Spotlight: The Exile’s Violin by R.S. Hunter [steampunk]

It’s no real secret to those who know me that I’ve been easing my way into steampunk over the past few months as I work on a novel that’s something of a foray into the genre.

One book I recently enjoyed was The Exile’s Violin by R.S. Hunter.  As a gamer as well as fantasy author, I appreciate good worldbuilding.  I love stories where the author has put an intense amount of thought into how things work and what the cultures are like within their universe, as well as considered things like character and plot.  Exile is one of those novels where I read it and instantly thought “I really want to play in a game set on Tethys.”  While I wouldn’t want to live on the planet for sure, I think it’d be fun to escape there from time to time.

So a little about the book itself:

Why hire mercenaries to kill an innocent family just to obtain one little key? That question haunts Jacquie Renairre for six years as she hunts down the people responsible for murdering her parents.

Not even accepting an assignment to investigate a conspiracy that aims to start a war can keep her from searching for the key. Armed with her father’s guns and socialite Clay Baneport, she continues her quest for answers abroad.

With the world edging closer to disaster, Jacquie is running out of time to figure out how the war, the key, and ancient legend are intertwined. The fate of the world hinges on her ability to unravel both mysteries before it’s too late.

You can find it on Amazon in e-book format right now.

I myself am also going to pick it up in paperback when it’s out–that cover (not to mention the contents) is one I definitely want on my shelf.  (Though I’m undoubtedly prejudiced as the art is done by the ever-awesome Enggar Adirasa.  Does that name sound familiar?  🙂  )


The Next Big Thing: The Unwilling

A photograph by Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

I’ve been tagged for “The Next Big Thing,” a series of posts about the projects that authors are working on.  A big thanks to the ever-amazing Peter Giglio, Scott Bradley, and R.S. Hunter for the tags.

This was actually a really hard meme for me to complete.  I’m working on a number of projects right now.  Closest to my heart at the moment is Efimera but to write about that project truly merits a different kind of post than this.  The Jealousy Glass, next novel in the Artifacts of Empire series, comes out this Saturday so I decided that writing about that wouldn’t be as interesting, perhaps, as talking about my far future project.  So that’s where this comes from.

1) What is the working title of your next book?

The book that I’m currently working on has the working title The Unwilling.  There’s a specific reference that I pulled the title from (bonus points to anyone who can figure it out!).

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

As a fantasy reader, I’ve noticed that a lot of the tropes with which we’re so familiar come from Tolkien.  I’m intrigued by the stereotypes that seem to have drifted into the common understanding of what cultures and creatures are and wanted to play with that a little myself.  My Artifacts of Empire series is fairly minimal from a fantastic point of view.  While there are magic and certain magical creatures exist, much of that world’s magic was burnt out and you’re never going to see an elf or dwarf walking around Cercia.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

I suspect it will be hard to classify but I’d say dark historical urban crime fantasy with a strong hint of horror.

Let’s just call it… fiction.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

This is a tough one and admittedly, I’m bad with naming my characters so I expect that the ones I list here will probably have their names changed by the time The Unwilling is ready to go.  I also don’t always cast people in my head–this story is definitely one of those where I haven’t done (until now).

Liach, a male elven “soldier,” would most definitely be portrayed by Sasha Roiz.  Roiz has done a lot of things but I’ll always remember him best as Sam Adama from Caprica, one of my favorite TV shows.  (And yes, I’m also a huge BSG fan.)  Roiz has a certain clarity and sharpness in his facial expression that would suit this character well.  He could stand to work on the pointy ears but we’ll forgive him that.

Photo by Dorothea Lange. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Daisy, who is the central figure as of this writing, would likely best be portrayed physically by Romola Garai a little older than she appeared in I Capture the Castle.  (Though her emotional and spiritual journey would better be summed up by Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone.)  Another candidate for casting would be the elven leader Iryamil—she’s Kate Winslet from her Mildred Pierce days, all the way.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Oh, the dreaded logline!  Perhaps… “How can you live forever if there’s nothing left to live for?”

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I haven’t yet decided which way I’ll go with the book though I’m inclined not to self-publish at this stage of the game.  My other novels have been published by a small press and I found that to be a positive experience.  I’ll cheerfully admit, however, that I already have a cover artist/illustrator in mind if he’ll take the job (and of course, if I end up having a say in the matter).

At this point, I’m not represented by an agent but I’m very interested in speaking to one about this or my collaborative project.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

It is still in progress.  I anticipate I’ll have a first draft finished by the end of next year or the beginning of 2014.  I have other projects going that also require my attention and this novel is complex in terms of scope and plotline.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

This is The Lord of the Rings meets The Godfather meets The Hellbound Heart.  Which means, of course, that it will feel and act like none of these.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My research on the economic depressions experienced worldwide in the 1930s, my fascination with bizarre facets of history and my curiosity about genre reliance on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

I also give some credit for my attempting to try something like this on my workshopping adventures with R.S. Hunter.  His worldbuilding and outlining abilities are a thing of beauty–I’m incredibly jealous of the way that he develops all of his worlds.  (You can see a great example of this in his Tethys steampunk novels, the first being The Exile’s Violin.)

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Two words: bad elves.

Now, the thing about this meme is that you’re supposed to tag other authors.  So here are a few I read/follow that I’d love to see do it (and I hope that none of you mind the tag):  Matthew Arnold Stern, Melissa Goodman, Michael Turner, M.S. Fowle, and Jack Lewis Baillot.

This is a really excellent post on how to begin short stories. I think it’s good advice to follow for just about any kind of writing.

Fantasy Author's Handbook

I generally don’t like this kind of negative approach: lists of what not to do. I prefer to encourage you to do things, not discourage you from doing things, but back to the subject of short stories, I can’t help but point out some very common pitfalls that I’ve seen over and over again for years—decades, actually. So here goes, in no particular order, half a dozen things you should never do in the first page of a short story:

Too Many Ideas in a Sentence

Especially in the first sentence of your story, limit each sentence to one idea.

Example of what not to do:

I woke up that morning wondering when I would stop having visions of the future when all of a sudden a flying saucer landed on my front lawn.

Is this a story about a guy with precognitive abilities, or UFOs, or both? It could…

View original post 1,471 more words

We live in a beautiful world (image spotlight)

I’ve been crazy-busy preparing for the December 1 release of my next novel, The Jealousy Glass, but every once in a while, you have to stop and stare at something beautiful.

Dutch artist  Berndnaut Smilde has found a way to create clouds indoors for his photographs and the results are stunning.  You can see them at his website:

I’d share an image with you here but so much of his work is really amazing that it’s best to direct you all there.


Cover Reveal: Into the Spiral

What would you say if shadows began to speak to you?  That’s the question YA author (and a personal friend of mine), Erin Danzer, explores in the first book of her Spiral Defenders trilogy.  I’m pleased to share her new cover with you along with a few hints about what you can expect when it appears online on Black Friday (and in print later this Christmas season).

About Into the Spiral

Fifteen-year-old Veronica “Ronnie” Lambert wants to get out from under her older brother’s shadow. When Ronnie gets a tattoo and then is struck by lightning, she suddenly finds herself able to see and hear things in shadows that don’t appear to others. Then Ronnie meets Gavin Clearwater, the hot new guy in all of her classes and finds out he can see and hear the same things she can.

Gavin tells her about the Spiral Defenders, a group of warriors that travels through space and time to defend the planets of the Spiral. After meeting the Commander of the Spiral Defenders and realizing his intentions might not be pure, Ronnie struggles between following her destiny to become a Spiral Defender and trying to regain the life she had before being struck by lightning.


About the Author

Erin Danzer wrote her first book at 10-years-old for a Young Authors competition, where she was awarded an Honorable Mention and discovered a passion for the written word. She’s written several novels and short stories since that spark ignited. She writes a monthly short story serial, The Cassandra Serafin Chronicles, posting alternately on her blog and in Literary Lunes bi-monthly online magazine. Into the Spiral is Erin’s debut novel. Erin resides in Wisconsin with her husband, two children, and their cat.


FB Fan Page:

Twitter: @erindanzer

Traitor Angel {review}

In Traitor Angel, the second book of the Angelkiller Triad,  the war between The Army of Light and The Enemy continues behind the scenes. Unknown to the general population, the battle for control of humanity is heating up.

Jonah Mason, called Angelkiller, faces more than one decision. His Army resistance cell is wounded physically and emotionally, on the brink of falling apart. The mysterious allies calling themselves Knights are pressuring him to abandon his people. Meanwhile, the world outside draws closer to Armageddon.

As Mason and his friends pursue their campaign against Dorian Azrael’s global megacorporation, Andlat Enterprises, the stakes get higher with each desperate foray into the enemy’s computers. They are fated to lose one of their number and gain an unlikely ally, but any advantage they gain could be fleeting at best.

If they fail, it could mean the end of The Army and all resistance to the forces of Darkness.

Traitor Angel is the second installment in H. David Blalock’s Angelkiller Triad. I don’t normally read books concerning a “war in heaven”–to be honest, books about angels typically strike me as being a variation on the same theme. (If you’ve seen The Prophecy, you’ve read them all.) However, the concepts behind this trilogy have intrigued me for a long time and as a result, when the tour opened up, I decided it was well past time to give the book a chance.

There is a lot about Traitor Angel that distinguishes it from other books in this genre which I found a pleasant surprise.  It begins with a war, yes, but it is a war waged largely in cyberspace.  The terminology used is different as well–while there are angels and demons, they are referred to as the “Army” and the “Enemy.”  The war is important but it’s not waged with a literal fiery sword–instead, it relies more on the kind of technology you might see in a MMORPG.

I felt that the story itself had a bit of a DaVinci Code feel to it though I don’t know whether this was intentional on the author’s part.  It was the events that pulled me to the book rather than characterization.  I love a character-driven novel and would have liked to have seen more focus on characters but having not read the first book, I didn’t have the same attachment to them that I might otherwise have had.  The events, setting, and plot were strong enough to keep me really interested in the story so in the end, this isn’t a criticism of the book so much as it’s a suggestion that reading both novels would be likely to add more layers to an understanding of what is a fairly complicated piece.

Traitor Angel brings to mind books like Jacqueline Carey’s Banewreaker in terms of its willingness to push the tradition of good versus evil into new places (though its world is very, very different).  All in all, I think that this book would  appeal to fans of the genre who look for books that fall outside the norm and who like innovation in setting and story.  This book (and its predecessor) are available on Amazon.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for review from First Rule Publicity from the author as part of a virtual book tour. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Existentialism of Science by Tonya Cannariato (guest post)

by Tonya Cannariato

The interesting piece of writing a scifi/romance story was exploring the unique kind of arrogance that comes from the scientific perspective. This is a class of people that is certain it can always find the answers, if they just ask the correct set of questions. My suspicion is that the more correct truth is we will only ever find the answers we are in the mindset to be able to understand.

The character of Mark Inman came to me as I was reading pro and con news coverage of the workings of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Cern, Switzerland. Prior to the device being fired up for the first time, there was concern on the part of a small group that the scientists involved in the project would end up ripping a hole in the sub-atomic universe. That premise intrigued me.

I wondered how this person would react, should he face a situation far outside his normal experiences. I suspected this particular scientist, who was used to finding answers he could understand, would face a special kind of crisis of confidence. Scientific method could help him ask more questions, but would it help him find any answers?

In the end, I’m not sure any of us has answers, but I suspect it’s the interactions we share with those closest to us that help us build a context and perspective that gets us closest to some comfort level with the world around us. From that point of view, the relationship he has with Sarah is the key to his evolution as a character. Without her to focus him, I don’t know that he would have built any coherence out of his wild experiences.

The story skirts the questions relating to the debate of science versus religion, and focuses instead on the inner life that connects both. Do you feel there is a tension? How would you resolve those questions? I’d love to hear your perspective.

About Tonya’s book, Dementional

Mark Inman has two loves: particle physics and Sarah. She agrees to become his wife
at the same time his experiment to find the Higgs boson goes off the rails.

Journey with Mark while his existence melts and reforms in unpredictable ways as the
veils between realities thin. His exploration of the minutiae of quantum physics builds a
fascinating tapestry of alternate universes.

His search for survival, and the search for meaning and what is real, drive Mark as he
experiences lives he never dreamed possible. His only touchstones: find Sarah and find
his way home.

Book Links for Dementional:

Paperback link –

eBook Link:

About Tonya

A voracious reader since she was a toddler, and an ordained spiritualist, Tonya Cannariato has now presided over the marriage of her love of reading and her love of writing. She’s lived a nomadic life, following first her parents in their Foreign Service career through Africa, Europe, and Asia, and then her own nose criss-crossing America as she’s gotten old enough to make those choices for herself.

She’s currently based in Milwaukee with her three loves: her husband and two Siberian Huskies. She suspects her Huskies of mystical alchemy with their joyous liberation of her muse and other magical beings for her inspiration. She loves to sleep, to watch her interesting dreams, some of which are now finding new life in written form.

The Lamplighter’s Special {review}


Lizzie and her sister are forced to work in a huge manor and on a steamship to support their family.

They are caught up in several mysteries:

The squire’s oldest son cannot leave the attic
An old typewriter seems to move time and space
A passenger hides in a secret room
A beautiful visitor is plotting against them

And Lizzie discovers that she has a strange, new ability.

She and her sister must discover the secrets of The Lamplighter’s Special before their enemy catches up with them.

This story, third in Alison DeLuca’s Crown Phoenix series, was a fun, delightful little read that I found a great relaxation after the rush and bustle of the past two weeks in my life. Sometimes, you need to just dive right into someone else’s world as an escape from your own. This was a world that I had no problems dashing into.

First, a disclaimer–I have not read the other two books in the Crown Phoenix series and came to The Lamplighter’s Special with little prior knowledge of the story. I mention this because DeLuca doesn’t seem to rely on knowledge of the first two novels to establish the story and characters in Lamplighter. There were a couple light references to the others (and I did finish it thinking that I will go back to read the others simply because I enjoyed the third so much) but this is a piece that could be read as a standalone quite easily.

There was much to enjoy about this story. The setting is rich, reminding me of a movie that my daughter loved in her younger years, “A Little Princess.” It is definitely has the character of that period without all of its darker undertones. Though DeLuca does reference some of the problems of the era (class issues, in particular), she doesn’t dwell on them. In some respects, this was for me a slight disappointment as I would like to see what she would do with more emphasis on those themes but at the same time, this is not the novel for that story to be told.

I feel that this book fits neatly into the YA genre. Despite the historical setting mentioned earlier, the characters are likable and the language easy to read without being simplified for our own times (not an easy feat!). Lizzie and Ninnie are endearing characters, ones that female readers especially will relate to with their close relationship. It is the bond of family that adds the emotional impact to Lamplighter, something that kept me engaged throughout the course of the story.

All in all, I found this novel to be a good read and would recommend it to those who like a pinch of magic and mystery with their Austen or Burnett. You can pick it up (along with the first two in the series) at Amazon.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for review from First Rule Publicity from the author as part of a virtual book tour. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Behind the Book: The Birds of Anjdur

The city of Aulis, setting for The Jealousy Glass.

When I decided to write my second novel, The Jealousy Glass, one of the things that I considered was symbolism. The Universal Mirror contains a lot of small cultural details that I’d placed in the story but never picked up on–one of them was the use of different motifs for different noble houses in the nation of Cercia.

I loved the idea of retaining that concept as my characters traveled to a different land but debated about what to do with it. The land to which they go, Anjdur, is heavily based on my own research on the Byzantine Empire around the year 1200. Because of that, many of the symbols reflect Byzantine cultural values–emphasis placed on the eyes as a source of power (in this case, magical) and also on the sun. But how could I change that, I wondered, and fit in some of the symbols that had been used in Mirror as well?

That was when I came to the idea of birds. Birds struck me as a symbol of flight and also of travel towards a better destination, a perfect metaphor for one of the main characters of Jealousy Glass.

Creatures of the air, they also seemed to fit the delicate but surprisingly strong empress Irena while also befitting her mysterious sister, the former Empress Sophia. Different birds are woven throughout this story for each Anjduri character–from eagles to phoenixes, the characters with that heritage in their veins each have a bird figure as pivotal to an artifact either belonging to them or interfacing with them at some crucial point. Like the characters, the birds that appear in the Artifacts of Empire universe are sometimes magical and a few will have a recurring role in what lies ahead.

As I continue the series, I hope to incorporate more of these ideas so that readers can follow the threads and begin to gather clues about some of the bigger mysteries yet to come. Will there be more magical animals ahead? Perhaps. 🙂

The Jealousy Glass, book 2 in the Artifacts of Empire series, will be released December 1, 2012. Feel free to add it to your Goodreads list.

This blog entry is part of World Animal Day.  Visit the link below to take part in the giveaway!

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Nightmare Magazine Launched Today!

While many of you may be aware of this new venture from John Joseph Adams and Creeping Hemlock Press, I wanted to share a little about the magazine for those who love horror and hasn’t yet heard about it.

From the official press release:

Nightmare is an online horror and dark fantasy magazine. In Nightmare’s pages, you will find all kinds of horror fiction, from zombie stories and haunted house tales, to visceral psychological horror.

Edited by bestselling anthologist John Joseph Adams, every month Nightmare will bring you a mix of originals and reprints, and featuring a variety of authors—from the bestsellers and award-winners you already know to the best new voices you haven’t heard of yet. When you read Nightmare, it is our hope that you’ll see where horror comes from, where it is now, and where it’s going.

Nightmare will also include nonfiction, fiction podcasts, and Q&As with our authors that go behind-the-scenes of their stories. The publication schedule each month will include two pieces of original fiction and two fiction reprints, along with a feature interview, an artist gallery showcasing our cover artist, and our monthly column about horror, “The H Word.” We will publish ebook issues on the first of every month, which will be available for sale in ePub format via our website and also available in other formats such as Kindle and Nook. We will also offer subscriptions to our ebook edition in a variety of formats. Each issue’s contents will be serialized on our website throughout the month, with new features publishing on the first four Wednesdays of every month.

To find out more: