Saturday, September 6, 2014

"Hand of Chaos" by J. Hamlet

Hand of Chaos
(Chaos Theology Volume 1)
by J. Hamlet

Hand of Chaos is currently on tour with Masquerade Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my interview with the author and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Exhausted, cynical, and confused, Anna is always there to report for duty. She's part of a clandestine government team that defends the nation against supernatural terrorism - a job that understandably leaves her life in shambles and drives her to drink a little more than she should. Toss in a fear of intimacy with a desire to have friends and lovers like a normal person and, well, Anna is a troubled soul wrapped in a special agent with arcane, magical powers. Waking up hungover at five-thirty in the morning with a zombie-infested apartment building in the heart of DC to deal with, she knows she's got the makings of the worst morning possible.
Her team is its own challenge. A battle-scarred Nigerian shaman, a bookish shape-shifter, an inept summoner, and a brilliant but cantankerous wizard round it all out. Her partner, an immortal and cursed Paladin, is the only person she knows more jaded than herself. Getting them all to work together is never easy, with Anna often caught in the cross fire.
Their target, Ethan Morgan, is one pissed off necromancer. His brother was KIA by his own government, the victim of an experimental magical weapon they decided to test on the battlefield. Now bent on revenge and sponsored by one of hell's most powerful demons, Ethan has a plan of his own to make us all pay. Anna and her team are fighting against the wake of destruction, but Ethan is always one step ahead. With the number of bodies he leaves and reanimates growing exponentially, Anna's wondering if they'll stop him before he engulfs everyone in an undead horde.

“On my way over,” a gruff male voice said on the other end. “ETA about five minutes. We’ve got an emergency, the violent kind. I think we’ve got a big body count already, and it’s growing. You awake?”
“Definitely not awake,” Anna groaned. She rolled out of bed, grabbing a pair of jeans hung over a nearby chair. “For fuck’s sake, it’s five thirty, Roy. I don’t usually report for another three hours. Remember, some of us actually need sleep.”
“Right,” Roy said. “I forget sometimes.” He would, Anna thought. Roy's otherworldly qualities were many, and not needing sleep was a big one. “Can you be ready anyway? This might be huge.” Anna stuck her palm to her forehead and rubbed the sleep out of the corners of her eyes. She exhaled in a deep breath and tried to feel whatever currents of magic she could.
“Yeah,” Anna mumbled irritably, pulling her jeans up and looking for a bra. “What do I need?” She fumbled with her keys, unlocking the jewelry box on her dresser with a few carved glyphs and finished with a veneer of obsidian and silver. The wards around it reacted to her special key with a hum. A collection of arcane rings, earrings, assorted other piercings, amulets, and bracelets shined back at her. Anna’s abilities were all about turning these enchanted trinkets into deadly weapons. A swirling orb in the center of her jewelry box recharged them.
“By the sound of it, you’ll need a lot, and we’re going to be first on the scene,” Roy barked. “Looks like Flamers, by all indications. We have word of a hit apartment building, a bunch of strange 911 calls—police and firefighters coming to the scene in waves. The Churchies wouldn’t do something like this. It’s not their style.” Flamers, Churchies. It didn't matter that much. To Anna, they were two sides of the same depraved coin.

Praise for the Book
"In this rollicking debut novel, Hamlet successfully transforms bureaucratic infighting into an apocalyptic struggle between good and evil." ~ Kirkus Indie Review
"This book is chock full of yes. The main character, Anna Wei, is a brilliant combination of punk, sorcerer, and exhausted bureaucrat trying to have a second life outside of her job, one that clashes completely with the secret government agency she works for. She is likable enough instantly to root for out of the gate ..." ~ Awesome Indies Reviews
"I've been a fan of urban fantasy ever since I read the first book in the Dresden Files series, and Hand of Chaos is a great addition to the genre. It took off from the beginning, and didn't let up through the whole way through ... As far as the characters, wow. Anna Wei was a great female lead. She was strong, tough, and determined. It was easy to like her and the other members of her team ..." ~ Platypire Reviews (5 out of 5 Platypires)
"Hand of Chaos by J. Hamlet really grabbed my attention with the action packed mission Anna and her crew was on. Flawed, supporting characters made the story even better with their colorful personalities. I can honestly recommend this book to lovers of a good, dark fantasy." ~ Savannah Mae, Blogcritics
"Hamlet weaves a successful story featuring realistic issues, true-to-life personalities and he uses fantasy, science fiction and paranormal genres to turn Hand of Chaos into a uniquely riveting read." ~ Charline Ratcliff Reviews
"The vast array of characters are creative and well written. The lead, Anna Wei, is tough and gritty - someone well worth her salt. She possesses arcane powers, fascinating to become involved with if you are unfamiliar, and isn't afraid to use them!" ~ Masquerade Crew (4.0 out of 5.0 on the Masq Scale)

Interview With the Author
Hi J., thanks for joining me today to discuss your new book, Hand of Chaos.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
Given the language, violence, and sexual content, it's definitely not for children. Likely it's appropriate in the New Adult and up category. I wanted to write about people with messy personal lives and I wanted to portray the magic in the story as something dangerous and destructive. As such, a lot of the content got pretty explicit.
What sparked the idea for this book?
Some ideas had been marinating in my brain after watching the Hellboy movies and reading those comics and also being really into the BBC show Spooks. I really liked Spooks as it had this rotating cast of characters with shredded personal lives but they kept pressing on because they were dedicated and believed in the job. Then, of course, I had a recurring nightmare about my high rise apartment building being swarmed with the undead. I started to think I could marry it all together.
So, which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
For me it's usually a little of both. They feed off each other. I had the villain of Hand of Chaos, Ethan, in mind from the very start but obviously certain elements of his personality and how I wanted to betray him really shaped his arc into more than a collection of bad deeds. Anna, the heroine of the story, was born a little more organically as I wrote along. I had some ideas about her, but as I started exploring this world through her eyes it gave me a lot more material to write about and ideas about how to shape her story. Making sure both of them stayed in character caused me to rethink a lot of plot points because I didn't want them going in directions that didn't make sense.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
The middle. With spy thrillers/procedurals, there's often a lull as the characters slowly figure out what the villain's plan is by chasing their tails or interviewing shady characters, and I wanted it to be more interesting than that. Especially considering the type of world Hand of Chaos takes place in, with lots of different kinds of magic and factions, I also didn't want the middle to be nothing but a catastrophic exposition dump. Avoiding both of those was challenging and took a lot of rewrites and editing.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
Hopefully they're entertained and don't think of this as the same old zombie novel, as there are some zombies in it but there's a lot more to it than that. Being that it takes a different look at religion, and particularly the sometimes toxic nature of fundamentalism, I also hope that it may provoke a few thoughts on that subject in the reader.
How long did it take you to write this book?
Many years. I started in the fall of 2007 as part of National Novel Writing Month and finished the first draft around the summer of 2008. From there, I did tons of edits and rewrites and it didn't make it to publishing until 2013. That's almost six years of solid effort. I had to change a lot of technology stuff because smart phones became ubiquitous during that time and even places in DC where I had set things changed drastically, so there were a lot of updates.
What is your writing routine?
I mostly write as part of a writing meet-up every week and then a few other nights, so not as frequent as it should be, but it's tough when it's not your day job. I do participate in National Novel Writing Month every year, though. Even if I don't have a real usable manuscript at the other end of the 50,000 words, I usually have interesting ideas and material I can cannibalize into something else.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
I'm taking a lot of what I did during two previous NaNoWriMos and posting it on a Tumblr blog I created called Scarred Earth. It's sort of an alien invasion story told in tiny fragments of stories. It's been an interesting experiment so far, and I want to continue keeping it up as it challenges me to stay on a regular schedule and to put a lot of content out there that gives people a sense of who I am and what I'm about. I'm also working, always working on the sequel to Hand of Chaos. Hopefully that takes me less than six years to finish!
Thank you for taking the time to stop by today. Best of luck with your future projects.

From the Author
Everyone needs a hobby. And, like most people, I hope one day that my hobby will liberate me from my mind-numbing day job. I chose writing. Not one of the easier ones. I chose it at the tender age of 14, churning out terrible science fiction novels that heaped on the clichés and barely hidden tropes of all space operas. Thankfully, those creations reside in the prison of an old Commodore 64 hard drive and several 3.5" disks (kids, ask your parents) in a landfill somewhere. And, let me be clear, the world is better for it.
Along the way, I kept writing. Through college. Through grad school. Through the beginning of my career, such as it is. I like to believe I picked up skills. I wanted to write novels that had things I wanted to see. Hand of Chaos, my debut novel, brings together elements of a spy thriller and a police procedural with dark and urban fantasy. I followed that with Scarred Earth, a serial alien invasion novel I'm releasing entirely through Tumblr. I'm probably going about this all wrong, but I don't know any other way.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $50 gift card.