Sneak Peek: The Lyre Thief by Jennifer Fallon

The Lyre ThiefTen years have passed since the events of the Demon Child books that left the god Xaphista dead, the nation Karien without a religion or king and the matriarchal country of Medalon ruled by men.

When Princess Rakaia of Fardohnya discovers she is not of royal birth, she agrees to marry a much older noble in a chance to escape her father’s wrath. But Rakaia takes her base-born half-sister, Charisee, along. In The Lyre Thief by Jennifer Fallon, the two sisters embark on a Shakespearean tale of switched identities.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt of The Lyre Thief, coming out March 8th.

Chapter 1

Naveen Raveve, Chamberlain to King Hablet of Fardohnya, examined the marriage proposal from Frederak Branador, Lord of Highcastle, who controlled one of only two navigable passes between Hythria and Fardohnya, and then looked up to meet the gaze of his visitor, who was finding his silence unsettling.

“Well?” she asked. “Will you do it?”

Naveen bit back a smile. He was a slave, after all, and yet here he was, with a princess of the realm standing before him, begging him for a favor.

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Sneak Peek: The Brotherhood of The Wheel

The Brotherhood of the Wheel by R.S. BelcherIn 1119 A.D., nine crusaders became a militant monastic order charged with protecting pilgrims and caravans traveling on the roads to and from the Holy Land. In time, the Knights Templar would grow in power and, ultimately, be laid low. But a small offshoot of the Templars endure and have returned to the order’s original mission: to defend the roads of the world and guard those who travel on them.

Please enjoy this excerpt from The Brotherhood of the Wheel by R.S. Belcher.



Jimmie Aussapile’s Peterbilt tractor trailer thundered down dark I-70, relentless as an ugly truth. The big rig’s engine was the booming voice of an angry octane god, demanding you lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way. Jimmie navigated the shifting maze of weaving cars. He blew past the shadowed towers of other 18-wheeler cabs, the faces within illuminated by the ghostly green light of instrument panels, speaking their tales to their brethren across the ether of Channel 19. Long-haulers wired on caffeine or meth or song or sweet baby Jesus. Whatever it takes to keep the gears jamming, the cargo flowing, and the rig between the lines.

Jimmie was a tall man, still in decent shape for his age. He had been lanky a long time ago, but now he cultivated a solid beer gut. His hair, what was left of it, was blond and had completely abandoned his head except for the fringes and the long ponytail that fell between his shoulder blades. His bare head was covered by a gray mesh baseball cap that had a hideous character from a cartoon called “Squidbillies” on it. The cap had been a Father’s Day present from his little girl last year and Jimmie wore it whenever he was on a run, for good luck, regardless of how much shit he got for it. His eyes were a fierce green that seemed to glow brighter than the lights from his instruments. He wore a pale scrub of a “road beard,” and he had a lump of chaw in his right cheek. His teeth were yellowed from the habit and a little crooked. He wore a black T-shirt that sported a faded Harley-Davidson logo on its pocket. Over that was an open denim work shirt, and over that was a black Air Force–style crew jacket with a patch of an American flag on the left arm. He wore a wallet on a chain, attached to his worn jeans, and a straight razor was tucked away in one of his steel-toed work boots.

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What Makes a Character (Un)Sympathetic?

Dragon Hunters by Marc Turner
Written by Marc Turner

When reading reviews of my debut, When the Heavens Fall, I’m always curious to find out which character was the reader’s favourite. My book features four point-of-view characters: two women and two men. They are all very different people, ranging from the steadfast but spirit-possessed prince, Ebon, to the hedonistic and charmingly ruthless priestess, Romany. There might just be a consensus forming as to who is the most popular, but even when readers agree on their favourite character, they rarely agree on the others.

I guess there is nothing surprising in this. We don’t all like the same characters in books just as we don’t all like the same people in life. What did surprise me, though, was the degree to which readers could disagree on the “merits” of a particular character. Take Romany, for example. Fantasy Book Review said the following about her: “Intelligent, cunning, immensely likeable, her affable irritation and eventual humanity in the face of the maelstrom of uber-fantasy is remarkably levelling.” A different reviewer, though, went so far as to call her evil. She can’t be both, can she? And if not, who is “right” about her?Image credit Diana Hirsch

It’s an important question for an author to consider. When I’m reading, if I don’t care about what happens to a book’s characters then I put the book down. I want a reason to cheer the characters on. In the “traditional” fantasy that I read as a teen, the writer tended to have an easier job of providing that reason because of the black and white complexion of their worlds. The protagonist was the Chosen One, the antagonist was the Dark Lord, and you’re never going to struggle to choose who to root for between those two, are you?

I prefer characters that are shades of grey, and grey certainly seems to be in fashion nowadays in epic fantasy. Take George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones, for example. When we first meet Jaime he is having sex with his sister and pushing a boy to his probable death from a tower window, but he has grown into one of my favourite characters. At times it can be hard in Martin’s books to distinguish the good guys from the bad. Actually that’s not quite true—you can tell the good guys apart on account of the fact that they’re all dead.

I like characters that have to battle against inner demons. I like characters that are facing decisions where the answers are far from clear, and where the consequences aren’t always what you expect. And what could be wrong with adding a few flaws to your characters, right? Think of your friends, your spouse, your parents. Are any of those people wholly without fault? Does that stop you caring about them?

Sometimes flaws can make your characters more sympathetic to a reader for a whole host of reasons. Generally, though, I think the more faults you give your characters, the harder it can be to win the reader’s sympathy for them. But it can be done. Consider Mark Lawrence’s The Broken Empire series. The main character, Jorg, is a thirteen-year-old sociopath, yet I still found myself rooting for him. What was it about Jorg that made me willing to spend time with him? What is the key to making an otherwise unsympathetic character sympathetic?

I asked Mark Lawrence that question in an interview I did with him earlier this year. His answer was: “Possibly it’s not caring whether you do [make them sympathetic] or not. I just aim to make characters interesting. Sympathy is over-rated.” Lawrence’s Jorg is certainly a fascinating character. Because of his age, I wanted to know the hows and whys of who he is. In Prince of Thorns, we learn that Jorg has been irreparably scarred from witnessing the murder of his mother and brother. This does not excuse the things he does in his pursuit of revenge, but at least it goes some way towards explaining them. And understanding an unsympathetic character is, I would argue, the first step to empathising with them. Would the readers who enjoyed Prince of Thorns have liked the book so much if they hadn’t been given that insight into Jorg’s background?

Another quality that might redeem an otherwise unsympathetic character is honesty. I’ve written elsewhere about the positive changes in Jaime’s character that take place during A Storm of Swords on his journey with Brienne to King’s Landing. But I also want to mention the scene where he is sitting in White Sword Tower reading The Book of the Brothers. There, he remembers the time when he was with Ser Arthur Dayne, and he fought and killed the outlaw known as the Smiling Knight. “And me, that boy I was… When did he die, I wonder?… That boy had wanted to be Ser Arthur Dayne, but someplace along the way he had become the Smiling Knight instead.”

Image credit Ivan BliznetsovJaime is honest about his faults, and with that honesty comes a sense that he wants to do better. He might stumble and fall on the road to redemption, but at least he is heading in the right direction. We are much more likely to sympathise with such a character, than one who refuses to acknowledge his shortcomings. Honesty is a technique I used to evoke sympathy for one of my characters, Parolla, in When the Heavens Fall. Parolla’s background is a mystery at the start of the book, but in time we learn that her parentage has left her with tainted blood. Sometimes the power carried on that blood slips her leash, but she never uses it as an excuse for her actions. Indeed, she tries to fight against her blood’s call, even as the darkness inside her begins to consume her.

A third consideration is humour. I recall reading an interview by Joe Abercrombie in which he said that people will forgive a lot in someone who can make them laugh. I agree. My favourite character in Abercrombie’s The First Law series, Glokta, is a ruthless torturer. He’s also very funny, and that made the scenes in which he features enjoyable to read. In Glokta’s case, the humour is often doubly appealing because it is self-deprecating. That indicates modesty, together with a sense of the honesty I referred to above.

There are other ways to provoke sympathy for a character, such as making them relatable to the reader, or vulnerable, or just setting them at odds with a character they like even less! There is a danger, though, in trying to make your characters too sympathetic. As my editor once put it, in seeking to make a character more likeable you might strip them of their “edge”. Taken to extremes, you could end up with a Mary Sue or a Gary Stu, too perfect to be realistic or interesting. And, of course, a change that makes a character more appealing to one reader might make them less appealing to another.

A lot is down to a reader’s individual preferences, which is why we should be careful against equating “I didn’t like this character” with “This character is a poor character”. It’s also why I’m so surprised when I hear someone pronounce that a particular character is “unlikeable”, as if the final decision were theirs.

So now it’s over to you. Which is the most disagreeable character you have found yourself rooting for in a book, and what was it that made you sympathise with them?

Buy Dragon Hunters today:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | iBooks | Indiebound | Powell’s

Follow Marc Turner on Twitter at @MarcJTurner and on his website.

Kitty’s Greatest Hits eBook is Now on Sale for $2.99

Kitty's Greatest HitsThe ebook for Kitty’s Greatest Hits by Carrie Vaughn is now on sale for $2.99!*

About Kitty’s Greatest Hits: Kitty Norville, star of a New York Times bestselling series, is everybody’s favorite werewolf DJ and out-of-the-closet supernatural creature. Over the course of eight books she’s fought evil vampires, were-creatures, and some serious black magic. She’s done it all with a sharp wit and the help of a memorable cast of werewolf hunters, psychics, and if-notgood- then-neutral vampires by her side. Kitty’s Greatest Hits not only gives readers some of Kitty’s further adventures, it offers longtime fans a window into the origins of some of their favorite characters.

Buy Kitty’s Greatest Hits today: B&N Nook | | Google Play | iBooks | Kindle | Kobo

*Sale ends March 4, 2016.

New Releases 2/9/16

Dragon Hunters by Marc TurnerMagical Girl Apocalypse Vol. 6 by Kentaro SatoPrime Time by Hank Phillippi RyanShoot by Loren D. Estleman


Angel Beats!: Heaven’s Door Vol. 1 by Jun Maeda

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation Vol. 2 by Rifujin na Magonote and Yuka Fujikawa

12 Beast Vol. 3 by OKAYADO

Sneak Peek: Character, Driven by David Lubar

Character, Driven by David LubarWith only one year left of high school, seventeen-year-old Cliff Sparks is desperate to “come of age”—a.k.a., lose his virginity. But he’s never had much luck with girls. So when he falls for Jillian, a new classmate at first sight, all he can do is worship her from afar. At the same time, Cliff has to figure out what to do with the rest of his life, since he’s pretty sure his unemployed father plans to kick him out of the house the minute he turns eighteen. Time is running out. Cliff is at the edge, on the verge, dangling—and holding on for dear life.

Enjoy this excerpt of Character, Driven by David Lubar.

Chapter One: She Walks In, Beauty

Venus is the morning star.

As is Jillian.

Let me explain. My school day starts with Calculus, which is a form of math designed to convince people they want to be History majors in college. Our teacher, Mr. Yuler, doesn’t talk much. He’ll write a problem on the board, then sip coffee from his ever-present mug and walk the aisles while we work at our desks. If you’re stuck, he’ll uncap his pen and circle something he feels you should contemplate. It’s not a bad way to start the day, since, between my after-school jobs and my crazy idea that I should make at least a half-assed effort to do a half-decent job on my homework (which multiplies out to a quarter-decent-ass-job), I generally get less sleep than I need. It would be hard to keep my eyes open for a lecture during first period.

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This Case is Gonna Kill Me eBook Now on Sale for $2.99!

This Case Is Gonna Kill Me by Phillipa BornikovaThe ebook for This Case is Gonna Kill Me by Phillipa Bornikova is now on sale for $2.99!*

About This Case is Gonna Kill Me: Linnet Ellery is the offspring of an affluent Connecticut family dating back to Colonial times. Fresh out of law school, she’s beginning her career in a powerful New York “white fang” law firm.

But strange things keep happening to her. Office politics can be vicious beyond belief. She becomes the target of repeated violent attacks, escaping injury each time through increasingly improbable circumstances. But there’s more to Linnet Ellery than she knows. As she understands this, she’s going to shake up the system like you wouldn’t believe.

Buy This Case is Gonna Kill Me today: B&N Nook | | Google Play | iBooks | Kindle | Kobo

*Sale ends March 4, 2016.

Blood Song eBook is Now on Sale for $2.99!

Blood Song by Cat AdamsThe ebook for Blood Song by Cat Adams is now on sale for $2.99!*

About Blood Song: Bodyguard Celia Graves has definitely accepted her share of weird assignments, both human and supernatural. But her newest job takes the cake. When she is betrayed by those she is employed to help, and everything goes horribly wrong, Celia wakes to find herself transformed.

Neither human nor vampire, Celia has become an Abomination—something that should not exist—and now both human and supernatural alike want her dead. With the help of a few loyal friends—a sexy mage, a powerful werewolf, and a psychic cop—Celia does her best to stay alive.

Buy Blood Song today: B&N Nook | | Google Play | iBooks | Kindle | Kobo

*Sale ends March 4, 2016.

Royal Street eBook is Now on Sale for $2.99!

Royal Street by Suzanne JohnsonThe ebook for Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson is now on sale for $2.99!

About Royal Street: As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco’s job involves a lot more potion-mixing and pixie-retrieval than sniffing out supernatural bad guys like rogue vampires and lethal were-creatures. DJ’s boss and mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that might slip over from the preternatural beyond.

Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans’ fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters. While winds howled and Lake Pontchartrain surged, the borders between the modern city and the Otherworld crumbled. Now, the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering the soldiers sent to help the city recover.

Buy Royal Street today: B&N Nook | | Google Play | iBooks | Kindle | Kobo

*Sale ends March 4, 2016.

Join Susan Dennard and Veronica Rossi on Tour!


Susan Dennard and Veronica Rossi will be on the road February and March for the official #TruthRider Tour to celebrate the publication of Truthwitch and Riders! See if they’re coming to a city near you.

Wednesday, February 17
Schuler Books & Music
Also with EK Johnston
Lansing, MI
7:00 PM

Thursday, February 18
Bethesda Library
Books provided by Politics and Prose
Also with Kami Garcia
Bethesda, MD
7:00 PM

Wednesday, February 24
Books and Books
Coral Gables, FL
7:00 PM

Thursday, February 25
Malaprop’s Bookstore
Asheville, NC
7:00 PM

Saturday, February 27
Montgomery County Book Festival
The Woodlands, TX
All Day

Sunday, February 28
Morton Ranch High School
Also with Sophie Jordan
Houston, TX
6:00 PM

Tuesday, March 1
Half Price Books
Also with Kathleen Baldwin
Dallas, TX
7:00 PM

Saturday, March 5
Austin Book Fest
Austin, TX
All Day