Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Word On The Street - Toronto



This past Sunday I had the pleasure of attending the yearly Word On The Street outdoor literary fair in downtown Toronto. I attended several sessions and looked over many of the booths. One discussion panel had Kelley Armstrong, Robert Charles Wilson and Linwood Barclay on it. Here are two video clips of Robert Wilson responding to questions.

I missed recording the first few words so imagine him saying, "When I first started reading Science Fiction" as a preface as he talks about the state of science fiction in Canada.
video

This time he's explaining the difference between speculative fiction and science fiction.
video

I also had the privilege of having the opening of one of my writing pieces read and critiqued. It showed me the value of 1) having someone who is not me read my work and point out simple things that I miss, in order to improve my writing and 2) the value of hearing my work read out loud, to find spots where the writing is awkward or description, etc., unnecessary.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Graceling - Kristin Cashore

Another teen read, though pure fantasy this time, Graceling is a solid debut novel. Interesting characters, a land split into 7 kingdoms which, while not at war are also not all friends, politically speaking, and a kidnapping case that propels the protagonist, a young woman 'graced' with the ability to kill easily, on the road to solve the mystery of why an old man, of no political worth, would be kidnapped and by whom.

Cashore's use of people with different coloured eyes as signs of special powers (some powers more useful than others) was very well done. And Katsa, the King's strongman, occasional torturer and executioner, was a compelling character.

The book begins with Katsa helping to free the father of Lienid's king from King Murgon's prison. Intelligence suggests that while Murgon was holding Grandfather Tealiff, he wasn't the one who ordered the kidnapping. While fleeing, Katsa encounters Tealiff's grandson, Prince Po, who later becomes her sparring partner back home.

The novel as a whole deals with power. The power to order others to act, the power to choose your own actions - and whether you will obey the orders you disagree with, and the power to protect yourself from others. This is demonstrated by three levels of people. 1) The kings, 2) those like Katsa who are at the mercy of rulers but have the ability to physically defend themselves and 3) those who are untrained and ultimately at the mercy of others.

I found the first part of the book interesting and fast paced. The second part dragged a bit as the story focused less on the plot and more on the growth of Katsa as a person. It then picked up as Katsa and Po discover who ordered the kidnapping and the danger this person poses to all 7 kingdoms if they can't stop him.

All in all a great read. I'm already into my ARC of the prequel, Fire, out in hardcover October 6th.

Country Renaissance Festival



I went to the local Renaissance festival every year in University and was quite disappointed when it closed down. So I was very happy to discover that Milton, Ontario was hosting a new fest and dragged my husband out.

I always found that seeing costumes, weapons and armour in use gave my writing more verisimilitude, as I'd better understand the problems and nuances of their use. And the fairs were a lot of fun to attend.


Those in the Royal Court and the Village of Wittingham are members of Faires in Time, the jousters from the Ontario International Jousting Association and the bird demonstrations by Birds in Flight Peregrine International. (In the photos directly above, two knights break lances in the joust and a knight cuts a cabbage in half with a sword from horseback.)


video

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Fantasy on the High Seas Reading List



Like my other reading lists, this one is not comprehensive. I have not read all of these, so in some cases I'm basing the fact that they take place on water due to the cover art and synopsis. If I've got one wrong, please tell me in comments and I'll remove it. Similarly, if you'd like to add a title feel free. Also, I wasn't originally looking for SF or submarine books, so I know those catagories could be fleshed out. Again, feel free to suggest books. And I was trying for books on boats, so books like S.L. Viehl's Afterburn and Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Ann Scarborough's Changeling aren't included.

Books are listed in no particular order.

Fantasy books
The Edge of the World - Kevin J. Anderson
Ship of Magic, Mad Ship, Ship of Destiny - Robin Hobb
Storm Witch - Violette Malan
Mermaid's Madness - Jim Hines
Mad Kestrel - Misty Massey
Red Wolf Conspiracy - Robert VS Redick
Red Seas Under Red Skies - Scott Lynch
Princess at Sea - Dawn Cook
Midshipwizard Halcyon Blithe, Dragonfrigatewizard Halcyon Blithe - James Ward
The Cipher, The Black Ship, The Turning Tide - Diana Francis
Mark of Ran, Forsaken Earth - Paul Kearney
Tomes of the Dead: Death Hulk - Matther Sprange

Alternate History
Land of Mist & Snow - Debra Doyle & James MacDonald
Set the Seas on Fire - Chris Roberson
His Majesty's Dragon - Naomi Novik
Into the Storm, Crusade, Maelstrom - Taylor Anderson

Sci-Fi books
The Skinner - Neal Asher
Glory Season - David Brin

Submarines
20 000 Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne
The Dragon in the Sea - Frank Herbert
Pax Britannia: Leviathan Rising - Jonathan Green

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Storm Witch - Violette Malan

The third in the adventures of Dhulyn and Parno, Storm Witch does some interesting things. The pair is trying to clear their names with the Brotherhood after their maligning in Soldier King when their help is requested at sword point by the Nomads, sea traders from the Long Ocean. It seems the ancient trading partners of the Nomads, the Mortaxa, have begun building their own ships and only members of the Brotherhood will be considered as negotiators for future trade considerations.

The problem? Dhulyn has had prophetic visions of Parno's death. At sea. And she wants to prevent that at any cost. Well, any cost but telling him of the vision, something she promised she would never do.

The story deals heavily with Dhulyn's internal conflict, which really makes her character come alive. We get to learn more about what being partnered means, and why Dhulyn doesn't have any children.

The characters also travel to a part of the world we haven't seen yet, where two peoples are coming close to war. One side still practices slavery, the other has a psychic connection to a race called Crayx, sea creatures who help guide their ships.

Newcomers to the series will find the first chapter confusing, as it refers heavily to the previous book, but after that the action is entirely self-contained. There are one or two references elsewhere in the book to their first adventure, The Sleeping God, but understanding them isn't essential to the book. The series is otherwise designed so that you can jump in anywhere, but, as with any series, those who read all the books will definitely get more out of them.

Violette Malan's writing keeps getting better. I found this a fun, quick read.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Soulless - Victorian Dress-up Doll

When I saw this announced on the Orbit page I assumed it was a book cut out doll. It's not. It's a computer game where you can put different undergarments, dresses and accessories on the main character of the book Soulless, Alexia Tarabotti.

Check it out here.

And remember, the book hits stores October 1st!

Friday, 18 September 2009

John Ringo - Author Interview

Novels: Waaaaaaaaay too many to list. Don't believe me? Check out his website book link. And then click the series links to see the individual books.

Website: http://www.johnringo.com/

> Pitch your latest novel or the first novel of your series.

(Insert name of whatever the hell is coming out next I can't keep up) is the GREATEST NOVEL OF ALL TIME! It will ASTOUND AND DELIGHT children of all ages with SEX AND VIOLENCE AND GORE GALORE!

Huh. What IS coming out? Thirty Two novels. First one came out in 2000. I really do have a hard time keeping up...

Oooo! Live Free or Die in February. Got an Ontario aspect to it. A must read for every Canadian who cherishes their national symbol! SAVE THE MAPLE TREES FROM ALIEN DOMINATION!

> What are your favourite three books?

Time Enough for Love, at least the first half. After that he rather jumped the shark.
The Two Towers
Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett


> What made you want to be a writer?

I write because I enjoy affecting others. The staying home and getting checks is nice but even without it I'd be trying to get people to read my stuff. When I write a line and go 'Heh, that's going to get somebody chuckling/crying/thinking' and then later it turns out I'm right? Way more important than royalty statements.

> In the books you’ve written, who is you favourite character and why?

My favorite is Katya, the psychotic, sexually-absued former-hooker-turned-assassin in the Ghost series. Because she reminds me of half my ex girlfriends and if I didn't like them I wouldn't have dated them in the first place.

> What character is most like you?

Reynolds, the hapless jeep driver in the very beginning of Hymn.

> If you could, would you change places with any of your characters?

Not in a heartbeat. Maybe, MAYBE, Tyler Vernon from the Troy universe.


> If you could live in your fantasy/sf world, would you?

I'd take the world BEFORE the Fall in the Dragon's universe.

> Would you live in somebody else’s?

Not most. Most are WAY too ugly and dangerous. I mean, really, Conan spent most of his time scratching flea bites and digging lice out of his hair not rescuing maidens.

> What was the first novel that you wrote and how long did it take to write it?

The Voyages of King Arthur. Unpublished. About a month.

> What was the hardest scene for you to write?

I don't recall a bit of the book. And I don't recall the answer to this question for my first published novel either.

>What is the strangest question you have ever been asked by a fan?

'How do you kill a vampire?' (As in, 'Given that everyone knows that vampires are real and a real threat to me, personally, and to society, how do I go about killing the REALLY REAL vampires that are in my mother's basement?')
The answer being: 'Go with the traditional stake of ash wood and you've got about a ninety percent chance of getting it right. Good luck. Next question.'

> What was the most fun book signing, convention, etc. you’ve attended and why?

DragonCon. Any year. Because it's like being on a space station most of the time.

> If you still have one, what’s your day job?

Don't have one.

> What is your university degree in?

Also don't have one. But if you want to be a writer, I'd suggest accounting.

> Do you think it is easier to write fantasy or science fiction?

Fantasy. I don't care how much people talk about world building, you can make it up as you go along and fill in the details in the appendix.

> When and where do you write?

In the winter, outside. I wish I lived in Canada. I could write year round. As it is, I have to wait for winter when it gets cold enough. (I have a silicon brain.)

> What’s the best/worst thing about writing?

Best: WORK FROM HOME IN YOUR SPARE TIME!!!! ads make you laugh and laugh...
Worst: You look forward to kids getting home from school so you can actually talk to someone for three seconds...

> What is something you didn’t know about the publishing industry before you had your fist book published?

The truly gigantic and gargantuan and titanic and all the other synonyms for big size of the average 'slush' pile. (Unsolicited manuscripts.) Then, later, when I wanted to do a Posleen anthology I found out that it truly is 'Shoveling to a mountain of crap to find a nugget.' The reason that the 'traditional' publishing model is unlikely to ever go away entirely is that somebody is always going to have to sort through the fecal matter looking for the nuggets.

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

Edit the hell out of it, edit it again, read it aloud to yourself (every damned word and you'd better not get bored or the reader will) edit it again, print it out or format it EXACTLY the way the publisher asked for it and submit it. Then get ready to wait about five years for it to see the light of day.
Oh, and one thing before that. Finish it.

> Any tips against writers block?

I'm idiosyncratic. My tip is 'Find somewhere cold.'

> How do you discipline yourself to write?

I don't. When it is time, it is time.

> How many rejection letters did you get for your first novel or story?

One. For A Hymn Before Battle. Jim Baen fired the First Reader.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Them! - Movie Review

I remember seeing the 1954 film Them! when I was fairly young and wanted to rewatch it to see if it held up over time. I was rather surprised to discover it did. The film begins with two police officers discovering a little girl wandering around in the desert, then her family's destroyed trailer. Though most people nowadays know the surprise enemy (they're giant ants), it's easy to see how the audience of 1954 would have been strung along. And knowing doesn't make the moment of revelation any less scary. Much like knowing it's a shark in Jaws doesn't lesson the terror the beast inspired - most especially off screen. The director, Gordon Douglas, seems to have had the same idea as Spielberg. The ants look fairly cheesy, but they're used sparingly turning the film into more of a suspense movie rather than a creature feature.

The one sticking point in the plot is how quickly the scientific community figures out what's happening to the point of sending along 2 experts to look into the matter before anyone's even sighted an ant. But the experts, Drs. Harold and Patricia Medford, are well cast. Especially the daughter, who, though gorgeous, is no shrinking violet. She insists on entering the ant nest because someone who understands the creatures has to verify that no queens have left and her father's too old to go.

The scientific explanation of how the ants mutated into giants is consistent with ideas at the time. It's nice to see Japan wasn't the only country to come up with an atom bomb radiation monster flick.

The movie is also well known for being an early (though uncredited) role of Leonard Nimoy's. Look carefully. I thought for sure I'd be able to spot him and had to go back after the movie was done to find him (he's the airforce sergeant who makes a comment about Texans and the secrecy of the project they're working on).

It's a fun movie to watch but I'm glad no one's decided to do a remake of it. Yet.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Flashforward Review - Take Two

I was so busy in my previous post considering how the book and TV show of Flashforward may differ that I didn't really end up reviewing the book. (It's been that kind of day.)

So, from the top. Flashforward begins with an experiment to discover the Higgs boson, "the particle whose interactions endowed other particles with mass". Something goes wrong and instead of gaining a nobel prize for their discovery, the team launches the consciousness of humanity 20+ years into the future. For two minutes.

The novel is split into three parts: the experiment and its direct results, it's indirect results as time passes and from the time the flashforward showed. The novel focuses on the members of the teams, their visions and either their acceptance that the future they saw is immutable or their fervent desire to change what they did or didn't see.

Specifically, the story follows Lloyd, the head of the project who, if the future is changeable, would be responsible for the deaths of thousands of people and potentially liable for immense damage to infrastructure during the blackout as well as bankruptcies and loss of economy due to information gleaned from the flashforward. And Theo, who had no vision but who discovers that others read about his death during their experiences.

I finished the book several days ago and still can't say whether I liked the book or not. It had some interesting ideas. The science was down pat. And though I didn't agree with a lot of things the characters did, their actions were consistent with their own belief systems (which is more important).

It annoyed me how a 2 minute vision of something 20 years in the future caused so many people to either despair or be ecstatically happy - depending on what they saw. But then, I'm not a believer in predestination to the point that every single moment of our lives is set in stone - which was a major belief in the book. I believe certain things can be considered fate - but how you get to those points in your life is up to you.

In this instance I think the TV show has an advantage. Since the flashforward there is less than a year away, I can see how people will let it rule their lives. Especially once they learn the future is malleable.

In the final analysis, the book made me think of what I might do in such a situation. And makes me glad I'll never be put into it as most people seemed to forget that so much could happen between now and the time of their visions that they forgot to live their lives to the fullest. The lesson not to take the present for granted in your quest for the future (and the fulfillment of your dreams) alone makes reading this book worthwhile. After all, it's the journey, not the destination, that maters.

Flashforward - Robert J. Sawyer

With the TV show airing Sept. 24th at 8pm (or Sept 25th at 8, as ABC has decided to air the premier twice) I decided to read the book. The trailers look amazing. The premise is interesting. So I wondered where the story came from.

The book was originally published in 1999, with the original experiment that is believed to have caused the flashforward happening on April 21st, 2009. It's odd reading a science fiction book, looking to the future, about a future that's just passed. Sort of like reading 2001: A Space Odyssey in 2008 and wondering how humans failed to make all that amazing science come true.

One of the main differences between the book and the show is the time span of the flashforward. In the show it's a mere 6 months in the future that the world glimpses. In the novel it's a little over 20 YEARS. Which caused problems for me. The willingness of people to fundamentally change their lives due to a glimpse of 2 minutes of an (in my opinion) uncertain future 20 YEARS AWAY seemed rather farcical. How can 2 minutes show you enough to tell you your life will be entirely bad/good to the point that you'd need to radically change how you live, etc. now?

*** Minor Spoilers Ahead ***







With a few exceptions. Obviously if you learn that you'll be murdered, as Theo does, you'll want to learn how and by whom. But in general, the number of people going out of their way to affect their futures based on a short glimpse seemed strange. Any number of things could happen to cause those events - and people probably wouldn't consider even a small portion of them (like how you assume you know how a person is about to die in the TV show DEAD LIKE ME and then something totally ridiculous happens that you'd never could have foreseen).

One character commits suicide because he sees himself working at a restaurant in 20 years. That's it. He decides he failed in his dream of becoming a novelist and can't live with that. I was left wondering how that brief glimpse of the future proved he failed. A lot of novelists have day jobs to pay the bills. Getting published is not the same as becoming rich and famous. It seemed that most people came up with one interpretation of their visions and couldn't conceive of any others.

I was also disturbed by the scientist in charge of the experiment's determined belief that the future could not be changed. That whatever people glimpsed, that's what would happen. The idea of free will, of personal accountability, was missing. (On the other hand, I loved the explanation of WHY he was so bent on holding to that viewpoint.)

The ending left me a little bemused at how various characters lives turned out by 2030. Each seemed to get what he/she expected. Those that believed the future was immutable got the futures they saw, those that believed they could affect their futures managed to change them.

In the end, I enjoyed the book more because it made me question my own possible reaction should such an event ever occur than because the book was a scientific possibility regarding our future. In other words, it read more like philosophy than science fiction (though the scientific explanations for the flashforward were based on real science).

Based on what the book managed to do, the TV show has the potential to be a real SF hit.

Check out the official website: http://flashforwardtv.com/ where I got the information about the double airing of the pilot. It also has links to more trailers.



Thursday, 10 September 2009

Soulless - Book Review

Soulless is a novel that will appeal to readers of steampunk, urban fantasy and paranormal romance. A fast paced novel filled with vampires, werewolves, tea and parasols.

The main character, Alexia Tarabotti, is feisty and fun reminding one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer at some times and Elizabeth Bennett at others. A clever reworking of the Victorian era.

I only wish the book had come out when I wrote this review (in May) rather than in October, because then we'd be that much closer to the release of Gail Carriger's next novel.

And be sure to check back here next month when I post an interview with Ms. Carriger.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The Adoration of Jenna Fox - Book Review

I find reading teen fiction very hit and miss for me. Often, in order to appeal to the teen crowd, authors make their protagonists too angsty or unsympathetic. By which I mean, their attitudes are not explained through the story because of things that they're going through. Their attitudes are angsty because teens are, by definition, angsty. Right?

Wrong.

Attitude is not character, just like love is not a plot. More needs to happen. The attitude needs background so the reader can understand where the character is coming from, what the attitude is in reaction to.

Then I'll come across a book like Harry Potter or The Adoration of Jenna Fox, where whatever angst the character exhibits is explained through their own search for identity - rather than a cop out means of showing that the character is a teenager.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox, by Mary Pearson, tells the story of 17 year old Jenna, who's recently woken up from a terrible accident many years into our future. It was an accident that's left her amnesiac about her life. Her parents assure her that she'll remember who she is in time, but she's not sure they're telling the truth. Or that they even know the truth. As a means of remembrance, Jenna watches videos of her former life. Videos of a much adored girl. A perfect girl. A girl she's not sure she is anymore or can ever be again. Things in Jenna's life spiral out of control as she tries to create her own identity and learns the truth behind the accident and what her parents did after it in order to save her life.

The novel examines the meaning of identity, the law, and the lengths parents will go to to save their child.

It's well written, thought provoking, delightful and gut-wrenching. A great science fiction read for teens (even younger ones, as there's no 'content' issues with this book) and adults.

Here's the book trailer from youtube:

Friday, 4 September 2009

Freda Warrington - Author Interview

Novels: Elfland (recent publication through TOR in the US/Canada)
A Midsummer Night (forthcoming)

Freda Warrington has several other novels (too many to list here) available in the UK, check out her website for more information!

website: www.fredawarrington.com

> Pitch your latest novel OR the first novel of your series.

ELFLAND is my first novel for Tor, the first of several ‘Aetherial Tales’. The title is a little tongue-in-cheek as it’s not truly about Elfland at all! Although my characters venture into the Otherworld in the course of the drama, it’s a contemporary fantasy about the entanglements of Aetherial families who happen to live alongside humans. Auberon Fox is the warm heart of the English village of Cloudcroft and father of a happy family including his daughter, Rosie. But on the hill lives the mysterious, sinister Lawrence Wilder, Gatekeeper to the inner realms of the Spiral. Lawrence is beset by personal demons; his wife has left him and his sons, Jon and Sam, are angry and damaged. When he bars the Great Gates, preventing access to the Otherworld, the Aetherial community is outraged. What will become of them, deprived of their magical home realms?

Against this background, Rosie grows up and becomes entangled with the dangerous Wilder family, learning harsh lessons about life and love as she does so. Although there’s a big supernatural conflict building, the characters also struggle with real-world concerns and family secrets.

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of glamorous beings who appear human but aren’t; angels, demons, elves, vampires, demi-gods and so on. My Aetherials evolved as my interpretation of such a race. They can perceive other realities and change into other, disturbing forms. At its heart, though, the story is about Rosie Fox, who suffers the anguish of unrequited love, and becomes caught in a classic dilemma between trying to live a ‘normal’, hard-working human life, or surrendering to her wild Aetherial instincts. As a result, she will make a disastrous choice that has tragic consequences…

In a sense, ELFLAND is a coming-of-age novel, about making mistakes by trying to do things that seem to be expected of you by other people, instead of being true to your authentic self. Almost nothing Rosie believes turns out to be true.

I’ve had some really nice, enthusiastic reactions to Elfland already – Melanie Rawn called it ‘Sensuous and intense!’ (You can read more about the novel on my website, www.fredawarrington.com)

> What are your favourite three books?

It’s difficult to choose just three, but in terms of enduring influence on the sort of themes I still enjoy writing about, I would have to say TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES by Thomas Hardy, THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkien and DRACULA by Bram Stoker.

> What made you want to be a writer?

As an only child, I wasn’t used to the rough-and-tumble of other children. I preferred to read, to be carried away into imaginative worlds. Almost as soon as I could hold a pen, aged five, I started writing. It just seemed a natural extension of daydreaming. If I read something I loved, I would try to carry on the magic by writing something similar of my own, especially as this meant I could introduce characters, events and endings that were more pleasing to me! The process has simply carried on. As many of my friends are writers, writing doesn’t seem a strange activity. It’s just what we do.

> In the books you’ve written, who is your favourite character and why? If you could, would you change places with any of your characters?

My favourite character is usually the one I’ve just been writing about, so at the moment it would be a toss-up between Rosie Fox, and Juliana Flagg – a magnificent, glamorous sixty-something sculptor who features in my next novel, MIDSUMMER NIGHT. Rosie’s very real to me – she’s down-to-earth, makes mistakes, gets frustrated with herself, but is very spirited, loyal and passionate. On the other hand, Sam Wilder is a lot of fun too… he’s a bit of a sexy bad boy who speaks before he thinks and really doesn’t care who he upsets!

I’m not sure I’d want to change places. My protagonists have some enviable experiences, but also some extremely gruelling ones that I, being a wimp, would prefer to avoid. I don’t know. Would it be better to be someone passionate and vulnerable like Rosie, who gets hurt, or someone cool, confident and beyond morality, such as Sebastian or Violette (vampires from my novel THE DARK BLOOD OF POPPIES)? It’s tempting, but then you’d be stuck in the one existence and not get to meet the next set of characters!

> What was the first novel (published or unpublished) that you wrote and how long did it take to write it?

A BLACKBIRD IN SILVER wasn’t the first novel I’d started, but it was the first one I finished. I’d made many false starts on sub-Tolkienian fantasy stories that fizzled out because I didn’t know where they were going. What made ‘BLACKBIRD’ different was that I thought of the story’s climactic scene first, and was so fired up by it that I had to keep going, in order to reach that goal! I started it when I was sixteen and still at school, and mostly wrote it in my spare time while I was at art college. It took about three years, plus a lot of rewriting when I eventually found an agent and a publisher. The novel has recently been re-issued as A BLACKBIRD IN SILVER DARKNESS by Immanion Press – it was quite strange re-editing my earliest novel and my most recent (ELFLAND) at the same time.

> Share an interesting fan story.

Some years ago, I had a letter from an American lady called Freda Warrington who is also a writer! Her teenage children were travelling in Europe and came across one of my vampire novels, A TASTE OF BLOOD WINE. They thought their mother had had a book published without telling them. So they took it home to her, and she thought they had had the book mocked-up as a joke! Anyway, she wrote to me and we became good friends – my husband Mike and I have visited her family several times in the US. She has a great sense of fun and it gives her a kick to introduce me to her friends as ‘the other Freda’. I also heard from another Freda Warrington in Vancouver, so there are at least three of us. Any more, and we are going to hold our own convention!

> What is your university degree in?

When I was leaving school, ‘being a novelist’ wasn’t a career option so I studied graphic design, and worked in graphics and medical art for some years. I think I made the right choice – if I were to give up writing and return to full-time work, I can’t think of anything I’d want to do except something art-based. I’m trying to teach myself web design, and I love crafts such as stained glass, jewellery-making and sewing. Putting words together or putting colours together is all I’m good at!

> Do you think it is easier to write fantasy or science fiction?

I think it’s easiest to write what fires your imagination. Good science fiction explores the consequences of technology on human society, which isn’t my area of knowledge. I’m not for a moment suggesting that SF can’t examine human relationships, and I know that the boundaries between some kinds of SF and fantasy can be very blurred indeed, but my interests lie in the hearts and minds of my characters. I’ve got nothing original to say about future technology, interplanetary travel or whatever, therefore I wouldn’t even try! I’m more comfortable in my fantastical or real-world settings. Someone with a scientific background might feel just the opposite. I would say, though, that if you want to write science fiction or techno-thrillers, make sure you understand the technology you’re writing about. You have to be one step ahead of your very smart readers, and that’s not easy at all!

> What’s the best/worst thing about writing?

The best thing is the excitement of becoming completely caught up in your invented world, so involved with your characters that you can’t stop writing. It’s a wonderful feeling when it flows. And then revising your passionately-worked scene or chapter to make it even better – knowing you’ve created something inspired. That is so fulfilling – probably even better than holding the published book in your hands! The worst thing… the isolation of working alone in your study for months, hearing nothing from agent or editor, wondering if everyone’s forgotten you exist! That can cause drops in self-confidence which are difficult to cope with. However, things are much better now we have the Internet. It’s easier to keep in touch with the outside world these days.

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

The most important thing is simply to WRITE! Some people say they want to write, yet they don’t. It’s as if they’re waiting for outside permission to begin, or saving up to buy the right laptop… when all a serious writer needs is a notebook and a burnt stick! If you want to be an author, you need to start writing, and then keep at it. Join a writers’ group for mutual support and feedback, or start one of your own. Read lots of books, good and bad. If you are writing specific real-world stuff, make sure you do your research – you can let your imagination run wild more convincingly if you know what the facts are first! There is lots of advice on the net which you can take or ignore as it suits you. Don’t reject criticism without giving it careful consideration first – it’s rare that anyone’s work can’t be improved. Don’t be precious; resign yourself to working through at least three drafts, then more when you find an editor. Read and follow meticulously the submission guidelines of publishers and agents before you submit your work to them. And be prepared for rejection, however good you are. Finding a publisher has always been hard and it’s only becoming harder. However, self-publication is much less frowned-upon than it used to be – there are many more opportunities to make your work available, as long as you don’t expect much financial reward.

Above all, you need to love writing for its own sake. The best advice I ever heard was that you cannot write as if there’s a critic hovering over your shoulder. You must write first of all to please yourself. (That way, you’ll have one fan at least!)

> Any tips against writer’s block?

The most prolific author will say that sometimes, it’s all too easy to make coffee, clean the loo or go shopping – anything rather than sit down and face a blank screen! I think writer’s block really boils down to fear, a lack of confidence about the validity of what you’re trying to say. Some days I struggle quite a lot to psych myself up to get started – I used to feel bad about this, until I realised it’s actually quite a common experience! I envy writers who can get up at 6 and rattle off 2000 words before breakfast… I just don’t have that sort of energy. So when it’s hard, I think you have to play tricks or bribe yourself. Set small targets – instead of telling yourself you must write ten pages, make it two, or even a single paragraph. Sitting at a blank PC screen for any length of time can be tiring – don’t start surfing the net, but go into another room and read a few pages of your favourite author, just to remind yourself how exciting good writing can be. Sit somewhere different and hand-write instead. Or work on a different bit of the book that’s easier. Keep a notebook handy – typing up your notes the next day is a good way to kick-start creativity. If you’re stuck on plot or ‘what happens next’, sometimes it’s best to go right away and do something mindless – walk the dog, weed the garden or whatever. You may find that inspiration manifests spontaneously in the void!

Also, see the advice above, about trying to please an invisible critic. Don’t. It’s impossible. Nothing’s more inhibiting than wondering if what you’re writing is any good. Write anything. It doesn’t matter if it’s bad; you’ll improve it later. It’s much easier to edit bad writing than it is to edit a blank screen!

And now I shall go away and take my own advice! Thank you. I hope you will enjoy ELFLAND.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Science Fiction and Fantasy Books Coming in October 2009

Hardcover:

Jumper Cable – Piers Anthony
Torchwood: The Undertaker's Gift – Trevor Baxendale
By the Mountain Bound – Elizabeth Bear
Servant of a Dark God – John Brown
Halo Encyclopedia – Tobias Buckell, Ed.
At Empire's Edge – William Dietz
The Wild Things – Dave Eggers
Chaosbound – David Farland
Dragon's Ring – David Freer
Nova War – Gary Gibson
Flesh & Fire – Laura Anne Gilman
Torchwood: Risk Assessment – James Goss
Boilerplate – Paul Guinan
The Gathering Storm – Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson
Silver Mage – Katharine Kerr
Small Miracles – Edward Lerner
Torchwood: Consequences – Joseph Lidster
Imager's Challenge – L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
In His Majesty's Service – Naomi Novik (3-in-1)
The Unseen Academicals – Terry Pratchett
The Tuloriad – John Ringo & Tom Kratman
Torchwood Excyclopedia – Gary Russell, Ed.
Forgotten Realms: Ghost King – R.A. Salvatore
Canticle – Ken Scholes
Star Wars: Death Troopers – Joe Schreiber
Quatrain – Sharon Shinn
Are You There & Other Stories – Jack Skillingstead
Slow Sculpture, vol XII:Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon – Theodore Sturgeon
The Golden Shrine – Harry Turtledove
Night Angel Trilogy – Brent Weeks (3-in1)
Star Wars: The Complete Vader – Ryder Windham & Peter Vilmur

Trade Paperback:

Noonshade - James Barclay
Fire on the Mountain – Terry Bisson
Real Unreal: Best American Fantasy vol 3 – Kevin Brockmeier, Ed.
Indigo Springs – A.M. Dellamonica
The Complete Hammer's Slammer's vol 1– David Drake
This Crooked Way - James Enge
Druids – Barbara Galler-Smith
Zombie Raccoons & Killer Bunnies – Martin Greenberg & Kerrie Hughes, Ed.
Hunting Memories – Barb Hendee
The Sleep that Rescues – C.J. Henderson
Heroes in the Wind – Robert Howard
Rise of Iron Moon – Stephen Hunt
The Secret History of Science Fiction – James Patrick Kelly, Ed.
Demon Ex Machina – Julie Kenner
Star Trek Enterprise: Beneath the Raptor's Wing – Michael Martin
Black Blood – John Meaney
Elric in the Dream Realms – Michael Moorcock
Friday Night Blues – Chloe Neill
Monstrous Affections – David Nickle
Red Claw – Philip Palmer
Bite Marks – Jennifer Rardin
The Lucky Strike – Kim Stanley Robinson
Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection – Don Roff
Sasha - Joel Shepherd
Forgotten Realms: House of Serpents Omnibus – Lisa Smedman
Eclipse 3: New Science Fiction & Fantasy – Jonathan Strahan, Ed.

Mass Market Paperback:

Feast of the King's Shadow – Chaz Benchley
The Knights of the Cornerstone – James Blaylock
Laugh Lines – Ben Bova
Soulless – Gail Carriger
The Prisoner – Carlos Cortes
Terminator Salvation: Cold War – Greg Cox
Bitter Night – Diana Francis
Never After – Laurell Hamilton, Yasmine Galenorn, Marjorie Liu & Sharon Shinn
Blood Memories – Barb Hendee
Mermaid's Madness – Jim Hines
Candle in the Storm – Morgan Howell
Tainted – Julie Kenner
The Clone Betrayal – Steven Kent
Eye of the Dragon – Stephen King
Carnifex – Tom Kratman
Foundation – Mercedes Lackey
Dragonheart – Todd McCaffrey
The Devil's Eye – Jack McDevitt
Blood in the Water – Juliet McKenna
City of Jade – Dennis McKiernan
Strength & Honor – R.M. Meluch
War Hammer 40K: Innocence Proves Nothing – Sandy Mitchell
Dragon Lance: Goblin Nation – Jean Rabe
Vigilante – Laura Reeve
Hardcore – Andy Remic
Kris Longknife Undaunted – Mike Shepherd
The Tau Ceti Agenda – Travis Taylor
Star Wars: 501st – Karen Traviss
Decay Inevitable – Conrad Williams
War Hammer: Iron Company – Chris Wraight
Twilight of Kerberos: the Crucible of the Dragon God – Mike Wild