Once Upon a Time with… Nancy K. Wallace!


nancy-k-wallaceWelcome again to Once Upon a Time with… where we interview a fellow author.

Today, we welcome Nancy K. Wallace, the author of Harper Voyager’s Fantasy series, Wolves of Llisé. Nancy was signed in the same open submission pool where we had our start, and it’s been a blast getting to know her.

Like any good fairy tale, let’s begin with Once Upon a Time. Nancy, what’s your “Once Upon a Time”?

I led a charmed childhood thanks to loving and creative parents. Our house came complete with bedtime stories, Summer Solstice Tea Parties for the fairies who lived in our woods, magical Christmas Eves, gumdrop trees, and ponies. I went to bed every night knowing my parents loved me and that tomorrow would bring some new wonderful, magical adventure! Continue reading


What is The Dark Lord?

DarkLord FINAL cover

Fear The Dark Lord!

In less than a month, the ebook of The Dark Lord will be available (November 1st to be exact!) We are very excited, but we’ve also realized that other than the cover reveal, we haven’t posted much about it. Time to start fixing that…

The Dark Lord is the first of a new series where we have fun with epic fantasy, much in the way The Charming Tales twist fairy tales in amusing ways. It’s part Lord of the Rings, part Dungeons & Dragons, a touch of World of Warcraft, a hint of Magic: The Gathering, and a wee pinch of Amber, just for good measure. Oh, and college, because what better place for fantasy than a university?

Our protagonist, Avery, is a grad student at the mystical Mysterium University (worthy of its own blog post) attempting to complete his dissertation. He wants to take the sub-world of Trelari, a dimension of lesser reality and ‘innoculate’ it from the forces of evil. In order to do so, he uses himself as a vaccine. He becomes The Dark Lord, and unites all the powers of darkness. This inspires the forces of good to unite to oppose him and allows the Heroes of the Age to assemble and ‘defeat’ him. Good triumphs over evil and all is right with the world. Avery returns home and looks forward to his graduate degree. Life is good.

Until Avery succumbs to temptation and allows an undergrad to steal Trelari’s Key to Reality. When she enters the sub-world, Avery has to follow. His only true ally is his roommate Eldrin, and without the Key to Reality, he has to unite with the heroes who opposed him when he was The Dark Lord.

It’s a more serious novel than The Charming Tales, although it’s filled with some amusing characters including a Semi-Lich and the Master of Dungeons. There are also possibly gelatinous polygons. If you ever played fantasy roleplaying games or read epic fantasy, we hope that you’ll give the novel a try. You will laugh and probably reminisce quite a bit as you catch our references.


Copy Edits for The Dark Lord

The time has come. We’ve received the copy edits for The Dark Lord back from Harper and are doing the final review of the text before everything is set in stone for the November 1st ebook release.

Here’s how the process works. First, we send in the initial draft to our editor. She does her magic to it, and sends it back with insights, feedback and suggested changes. We take some time to review and meet her requests and return it to her. She looks over everything again and decides whether or not to send it out for copy editing. The copy editor fixes our grammar and points out any issues that we and our editor missed. We have a final opportunity to look everything over, make any final minor tweaks, and then we are done.

The last edit isn’t so bad, except that we do it in about a week and our novel is over 100,000 words long. We know what we will be doing this weekend.

More details to come, but they may come after copy edits are turned in next week. Until then, all the best!

The Dark Lord Cover is Here!

It feels like we’ve been writing and rewriting The Dark Lord forever, but finally, November 1st, ebook release day, is just around the corner. Preorders are available. This is a new series for us, but don’t worry, Charming fans, we’re still committed to you. The Dark Lord combines our love of roleplaying games and epic fantasy with grad school and a bit of humor. It’s a bit well, darker than Charming…

So here we go… Continue reading

The Dark Lord Comes! Cover Reveal Tomorrow.

Hi everyone,

Tomorrow, we will reveal the cover for The Dark Lord, Jack Heckel’s next book. It’s the start of a new series and our version of a love letter to roleplaying and epic fantasy.

The Dark Lord comes…and his name is Avery?

Stay tuned. 🙂

Twice the Author Jack Heckel Used To Be

Most people know that Jack Heckel is not one person, but actually the name that John Peck and Harry Heckel use for their writing team. If you didn’t know that, you know now. 🙂

Jack Heckel was a name proposed to us by Harper Voyager. For whatever reason, books written by co-authors don’t sell as well as books by a single author. So at our publisher’s urging, instead of John Peck and Harry Heckel (or J.H. Heckelpeck or Peck and Heckel), we became Jack Heckel. We still aren’t sure why they didn’t like our choice of J.K. Rowling as a name…

Now, both of us agree that we are Jack Heckel. We don’t divide up our writing and between all the edits we do, we both take full blame and responsibility for anything we write together, even if John did come up with that idea or Harry switched things around. We are both the author of The Charming Tales.

Where things get tricky are places like this blog and convention appearances. If Harry Heckel attends a convention as himself, no one knows that he’s Jack Heckel. Same for John. If Harry attends as Jack Heckel, then as happened at RavenCon this year, someone may be disappointed that they aren’t getting to talk to the real author. Of course, by that logic, John isn’t the real author either. Neither of us is (or are we?). It is a little strange when you are introduced to half an author. It’s also weird if you say, “Would you like to buy my book?” and someone says “That’s half of your book.” It’s even weirder when you are with other authors and a fellow author says “Hi, I’m an author, and sitting next to me is an author, and beside him is half an author.” Once we have two books out, do we stop being half an author each or are we perpetually consigned to half authordom?

And, as a reader, you don’t know whether John or Harry is writing this blog unless we tell you (it’s currently Harry at the keyboard).

Even stranger, we originally created a tongue-in-cheek biography for Jack Heckel. We like the thought of his Vermont lighthouse, but Harry lives in Virginia and John lives in California, and it’s a bit awkward when someone asks either of us what it’s like to have Bernie Sanders as our Senator or why we don’t attend a local book event in Vermont. But, more than that, we both want to connect with our readers. We’d like you to get to know us.

To that end, we are going to share a little more on this blog and identify each other more specifically going forward. I (still Harry) may even interview John (and let him return the favor). We’d like to share a bit about our hobbies and travels, and we hope that you comment. Please let us know what you think.

Also, just to catch everyone up, we’ve both spent most of this year working on our next book, The Dark Lord, a standalone novel that we intend to be book 1 of a new series. It’s about a grad student at a magical university who is trying to save the subworld of Trelari by rallying the forces of Good. His method of doing this: Becoming the Dark Lord. After his experiment ends, things take an unexpected turn and he discovers that he must work with the heroes of Trelari and jump through the hoops of epic fantasy tropes. Whether he can survive the Master of Dungeons, the Dread Semi-Lich, the Dark Queen herself and still complete his dissertation is another matter. And will his roommate Eldrin ever speak to him again? It should be big fun for the November 1st release.



A Premature Requiem for the Novel


As Jack Heckel basks in the glow of the release of the ebook version of The Pitchfork of Destiny (Amazon US, Amazon UK, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo), all the while hoping for good reviews, we have a new series of blogs that will start on tor.com on Monday, where a gentleman does some reviews… well, perhaps we will let him introduce himself.

A Premature Requiem for the Novel
Dusty Jackets

By Mr. Dusty Jackets, OM OB FEC Bsc(Cantab) MChem(Oxon)


Dear Sirs,

It was with notable dismay that I recently read of the “death of the novel.”  I am making reference of course to the article in The Guardian of May the 2nd twenty hundred and fourteen by Mr. Will Self entitled, “The novel is dead (this time it’s for real).” In his article the noted novelist and journalist bemoans the demise of the novel, going so far as to pronounce that, “The literary novel as an art work and a narrative art form central to our culture is indeed dying before our eyes.”

I must at this point stop and apologize for the delay in my writing to you concerning Mr. Self’s article, however, the trains to my Vermont estate have been abysmally slow of late, which to be fair is not surprising given that the line was abandoned in nineteen hundred and forty-two. The lack of a reliable post line though has meant that the only means I have of communicating with the outside world is through hand delivery via my footman, Doddery Banks, the younger, who at sixty-seven years of age is beginning to stretch his title of “the younger” a bit beyond what strict propriety would normally allow, although to his credit his father, and my butler, Doddery Banks, the elder, is still terrorizing the staff at eighty-eight. Several of my more adventurous (some would say radical) neighbors have suggested converting future letters into an “electronic transmission” (a telegram I suppose), or uploading it to a “blog” (whatever that might be), or even sending it by motorized carriage (an absurdity on its face, though we can all admire the things that Mr. Ford is doing). I trust you know that I respect your publication too much to have taken seriously any of these suggestions.

With my thanks for your patience, I now return to the central tenet of Mr. Self’s article.  As I scorn to act in any manner that might bring reproach on myself as a thoughtless Acolyte of Moros,[*] I normally ignore writings predicting the demise of anything except the “interweb” (an obvious fad much akin to the sideburn) as the mere ravings of those with less to occupy themselves than they otherwise might. However, as I reflected further I realized with some distress that Mr. Self was not alone in his dire prognostications.  In fact, he joins an eminent list of literary luminaries in predicting the ruination of the novel, including, Professor Tim Parks (“Literature Without Style”, The New York Review of Books, 2013), Mr. Michael Gonda (“Where Have All the Mailers Gone?”, The Observer, 2010), Mr. Gore Vidal (“What I’ve Learned”, Esquire, 2008), Mr. John Updike (“Bech at Bay”, 1998), Mr. John Barth (“Literature of Exhaustion”, The Friday Book: Essays and Other Non-Fiction, 1984), and Mr. E. M. Forster OM, CH (“Some Books”, The BBC Talks of E.M. Forster, 1944), among many others. None other than Mssr. Jules Verne was recently[†] quoted in the London Mail  as saying, “I do not think there will be any novels or romances, at all events in volume form, in fifty or a hundred years from now.”

When a man as perspicacious as Mssr. Verne warns of a future with no novels it is in one’s best interest to pay attention. I began to wonder if perhaps Mr. Self, like Mssr. Jules Verne before him was a Cassandra[‡] to my skeptic.

A sudden terror of thought gripped me. Were novels dying? Were the shelves of my library nothing more than a paper necropolis filed with the corpses of literature’s past? I roused myself from my evening lethargy and flung myself into my study. There, as you may imagine, my eyes were met with rows upon rows of spines, each neatly labelled like a grim tombstone. The first book my eyes landed on was Zelazny’s Nine Princes of Amber. I was given to wonder, was this novel dead? Have its pages, like a later day Philomela,[§] been rendered mute and unable to rage against the apparent outrages inflicted on literature by our modern times?

With shaking hand I pulled it forth and studied the blue silhouette on its cover. Fingers numb, I fumbled through the pages until there my racing mind found refuge in the following passage:

“I like libraries. It makes me feel comfortable and secure to have walls of words, beautiful and wise, all around me. I always feel better when I can see that there is something to hold back the shadows.”

I exhaled a breath of relief. Mr. Zelazny had not been struck dumb. His voice, through his novel, still spoke as relevantly today as it did in nineteen hundred and seventy when it was first pressed. I looked about, nearby was Mr. Moorcock and his creation, Elric, raging at the world:

“We must be bound to one another then,” Elric murmured despairingly. “Bound by hell-forged chains and fate-haunted circumstance. Well, then—let it be thus so—and men will have cause to tremble and flee when they hear the names of Elric of Melinbone and Stormbringer, his sword. We are two of a kind—produced by an age which has deserted us. Let us give this age cause to hate us!”

On another shelf I found Ms. Le Guinn’s Wizard of Earthsea, and in it the quiet wonder as Ged discovered true magic,

“In that moment Ged understood the singing of the bird, and the language of the water falling in the basin of the fountain, and the shape of the clouds, and the beginning and end of the wind that stirred the leaves; it seemed to him that he himself was a word spoken by the sunlight.”

Around my feet a pile of books grew. Here was The Many Colored Land, the first book in the Saga of Pliocene Exile, and next to it I found Robert E. Howard’s bestial Conan. I laughed aloud at the cover of Mr. Pratchett’s Discworld novel with its elephants and turtle, remembering poor Rincewind, the worst student in the history of the Unseen University. Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth series landed next to Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, and I longed for my reading chair and a glass of port so that I might dive once more into those rich worlds. I shuddered as Donaldson’s Chronicle of Thomas Covenant challenged me again to experience the adventures of one of literature’s great anti-heroes.

Book after book came into my hand until around me hung a cloud of dust, the motes dancing about in the dying light of the evening sun like a cloud of spice around God Emperor Leto II in Frank Herbert’s Dune Saga. I stopped and fell exhausted back into my chair, one last book clutched in my grasp. In the dimming light I saw that it was a reprint of Lovecraft’s The Nameless City. I opened it while around me the darkness grew and strange shadows formed and undulated in the corners of the room. With dry lips I read again the strange words of the mad poet Abdul Alhazred,

“That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.”

I knew then that the novel would not, could not ever die. No matter how many years of dust may accumulate outside, always within those pages a reader may find joy and terror, ugliness and beauty, hope and horror. As long as we read on, the worlds in the pages can never truly end.  And, as long as we continue to find pleasure and enlightenment in their words, these books will never lose their relevance.

So, here I distinctly avow my intent to play my humble role, as best I may, to keep the novel alive.  And I fervently hope you will allow your readers to join me as I clear the dust from some of my favorite literary classics of science fiction and fantasy.

Your most obedient servant,

Dusty Jackets

[*] Editor’s note: Moros, and I am not making this up, is the Greek god of impending doom.

[†] Editor’s note: Submitted without further comment, the edition of the London Mail Mr. Jacket is quoting from was published in 1902.

[‡] Editor’s note: Cassandra in Greek mythology could predict the future, but was cursed by Apollo so that no one would believe her prophesies, which the editor would note is a kind of jerk move.

[§] Editor’s note: Yeah…he stumped us on this one.  May I suggest Google?