Saturday, May 31, 2014

Review: Blood and Iron by Jon Sprunk

Blood and Iron
Author:  Jon Sprunk
Series:  The Book of the Black Earth 1
Publisher:  Pyr, March 11, 2014
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 427 pages
Price:  $18.00 (print)
ISBN:  978-1-61614-893-5 (print)
Review Copy: Provided by the Publisher

This action-heavy EPIC FANTASY SERIES OPENER is like a sword-and-sorcery Spartacus set in a richly-imagined world.

It starts with a shipwreck following a magical storm at sea. Horace, a soldier from the west, had joined the Great Crusade against the heathens of Akeshia after the deaths of his wife and son from plague. When he washes ashore, he finds himself at the mercy of the very people he was sent to kill, who speak a language and have a culture and customs he doesn’t even begin to understand.  Not long after, Horace is pressed into service as a house slave. But this doesn’t last. The Akeshians discover that Horace was a latent sorcerer, and he is catapulted from the chains of a slave to the halls of power in the queen’s court. Together with Jirom, an ex-mercenary and gladiator, and Alyra, a spy in the court, he will seek a path to free himself and the empire’s caste of slaves from a system where every man and woman must pay the price of blood or iron. Before the end, Horace will have paid dearly in both.

Brannigan's Review

Blood and Iron is the first book in a gritty fantasy series by Jon Sprunk. The majority of the story takes place in a North African-like setting, with plenty of desert scenery. The Akeshian Empire has hints of Egyptian and Babylonian cultural influences. The back cover states that Horace is a crusader, which is only partially correct, he's a shipwright trying to overcome a tragic past by using his skills as a carpenter for the boat that is transporting crusaders. He's not a trained fighter. I feel it's important to clear that up as it misleads potential readers.

Horace, Jirom and Alyra are all great characters. You immediately feel they are real and want to see them survive the book. Alyra is a great female character, she's fully fleshed out. The last thing I'll say about characters is that Byleth the Queen is a great secondary character. Even after reading the book, I'm not sure how I feel about her, because she was so well written. She had moments that made me feel she was a good person stuck in a bad situation and other times I felt she was down right evil. I've always liked Sprunk's characters and find them to be one of his strengths as an author.

Sprunk is also great at writing a story with a great pace. There's plenty of action as well as moments of reflection for each of the characters and side characters so the reader can become fully immersed in the story. The plot of the story takes a natural approach to its progression with a few surprises I enjoyed.

I loved the way Sprunk developed Horace's latent magical abilities. It's refreshing to see someone not master their skills quickly. He struggles and fails enough to make it realistic. Even at the end of the story, there is plenty of room for Horace to grow in the next book. The magical system is also a great setup. I've seen a few like it before, but Sprunk puts his own twist on it that I really enjoyed.

There are only two areas I felt could have improved the book. First, there is an unusual love triangle in the story that for me didn't feel natural. I'll explain. After each of the characters meet each other, the reader is told that one person loves the other and vice versa between the three of them, but there was no real evidence that this occurred. No flirting or “oh wow” moments or mental or emotional connections made between the characters that would lead the reader to believe they were falling in love. We were just told they were and then later in the story we see some of the reasons why they were in love. I felt like Sprunk could have slowed down a bit and let the reader discover the characters loved each other more naturally.

The only other thing I would change would be to remove some of the swearing from the book. It felt like it was only added to make it feel more dark or gritty, but in fact it just kept throwing me out of the story. I felt like Sprunk was required to add a certain number of swear words in the book by his publisher. It just felt unnatural to the story and characters.

Blood and Iron is the perfect fantasy beach book. The setting goes great with water and sand. It's entertaining, and fast-paced with great characters and fascinating magical system. It is well suited for a reader who wants to have a quick, enjoyable read. Due to the level of violence and sporadic use of adult language and several implied sexual situations, I would recommend it to adults. I'd also recommend it to anyone who likes fantasies set outside of a European setting or well-developed characters.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Guest Blog by Victoria Laurie - Murder and Mayhem Amongst Friends - and Giveaway! - May 30, 2014

Please welcome Victoria Laurie to The Qwillery. Deadly Forecast, the 11th Psychic Eye Mystery, is out in Mass Market Paperback on June 3 from Obsidian.

Murder and Mayhem Amongst Friends

      A few years ago I was at a book conference with some of my writer peeps, namely, Juliet Blackwell, Sophie Littlefield, Nicole Peeler, Mysti Berry, Jaye Wells, and Gigi Pandian, and in between the panels, gossip, great food, (and drink…ahem) we all had a chance to talk shop.

      Our conversations were lively, spirited, and laugh-out-loud funny – these ladies are quick with a punch line! I remember feeling so animated and excited while we chatted about things that might make any of my other friends wince. We ladies of paranormal mystery swapped stories of murder and mayhem like recipes for a Sunday brunch, and it was amazeballs.

      Juliet – Julie – and I are particularly close. Not only is she a lovely, kind, intelligent, and all around great person, but we both write for the same publisher, and our genres are identical, not to mention that we both have two ongoing series. It was so fabulous and fun to share new techniques and ideas with her. Julie likes to push the envelope of her own creative genius as much as I do, and I can’t fully describe how liberating it is to befriend a fellow writer who’s as non-conformist as I am.

      After dinner, Julie and I talked late into the night about the ideas for novels – separate from our series – that we wished we had time to write. Mine was an idea for a YA novel I’d been kicking around for years, and Julie’s was a contemporary novel set in Paris. I remember we both sighed wistfully and bemoaned the fact that our schedules were crazy full, and where were we ever going to find the time to write these books?

      Then we moved on to discussions about our respective series, and how difficult it can be to come up with new and unique mysteries for our heroines to solve. I confessed to Julie that I really wanted to challenge myself by attempting a dual storyline for Abby and M. J., and she lit up like a Christmas tree. Based on her immediate reaction I knew I absolutely had to write that book. We talked at length about how to construct the story, and thinking it through out loud with her helped me solidify that the book would definitely be a Psychic Eye novel with Abby in first person, and alternating chapters featuring M. J. in third person. I wanted to root the story firmly in Abby’s world on the day of her wedding, but also introduce readers who might not be familiar with M. J. to my other plucky protagonist without the reader feeling like they needed to have read that series from the start. Julie could not have been more encouraging.

      Once I was home from the conference, I got right to work, and low and behold a few months later, Deadly Forecast was born. Hands down it was the most challenging and yet rewarding book I’ve written in either series, and I’m oodley thankful to Julie for giving me the encouragement I needed to tap it out.

      Still feeling buoyed by those late night talks with my friend, immediately (and I do mean immediately) after finishing Deadly Forecast I went on to finally crank out that YA novel I’d been dying to write, which then sold to a publisher a few months later and now Death Date is set for release in January of 2015. After accepting the offer, one of the first people I shared the news with was Julie, who was so amazingly kind in her praise and congratulations. I remember being so giggly and excited when I told her the news; I hope she knows how much she inspired me to go for it.

      And now here it is almost two years later and I’m certainly not the only one who’s been busy! My fabulous friend has also recently snagged a deal to write that idea she first told me about of a novel set in Paris, and I believe she’s tapping it out as we speak! Also, she’s gone on to pen a crossover herself, and, A Haunting Is Brewing, is now available for pre-order! Personally, I can’t wait to see what Mel and Lily are up to!

      Meanwhile I’m busy working on the next M. J. Ghost Hunter Mystery, and someday, perhaps Julie and I will have our respective heroines come together for some murderous fun. Me thinks Abby, Mel, Lily, and M. J. would get along famously!

Deadly Forecast
A Psychic Eye Mystery 11
Obsidian, June 3, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Wedding bells are ringing for psychic Abigail Cooper. But her senses are tingling that her fiancé, Dutch, is in danger. And he’s not the only one.…


It’s said to be good luck if it rains on your wedding day, but Abby sees something darker than storm clouds on the horizon. She’s just had a disturbing premonition of her fiancé’s murder. Her husband-to-be has been assigned to a case involving a series of bombings, and Abby’s spirit guides warn her of imminent danger.

FBI agent Dutch Rivers is keeping his cool, but Abby can’t quell her anxiety. After another bombing at a local beauty salon, Abby vows to do everything in her power to keep Dutch safe and get him to the altar. But on the morning of the ceremony, she finds herself in a dire situation, with time running out….

Victoria Laurie

Website  ~  Facebook Group  ~  Twitter @Victoria_Laurie

The Giveaway

What:  One entrant will win a Mass Market Paperback copy of Deadly Forecast by Victoria Laurie from the publisher. US 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 mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59PM US Eastern Time on June 7, 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

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Interview with Nina D'Aleo - May 29, 2014

Please welcome Nina D'Aleo to The Qwillery. Nina's most recent novel is The White List, which was published by Momentum on May 13th.

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

Nina:  I started making up stories before I could write, and I haven’t stopped since then. It’s just something I love. Like most writers there’s no rhyme or reason to it – you just have to.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Nina:  A plotter for sure. The most challenging thing, I think, is not second guessing the story half-way through and restarting it. Some stories I’ll restart over and over and then go back to the original!

TQ:  Who are some of your favourite authors and literary influences?

Nina:  Sooo many – too many – my to be read list is huge and growing. The Hobbit was the first book that really made me think that I wanted to write and mum read that to me when I was four… and at the moment I’m really loving reading the books by my fellow Momentum writers – Nathan Farrugia, Amanda Bridgeman, Chris Allen, Luke Preston, Trent Jamieson, Kylie Scott are all brilliant storytellers and writers.

TQ:  Describe The White List in 140 characters or less.

Nina:  The White List – supernatural strengths, secret agencies... and love.

TQ:  Tell us something about The White List that is not in the book description.

Nina:  It’s about what we do for the friends and family we love – how far we go to protect them.

TQ:  What inspired you to write The White List? Which genres does The White List blend?

Nina:  There were a lot of inspirations for The White List – James Bond, X-Men, Heroes – all the superhero movies – even True Lies - and I would say it’s a sci-fi/fantasy blend.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The White List?

Nina:  Genome research – and watching a lot of movies – all completely necessary to the story :)

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Nina:  Silver is the only POV character in the story so she’s the easiest and hardest by default – but as far as writing characters go – her voice came fairly easily to me. We’re similar in some ways.

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

Nina:  ‘Minus the disastrously unflattering uniform, the tragic eighties fringe and crippling teenage angst, I felt like the new kid at school all over again, shuffling awkwardly past cliques of people staring at me with anything from open hostility to unsettling fascination.’

‘A fur tumbleweed drifted across the tiles in front of us, coming to rest beside a toy rat. Dark picked up the squeaky toy and threw it to a cat who was stretched across the hallway. He was a big, pink-nosed, ginger-and-white Turkish water cat we called Mr Foofypants.
“Fetch,” Dark said.
Mr Foofy eyed the toy with sluggish indifference, then started grooming his back as if to say, I feel embarrassed for you.’

TQ:  What's next?

Nina:  Book 3 of The Demon War Chronicles (my other series)

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Nina:  Thank you for having me!

The White List
Momentum Books, May 13, 2014
eBook, 251 pages

Chapter 11 is watching you.

Silver is an intelligence operative working for an agency that doesn’t officially exist beyond any government and above the law. Chapter 11 is the kind of place a person can join but never leave. And it keeps a third of the world’s population under constant surveillance. At work. On the street. In their homes.

Why? Because of Shaman syndrome.

One in three people are born with Shaman syndrome, which endows them with abilities they cannot control and do not even know they have. It is Chapter 11′s responsibility to cap and surveil these walts as they are known to ensure their talents don’t turn ugly for the ordinary people around them.

After Silver’s partner, Dark, is seriously injured by a walt, Silver is driven to investigate. What starts as a routine investigation isn’t as clear-cut as it seems, especially when she discovers there’s a price on her head.

Chapter 11 might be watching the world, but it can’t see the division in its own ranks. Someone wants the white list the list of every known walt that Chapter 11 has capped but for what purpose? Silver needs to find out the secret behind Shaman syndrome, before it’s too late.

About Nina

Nina D’Aleo wrote her first book at age seven (a fantasy adventure about a girl named Tina and her flying horse). Due to most of the book being written with a feather dipped in water, no one else has ever read ‘Tina and White Beauty’. Many more dream worlds and illegible books followed. Nina blames early exposure to Middle-earth and Narnia for her general inability to stick to reality. She also blames her parents. And her brother.

Nina has completed degrees in creative writing and psychology. She currently lives in Brisbane, Australia, with her husband, George, their two sons, Josef and Daniel, and two cats Mr Foofy and Gypsy. She spends most of her days playing with toys, saying things like 'share', 'play gentle', and 'let’s eat our veggies' and hearing things like 'no', 'no way' and 'NEVER!'.

The Last City, Nina’s debut novel, was nominated for an Aurealis Award for best science fiction novel. Nina is the author of three novels including The Last City, its sequel The Forgotten City, and The White List.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @NinaDAleo

Cover Revealed: Shadow Hunter by Kait Ballenger

Shadow Hunter by Kait Ballenger is being released as a standalone eBook in August 2014. Shadow Hunter is the prequel novella to The Execution Underground series. It was previously published as part of After Dark: The Darkest Angel\Shadow Hunter by Gena Showalter and Kait Ballenger (June 2013). Now you can have Shadow Hunter as a standalone for just $.99 cents and with a cover that matches the rest of the series!

Shadow Hunter
The Execution Underground 0.5
Harlequin HQN, August 4, 2014

Vampire hunter Damon Brock's first assignment with the Execution Underground is Rochester, New York, a city crawling with the undead. But he isn't the only hunter in town gunning for vamp blood. Tiffany Solow is fierce and ruthless when it comes to slaying the monsters that destroyed her family-and she works solo. But being alone is no longer so desirable when she meets the mysterious hunter who wants more than just her turf. As they work to massacre the local covens, the line between good and evil blurs when they are forced to decide between their lifelong beliefs... and their newfound hearts.

About Kait

Kait Ballenger is a full-time paranormal romance author, wife, former professional bellydancer, and soon-to-be-professor. She has a BA in English from Stetson University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. She lives in Central Florida with her screenwriter husband and three sweet furry babies, all three of whom are named after fictional characters. Kait hopes that one day with hard work and dedication, she will be a bestselling author, and then, people will name their pets after her characters, too.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @kait_ballenger  ~  Google+

The Execution Underground

Immortal Hunter
The Execution Underground 2
Harlequin HQN, April 1, 2014
eBook, 384 pages

Hunters of the supernatural, the Execution Underground are an elite group tasked with protecting humanity...but at what price?

As an exorcist, David Aronowitz grew up the target of demonic assassins. Now he's a member of the Execution Underground and hellspawn everywhere fear his name. But when a demon slips into the seductive body of the only woman he's ever loved, David must confront the heartbreak of their past to save her.

The piece of her heart Allsún O'Hare gave to David so long ago left her trapped between two worlds: the Fae and the human. And when David comes to her rescue, fate reunites her with her
greatest temptation--and her biggest mistake.

Now, as they're swept together into a wicked game with the demon who controls her, David must decide if saving Allsún's life is worth sacrificing his own--and the future of humanity itself.

Twilight Hunter
The Execution Underground 1
Harelquin HQN, August 27, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Hunters of the supernatural, the Execution Underground are an elite group tasked with protecting humanity...but what happens when danger collides with desire?

Jace McCannon has one loyalty: the Execution Underground. Despite his mixed blood, his hatred for the werewolves he hunts is legendary. But in his search for a sadistic killer, Jace finds himself face to face with a stunningly seductive packmaster…and longing for a night with his mortal enemy.

Nothing can stop Frankie Amato from defending her kind--or catching the rogue responsible for killing women in her territory. For that, this alpha female needs Jace’s skills more than she wants to admit. But as their investigation exposes evil truths, need burns into a passion that dare not be fulfilled. For to do so will have deadly consequences for them both…

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Press Release - Mira Grant to Complete "Parasitology" Series and Return to "Newsflesh" Series in New Novels and Novellas from Orbit

 PRESS RELEASE - May 27, 2014

Mira Grant to Complete "Parasitology" Series and Return to "Newsflesh" Series in New Novels and Novellas from Orbit

Orbit announced today the acquisition of two new novels and four original novellas from multiple Hugo Award-nominated author Mira Grant. One of the novels will be a third book in the "Parasitology" series, following the Hugo Award-nominated Parasite and Symbiont, and will conclude the trilogy, while the second novel and all four novellas will be set in the world of the "Newsflesh" series.

Interview with Brian McClellan, author of The Powder Mage Trilogy, and Giveaway - May 28, 2014

Please welcome Brian McClellan to The Qwillery. The Crimson Campaign, the second novel in The Powder Mage Trilogy, was published on May 6th by Orbit.

TQ:  Welcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel, The Crimson Campaign (Powder Mage Trilogy 2), was published earlier this month. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote Promise of Blood (2013) to The Crimson Campaign? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Brian:  Thanks for having me back!

The writing process did change. Crimson Campaign was the first novel that I wrote under contract. This meant I now had deadlines, an editor to report to, and agent to keep in the loop. This is all opposed to Promise of Blood, where I could take as much time as I wanted and had no outside force to report to.

I tend to write intuitively. Sporadically. This doesn't gel well with deadlines. If a scene isn't working I have a hard time going on ahead, and will often set aside my writing for days or even weeks while I try to figure out exactly where the book is going. I hate the phrase "wait for inspiration to strike" because it implies you're not in control of your own world, but that is literally what I have to do at times. Let me tell you, agents don't like hearing about that when you're closing in on a deadline and still have half a novel to write.

TQ:  What do you wish that you knew about book publishing when Promise of Blood came out that you know now?

Brian:  I wish I knew how uncertain the industry really is. No one really knows how a book is going to do until it hits the shelves. They can guess, of course, which is where they get the numbers for advances and marketing budget and all that. But it's not a lot more than an educated guess among a bunch of experienced people. No guarantees.

Okay, on second hand, I don't think I would have wanted to know that. It was nerve-racking enough to have my first book come out.

TQ:  Tell us something about The Crimson Campaign that is not in the book description.

Brian:  I had always kind of wanted to do a work that was based on Xenophon's Anabasis. It's a true story of a Greek mercenary company stranded in enemy territory and having to fight their way back home. The Crimson Campaign isn't as huge in scope as that (I had envisioned this Anabasis¬-inspired work as a whole series), but it has a lot of those elements to it.

TQ:  Please give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Crimson Campaign.

Brian:  This might be a cheat, but my favorite line often ends up on the front cover: "The hounds at our heels will soon know we are lions."

TQ:  What kinds of research did you do for The Crimson Campaign beyond that for Promise of Blood?

Brian:  My research rarely goes beyond Wikipedia, to be honest, and I can't remember anything specific to Crimson Campaign that I hadn't already had to learn or figure out for Promise of Blood.

TQ:  Which character in the The Powder Mage Trilogy (so far) has surprised you the most? Who has been the hardest character to write and why?

Brian:  I think Bo has surprised me the most. He was meant to be a bit of a throw-away character, and he wound up being the most fun to write. That shows with his extra screen time in Crimson Campaign.

The hardest character is definitely Nila. She doesn't have a lot of screen time in Promise of Blood and only a bit more in Crimson Campaign, nor was she meant to. I knew from the beginning that her story was going to be important, and I had some idea why, but I wasn't 100% sure what her journey would be. I'm glad to say that changed as things went along and by Crimson Campaign I knew her destiny. Still, she winds up being ignored by a lot of readers because of her lesser screen time.

TQ:  The Powder Mage Trilogy is Epic Fantasy. I've also seen it called Flintlock Fantasy. What appeals to you about writing Fantasy? What is Flintlock Fantasy?

Brian:  I grew up reading and loving epic fantasy. When I decided I wanted to be an author, I knew that was the genre I wanted to write in. I like the scope of it, and how it can deal with both personal, human relationships and world-shaking events. I like the good versus evil aspect (though I do ignore that trope to a certain extent in my own books).

To me, flintlock fantasy is just epic fantasy taken to the logical conclusion of a magical world entering its industrial revolution. It's meant to be epic. It's meant to be a successor to Jordan and Eddings and all those guys I loved as a kid. I hope that readers see it as epic fantasy and not as a separate genre entirely.

TQ:  The 3rd and final novel in The Powder Mage Trilogy, The Autumn Republic, will be published in February 2015. Please give us a sneak peek of what to expect. No spoilers, please!

Brian:  Giving a sneak peek without spoilers is a little difficult! But let's see...

The war escalates. The fighting becomes more personal. The enemy shows his true colors. Mistakes are made. Friends become foes and foes become friends. People die. A republic is born.

TQ:  Will you be writing more in the Powder Mage world?

Brian:  Yup! I'm under contract for another three books in the same universe. These ones will be set in Fatrasta ten years after the end of The Autumn Republic. We'll see a lot of new faces and several familiar ones, and the emergence of a new world power that threatens even the Nine from half a world away.

I'm also working on more Powder Mage short fiction to self-publish. I finished the first draft of a new novella just the other day and I'm hoping to have it out sometime in June.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Brian:  Thanks again for having me!

The Powder Mage Trilogy

The Crimson Campaign
The Powder Mage Trilogy 2
Orbit, May 6, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 608 pages

When invasion looms...
Tamas's invasion of Kez ends in disaster when a Kez counter-offensive leaves him cut off behind enemy lines with only a fraction of his army, no supplies, and no hope of reinforcements. Drastically outnumbered and pursued by the enemy's best, he must lead his men on a reckless march through northern Kez to safety, and back over the mountains so that he can defend his country from an angry god, Kresimir.

But the threats are closer to home...
In Adro, Inspector Adamat only wants to rescue his wife. To do so he must track down and confront the evil Lord Vetas. He has questions for Vetas concerning his enigmatic master, but the answers will lead Adamat on a darker journey.

Who will lead the charge?
Tamas's generals bicker among themselves, the brigades lose ground every day beneath the Kez onslaught, and Kresimir wants the head of the man who shot him in the eye. With Tamas and his powder cabal presumed dead, Taniel Two-shot finds himself as the last line of defense against Kresimir's advancing army.

In a rich, distinctive world that mixes magic with technology, who could stand against mages that control gunpowder and bullets? THE CRIMSON CAMPAIGN is the epic sequel to Brian McClellan's Promise of Blood.

Promise of Blood
The Powder Mage Trilogy 1
Orbit, April 8, 2014
Trade Paperback, 608 pages
Previously released in Hardcover and eBook, April 16, 2013

The Age of Kings is dead . . . and I have killed it.

It's a bloody business overthrowing a king...
Field Marshal Tamas' coup against his king sent corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brought bread to the starving. But it also provoked war with the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics, and the greedy to scramble for money and power by Tamas's supposed allies: the Church, workers unions, and mercenary forces.

It's up to a few...
Stretched to his limit, Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail.

But when gods are involved...
Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth. No modern educated man believes that sort of thing. But they should...

In a rich, distinctive world that mixes magic with technology, who could stand against mages that control gunpowder and bullets? PROMISE OF BLOOD is the start of a new epic fantasy series from Brian McClellan.

About Brian

Brian lives in Cleveland, Ohio with his wife, two dogs, a cat, and between 6,000 and 60,000 honey bees (depending on the time of year).

He began writing on Wheel of Time role playing websites at fifteen. Encouraged toward writing by his parents, he started working on short stories and novellas in his late teens. He went on to major in English with an emphasis on creative writing at Brigham Young University. It was here he met Brandon Sanderson, who encouraged Brian’s feeble attempts at plotting and characters more than he should have.

Brian continued to study writing not just as an art but as a business and was determined this would be his life-long career. He attended Orson Scott Card’s Literary Bootcamp in 2006. In 2008, he received honorable mention in the Writers of the Future Contest.

In November 2011, The Powder Mage Trilogy sold at auction to Orbit Books. Book one, Promise of Blood, is out now from Orbit Books. Book two, The Crimson Campaign, is due out in May of 2014.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Google+  ~  reddit

The Giveaway

What:  One entrant will win a Trade Paperback copy of Promise of Blood (The Powder Mage Trilogy 1) by Brian McClellan from The Qwillery. This copy will not be purchased at Amazon.

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 June 7, 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

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Interview with Terry Hayes, author of I Am Pilgrim, plus Giveaway - May 27, 2014

Please welcome Terry Hayes to The Qwillery. Terry is the author of the fabulous I Am Pilgrim which is out today from Atria/Emily Bestler Books. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Terry a Happy Publication Day.

You may read my review of I Am Pilgrim here.

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

Terry:  I really can't remember a time when I wasn't going to be a writer, although it took a few years for me to start putting pencil to paper. Certainly by the age of nine or ten I was writing - or at least trying to write - short stories, poems and articles about current events. I still have those old workbooks somewhere, though I think it would take more courage than I could muster to open them up and start reading what they contain? Why did I take it up? Those things are always hard to determine but I have some thoughts. I was born in England and when I was five my parents brought my older brother and myself to live in Australia. We had very little money, knew virtually nobody in the new country and had no realistic way of returning to England. It was a disturbing and somewhat confronting experience for a five year old, made even worse by the fact that my mother was very homesick and desperately unhappy. All of this coincided with the time when I was learning to read and I don't suppose it took me long to realize that fiction and storytelling were a welcome relief to the everyday world. I was a voracious reader - hugely encouraged by my father - and it was a small step for a child to go from reading to imagining that he could create and write his own stories. That's one of the great things about childhood, I guess - anything seems possible.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Terry:  A plotter. Which is not to say that I don't try to keep myself continually open during the actual writing process to new and better ideas, but I definitely have to have a clear idea of the primary character(s), the major movements of the plot, the nature of the primary conflict and - most of all - the ending. I figure that launching a rocket isn't that difficult; bringing it home safely is an entirely different thing. The hallmark of a successful mission, if you will.

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

Terry:  Overcoming self-doubt! I don't want to just make a living; I don't want to merely enjoy the process or achievement; I would like to be good at it. One of the unheralded difficulties, especially with novels, is that you're not just competing - or being measured - against your contemporaries. There is a huge repository of outstanding novels behind us. I continually ask myself - why would somebody want to read my story and not Jane Austen or F. Scott, or Hemingway or, when it comes to spy thrillers, The Day of the Jackal or The Spy Who Came in From the Cold? That can be pretty intimidating and, in my experience, once you start going down that track it can often end in a sort of paralysis. To be honest, I'm getting nervous even thinking about it now.

TQ:  Tell us something about I Am Pilgrim that is not in the book description.

Terry:  It is really the classic hero story - a very ordinary man, born in unusual circumstances, goes on an extraordinary adventure, finds attributes he did not even know he had, and achieves something of great benefit to the world. This is an ages-old story: it is the story of Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins, Jesus, Moses, countless others and - in a small way, also of Mad Max. Though the same core story has worn many different guises, I Am Pilgrim is - to my knowledge - the first time it has been told as a spy thriller. That was part of the architectural underpinning to the story - but I can quite see why it wasn't included in the book description!

TQ:  What inspired you to write I Am Pilgrim? Why did you choose to write a thriller? Are there any other genres or sub-genres in which you'd like to write?

Terry:  I don't really know what inspired me - beyond the fact that I thought it was a rattling good story. And once you start thinking that, you keep turning it over in your head and asking yourself 'what if' Pilgrim did such and such; what about something or another, would so and so make a great action sequence? Before long, it starts to take over a lot of your waking thoughts and if you find you're falling in love with it, if the level of excitement doesn't wane, if you start to think you know the characters as well as yourself, if you are convinced that every relationship has some sort of conflict, if you think every page, every sentence, every word is going to be worth the effort - then you end up with no real choice except to write it. As far as why did I choose a thriller? Well, good espionage thrillers have always been my drug of choice. I love the moral ambiguities, the loneliness of the lone agent far from home and help, the sense of entering a hidden world. They also seemed to offer the opportunity to deal with interesting political and geo-political situations and, having been a foreign correspondent and political journalist myself, I had a natural inclination towards that. It's hard to say I wouldn't work in other genres, but Pilgrim has actually been conceived as a trilogy and the other two books which will intercede between those volumes are both thrillers - so, fate and the book-buying public willing - my next few years are going to be spent in that genre. I guess it's just as well I like it.

TQ:  Have you found that writing (and producing) movies influenced how you wrote I Am Pilgrim?

Terry:  Yes, the essential element of writing or producing movies is to be the best story-teller you can be. The one thing, however, that working in movies does teach you - and which I found indispensable - is an appreciation of pace. Given the cost now, and the difficulty, of making movies every moment, every scene, has to really ear it's place in the story. My friend, the director George Miller, who has been nominated for several Oscars and won one, says that movie scripts are 'completely Darwinian' - only the very best and most essential elements of the story survive through to the final version of the movie. I think having worked in the movies for so long, gives you an understanding of that. It doesn't mean that things have to be brief; it means that all the information has to make a significant contribution to the story. Pilgrim is a long book, no doubt of it, but I hope that it is not only epic, but never boring or meandering. That was my aim - of course, other people's mileage may vary.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for I Am Pilgrim?

Terry:  Lots and lots of reading, quite a bit of talking to experts and an enormous amount of time spent on the internet trying to find out things as disparate as the nature of tides in the Mediterranean Sea to why intelligence agents always remove the batteries from their cell phones. I am fortunate that I have a natural curiosity so the enormous amount of research I had to undertake never felt like a burden. I also have a pretty good memory so I managed to draw on facts and events I had come across years ago. The hardest thing was getting an understanding of how to synthesize a biological weapon using only materials that are readily available. It meant learning an enormous amount about 'just over the horizon' science and many times I wished that I hadn't decided to go down that particular story- telling route.

TQ:  In I Am Pilgrim who was the easiest character for you to write and why? The hardest and why?

Terry:  Pilgrim was the easiest because, as I mentioned earlier, he fits the mould of the classic hero so I had a good understanding of what the major points of his life, and his adventure, were. He was also a loner so that gave me a helpful angle on his character and how he would interact with other people. There's a deep sadness about him, I think, and so I often felt very sympathetic towards him. The hardest was his adversary, known only as The Saracen. The primary reason was that he came from a totally different culture and belief system so - terrified that I was going to make a mistake - I researched, researched some more, and then did even more research about life in Saudi Arabia, the Islamic faith, and a host of other topics ranging from the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan to life in the increasingly large Muslim communities in Europe.

TQ:  What's next?

Terry:  As I said earlier, it's all thrillers. The next one - not a Pilgrim story - has a working title of The Year of the Locust and also deals with leading edge science. Thankfully, it is also about a family so I get to spend time with a group of people - and the sacrifices they make for each other - rather than the journey of a solitary man.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Terry:  Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity.

I Am Pilgrim
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, May 27, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 624 pages

This astonishing debut espionage thriller depicts the collision course between two geniuses, one a tortured hero and one a determined terrorist, in a breakneck story reminiscent of John le Carré and Robert Ludlum at their finest.

PILGRIM is the code name for a world class and legendary secret agent. His adversary is a man known only to the reader as the Saracen. As a young boy, the Saracen barely sees his dissident father beheaded in a Saudi Arabian public square. But the event marks him for life and creates a burning desire to destroy the special relationship between the US and the Kingdom. Everything in the Saracen’s life from this moment forward will be in service to jihad.

At the novel’s opening, we find ourselves in a seedy hotel near Ground Zero. A woman lies face down in a pool of acid, features melted off her face, teeth missing, fingerprints gone. The room has been sprayed down with DNA-eradicating antiseptic spray. All the techniques are pulled directly from Pilgrim's book, a cult classic of forensic science written under a pen name.

In offering the NYPD some casual assistance with the case, Pilgrim gets pulled back into the intelligence underground. What follows is a thriller that jockeys between astonishingly detailed character study and breakneck globetrotting. The author shifts effortlessly from Pilgrim’s hidden life of leisure in Paris to the Saracen’s squalid warrior life in Afghanistan, from the hallways of an exclusive Swiss bank to the laboratories of a nefarious biotech facility in Syria.

The inevitable encounter between Pilgrim and the Saracen will come in Turkey, around the murder of a wealthy American, in a thrilling, twisting, beautifully orchestrated finale. 

About Terry

Photo (c) Kristen Hayes
Terry Hayes is the award-winning writer and producer of numerous movies, including Payback, Road Warrior, and Bangkok Hilton (featuring Nicole Kidman). He lives in Switzerland with his wife, Kristen, and their four children.

I Am Pilgrim Facebook Page 

The Giveaway

What:  One entrant will win a copy of I Am Pilgrim (print or digital - winner's choice) from Atria/Emily Bestler Books. 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 6, 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

Feature: Entangled Select's May Releases - May 27, 2014

Whether you’re looking for a romance that makes you laugh, makes you ‘walk the plank’, keeps you guessing, or stars your favorite paranormal, look no further. Select books have the single-title stories you crave, and the longer length you need to really get ‘lost’ in a great book. To find out more about their titles, chat with authors, participate in special events, and to find out what books are coming next, visit the Entangled website, follow them on Twitter, and like their Facebook page.

Select's May releases:

A Hornet Novel
Available in Print and eCopy!
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A Sanctify Novel
Available in Print and eCopy!
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Never show fear to a demon.
Special $0.99 Introductory Price!
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Save the Dragons
Special $0.99 Introductory Price!
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A week together could be
just the cure she needs...

Only 99 Cents!
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It's never the
same old song...

Only 99 Cents!
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Fall in love,
save some immortal souls,
break a curse...
No problem.

Special $0.99 Introductory Price!
Find out more!

Plus don't miss these two special events!

Monday, May 26, 2014

The View From Monday - May 26, 2014

Happy last Monday in May!

There are no debuts this week. From formerly featured Debut Author Challenge Authors:

White Heart of Justice (Noon Onyx 3) by Jill Archer;

Banishing the Dark (Arcadia Bell 4) by Jenn Bennett;

Strange Country (Wide Open 3) by Deborah Coates;

Emperor of Thorns (Broken Empire 3) by Mark Lawrence is out in Trade Paperback;


The Kassa Gambit by M.C. Planck  is out in Trade Paperback.

May 26, 2014
Court of Conspiracy (e) April Taylor AH - The Tudor Enigma 1
Crucible (e) T.D. Wilson SF - Epherium Chronicles 2

May 27, 2014
The Demon Creed (e) Paula Altenburg PNR - Demon Outlaws 3
White Heart of Justice Jill Archer F - Noon Onyx 3
The Last President (h2mm) John Barnes PA/SF - Daybreak 3
Banishing the Dark Jenn Bennett UF - Arcadia Bell 4
The Kraken King Part VII: The Kraken King and the Empress's Eyes (e) Meljean Brook SPR - Iron Seas
Skin Game Jim Butcher UF - The Dresden Files 15
Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising Sarah Cawkwell AH/F
Strange Country Deborah Coates UF - Wide Open 3
Warbound (h2mm) Larry Correia UF - Grimnoir Chronicles 3
Deadlock (Kindle e) Tim Curran H
Undead and Unsure (h2mm) MaryJanice Davidson PNR - Queen Betsy 12
True Love (h2mm) Jude Deveraux PNR - Nantucket Brides 1
Dark Matter Ian Douglas SF - Star Carrier 5
The Lost Sarah Beth Durst UF - The Lost 1
Air Bound (h2mm) Christine Feehan PNR - Sea Haven 3
Alien 3: The Official Movie Novelization Alan Dean Foster SF - Alien
The Cursed Heather Graham Sus/P - Krewe of Hunters 12
Fire Rising: Part 3 (e) Donna Grant PNR - Dark Kings
The Orpheus Descent Tom Harper Th/Hist
The Asylum (h2tp) John Harwood Go/H
Kiss of Wrath Sandra Hill PNR - Deadly Angels 4
Sanctuary: A Postapocalyptic Novel G. Michael Hopf Dys - New World 3
Noah's Boy (tp2mm) Sarah A. Hoyt UF - Shifters 3
Star Trek: The Lost Era: One Constant Star David R. George III SF - Star Trek
Hunt the Darkness Alexandra Ivy PNR - Guardians of Eternity 11
The Immortal Circus: Final Act A. R. Kahler UF - Cirque des Immortels 3
Hunt at World's End Nicholas Kaufmann Th - Gabriel Hunt
The Way to Babylon Paul Kearney F
The Mark of the Tala Jeffe Kennedy F - Twelve Kingdoms 1
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Firestorm Greg Keyes SF - Movie Prequel
Deeply Odd (h2mm) Dean Koontz H - Odd Thomas 6
Vulkan Lives (tp2mm) Nick Kyme F - Horus Heresy
Emperor of Thorns (h2mm) Mark Lawrence F - Broken Empire 3
Artemis Awakening Jane Lindskold SF
Unforgiven Cat Miller PNR - Forbidden Bond 2
The Remaining: Faith: A Novella (e) D.J. Molles H - The Remaining
The Remaining D.J. Molles H - The Remaining 1
Crown of Renewal Elizabeth Moon F - Paladin's Legacy 5
Friends 'Til the End: A Tor.Com Original (e) Bethany Neal F
The Given Vicki Pettersson Su/Noir - Celestial Blues 3
The Kassa Gambit (h2tp) M.C. Planck SF
Captured (e) Caris Roane PNR - Savage Chains 1
Queen of Swords Katee Robert SFR - Sanctify 1
Innocent Blood (h2mm) James Rollins
Rebecca Cantrell
Th/H - Order of the Sanguines 2
Reach for Infinity Jonathan Strahan (ed) SF - Anthology
Night Terrors Tim Waggoner UF - Shadow Watch 1
Sea Change (h2tp) S.M. Wheeler F
Pirates of the Timestream (tp2mm) Steve White SF - Jason Thanou 3

May 29, 2014
Picnic at Hanging Rock (ri) Joan Lindsay H

May 29, 2014
The Immortal Crown Richelle Mead F - Age of X 2

May 30, 2014
The Milkman: A Freeworld Novel Michael J. Martineck SF - Freeworld

May 31, 2014
The River of Souls Robert McCammon HistM - Matthew Corbett 5

e - eBook
ed - Editor
h2tp - Hardcover to Trade Paperback
h2mm - Hardcover to Mass Market Paperback
ri - reissue or reprint
tp2mm - Trade to Mass Market Paperback

AH - Alternate History
Dys - Dystopian
F - Fantasy
H - Horror
Hist - Historical
HistM - Historical Mystery
P - Paranormal
PA - Post Apocalyptic
PNR - Paranormal Romance
SF - Science Fiction
SFR - Science Fiction Romance
SPR - Steampunk Romance
Su - Supernatural
Sus - Suspense
Th - Thriller
UF - Urban Fantasy

Sunday, May 25, 2014

2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2014 Winner

The winner of the May 2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars is Path of the Dead (Hungry Ghosts1) by Timothy Baker with 37% of the votes! Path of the Dead was published by Ragnarok Publications.

 The Final Results

 The May 2014 Debut Covers

Thank you to everyone who voted, Tweeted, and participated. The 2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars will continue with voting on the June Debut covers starting on June 15, 2014.  Look for the list of June's Debuts on June 1st.

Melanie's Week in Review - May 25, 2014

This week's WIR is brought to you from rural Ontario! I am not that far away from Kelley Armstrong...not that I am stalking her, of course. I have actually managed to get a book read in between eating too much apple pie and driving my elderly mother around. So what did I read?

I finished He Drank and Saw The Spider by Alex Bledsoe which I will be writing a full review for so can't say too much. I then did a little tour of my recommendations on Amazon and found a new book in a series that I thought had already finished - The Emperor's Edge series by Lindsay Buroker. Buroker polled her fans who wanted to read more stories of Amaranthe, Sicarius and friends. Republic is book 8 of the series and starts a few months after the end of book 7 - Forged in Blood Part 2 - with our hapless heroine and her assassin boyfriend on board the President's submarine. They are called back by President Starcrest and its not long before they are embroiled in multiple plots from a murderous cult, attempts to kill the President to an alien plant that is taking over the city. Almost everyone is back. Rather than the story being told by just Amaranthe and one other character there are multiple voices in this one. There are POVs from the main characters Amaranthe and Sicarius plus Maldynado, the president's wife and daughter (Tikaya and Mahliki) and the former child emperor Sespian. It really made for a more robust plot having it told by the different points of view. I don't think this would have worked so well earlier in the series as it would have created too much noise and distracted from the development of the characters.

I am always a bit dubious when authors finish a series and then release more books. Invariably I am left a bit disappointed especially, when I liked the ending of the series. I felt that way with Republic. I started out really liking the series but thought it went on a book or two too long and finding another book made me really hesitate. I thought familiar characters would make it an easy book to read when I had the potential of lots of interruptions. The book ended up having 2 main threads - the assassination of Starcrest and the alien plant. Both of these plots lent themselves well to the characters that were involved in each and played to their strengths but were a tiny bit long winded. Overall, I thought Republic was OK. I kind of wished that Buroker would have left these characters in book 7 but it didn't ruin the series for me. I do hope that this is it for Amaranthe and friends as another book will be too much.

Lucky me discovered a new book had downloaded on Tuesday - Sixth Grave on the Edge by Darynda Jones. This is the latest in the Charley Davidson series and finds my favourite grim reaper doing what she does best - getting in trouble. I am only half way through and was really hoping to have been able to tell you all about it this week but that would have involved rushing and I wanted to savour some of the funniest chapter headings I have ever read. I will be able to tell you all about it next week so until then Happy Reading.