Please welcome Seth Skorkowsky to The Qwillery. Sea of Quills is published today by Ragnarok Publications. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Seth a Happy Publication Day!
Our Inner Rogue
People usually gravitate to heroes that represent what they want to be or what characteristic they wish they had. That might range anywhere from physical strength, to a cool magical ability, or simply the freedom to perform the tasks that we secretly wish we could do.
For me, that secret desire is crime.
Now, I’m not a criminal. I have moral hang-ups and a fear of being in trouble that has kept me on the straight and narrow path. Yet, deep down, there’s a part of me that wishes I could somehow shed those scruples and fears and perform some daring caper.
There’s a wide array of thieves in fiction, ranging from conmen, cat burglars, spies, and assassins. Of course these are romanticized ideals, and nothing like in real life, but that’s the fun. We can take an imaginary tour of a seedy existence without the risk of dirtying our hands or souls.
Thieves represent the underdog. They’re usually alone or in a small gang and are tasked with beating the impossible by going where no one can go, and taking what no one can take. Instead of armies, magic swords, and power armor, a rogue’s arsenal consists of disguises, technical knowhow, a mastery of lying, infinite patience, and a physical prowess worthy of a Cirque du Soleil acrobat.
In Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora, he sums up what we love in fantasy rouges as, “Richer and cleverer than anyone else.” And that’s what it’s really about. We love the idea that someone can outwit any obstacle and stick-it to whomever they please.
Got an impossible safe to crack? They crack it.
Got a hundred guards protecting an impenetrable fortress? They’ll get inside.
Booby traps: No problem. Laser grids: Try harder.
There’s a side in each of us (at least in me) that when we’re at a museum, staring at a priceless relic secured behind glass, alarms, cameras, security guards, and a hundred witnesses, that whispers, “How could I get that?” And we begin that fantasy where we’re not afraid of getting caught, or of heights, where we know how to bypass these defenses through wit or gizmos and say, “You thought you were so safe, but I got it. I beat you.”
Very rarely does the prize of a fictional heist matter. What’s important is seeing the style and finesse in which our roguish hero accomplishes their goal. Once they have it, we can share that sense of victory that we too have outwitted and stuck-it to our opponents.
Fiction, especially fantasy fiction, is about escape. Some might dream of being knights riding across fantastical landscapes and saving kingdoms. I dream of dark alleys and a dagger up my sleeve.
Sea of Quills
Tales of the Black Raven 2
Ragnarok Publications, September 28, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 296 pages
Cover by Alex Raspad
For Ahren, it’s no longer a question of someone trying to kill him but who will try next.
Still on the run for a murder he didn’t commit, Ahren adapts to life as an outlaw and the reputation of the Black Raven grows. But nothing comes easy. Dogged by bounty hunters he finds himself crossing steel with pirates on the high seas and battling monsters in subterranean cities. If that wasn’t enough, he’s paid to assassinate an immortal and must break out of a heavily-fortified prison.
Just another day in the life of the Black Raven.
Sea of Quills is the second book in this collection of tales by Seth Skorkowsky, the author of Damoren and the best-selling Valducan urban fantasy series.
Ahren removed his tools and easily picked the simple lock. He pulled it open, revealing a set of shallow shelves nestled in the hidden space behind. Folded documents and jeweled trinkets dominated the hidden cache. A flat wooden box rested alone atop the highest shelf. Inside, Ahren found a brass disk composed of four moving rings around a central hub adorned with a blood-red stone. Removing it from its velvet lining, Ahren held it up to see a small hole punched through three of the moving rings, all engraved with random letters, words, and numbers. Time was precious, but he had to be sure.
Placing the coded note on the desk, Ahren set the disk in the center and slid the rings until they aligned with the crimson dots. A small point protruded from the outmost brass ring. Rotating it around the cryptogram’s letters he could decipher their meaning.
Relief coursed down his body. Ahren quickly slipped the parchment and key into pouch at his back, and removed a black feather. He returned to the hidden shelves and placed the quill atop the key’s box with a grin. As he reached to close the bookshelf door, a sharp point dug into his neck.
“What are you doing, lover?” Karolina whispered behind him.
Ahren hadn’t heard the study door open. How long had the dance been over? “I’ve found the Count’s hidden documents. The Tyenee plan to blackmail him.”
“Hmmm,” she purred in his ear. “But that’s not what you stole. What is the brass disk for?”
Ahren cursed mentally. She’d been in the room for some time. “It’s a sentimental trinket the Count stole from an old business partner after backing from a deal,” he said. “My job is to take it to prove a point.”
“And that point is?” The night ruby clacked inside her mouth with every word, making her invisible whenever her lips closed around it.
“No man is invincible.”
Mountain of Daggers
Tales of the Black Raven 1
Ragnarok Publications, March 9, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 294 pages
Cover by Alex Raspad
Some call him hero. Others, a menace. But everyone agrees that Ahren is the best thief in the world. Whether he’s breaking into an impregnable fortress, fighting pirates, or striking the final blow in political war, Ahren is the man for the job.
After being framed for murder, his reward posters named him the Black Raven. To survive, Ahren finds himself drafted into the Tyenee, a secret criminal organization whose influence stretches across the world. Their missions are the most daring, the most dangerous, and the penalty for failure is death. When no one else can do it, they send the Black Raven.
Seth Skorkowsky was born in Texas in 1978. He currently lives in Denton, Texas, with his wife, and works for the University of North Texas. His short story "The Mist of Lichthafen" was nominated for a British Fantasy Award (long list) in 2009. Dämoren is Seth's debut novel and was recently nominated and shortlisted for the Reddit Fantasy Stabby Award for "Best Debut Novel."
He recently signed a two-book deal with Ragnarok for his "Black Raven" sword-and-sorcery collection. When not writing, Seth enjoys travel, shooting, and tabletop gaming.