Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Q&A with Christopher Ruocchio, author of The Sun Eater Quartet

You guys are in for a treat! On today's blog, I have the very talented Christopher  Ruocchio here to talk about his latest novel, Howling Dark, the second book in The Sun Eater Quartet. Get all the wonderful deets on the series right here! Christopher even gave us a tiny sneak peek at what's in store for the third book, Demon in White's! It's all very exciting. Without further ado, the interview.

First off, thank you Christopher for taking time from your busy schedule to answer a few questions for this interview. I must admit, I was overly excited when I saw that you were available for interview. I’ve been waiting impatiently since last year for the sequel, Howling Dark…and having just finished it, I am still in awe and blown away by your incredible writing, world building and storytelling.

Empire of Silence was by far the best Science Fiction novel I’ve read, probably ever and one of my favorite novels of 2018. Since its release, debut last year, it’s been my go-to recommendation whenever anyone asks me or doesn’t on what book I’d recommend. There aren’t enough words, it’s just simply, brilliant.

CR: I don’t even know what to say to that! You’re very kind. It’s still surreal to me that other people have read these stories at all. For so much of my life they were in my head and nowhere else. I remember the first time my dad asked me how to pronounce “Cielcin” out of the blue and my first instinct was to ask, “Who told you about them?” But really, that anyone enjoys them at all is all I ever hoped for, and I hope you know how much words like that mean to me and to other writers, so...thank you.

For new readers, can you give a brief introduction to The Sun Eater series? For long-time fans, without spoilers, what can they expect to see in Howling Dark?

CR: The Sun Eater is a space opera science fiction adventure set about 20,000 years in our future. It’s the story—the memoir, in fact—of a man named Hadrian Marlowe. He’s a nobleman in this vast galactic empire who runs away from home to become a scholar and instead finds himself thrust into the midst of an interstellar war between the human empire and the Cielcin, the only aliens who in 20,000 years have ever stood up to our might. Hadrian tells you on page 1 that he is the man who ended that war and killed all the Cielcin, this story is why and how. When I’m selling on the convention floors I like to say, “Imagine Star Wars if Anakin’s being forced to become Darth Vader were right.”

As for Howling Dark, you can expect the unexpected! This book takes Hadrian beyond the borders of the empire. Not the outer border, but into the dark between the imperial stars, where he encounters all the things that hide from the security the empire offers. People got on my case in book one for the empire’s oppressive disdain for machines and for things like extreme genetic augmentation. In this one, we’re going to get to see why the empire is so cautious. But really, the biggest thing to expect is that this one really opens up the world in new and terrifying ways. It’s a bit more Gothic, a bit more Cyberpunk, and there’s even a touch of the old Lovecraftian cosmic horror thrown in for good measure. Those expecting another safe planet-bound story in an epic fantasy space empire will be very surprised.

Howling Dark was full of surprises, in terms of events, outcome and being that Hadrian and the gang are in the midst of war, casualties…while writing the sequel, did you already know how the story was going to play out, at least, this far?

CR: I am actually a fastidious outliner...well, I am now. I worked on Empire of Silence since I was about 8 years old, so I kind of tinkered with it. But this one needed to be done in a year, and that meant I needed a road map. I’ve had the privilege of working with David Drake, the great military SF writer, and the man produces these 50 page enormous outlines. So I copied Dave’s technique for outlining as best I could and plotted it out very carefully. As for the general shape of the story, I knew where I wanted it to end. I knew who was going to die, who was going to leave. I knew about the revelations that were coming, and had obsessed about them for years. A certain character (the one on the cover) has been developing in my head since about middle school, and it was an absolute joy to finally put him down on the page. But there are still surprises. Captain Corvo, for instance, grew sort of out of nowhere and was a very nice surprise. She’s one of my favorite characters now.

You mentioned that Valka was never intended to be in EOS but after revisions she was brought forth. From conception to the finalized version, how much of Howling Dark has stayed the same or changed since you started it? Were there numerous revisions and edits?

CR: This one’s stayed much more true to conception, thanks to the outline. Of course, things are very different than they were five years ago, but the book you’ve read looks almost exactly like the outline I sketched out as I was finishing EOS. The book 2 that I envisioned for the pre-Valka version of EOS was mostly about Hadrian meeting a very different Valka and working with her on Vorgossos alone. (Valka was originally conceived as a literal space witch born on Vorgossos, which was quite a different place). So that changed, but for the better—and it changed a long time ago, before the version of EOS you’ve read was even finished.

I absolutely love how you wrote the books, memoir-style, why that style?

CR: Two reasons! The first is a technical one: because it allows every scrap of narration to also be character-building text. The long digressions and musings on human nature and so forth are Hadrian’s musings and digressions, not mine. Every word on the page is his word, and that makes him a lot more real. Often in third person books I find the POV character the thinnest and least accessible. (Think of the way people make fun of Luke for being boring in Star Wars next to Han and Leia and Lando). This flips it a bit.

The second reason is that I really liked the D.J. MacHale Pendragon books as a kid. Those had a frame narrative and used first person letters the main character was writing to his friend back home in ways that amped up the drama. Then I saw it in some other books. Dracula, for one, and Frankenstein, but also in Name of the Wind and The Book of the New Sun—both notable influences on my own work (although in complicated ways and not really how people expect).

The books are mammoth, were you able to keep everything you wrote or did you have to work within a limited word count?

I think this one got longer as we revised it! My publishers (DAW and Gollancz) have been very forgiving of the long word counts. My editors have stressed repeatedly that I should make the books as long or short as they need to be, and that’s a very rare and precious thing, believe it or not. Bookstores allocate their shelves down to the inch, and big books are a riskier buy in for them, so I’m humbled and grateful they’ve taken the risk with my titans.

I LOVE the covers; did you have any say or input into its creation? I saw on Twitter that you mentioned the color palette for book three is red, white and gold? I can’t wait to see it!

I do! Usually I’ve given my publishers an idea or two and they’ve picked the one they think is most market-friendly and ask me to get details together on what things should look like, and then we’ll go back and forth on sketches and tinker a bit back and forth until they tell me to cool it and stop nitpicking. It’s very generous of them, most publishers (especially historically) want to keep authors as far away from their covers as possible...because some of us writers are not marketing geniuses.

And yes! Small teaser, but the book three cover features His Radiance, the Emperor seated in all his majesty upon the Solar Throne, so the Imperial colors will be out in full force, which will stand out nicely contrasted against these darker, cooler-colored books. I’m really excited. We’ve been working with Kieran Yanner again for book three—and Mr. Yanner is just great. I’ve been a fan since I was a high schooler playing Magic: The Gathering.

The Cielcin are just one of many races within the Sun Eater Universe, as we’ve seen plenty of various beings on Borosevo and March Station. With that said, do you believe in other lifeforms?

Oh, I would be surprised if we were the only life out there in the universe—though we may be the only thing we recognize as intelligent. That’s the real question, I think. The Cielcin are an interesting case, because they’re right on the edge. They look fairly human, they have culture and language and are fairly comprehensible...but their minds just don’t make sense to us. They’re an edge case, and there’s a part of me thinks the odds of finding something that’s as “human” as we are are fairly slim.

When you first received news that Empire of Silence sold, what was happening that day? And what did you do to celebrate?

CR: I was on my way to dinner to celebrate my brother’s engagement, which had just happened the day or two before. And so I sat silently at the table not telling anyone for 2 hours so as not to steal their moment. But we were at the restaurant I’d worked at for 8 years, so I ran into the kitchen to tell my friends.

How much has your life changed since becoming a published author?

CR: Not so much day to day. I write, go to work, come home, write some more—same as before. But I get to travel to shows and do signings—and I actually have Twitter notifications most days, which is new. But most days it’s still breakfast and commuting and office work and listening to too much heavy metal. Some things never change.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

You have to write. I know that sounds stupid, but the biggest hurdle I’ve seen in talking to aspiring writers is that they don’t actually write. They talk a lot about writing, but never sit down and do it. Make a schedule. 500 words a day. 1000. Whatever it takes. People think of artists as chaotic, windblown muse-chasers, but you need a structure like a vine needs a trellis, even if it’s just a little one.

And folks can always tweet me at @TheRuocchio. I’m also a professional editor. I can’t read your work for you, but I can answer questions all day.

I know you’re currently working on book three, Demon in White. Can you tell us anything about it? Or any other projects you may be working on concurrently?

Just a little! Demon in White picks up nearly 70 years after Howling Dark. Hadrian is in the thick of war with the Cielcin and has become quite centrally involved. You’ll see a lot more of the center of the Empire, there’s a lot more political knifework, more archaeological mysteries, and a lot more outright battles. You’ll also meet my favorite supporting character to date, a monomaniacal intus officer named Lorian Aristedes who’s found his way into Hadrian’s circle.

Other projects? I’ve written a 3-chapter novelette called “The Demons of Arae” that goes between Howling Dark and Demon in White, that’s out in October. I’m working on DIW, of course, but I have a couple short stories I owe people, too!

Lastly and randomly, have you met Gene Wolfe yet?

CR: Gosh, no. Mr. Wolfe passed away a month or two ago, and like a fool I sat on a fan letter—too nervous to send it. I’d written it around the time Empire of Silence was coming out, but he fell terribly ill right around then and I held off. I’ve been told by mutual friends that I needn’t have been so nervous, that he was one of the most generous writers in the industry. I wish I’d sent it. Now I’ll never get the chance….(Apologies for the downer answer).

Thank you so much Christopher! Again, I absolutely loved Howling Dark and can’t wait for everyone else to read it!

CR: Thank you very much for having me—it was my absolute pleasure.


Christopher Ruocchio is the author of The Sun Eater, a space opera fantasy series from DAW Books, as well as the Assistant Editor at Baen Books, where he co-edited the military SF anthology Star Destroyers, as well as Space Pioneers, a collection of Golden Age reprints showcasing tales of human exploration. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University, where a penchant for self-destructive decision making caused him to pursue a bachelor’s in English Rhetoric with a minor in Classics. An avid student of history, philosophy, and religion, Christopher has been writing since he was eight-years-old and sold his first book—Empire of Silence—at twenty-two. The Sun Eater series in available from Gollancz in the UK, and has been translated into French and German.

Christopher lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he spends most of his time hunched over a keyboard writing. When not writing, he splits his time between his family, procrastinating with video games, and his friend’s boxing gym. He may be found on both
 Facebook and Twitter at @TheRuocchio.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Howling Dark by Christopher Ruocchio

Title: Howling Dark
Author: Christopher Ruocchio
Genre: Sci-fi, Fantasy
Series: The Sun Eater # 2

Hardcover, 688 pages
Publication: July 16, 2019 by Daw Books

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

Hadrian Marlowe is lost.

For half a century, he has searched the farther suns for the lost planet of Vorgossos, hoping to find a way to contact the elusive alien Cielcin. He has not succeeded, and for years has wandered among the barbarian Normans as captain of a band of mercenaries.

Determined to make peace and bring an end to nearly four hundred years of war, Hadrian must venture beyond the security of the Sollan Empire and among the Extrasolarians who dwell between the stars. There, he will face not only the aliens he has come to offer peace, but contend with creatures that once were human, with traitors in his midst, and with a meeting that will bring him face to face with no less than the oldest enemy of mankind.

If he succeeds, he will usher in a peace unlike any in recorded history. If he fails...the galaxy will burn.

Empire of Silence burst onto the Sci-Fi scene with its intimidating, wallop of a book that was big enough to be classified as a deadly weapon. But thankfully, I didn’t fall victim or let it deter me from tackling the mammoth book which took me on a crazy and poignant galactic adventure beyond the cosmos, telling the story of the would-be infamous hero, destroyer, murderer; Hadrian Marlowe. In the sequel, Howling Dark, Ruocchio continues Marlowe’s story as we see bit by bit of the man he’s to become. Howling Dark picks up exactly where we left off (technically give or take a few years with people in and out of fugue) with Hadrian, Legion officials, for-hire mercenaries and his mrymidon friends as they search for the legendary planet Vorgossos and a way to broker a peace treaty with the Cielcin.
Hadrian has come a long way since the first book. We’ve seen him as a student, son, beggar, slave, and a fighter. In Howling Dark, he continues his ascent (or as Hadrian would tell you his descent) as a leader and savior to his people but an immortal killer to his foes. Without giving away too much of the novel, I will say that the team succeeded in finding the lost planet of Vorgossos. Vorgossos is the stuff of legends, the scary stories told to terrify you…but what was even more unbelievable was finding the person in charge, who is also made of legends. It was all quite fitting actually.
I thought this book was a lot darker than its predecessor, which wasn’t a problem or a surprise considering all the events that led them on this quest. Ruocchio expands on the universe as we explore new territories and meet other beings, even A.Is. The majority of the key characters we’ve met from the previous novel are all back and we definitely got a more in-depth look to them, and the different facets of their being. However, I must warn you now dear readers, that with all war, there are casualties and Ruocchio spares no one this time around. A favorite character of mine met their demise early on in the book. It’s all very sad and bloody.
On a happier note, I am absolutely loving everything that Ruocchio is creating. The characters are multifaceted, complex, realistic and utterly flawed. The best example of this is our main protagonist Hadrian. He has experienced, seen, and lived so many lives beyond those of his regular peerage all while trying to balance that fine line between good and evil; doing what he believes is right and at the same time do what is needed. Although, I wonder if Hadrian isn’t confusing the two…right-needed. There was a pivotal scene towards the end that determined how everything was going to play out and the choice that Hadrian made was pretty drastic and I wondered if it was truly necessary? He later expressed his regrets but I’m not sure if it was genuine. That kind of threw me off, but overall I can’t help but like him.
I also appreciate and enjoy the well-developed and detailed world building. Normally, with the scope of this novel and length of book, things can get a little muddled but you won’t find that issue here. Ruocchio painstakingly writes every minute detail down to the five senses and describes an array of emotions. I can vividly picture everything like a movie in my head from House Marlowe’s insignia dancing devil in black and red, the homunculus receptionist on March station down to the wondrous gardens of Vorgossos.
Howling Dark is pretty damn perfect. There’s honestly nothing bad that I can say about this novel. It is a worthy sequel to last’s year successful debut, Empire of Silence and the series deserves all the accolades and more. You won’t find a sophomore slump here. If you’re wondering; Is the buzz real? Yes. Is Howling Dark better than the first book? Yes. Should I wait till the author publishes more books before I make a commitment? Hell no. Get on the Sun Eater bus A.S.A.P. Like I said, I loved it and hope more readers will discover this series...y’all don’t know what you’re missing!
In the meantime, the tortuous wait begins for the third book’s release, Demon in White’s.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper

Title: How Not to Die Alone
Author: Richard Roper
Genre: Fiction
Series: N/A

Hardcover, 336 pages
Publication: May 28, 2019 by G.P. Putnam's Sons

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

Andrew's day-to-day is a little grim, searching for next of kin for those who die alone. Thankfully, he has a loving family waiting for him when he gets home, to help wash the day's cares away. At least, that's what his coworkers believe.

Andrew didn't mean for the misunderstanding to happen, yet he's become trapped in his own white lie. The fantasy of his wife and two kids has become a pleasant escape from his lonely one bedroom with only his Ella Fitzgerald records for company. But when new employee Peggy breezes into his life like a breath of fresh air, Andrew is shaken out of his routine. She doesn't notice the wall he's been safely hiding behind and their friendship promises to break it down.

Andrew must choose: Does he tell the truth and start really living his life, but risk losing his friendship with Peggy? Or will he stay safe and alone, behind the fa├žade?
Every year, without fail, I come across a book that enthralls me from beginning to end. A book that takes me on an emotional roller coaster, has me in deep contemplation about life and a story that stays with me long after I’ve read it. This year that wonderful gem of a book is How Not to Die Alone.

How Not to Die Alone tells the story of Andrew, who has an unusual day job which consists of rummaging through recently deceased’s home for clues of next of kin and financial records and attending their funerals. It’s a pretty morbid job, and after years of going from one property to the next; Andrew, who is 42-years-old and lives alone begins to wonder if the same fate awaits him.

How Not to Die Alone has one of the most unique premises I’ve ever read. I never knew about Pauper funerals until I read this book, and that it’s a legit, real job! Pauper funerals A.K.A. Public Health Funerals is predominantly found in the U.K. (not sure bout the U.S) and are funded by the local council in an event a person dies without anyone to pay for their funeral or when they don’t have enough money. And it seems that more and more people are passing away alone. I remember reading an article not too long ago how loneliness is on the rise amongst seniors and teens and how it was considered an epidemic.

Scary stuff.

I thought Roper did a spectacular job highlighting such a delicate, sometimes taboo topic, because let’s be real; no one likes talking about or admitting to being lonely or contemplate how we’re all eventually going to die. Roper created a compelling, touching, heartbreaking and at times hilarious story that shows us the meaning of life, not to be afraid to take risk, and especially, to forget and let go of all the pettiness and bullshit. Because most of the time, that’s all it really is and not worth anyone being estranged from friends or family over.

I am surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. As I’ve already mentioned, I thought the story was clever and unique. I’ve read countless of novels that dealt with bullying, depression,and suicide…but never loneliness. And I’m so glad Roper wrote it. It’s a book I think we all need and one that will be well received. I thought the writing was exceptional and the characters were well-developed and realistic. I liked how Roper slowly revealed the mystery bit by bit behind Andrew and Sally’s relationship and why/how his white lie overtook his life. There wasn’t a lot of action but the mystery was so intriguing and well-written that I barely even noticed, not till it was almost over that there was no action (I’m an action kinda gal) but it didn’t even matter because it’s just so darn good.


Stop. Do not pass Go. Do not collect the $200. Spoiler ahead!

I know y’all, this anit monopoly. Alright I warned you.

Anyways, as I was saying it was so good, I’m shocked that I overlooked by biggest peeve: cheating.

Andrew ends up falling for his co-worker who is married with children. I hate all forms of cheating. Hate it. Even the romanticized kind we see in most chick flicks today. I’d normally stop reading a book immediately when situations like this pop-up but damn-it, I liked Andrew and even Peggy, so much so that I continued reading! I loved everything about the book, except the cheating…even if Peggy’s husband is a POS alcoholic, it doesn’t make cheating okay. Plus, it didn’t do anything for the story itself. I didn’t see the purpose for including it because it didn’t help nor was it needed for the novel to progress forward. It may have complicated matters for the two leads to be together but couldn’t there been another dilemma, couldn’t she been divorce and not ready for a relationship? I don’t know…just anything else? Alright, end of rant.

With that said, overall I really enjoyed this book. There were so many times while reading, that I stopped and mulled things over. Most of the time I read for pure escapism but once in awhile a book makes me reflect and think on a deeper level. I appreciate those type of books. I appreciate this book. It made me take a moment to look at my own life. One of the things Andrew encountered in his job was how much family and friend lost touch, aren’t on speaking terms over the most silly, inconsequential things. Sure we all argue, we’re human…but for me, it made me take a step back and evaluate the times when I stopped talking to my friends and family over asinine things. This book made me more conscious of it and for that I’m grateful.

Sorry, this review got a bit too melancholic! How Not to Die Alone deals with death and loneliness but Roper balances everything out with plenty of humor. My favorite scenes were definitively the work dinners. That last one with the train gang was the absolute best! I highly, highly recommend this book, read it A.S.A.P you won’t be disappointed…I mean, even the title is pretty darn freakin’ witty and awesome.


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Brave Face by Shaun David Hutchinson

Title: Brave Face: A Memoir
Author: Shaun David Hutchinson
Genre: Young-Adult
Series: N/A

Hardcover, 368 pages
Publication: May 21, 2019 by Simon Pulse

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

“I wasn’t depressed because I was gay. I was depressed and gay.”

Shaun David Hutchinson was nineteen. Confused. Struggling to find the vocabulary to understand and accept who he was and how he fit into a community in which he couldn’t see himself. The voice of depression told him that he would never be loved or wanted, while powerful and hurtful messages from society told him that being gay meant love and happiness weren’t for him.

A million moments large and small over the years all came together to convince Shaun that he couldn’t keep going, that he had no future. And so he followed through on trying to make that a reality.

Thankfully Shaun survived, and over time, came to embrace how grateful he is and how to find self-acceptance. In this courageous and deeply honest memoir, Shaun takes readers through the journey of what brought him to the edge, and what has helped him truly believe that it does get better.
I’ve never been a fan of non-fiction, and a lesser fan of biographies. But my goal this year was to expand my reading and read books out of my comfort zone. So, when Brave Face was offered for review, I thought, what perfect timing! Brave Face is a memoir written by popular Young Adult author, Shawn Hutchinson who mainly pens contemporaries. Those of which I haven’t had the pleasure of reading…yet. While Hutchinson touches on similar issues in his other novels, Brave Face is his personal story, giving readers an in-depth look at the author’s life growing up in the 80’s and 90’s battling severe depression while figuring out who he was and what he wanted to be.
In Brave Face, Hutchinson covers a multitude of sensitive and triggering topics such as sex, identity, suicide, depression and drugs. Hutchinson effectively puts his life on display in a way that captures the reader like any good story but is also educational on the above mention topics in a way that’s relatable; something that cannot be taught in school or by parents/families. He tells it like it is and doesn’t sugarcoat anything for the audience. It was personal, real and raw. I appreciated every word of it.
I personally connected with Hutchinson on what it was like being an adolescent (pre, in the 90's) and dealing with depression. The angst was real back then and literally every minuscule thing or incident felt like the end of the world! But on a whole, I think this will resonate with many, if not all teens on self-discovery and identity. At one point in all our lives, we’ve questioned ourselves and I’m sure wore a ton of different masks to try to fit in and be accepted by our peers and then society. Depression was a big theme in this book and it is no joke, I’ve been there as well, and it let me just say, it will eat you from the inside out if you let the voices in your head consume you. Hutchinson’s descriptions about depression was scary accurate from the onset of it to the aftermath; showing us that it doesn’t only hurt the one depressed but goes beyond that to friends and families.
Brave Face is more relevant than ever, especially with today’s societal climate. I think it’s mainly billed towards the LGBT community, but this book was so, so much more than that. It’s a book about life and growing up. There were two beautiful nuggets of wisdom that I took from Hutchinson’s memoir, first is that, life is hard and it’s okay NOT to be okay sometimes. Everything takes time and every moment of our lives is a work-in-progress. Go at your own pace. And secondly, don’t ever feel afraid or ashamed to ask for help. We all feel lonely sometimes, but we’re never really alone.
 All in all, I very much enjoyed Brave Face and am not ashamed to say that I totally ugly cried multiple times in the book. It was all sorts of beautiful, melancholic, humorous and heart-wrenching in your face awesomeness…and I was hooked from the very first page. And now, I must go and add Hutchinson’s back-list to my ever-growing TBR pile.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

During-The-Event by Roger Wall

Title: During-The-Event
Author: Roger Wall
Genre: Young-Adult
Series: N/A

Paperback, 200 pages
Publication: May 15, 2019 by University of Alaska Press

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

For D.E., only two certainties exist: his grandfather is dead and life will never be the same.

In the near future, climate change has ravaged the United States, leading the government to overcorrect through culls and relocation. Those who survive the mandated destruction are herded into “habitable production zones,” trading their freedom for illusions of security. The few who escape learn quickly that the key to survival is to stay hidden in the corners of the country. For seventeen years, During-the-Event, or D.E., has lived free in a pastoral life with his grandfather in North Dakota. But when death reaches their outpost. D.E. is forced on a journey that will change his life—and reveal surprises about his past.
During-The-Event takes places in a post-apocalyptic ravaged America where climate change wiped out more than half the population, while those that are left are indentured or in hiding. D.E and his grandfather, Otis are in the later camp; hiding in the obscured nooks of North Dakota.
Unlike many of the mainstream Young Adult Dystopian on the market today, During-The-Event doesn’t involve characters pitted against one another, a rebellion, or a deadly virus or A.I tech threatening humanity. Instead the novel focuses on a handful of characters and the protagonist, D.E.’s personal growth. It’s all about looking inwards; self-discovery and reflection.
During-The-Event is a short book, approximately 200 pages. Wall wasted no time setting up the world and introducing readers to the characters, and their beliefs and actions. Our protagonist, During-The-Event A.K.A D.E grew up in the aftermath of the climate change, he never met or knew his parents, and was raised solely by his grandfather. Everything D.E. knew was predicated off what was told by his grandfather. Due to a life-changing circumstance earlier in the novel, D.E is left to fend for himself as he journeys across the U.S. and discovers life outside the butte for the first time and how it challenges the beliefs ingrained in him his entire life.
D. E. is only seventeen-years-old and has many skills to help him survive the rough terrain of the U.S. but outside of that D.E. doesn’t know much else. Especially interacting with strangers/society. Wall pens a story of growing up and getting out into the real world, which I’m sure resonates with all of us in some way. Readers follow alongside D.E. as he navigates the world, finds himself and learns to adapt to his new reality all while dealing with foreign emotions such as loneliness and loss.
During-The-Event is a well-written coming of age story. D.E. is as pure as it comes, unaffected by the world and having little to no interaction besides his family. I enjoyed reading his experiences through a new lens and seeing how he reacts to all his ‘firsts’. I highly recommend checking out During-The-Event if you’re looking for a more introspective character driven story, a story with substance without all the loud and unnecessary noise.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Guest Post and Spotlight: During-The-Event by Roger Wall

Please welcome Roger Wall to the blog! Roger is the author of During-The-Event, a post-apocalyptic novel and coming-of-age story of a young man as he discover the world through a new lens. During-The-Event is out now wherever books are sold.

An introduction to the character of Otis

As a child, when our family moved from one state to another, there wasn’t always a house to move into. Often my father would start his new assignment and look for a place for us to live while my mother and sister and I stayed behind at my grandparents’ house. They had a big yard bordered by a corn field and woods—the wilderness in my imagination. 

My grandfather was newly retired and filled his life with nonessential projects. They were a type of play for him, and he was happy to have a laborer (me) to give them the appearance of importance. He taught me manual skills, like hammering, sawing, mowing the lawn, but not in the serious way my father did. His instruction was for amusement. Nothing we built relied on my abilities. He could figure out how to do most things, despite little formal education, and was a master at scrounging building materials and tools from auction, the trash, and yard sales and recycling them for projects that never seemed to take more than a few days.

My father, on the other hand, was a stern task master. An engineer by training, every project followed a detailed abstract logic that I rarely understood. There were drawings and lists of materials and tools. Work could drag on for weeks, steal precious Saturdays. I rarely had fun. I don’t think he did, either.

I think about my grandfather when I think about the imaginative aspects of Otis. Both share an earthy quality, a sense of make believe. Otis’s stern task master side, his rigidity, his adherence to complicated and illogical practices, on the other hand, is my father. 

Otis is a transitional character in a couple of ways. He’s lived through the collapse of society and the reinvention of it as climate change consumes the North American continent. At first, as an iron worker who helps construct the new North American capital, he benefits from the government’s policies. Then, as he learns of the brutality at the heart of them, he begins to resist the government—in an ideology way. The town’s government representative, a friend of his, tells him about the history of the Hidatsa people who originated in the area, and together they begin to practice what they believe are Hidatsa prayers and songs. Otis, who doesn’t know his ancestry, entertains his friend’s suggestion that he might actually be part Native American.

When government forces level his town in reprisal for murder of the government representative, Otis and his grandson, D. E. are the only survivors. Otis, desperate to give meaning to his life, as well as to hide lapses in judgement, courage, and honesty, begins to identify as Hidatsa. He believes he and his grandson have in fact returned to a pre-contact era—but one without the cultural integrity that actual tribes had and lost. 

To make sense of their life he constructs a creation myth and songs and prayers whose authenticity D. E., as he matures, questions. Then, on his deathbed, he confesses to what he’s made up, to his actual family relation to D. E., and to what he’s concealed about the fate of D. E.’s parents. 

It is here where Otis serves another transitional purpose. Not only is he literally transitioning to death but also, through his confession, forcing D. E. to transition from the life he’s known into a life he has yet to discover—his own life. Otis’s legacy to D. E., once all the constructs are stripped away, is an intimate knowledge of nature. In effect, as Otis sets the stage for D. E. to embark on a coming-of-age journey, this is the gift that he leaves him.



In the near future, climate change has ravaged the United States, leading the government to over-correct through culls and relocation. Those who survive the mandated destruction are herded into “habitable production zones,” trading their freedom for illusions of security. The few who escape learn quickly that the key to survival is to stay hidden in the corners of the country. For seventeen years, During-the-Event, or D.E., has lived free in a pastoral life with his grandfather in North Dakota. But when death reaches their outpost. D.E. is forced on a journey that will change his life—and reveal surprises about his past.

Once taught that strangers are only sources of pain, D.E. must learn to trust the people he meets on his journey. During-the-Event is a soaring coming-of-age story that grapples with achingly familiar issues: coming to terms with loss and loneliness, finding what our identities really mean, and searching for love in an often strange and bewildering world.


via author's website
As a child I lived throughout the United States—east coast, Midwest, the South, west coast—before touching down at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I studied fiction writing. Writing and editing assignments let me explore the worlds of education, rural development in Africa, small town news, medicine, and grassroots environmental advocacy. During-the-Event is my first novel. I live in New York and the Catskills.

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Wednesday, May 08, 2019

The Hunt for The Mad Wolf's Daughter by Diane Magras

Title: The Hunt for The Mad Wolf's Daughter
Author: Diane Magras
Genre: Middle Grade
Series: Mad Wolf's Daughter # 2

Hardcover, 288 pages
Publication: March 5, 2019 by Kathy Dawson Books

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

In this Scottish medieval adventure, after attempting a daring rescue of her war-band family, Drest learns that Lord Faintree’s traitorous uncle has claimed the castle for his own and convinced the knights that the lord has been slain . . . by her hand. Now with a hefty price on her head, Drest must find a way to escape treacherous knights, all the while proving to her father, the “Mad Wolf of the North,” and her irrepressible band of brothers that she is destined for more than a life of running and hiding. Even if that means redefining what it means to be a warrior.
The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter is the sequel, companion novel to The Mad Wolf’s Daughter following the adventures of twelve-year-old Drest and her family and friends as they go on the run from Prince Emerick’s uncle and half the entire kingdom.

I haven’t read the first book in the series but I had no problems following along with the story. The novel opened up with Drest, her family and friends in hiding. Drest just broke her father and brothers out of prison and saved the Prince from an attempted murder. Now the group is running for their lives while trying to find a way to help Prince Emerick regain his throne. To make matters worst, there’s a Wolf’s Head Bounty out for Drest, one so terrible, even the most vilest criminals have yet to receive it; putting a big target on Drest’s back.

At only twelve-years-old, Drest has done more in her short life then anyone twice her age. It also helped that her father was the notorious warrior Mad Wolf and he trained Drest along with her brothers on the rules of engagement at a very young age. Whenever you hear tales of highlanders, you rarely ever hear about girls; so I loved that Magras flipped that gender notion up on its head. I really liked Drest, she’s smart, loyal and outrageously brave. She had no problems carrying her own amongst her brothers and friends. As far as I could tell, she out-shined them time and time again.  

The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter is a quick and light read with nonstop action from beginning to end. While it wasn’t necessary to read the first book in the series, I think you’ll get more out of this novel if you started at the beginning with, The Mad Wolf’s Daughter. Overall, I thought The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter was an enjoyable read and I loved that it took place in Scotland of all places. This novel had it all…great characters, great world building, and a great happy ending!