of rigor would probably have killed the book: I never would have finished it.) What I’m looking for when I research are perfect little tip-of-the-iceberg details that will engage readers’ imaginations and enlist them to help fill in information that isn’t actually on the page. (The other side of that coin is all the reading that I did just to avoid messing stuff up: putting in a detail that rings false or is just plain wrong, that undercuts my authority and knocks readers out of the story.)

TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Martin:  Of the three main characters, the easiest to write was probably Stanley Glass, the teenage con-man and petty criminal whom the 1958 Los Angeles sections focus on. This is simply because Stanley is even less given to introspection than the other two main characters are. All I had to do, pretty much, was keep him moving with his eyes open.

The hardest to write was Vettor Crivano, the physician, alchemist, and spy who’s the main character of the Venice 1592 sections. This is partly because he’s the most complex of the three—he has the broadest education, the most elaborate backstory, the most secrets—but mostly because it was very hard to write the consciousness of someone who’s supposed to have lived four centuries ago: I needed these sections to be strange enough to feel authentic, but not so strange as to be incomprehensible.

(Some people will try to tell you that the essential nature of human beings hasn’t really changed since the Stone Age; I can see no evidence that that’s the case. On the contrary, it seems to me that human nature has fundamentally changed just since the iPhone went on the market.)

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

Martin:  Although The Mirror Thief is largely set in—and, to my way of thinking, is entirely about—Venice, the word “Venice” never appears in the book.

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

Martin:  I included a lot of social issues—along with a lot of politics; I’m not sure where to draw the line between the two—as part of the book’s background noise, and I hope that readers will recognize that content as very important to me, even when the main characters aren’t paying much attention to it (which they’re generally not). It seems to me that such material is most effective in fiction when it’s presented deliberately but obliquely—worked into descriptions and dialogue in passing, for example—and not laid out as a thesis. People are prepared to disagree with explicit arguments, but they can be genuinely jolted when they encounter an assumption about a world that conflicts with their own; that’s how I’ve tried to proceed. (To be more specific in terms of social issues, I don’t think the book makes a big deal out of the fact that it contains characters who are African-American, Jewish, Muslim, gay, etc., who are living with disability and/or posttraumatic stress, and who are struggling against conventional assumptions about gender roles . . . but none of this stuff is in the book by accident, either.)

I’m not sure I believe that there is any such a thing as a book that doesn’t include social or political issues. I think books that purport not to do so are probably just conservative. At best.

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


Q: Why don’t you use quotation marks?

A: Great question! Glad you asked! Strictly speaking, I do use quotation marks; I just don’t use them to tag speech. (They show up around song titles, for instance.) The short answer was that I wanted the narration to be continuous: to feel as if it includes a bunch of voices, but also to suggest that all the voices you hear might really be one voice—the way that, say, a mirror looks like it contains a bunch of discrete objects when in fact it’s just a single reflective surface—which in turn might prompt the reader to think about who (or what) that one voice might belong to. Anyway, it was a choice. Some authors just don’t use quotation marks on principle, but I’m not one of those authors.

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

Martin:  My favorite sentence in the book (from Page 19) is:

“Stretch limousines idle at curbside, sly and circumspect, while the sidewalk procession slides backlit across their mute black windshields.”

Thanks for indulging me!

TQWhat's next?

Martin:  Honestly, I’m still a little up in the air on that myself. I have maybe three or four ideas that could turn into novels, but I’ll need to spend some time with them before I’ll know what’s likely to take off. Until then, I have a few criticism projects that I plan to play with, and I’m also looking forward to working through a stack of books I picked up during my recent book tour that refreshingly have nothing to do with anything I’m working on.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Martin:  Thanks for including me in the Debut Author Challenge!

The Mirror Thief
Melville House, May 10, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 592 pages

A globetrotting, time-bending, wildly entertaining literary tour de force in the tradition of Cloud Atlas.

The Mirror Thief is a dazzling combination of a genre-hopping adventure, a fast-paced mystery, and literary verve. Set in three cities in three eras, The Mirror Thief calls to mind David Mitchell and Umberto Eco in its serendipitous mix of entertainment and literary mastery.

The core story is set in Venice in the sixteenth century, when the famed makers of Venetian glass were perfecting one of the old world’s most wondrous inventions: the mirror. An object of glittering yet fearful fascination — was it reflecting simple reality, or something more spiritually revealing? — the Venetian mirrors were state of the art technology, and subject to industrial espionage by desirous sultans and royals world-wide. But for any of the development team to leave the island was a crime punishable by death. One man, however — a world-weary war hero with nothing to lose — has a scheme he thinks will allow him to outwit the city’s terrifying enforcers of the edict, the ominous Council of Ten …

Meanwhile, in two other iterations of Venice — Venice Beach, California, circa 1958, and the Venice casino in Las Vegas, circa today — two other schemers launch similarly dangerous plans to get away with a secret …
All three stories will weave together into a spell-binding tour-de-force that is impossible to put down — an old-fashioned, stay-up-all-night novel that, in the end, returns the reader to a stunning conclusion in the original Venice … and the bedazzled sense of having read a truly original and thrilling work of literary art.

About Martin

MARTIN SEAY is the executive secretary of the Village of Wheeling, Illinois. This is his first novel.

Website  ~  Twitter @MartinSeay

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Guest Blog by Kirk Dougal - Trilogy or Three-book Series: Aren't they both just three books?

Please welcome Kirk Dougal to The Qwillery. Jacked will be published on May 31st by Per Aspera (Ragnarok Publications).

Trilogy or Three-book Series: Aren't they both just three books?

By Kirk Dougal

        Recently I was finalizing plans for an appearance at a library to talk about my young adult/thriller novel, “Jacked” (Ragnarok Publications/June 2016), during their YA Week later this summer. As the lady in charge of scheduling the library's events and I were winding down our conversation, she asked if any additional books were planned for the Jacked universe. I answered that the novel was the first of a three-book series.
        “Oh,” she said. “A trilogy.”
        “No, a three-book series.”
        After a few seconds of silence, she whispered into the telephone, “Is there a difference?”
        There is, of course, but I think the logical next step to her question was more important: Does the difference matter?
        What separates a trilogy from a three-book series—or any -logy from a series—is fairly easy to define but can quickly descend into murky waters when an attempt is made to apply it. For the purpose of this discussion, I am going to use these definitions:
        -logy – A line of books where the driving story arc takes place over the course of the entire set, making it the primary reason for the reader to move from book to book. Although every individual book may have its own smaller conflict, these are typically decided by the end of each. At times the author may leave the long arc on a cliffhanger at the conclusion of a book.
        Series – A line of books where the primary story arc is self-contained within the individual editions. Although a series may have a long-term issue for the protagonist to solve, it is a secondary thought to the individual plot lines. In fact, the overriding issue may not even be concluded by the final book.
        The Coldfire Trilogy by C.S. Friedman is a good example of the -logy definition. Although there are individual tasks for Damien Vryce and the Hunter to complete in each book, both “Black Sun Rising” and “When True Night Falls” end with the action hanging in the balance. It is Vryce's mission to balance the Fae's energy with mankind and the Hunter's search for redemption for murdering his family for power that drive the story forward. J.K. Rowling's heptology of Harry Potter acts in the same manner. Although Harry, Hermione, Ron, and the rest of the Hogwarts gang need to solve problems in each individual book, it is the re-emergence of Lord Valdemort and their need to defeat him that is the overriding story arc for all seven books.
        By comparison, Jim Butcher's Dresden Files falls in line easily with the definition of a series. Although Harry Dresden has recurring issues with his family and the pain of his past, each book is its own story with a beginning, middle, and conclusion.
        But some books fall into gray areas when they are being classified. Isaac Asimov's “Foundation,” “Foundation and Empire,” and “Second Foundation” were often labeled a trilogy but the three books were actually comprised of several short stories and novelettes. Asimov confused the issue even more when he added additional works to the Foundation line later in his life.
        J.R.R. Tolkien would have been surprised to hear anyone label “The Lord of the Rings” a trilogy. He intended the work to be one book but a variety of factors, including an abnormally long length for its time and the cost of paper during a shortage, led his publisher to print the one book as three—meaning that in reality LOTR was neither a trilogy or a series.
        So in the end, does any of this mean anything to readers and, consequently, authors?
        I think it does which was why I so carefully labeled Jacked as a series. Calling a line of books a series makes certain promises to the reader and authors need to deliver or they will wonder why subsequent books do not perform as well as they would like. Books in a series must deliver a certain individual finality, a self-contained story with a clear end. When a reader returns for the next book, it is most likely because of the characters or world, not any overarching theme or arc.
        But a trilogy promises something else. An early book must come through with action in the story arc but only a step forward or back, not the full conclusion. The reader needs to reach the end of the book and then stare at the wall, fretting over their favorite character, wondering how they will ever reach their final goal.
        It is that anxiousness, the driving need to know that also brings in the final factor for a -logy: time. I believe the urgency a reader feels translates today into a shorter period of time they are willing to wait before the next book is released. We see that when fans raise an outcry, demanding the author deliver the next book... now! George R.R. Martin has certainly felt that heat in recent years with his “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels. Originally intended to be a trilogy with “The Winds of Winter” planned on being the third and concluding chapter (according to reports), the book is now the sixth with “A Dream of Spring” intended to be the last in what is now a heptology. Martin's intricately weaved story and use of perilous circumstances with cliffhangers has done nothing but fuel his fans' passions even higher. The expectations have been a burden for Martin to endure but then, would ASOIF be the same if it had been structured as a series? Perhaps not.
        And that difference certainly means a lot to his readers.

Per Aspera, May 31, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 310 pages

In the near future, fifteen-year-old "Tar" Hutchins is a fixer.

He can repair technology just by touching it. That's a dangerous thing to be in a world after The Crash, an event that left millions dead or little more than empty, mindless shells. In the aftermath, a new regime hunts down technology and destroys machines with ruthless zeal, even executing fixers like Tar.

And Tar has caught their attention

Now, he's running for his life, desperately searching for other fixers, avoiding the engineers responsible for The Crash, and hoping to save those whose minds have been lost. In his flight, Tar must grow up and come to realize his ability to manipulate tech is more than just "some neat trick.

Can a teenager, even a gifted one like Tar, hope to survive — much less be victorious — when an entire government is deadset against him?

About Kirk

Kirk Dougal has had works in multiple anthologies and released his debut novel, Dreams of Ivory and Gold in May of 2014 through Angelic Knight Press with a 2nd edition in February 2015. His YA science fiction thriller, Jacked, leads the launch of Ragnarok Publications' Per Aspera SF imprint in 2016. He is also waiting on the publication of his SF/LitRPG novel, Reset, while completing the sequel to Dreams, Valleys of the Earth.

Kirk is currently working in a corporate position with a group of newspapers after serving as a group publisher and editor-in-chief. He lives in Ohio with his wife and four children. Discover more at his website or hanging out on Facebook and Twitter.

Website  ~   Facebook  ~   Twitter @kdougal

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

#DASHNERDASH Giveaway - The Maze Runner by James Dashner

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

The reread will kick off with The Maze Runner. You can submit questions via the Maze Runner Facebook page and selected questions will then be discussed by James Dashner and his editor, Krista Marino, in a series of live Google Hangouts during the last week of each month. The first Google Hangout with James Dashner and Krista Marino will take place during the week of June 27th. Check the Facebook page and social media for details.

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

The Qwillery is giving away 1 signed copy of The Maze Runner. Enter via the Rafflecopter below.

The Maze Runner
The Maze Runner Series 1
Delacorte Press, August 24, 2010
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

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

Read the first book in the #1

If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.

Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Everything is going to change.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

Remember. Survive. Run.

The Giveaway

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

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

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US or Canadian mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on May 31, 2016. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 13 years old or older to enter.

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Interview with Linda Grimes, author of the Ciel Halligan series

Please welcome Linda Grimes to The Qwillery. All Fixed Up, the 4th Ciel Halligan novel, is published on May 24th by Tor Books. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Linda a Happy Publication Day!

TQWelcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel, All Fixed Up (Ciel Halligan 4), is published on May 24th. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote In a Fix (Ciel Halligan 1) to All Fixed Up? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Linda:  Thank you for inviting me back. My gut reaction is to say my writing process hasn’t changed a bit, but if I’m honest, it has, at least when I’m working on the Ciel books. I can’t create the main characters on the fly anymore, like I did for In a Fix. They’ve developed complete personalities, and I have to stay true to them. Which isn’t to say the characters haven’t evolved over the course of the books, because they have. But it requires a little more planning now to make sure any surprises my subconscious pops up with will be credible within the basic framework of the personalities already established.

The most challenging thing for me about writing is putting it first. When you lead a busy life (and who doesn’t these days?), it’s too easy to put off writing that next chapter in favor of more “pressing” concerns. I’ve had to train myself to write under hectic and/or stressful conditions, at least part of the time, or I’d never get a book finished.

TQWhat do you wish that you knew about book publishing when In a Fix came out that you know now?

Linda:  That sexy cabana boys who bring you fruity umbrella drinks while you work do not automatically appear when an editor buys your book. I was so looking forward to that part.

But seriously, it might have been nice to know how much of a writer’s job is spent not writing books. There’s also maintaining a social media presence and book promo, like book signings, conferences, festivals, etc. Don’t me wrong—that part of it is definitely a lot of fun, and it’s fantastic to connect with readers, but it can really pull you away from the book you’re supposed to be writing. So, I suppose I wish I’d known how much I would have to budget my time. You know, so I could practice.

TQWhich character in the Ciel Halligan series (so far) surprised you the most? Who has been the hardest character to write and why?

Linda:  Ciel herself surprised the heck out of me in In a Fix. When I started the book, I thought her sights were set squarely on Mark, but the more she interacted with Billy, the more I could see her attention might be divided. Also, I hadn’t thought she would be so…um, let’s just say “romantically inexperienced”…when I started the series. Her learning the ins and outs (no pun intended—well, much) of relationships with men is part of what makes her character so much fun to write.

The hardest character to write has been Mark, the adaptor CIA operative. He’s been every bit as secretive as you’d expect a spook to be, even with me sometimes. But that’s okay—I enjoy a challenge.

TQThe Ciel Halligan series is romantic Urban Fantasy. What appeals to you about writing Urban Fantasy?

Linda:  I love the fact that UF allows me to take the characters—and plots—places it might not otherwise be feasible for them to go. If I can imagine it, I can find a way to make it happen, logically, within the framework of the UF world I’ve created. Now, that’s freedom.

TQTell us something about All Fixed Up that is not found in the book description.

Linda:  It’s set during the Christmas holidays, and “Santa” might be a bit naughty himself. ;) Also, there are seven cats that are named after Snow White’s dwarfs. (Really. Would I kid about something like that?)

TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in All Fixed Up?

Linda:  I never consciously choose to—or not to—include social issues in my books. The characters are either affected by them during the course of a particular book or they’re not; all I do is try to tell the story that comes to me as honestly as I can.

TQWhich question about All Fixed Up or the Ciel Halligan series do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Linda:  I wish a big Hollywood production company would ask me “How much do you want for the television rights?” To which I would reply “As much as my agent can squeeze out of you!” (Alas, no takers yet. But maybe someday!)

TQPlease give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from All Fixed Up.


“I sighed again, unsure if having a boyfriend was even good for me. It might be like coffee—something that perks you up and makes you feel sooo good, but then you get addicted, and the next thing you know you’re in pain when it isn’t available.” ~Ciel

“Yeah? Come here so I can rip your bodice. Now, wench! I’ve been waiting. If you’d been any longer, I might have been forced to start without you.” ~Billy

TQWhat's next?

Linda:  Don’t tell Ciel, but right now I’m working on a couple of secret projects. (I can’t say more than that, for fear of jinxing them. Yes, I’m that superstitious.) I love Ciel and the gang, and I’m not done with them yet, but there are other characters in my head clamoring for their stories to be told, too.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Linda:  Thank you for having me! It’s a pleasure to visit.

All Fixed Up
Ciel Halligan 4
Tor Books, May 24, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Ciel Halligan, aura adaptor extraordinaire, has a lot of experience filling in for her clients--as them. A rare genetic quirk gives her the ability to absorb human energy and project it back out in a flawless imitation. She's hard at work, posing as a well-known and celebrated astronaut, about to make a stunning announcement on behalf of the space program...when the photographer documenting the job sees right through her aura. Worse, it soon becomes apparent that he not only knows Ciel’s not who she's supposed to be, but means her harm.

When Ciel's elderly Aunt Helen—also an aura adaptor—is murdered in Central Park, and the same photographer shows up at the funeral, Ciel starts to feel even more exposed. Then more adaptors are killed in the same way, and she becomes terrified her friends and family are being systematically exterminated ... and it's starting to look like she's the ultimate target. She turns to Billy Doyle, her best-friend-turned-boyfriend, for help, but when an unexpected crisis causes him to take off without a word, she's left to rely on her not-so-former crush, CIA agent Mark Fielding.

Staying alive, keeping control of her romantic life, and unraveling the mystery of why adaptors are being pursued becomes a harder balancing act than ever in this new Ciel Halligan adventure from Linda Grimes.

About Linda

LINDA GRIMES is a former English teacher and ex-actress now channeling her love of words and drama into writing. She grew up in Texas and currently resides in northern Virginia with her husband.

Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Google+

The Giveaway

What:  One entrant will win copies of the four Ciel Halligan novels - In a Fix, Quick Fix, The Big Fix, and All Fixed Up - by Linda Grimes from the publisher. US / CANADA ONLY

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 US or Canadian mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on June 3, 2016. 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.*

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In a Fix
Ciel Halligan 1
Tor Fantasy, June 4, 2013
Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages
Trade Paperback and eBook, September 4, 2012

IN A FIX is the first of an original new urban fantasy series by LINDA GRIMES starring human chameleon Ciel Halligan.

Snagging a marriage proposal for her client while on an all-expenses-paid vacation should be a simple job for Ciel Halligan, aura adaptor extraordinaire. A kind of human chameleon, she's able to take on her clients' appearances and slip seamlessly into their lives, solving any sticky problems they don't want to deal with themselves. No fuss, no muss. Big paycheck.

This particular assignment is pretty enjoyable...that is, until Ciel's island resort bungalow is blown to smithereens and her client's about-to-be-fiancé is snatched by modern-day Vikings. For some reason, Ciel begins to suspect that getting the ring is going to be a tad more difficult than originally anticipated.

Going from romance to rescue requires some serious gear-shifting, as well as a little backup. Her best friend, Billy, and Mark, the CIA agent she's been crushing on for years—both skilled adaptors—step in to help, but their priority is, annoyingly, keeping her safe. Before long, Ciel is dedicating more energy to escaping their watchful eyes than she is to saving her client's intended.

Suddenly, facing down a horde of Vikings feels like the least of her problems.

Quick Fix
Ciel Halligan 2
Tor Books, March 31, 2015
Mass Market Paperback, 336 pages
Trade Paperback and eBook, August 20, 2013

Quick Fix is the second installment in Linda Grimes's original urban fantasy series starring human chameleon Ciel Halligan.

Ciel Halligan, an aura adaptor with a chameleon-like ability to step into the lives of her clients and fix their problems for them—as them—is working a job at the National Zoo with her boyfriend, Billy, and his ten-year-old sister, Molly. It's supposed to be a quick fix, giving her time to decide if it's wise to pursue the romantic relationship her charming scoundrel of a best friend wants, or if she should give Mark, the CIA spook she's crushed on since hormones first rattled her pubescent brain, a chance to step up to the plate.

Molly has already begun to show signs of being an adaptor herself. She's young for it, but she's always been precocious, so it's not impossible. What is impossible is her taking on the form of the baby orangutan she touches—adaptors can only project human auras. Until now, apparently. Worse, Molly is stuck in ape form. She can't change herself back.

Escaping from the zoo with their new baby orang, Ciel and Billy head for New York City and the only person they know can help: Ciel's brother James, a non-adaptor scientist who's determined to crack the aura adaptor genetic code. But when Billy winds up in jail, accused of attempted murder, Ciel begins to suspect Molly's unusual adapting ability is more than just a fluke. Who's been experimenting on Molly, and what do they hope to gain? And will Ciel survive to find out?

A Ciel Halligan Short Story
Tor Books, March 31, 2015
e-Book, 32 pages

Meet Ciel Halligan, aura adaptor extraordinaire, in this charming introduction to Linda Grimes' "sparkling series" (Publishers Weekly).

A genetic quirk means Ciel can take on the appearance of anyone she meets by projecting their aura. This startling ability presents endless possibilities, and she's one of a rare few who has you'd think it'd be easier finding a day job that lets her put it to use. Actress? Model? Ethically dubious and possibly criminal activities, like her best friend Billy? Ciel's long-time crush and fellow aura adaptor, Mark, has found his calling as a CIA agent-a life of intrigue, danger, and the perfect utilization of their rather unique skill set. It seems like the obvious choice to Ciel: She could do good and spend time with her crush. What could be better?

"Seamlessly blending humor and action...This deliciously sexy and fun-filled romp simply is a must-read."-RT Book Reviews, 4 ½ stars, Top Pick! on In a Fix

The Big Fix
Ciel Halligan 3
Tor Books, May 12, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

Linda Grimes's sexy and hilarious urban fantasy series that began with In a Fix and Quick Fix continues in The Big Fix.

Aura adaptor extraordinaire Ciel Halligan, who uses her chameleon-like abilities to fix her clients' problems—as them—is filling in on set for action superstar Jackson Gunn, whose snake phobia is standing in the way of his completing his latest mega-millions Hollywood blockbuster. There's only one thing Jack fears more than snakes, and that's the possibility of his fans finding out he screams at the sight of one. Going from hero to laughing stock isn't part of his career plan.

Seems like a simple enough job to Ciel, who doesn't particularly like snakes, but figures she can tolerate an afternoon with them, for the right price—which Jack is offering, and then some. What she doesn't count on is finding out that while she was busy wrangling snakes for him, his wife was busy getting killed. When Ciel goes to break the sad news to the star, she finds out Jack was AWOL from her client hideaway at the time of the murder.

Ciel begins to suspect Jack's phobia was phony, and that he only hired her to provide him with an alibi—but if she goes to the police, she'll have to explain how she knows he wasn't really on set. Up against a wall, Ciel calls on her best-friend-turned-love-interest Billy, and her not-so-ex-crush Mark, to help her set up the sting of a lifetime.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Interview with Emily B. Martin, author of Woodwalker

Please welcome Emily B. Martin to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Woodwalker was published on May 17, 2016 (eBook) and will be published on June 14, 2016 (print) by Harper Voyager Impulse.

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

Emily:  Thank you for having me!

I started writing in earnest in middle school. My best friend and I had an imaginary world, and we would write stories about our adventures in it and then swap them to read on the bus home (spoiler: we’re still best friends). At the time, we didn’t ever think about us creating a foundation for our future careers as authors—it was just something we did because we loved it. Now, of course, I realize how formative those experiences were—we learned how to build worlds, create characters, and craft story arcs just from practicing and sharing with each other. We now serve as each other’s beta readers.

Building on that experience, my writing expanded through high school and college and became a serious pursuit after I had kids.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Emily:  I’m about 75% plotter and 25% pantser. Woodwalker has a pretty significant plot twist toward the end, and I had to be sure that everything I wrote would lead up to that, so I had all kinds of outlines, notes, and storyboards. In my current manuscript, though, things are a bit more vague. I knew where I was starting and ending, but the middle was pretty nebulous and only really coalesced once I stopped outlining and started writing.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Emily:  Time, of course, but pretty much everyone says that, so I’ll supplement it with issue sensitivity. We’re entering a time when traditionally marginalized voices are finally receiving more attention—rightfully so. As such, writers must become more sensitive to how we portray and describe characters who are different from ourselves.

It can be upsetting to realize what I’ve written is potentially offensive. I’m not talking about my character swearing or having a gay couple—I mean things like cultural appropriation, racism, and ableism. I wanted Woodwalker to have a world that felt American, and in creating it, I pulled some inspiration from the Cherokee near Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where I work seasonally. I realized too late, after copyedits were done, that I might not have been as sensitive as I should have been in borrowing place names and practices. I wish I had known more about cultural appropriation before I started, and I hope any potential readers I may offend will know that I’m trying to be more conscious and careful in my subsequent books. As frustrating as it can be for writers trying to write diversely, we have to remember that none of our frustration and challenges come close to those of the people who have been silenced for so long.

TQWhat has influenced/influences your writing?

Emily:  The natural world. I’m a park ranger and avid hiker/backpacker, and nothing inspires me quite like being outside. Woodwalker doesn’t have any magic, but it’s rife with natural phenomena. Like I said above, I wanted the setting to reflect the American landscape, and a vast majority of the book is spent in a country channeling southern Appalachia, my home. I wanted to try to pull out and highlight the magic in our own world—again, I’m a park ranger, this is what I do—so everything Mae and her companions encounter or experience are real things, like fireflies that glow blue and songbirds that talk.

As far as authors go, Megan Whalen Turner, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Tamora Pierce have all played big roles in my writing. Music, too, always gets me thinking, particularly contemporary Celtic and folk artists like Flook, Kíla, Shooglenifty, Great Big Sea, and Alan Doyle.

TQDescribe Woodwalker in 140 characters or less.

Emily:  An exiled ranger is recruited by a queen-in-hiding to guide her through the treacherous mountains to reclaim her throne.

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

Emily:  I drew the cover! I’m an illustrator as well as an author, and when my editor asked for my ideas for the cover, I sent him a few sketches. He picked one and we refined it into what it is now. I also drew the world map inside the cover, and I post tons of related sketches and artwork on my website and Facebook page. Art has been a big player in creating my world and characters.

TQWhat inspired you to write Woodwalker? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Emily:  I was two years and two kids into being a stay-at-home mom, and I was starting to get cabin fever. I turned to writing to try to stay connected to my former non-mom self, typing out fantasy-adventure stories when I had the time for it. A few months after my second daughter was born, we went on our first hike as a family of four. Being back out in the woods after being homebound for so long opened up this flood of inspiration. I remember the exact trail we were on. I talked my husband’s ear off the whole time, bouncing ideas off him and hashing out key scenes. By the end of the hike, I had a pretty strong grasp on the plot and protagonist. That night, I opened up a Word document and starting laying down the story.

I have always been drawn to Fantasy. It’s limitless. Beyond just the magical element to it, it allows me to turn other aspects of our world on their heads, such as traditional gender expectations and stereotypes (more on that below).

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Woodwalker?

Emily:  My favorite bit of research was talking with a woman I worked with at Great Smoky Mountains, who’s an incredible wildcrafter and knows all about medicinal plants and traditional Appalachian lifeways. She helped lay the foundation for Mae’s skills with plantlore and woodcraft. I also brought a notebook along with me on our family hikes, making notes on things like terrain, wildlife, fatigue, trail food, weather, etc. And then, of course, a ton of reading, on everything from freshwater pearl diving to historic battle tactics. Oh! And PBS documentaries. PBS is the best.

TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Emily:  The easiest and most fun was Mae, the protagonist—I got to channel my love for adventure and past experiences through her. Though I did have to be careful, in certain places, to get her inner dialogue just right (but that’s a plot point I can’t give away).

Mona, the exiled queen, was difficult sometimes, because she’s very particular and fussy, and I ultimately needed her to be a likable character. Sometimes I think she comes off as a bit too persnickety, but I think the end point of her character arc resolves some of those issues.

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

Emily:  One social issue I chose to include by not including it is sexism and traditional gender roles. In Mae’s world, there is no stratification by gender. That’s not to say it’s not a stratified society—there’s certainly a spectrum of nobility and common folk, but gender doesn’t play into it. Women have every opportunity to attempt and achieve the same things as men. Women can be rulers without the need for a spouse, unless they want one. Birth control is readily available, with no stigma attached. Women as soldiers, foresters, politicians, and solo travelers are so normal it’s beyond comment. Any separation of the sexes is a product of preference and free choice.

This was really born out of my own frustration with traditional gender constructs in our world and in fantasy literature. I wanted to write a female character who was special because of her skills, not because she was female. I wanted her to stand out from other men and women because of how capable she was and how well she met the challenges of the story. I told a lot of my friends I wanted “girl Aragorn where nobody cares she’s a girl.”

This issue comes into play more in subsequent novels, where we see women making significant decisions and playing roles that are fairly uncommon in our society, such as passing on matriarchal surnames and acting as high-ranking religious leaders (in the sense of a bishop or pope). Over the course of this series, we’ll see a spectrum of female characters—highly-skilled, capable women; clumsy, inconsequential women; and everything in between.

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

Emily:  Hm, maybe—what is the best advice you received about the publishing process?

And I would say—you’re not out to sell a million books in a day; you’re out to sell a few books every day for the rest of your life. Hearing that from a fellow author not only put things in perspective for me, it got rid of so much stress. I think we like to cling to this notion of “overnight success,” telling ourselves that if we can only get that one big break, we’ll be golden. But not only is that not true, it’s a sure way to lead to disappointment and disillusionment. I want to build my author brand and my following not in a few months, but over the rest of my life. I want to still be writing books forty years down the line. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Rearranging my perspective around that philosophy has helped me not stress my stats and let go of release day fears.

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

Emily:  Mae has a go-to mantra, which she repeats several times throughout the story: “One crisis at a time.”

TQWhat's next?

EmilyWoodwalker has two companion novels. The second is currently with my editor, and I’m banging my head against the wall with some plot snarls in the third. I have a sketchy outline for the next series I’d like to attempt… something about a sword-and-buckler- wielding lady outlaw in a Lord of the Rings-style Wild West… it, uh, makes sense in my head.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Emily:  Thank you very much! Thanks for helping promote debut authors.

TQ:  It's a pleasure!

Harper Voyager Impulse, May 17, 2016
     eBook, 336 pages
Harper Voyager Impulse, June 14 , 2016
     Mass Market Paperback, 336 pages

“What on earth would I gain from that?” I asked him. “Risk my own neck by violating my banishment just to leave you? The sentence placed on me if I return is execution. If I’m entering the mountains again, I’d damn well better get something out of it.”

Exiled from the Silverwood and the people she loves, Mae has few illusions about ever returning to her home. But when she comes across three out-of-place strangers in her wanderings, she finds herself contemplating the unthinkable: risking death to help a deposed queen regain her throne.

And if anyone can help Mona Alastaire of Lumen Lake, it is a former Woodwalker—a ranger whose very being is intimately tied to the woods they are sworn to protect. Mae was once one of the best, and despite the potential of every tree limb to become the gibbet she’s hung from, she not only feels a duty to aide Mona and her brothers, but also to walk beneath her beloved trees once more.

A grand quest in the tradition of great epic fantasies, filled with adventure and the sharp wit—and tongue—of a unique hero, Woodwalker is the perfect novel to start your own journey into the realm of magical fiction.

About Emily

Park ranger by summer, stay-at-home mom the rest of the year, Emily B. Martin is also a freelance artist and illustrator. An avid hiker and explorer, her experiences as a ranger helped inform the character of Mae and the world of Woodwalker. When not patrolling places like Yellowstone, the Great Smoky Mountains, or Philmont Scout Ranch, she lives in South Carolina with her husband, Will, and two daughters, Lucy and Amelia.

Website  ~  Facebook

Twitter @EmilyBeeMartin