Monday, 28 February 2011

Science Fiction and Fantasy Events in Toronto, March 2011

So I don't bore people not in the Toronto area with numerous event listings, I'll do one post on the last day of the month for upcoming events.  These are from the science fiction & fantasy calendar I've started.  If you have an event that's not listed, email me and I'll put it on the calendar.  While I'll try to get the details correct, always check the links to confirm event information. And I'll be updating this list as I learn of more events.

Friday March 4
The Great Extraterrestrial Debate: Seth Shostak, Ray Jayawardhana, Bob McDonald, and Robert J. Sawyer
Sponsored by the Centre for Inquiry Ontario, and
Hosted by the University of Toronto Secular Alliance
University of Toronto
Where: J.R.R. MacLeod Auditorium | University of Toronto, Medical Sciences Building
1 Kings College Circle, Toronto ON
When: Friday, March 4, 2011 from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m.

Admission varies between $10 and $20. See website to purchase advance tickets.

Sunday March 6
Chiaroscuro Reading Series: Cory Doctorow Comes to Town
Where: Augusta House (152 Augusta St.)
When: 8-11 pm
Book readings by Cory Doctorow, Karl Schroeder and David Nickle.

Monday March 14
Strange New Worlds With Ray Jayawardhana
Where: Northern District Library (40 Orchard View Blvd)
When: 7 - 9:30 pm
"In "Strange New Worlds: The Search for Alien Planets and Life Beyond Our Solar System", renowned astronomer Ray Jayawardhana brings the latest news from the forefront of research, including some of his own findings, and tells a tale rich in history and personalities. Jayawardhana is a professor and Canada Research Chair in Observational Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. His discoveries make headlines internationally and he has won many accolades."

Friday March 18 to Sunday March 20th
Wizard World Toronto Comic Con
Where: Direct Energy Centre, (100 Princes' Boulevard)
When: Friday 4-9pm, Saturday 10-7, Sunday 11-6pm
See site for ticket information, guests, etc.

Saturday March 19 & Sunday March 20
Toronto AnimeCon
Where: Metro Toronto Convention Centre (North Building)
255 Front Street. West
When: 11 - 6 pm Saturday, 11-5 Sunday
Admission only available at the door during the show hours of Animecon
Fan Expo Canada VIP Ticket holders admitted FREE!
Flat rate admission $15.00 for Saturday and/or Sunday. Children age 10 and under admitted FREE with adult ticket purchase! (proof of age required)

Sunday March 20th
Space-Time Continuum Discussion Group
Where: Bakka Phoenix Books (84 Harbord St)
When: 1 pm
Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse Edited by John Joseph Adams  
Focus on Stories: Bread and Bombs by M. Rickert;
Speech Sounds by Octavia E. Butler;
Killers by Carol Emshwiller;
The End of the World as We Know It by Dale Bailey;
A Song Before Sunset by David Grigg;
Episode Seven� by John Langans


Tuesday March 29
Robert J. Sawyer Book Launch for WWW: Wonder (scroll down for launch details)
Where: Dominion on Queen Pub (500 Queen Street East)
When: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.
Bakka Phoenix will be onhand to sell books

Friday, 25 February 2011

Author Interview: S. Andrew Swann

Novels: Too many to list (click here for a full listing)
The Apotheosis Trilogy: 
Prophets
Heretics 
Messiah
The Wolfbreed Series:
Wolfbreed
Wolf's Cross



> What's the Apotheosis Trilogy about? 

The Apotheosis Trilogy is about a lot of things, but they all revolve around the philosophical and spiritual implications of Transhumanism and the Singularity, or― as I’ve said elsewhere― it’s taking the old saw about the Singularity being “the rapture for nerds” seriously, in all the implications of that statement. 

> Having written in several genres, do you think it's easier to write science fiction, fantasy or horror? And why?

Each genre has its own pitfalls and strengths, and everything I use in one eventually gets applied to the others.  The world-building, for instance, in an epic space opera is actually pretty similar to that in an epic historical fantasy.

> You have two series coming out at the same time, your Apotheosis Trilogy and your Wolfbreed novels.  How do you 1) find the time to write so much and 2) keep all the information for 2 series straight?

I just write every day.  Write every day, even 500 words, and you’ll have a novel in less than a year.  I keep things straight by working on one project at a time; sort of serial monogamy for fiction.

> Has your engineering background helped you as a writer?

Everything that happens in life helps as a writer.  The engineering specifically, I think, has added some verisimilitude to my SF― but that can be true of any life experience.  It’s a lot easier to sound authoritative about the stuff you make up if you have some knowledge about the stuff you haven’t.

> What made you want to be a writer?

I think it’s genetic.

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

An epic fantasy that shall remain forever unnamed.  It was 150,000 words, took over a year to write, and was utterly unsalvageable.  (Though I've ruthlessly stripped it for parts of many other novels.) 

> When and where do you write?

Generally between 6:00 and 8:00 in the mornings before work at the day job, a little later and longer at home on the weekends.

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

Best: Getting paid for writing.  Worst: How much you get paid for writing.

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

How obnoxiously long everything takes to get done.

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

Have a day job that you enjoy almost as much as the writing. As much as it crunches your time, removing the financial stress from the writing equation is a good thing. 

> Any tips against writers block?

Write something every day.  If you can’t write one thing, write something else.  Write about why you think you can’t write.

> How do you discipline yourself to write?

Doing it the same time every day helps.  Having a ritual helps the brain to get into a writing mode.  Also, in my case, knowing that the rest of my day is so tightly packed that my little time in the morning is the ONLY shot I have to get something done helps focus the mind.

Graphic Novel Review: American Vampire, Volume 1

 Written by:  Scott Snyder & Stephen King
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque

Pros: great stories, fantastic idea regarding vampire evolution, intriguing characters
Cons:
Art: rough strokes giving thick limbs and showing pencil lines, lots of motion, good shading and details

Too connected stories told by two writers, American Vampire is a great graphic novel.

Each comic (there are 4 in this collection) starts with a story by Scott Snyder involving aspiring actresses Pearl and Hattie.  Things don't go as expected when Pearl's invited to a party hosted by the producer of the film she's an extra on.

The second story, by Stephen King, deals with the origin of the titular American vampire.  A wild west bank robber is accidentally turned by a European bank owner during a bust gone bad.  But where the European vampires have trouble in sunlight and can't cross water easily, their American counterparts have no such weaknesses.

The two stories work well together, slowly explaining the vampire situation in the new world and how they evolve as a species based on different blood.

The artwork is blocky and thick lined and while it's normally not to my taste, it suits the subject matter here surprisingly well. 

Ultimately it's a great grapic novel.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

ET2: Extinction Trailer

Robert Blankenheim has created a trailer for a mock E. T. sequel, E.T. 2: Extinction.  It's remarkably well done.



What he says about it:
I have just completed a new fake trailer for the sequel to E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. I've been working on it for a while and like Titanic, it took endless hours of sifting through movies and trying to paste a story together from clips that I found. I can't tell you exactly how many movies I researched (hundreds), but I can tell you that I ended up using clips from 33 movies along with 11 shots that I had to shoot myself in order to create the trailer. Out of the 115 shots in the trailer, there are 80 effects shots ranging from simple (adding ships to the background) to difficult (animating a talking ET).
Go to his website to find out more, and see his trailer for the sequel to Titanic Two: the Surface.

Peter V. Brett Hosts Audio Contest

The contest will be to record the best reading of a section from one of the Demon Cycle books (you can read from The Great Bazaar or Brayan’s Gold as well as from The Warded Man and The Desert Spear). We’re looking for a fun, and enjoyable reading. You may make various voices for the different characters, but it isn’t required.
Go to the website for contest details.  The winner gets a "personalized deluxe edition of Brayan’s Gold, an absolutely beautiful volume. It is bound in white leather with the ward signs embossed on the cover. It also comes with a special dust jacket. This only had a print run of 750."

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

New Author Spotlight: Mark Hodder

Author Spotlight is a series designed to introduce authors with 3 books or less in the different SF/F subgenres.

Today's spotlight shines on Mark Hodder.

Mark Hodder's books include:

Here's the cover copy for The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack:
London, 1861.

Sir Richard Francis Burton—explorer, linguist, scholar, and swordsman; his reputation tarnished; his career in tatters; his former partner missing and probably dead.

Algernon Charles Swinburne—unsuccessful poet and follower of de Sade; for whom pain is pleasure, and brandy is ruin!

They stand at a crossroads in their lives and are caught in the epicenter of an empire torn by conflicting forces: Engineers transform the landscape with bigger, faster, noisier, and dirtier technological wonders; Eugenicists develop specialist animals to provide unpaid labor; Libertines oppose repressive laws and demand a society based on beauty and creativity; while the Rakes push the boundaries of human behavior to the limits with magic, drugs, and anarchy. The two men are sucked into the perilous depths of this moral and ethical vacuum when Lord Palmerston commissions Burton to investigate assaults on young women committed by a weird apparition known as Spring Heeled Jack, and to find out why werewolves are terrorizing London's East End.

Their investigations lead them to one of the defining events of the age, and the terrifying possibility that the world they inhabit shouldn't exist at all!

If you like this title, you might also like:

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Orbit Books Starts a Podcast

From the Orbit site:

This week we’re thrilled to launch the Orbit podcast, hosted by Jack Womack. The first episode features a wide-ranging conversation with Joe Abercrombie, whose new book, THE HEROES, is out now. Subjects covered include: hand-to-hand combat,  warfare and film, gallows humor, death metal, the American Civil War,  and more. You can listen to the full episode below, or subscribe on itunes.
Here's a link to the first podcast.

Dead Island Videogame Trailer

This trailer combines fantastic cinematography with reverse story telling.  Almost makes me want to play the game - or wish this was a movie trailer instead.

I snagged it from College Humor.


Book Review: Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello

Original publication date: 1990, republished by Open Road Integrated Media 2010

Pros: a lot of fascinating information about Alfred Hitchcock and Psycho, written more for casual film buffs than filmmakers

Cons: gets a little too in depth at times, no afterward giving recent influences of the film

Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho details the making of the film from the real life serial killer who influenced Robert Bloch's book, Psycho, to the aftermath of the film and what those who worked on it did afterward.  Rebello spent several years in the 80s interviewing people and the anecdotes he reveals are fascinating.

The book walks a fine balance between explaining all of the important aspects of making Psycho while not being too technical in detail.  Thus, film students can better admire it's genius and casual fans of the film won't be bored.  The downside to this is that Rebello sometimes fails, giving more information than the casual fan cares for (as with the explanation of how the film titles were made), while not being detailed enough for practical film students.

I found it surprising that, though this is a reprint of a book published in 1990, there was no new conclusion or updating ending, explaining more recent derivations of the film.  And the 'Psycho on Video' segment only mentions it being available on "videotape and laser disc". 

If you like the film and are interested in learning more about it, you won't find a better book than this.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Super Harmony

Ever wonder what kind of guy/girl superheroes would hook up with?  Well, you're in for a laugh with this video, showing some of DC's greatest crime fighters falling in love through SuperHarmony.com, the super hero dating service.  Brought to you by TeamUnicornFTW.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Book Review: Slights by Kaaron Warren

Pros: creepy premise, strong writing, good pacing, interesting family mystery

Cons: unlikable protagonist, didn't feel like a horror novel

Stevie is an unreliable narrator. 

She remembers her father, a cop, as a good, quiet man.  Others remember him differently.  He was the kind of cop who didn't like to see the guilty get away with their crimes, even when there wasn't enough evidence to convict them.

Stevie was 18 when her mother died, passenger in the car Stevie was driving.  The accident gave Stevie her third near death experience.  Before, she'd been too young to understand what happened.  This time she realized that when you die you enter a room.  A dark room.  A dark room where those you've slighter want to hurt you.

The book is presented as a horror novel and the premise is quite terrifying.  But in execution, it's less about horror than it is about the mystery of who Stevie's father was and what death actually holds for her.  And while she runs from the first mystery, wanting to believe her father was a great man, she runs towards the second, trying to get back to her room to see if it changes.

As a protagonist she's a thoroughly unlikable character.  She's rude, disrespectful and goes out of her way to anger the people in her life.  And yet, her story is fascinating and she somehow remains sympathetic.

The writing is strong and the pacing good, doling out enough clues to keep you interested.

One word of caution, try not to read the synopsis on the back of the book.  It contains a spoiler that makes part of the mystery a lot easier to figure out.  If you want to get a sense of the book, read the first few pages.

ChiZine Publications hosts "Imaginary Book" Contest to Promote The Door To Lost Pages

From their press release:

TORONTO, Ontario (February 17, 2011) – Toronto based ChiZine Publications will be holding a contest to promote and give away signed limited edition hard cover copies of Claude Lalumière's new book The Door to Lost Pages. Submitters are encouraged to fabricate a title and synopsis of an imaginary book that would appear in the novella’s titular shop, Lost Pages, which exists across multiple realities and conveys materials about them.
“This is not only a means to increase the interest in the book, but also to promote the importance of interaction with the material,” says CZP author Claude Lalumière. “By encouraging invention on the reader’s part, it gives them more of an involvement with the work and its concepts therein.”

Via the available form on the ChiZine contest page, contestants will submit the title and synopsis of an imaginary book they would think would be found at Lost Pages. Two grand prizes will be awarded—the Author’s Choice Award, selected by Claude Lalumière, and the Reader’s Choice Award, voted by online readers. 

The winners and runners-up will be featured on the CZP website and on Lalumière’s Lost Myths blog. The two grand-prize winners each get a free signed limited-edition hardcover copy of The Door to Lost Pages, as well as ten postcards featuring their winning entry. CZP will also use the postcards of the winning entry as giveaway material at conventions, readings and festivals. Three runners-up will win a free eBook download of The Door to Lost Pages.
 

Submission Guidelines
  1. Participants may submit up to three entries each
  2. Entries can be up to 150 words, including the header
  3. Vote and encourage others to vote on their favourite entries
  4. Claude Lalumière will choose his top picks from the submitted entries to be posted on the contest website. Voting for the Reader’s Choice will take place from March 21 to March 31, midnight (EDT).

The contest begins February 17, 2011. Final submissions must be made by midnight (EDT) on March 15, 2011.  Final winners will be announced on April 4, 2011 by ChiZine Publications. 
Entries may be edited in minor ways for publication. To submit, visit the ChiZine Publications website at http://chizine.com/chizinepub/contests/lost-pages/

 If you're wondering what The Door To Lost Pages is all about, here's the synopsis via the Chapters/Indigo website:

 Step through the door to Lost Pages and escape a life you never wanted! On her tenth birthday, Aydee runs away from home and from her neglectful parents. At first, surviving alone on the streets is harsh, but a series of frightening, bewildering encounters with strange primordial creatures leads her to a bookshop called Lost Pages, where she steps into a fantastic, sometimes dangerous, but exciting life. Aydee grows up at the reality-hopping Lost Pages, which seems to attract a clientele that is either eccentric - or desperate. She is repeatedly drawn into an eternal war between enigmatic gods and monsters, until the day she is confronted by her worst nightmare: herself!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Peter Orullian's Webseries, "Cradle of the Scar"

In preparation for the launch of his debut novel, The Unremembered in April, author Peter Orullian has created the first in a six part webseries entitled: "Cradle of the Scar".

I get excited about telling stories in different media. And I wrote this six-part webisode series entitled "Cradle of the Scar" with a particular idea in mind. I wanted to write more about the Scarred Lands in the world of The Vault of Heaven. And I also wanted to try my hand at pivoting several unique points of view around the same event, much like the film Vantage Point.

To that end, I also decided to work with different artists for each webisode to give some visual differentiation to the six characters and their voices. Once all six are done, I suspect you could watch them in any order and do just fine. But in my mind, there is a nice flow to the sequence as I've numbered them. I'll post each new one about every other week.

Here's the thing that just tickles me: If you watch this and then read the book, you'll have a deeper context for a few of the events and moments in the novel. You don't need to see these for the book to work, of course. It's additive story. It's like finding an Easter egg. But I've been enjoying some instances of the movement that's meant to describe this entire approach: transmedia. It's a highfalutin term, but indeed even Hollywood is now hiring producers and directors who can do this kind of thing—working across multiple media to tell related stories in or of the same universe.
Here's the first episode.



Wednesday, 16 February 2011

PYR Starts Author Round Tables

Starting today, PYR books will be doing periodic author round tables.

In what we intend as a regular Pyr-o-mania feature, we will be asking our authors a few questions about writing and their books.
For their first one, they welcome authors: Mark Chadbourn, Jasper Kent and James Barclay.

New Romance Lovers Website: Heroes and Heartbreakers

From the wonderful people who bring us Tor.com, comes a new website and community, exclusively for romance lovers: Heroes and Heartbreakers.com.

The website will have stories, giveaways and a place to discuss all things romance related.  Check it out.

New Web Comic: Cat Bytes

Fellow SF Signal podcaster, Patrick Hester, has started a web comic with Clifton Hill, The Cat Bytes.

Here's the first comic strip.  It will be updated every Tuesday and Thursday.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Book Review: The Silent Army by James Knapp

Pros: complex plot, characters face difficult ethical decisions

Cons:

I've seen the question of what to do when faced with two equally unpleasant choices dealt with in several books lately (Mockingjay & Monsters of Men come immediately to mind).  There are only two choices, pick the lesser of two evils or try to find a third, more acceptable option.

Agent Nico Wachalowski is asked to join forces with the revivors (reanimated dead) against those who can manipulate minds and memories - and kill their leader, Ai.  He's asked by Ai to fight with her people against the revivors, who are in possession of 9 nuclear devices and are planning to use them to destroy the city.

Both sides make convincing arguments as to the dangers posed by their enemies.  And like most decisions of this nature, when Nico finally makes his choice, he's not satisfied with it.

Meanwhile Zoe Ott is seduced by Ai's agent Penny into joining their side, and Calliope Flax, back from a two year tour of duty, does some dangerous detective work in hopes of impressing Nico and perhaps landing a job with the FBI.

The problem with reading a debut as good as State of Decay is the fear that the sequel won't live up to expectations.  The Silent Army does everything right.  This is not a filler book for a trilogy.  The plot is tight and complex and the characters are forced to deal with difficult situations and make tough choices.

If you haven't started this series, you're really missing out on something great.  The third book, Element Zero, is out April 5th.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Author Interview: Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Novels:
Fallen Blade
Arabesk
End of the World Blues
9Tail Fox
Stamping Butterflies
Pashazade
Felaheen
Effendi
redRobe
reMix
Lucifer's Dragon
neoAddix

Website: www.j-cg.co.uk

> What's The Fallen Blade about?

It's a love story between a living girl and a boy who isn't quite sure what he is other than not entirely normal; between an ex-slave and a Millioni princess. It's set in a 15th century Venice where magic still exists and werewolves terrorise the city at night. Into this city comes Tycho, an impossibly beautiful boy with wolf grey hair, who is first seen chained naked to the bulkhead of a ship in the lagoon.

The story riffs off the first half of Othello and steals bits of Hamlet but you don't need to know the plays or even notice that's what the novel does. Someone described that bit of the mix as, 'Shakespeare casserole – delicious, and not too fitting,' which works for me.



> Why did you choose to set your novel in Renaissance Venice?

It's the darkest and yet most glittering place I've been. And where better to set a story that aims to be both dark and glittering than in an insanely surreal city that breaks all the laws of how cities should be built?

Venice was the powerhouse of Europe; rich and powerful and greedy; and regarded by the rest of Europe as somewhere between a brothel and a den of thieves. That's an ideal dark fantasy setting before I even start to think about what makes Tycho's story fantasy. Throw in werewolves, mages and alchemy and it was hard for me to resist. Also Venice has a *very* strange feeling, like history is over layering itself and ghosts - and quite possibly fallen angels - are watching every step you take.

> How was writing The Fallen Blade different from writing your science fiction novels?

Instead of creating the future - say the far end of time on the other edge of an ice age for End of the World Blues, or a ringworld with a Buddhist AI for redRobe - I had to create a version of the past that worked for Tycho. Historical fantasy and the kind of SF I write share enough points for that not to be a problem:

Both need real characters, both need a world you can see and dialogue you can hear. Both have to tell a real story and can't simply hide behind the window-dressing of space ships or beautiful and lush palaces or filthy backstreets. So far, so separated at birth... The tricky bit was deciding how much fantastical stuff to include and whether or not to explain it.

My view is, if you live in a world with werewolves you don't need them explained any more than we need someone to explain to us that we live in a world with cats, so certain things I've simply taken for granted. Magic exists, mages exist, shape changing exists. None of this is common place, but everyone knows it's there. The problem is Tycho; he's the first vampire into Europe and no one knows what he is.

Hell, he doesn't know what he is. The very first part of the book is Tycho's struggle to understand where he is, who these people are around him, why he's in a city with water for streets.

> What's the neatest place you've travelled while researching one of your books?

Venice is fabulous and v. v. strange. Marrakesh in the Atlas mountains in Morocco manages to mix of African, French and Berber with a medieval walled city inside a French city (that looks like it belongs in 1950s Paris), inside a modern city inside an outer ring of jerry-built slums. As a crash course in the history of North Africa it is hard to beat. I set a large slice of Stamping Butterflies there. Tokyo, like Marrakesh and Moscow, is one of those city's where most Westerners can't read the road signs, which produces a cognitive dissonance that makes us look at the world around us a little harder. Mexico City was just turning itself into a war zone in the fight between the narco lords and Calderon's govt the last time I went and I'm probably too nervous to go there again for a while.

But the place I really liked, which was in Fallen Blade and then I cut it in the first edit, was Nordkap, the northern-most point in Europe, hundreds of miles above the Arctic circle, where the sky looms huge and grey above you and cliffs fall thousands of feet into a gunmetal coloured sea. It is like standing in
the middle of a Norse saga.

> What made you want to be a writer?

I've had stories in my head for as long as I can remember. Some of them have run for years and some of them get reprised, it's a cerebral back ground scribble that never really goes away. When I write I see the places I'm writing about and hear what the characters say. Writing was just a decision to start putting this stuff down.

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

When I was seven I wrote a novel about a monkey that escaped from a zoo and stole a NASA spaceship and escaped to the moon. I was trapped in a very English boarding school at the time and it doesn't take a psychiatry degree to read the subtext! Since I found the writing quite hard I gave that up after the first third and drew the rest. It took me weeks and weeks, although most of that probably went on the plans for the rocket.

> When and where do you write?

I have a study upstairs and a hot desk outside the kitchen... That said, if I'm in the house I usually work at the kitchen table and if I'm not in the house (more likely), I write in a cafe, occasionally in pubs and bars. Trains, planes and airports are also good. The cafe is so used to me that they let me have the table all morning in return for two coffees and a muffin!

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

The work/the work.

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

After working in factories and at Oslo airport, I lucked into a job as production assistant at a London publishers, ended up as production editor, left to write a really bad book in a little house in the mountains in Spain on the money I'd saved (my budget to live was £7/$12 a week), returned to the UK, became as assistant editor at another publishers, worked up through editor, commissioning editor, publisher, was bought and sold a few times, worked for more than my share of idiots, and left to go freelance when I found myself a single parent needing to look after a small school-aged boy... I had very few illusions about the industry by the time neoAddix sold.

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

Write, keep writing, read, keep reading... You need to do both, you also need to be ruthless enough with yourself to realise that most of what you write at the beginning will not be very good and only exists to let you learn how to do it better.

No one needs to write seven versions of the first chapter and I have non-published friends who have spent ten years writing and rewriting the same book. Write it, finish it, put it in a drawer and nail the drawer shut. Start the next book. All first drafts are crap unless you're a genius, in which case you don't need my advice. Write the first draft quickly and edit it into something better, that's what everyone else does.

> Any tips against writers block?

I don't believe in writers block! We write from our unconscious and shape it into fiction with our conscious. I'm too superstitious as a writer to want to stare into that particular abyss without need.

> How do you discipline yourself to write?

I get up in the morning and start work. I'm lucky enough and privileged enough to do this for a living. Writing when I was looking after my son was harder. That's why my natural working hours still revolve around school hours and I instinctively go back to work in the evening after he would have gone to bed.

Without discipline it's an impossible job. I always write at least a 1000 words a day (2000 is the target) or edit 20 pages. Do that every day and even if you write three drafts, which I do, you have a book in a year. And nothing beats the feeling of holding the first copy of a new novel in your hands or walking into a good bookshop and seeing it on display.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Angry Robot Books Welcomes Unagented Manuscripts in March

From their website:

In March 2011 we will be accepting submissions from unagented authors for the first time. The clock starts ticking on March 1st, and we close the doors again on March 31st. If things go well we might repeat the project later in the year.

During March 2011, this page will change, and you will see details of how to submit your manuscripts to us.

Please do not send us anything before this time, as we won’t read it.
Instead, use the time between now and then to make sure it’s the best it can be.
.
What we will be looking for:
We’re publishing novels, either standalone or as part of greater series. We’re not looking to publish your novellas, short stories (individually or collected in book form) or non-fiction at this time. Our novels are for adult readers; we’re not currently looking at work aimed at young teens or children.

All our books are “genre” fiction in one way or another — specifically fantasy, science fiction, horror, and that new catch-all urban or modern fantasy. Those are quite wide-ranging in themselves; we’re looking for all types of sub-genre, so for example, hard SF, space opera, cyberpunk, military SF, alternate future history, future crime, time travel, and more. We have no problem if your book mashes together two or more of these genres, but they must have that genre foundation – no thrillers with the merest touch of SF, for example.

Our books will be published in all English-language territories — notably the UK, US and Australia — so we’ll be buying rights to cover all those. If you are only offering rights in one territory, we will not be able to deal with you. We will be able to offer e-book and audio versions as standard too, plus limited edition and multiple physical formats where appropriate. We are not contracting any work-for-hire titles; we offer advances and royalties.
There's a LOT more information on their site, so head over and read it if you've got a manuscript ready to go.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Toronto Science Fiction and Fantasy Events Calendar

I've started up a Toronto Science Fiction and Fantasy Events Calendar as one of my 'pages' (in the left menu bar).  At the moment it's experimental, as I discover how much time and effort inputting events and maintaining it is going to be.  I'm using a free online calendar and file sharing service called KeepandShare, which I'm trying out for the first time.

I know the majority of people who come to this blog aren't in the Toronto area, so the calendar is also to lessen the number of 'Event in Toronto' posts I do (not eliminate them, mind you, just reduce them).  And I've been hoping for a while that someone would do a calendar that includes all the SF/F events in the city as I hate hearing of things after the fact that I'd have loved to go to.

If you are in Toronto and know of an event that's not on my calendar, please email me the details (event title, website url, date/time, venue and cost).  Also email me if you notice a mistake on the calendar or with an event.  Please put 'calendar events' in the subject line and send the information to: jessica.strider@gmail.com


And now for the disclaimer.  I'm doing this on my own time because I like the idea of knowing what's happening so I can plan what to attend.  I can only add events I hear about, so I know not everything will make the calendar.  I also only know what I'm told or discover on websites, so mistakes are possible (either with data entry on my end or changes on theirs).  I'll link to websites whenever possible, so always double check the information. 

This is experimental so if it turns out to be too much work to maintain or the site I'm using starts giving me problems, I might have to let the idea go.  On the other hand, if everything goes well for the first few months of just doing Toronto, I might branch out and add larger events from areas around the GTA as well.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

TOR Books Starts Monthly Twitter Chat Series

From the Tor/Forge website:

Calling all Tweetgeeks: science fiction stars Greg Bear, Steven Gould, and M.J. Locke to kick off first #Torchat next Wednesday, 2/16 at 4 PM EST

New York, NY – Wednesday, February 9, 2011 – Tor Books is excited to announce the launch of #Torchat, a new SF/f genre-themed, hour-long chat series hosted on Twitter. Guest authors will join fans in lively, informative and entertaining discussions of all that’s hot in genre fiction (140 characters at a time) from 4 – 5 PM Eastern on the third Wednesday of every month. Each #Torchat will revolve around a different genre topic of interest, with new guest authors and exclusive fan giveaways from @Torbooks.

Next Wednesday’s first #Torchat will revolve around a discussion of “hard” science fiction, that ambiguous and often narrowly defined subgenre of SF that purports to extrapolate from “real science.” Special guest authors Greg Bear (@spacegriz), Steven Gould (@StevenGould), and M.J. Locke (@MorganJLocke) will lead a fan chat on what Hard SF means, whose really doing it (and whose not…), and the science behind the fiction, using the Twitter hashtag #Torchat.

The chat will be introduced and (loosely) moderated by Tor publicist Justin Golenbock (@jgolenbo), with giveaways of advance copies of upcoming summer SF releases from @TorBooks preceding and following the 4 PM chat.

Our Author guests:

Greg Bear has won multiple Hugo and Nebula awards and is the acclaimed author of some of SF’s most iconic novels, including Eon, The Forge of God, and last fall’s Hull Zero Three.  His most recent novel, Halo: Cryptum, is a current New York Times bestseller. He is new to Twitter.

Steven Gould is the national bestselling author of Jumper, adapted by Hollywood as a major motion picture in 2008, as well as Wildside, Helm, Blind Waves, Reflex, Jumper: Griffin’s Story, and the forthcoming SF novel 7th Sigma (July 2011). He is the recipient of the Hal Clement Young Adult Award for Science Fiction and has been nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Awards.

M.J. Locke is the author of the forthcoming SF novel Up Against It (March 2011), about a deep space mining colony in the midst of a lethal resource crisis. She works as an environmental engineer in the American Southwest, a really cool job that lets her to apply real experience to her SF writing.
 Sounds cool.  Will you be tweeting along?

(And the teacher in me would like to point out that it should be who's (as in, who is), not whose (which means owner of).)

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Chiaroscuro Reading Series: Bakka To the Future

I wasn't supposed to make this event, but a co-worker asked for my shift, so...

The reading took place at Augusta House, which you'd be excused for missing when walking down the street.  It's a small door with a red sign over it near Dundas St.  The door leads to a stairwell, and a dark but pleasantly atmospheric bar.

The price for pop was a prohibitive $2.50, but their appetizers (priced at $5 and $6) were tasty and came in relatively large servings (I had the spring rolls, which were meat filled and came with a delightfully spicy dipping sauce).  Beer, for the drinkers out there, was $4.

The event planners hosted several draws, for Bakka-Phoenix gift certificates, book bags and one Ad-Astra pass.  In order to help cover costs for the readings, they also passed around a donation box.

The readings themselves were excellent.  Forgive the graininess of the photos.  The room was very dark and I didn't want to disturb people by using a flash.  I took a few video clips, but they're dark and jiggly, so I'm not posting any.  The people running the event had a video camera well placed to record the readings (without people walking in front, etc.).  Click on the author's name to see the video of their reading on the Chiaroscuro site.

The photos show: Leah Bobet, Michelle Sagara, Robert J. Sawyer and Ed Greenwood.

 



Ultimately it was a great event.  If you're in Toronto, check out their next event, Sunday March 6th, 8-11 (and the readings go all the way to 11, so don't expect to see everything if you need to leave early) when Cory Doctorow Comes to Town and reads with David Nickle and Karl Schroeder.

Reviews on Amazon.ca

For the longest time I've resisted posting reviews on Amazon.  Why, you ask?  Because they're 'the competition'.  Indigo has paid my bills for several years, and I like the company.

What's changed?  I had a conversation at the Chiaroscuro Reading last night.  Someone pointed out how, even if people don't end up buying from Amazon, it's still a great place to go for reviews.  And it's true.  I've looked at reviews on their US site for things they don't sell in Canada, things not remotely book related.

And I realized that by not posting reviews on Amazon, where a lot of people are looking for reviews, I'm doing the authors of the books I review a disservice.  So I've set up a profile and I'll be adding my reviews to Amazon.ca in the future.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Book Review: Canticle by Ken Scholes

Pros: political intrigue, plot twists, tense atmospheres

Cons: many aspects of this book are merely set-ups for the next in the series

***Minor Spoiler Alert***

Canticle is book 2 in the Psalms of Isaac.  It's been 9 months since the events of Lamentation  and a celebration is under way to welcome Rudolfo's heir to the Ninefold Forest Houses.  When tragedy strikes, the people of the already devestated Named Lands learn that the outside threat they feared is closer than they think.

All the principles are back, rushing towards their destinies, though none of the end results they're expecting.  Neb finally gets to go to the Churning Wastes, Winters takes up her crown, Jin Li Tam becomes a true queen and her father comes face to face with those who really orchestrated the destruction of Windwir.

The only negative is that some of the events are a little drawn out and feel like they're just to facilitate events in the next book - particularly Neb's storyline.

Ultimately, it's a great book with lots of intrigue, down time for character development and plot twists you won't see coming.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

ChiZine Publications to Host Online Review Contest

From their press release:


TORONTO, Ontario (February 1, 2011) – Toronto-based ChiZine Publications will begin holding a monthly contest to encourage readers to post reviews on Amazon and GoodReads for the opportunity to win CZP eBooks.

“Reviews are one of the most important ways of getting the word out about our books,” says CZP Marketing Manager Laura Marshall. “We not only want to increase the interest in what we’re doing, but we want to encourage readers to take our stories seriously and join the conversation. Seeing reader responses is what keeps things interesting for us.”

To participate:
1) Write a review of one of our books on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk or GoodReads—give us an honest assessment of what you think of our book.
2) Submit a copy of your review through the form provided on our contest page at http://chizinepub.com/review-contest/.
3) Keep doing it! You can enter as many times as you like as long as you’re reviewing a different book or posting on a different site.

Reviewers can submit as many reviews as they post on Amazon or GoodReads in order to be entered into the monthly draw for free eBooks. The number of prizes available per month will increase as the number of entries increase. At the end of the year, there will be a draw of all entries over 2011 for an annual eBook Subscription to CZP.
For more information, please read the full contest rules at http://chizinepub.com/reviewcontest/ or contact CZP Marketing Manager Laura Marshall.
I'm a little disappointed they're not accepting the Chapters/Indigo website reviews seeing as they're a Canadian publisher, but it's a nifty opportunity for those of you out there who post reviews on Amazon and/or GoodReads.

Friday, 4 February 2011

New Author Spotlight: Robert V. S. Redick

Author Spotlight is a series designed to introduce authors with 3 books or less in the different SF/F subgenres.


Today's spotlight shines on Robert V. S. Redick.

Robert V. S. Redick's books include:
Here's the cover copy for The Red Wolf Conspiracy:
Six hundred years old, the Imperial Merchant Ship Chathrand is a massive floating outpost of the Empire of Arqual. And it is on its most vital mission yet: to deliver a young woman whose marriage will seal the peace between Arqual and its mortal enemy, the Mzithrin Empire. But Thasha, the young noblewoman in question, may be bringing her swords to the altar.

For the ship’s true mission is not peace but war—a war that threatens to rekindle an ancient power long thought lost. As the Chathrand navigates treacherous waters, Thasha must seek unlikely allies—including a magic-cursed deckhand, a stowaway tribe of foot-high warriors, and a singularly heroic rat—and enter a treacherous web of intrigue to uncover the secret of the legendary Red Wolf.

If you like these titles, you might also like:

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Book Review: Monsters of men by Patrick Ness

Pros: fast paced, action packed, shows some of the realities of war, learn more about the indigenous race

Cons: it's hard to believe how willing people are to follow Pres. Prentiss considering all the evils he has perpetrated, no downtime for the characters to consider their actions and thereby reducing character growth for this book

The spackle army has arrived along with another scout ship from the approaching colonists.  Both Todd and Viola are forced to make difficult decisions with regards to how to handle things that are happening too fast.  They want peace.  Is war really what's required to achieve it?  And is Pres. Prentiss redeemable the way his actions in leading the army make it appear?

The final volume of the Chaos Walking trilogy is a wild ride of war, terrorism, almost peace and tough choices.

For the first time we get to see the world from the point of view of the indigenous race, the Land (whom the humans call the spackle).  It's a culture adapted to a world where all thoughts are shared.  The way information is shared and hidden was creatively decided by the author.

The book had less down time for the characters to think about their actions - making it a bit of a wearying read for me.  I wanted to see more introspection, more consideration and discussion of consequences - at least by the adults.  But things happened so quickly and each chapter seemed to bring a new crisis.  There was no time to rest - for the characters or the reader.

I also found it hard to believe how willing the people - especially Todd - were to forget Pres. Prentiss's crimes.  Todd was tortured by the man!  He watched Viola tortured by his order.  The man banded all the women, killed all the spackle slaves.  He purposely caused the war with the spackle and yet the townsmen all cheered for him.  Yes, it's partially explained away by the President having power via Noise over people, but really, that much power?  Enough power to make the women forget the bands on their arms?

Then again, difficult situations can cause people to do strange things, and if the President was the only one with the skills to save them then maybe it's understandable that the people ignored the past and focused on the present.

The ending was surprising and remarkably well written.  It somehow fit the story - increasing the tragedy while again showing what can be learned through trials.

Chaos Walking.  Go read it.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Book Review: The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

Pros: tense, shows how good people can be made to do bad things, thought provoking, great writing

Cons: incorrect grammar and spelling may be challenging for weak readers, violent

For Parents: fair amount of swearing, terrorism, torture (not excessively graphic but it is described), no sex

Todd and Viola have reached Haven, now New Prentisstown.  Separated by President Prentiss and not knowing if the other is alive, Todd's put to work under Davy Prentis's command.  Meanwhile, Viola learns about the Answer, a resistance movement against the President's rule.

But things quickly escalate for both protagonists and the line between good and evil is broken as each makes difficult choices.

Todd, Viola and Davy are all fleshed out characters.  Their motivations and decisions, while not always good, are understandable given the circumstances.

There's a fair bit of violence in this book, including torture.  While it's not excessive, younger readers will find it disturbing.  There's also more swearing in this book than the previous one.

It's a thought provoking book, showing not only how people will give up freedoms in the face of terrorism (both from guerrillas and the government) and how easy it is to go from one depravity to a worse one; to relax your morals bit by bit until nothing's sacrosanct.  Or almost nothing.

Great writing, fist person POV (both Todd and Viola) and lots of action make this a fantastic read.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels Coming in March

Hardcover:

Daybreak Zero – John Barnes
Twilight's Dawn – Anne Bishop
River Marked – Patricia Briggs
The Gravity Pilot – M. M. Buckner
The Crippled God – Steven Erikson
Beasts of New York – Jon Evans
Exodus of the Xandim – Maggie Furey
The Neon Court – Kate Griffin
Hellhole – Brian Herbert & Kevin Anderson
Rise of the Iron Moon – Stephen Hunt
Star Wars: The Old Republic: Deceived – Paul Kemp
The Unincorporated Woman – Dani Kollin
Invasion – Mercedes Lackey, Steve Libby & Cody Martin
Up Against It – M. J. Locke
The Republic of Thieves – Scott Lynch
Sword of Fire – William McGrath
The Bitter Seeds of Magic – Suzanne McLeod
Lady-Protector – L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
The Cold Commands – Richard Morgan
The Ale Boy's Feast – Jeffrey Overstreet
Wise Man's Fear – Patrick Rothfuss
Wonder – Robert Sawyer
Deathless – Catherynne Valente

Trade Paperback:

Demon Song – Cat Adams
Tales of the Otherworld – Kelley Armstrong
The End of Eternity – Isaac Asimov
White Luck Warrior – R. Scott Bakker
Slight of Hand – Peter Beagle
Roger Zelazny's Shadows of Amber – John Gregory Betancourt
The Plucker: An Illustrated Novel – Brom
Overkill – Robert Buettner
The Enterprise of Death – Jesse Bullingham
To the Galactic Rim – A. Bertram Chandler
The Vampire Files Omnibus – P. N. Elrod
Hidden Cities – Daniel Fox
Dirty Rotten Aliens – Randall Garrett
Vampire Voss – Colleen Gleason
Vampires: The Recent Undead – Paula Guran, Ed.
Curious Case of the Clockwork Man – Mark Hodder
Secrets of the Fire Sea – Stephen Hunt
Pathfinder Trails: Plague of Shadows – Howard Andrew Jones
Wired – Liz Maverick
Kraken – China Mieville
Napier's Bones - Derryl Murphy
Dreams of the Compass Rose – Vera Nazarian
Every Shallow Cut - Tom Piccirilli
Dante Valentine: The Complete Series – Lilith Saintcrow
The Black Chalice – Steven Savile
A Trial of Blood and Steel – Joel Shepherd
A Hundred Words for Hate – Thomas Sniegoski
Warhammer 40K: Hammer of the Emperor – Lucien Soulban
The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year, Volume 5 – Jonathan Strahan, Ed.
Blue vs Grey – Harry Turtledove
Crysis: Legion – Peter Watts
The Chronoliths – Robert Charles Wilson
The Sorcerer's House – Gene Wolfe

Mass Market Paperback:

Warhammer 40K: Horus Rising, Anniversary Edition – Dan Abnett
Rise of the Terran Empire – Poul Anderson
Forgotten Realms: The Temple of Yellow Sculls – Don Bassingthwaite
Master and Apprentice – Sonya Bateman
Shalador's Lady – Anne Bishop
Point - Thomas Blackthorne
Able One – Ben Bova
Hastur Lord – Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Desert Spear – Peter Brett
King's Justice - Maurice Broaddus
The Kings of Eternity – Eric Brown
Changes – Jim Butcher
Runescape: Return to Canifis – T. S. Church
Alaska Republik – Stoney Compton
Children of Scarabaeus – Sara Creasy
Deadworld – J. N. Duncan
Warhammer 40K: Victories of the Space Marines – Christian Dunn
At the Gates of Darkness – Raymond Feist
Grantville Gazette V – Eric Flint, Ed.
Waking Nightmares – Christopher Golden
Falconfar – Ed Greenwood
Land of the Dead – Thomas Harlan
Dead in the Family – Charlaine Harris
Under Wraps – Hannah Jayne
Watchers of the Dead – J. V. Jones
Warriors 1 – George Martin & Gardner Dozois, Ed.
Late Eclipses – Seanan McGuire
Iron Crowned – Rachel Mead
Arms-Commander – L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
Oath of Fealty – Elizabeth Moon
After Hours – Joshua Palmatier
Forgotten Realms: The Empyrean Odyssey Omnibus – Thomas Reid
Dungeons & Dragons: Sandstorm – Christopher Rowe
Con And Conjure – Lisa Shearin
The Spiral Path - Lisa Paitz Spindler (ebook)
Blackout – Rob Thurman
Discord's Apple – Carrie Vaughn
Dead Streets - Tim Waggoner
Green-Eyed Demon – Jaye Wells
City of a Hundred Rows – Ian Whates