4 Oct 2019

Science Fiction and Fantasy Fridays: THE LIBRARY OF THE UNWRITTEN by A.J. Hackwith

04 October 1 Comments

Science Fiction and Fantasy Fridays

introduces readers who are unfamiliar with the Adult SF/F genre to books, authors, and discussions all about the vast expanse of the world of Adult SF/F!


Author: A.J. Hackwitch
Series: A Novel from Hell's Library #1
Source: eARC via Publisher
Publisher: Ace Books
Publication Date: October 1, 2019

In the first book in a brilliant new fantasy series, books that aren't finished by their authors reside in the Library of the Unwritten in Hell, and it is up to the Librarian to track down any restless characters who emerge from those unfinished stories.

Many years ago, Claire was named Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing-- a neutral space in Hell where all the stories unfinished by their authors reside. Her job consists mainly of repairing and organizing books, but also of keeping an eye on restless stories that risk materializing as characters and escaping the library. When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto.

But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong when the terrifyingly angelic Ramiel attacks them, convinced that they hold the Devil's Bible. The text of the Devil's Bible is a powerful weapon in the power struggle between Heaven and Hell, so it falls to the librarians to find a book with the power to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell….and Earth.
Amazon | Chapters | TBD

Describe THE ORCHID THRONE in 10 words or less.

A.J. HackwithLibrarian of unwritten books hunts runaway character, catches hell instead.

What was your favourite scene to write in THE LIBRARY OF THE UNWRITTEN?

A.J. HackwithWhat a tough question! I think most readers would think I’d pick a major dramatic scene, but as far as what was the most fun to write, there’s a duel, midway through the book, between two storytellers with very different ideas of stories and books. 

They duel using quotes, of course, and the fight occurs while a more standard swordfight is happening next to them. It let me combine my two favorite things: meta-humor and fight scenes. It required a combination of action and humor that was challenging, but it was a blast to draft and pull off. 

What is the most interesting part of writing fantasy? How are these elements incorporated into your novels?

A.J. HackwithThere’s a highwire writers walk when writing fantasy. You are trying to build a world that’s fantastical enough to capture a reader’s imagination, but credible enough that they’ll go along for the ride. A lot of skilled authors lean on the realism, but I like making the world only just familiar enough--and fun enough--to gain a reader’s trust. 

I’m a fan of the AUTHOR knowing how everything works, but only giving the reader as much exposition and detail as the story absolutely requires. That means I tried to make sure the rules and magic of the Library made poetic sense--they felt true, to book readers--without going into deep detail that would break the spell.  Worlds should have rules, but more importantly worlds should have physics which can be felt. You should understand that something is going to fall without necessarily knowing the details of gravitational force.

The fun thing is, physics can surprise you. Sometimes eggs balance on their ends--that’s what I save my exposition for. The exceptions can help explain the norm.

Did you incorporate any of your “shelved” manuscripts into the stories that are unwritten? If yes, why did you stop writing them?

A.J. HackwithI was writing a library of the books that never got written--it was impossible NOT to insert some references to my trunked works and the works of my dearest writer friends! You’ll see sly slivers of those in the names of damsels (awakened under-appreciated characters from unwritten books), names of places, and references to particular stories. 

I’ve trunked a couple very early novels. I first attempted NaNoWriMo during my first year in college--I ‘won,’ but only barely. The draft was a fun but fairly derivative Urban Fantasy, which politely lingers and gathers dust in my own section of the Unwritten wing. For the last few years, I am less likely to trunk unfinished ideas as I am prone to tearing it apart and repurposing the good bits into a successful project. No writing is wasted. If an idea doesn’t work out, I can always mulch it into fertilizer for the next one.

What do you like most about writing a series? How does THE LIBRARY OF THE UNWRITTEN fall into this?

A.J. Hackwith: The fun thing about writing a series is getting to craft very large character arcs that would feel too rushed in a single book. I try to make sure each book is a complete story--the cliffhanger ending for books always bugs me--but at the same time explore a larger arc over the course of a series. I’m entering into drafting the third and final book of the trilogy right now, and my number one goal is to make sure each of the Library crew get an emotionally satisfying resolution to their personal arc. Everyone’s changed so much! It’s bittersweet, but it is also really fun to work in callbacks and mirrors to where they all started in the first book.

Claire is Hell’s librarian - what would be her number one recommendation to people to read?

A.J. Hackwith: She couldn’t recommend anything from her own library--impossible to acquire a copy! I think Claire, being intimately familiar with the agonies of stories that don’t get told, would strongly encourage readers to read books by marginalized authors. We’re entering into a period of books where we’re getting more options (and yet more are needed). That would be her number one recommendation: read outside your own experience! A story only exists if its read.

For sci-fi and fantasy readers, for example, she might shove the BINTI series of novellas, by Nnedi Okafor, in your hands, along with Fonda Lee’s JADE CITY, J. Y. Yang’s Tensorate series, and Rebecca Roanhorse’s TRAIL OF LIGHTNING. 

What can we expect from you next?

A.J. Hackwith
I have my hands full with the subsequent two books of the Hell’s Library trilogy! I’m working on drafting the final book now, and it is a very weird thing going through the bittersweet feelings of finishing a trilogy when the first book is only just being shared with the world. But I’ve had such a wonderful journey writing it, and I hope readers will have a wonderful journey reading it. 

This trilogy certainly isn’t the only one in my own personal unwritten library, however. There are projects-in-waiting that I am right now internally referring to as ‘Shrinepunk-heist book’ and ‘Map!Magic book’. I hope readers will enjoy the journey of The Library of the Unwritten books enough to join me on the next one.

What are some of your favourite Adult SFF books?

2 Oct 2019

Quarterly Wrap-Up (4): 2019 Reading Goals [July-September]

02 October 2 Comments

Welcome to the third quarterly update for 2019!

I wasn't originally going to do these types of posts, especially since I am doing Stacking the Shelves posts. However, I want to update on my reading goals, favourite reads, etc. etc. There are categories below and you can see them there.

I did a Quarterly Wrap-Up for Science Fiction and Fantasy Fridays so let me know which format of these you prefer since I'm trying out a couple different ways of doing that.

Read the original 2019 Reading Goals post!

See how I did in the first quarter of the year by clicking here!

See how I did in the second quarter of the year by clicking here!

Reading Goal Progress

  • 2019 Overall Goal: 108/150 Books
  • Page Count: 31, 404/108,000
  • NetGalley eARCs: 5/55 Books
  • Adult Novels: 56/75 Books
  • Diverse Novels: 40/75 Books
  • Poetry Collections: 18/50 Books
  • "Outside" My Comfort Zone: 19/30 Books

My Progress Thoughts:

I thought that because of ARC August, I would catch up on my NetGalley eARCs, but I'm still massively failing at that. Part of this is because I have mainly been listening to audiobooks to read and that generally means I don't clear those off. However, I'm starting to listen to my ARCs as audios so I can clear them off in that regard. I want to get back up to as high as possible with my ratio.

I'm trying to catch up on specific authors I have fallen behind on reading their novels (like Elise Kova) which also plays into the behind-ness on some of my reading challenges and goals. However, I am doing so well on reading Adult Novels because of Science Fiction and Fantasy Fridays! I have been trying my best to get that feature back up and running here on Books and Ladders and I'm glad that I have been able to (thanks audiobooks!). 

I am behind on diverse novels, but not as behind as I thought I would be. I should be doing better and sticking to my 1:1 but I am happy with what I have done considering it was also a goal to read from my shelves. So we are making due.

Top 5 Reads

I liked the way that murder was discussed in this and how people were reaped. Also, math was a part of this and I didn't hate it????
It was a really great story that was about female empowerment, understanding how to take care of yourself, and knowing what it means to be broken.
I will say though this is a super slow burn romance and every time I wanted them to get it on, they did not get it on. So be prepared for that!
But it was a nice peek into the author's way of writing and get a taste of what else you can expect to read. I look forward to reading more from the authors!
A lot of really relatable poems and feelings in this one and I really connected to all of them. 

Top 5 Instagram Posts

Upcoming Reviews and Features

How have your reading goals been so far this year?

1 Oct 2019

#BlogTour: THE ORCHID THRONE by Jeffe Kennedy

01 October 0 Comments
Hello and welcome to my blog tour post for

THE ORCHID THRONE by Jeffe Kennedy!

I have an interview with the author and an excerpt from the book for you today! Be sure to check that out below. But first, let's learn more about the book...


Author: Jeffe Kennedy
Series: Forgotten Empires #1
Source: eARC via Publisher
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: September 24, 2019



As Queen of the island kingdom of Calanthe, Euthalia will do anything to keep her people
free—and her secrets safe—from the mad tyrant who rules the mainland. Guided by a magic ring of her father’s, Lia plays the political game with the cronies the emperor sends to her island. In her heart, she knows that it’s up to her to save herself from her fate as the emperor’s bride. But in her dreams, she sees a man, one with the power to build a better world—a man whose spirit is as strong, and whose passion is as fierce as her own…


Conrí, former Crown Prince of Oriel, has built an army to overthrow the emperor. But he needs the fabled Abiding Ring to succeed. The ring that Euthalia holds so dear to her heart. When the two banished rulers meet face to face, neither can deny the flames of rebellion that flicker in their eyes—nor the fires of desire that draw them together. But in this broken world of shattered kingdoms, can they ever really trust each other? Can their fiery alliance defeat the shadows of evil that threaten to engulf their hearts and souls?

Describe THE ORCHID THRONE in 10 words or less.

Jeffe Kennedy“A timeless tale of love and survival amidst a lush backdrop teeming with greed and deceit.” Okay, that’s 16 words, and I didn’t write them. Darynda Jones did, but they’re so good!

What was your favourite scene to write in THE ORCHID THRONE?

Jeffe KennedyThe wedding night. I always like writing the sex scenes best! I also love the scene where the hero, Conrí, first walks into the heroine’s court and sees Queen Euthalia on the throne. 

What is the most interesting part of writing fantasy? How are these elements incorporated into your novels?

Jeffe KennedyFantasy is fun to write because I can create an alternate world that mirrors our own without being too pointed. For example, I can comment on a tyrannical and oppressive ruler without evoking any current politicians—and the knee-jerk opinions surrounding them. I also get to write about people who live large lives and affect the world in a powerful way. I’m not a queen or a warrior or a sorceress, but through my novels, I can be all of those things!

Who is your favourite character in this story?

Jeffe KennedyReally, I do love them all. I have a fondness for Ambrose, as he’s a character I’ve wanted to write for a long time. But I love my heroine, Lia, the best.

What do you like most about writing a series? How does THE ORCHID THRONE fall into this?

Jeffe Kennedy: I apparently think either very short or very long, with not much in the middle. I started out writing short stories and essays. When I transitioned to writing novels, they all turned out to be series. I like having enough space to build convincing political changes in a fantasy world, and I love a slow-burn romance. Enemies to lovers is one of my favorite tropes, but I don’t like it when characters are suddenly cured of past traumas or seem to forget why they were enemies. Those changes take time. So, THE ORCHID THRONE is the first in a trilogy with the same hero and heroine—which gives me the time and space to build their epic love affair. 

Lia is a queen with political know how - what would she be doing in our modern world?

Jeffe KennedyWell, she’s young, so since she’d be unlikely to inherit a throne in our world. But if we gave her a parallel life, she’d probably be a young CEO of her family’s major corporation—and she’d have completed law school, but still getting her MBA on the side. 😊

What can we expect from you next?

Jeffe KennedyTHE FIERY CROWN, the sequel to THE ORCHID THRONE, is complete, so that’s coming next in this series. I just approved the final cover, and it’s gorgeous! 

Also, the French translation of the first book in my Sorcerous Moons series, LONEN’S WAR or LA GUERRE DE LONEN, will be out next month. And sometime around the end of October I’ll be releasing the climactic book in my Uncharted Realms series, THE FATE OF THE TALA.
“Arise, Your Highness. The realm awaits the sun of Your presence.”

The ritual words cut through the thick smoke of the nightmare, bringing me awake with a start. A bad omen that I hadn’t come out of the dreams on my own—and a sign that gave the images the power to linger in my mind, stains refusing to be scrubbed clean.

The wolf fought its chains, howling in hoarse rage, shedding fire and ash.

The sea churned, bloodred and crimson dark, bones tossed in the waves, white as foam.

The tower fell into a pile of golden rubble, then to fine sand, the grains sliding against one another with soul-grinding whispered screams.

I loathe dreaming, where I have even less control than in the waking world. Calanthe Herself sings sweetly to me of the seas, the plants, and the creatures that walk Her soil. But outside our fragile island, the abandoned lands beyond cry like frightened children in the night. I can’t help them. It’s all I can do to protect Calanthe, and most days I despair of being able to do even that.

Still, with no one else to hear them, they call to me in chaotic images, the nightmares dashing me from one dark scenario to the next. No matter how the dreams plague me, I usually wake when the light of the rising sun reddens my eyelids. I keep my eyes closed, pretending to anyone who checks on me that I’m still asleep. Pulling the pieces of my composure together, I listen to the morning song of Calanthe. The birds sitting high in the canopy to catch the first warming rays of the sun show me the sky. The fish swimming in the sea speak of clean water and plentiful food. Even the trees, the flowers, the small insects in the soil all hum to me of their lives.

All reassure me of the balance, that Calanthe, at least, is peaceful and vital.

Only I and the land I’m tied to exist in that time after sleep and before true waking, in what I call the dreamthink, an almost enchanted bubble where I belong entirely to Calanthe. The emperor does not own me. The crying lands he’s orphaned are silent. My ladies have not yet woken me to wrenching reality and the trials of the day ahead.

Dreams always seem to me a terrible price to pay for the succor of sleep. Neither my naturalists nor my physicians seem to be able to explain the purpose of such dreams. And of course, Anure killed all the wizards, so I have none to tell me if magic can answer those nighttime screams. So without answers, and like the exorbitant tithes I’m forced to send to the emperor, I do pay the price, and nightly. The dreamthink is my reward, my time with Calanthe. A gift arising from waking Ejarat of the earth welcoming the return of Her husband, Sawehl of the sun. In the dreamthink, in Calanthe’s sweet communion, I can believe the old gods are with us still, that they haven’t abandoned us. That I have reason to hope.

“Euthalia, wake up. We’re ready,” Tertulyn whispered in my ear. My first lady-in-waiting, doing her duty as always. She couldn’t know she’d woken me from the nightmare instead of the dreamthink. Or that starting my day this way meant it would be certainly cursed.

No one believes in omens or curses anymore. Or hope, for that matter. In this, too, I am alone.
Euthalia is a mouthful, but no one calls me that except for Tertulyn so it doesn’t matter. Only Emperor Anure has the rank to address me by my given name, and I avoid conversation with His Imperial Nastiness to the best of my ability. Tertulyn has called me by my name since we were children, but only when no one can overhear, as etiquette demands.

As if she’d whispered them into my ear along with my name, the concerns of the realm immediately flooded my mind. The emperor’s emissary should have returned in the night and would want an audience with me—something I’d been dreading, as he never brought good news. Rumors had spread of slave uprisings, possibly even rebellion, as unlikely as that would be, that had the emperor both angry and insecure in his power. The worst possible combination in a man like him.

If I believed a rebellion could succeed, I would rejoice in the battle to come. But I had no hope of that. No one could defy Anure’s vast power and ability to destroy the least whimper of resistance, as all those kingless and queenless lands testified, crying their hopelessness to me every night.

No, such rumors meant the Imperial Tyrant would only tighten his fist—one that already strangled us nearly to death. The prospect of worse to come made me inexpressibly weary, and I hadn’t even gotten out of bed yet.

Nevertheless, I had to face the day. A realm awaited the sun of my presence, after all.

I opened my eyes and pasted a serene smile on my lips.

Tertulyn—already wigged, gowned, and decked in fresh flowers—stood a decorous three steps back from my bed, hands folded over her heart. All equally polished and lovely as morning dew, my five junior ladies awaited in a ring around her. They’d all been up since well before dawn to dress themselves before attending me. And yet their eyes sparkled as brightly as the birds that had shown me the sun on the sea, pretty painted lips curved in delighted smiles. Though I was only twenty-six, they made me feel old.

If a witch offered me a magic potion to remove the last ten years and restore my youth—and the innocent belief I’d had then, that my life would be a good one—I’d down it without question. Even if it meant my death the next day. No, that was a lie. I would never shirk my duty to Calanthe, not even for such a fantasy. Not without an heir to take my place. No matter how old and tired I felt.
JEFFE KENNEDY is an award-winning, bestselling author who writes fantasy, fantasy romance, and contemporary romance. She serves on the Board of Directors for SFWA as a Director at Large. 

Her most recent works include Prisoner of the Crown and the upcoming Exile of the Seas, from her high fantasy trilogy from Rebel Base books, The Chronicles of Dasnaria, in the same world as her award-winning fantasy series The Twelve Kingdoms and The Uncharted Realms. She is a hybrid author, and also self-publishes a fantasy series, Sorcerous Moons. Her books have won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2015, been named Best Book of June 2014, and won RWA’s prestigious RITA® Award. 

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the SFF Seven blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and on Twitter @jeffekennedy.

Connect with the Author:

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook

Are you excited for this one? Is it on your TBR?