Tor Maddox Series by Liz Coley
Genres: Thriller, Young Adult
INTRODUCING Tor Maddox, a heroine for our times
“I know that one day, I’m going to have to live in the real world. I’d like it to be a decent one.” - Tor
Book I Tor Maddox: Unleashed
When sixteen-year old Torrance Olivia Maddox, self-confessed news junkie, figures out that the mysterious and deadly New Flu is being spread by dogs, she has one question—if the danger is that obvious to her, why hasn’t the government revealed the truth and taken action?
Her search for the answer will take her farther than she ever imagined. But then again, she never imagined that man’s best friend could become public enemy number one, that men in black might show up in her cozy suburban neighborhood, that she’d spend her sixteenth birthday as a teenaged runaway, and that her effort to save one dog would become a mission to save them all.
Book 2 Tor Maddox: Embedded
Life has been way too quiet for Tor Maddox since her fifteen minutes of CNN fame. Then agent-in-training Rick Turner reappears with what sounds like a simple assignment—to embed herself as his eyes and ears in her own high school. When she agrees to keep tabs on high school state swim champ Hamilton Parker for the Feds, she is plunged into the deep end of a sinister plot. Knowing that freedom, justice, and lives are at stake again, Tor jumps in feet first, but has she gotten in over her head this time?
When observe and report becomes kiss and tell, Tor’s first mission may blow up in her face.
Book 3 Tor Maddox: Mistaken
Grab a flotation device and welcome aboard for more shenanigans, villainy, and romance.
Eight leotards and a ball gown—that’s what Tor Maddox packed for her summer ballet intensive in New York. Pity she never arrived. Kidnapped once by the good guys and once by the bad ones, Tor finds herself involved in a high seas adventure featuring princesses and pirates, a wedding ring, and the guy she thought she’d never be allowed to see again, junior man-in-black Rick Turner.
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Tor-Maddox?store=allproducts&keyword=Tor+Maddox
In 2013, Liz Coley’s psychological thriller Pretty Girl-13 was released by HarperCollins in the US and UK. Foreign translations have been published in French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Swedish, Norwegian, Russian, Czech, Slovakian, and Chinese (simplified and traditional).
Her independent publications include alternate history/time travel/romance Out of Xibalba and teen thrillers in the new Tor Maddox series: UNLEASHED, EMBEDDED, and MISTAKEN. Her short fiction has appeared in Cosmos Magazine and several speculative fiction anthologies: The Last Man, More Scary Kisses, Strange Worlds, Flights of Fiction, You’re not Alone, and Winter's Regret.
Liz lives in Ohio, where she is surrounded by a fantastic community of writers, beaten regularly by better tennis players, uplifted by her choir, supported by her husband, teased by her teenaged daughter, cheered from afar by her two older sons, and adorned with hair by her cats Tiger, Pippin, and Merry.
Liz invites you to follow her as LizColeyBooks on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and visit her website at LizColey.com.
Q & A with Liz Coley
How did you get the idea for the Tor Maddox series?
The story idea for the first book, Unleashed, came to me as many do when I was listening to NPR. They were covering the bird flu epidemic—the first time around! My husband and I were driving past Best Friends Veterinary Clinic at the time. The reporter mentioned the millions of birds that had to be destroyed to stop the spread, and I said, “What would happen if it were dogs?” Brian said, “You should write that.” This became my very first NaNoWriMo project in 2006.
What’s with the funny character names?
I love unusual names, especially the ones that make you ask, “What were the parents thinking?!” I wanted to recognize the trend of mad creativity with baby name choices and spellings. Tor’s mom, representing the older generation is Suzie. Tor’s best friend is the hip, new version, Sioux-san.
What kind of research do you do for your books?
In UNLEASHED, Tor copies a lot of the research I did, looking in detail at flu genetics and pandemic numbers. I also researched sunset and sunrise times, moon phases, actual flight itineraries, and the street view (and inside photos) of CNN headquarters. There’s a website where you can actually print out the genetic code letter by letter for different strains of influenza and compare them. To plan for Tor and Rody’s escape, I hiked the specific route they took with a camera.
For EMBEDDED, I researched white supremacy and anti-immigrant websites, which are rather chilling. Almost all of the news quotes at the tops of the chapters are quoted from real online sources. I also had one of those “browser history” moments that authors feel very self-conscious about when they are researching things like improvised explosives. Just saying.
For MISTAKEN, I did extensive research on a particular cruise line which shall remain nameless so Big Mouse doesn’t get mad at me. There are hours of videos on the cruise ship work experience, expectations of employees, and orientation procedures. I also looked at cruise itineraries, ship layouts, and the actual CDC handbook on the Vessel Sanitation Program (and several years of inspection data). Most chilling was a book I read/skimmed called “Cruising for Trouble.” Finally Google Earth and Google Maps were extremely helpful in figuring out very specific plot points.
What about all the cool technology in your books. Is it real?
I wrote my first draft of UNLEASHED before the iPhone was released. So all the smart phone functions that Tor performs—searching the web, doing mail, submitting assignments, GPS—that all came out about 6 months after I wrote it, which tells you the dangers of trying to write near future.
The high-res photo pen she uses in EMBEDDED can now be bought on SkyMall, although not with some of the other fancy features hers might or might not have. Pocket printers are now available on Amazon. But as far as I know, we aren’t microchipping people yet; we are following their phones, student IDs, etc. via GPS and RFID. It will happen; it’s only a matter of time. Does the government have something that captures live feed from private webcams. Well, what do you think?
As far as MISTAKEN, yes, we really do drink ocean water that has been distilled and reflavored when we cruise. The LRAD sonic cannon to repel pirates exists. You can buy them online, and the website makes for very interesting reading.
Will there be more books in the series?
That’s going to depend on how successful these books are. I would love to write more stories, because these characters have become like family to me. Quirky family, but family. The best way to ensure the continuation to tell lots of people about the series, ask your library to carry it, and encourage everyone to purchase and read legitimate e-copies or paperbacks, not pirated files. There’s no sonic cannon to repel book pirates.
It was spooky climbing down the slope under the dark trees. I bent low under the overhanging branches and walked east along the lowest part. Twigs tugged at my hair. Wisps of spider web caught my cheeks. Under cover of the slope, I dared to turn on the flashlight to scan the rocks underfoot. If I broke an ankle out here, I was nailed. Cocoa panted along beside me. I say panted, but there was a definite wheezy quality to it that made my own chest ache. We’d hardly gone any distance. He shouldn’t be tired yet.
When we were safely out of sight of houses and humanity, I found a less gravelly spot to collapse into at the base of a tree. Cocoa curled up against me, a nice warm body. Still, I put on a double layer of sweatshirts and opened up the mylar blanket to spread over both of us. I flipped the flashlight around in my hand, covering the clear plastic with my palm. The red glow was all the nightlight I thought safe.
Even with three layers of clothes and an insulating blanket, I shivered and shivered in the night. I was terrified that heat-seeking rattlesnakes would slither under the blanket with us. Terrified that spiders would drop out of the bushes. Terrified that Cocoa would take off after a wild rabbit. I was afraid of men in black suits. Afraid of men in white coats. And especially afraid of falling asleep. My eyes ached. Exhaustion battled with adrenaline.
At 5:15 a.m. all the batteries ran out, both mine and the flashlight’s. I slept, pursued in restless dreams by the vengeful spirits of barking dogs.
At 6:51 a warm, pink light penetrated the underbrush. A rising swell of birdsong served as alarm clock. At my stirring, Cocoa yawned and stretched. He lifted a leg against the tree I was leaning on and streamed against it.
“Hey, watch it,” I scolded. “I mean, good boy. Come, Cocoa. Lie down.”
Down? His puzzled eyes asked me. He knew it was time to stretch, time to play, time to go for his quick morning walk with Rody.
“Sorry, fuzzy face. We can’t. Have some breakfast.” I poured dog food into one bowl and water into the other, but Cocoa turned his head away, uninterested. “I guess you need a walk first. I’m sorry.” He whimpered softly.
“I hear you, bud. Me too.” I rolled my shoulders, stretched my legs out in front of me. Every square inch of my body hurt. The granola bars tempted me not.
What was going on at home this morning? By now, Rody would have discovered Cocoa was gone. Would he say anything?
Mom was probably wondering why she hadn’t heard the shower go on and off in my bathroom. Maybe she was knocking on my door right now, calling me to wake up. Maybe she was cracking open the door and walking over to the tousled lump of covers to run her hands softly through my hair and kiss me on the cheek. Maybe she was turning in horror from the empty bed, running through the house, calling to my Dad, crying, “She’s gone…she’s gone.”
My throat ached. I did that to her. A tear slipped out of the corner of my eye.
I pulled out my phone and sent her a text message: Mom I’m safe I’m fine don’t worry don’t search.
I hoped she could live with that. I doubted it.I huddled with my dark thoughts as the sky brightened. In the distance, on the playground, toddlers laughed with their own mothers, enjoying their morning playtime before naps. A knife twisted in my heart. Life went on for the innocent as well as for the ignorant. But knowing what I knew, I could never be that carefree again.
Blitz-wide giveaway (INTL)
- A hardcopy set of all three books in the Tor Maddox series