Since I’m currently writing contemporary fantasy, I’m very interested to see what other authors are doing with the genre’s themes and ideas. When I see a new novel with great cover quotes from writers whose work I enjoy, I definitely want to know more. So I’m delighted to host this post by David, and I’ll be reading the book with added insights.
My New Supernatural Thriller
David B. Coe
DeDe Mercer is a Radiant who can control other people’s thoughts, make them do what she wants. For years she’s controlled her power, keeping her secret, never using it on anyone—until the day she had no choice.
Now the government is after her, after her brother, too, because he’ll come into his power before long. The Department of Energy, the Defense Intelligence Agency, Homeland Security — they all want her, and they’re willing to do anything, hurt anyone, kill if necessary, to make her their weapon.
But DeDe has had enough. They think she’s a weapon? Fine. They’re about to find out how right they are.
That’s the jacket copy for my new supernatural thriller, Radiants, which comes out from Belle Books this coming Friday, October 15. I like the blurb — wrote it myself — and I LOVE the book. Wrote that myself, too . . .
I also recognize, though, that someone familiar with urban fantasy and speculative fiction thrillers might read this brief description with a jaded eye, thinking “mind control powers, government bad guys pursuing our hero: nothing new to see here.”
It won’t surprise you to learn that I would argue with that assessment. Radiants, and its sequel, Invasives, which will be out early next year, might be my favorites among all the books I’ve written. And they have far more to them than a jacket blurb can capture.
DeDe’s ability, as well as the various talents wielded by the community of Radiants, are powered by planetary energy systems — the dynamics that keep the earth and moon in orbit, and that maintain the earth’s rotation. Those who seek to turn DeDe’s ability to their purposes also hope to create an army of Radiants, all of them drawing on those systems. DeDe’s father, who died under odd circumstances when she was young, feared overuse of Radiant power would alter earth’s orbit and rotation, placing in peril all life on the planet.
DeDe’s decision to use her power, which sets in motion all the action in the novel, comes after a grave injustice perpetrated against her closest friend (and crush), Kyle, who is genderqueer.
And as the agents of the various agencies close in on DeDe and her brother, Miles, who will soon come into his power, they manage to kidnap DeDe’s mother, splitting their family, and driving DeDe and Miles to fight back.
An allegory for global warming. A story of gender identity and bigotry. A narrative that includes government agents resorting to the separation of families.
This novel is entertaining — filled with action, suspense, emotion — but it also touches on issues that are central to who we are as a society, a nation, and a world community.
Ultimately, however, like all good novels, Radiants is about the people who populate its pages. DeDe is strong, stubborn, whip-smart, passionate and compassionate. She starts out afraid, but proves to herself, and those around her, that she is more than the sum of her fears. She relies on her wits and her courage, and she is driven always by love — love for Kyle, love for her brother and mom, love for people who help her along the way as she seeks to thread a path to a new life, shaped inevitably by her developing supernatural abilities, but also as close as possible to the life she has known.
Again and again as I wrote her story, I was inspired by my own daughters, who are also strong and stubborn, intelligent and courageous, passionate and caring. They don’t have mind powers (at least not that I know, although they do always seem to get their way . . .) and they are both now past their teen years. But there is a lot of them in DeDe. They animate her, bringing her to life, making her leap off the page and, I hope, into your heart. There is also a lot of their dynamic with each other in DeDe’s relationship with Miles.
And I believe this is why the novel works as it does. I have found again and again throughout my career that my best stories tend to be about family — people protecting their loved ones, people in extraordinary circumstances seeking to create something akin to the families they have known. I believe — no, I am certain — that I do this because my family has been so important to my life, to my success as a writer, to my happiness.
So in the end DeDe’s story is about much more than mind control and mean government agents. It is about a planet in peril. It is about queer teens fighting for their right to live and love as they choose. It is about one amazing young woman’s determination to protect the people she loves most.
I hope you enjoy it.
Many thanks to Juliet for hosting me!
David B. Coe is the award-winning author of more than two dozen novels and as many short stories. He has written epic fantasy — including the Crawford Award-winning LonTobyn Chronicle — urban fantasy, and media tie-ins, and is now expanding into supernatural thrillers with Radiants and its sequels. In addition, he has co-edited several anthologies for the Zombies Need Brains imprint.
As D.B. Jackson, he is the author of the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy set in pre-Revolutionary Boston. He has also written the Islevale Cycle, a time travel epic fantasy series that includes Time’s Children, Time’s Demon, and Time’s Assassin
David has a Ph.D. in U.S. history from Stanford University. His books have been translated into a dozen languages. He and his family live on the Cumberland Plateau. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.
I was in Birmingham this past weekend for the British Fantasy Society’s annual convention. I don’t mind saying, it was a rather strange feeling to be travelling up there. What was meeting up in person for the first time in so long going to be like? As it turned out, it was lovely. It was also rather a relief to find the event was smaller and quieter than some past years’ events, so we could all ease ourselves back into the convention routine. I must have had that conversation independently with at least half a dozen people through the weekend.
This is absolutely no criticism of the convention organisers, to be crystal clear. Putting on any event in the current circumstances is an achievement in itself, and putting on one that was so friendly and sociable, with a varied and interesting programme is a triumph. I was particularly pleased to find myself talking to a good few people attending their first convention, and delighted to hear that they were having a really good time. That bodes well for the Society’s future, along with the Committee’s energetic determination to take the BFS onward and upward.
I very much enjoyed the panels and talks I sat in on, and the panels I was part of went with a swing. We discussed genre-splicing and explored the ways in which mixing and matching different ideas gleaned from wide-ranging reading is a great way to create something new and exciting. I was also part of a discussion about writing as a business. That could have been a tricky one as there’s a lot of outdated and misguided advice out there that needs correcting – but none of us on the panel wanted to crush new writers’ hopes and dreams. Judging from the positive feedback I got all weekend, we struck the right balance.
The Jury’s Inn was a good venue – with the usual allowances to be made for bar staff who’ve never encountered SF and fantasy fans before, plus added pandemic allowances. Conrunners might like to bear it in mind, and there were a range of other hotels within sight of my room for anyone considering a bigger event. As a city centre venue, there are a good range of food options within easy walking distance as well. Granted, driving in was a challenge for my satnav, which ended up having conniptions, but random streets being closed so that tramlines can be laid will only be a temporary state of affairs.
We launched The Green Man’s Challenge, and with Cheryl running the Wizard’s Tower Press table in the dealer’s room, I signed a whole load of other books as well. It was particularly lovely to learn that readers were buying a copy of The Green Man’s Heir, or another title from the series, because they’d enjoyed it so much in ebook they wanted a copy for their shelf.
Next up is Octocon – 1st-3rd October – and that’s a virtual event this year. It’s also free, so I heartily recommend you check it out. I’ll be discussing the resurgence of fantasy on TV, as well as writing fight scenes. I’ll also be doing a reading, so those of you who weren’t at Fantasycon will be able to get a taste of The Green Man’s Challenge online.
On the 30th October, I’ll be heading down the M4 for Bristolcon – an in-person event – which promises to be another step on the road to a new normal after these strange and unpleasant months. It will be lovely to see established pals and to make new friends. As ever, I have no doubt that the convention programme will be excellent.
If I don’t see you at one of these events, let’s hope our paths cross in real life or online real soon.
So what’s the new book about? Well, Daniel Mackmain has been seeing out these strange and stressful months on his own at Blithehurst, the stately home where he works. That’s not a big part of the story*, but after a good deal of thought, I decided I had to keep Dan in the same timeline as the rest of us. Anything else simply wouldn’t be playing fair by Dan or his readers.
As this story opens, it seems the Green Man expects Dan to resolve another potential clash between those mysterious beings who dwell unseen in wild places and the ordinary people who have no idea what’s out there. Dan’s wondering what exactly this particular threat might be, when he hears from his girlfriend, Fin. She thinks she’s seen a giant in the Wiltshire twilight, high up on the chalk downs. What myths and folk tales can they find that might be useful? Not nearly enough…
If these were anything like normal times, I would now be telling you about the interesting places and local museums I visited as I researched the background for this story. Since these are far from normal times, other than visiting Uffington, I’ve had to do most of my research from my desk. Thank goodness for the Internet. Firstly for the second-hand and specialist booksellers online who were able to provide the books I decided I needed. Secondly, for the local history and folklore enthusiasts whose websites and podcasts who have given me a whole lot more, often wholly unexpected material. Lastly, and by no means least, I’m hugely grateful to the ramblers and walkers who’ve posted photos that gave me visual references for things I couldn’t go and see for myself.
I’m also truly thankful for the SF&Fantasy community of readers, reviewers and bloggers who have shared their enthusiasm for these stories far and wide. Books succeed thanks to word of mouth recommendation, whether that’s in person or via social media in its many forms. Amid all the current upheavals, that remains unchanged. And of course, this great community of ours first introduced me to the people without whom none of these books would have happened: Toby Selwyn, who’s now editing my work as a professional after reading my books as a fan for so many years; Ian Whates who recommended the fabulously talented Ben Baldwin to me when I needed an artist for my Aldabreshin series; Cheryl Morgan, who set up Wizard’s Tower Press specifically to help authors like me get our backlists out as ebooks – and who agreed to take that first leap into the unknown by publishing The Green Man’s Heir. Go Team!
*There is a bonus short story that does address one aspect of the impact of the lockdown on Blithehurst. I had to work out what was going on there while Dan is busy elsewhere. The answer turned out to be very entertaining to write, not least because this particular tale is told by Eleanor Beauchene. It was fun seeing events – and Dan – through her eyes.
Wizard’s Tower Press is also now doing online mail order for paperbacks and hardbacks (with bonus ebook included) – and not only for my books. Do check out the growing list of new titles.
You can now pre-order the book from your preferred retailer as follows –
If you want to go through your local bookshop, these are the ISBNs
If you will be at FantasyCon you can order paper editions for pick-up there.
The first early reviews are in from satisfied readers, I’m very pleased to say.
The Middle Shelf – followed by a Q&A with mild spoilers, consider yourselves warned…
Jacey Bedford – do look up her books as well
What’s that you say? Didn’t I mention the bonus short story earlier? Well, having decided to keep Dan’s adventures in the same timeline as the rest of us, I had some fairly major questions about what months of shut-down would mean for Blithehurst, the stately home where he works. I soon had some entertaining answers, but there was no place for that particular thread in the story Dan has to tell here. But I was pretty sure established readers would be wondering the same things as me, so I decided to let Eleanor explain that ‘Luck Is Where You Find It’.
I think we can all agree that Ben Baldwin has given us another stupendous cover. And what’s the book about? Here’s what the cover will tell you.
A while back, Daniel Mackmain’s life took an unexpected turn. Now the Green Man expects him to resolve clashes between those dwelling unseen in wild places and the ordinary people who have no idea what’s out there. Dan’s father is human and his mother’s a dryad, so he sees what’s happening in both these worlds.
Once upon a time, giants walked this land. So says everyone from Geoffrey of Monmouth to William Blake. This ancient threat is stirring in the Wiltshire twilight, up on the chalk downs. Can Dan meet this new challenge when he can only find half-forgotten fairy tales to guide him? Will the other local supernatural inhabitants see him – or the giant – as friend or foe?
A modern fantasy rooted in the ancient myths and folklore of the British Isles.
Publication date is 28th September 2021, and you can contact Wizard’s Tower Press if you’re interested in an ebook review copy, and remember to state your preference for epub or mobi format. (We’re not offering paper ARCs, sorry.) Contact me if you’re interested in a guest blog post or an interview or something along those lines.
Ebook pre-orders are going up as we speak, and I’ll post links when the various retailers’ websites have sorted themselves out.
Paperbacks and hardbacks will be available for pre-order soon. If you’re going to be at FantasyCon in the UK, or at Bristolcon, you can collect a signed copy there – order those through Wizard’s Tower Press.
Did I mention the fabulous cover?
There are now two well-established annual summer highlights from ZNB LLC as far as I am concerned. First, here are the new anthologies to read. This year, I’ve contributed to The Modern Deity’s Guide to Surviving Humanity with a story about classical Greek gods discovering the Internet. There are a host of other great stories by established authors and new voices alike.
The other collections in this year’s trio are equally intriguing. There’s Derelict where a tremendous array of writers offer their takes on the ghost ship, the abandoned vessel drifting through space or over the trackless seas… In When Worlds Collide very different people and cultures meet with a whole array of consequences. As with all ZNB anthologies, the three themes have prompted an incredible variety of entertaining stories.
If you’re one of the many readers who’ve found settling into a novel a real challenge amid the ongoing everything, I can say I’ve found short stories a real boon when that has happened to me.
But wait, there’s more! The second fun thing from ZNB each summer is the new Kickstarter for next year’s anthologies. This will be launched on 11th August, and you can find out about the new themes right now, as well as take a look at the cover artwork.
Since the days of Raymond Chandler and Dorothy B. Hughes, Dashiell Hammett and Mickey Spillane, the down, but not quite out private eye has been an archetype of literature and cinema. Some of the most memorable of these lone investigators have been found in fantasy and science fiction. In the filthy lanes of an ancient magical city or the sterile corridors of a lonely outpost in space, there are always crimes to be solved.
SHATTERING THE GLASS SLIPPER:
Fairy tales have been around for thousands of years, but it’s time to turn these age-old stories on their head. Let’s step into realms where princesses plan their own rescues, where princes find a better line of work, and falling down a rabbit hole may be a deliberate act of sabotage…or a trip through a wormhole. Come explore roads less traveled and meet the little match girl determined to light the fires of revolution.
BRAVE NEW WORLDS:
Humans have dreamed of traveling to the stars for generations. Their hope? To discover verdant new planets where they can build new societies or escape past persecutions. Follow our prospective settlers’ uncertain paths—from the heart-wrenching departure from Earth, through the unknown dangers of the long flight through the cold vastness of space, to the immigrants’ final arrival on an alien world.
Remember, ZNB is committed to offering debut authors their first chance at publication when the Kickstarters fund an open call for submissions. You can read some advice on making the grade from ZNB Supremo Joshua Palmatier here.
I had an excellent time on Saturday, down in Clevedon at their literary festival. This is a little Victorian seaside town between Bristol and Weston Super Mare if you’re trying to place it. I had a very straightforward run over from West Oxfordshire as the traffic on the M4 was nowhere near typical summer Saturday levels. It was also striking how many cars were content to do 65 in the ‘slow’ lane rather compete with each other in the usual mad racing ahead. I suspect, like me, drivers were realising how little long distance driving they’ve done this year and taking it steady. Everything slowed right down when the M4 joined the M5 unsurprisingly, but the traffic kept moving, and since I’d allowed for horrible traffic, I arrived in good time.
The Princes Hall community centre was clearly once a grand villa with a sea view and the large gardens are now a charming little park. I met up with Alistair from Books on the Hill, Anna Smith Spark and John Llewellyn Probert and we sat down with an interested audience to chat about fantasy fiction under a gazebo in a corner by some trees. The three of us have very different ways of working, and different approaches to what we write, so that made for an absorbing discussion.
This may seem odd, but I was surprised to remember just how much fun doing this sort of thing in person really is. Don’t get me wrong, virtual events have been an absolute lifesaver for authors, bookshops, conventions and publishers, and I have no doubt that they’re here to stay – but it will be lovely to get back to meeting up with other writers and fans again. So I will be signing up for Bristolcon, which promises to be a fabulous event this year. I will also be signing up for Octocon because if I can’t get over to Dublin just yet, the online convention will do very nicely in the meantime.
It was great to see some local friends, and yes, they were startled to see me with long hair. It was also an opportunity to see the actual copies of BOTH Press’s dyslexia friendly books after the success of the Kickstarter. The books are very handsome and this is an initiative well worth supporting.
As an unexpected thank you, we were given goodie bags with little gifts from the local independent businesses supporting the festival, which added up to a very generous collection. If you’re within striking distance and looking for a place to go to browse interesting shops for gifts and treats, head for Clevedon!
And there was even less traffic on the way back.
For all those wanting to know what’s next for Dan – and when – Wizard’s Tower Press is delighted to announce the next book in the Green Man series. With uncanny events in the Cambridgeshire Fens now resolved, will Daniel be able to get back to a quiet life as a carpenter, maybe enjoying a few weekends away with his girlfriend, Fin? Not a bit of it. As autumn deepens, there’s a new supernatural menace stirring down in Wessex. Dan will face, The Green Man’s Challenge…
All going well, the new book will be launched at FantasyCon in Birmingham over the weekend September 24-26. Meantime, we’re into the last few days of the ‘Green Man’ sale. The Green Man’s Foe ebook is 99p on Amazon UK until 31st May, and that’s been matched on other platforms & territories by Wizard’s Tower, with The Green Man’s Heir and The Green Man’s Silence reduced. That means new readers can get all three books for £8.97 as long as they buy before midnight on Monday.
Next, I have an honest to goodness in-person author event in the diary for June 12th! You can find me at Sunhill Park, North Somerset, BS21 7SZ at 3:30PM, as part of the Clevedon Literary Festival. I’ll be discussing fantasy fiction with Anna Smith Spark and John Llewellyn Probert. More details here – and the wonderful Books on the Hill will be there selling books. It really will be great to get out and see people!
July 15th will see this year’s anthologies from ZNB published. My story in The Modern Deity’s Guide to Surviving Humanity sees ancient Greek gods discovering the Internet and social media. The other 2021 titles are ‘Derelict‘ and ‘When Worlds Collide‘, and as you would expect by now, all three collections have a stellar roster of established and new writers. You can get preorders in with your online retailer of choice.
What else have I been doing? I’ve returned to the Aldabreshin Archipelago, believe it or not, to write the fourth of the short stories I started absolutely years ago, to go alongside the Aldabreshin Compass series. There’ll be more news about that in due course.
Last but by no means least, me and mine continue to keep well, and I hope the same is so for all of you.
Far too often ‘elevator pitches’ give a misleading impression of a book. This time ‘Imagine Camelot but in Gotham’ is both accurate and merely a starting point. There are countless good reasons for reading this book, even if – no, especially if – like me, you’re a reader for whom Arthurian retellings are a very hard sell indeed.
This is a world where knights ride motorbikes, and fight as champions to see justice done in legal bouts, as well as for fame and fortune as their battles are broadcast for their adoring fans. Artorias, son of Uther Pendragon, rules as a reluctant king, trying to stay alive amid the malign conspiracies of rival noble families. This might be some alternate timeline, or perhaps it’s a dystopian future. There are hints that this gritty, dangerous and neon-lit world could be either, or both. The reader can decide, or simply revel in this vividly and deftly described version of London.
So far, so high-concept, but this book offers a whole lot more than mapping a familiar story onto an inventive setting. The reader will certainly find some of the characters they are expecting, though several are less obvious than you might expect. There are new players as well, rounding out a diverse cast drawn from different genders and origins. This is fantasy for contemporary readers, and definitely a world away from tales of white knights rescuing damsels in distress. The story is compelling, charting two timelines through alternating chapters. We follow Artorias through the nineteen dramatic years since he was plucked from bastardy and obscurity and landed with his birthright. At the same time, we join a would-be knight as she struggles through her training over the course of a brutally demanding year. This is made all the more absorbing by use of first person present tense narrative. This is one of those rare books where this is a valid choice to enhance the writing rather than just some ‘creative’ gimmick.
As these two stories unfold, we learn both protagonists have private aims and ambitions that won’t necessarily fit with the roles they’re expected to play. As their timelines converge, we start to realise they will surely come into conflict, even if we’re not entirely sure when or how that will happen. Gradually the pieces fall into place with the merciless clicking of a well-engineered trap which can nevertheless still spring surprises.
I thoroughly enjoyed this supremely well-crafted urban/epic/alt-reality/mythic fantasy novel. It would have been an excellent read in its own right without any of the Arthurian elements. That gloss does add another fascinating level, proving even to sceptics like me, that new takes on these well-worn myths can still capture a reader’s imagination and not let go.
Blackheart Knights by Laure Eve
27th May 2021
Jo Fletcher Books
Trade paperback £18.99, plus ebook and audio.
In my primary school and teenage days, I was an avid reader of both boarding school stories and what I have since learned are variously called ‘juveniles’ or ‘planetary romances’ by authors such as Robert Heinlein or Arthur C Clarke. Thanks to Chaz Brenchley, I now realise those books had far more in common than I was aware of back then. All these stories were set in worlds that were equally alien to me as kid in a UK state school in the 1970s. I was no more likely to ever be a pupil at somewhere like Mallory Towers than I was to go to Mars, to skate along frozen canals and meet marvellous, scary creatures. A great deal of all these stories’ appeal for me was following characters who could be my contemporaries as they learned and navigated the unknown rules of unfamiliar and not necessarily safe environments, to come through their adventures unscathed – for mostly non-lethal values of ‘unscathed’ in English boarding schools.
So combining these traditions is quite simply a brilliant idea, creating an alternate reality where Mars is a stalwart colony of the British Empire and while boys go back to Eton or Harrow, the girls can be educated satisfactorily and more cheaply there. Thus Brenchley offers an entertaining read that’s both familiar and brand new.
This is far more than an exercise in inventive nostalgia though. Looking back, I can see how all those stories were founded on the assumptions of their respective decades and authors. Those assumptions are now to a greater or lesser extent often problematic. For a start, the stories of St Clare’s, the Chalet School, the Abbey Girls and the like, were the pretty much the only books I was reading that focused on female protagonists, viewpoints and concerns. I remember that was one reason why I actively sought them out. Everywhere else, any sort of adventure was exclusively male, or at best, male-led. Even so, I now see these girl-centered stories were as laden with outdated views on class, race and society as their overtly masculine counterparts. Brenchley is way ahead of me. With a deft and subtle touch, he interrogates the attitudes of those ‘classic; books and their era with charming ruthlessness. The reader is cordially invited to consider how many such attitudes persist and why.
All told, this book is an excellent diversion; an escape from everything that’s besieging us all at the moment. In the very best traditions of SF, it also offers us somewhere to go, where we can see where we came from more clearly.