Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Science Fiction and Fantasy Events in Toronto, February 2012

These events are from the science fiction & fantasy calendar I run.  If you have an event that's not listed, email me (jessica.strider@gmail.com) and I'll put it on the calendar and add it here.  While I try to get the details correct, always check the links to confirm event information. I'll be updating this post as I learn of more events.

Thursday 2

Dr Who Information Network (DWIN) Pub Night

There is a regular Doctor Who Tavern/Pub gathering in Toronto on the first Thursday of each month
Where: Paupers Pub, 539 Bloor Street West (near Bathurst). We meet up at the back near the dartboards.
When: People usually start to arrive around 8:00pm.

 Wednesday 8

The Chiaroscuro Reading Series: Featuring Madeline Ashby, Kari Maaren and Mike BryantWhen: 8:00 PM - 11:00 PM
Where: 152A Augusta Avenue, Toronto, Canada  (map)
Join us to welcome in a host of fantastic guests...

Madeline Ashby is a science fiction writer and futurist living in Toronto. Her debut novel, vN, will be available from Angry Robot Books this summer. Her other stories have been published in Nature, Flurb, Tesseracts, and the Shine anthology. She has also blogged for BoingBoing, WorldChanging, io9, and Tor.com. You can follow her on Twitter @madelineashby.

Kari Maaren uses her ukulele and her innocent demeanor to lure love songs into her clutches. Then she kills them, drains their blood, and sets their desiccated corpses on fire with the power of her disdain. She also teaches undergraduates about poetry.

Mike Bryant was once ejected from a Karaoke bar for performing the Weird Al Yankovic classic "Yoda", instead of Taking Things Seriously.nHe has released a spoken word CD entitled “Chicken Noodle Pants” and two novella

Thursday 9

Toronto Library Talk: Reading Boccaccio
When: 6:30 p.m. - 8:15 p.m.
Where: Deer Park Program Room - 2nd Floor
Professor Pietropaolo, Principal of St. Michael's College U fo T will look at Boccaccio as a late-medieval reader, and the reception history of the Decameron in relation to post-medieval editorial and reading practices. Registration required.


Monday 13

Toronto Public Library Talk: Anne Rice (Sold out, some rush spaces available)
When: 7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Where: Toronto Reference Library The Appel Salon
Cost: Free, BUT you must get a ticket, which are available online at torontopubliclibrary.ca/appelsalon. Tickets will be available four weeks before the event, unless otherwise noted.

International bestselling author Anne Rice (The Vampire Chronicles, The Witching Hour and Christ: The Lord) makes her first Toronto visit in 10 years. She chats with CBC's Mary Hynes about her new book, The Wolf Gift, which reimagines and reinvents the werewolf story as only Rice could do.

Sunday 19

Space-Time Continuum SFF Discussion Group
Where: Bakka Phoenix Books, 84 Harbord Street
When: 1 pm
Topic: Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

Friday 24 - Sunday 26

Spellstorm: Toronto's Annual Table Top Gaming Convention is sailing into port.

Where: the Royal Canadian Legion 101, Long Branch.
When: from 1:00 pm on Friday 24th, till 5:00 pm on Sunday,
We have a raft of games on Deck, including D&D4e (LFR) and Pathfinder organized play, Old School Gaming, Boarding Games, Collectible Card Games and divers other treasures.
The location is easy to reach, right beside public transit, with available free parking, and nearby fast-food - see "transportation" below.
Don't find yourself marooned, book now and cut out your spot ahead of the crowd. Early birds get the treasure, matey - X marks the spot!
And in case you haven't guessed, there may be a pirate theme to the activities. Arrr.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Chronicle Movie Trailer

Given my last post was a review for a book that dealt with high school students developing superpowers, it's well timed that I got an email regarding the film Chronicle, which hits theaters in February.

The plot synopsis for the film is:

"Three high school friends gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery.  Soon, though, they find their lives spinning out of control and their bond tested as they embrace their darker sides."

The movie trailer looks pretty interesting and the ending reminded me of Akira.



20th Century Fox put together an interesting promotion for this film, having 3 small planes custom made to look like people, which they then flew over New York.

Book Review: A Class Apart by Stephen Henning

Pros: very interesting characters, good pacing, fair amount of suspense and action, compelling

Cons: story jumps between heads a lot, actions seem sped up at times

For Parents: some violence and deaths, no language or sexual content

The school bus 14 year old twins James and Samantha Blake are on is bombed, while returning from a field trip.  The survivors are taken to Brent Valley General Hospital where strange things start happening.  The twins discover they have somehow developed super powers and that someone is after them.

Despite the media blackout surrounding the hospital, Jasmin Sharma of 24/7 Interactive News is going for a big story and she doesn't care what laws she has to break or who she has to cozy up to in order to get it.

The twins are interesting protagonists, and Mr. Henning does a good job of showing their good and bad sides (how Sam is bullied but won't fight back, how James is popular but feels like he should do more to protect his less popular sister).  Even more interesting - mostly due to her duplitious nature - is Jasmin.  She's beautiful, intelligent and ruthless.  Minor characters are also fairly well fleshed out, giving the story nice depth.

In many ways this reminded me of the X-Men storyline that introduced Kitty Pride (the Dark Phoenix Saga).  The kids doubt their sanity when odd things happen and only slowly realize that they now have special abilities.

The pacing is good, with time for the characters to question what's going on in the hospital and for action packed scenes, making the book hard to put down.  The climax itself is pulse pounding if a bit over the top.

While jumping between heads to know what everyone is thinking was common in the past, most writing advice guides now recommend page breaks if you're going to change heads, in order to maintain clarity.  I had no problem following the jumps but other readers may find the technique confusing.

There were a few scenes where the action seemed sped up.  For example there's a scene where Sam is trying to put out a fire.  The implication is that she's trying hard to do this for several minutes, and yet she manages to successfully put it out in the same sentence that explains how hard this is for her. 

In the end it was a quick, fun read.  And while the book ties up one plot arc, there is definitely more to the story. 

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Portal 2 - This Is Aperture

I'd meant to have my two posts about A Class Apart back to back, but this video is too good to not share immediately.  I love The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Portal 2 was a lot of fun to play (and watch my husband play - as he's much better than me and actually solved all the levels).  The video is by Harry101UK. (via College Humor)

Book Excerpt - A Class Apart

I don't normally read self-published books (I'm a bit of a snob that way, I find most of the ones I've seen have been rife with grammatical errors and/or in severe need of editing).  So it's with great pleasure that I post this excerpt from Stephen Henning's self-published novel, A Class Apart.  I'll be posting my review of it tomorrow, but wanted to show off its prologue (with the permission of the author), which was so well written I agreed to give the book a chance.  The rest of the novel is just as well written, and is the start of a series involving teens who acquire super powers.

_______________________________________________


Prologue
Sunday 12 June
Samantha Blake sat up in her hospital bed. She tried to read the article about her on the 24/7 Interactive News website, but her eyes kept flicking nervously to the door of her private room. Nobody was there.
      The article had been updated only five minutes ago. It was chilling and surreal to read about the events that she was experiencing – as they were actually happening. The text flowed across the screen of her phone.
      Breaking News – School Bus Bombing – Were Twins Targeted?
      Fears that teenage twins were targeted in terror attack, amid reports of SECOND strike in victims’ hospital!
      Sam could feel her heart thumping and her pulse quickening as she read the piece. Targeted? Really? Her and James? They must be the twins referred to, as there hadn’t been any others on the coach. Surely the bombing hadn’t been an attack on them? It was stupid! Who would want to target them?
      Sam looked around nervously. The report claimed there been an attack on the hospital. Within the isolation of these four walls, she had heard nothing, seen nothing. She was alone, but she could almost imagine an assassin in the bathroom, or a bomb under her bed. She had no way of being sure, because she could not move from the bed or leave the room. She wished her brother, James, was here.
      Eight days ago it had been their 14th birthday. They’d had a big party with all their school friends. Many of them were no longer alive.
      Now she lay in this hospital bed, cold, alone, scared and hungry.
      She scrolled further down the page. There was another video report, but this one was from three hours ago.
      Mystery Death Dive at Bomb Survivors’ Hospital
      Bosses refuse to confirm whether a teenage boy has fallen out of 36th-storey window at Brent Valley General
      Sam watched the video, her heart in her mouth. The reporter was standing outside the hospital, pointing at fragments of glass on the ground and a broken window at the top of the huge building. The reporter said that eyewitnesses had claimed that a body had come through the window, although the whereabouts of the body was unknown and unexplained.
      Three hours ago, James had told her he was heading up to the 36th floor. That was the last she had heard from him. Could it have been James who had fallen out of the window?
      Sam jumped in fright. Through the glass panels in her door, she saw a shape. A figure in the corridor. She couldn’t see who it was. Friend or enemy?
      Samantha Blake shrank down into her bed. Even with the amazing things that she could do, she had reason to be fearful.
      The door opened, and Sam breathed a sigh of relief. It was a friend. Everything was ok.
      And then all of a sudden, it wasn’t...

_______________________________________________

The Author has also set up some cool websites, one for the book itself, one for 24/7 Interactive News (with a few 'news broadcasts') and a blog written by the twins.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Lockout Movie Trailer

This was already on my list of films to see this year. Looks like quite the thrill ride. :)


video

* Note the release date has moved to April 13th.

New Author Spotlight: Hank Schwaeble

New 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 Hank Schwaeble!

His novels are:


He also co-edited this short story collection:

  • FIVE STROKES TO MIDNIGHT by Tom Piccirilli, Gary Braunbeck, Deborah LeBlanc, Hank Schwaeble & Christopher Golden (Haunted Pelican Press)

The cover copy for Damnable is:

Jake Hatcher is a combat veteran who's been trained to extract information by any means necessary-and is serving a military prison sentence for it. After he's granted an unexpected release to attend the funeral of a brother he never knew, Hatcher becomes drawn into a mystery connected to the alluring woman his brother apparently died saving. Before long, Hatcher realizes the police are hiding information and covering up what really happened, and he is determined to find out why.

At the same time, an enigmatic plutocrat named Demetrius Valentine is murdering young women in Manhattan in grisly fashion. Seemingly untouchable and assisted by a sociopathic hulk of a man, Valentine proceeds with a plot few beyond what most could imagine.

Hatcher's digging soon uncovers a hidden community few among the living know exist, one populated by irresistibly beautiful women whose motives and intentions are difficult to discern, inhuman females known as Carnates. Facing inscrutable adversaries and uncertain alliances, Hatcher becomes an unwitting component of Valentine's plan, a plan intended to channel the one being that can end the reign of Heaven, a plan to undo the very concept of salvation itself.

But Valentine may have underestimated his foe, for Jake Hatcher is no ordinary man. He's a man who's been damned in almost every conceivable way; by his government, by his past, by the police. A man who's left part of his soul in battle, and part on the blood-stained floors of third-world interrogation rooms—a man with nothing left to lose. Nothing, that is, but the souls of everyone else, everywhere ...

Some other books in a similar vein are:
       
  • The Descent by Jeff Long (Jove)
  •    
  • Supernatural: War of the Sons by David Reed & Rebecca Dessertine (Titan Books)
  •    
  • Requiem for the Devil by Jeri Smith-Ready (Grand Central Publishing)

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Books Received in January, 2012

This is a much more... eclectic list than usual.  I requested a few NetGalley books that deal with non-SF/F related interests.  Due to time constraints this week I can't add the synopses here, so click the links to find out more about each book.








Giant Thief - David Tallerman
Immortal Hope - Claire Ashgrove
Synthetic Dreams - Kim Knox
The Naked Foods Cookbook - Margaret Floyd & James Barry
Fleas, Flies and Friars - Nicholas Orme
Territory - Emma Bull
Tribulations - Ken Shufeldt
Well-Tempered Clavicle - Piers Anthony

More New(ish) Publishers

I've been encountering a bunch of smaller presses lately.  If you're looking for new books you might want to check one of these sites out.

First up is Cemetery Dance Publications, specializing in horror.  They came to my attention due to their new subscription model.  Basically for a set fee readers can access all Cemetery Dance's currently published titles as well as the books they publish this year.  It's their, "All you can read ebook membership".  I find this particularly interesting as Angry Robot Books has 12 month subscriptions as well.

Do you think it's worth paying a subscription to read all of a publisher's books (for a given year) or do you prefer picking and choosing titles, even if it means potentially paying more over time if you read a lot of their stuff?  In other words, is this a good promotion and should we expect to see more of it from other publishers?

I discovered the next two presses via NetGalley.  Each had some books on offer, which I passed on because I'm still taking my sabbatical (and failing at it as I did request OTHER books...  Sigh.  Still, I can't read everything, no matter how much I might want to, so I have had to show SOME restraint).

Dreamspinner Press does exclusively Male/Male romance stories (other sexual pairings are ok for subplots).  They publish several genres (sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, paranormal, etc.).

Curiosity Quills is an author collective rather than a publisher, much like Book View Cafe.  The authors publicize and sell their ebooks and trade paperbacks from this website.  The website itself loads slowly so it's been hard for me to find out more about the authors and their works.  Having said that, Vicki Keire's paranormal romance stuff sounds interesting.

Any small (or new) presses you want to see featured?  Ebook or print, tell me about them in the comments. :)

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Genre News

Got some more and varied genre news for you. 

First up, I got an email today about a new social network:

PhutureNews.com, a new futuring portal featuring the news headlines of tomorrow today, was officially launched today by technology pioneer Matthew Mather in collaboration with some of the world's #1 best selling science fiction authors including Hugh Howey, Mainak Dhar, Peter Cawdron and many others including scientists and other futurists. The website is a collaborative, crowd-sourced predictor of the future using headlines that are added daily to the site by users. The project is an integral part of the launch of the new sci-fi series Phuture Dawn.

PhutureNews has proven popular in its pre-release, gathering hundreds of fans that have made predictions of everything from the likelihood of Justin Beiber being elected President of the United States to the date of commercial fusion reactors and contact with extraterrestrial intelligence. Users are free to add their own future headlines to be voted on, and can sign up to a running tally of voting via Twitter or PhutureNews on Facebook. Any story getting more than 100 votes with 80% positive will be added to the official Phuture TimeLines that are built up collaboratively with site visitors.

I've been contacted by several authors, but Terrance Foxxe is the first one who has issued a free coupon for downloading his book that he wants shared.  I don't have time to read this at the moment, but maybe one of you will so...


In The Dreaming by Terrance Foxxe - Dark fantasy. A collection of short stories bridged together by a larger narrative.

Foxxe's unique novel offers a wide variety of stories to suit any tastes. From Native American legend to urban detective, plus vampires, barbarians, presidents, elves, and (walking talking) toys. Science fiction and horror sits alongside magic, hope and love.

The coupon code is: JP54R (and is not case sensitive).
Promotional price: $0.00
Expires: March 1, 2012

E. J. Dabel, author of Pantheons was interviewed by Journal Jabber.  If you like mythology (specifically Greek) then this may be of interest to you.

The plot synopsis is:
On the streets, they call fifteen year old orphan Isaiah Marshall the Indestructible Diamond. Isaiah is the leader of the Redrovers, a group of teenage misfits consisting of his friends Jeremy, Monty, and Pipsqueak, but when they trespass into Kaliber Academy to get even with the arrogant Jason Ollopa, they are in way over their heads.

Principal Webb enrolls them into the High School and Isaiah soon learns about the existence of the gods of the Ancient World. Because the gods have refused to fight the last War for fear of the Mysterious Dark, the Powers-that-Be have stripped them of their spiritual bodies and given them mortal, teenage forms.

Isaiah discovers he's not only a god, but that he's the child of the Greek goddess Metis, the son destined to overthrow his cruel and sadistic father Zeus, the Darkener of the Sky, and become the greatest god in all the Pantheons.

Isaiah is thrown into a world where the democratic Olympians, war-mongering Norse, Gothic Celts, firstborn Egyptians, the enlightened Hindu, the animal-like Aztecs, the martial artist Asians, the intelligent Babylonians, the great spirits of the Native American Indians, and the fierce Finnish will war against one another for the greatest of all prizes: the Dominion.

If you've got a manuscript ready for publication, you'll be happy to hear that Angry Robot Books is having another open door month.  The catch, they're only looking for epic fantasy and YA.  Here's their press release:

ANGRY ROBOT ANNOUNCES YET MORE OPPORTUNITIES FOR DEBUT NOVELISTS

During April last year, Angry Robot Books temporarily suspended its usual submission policy to run its first Open Door Month; accepting unsolicited, un-agented manuscripts from would-be genre fiction authors.

The scheme was a huge success: nearly 1,000 submissions resulted in publishing contracts for three authors - Cassandra Rose Clarke, Lee Collins, and Lee Battersby - and the commissioning of at least six brand new novels for publication for the Angry Robot lists in 2012 and 2013.

Today, Angry Robot are announcing that Open Door will return, with a second phase running from April 16th - April 30th 2012. During this frantic fortnight the floodgates will once more be opened to admit brand new work by hopeful (and, of course, hugely talented) writers from across the globe.

This time around, the rules are slightly different. Angry Robot will only be considering submissions that meet the following genre criteria:

a) Epic Fantasy - ideally with a bit of an edge or the sort of left-field twist the Angry Robot audience has come to expect.

b) YA - any subject welcome, but must be science fiction or fantasy, and intended for a Young Adult audience, for potential publication via Angry Robot's new Strange Chemistry imprint.

More details can be found at http://angryrobotbooks.com/opendoor

Do you like the publisher list at the side of my blog?

While setting up tomorrow's post (where I mention a few new small presses) I realized how long my publisher link list is at the side of my blog, and wondered if it's getting unwieldy.  Do you like the list?  Do you use it?  I've done it up as a page to see what that would look like, adding the publisher blogs and SF/F links as well.  If I keep the page, I'd add a more prominent link to it at the side of my blog.  What I want to know is, which do you, my readers, prefer?

I've set up a poll to record answers, so if you're reading this on an RSS feed, please click through and choose a response.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Book Review: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Pros: surprisingly accessible literary style, thought provoking ideas, good world building, complex protagonist

Cons: some readers may find the constant shifts in time confusing, little action

Offred is handmaid to a commander in the Republic of Gilead.  Her duty is to bear him and his wife a child, as per the Biblical order of replenishing the Earth as applied by Rachel in the book of Genesis.  She once lived in the State of Massachusetts, when the Republic was part of the United States of America.  Back then she got an education and loved a man.  She had a child.

When the Republic took over, her marriage was declared void and her child taken.  She was reeducated.  Now it is a crime for her to read.  It is a crime to do many things. 

This is her story.

This is a book that is best read by those with life experience.  Had I read this book 5 years ago I wouldn't have had the same profound revelations from it.  Ten years ago and I probably would have hated it.  In the past few years I have left the church of my upbringing, allowing me to see from an outsider's perspective how religions can manipulate their members.  I also got married and have learned more about the expectations placed on women and how little those expectations take into account women's desires.

I read The Handmaid's Tale at this time of my life - the right time - and loved it. 

Published in 1985, the book tells of a religious coup in the US, creating a nation that follows a Christian style, Bible based, Sharia style law.  If you think this would be a good thing you haven't read the Bible.  Homosexuality is out.  Interracial marriage is out.  Divorce is out.  Abortion is out.  Slavery however, is in.  As is corporal punishment for things like adultery.  As is polygamy.  And incest (when it come to in-laws, cousins, etc.  The Catholic church outlawed many things the Old Testament considered ok with regards to consanguinity).  And prostitution, while not encouraged, was also not prohibited or prosecuted (see the story of Judah and his daughter-in-law, the woman is almost stoned as an adulteress until she proves her out-of-wedlock child is the product of her father-in-law by prostitution.  In the end neither one of them is punished for the prostitution side of things and one of the woman's children becomes the ancestor of King David).  This is particularly pertinent as politics in the US seems to be moving towards it becoming a more Biblical/Christian country without taking into consideration the negative aspects of such a society.

The new government in the book takes over very quickly by doing two things - removing government officials and taking their place and removing power and money from women.  Like the NAZI regime, it ruled by fear.  No one protested much because those who did in the book were shot.  Fear is a powerful motivator, and when you can't trust anyone around to not turn you in for something you do or say there's little to do but fall into line.

And yet the book holds out a modicum of hope.  There are always those willing to fight the system, creating an underground railway to help women (and others) escape and trying to undermine the government from within. 

The book is narrated by Offred, who alternates between telling her life as it is, at the home of the commander whose child she is to bear, to scenes from her childhood and her feminist mother, scenes with a feminist friend in university and scenes from her marriage.  Some readers may find the constant jumping from one narrative to the next confusing though I thought Atwood did a fantastic job of making this highly literary book accessible to all readers.  She uses other literary techniques and does a lot of word play (specifically showing the different uses for the same word) but it read easily.  The writing flowed well.

It takes a while for Offred to explain how the world changed, but the journey - in all its periods - is fascination.  And when you learn how the coup was performed,  it's scary in its simplicity.  The lack of uprising against the new regime reminded me of the reasoning behind how the government controlled people in the dystipian novel Battle Royale.  It also felt like a toned down version (in terms of showing brutality not because the book is a 'light read' by any stretch) of the much more recent rewrite of The Scarlet Letter, When She Woke by Hilary Jordan.

Intensely thought provoking, if you have any interest in dystopian fiction or plausible ways the world could fall, read this book.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Author Interview: Rod Rees

Novel: Demi-Monde: Winter



> What is Demi-Monde: Winter about?

The publisher’s blurb says:
The Demi-Monde: Winter is the first of a four book series. The eponymous Demi-Monde is the most advanced computer simulation ever devised. Created to prepare soldiers for the nightmarish reality of urban warfare, it is a virtual world locked in eternal civil war. Its thirty million digital inhabitants are ruled by duplicates of some of history’s cruellest tyrants: Reinhard Heydrich, the architect of the Holocaust; Beria, Stalin’s arch executioner; and Aleister Crowley, black magician and ‘the wickedest man in the whole world’. But something has gone badly wrong inside the Demi-Monde, and the US President’s daughter has become trapped in this terrible world. It falls to Ella Thomas to rescue her, yet once Ella has entered the Demi-Monde she finds that everything is not as it seems, that its cyber-walls are struggling to contain the evil within and that the Real World is in more danger than anyone realises.’

My blurb says:
It’s a rumbustious SF/Fantasy thriller that examines the duality of human existence … and has fun while it’s doing it.’

Booklist (December 15. 2011) says:

'elegantly constructed, skillfully written, and absolutely impossible to stop reading. It ends with a beauty of a cliffhanger too ...'

> Several reviews have mentioned the steampunk elements of your book. What drew you to steampunk?

I don’t think the Demi-Monde is steampunk! Sure the Demi-Monde is technologically constrained to the technology extant in the year 1870 but that’s about it. I would prefer to call it a near-future fantasy thriller; the near future of the world that created the Demi-Monde, the Real World. This is set in the year 2018 … a very neurotic and suspicious 2018.

> How long did it take you to create the virtual world you use in the book?

Months, and piles and piles of research. If you go to www.thedemi-monde.com you’ll get an idea of the background work I did. But in creating a fantasy world it’s necessary to get it right otherwise it’s impossible for the reader to suspend disbelief. For example, writing the briefing documents for the religions rife in the Demi-Monde (UnFunDaMentalism, ImPuritanism, HerEticalism, HimPerialism, RaTionalism, nuJuism and Confusionism) was a real challenge: they might just be the religions of our world stretched and distorted to breaking point but they took an age to finesse. Reductio ad absurdum and all that.

> What made you want to be a writer?

Watching the TV series ‘Jekyll’ and thinking, ‘I can write better crap than that’.

> Who is you favourite character in the Demi-Monde world and why?

I like ‘em all but I suppose my favourite has to be Vanka Maykov, the Russian conman and faux psychic. Everyone loves a rascal. Unfortunately any attempt by me to identify myself with Vanka (the best-looking man in the book) has been torpedoed by my wife Nelli who says I’m too hard-hearted to be Vanka. She thinks I’m more like Burlesque Bandstand – crook, sneak, pimp and general low-life. Great!

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

Nah. One of my characters describes the Demi-Monde as "the most extreme and pernicious of dystopias". A holiday destination it ain’t.

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

A book called ‘Dark Charismatic’ which was my re-imagining of the Jekyll and Hyde tale. It took me three months to research and six months to write. It must have had something because it got me an agent but that ‘something’ wasn’t enough to entice a publisher into taking it. Fools!

> What was the hardest scene for you to write?

The next one.

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

I write full time (and I mean full time).

> What is your university degree in and does it help with your writing?

I’m a qualified accountant, so I’m used to horror stories.

> When and where do you write?

I write in my office (a tony word for a desk in a spare room). I start at 08:30 and I go on until … well, I’m writing this at 21:50.

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

The Best is writing the words ‘THE END’.

The Worst is editing. Publishing contracts should come with a health warning. Just like cigarettes there should be a sticker on them somewhere which says something like:

SIGN THIS AND THE REST OF YOUR LIFE WILL BE SPENT EDITING YOUR BOOKS

The Rees Coefficient of Editing states that for every hour you spend writing, you'll spend at least six editing.

Now I ain't moaning (I'm just so pleased that I've won the Great Prize in Life that is getting a publishing contract) but it's something every novice writer should be prepared for. You write your book (and by the time it's finished I bet it's gone thru at least four iterations: edits #1, 2, 3 & 4) and you've had your beta-readers plough thru it (it's a great book but ...) and given their two-pennyworth (which you've dutifully incorporated as edit # 5). Then your agent gives his opinion (which you listen to 'cos he/she will be selling the bloody thing) and so you do another edit (that's # 6). Then a publisher buys the thing and you think ... phew ... great ... that's it ... what am I gonna write next. That's when the publisher comes back and says something like 'great book, but wouldn't it be better if this character was a woman and you brought this chapter to the beginning and what do you think about flashbacks and could we crop it by 20,000 words and, by the way, how to you feel about a new title ...'
 
That's edits # 7, 8 & 9. And they're BIG edits, BIG time-consuming edits, edits you take MONTHS over. But you do them and then the book goes off and you think ... phew ... great ... what am I gonna write next. And that's when you get the copy edit where the publisher lets the Copy Proof editor (whose sole purpose in life is to protect the English language from philistines like you) have a go at your book and he corrects the grammar/spelling/impression you had that you were literate, covering your opus in Rain Forest destroying quantities of red ink in the process. That's edit # 10.

But it ain't over. Once this is done it goes off to be typeset, which is the process that takes your gibberish and makes it look like a book. And you've got to edit that - CAREFULLY - 'cos this is absolutely the last chance you'll have to make sure that you haven't done something stupid (and you have, betcha money on it!), so that's edit # 11.

You do that and then you think, phew ...great ... what am I gonna write next. And then your agent phones and says 'Great news, the book's sold to the Americans'. And you think 'WOW' and then you get an e-mail from New York which starts 'great book but ...'

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

How fickle it is.

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

Just remember if your book doesn’t offend/infuriate/perplex at least some of your readers, you ain’t writing a book, you’re writing a brochure.

> Any tips against writer’s block?

Stop being a wuss and write!

> How do you discipline yourself to write?

The thought of starvation.

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

I sent ‘Dark Charismatic’ to three agents, two rejected it (one saying on the basis of three chapters that ‘he knew how it would end’ … well, as it was meant to be the first book of a trilogy, even I didn’t know how the bloody thing would end) but one accepted it (and me). The book went out to loads of publishers and they all turned it down, so then I started to write ‘The Demi-Monde’ and the rest, as they say is alternate history.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Clay Shirky on Why SOPA is a Bad Idea

I spotted this fantastic TED talk on Boing Boing.  Mr. Shirky explains the background of SOPA and PIPA and explains - in easy to understand language - what the bills are and why they are bad.  I've embedded it, but if you're on Google Reader (and probably other readers) you won't see the video, so here is the link to it on TED's website.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Introducing razOrbill

Join Razorbill!
If you're a fan of YA fiction razOrbill is Penguin's new social network. The name comes from their line of edgy teen and middle grade books, both fiction and non-fiction.

So, what can you do on the site? Watch book trailers and other videos, discuss things on the forums, join groups, see what books Penguin has coming out each month, etc.

This is the newest devoted YA site by a publisher.  Simon and Schuster has PulseIt, Random House has Bookurioius, HarperCollins has HarperTeen, and I'm sure there are others. (If you know one, comment it and I'll add it to the list.)

What are the benefits of these sites?  Getting teens (and others) to read.  'Nuf said. 

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Book Review: Ashes of a Black Frost by Chris Evans

Please note, as the third book in the Iron Elves trilogy this review contains potential spoilers for the previous books.

Pros: lots of action, character development, dry humour, satisfying series conclusion

Cons: Konowa recovers from serious injuries remarkably fast, there is little downtime in the middle third of the book causing reader exhaustion, Konowa and Visyna's romance isn't very convincing

A second star has returned but not without cost.  As a poisoned metallic snow begins to fall in the desert, heralding more of the Shadow Monarch's nightmares, the Iron Elves must decide their route.  With Yimt's company missing, including Visyna and Konowa's parents, the Iron Elves head for the coast by way of Suhundam's Hill, last outpost of the original Iron Elves.  There they face new dangers that make wiping out the Shadow Monarch more important than ever.

This book introduces new monsters again, including evolved sarka har, a once more transformed Emissary and the Shadow Monarch herself.  It also explains the fate of the original Iron Elves Konowa is so eager to find.

There is a lot of character development, both with established characters and newly introduced soldiers.  Often fantasy books dealing with the military or feudal hierarchies will constrain themselves to a small group of people, eventually causing a gap in characters as previous ones die or retire.  So it was nice to see Evans bring forth a new batch of soldiers in this book and continue promoting them within the military ranks.  It gave the series a realistic feel that the world continues, even as characters move on.

The action is fast and furious, with occasional downtime when the characters laugh and learn, though there was a section in the middle where it seemed everyone should have been collapsing from exhaustion.  Konowa himself managed to recover remarkably fast from several serious accidents throughout the book.  Readers may find themselves requiring a short break from the relentless action. 

The romance between Konowa and Visyna seemed a little forced.  Though it was hinted at through all three books there was little time for the characters to really get to know each other after the first book.  It was nice seeing Visyna come to understand Konowa better in this installment, but there was no scene where she conveyed her new understanding to him.

The series came to a highly satisfying conclusion.  If you like elves but want something different, give this series a try.