Category Archives: Fiction

Books To Watch For In 2015: An Interview With DK Mok

1)  How long would you last in this world?

Let’s see, it’s a magical fantasy world with technological capabilities hovering somewhere around the Middle Ages. To be honest, I don’t think I’d last very long in a world without lots of public libraries, fast internet, and easy access to chocolate biscuits. Then again, it just might be worth sacrificing my laptop in exchange for an enchanted castle.

The world in Hunt for Valamon resembles a medieval society in that the feudal system is commonplace, and adventurers bristle with swords and bows. However, the local cultures tend to be more progressive and diverse, and there’s a good chance that a bookish idealist like me would find a home in a cosy library somewhere.

2)  What was the inspiration for this novel?

There were a number of influences behind this novel, but one of them was my love of fantasy worlds. I grew up playing games like AD&D, Quest for Glory, and Might and Magic. While I enjoyed rampaging through dungeons and slinking through catacombs, over the years, I found myself increasingly intrigued by characters who weren’t typical heroes. The healers, the diplomats, the puzzle-solvers—people of quiet courage and ingenuity.

I decided that I wanted to write a story about a healer who finds himself thrust into an adventure better suited to fighters, archers, and thieves. I still wanted dungeons and catacombs and explosions, but I wanted to see how a healer would handle those challenges.

The idea bubbled away in my thoughts for several years, and when I finally began to write the novel, it had evolved into a darker and more complex story, exploring issues of vengeance, the cycles of war, and the power of compassion. But at heart, it’s a fantasy adventure with a spirit of discovery and hope.

3)  Your other book is sort of intellectual action.  Was this book easier or harder to write?

Every book has its own unique challenges. My urban fantasy novel, The Other Tree, involved far more research—delving into botany, archaeology, and Sumerian ancient history. My latest novel, Hunt for Valamon, required much more detailed plotting in the outlining stages. Being epic fantasy, it has a larger cast of characters, more intertwining story threads, and the arcs are more complicated. Overall, I think Hunt for Valamon was more challenging to write because I also needed to create the history and cultures of that world, although the process was one I enjoyed.

4)  What are you reading now?

I’ve just started reading the second book in the Sorcery Ascendant SequenceBlood of Innocents by Mitchell Hogan. His first book, A Crucible of Souls, won an Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel, and it’s exciting to explore such a richly imagined fantasy world, especially one with an intriguing magic system.

I’m also keen to start on Dragons at Crumbling Castle by Terry Pratchett, Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix, Fivefold by Nathan Burrage, several FableCroft anthologies, and a precarious tower of to-be-read books.

5)  What are your five favorite books? You can do authors if that’s easier.

I’d have a hard time choosing just five books, so I’ll have to go with authors.

Roald Dahl: I grew up reading The BFG, Matilda, and James and the Giant Peach, and I adored the wildly fantastic adventures his characters went on. I loved the way he combined the darkly comic elements with gentler messages about courage and kindness.

Terry Pratchett: He’s one of my heroes, and his books played a significant role in shaping my attitudes and ideals during my formative years. I love the way his books combine quirky humour and entertaining adventures with thought-provoking themes and incisive social commentary.

Isaac Asimov: I discovered his books in high school, and they had a profound impact on me. His stories explore ideas of artificial intelligence, identity, humanity, and civil rights, raising difficult questions while taking the reader on an amazing journey through futuristic worlds.

Oliver Sacks: I first came across his books at university, where The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat was virtually compulsory reading for Psychology students. Not only does he communicate case studies of neurological pathology in a way that’s interesting and engaging, he writes with immense compassion, affection, and respect for his patients.

Emily Dickinson: Well, technically she was a poet, but she told marvellous stories through her verse. She created such surreal and evocative images, ranging from the absurdist to the exquisite.

6)  If you could make one book mandatory, what would it be?

That’s a tough one. I think every person needs a different book—the book that changes their life, that sets them on a path to becoming a better, truer person. People are so diverse, it’s difficult to pick just one book that’s going to have that kind of effect on a majority of people. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee had that kind of impact on me. In a way, it taught me the meaning of integrity, and that was a lesson well worth learning.

7)  What books are you excited for in 2015?

Books tend to sneak up on me, and I frequently only discover exciting books once they’ve come out, and sometimes quite a lot later. I’m only starting to work my way through Robin McKinley’s early books now.

As for upcoming books, I’m looking forward to the third book in Mitchell Hogan’s Sorcery Ascendant Sequence, as well as FableCroft’s Cranky Ladies of History anthology. I keenly await anything by Terry Pratchett, and I’ve heard rumours of a new novel from him, The Shepherd’s Crown.

I look forward to discovering more exciting books next year, and catching up on all the ones I’ve been meaning to read.

Thanks for having me on your blog, Kelly!

Books To Watch For In 2015: Hunt For Valamon

One of the books I’m most excited for next year is Hunt For Valamon by DK Mok.


SO GORGEOUS, right? (Errick Nunnally did the cover.)

“When Crown Prince Valamon is impossibly taken from the heart of Algaris Castle, the only clue as to motive or culprit is the use of unknown sorcery.

Reclusive cleric Seris is happily tending to his book-infested temple until he finds himself drafted–for political reasons–to the rescue mission. His sole companion on the journey is Elhan, a cheerfully disturbed vagrant girl with terrifying combat skills and her own enigmatic reasons for seeking the prince.

Venturing into the wild, unconquered lands, Seris has no fighting prowess, no survival skills, and no charisma, as Elhan keeps pointing out. Armed only with a stubborn streak and creative diplomacy, he must find a way to survive outlaw towns and incendiary masquerades, all without breaking his vow to do no harm.

Chasing rumours of rebel camps and rising warlords, dangerous curses and the return of the vanished sorcerers, Seris and Elhan soon discover a web of treachery and long-buried secrets that go far beyond a kidnapped prince.”

I’m the publicist for this, so I’ve already read it (be jealous) but I know you’ll all love it as much as I did.  It’s out on April 7.

Books To Watch For In 2015: An Interview With Darby Kaye

Kelly, this is such a treat to visit with you and your followers today. Do they know the running joke about “Sam Lord?”

1)  Are sequels easier to write than first novels?  Discuss.

What a great question! I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that before. And while I’m not trying to sound wishy-washy, I must say taht both the first one and the subsequent ones have their difficulties. With the first one, I am building a world that will be canon for the rest of the series. Which is fun, but I do have to be thinking ahead and not write a scene or create an element of that culture which would cause problems later. In fact, because I write my sequels right on the heels of my first books, I often go back into book one (if it hasn’t gone to print yet) and tweak things. Sometimes, I feel like I am writing backwards, but it works for me. I certainly did that for The Stag Lord and its sequel, Unholy Blue (aka Sam Lord).

2)  How awesome is it that my dog is in this book?! Talk about that. :)

Ah, yes. The awesomeness known as Sam Hager. Yup, Sam (Kelly’s adorable little terrier) was the inspiration for the puppy in Unholy Blue. While the breed is different—Sam is a Silky and the Sam in Unholy Blue is a Labrador mix—the same courage and adorable-ness is all Sam. Plus, the name was perfect. So, when Kelly started referring to Unholy Blue as Sam Lord, I just had to join in.

3)  Do you prefer writing adult or YA?  How are they different?  Is your writing process any different?

Good storytelling is good storytelling, and my writing process is about the same: Write a brief outline, then plunge in and forget to refer to said outline. But, both genres have their strength and weakness. When I first tried adult, I had to push myself to be over the top in order to turn off the YA editor in my head. Once I got going, I did realize there is a freedom in adult stories and also a cage. In YA (and middle grade), I can address Big Questions of Life without coming across as too cheesy.

4) Who are your five favorite authors? J.R.R Tolkien, Lloyd Alexander, John Flanagan, Kevin Hearne and Cassandra Clare (for their respective fantasies), M.M. Kaye (for her historical novels), David McCullough (for his biographies of famous Americans), and C.S. Lewis (for his Christian apologetics books)

5)  What books are you looking forward to in 2015? They are both by Kevin Hearne: Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi (because Hearne and Star Wars? I know. I know!) and the next book in his Iron Druid series (because Owen. ‘Nuff said.)

Books To Watch For In 2015: Unholy Blue

The first book I’m incredibly excited for in 2015 is Unholy Blue by Darby Karchut (writing as Darby Kaye).

It’s the sequel to The Stag Lord, which is out Dec. 2.  That’s one of my favorite books from THIS year, but Unholy Blue is going to be even better.  Know why?

Because my dog, Sam, is going to be a character!!!!!!!!!

I’ve known about this for ages—since long before Stag Lord even came out—and I think it’s been roughly the worst-kept secret ever, at least if you know me, Darby, or both of us.

So this book is going to be called Unholy Blue, but because it’s the sequel to The Stag Lord, I’ve been calling it Sam Lord.  (Unfortunately, I now need to break myself of this habit, because it’s going to be really embarrassing if I—as the publicist—can’t get the name of the book right.  So please preorder Unholy Blue once you can, and please forgive me when I keep calling it Sam Lord.)


Into the Night

Into the Night by Suzanne Rigdon releases Dec. 2.  You can see her Twitter here.

INTO THE NIGHT cover with quote

This is one of my favorite books from this year.  (To be completely honest, I should point out that I’m Suzy’s publicist…but all that means is that it’s been my favorite for longer than it otherwise could have been.  This book is so incredibly fun, and I can’t wait for everyone to read it.)

When Selina Baker, a coordinator for a Boston non-profit, goes out on the town with her friend Jess, she never expects to meet the man of her dreams. And she certainly never expects him to be undead.

When things go from flirty to majorly flawed on her first date with James Lawton, he is forced to save her the only way he can–by killing her. Selina suddenly finds herself in the mix with the creatures she thought were made up solely for late-night TV. Into the Night follows Selina’s transformation from a wallflower into an impulsive and dangerous new vampire. With no choice in the matter, Selina becomes trapped between a new man, his wary brothers, and his cruel and controlling Queen, who wants nothing more than to watch her suffer. Selina must walk the fine line between adjusting to her new powers, life after death, and following the rules–all while avoiding disaster.

Books To Watch For In 2015: An Overview

This is the second year of Books to Watch For!  I got this idea after my friend Kathy started doing this last year (yes, I basically stole it—but with permission!).  You should stop by her site and see what she’s excited for, too.

This year, I also got incredibly ambitious.  I talked to many of my favorite authors to see (a) what they have planned for next year and (b) the books that they’re looking forward to.

As a reminder, each book is featured over the course of two days.  The first day is a synopsis and explanation for why I’m excited (although most of the time, it’s probably fairly self-evident—because, when Sara Blaedel, for example, releases a new book, I’m excited) and the second day is an interview.

Even more exciting, several of my favorites are releasing two books next year! It’s going to be a good year for people who are book-greedy like I am.

There are some amazing books ahead, so please let me know what you’re looking forward to.



Finished Revival by Stephen King.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A dark and electrifying novel about addiction, fanaticism, and what might exist on the other side of life.

In a small New England town, over half a century ago, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister. Charles Jacobs, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church. The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs. Jacobs; the women and girls feel the same about Reverend Jacobs — including Jamie’s mother and beloved sister, Claire. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond based on a secret obsession. When tragedy strikes the Jacobs family, this charismatic preacher curses God, mocks all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town.

Jamie has demons of his own. Wed to his guitar from the age of thirteen, he plays in bands across the country, living the nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll while fleeing from his family’s horrific loss. In his mid-thirties — addicted to heroin, stranded, desperate — Jamie meets Charles Jacobs again, with profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings.

This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written. It’s a masterpiece from King, in the great American tradition of Frank Norris, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe.”

Oh, you guys, this book.

This is my favorite of his since 11/22/63, and probably his scariest book in a long time.

If you read this book, you’ll read that sentence above and think, “Kelly, WHAT are you talking about? This book isn’t scary at all!”  And you’ll continue thinking that way until the last few chapters.

This book will lull you into a false sense of security and then it will slap you in the face repeatedly until you’re in the fetal position and unable/unwilling to move.

Stephen King has certain themes that he returns to over and over and this book hits two of them pretty hard.  The first, of course, is addiction (and that’s what you’ll hear about the most with reviews of this book).  The second is grief.  You don’t hear about that one as much, but it’s just as present in this book (probably moreso).

I don’t want to discuss too much more of it because of spoilers.  But get this book and read it.  But don’t finish it at night.

Highly recommended.

The Stag Lord

The Stag Lord by Darby Kaye is out Dec. 2.  You can see Darby’s Twitter here (and please talk to her on there, because I bullied her into getting a Twitter account.)

Stag Lord full jacket

You can request it on Netgalley by clicking here.

This is one of my first books as a publicist, and I’m so excited that it’s almost out.  I absolutely love this book and I know you will, too.  It’s fun and creepy.  (And it makes great presents.)

Synopsis: “On the run across America from a vengeful shape-shifter, Bannerman “Bann” Boru has only one thing on his mind: keeping himself and his young son, Cor, alive.

At any cost.

Until he meets Shay Doyle, healer and member of a secret group of immortal Celtic warriors, the Tuatha de Danaan, living in modern-day Colorado. When Cor is injured, Bannerman is forced to accept her help. He quickly realizes that the golden-haired healer is shield-maiden tough and can hold her own onthe field of battle with the big boys. And Shay soon discovers that there is more to Bann than meets the eye.

Now, with the shape-shifter Cernunnos teaming up with the local pack of Fir Bolgs (Bronze Age creatures with a nasty taste for children), Bannerman, Shay, her wolf-dog Max, and the rest of the Doyle clan must figure out how to battle one insane god.”

You will learn more about this series soon; I am featuring the sequel in my end-of-year feature (which is starting very, very soon).

Dark Places

Finished Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Libby Day was just seven years old when her evidence put her fifteen-year-old brother behind bars.

Since then, she had been drifting. But when she is contacted by a group who are convinced of Ben’s innocence, Libby starts to ask questions she never dared to before. Was the voice she heard her brother’s? Ben was a misfit in their small town, but was he capable of murder? Are there secrets to uncover at the family farm or is Libby deluding herself because she wants her brother back?

She begins to realise that everyone in her family had something to hide that day… especially Ben. Now, twenty-four years later, the truth is going to be even harder to find.

Who did massacre the Day family?”

I read Gillian Flynn’s first novel (Sharp Objects) and obviously read (and loved) Gone Girl, but somehow I had managed to completely miss this one.  Fortunately, I had to read it for my online book club.

I think most people would agree that Gone Girl is her masterpiece (at least so far) but there are a lot of similarities between the two.  Both feature protagonists that are not at all likable and both have a lot of twists and turns (A LOT) and both are nearly impossible to put down.

I admired Amy almost against my will, but I didn’t feel drawn to Libby as much.  (Which is definitely interesting, because there are obviously reasons for Libby to be an unlikable mess; there are no such handicaps for Amy.)

I absolutely love Gillian Flynn’s novels and the way they always catch me off guard.  I don’t think there’s another author who does what she does as well as she does it.

Highly recommended.

The Burning Room

Finished The Burning Room by Michael Connelly.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Detective Harry Bosch tackles a cold case unlike any he’s ever worked, in the new thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Michael Connelly.

In the LAPD’s Open-Unsolved Unit, not many murder victims die almost a decade after the crime. So when a man succumbs to complications from being shot by a stray bullet nine years earlier, Bosch catches a case in which the body is still fresh, but any other evidence is virtually nonexistent.

Now Bosch and his new partner, rookie Detective Lucia Soto, are tasked with solving what turns out to be a highly charged, politically sensitive case. Starting with the bullet that’s been lodged for years in the victim’s spine, they must pull new leads from years-old information, which soon reveals that this shooting may have been anything but random.

In this gripping new thriller, Michael Connelly shows once again why Harry Bosch is “one of the greats of crime fiction” (New York Daily News).“

I don’t read many mysteries anymore, but Michael Connelly is always a must-buy for me.  I have enjoyed all his books, but the Harry Bosch ones are my favorite.  (I feel a little guilty, actually, because whenever I read a Mickey Haller installment, I always love them but I also always think, “I’d rather it were Harry Bosch instead…”)

I also know that these books are drawing to a close (Harry is approaching retirement) and I know that will be a sad, sad day for me.

But we don’t have to think about that yet.

So anyway, Harry has a new partner: Lucia Sota, who’s new and is a bit of a media superstar.  (Her last partner died in a shootout and she was able to hold the gunmen at bay until reinforcements arrived.)  I wasn’t completely sold on her at first, but I ended up really liking her, and I hope that she will show up in more books.  I’m not ready to lose Harry, but more books with Lucy in them would be really good.

This is a cold case and Harry quickly gets sucked into it.  He even uses his current catchphrase (“Everybody counts or nobody counts”), which is basically every value I have distilled into one sentence.  The best part is that a politician overhears and appropriates it and Harry is just completely horrified (because he actually means it and it’s so obvious that the politician is trying to score votes.

If you’re a fan of police procedurals, you owe it to yourself to read Harry Bosch.

Highly recommended.