to a successful partnership with Creative Edge of Saskatchewan in 2020, the
Scribbler played host to accomplished authors selected by CE. It was so much
fun for all involved, we are doing it again in 2021. Watch the last Saturday of
each coming month for authors under the CE banner.
month we are extremely pleased to have V.S. Holmes as our guest. Better known
as V, they have graciously agreed to a Branching Out interview and are sharing
an Excerpt from Heretics.
V. S. Holmes is an international bestselling author. They created the
BLOOD OF TITANS series and the NEL BENTLY BOOKS. Smoke and Rain, the first book
in their fantasy quartet, won New Apple Literary's Excellence in Independent
Publishing Award in 2015 and a Literary Titan Gold in 2020. Travelers is also
included in the Peregrine Moon Lander mission as part of the Writers on the
Moon Time Capsule. In addition, they have published short fiction in several
As a disabled and non-binary human, they work as an advocate and educator
for representation in SFF worlds. When not writing, they work as a contract
archaeologist throughout the northeastern U.S. They live in a Tiny House with
their spouse, a fellow archaeologist, their not-so-tiny dog, and own too many
books for such a small abode.
Thanks for being our guest this week, V. Before we chat about your novels and
writing, you mentioned in our correspondence that you once lived in New
Brunswick. Care to tell us about your time here in Atlantic Canada?
V: Thanks for having me! I lived in
Fredericton, New Brunswick for a year during undergrad. I was attending
Renaissance College at UNB at the time. While I opted for a more hands-on
approach to learning and ultimately transferred back home, I loved the natural
beauty of the Maritimes, particularly when visiting the Bay of Fundy.
|Photo by Bay Ferries Ltd.
When I visit your website, I’m particularly intrigued by your novel – Blood of
Titans – and the wonderful review that headlines the page. “The atmosphere surrounding this epic tale is intoxicatingly real…
Holmes weaves a tapestry of the forthcoming events with the skill of a
thaumaturge.” The San Francisco Review of Books. Wow! Can you tell us a bit about the novel but
before you do, maybe you would like to clarify the word “thaumaturge?”
|Book one of the series.
V: Blood of Titans is my dark, epic
fantasy series. The first book is Smoke and Rain, which became an
internationally bestselling fantasy in 2018. As for “thaumaturge,” it means
magician! The series follows the--mostly--human characters who are caught in
the crossfire of a war between the gods and the titanic creatures that created
them. I delve into the psychological effects of war, loss, and sense of self
through characters who experience dissociation, isolation, and other symptoms
of PTSD within a fantasy setting.
What’s the one main thing about your writing or your novels you’d like to tell
our readers about today?” Something new? Something amazing?
V: While my fans will already know this,
new readers can expect imperfect heroes, and complex villains. I strive to
craft worlds where marginalized characters--specifically queer and disabled
ones--not only exist, but thrive. Something exciting that happened recently is
an excerpt of Travelers, the first of my Stars Edge: Nel Bently Books, will be
headed to the Moon! I was lucky enough to join the Writers on the Moon project,
and both the excerpt and a poem I wrote will be included in the literary time
capsule aboard the Peregrine Moon Lander Mission headed for Lacus Mortis on our
Please share a childhood memory or anecdote with us.
V: This is one of my favorite memories.
Until I was about 10, we lived way out in the woods. There was very little
light and so at night, my dad would set up his telescope on the balcony. We
spent hours looking at all the craters on the Moon, pointing out the Pleiades
and Canis and the Horsehead Nebula. Once, on a very cold winter night, my dad
woke me up to glimpse a ribbon of the Aurora. He adored science and space so it
was incredibly moving for me to be able to also include a memorial of him on
the Peregrine mission.
|The Horsehead Nebula.
Once more, referring to your website, you tell your readers and followers – “As
a disabled and non-binary human, they work as an advocate and educator for
representation in SFF worlds.” Would you like to expound on that statement?
V: Using my passion for world building
and creativity to help advocate for people like myself was a natural
progression for me. Like my bio states, I’m a trans non-binary person and I
have a chronic degenertive disease and PTSD. The way our world currently views
those things has affected how I navigate my life and it was a long time before
I actually saw a person like me in fiction. Honestly, it was also through
fiction where I finally started to find words for what I had always known about
my gender. A lot of the portrayals of marginalized demographics in fiction are
stereotypes and pretty harmful--it does a number on you when the only people
you see represented are villains or the butt of the joke.
Since I am an author, I wanted to pay it forward and write about trans
and disabled characters in a way that turned a lot of the bigoted tropes on
their head. I also like to focus on stories where the characters are “casually”
queer or disabled, but it’s not a main feature of the plot, since all of us,
while trans, or gay, or disabled, or neurodivergent, have so many other
interesting facets to our lives and personalities.
Tell us about your main character – Nel Bentley and her series. As an
archeologist yourself, is there a bit of V.S. Holmes in this character?
|Book One in the Series.
There’s a bit
of me in all my work and characters, of course, but Nel is certainly the most
similar on a superficial level, as we share a field of study and she’s queer.
However, she’s a woman and lesbian and works in academic archaeology (I work in
the contract sector). When her pristine dig site ends up at the center of an
intergalactic feud, sceptic Nel is thrown into a world of high-tech and higher
stakes. She’s a lot of fun to write! In this newest book, she returns to Earth
to track down the victims of a deadly radio transmission while navigating her
anger and frustration at an unjust world, and her complicated relationship with
her mercurial--and alien--girlfriend, Lin.
Your stories have won awards, received tremendous reviews, etc. What has been
your proudest moment being an author?
V: It’s been an incredible journey, and
I’m so honored and humbled with each of these achievements, but I think the
most powerful moments for me are when readers reach out to say that they saw
themselves in my pages. Knowing I’ve helped them, that I showed that they
weren’t alone, and that characters like us can fight the baddies and save the
world without being the “perfect queer” or able-bodied is the best feeling. I
remember the first time I saw a character that looked like me and I’m thrilled
to pay that forward.
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
V: If folks would like to dive into the
Blood of Titans or Stars Edge worlds, they can try two free short stories that
are available on my website. The first is The Tempest, an epic fantasy survival
story following Nubon, who’s tossed out to sea for a trial-by-leviathan to win
her kingdom’s crown. The second is a prequel to Travelers, and follows the
events leading up to the first book, but through Lin’s eyes as she struggles
with her brother’s orders not to get involved with the archaeological site
they’re monitoring on Earth.
**** To find this great offer from V - go HERE.
And, of course, if you’re into snarky queer sci-fi that leans toward
space horror, Heretics, Nel’s fourth adventure hits stores on May 8th!
Excerpt from Heretics.
is held by the Author. Used with permission)
Stiffness woke Nel. She rolled her
neck with a groan. “I don’t think I have the body for camping anymore,” she
muttered, peering against the sunlight bathing her face. Somewhere above, a
hideously cheerful bird chirped, and she fumbled for her sleeping bag zipper.
There was no sleeping bag. Or tent.
Sunlight was beaming from mirrors and lamps just overhead. The chirping
continued and she glared at the holographic message displayed over her wrist.
Shuttle Departure for Le Fe De Amor
in T-105 minutes
peered at the glowing red letters for a moment before parsing that if she
didn’t hurry, she might miss saying goodbye.
“Fuck fuck fuck!” She scrambled to
her feet and bolted to the nearest elevator shaft. Shoving through the doors,
she jabbed at her communicator. No messages from Lin or Zach, or frankly
anyone. Only one unread thread blinked in her inbox, and it was the four system
reminders that she had apparently slept through. She swiped it clear and
bounced on the balls of her feet, trying to blink exhaustion from her bleary
“C’mon,” she muttered to the
elevator as the floors rolled past. Weight draped over her as the capsule
hurtled outward. Another two seconds and it hummed to a halt at the residential
level. She broke into a jog. Whatever she and Lin had was complicated, made
even more so by the layers of their increasingly complex world and Nel’s own
mercurial temper. But I’ll still miss
her. More than she’d like to admit.
Tense voices slowed Nel’s steps as
she rounded the last bend to Lin’s room. Shrinking back against the wall, she
peered around the corner. Dar lounged beside Lin’s open door, feet crossed at
the ankle. Despite the relaxed stance, a dark glare knotted his features. Lin
blocked her doorway, arms crossed.
“I don’t really care what you
think,” Lin snapped. “And I don’t want to get into this at all, let alone here
and now. Just because you’ve suddenly grown some emotions doesn’t mean I have
to put them above my own. You had your chance to see things my way years ago.
You had another chance back on CE7.”
“I’m not suddenly interested in
‘seeing things your way,’” he spat, “I’m interested in my baby sister’s safety!
I’m concerned this rabbit hole, this obsession whatever it is, will get you
killed. You were on track for a promotion—”
“You demoted me! I could have been
“I had my reasons. What kind of
person follows someone across fucking space—” he hissed.
She never corrects my cussing. So why was she bothering with her
brother’s? Lin’s voice was tired but tense with something else. Fear? Nel fought back the urge to rush
from behind the corner and wedge herself between them. Except Dar didn’t look
like he was going to hurt her.
“Lin, please just think about it.
Ayah and Ibu are worried too, you know.”
Lin’s hand slammed into the wall
with a sickening thud. Tendons bunched in her throat, but Nel couldn’t say if
it was pain or fury. “Is that why I haven’t heard from them in months? You’re
holding them over my head until I sharpen up and fly straight?”
Dar looked away and his gaze halted
on Nel, tucked by the door. She opened her mouth to apologize, but his head
shook almost imperceptibly.
“You know I haven’t heard from them
either. But they mentioned it before. And again, when Nel’s transfer docs came
over their screens this morning. Associating with her is going to get you
killed.” He shoved off the wall and made to reach for her shoulder but stopped
a few inches shy. “Please, just consider it.”
Nel jerked out of sight again. A
second later he almost collided with her as he strode around the bend. His gaze
pinned her, but he said nothing, boots stomping long after he disappeared up
She peeked at Lin’s door again. It
was shut, the corridor deserted. Dar clearly felt she threatened Lin somehow. Why do I feel like he just entrusted a huge
secret with me? Drawing a deep breath, she stepped up to Lin’s door, heart
hammering. She pressed her brow to the door, palm spreading across the gleaming
metal. None of them want me here—fuck, I
don’t even want to be here.
And every nasty comment her exes’
bigoted parents spat at her now drifted in the space stations recycled air
lightyears from home. Intellectually she knew it wasn’t anything to do with
sexuality—not if she was to believe Paul’s anecdote about his relationship with
IDH’s hotshot Komodor Muda Udara Dar Nalawangsa.
She pressed the private intercom.
“Sorry I’m late. Can I see you
before you go?” Still nothing. “I saw Dar in the hall, looked kinda pissed. Do
She whirled to see Lin striding down
the hall. Her gleaming electrosuit was perfectly fastened, long hair braided
and tucked carefully away in preparation for the helmet of her space suit. The
shadows under her warm eyes rocketed Dar’s words to the forefront of Nel’s
thoughts. “What kind of person follows
someone across fucking space?” She pulled a smile she didn’t feel onto her
face. “Hey, babe. Just looking for you.”
Nel stared after her for a moment.
They hadn’t kissed since the gala. “Sentimental” was the last word Nel would
use to describe herself, but the undercurrent of exclusion gave her new
sympathy for all the exes she ghosted over the years. “You sleep okay?”
“Not really. Been up since 0500.”
Lin frowned at Nel’s half-done suit. “You packed?”
“Is your comm on? Did you get the
Nel glanced at her wrist. “Just a
bunch of updates about your mission—”
“Our mission,” Lin interrupted. Her
expression might have been a smile, were it not for the hardness in her eyes.
“As of 0200 today you’ve been transferred to the Field task force.”
Excitement blasted through every one
of Nel’s more complicated emotions. “What? Thank you!” She wrapped Lin in a
tight hug. When it was only reluctantly returned, however, she stepped back.
“You pulled strings?”
“Not me. Harris, I guess. Said he
wanted someone like you on his team.”
Confusion dampened Nel’s thrill. She
barely knew the man. What about the woman who almost single-handedly destroyed
their second home appealed to him? Cut
the shit, Bently, and be grateful. “Any idea what I’ll be doing?”
“I’m not sure. Maybe research? They’ll
need data on CE7, Los Cerros—”
“Yeah, I know the abbreviation.” At
Lin’s closed expression Nel forced tenderness into her voice. “Sorry, just got
a bit of mental whiplash. I’m happy to help any way I can.” Tagging along
behind a stranger was better than nothing, but it was far from ideal. But I could try to find Mom. And Tabby. And
Annie. And everyone else who went dark. It could be just the radio silence,
but the shadow behind Emilio’s eyes at the gala and Lin’s extra avoidance
frayed Nel’s tenuous trust.
Both their wrists flashed. “You
better get ready,” Lin suggested. At long last, something close to amusement
graced her regal features.
Nel backed toward her own room down
the hall. “Don’t let them leave without me, okay?”
the rest of Heretics at
you for being our guest this week, V. It’s been a pleasure having you here. All
the best with your future stories.
all you fantastic visitors wanting to discover more about V and their writing,
please follow these links: