Author Interview: Anton Strout, author of Incarnate (Book 3 of the Spellmason Chronicles)


Publisher: Ace

Publication Date: September 30, 2014

Synopsis: HITTING ROCK BOTTOM

When Alexandra Belarus discovered her family’s secret ability to breathe life into stone, she uncovered an entire world of magic hidden within New York City—a world she has accidentally thrown into chaos. A spell gone awry has set thousands of gargoyles loose upon Manhattan, and it’s up to Lexi and her faithful protector, Stanis, to put things right.

But the stress of saving the city is casting a pall over Lexi and Stanis’s relationship, driving them to work separately to solve the problem. As Stanis struggles to unite the gargoyle population, Lexi forges unlikely alliances with witches, alchemists and New York’s Finest to quell an unsettling uprising led by an ancient and deadly foe long thought vanquished.

To save her city, Lexi must wield more power than ever before with the added hope of recovering a mysterious artifact that could change her world—and bring her closer to Stanis than she ever thought possible…


Interview: Q. How did writing this book affect you?
INCARNATE is the concluding volume of The Spellmason Chronicles.  When my Simon Canderous paranormal detective series ran four books, I thought there might be more so I left the series with a major twist at the end.  DEAD WATERS story wrapped up, but there was a game changer at the end of it that I thought would get explored in book five.  But my publisher didn’t want more of that. They wanted a new series out of me, and thus The Spellmason Chronicles was born.  Going into my second series, I think I was better at planning.  ALCHEMYSTIC was always going to be about a centuries old gargoyle and a young artist who discovers her bloodline created him.  STONECAST covers a greater picture of what others might do to possess the powers of the Spellmasons.  In INCARNATE, we see how the modern world at large—arcane or otherwise—adapts to the knowledge that gargoyles, alchemy, and magic exist.  The grand arc of the series was better planned than my first, and I’ve had time to make my bittersweet peace with the ending of it.  That said, I already miss my characters so damned much.

But I guess that’s what short stories are for, right?

Q. What is the hardest part of writing for you?
I don’t like writing.  I like having written.  For me it’s the sitting down to get the words out that is hard sometimes, more so in the past sixteen months.  Oh, by the way, did I mention I have sixteen month old twins?

But I’m getting back into the swing of things, making the time to write.  I’ve learned I’m a creature of habit with OCD tendencies, and a lot of getting back to writing is all about rewriting my ruts, find my comfy zone that gets me back to getting words down on the page.  Never realized I had these tendencies until the twins threw a monkey wrench into my old routines. I like a good challenge!

Q. Do you plan any subsequent books?
INCARNATE is the concluding volume of The Spellmason Chronicles, but there will be short stories coming out set in the world.  The first will appear in the Kickstarter for Streets of Shadows, where we learn a little bit more about freelance rogue alchemist Caleb Kennedy.

Q. What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading The Strain because I have found the television series both tense and entertaining and I always try to give the source material of a book its due diligence.  After that I have several volumes of The Walking Dead graphic novels to catch up on.

Q. Please tell us your latest news (book-related or not!).
I’m excited to announce that next year I’ll be in the FIERCE anthology from Ace/Roc, edited by Kerrie Hughes and the king of my urban fantasy genre Jim Butcher.  I THINK it’s going to be a Simon Canderous story from my first series, but we shall see… terribly excited just to be in it!

Q. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Hmmm…. People find it odd that I can write with a lot of noise and distraction, that I can do it in front of the television even.  It’s just the way I’m wired.  There are times when I NEED to be alone in silence, near the end of writing a book when I have to upload its totality to my brain at once for cohesion’s sake.  In the early stages, having the tv on is great… when I’m hunting for this detail or that, I can look up and find something to use right there as it flies by.  Oh, the many, many times I’ve killed Snooki!

Q. Please tell us a fun-fact about yourself!
I’ve never broken a bone. Ever.  Now that being said, I expect tomorrow I will break ALL THE BONES as some sort of cosmic payback just for typing that.

Q. Is there anything you haven’t written about that you would like to in the future?
I would like to spend some time exploring William Gibson near-future science fiction or perhaps something in a Douglas Adams vein. They’re both very inspirational in making me want to write.  Or maybe a more traditional high fantasy… there’s so much left to explore!

Q. If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
I would like to learn to write more betterer.

Actually, I think I’d love to learn to fly.  I’ve flown glider planes a little, but I think taking the controls of something with an engine would be awesome.  Or at least awesome for the five seconds before I crash into the ground.

Q. What gives you the most joy in life?
Driving my enemies before me and hearing the lamentation of their women.
No, wait, bacon!
No, wait! I’m supposed to say my family, right?
Yeah, I’ll go with my family, and a near-insatiable need to entertain others.

Q. Which of your characters would you want to be and why?
I admire the traits of one of my main character’s best friends, Aurora ‘Rory’ Torres.  She’s sort of a dance major turned modern day paladin.  She’s got a lot going for her that I wish I did.  She’s fiercely loyal, dedicated to the protection of her friends, and can be vicious in defending their honor.  She’s got Cookie Monster blue hair currently, kept short with black horn rimmed glasses, and dares to wield a glaive gisarme pole arm on the streets of Manhattan because she can make it dance.  A delicious, dangerous dance. Any woman who chooses a medieval pole arm as her weapon of choice is alright in my book.

Q. How do you like to spend your spare time?
I’m a very controller smashing video gamer.  Lately my favorite thing to do is run from my door in the Shire all the way to Mount Doom in Mordor in Lego Lord of the Rings.  It’s very relaxing.  When I get time to game.  It’s day job in publishing, time with the twins, writing time, reading time, binge watching Supernatural and Arrow time, sleep, and if I’m lucky time to game these days.

Q. How did you come up with the title?
INCARNATE just seemed to fit the world of magically enchanted gargoyles.  One of my duel first person protagonists, Stanis, was once human centuries ago, and his life as a gargoyle is his current incarnation.  And there are the thousands of other gargoyles in Manhattan these days, all lost souls finding their way in their incarnate stone forms.

Q. When did you know you would be a writer?
November 5th, 1955.  I remember it vividly. I was standing on the edge of my toilet hanging a clock, the porcelain was wet, I slipped, hit my head on the edge of the sink. And when I came to I had a revelation, a picture, a picture in my head, a picture of this. This is what makes time travel possible. The Flux Capacitor.

No wait, that’s not right.  I’ve always dabbled in writing since at least the third grade.  I won some high school awards for it, but never really pursued it.  Around 2000, my friends in publishing and I decided we were sick of seeing all the other books coming out that we sat our butts down in chairs, critiqued the hell out of each other, and now all of us are published several times over.

I may not have always wanted to be a writer, but I always wanted to entertain.

Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
To those who have read my work, you have my thanks.  To those about to read my work, you have my thanks in advance. To those of you not reading me, *points at you with one crooked finger extended*  “thinner.”

Author Bio: Anton Strout was born in the Berkshire Hills mere miles from writing heavyweights Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. He currently lives in the haunted corn maze that is New Jersey (where nothing paranormal ever really happens, he assures you).

He is the author of the Simon Canderous urban fantasy series and the Spellmason Chronicles for Ace Books, a division of Penguin Random House. Anton is also the author of many short tales published in anthologies by DAW Books. His latest book, Incarnate, the third Spellmason Chronicles book, is coming out September 30, 2014.

In his scant spare time, his is a writer, a sometimes actor, sometimes musician, occasional RPGer, and the worlds most casual and controller smashing video gamer. He currently works in the exciting world of publishing and yes, it is as glamorous as it sounds.

He is currently hard at work on his next book and be found lurking the darkened hallways of antonstrout.com or talking with your favorite SF&F authors on The Once and Future Podcast (www.theonceandfuturepodcast.com), where he is host and content curator.


Book Review: Binary Witness by: Rosie Claverton


Rating: 4/5

Publisher: Carina Press

Publication Date: May 5, 2014

Origins:  From Author for Review

Synopsis: Police detectives rely on Amy Lane to track the digital debris of their most elusive criminals—when she’s not in the throes of a panic attack. After two students disappear in Cardiff, Amy uncovers photographic evidence that they've been murdered. From the safety of her computer, she looks through the city’s digital eyes to trace the steps of a killer.

Amy’s investigation requires footwork, however, and the agoraphobic genius can’t hack it alone. She turns to her newly-hired cleaner, ex-con Jason Carr. Jason is fascinated by both Amy and the work, and can’t refuse even when she sends him into situations that risk returning him to prison.

The killer strikes again and again, and Amy and Jason are the only investigators closing in on him. But Amy’s psyche is cracking under the strain, and Jason’s past is catching up with him. To stop the next murder, they must hold their unconventional partnership together at any cost.

Series: The Amy Lane Mysteries series

Review: BINARY WITNESS is the first book in the Amy Lane mystery series. Amy is an agoraphobe and a hacker genius who assists the police in Cardiff, England with their tough cases. Jason Carr is an ex-con who has found a job at a cleaning service. This is how he meets Amy as her sister has hired the cleaning service on her behalf. Amy’s investigating a serial murder case for the police - Detectives Bryn and Owain, who have used Amy’s talents many times before. Jason is intrigued by Amy’s work, but Amy is hesitant at first. However, Jason’s persistence and his viewpoint get through to Amy and she starts using him to do the things she can’t leave the house to do on the case. Amy’s fragility and Jason’s past are factors which will strain them both to near the breaking point as the killer closes in on the next victim. Together they must fight for the solution and to keep their partnership intact.

BINARY WITNESS is a solid mystery with characters who I was instantly drawn to and with whom I empathized. I was glad the author didn’t try and force a romance between Amy and Jason because I think it would have taken away from both of their characters and the story itself. I definitely preferred their partnership and growing friendship. BINARY WITNESS’ suspenseful mystery and cleverly crafted characters will drag you into the mystery easily and keep your attention until the twisted end. I especially relished the fact I wasn’t able to figure out the mystery until Amy and Jason did. Being able to keep the readers guessing is the hallmark of a shrewd author. I am eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.

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Book Review: The Bone Seeker by: M.J. McGrath


Rating: 3/5

Publisher: Viking Adult

Publication Date: July 24, 2014

Origins:  From Publisher for Review

Synopsis: The intrepid Edie Kiglatuk discovers one of her female students dead in a toxic lake in her third arctic mystery

In the third novel in this highly praised mystery series that will appeal to fans of The Killing, Top of the Lake, and The Bridge, Edie Kiglatuk works as a summer school teacher in the Canadian arctic. When one of her female students is found dead in nearby Lake Turngaluk, Edie enlists the help of Sergeant Derek Palliser to pursue the case, promising the girl’s Inuit family that they will uncover the truth. Meanwhile, lawyer Sonia Gutierrez investigates the toxicity of the lake and suspects that there might be a larger conspiracy involved. As the three clamber over rocky terrain under twenty-four-hour daylight they start to unearth secrets long frozen over—risking their own lives in the process. With stunning prose, M. J. McGrath delivers another thrill ride through a hauntingly beautiful landscape.

Series: Edie Kiglatuk Mystery Series

Review: Edie Kiglatuk is currently working as a summer school teacher in Kuujuaq (up in the Canadian Arctic) when one of her students goes missing. Martha Salliaq is found dead in the taboo Lake Turngaluk (the Lake of Bad Spirits) nearby and Edie is convinced it is a homicide. Convincing Sgt. Derek Palliser to investigate, Edie is determined to find out what really happened to Martha. Meanwhile Martha’s father, Charlie, is positive it was an outsider from the military base close to the village who killed her. However, there are more players in this deadly cat-and-mouse game than Edie is initially aware and one of them just may kill again to keep long-buried secrets from being uncovered.

THE BONE SEEKER is the first Edie Kiglatuk mystery I’ve read and I felt it stood very well on its own. With the stark landscape setting a chilling atmosphere, it almost becomes its own character. The story was very well-research, the plot developed nicely, and the characters are complex and strongly developed. THE BONE SEEKER taps in to cultural biases, age-old atrocities, and the price each generation pays for the sins of their fathers. Gritty and visceral, THE BONE SEEKER will take you on a fascinating ride through the Canadian Arctic and her people.

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Book Review: The Big Wide Calm by: Rich Marcello


Rating: 5/5

Publisher: Langdon Street Press

Publication Date: July 15, 2014

Origins:  From Publicist for Review

Synopsis: Paige is a rock star. The world just doesn't know it yet. She's got the charisma, the drive, and, of course, the mega-musical skills. All she needs is to make her debut album, one that will change the world, inspire revolutions--and make her galactically famous along the way.

When John Bustin, a former semi-famous singer/songwriter offers to record Paige's album for free, it feels like destiny, like the next step on her way to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Guitar in hand, Paige sets off to John's recording compound, ready to unfold her future.

But the ever-elusive John, with his mysterious history, and Paige, a big dreamer but naive about her footing in life, clash as much as they coalesce. Before they can change the world through Paige's music, the improbable duo must learn to work together.

A coming of age story and retrospective, The Big Wide Calm focuses on human nature and the complexities of love through the eyes of young and old on the journey of creating the perfect album.

Review: Paige Plant has been groomed to be a musical superstar all her life; just look at her name! She’s got the talent, the ‘it-factor’, and the ambition to make it big, but she needs to create and record her debut album. When Paige auditions for the reclusive singer/songwriter/producer John Bustin, he offers her the deal of a lifetime – he’ll record her album for free, a place for her to stay, and a stipend. Paige accepts, but doesn’t realize the toll the creation of her debut album will have on her. Searching for the elusive ‘big wide calm’, the place of ancient truth which touches all hearts, Paige must grow into her authentic self.

THE BIG WIDE CALM takes readers to an entirely different place within themselves. The story is told in Paige’s voice; insightful, na├»ve, funny, and very smart. I was drawn into Paige’s world easily as it was clear the author is deeply invested in these characters and it shone through the pages. THE BIG WIDE CALM will resonate with readers because, at heart, we all long to create something meaningful and harshly beautiful. Unfortunately, not all of us have a John in our life to push us beyond our preconceived boundaries. Thankfully Paige does and while the road is rocky, her story is inspiring. THE BIG WIDE CALM is a contemporary novel which hits all the right notes.

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Book Review: Walled In by: H.L. Carpenter


Rating: 4/5

Publisher: Musa Publishing

Publication Date: May 2014

Origins:  From Author for Review

Synopsis: When her father is accused of fraud, seventeen year old Vandy Spencer discovers her entire life has been built on a heart-shattering deception.

Seventeen year old Vandy Spencer lives like a princess. Sheltered by her wealthy family, she happily makes plans to spend a fantasy before-college gap summer with her gorgeous boyfriend.

Then her dad is accused of a huge financial fraud. Vandy is thrust into a frenzy of media attention as accusations and innuendos pile up daily. The victims of her dad’s swindle vow revenge, and her dad flees.

As her perfect life disintegrates, Vandy struggles to separate reality from lies. Was her perfect life truly so perfect? Did she ever really know her father?

When family secrets come to light, revealing an unimaginable betrayal, Vandy learns to appreciate the simple richness of sincerity and truth.

Review: Previously, Vandy Spencer’s only worry is about getting ready for a trip to Paris during her ‘gap summer’ with her boyfriend, Stenny. She’s always been Daddy’s Princess, sheltered and living a pampered life. When her father is accused of financial fraud (essentially a Ponzi scheme), the Spencer family is thrown into a maelstrom. The media is clamoring for blood, along with investors who want their money back, all sorts of nuts who are coming out of the woodwork, and Vandy’s life won’t ever be the same. Can she believe in her father or is her perfect family the biggest lie of all? WALLED IN is an interesting coming of age story. Vandy’s sheltered and spoiled; she means well, but she doesn’t understand how the real world works. When her father’s accused of stealing money and fraud, her world goes up in smoke. Now only the truth will satisfy Vandy and she’s not getting it from her family. As she struggles to discover her family’s secrets and live life on her own terms, she learns there are things in the world which she never noticed before and her eyes are finally opened. WALLED IN shows how important truth is over the trappings of a so-called perfect life.

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