Friday 28 May 2010

Saga: A Novel of Medieval Iceland

By: Jeff Janoda

Pros: engaging, intricate plotlines, lots of political intrigue

Cons: the names are confusing for the first few chapters

A lot of medieval literature tends to be boring. The way of writing was not a style we normally appreciate today. While there's often a lot of action, there's little character development and too much description. Now, part of the problem is that a lot of medieval literature was meant to be recited rather than read (thinking specifically of earlier stuff, of which the Icelandic Sagas, that Saga: A Novel of Medieval Iceland was based on, were a part of). I haven't read any Icelandic Sagas, so this observation is drawn from having read Beowulf and numerous other primary sources from various periods that we refer to as the Middle Ages.

Jeff Janoda took these sagas and turned them into living stories. Reading his prose felt like listening to a storyteller. He has just enough description to give you a sense of place and people, religion and culture. His characters develop throughout the novel, some becoming more naive, others growing up fast. There's a lot of political intrigue, and just enough action to keep you reading.

The story is about the various feuds begun when Thorolf cuts the hay from both his meadow and that of his neighbour, Ulfar. When Ulfar tries to get satisfaction for this theft, he's forced to change allegiance, an act that spirals into a cold war for land and influence.

One of the most fascinating things about the story is the idea that with so much interbreeding, blood feuds are simply not practical. So most legal affairs are dealt with at the yearly Thing, where the Gothi, clan leaders, pass judgement. Of course, once some of the Gothi start taking matters into their own hands, blood feud becomes a real possibility.

The only complaint I had about the book (and it would have been impossible to get rid of) was the number of names that started with a 'T'. Thorbrand, Thorgils, Thorleif and Thorolf are all major characters introduced in the first few chapters. The author provides a glossary of names, but I never looked at it, choosing to flip back to earlier passages to help get the names straight.

This is an excellent novel and if you have any interest in Iceland, medieval or otherwise, I highly recommend it.

Thursday 27 May 2010

Getting More Medieval

I haven't been doing much in the way of posting about the Middle Ages here. I'll be rectifying that in the future. I want to start reading/rereading my collection of history books and primary sources.

To kick things off I'm reading Saga: a Novel of Medieval Iceland, by Jeff Janoda. I was sent a review copy by the publisher, Academy Chicago Publishers, and am loving it. Look for the review either tomorrow or next week.

In the meantime, here's a video my husband stumbled across a few days ago. It's a sketch from That Mitchell and Webb Look, a British comedy show. In it, an inventor comes up with a very exciting new invention: the mouse. If only he knew what it was for... I pulled it from dwummers's youtube site under the title "Greatest Invention Yet".

Wednesday 26 May 2010

The Guild

The Guild is "a web series about a group of online gamers". Felicia Day, creator of the series and the character Codex, was the love interest in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. She mentions the Guild in the special feature 'musical commentary' for the show.

And it's worth checking out. The series follows 6 gamers for whom the game is everything. It starts when Zabou, their gnome warlock, shows up at Codex's house, wanting to move in with her because of their online chemistry. They've never met in person and that, combined with her therapist's suggestion and some other antics, convinces Codex that the Guild must meet in person.

The show is less about gaming and the fantasy world they share than it is about their relationships and lives outside the game.

They also do holiday specials and have a great music video: Do You Wanna Date My Avatar. It's taken from their youtube site.

And if you like this, you'll probably like Unforgotten Realms, about two gamers and their innumerable quests. The cartoon peters out towards the end, ultimately going nowhere, but the first 2 seasons or so are a lot of fun.

Tuesday 25 May 2010

David J. Williams, Author Interview






Note: Mr. Williams will be touring for THE MACHINERY OF LIGHT. He'll be in the Toronto area, signing at Bakka Phoenix Books on Saturday June 12th, at 3 pm. Check out his appearances schedule to see if he'll be coming to a city near you.

> What's the premise of THE MIRRORED HEAVENS?

September, 2110 A.D. The mysterious terrorist group Autumn Rain destroys the world's space elevator and promises more attacks. Among the American agents sent into the field in response are Claire Haskell and Jason Marlowe. She's an expert hacker; he's a specialist in physical combat -- and they're former lovers as well. But they soon learn that their memories of each other may be constructs implanted by their spymaster-handler--and that the Rain are now hunting them. Things go downhill from there.. . .

> What about the two subsequent books in the trilogy, THE BURNING SKIES and THE MACHINERY OF LIGHT?

Well, THE MIRRORED HEAVENS is self-contained in the sense that it doesn't end on a cliffhanger-- you get narrative payoff, but at the same time the door's left open for an expansion of the canvas, as Autumn Rain targets the U.S. president himself and seeks to ignite total war between East and West. At the risk of revealing spoilers, I won't go into any more detail than that . ..

> What led you to write a series about space terrorism?

I felt there was a certain contemporary resonance to the terrorism concept―and that science fiction was a good angle from which to regard it without recourse to ideological filters.

> Do you think science fiction reading is on the rise again?

I'd love to say yes, but honestly, I suspect it's all shiny vampires and lovable werewolves these days. So buy my books and fight the Prevailing Paradigm . . .

> What are your favourite three books?

Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea, The Illuminatus Trilogy; Frank Herbert, DUNE; anything written by William Gibson in the 1980s.

> What made you want to be a writer?

The voices in my head, of course.

> Who is you favourite character in the Autum Rain trilogy and why?

Claire Haskell. For all the wrong reasons: I've been in love with for her for years.

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

Not on your (or rather, my) life. Most of them are borderline sociopaths.

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

You're looking at it. THE MIRRORED HEAVENS was written across seven years, and sold along with the entire trilogy to Bantam in the summer of 2007. I don't think my feet hit the ground again till the fall….

> What was the hardest scene for you to write?

The opening sequences. I must have written them at least five times. It took me a long time to figure out how to do justice to the nuking of that space elevator. . .

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

History, which definitely had its impact on me. The first thing I wrote was the timeline at the end of THE MIRRORED HEAVENS . . .the unfolding of our next hundred years. A lot of the art and documents on the website ( is the result of that initial world-building.

> When and where do you write?

In my apartment. The study at times; the living room at others. Right now I'm sitting on the bed typing this with my cats glaring at me.

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

Same answer to both: the isolation. It allows you to create whole new worlds, but at the risk of cutting you off from the real one.

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

Never give up―and figure out what you're willing to give up to get there.

> Any tips against writers block?

Come up with concepts cool enough that you have to write them. I.e., if you're blocked, go back to the drawing board and brainstorm even harder.

> How do you discipline yourself to write?

I'm less disciplined than I am obsessive-compulsive. I either write or I start twitching.

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

For THE MIRRORED HEAVENS, I think I queried almost all the literary agents who take science fiction. All but one shot me down without even seeing any manuscript material. But one is all you need….

Friday 21 May 2010

Which Science Fiction or Fantasy World Would You Live In?

Nathan Bransford asked this question over on his blog a few days ago. I've asked this question in my interviews before. Would you live in an SF/fantasy world of your creation, someone else's world?

Several commenters on Mr. Bransford's blog mentioned Harry Potter's world (or more specifically Hogwarts), while others mentioned Tolkien's Middle Earth.

Both seem like good choices. I don't think I'd live in either. I already live on Earth, and I doubt magic would make the world a better place. More interesting, but not necessarily better. I imagine the wizarding community would actually take over and have puppet human governments they control.

As for Middle Earth, after Sauron's dealt with the Elves leave, and they're my favourites, so the world wouldn't be as much fun. And before he's killed... things are just too dangerous. Everywhere. It was one of Tolkien's more brilliant actions that the war in Middle Earth affected the entire world. Nowhere was safe, not even the Shire. I could do without that kind of stress.

So which fantasy world would I live in? (I'm leaving out SF because I've always been a fantasy lover.) Most modern day fantasy worlds are fun to visit but I would never want to live in them. They're too dark and gritty. The problem with all worlds though, is that something bad's happening there (or else there wouldn't be a novel set in the place).

The other concern is that in most cases, living in the world would only be good if you were in a certain class or group. Pern, for example, would only be a great place to live if you were a dragon rider. Or maybe a harper. But who'd want to live there as one of the beholden peasants?

So, if I could choose my place in life, the world of Elantris, either after the events of the book or before the Elantrians were cursed would suit me. As long as I could be an Elantrian and use magic.

If I couldn't choose my race, then I'd like to live in Terry Brooks' Shannara world. I 'lived' there during much of my high school years anyway, so it would be rather familiar. It's a world wherein the problems were fairly localized, so the rest of the world could be extremely peaceful while the Shannara scion went to save it. It also has many places I wouldn't mind living. I'd be an elf there in a snap. Or live in Shady Vale, or even around Rainbow Lake. This is the world that made me fall in love with fantasy. I think I could be quite happy there, even as a peasant.

How about you? What fantasy or science fiction world would you choose to live in? And what race/status would you want to be/have there?

Thursday 20 May 2010

"Ian McKellen" recites the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to the Lord of the Rings

Earlier this month lukjad007 took a reading of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song lyrics done in an Ian McKellen voice by Hunter Davis and remixed it to a song from The Fellowship of the Ring. It works beautifully. It's amazing the video wasn't intended for the song, considering how well the pauses work with the music.

Mind Games, Book Review

By Carolyn Crane

Pros: unique plot, obviously flawed protagonist (ie, she's not perfect, she's human)

Cons: all the men fell in love with the protagonist, her romantic choices were not to my liking, I figured out who the 'nemesis' was a quarter of the way into the novel

I am not the biggest fan of urban fantasy. I've found a few I really enjoy (Rob Thurman's Cal Leandros books, to book 3; Patricia Briggs' Mercedes books, to book 2). I find, as much as I like strong female characters, female characters who can't ask for help, or refuse to ask for help, annoy me. Basically because the men end up helping anyway and then the women look like, well you know what I'm getting at.

Mind games is different enough that I though I'd like it. The protagonist, Justine Jones, is not a self-confident, kick ass kind of woman. Rather, she's a hypochondriac, who's intensely afraid of vein star syndrome, the condition that killed her hypochondriac mother. Ultimately, she wants to be normal.

The premise is exciting and unique. She's warning a couple away from a scam artist at a restaurant when the restaurant owner, Packard, tells her he's set the man up to be 'disillusioned'. He also states he can cure her of her condition, and wants her help to reform other criminals.

Justine doesn't like the vigilanteism of the job, but wants to be rid of her fear so as to improve her current relationship. That's when the mind games begin. Both with her messing with their target's minds, and Packard messing with hers.

Sounds intriguing, right? So, why didn't I like it?

First off, Crane falls pray to another urban fantasy stereotype that I don't particularly like: everyone falls in love with Justine. This was a problem for me considering she had a boyfriend and she ostensibly wanted to keep him. (More on this in the spoiler section.)

And the plot was fairly transparent. That's not really a problem. I figured out who the 'bad guy' was fairly early, but it didn't detract from the story. The rather quick rap up of events was a problem. I was unconvinced things would go over as well as they did. (More on this below too.)

If you like urban fantasy and you want to try something original, this is a good read. It's quick and entertaining. Just try not to over analyze it too much.


So first, her relationships. She's with a decent guy at the start of the book. Packard, who can see the psychological make-up of people, explains she's with him because she wants to be normal and that he's only interested in the parts of her that fit his lifestyle. Whereas Packard, of course, loves her for who she is. Even though he lies to her and feels no remorse for trapping her into a dependent relationship with him.

In her defense, despite her attraction to Packard, Justine tries to avoid letting things go to far. When she kisses him, she's distraught because she feels like she's betrayed her boyfriend. Even after the boyfriend's out of the picture she tries to keep things cool between them.

My problem with this is that someone who honestly wanted to keep things platonic could have done a better job. At no point did she examine why she felt attracted to him despite his mistreatment of her. At no point did she decide she should make sure they were never alone together, thereby reducing the temptation to go further than she intended. She can not be held responsible for his actions, his desire to seduce her, but she can be held responsible for her lack of action to stop this behaviour considering she was determined not to cheat on her boyfriend.

Even more disturbing is her relationship with Otto. She's enamoured of his image as police chief. That's well established through the book. But once she's convinced by Packard that he's a killer you'd think any romantic ideas would disappear. Not so. She sleeps with him on their first date (their second meeting). Not only that, but while they're having sex she 'zing''s him, giving him all her fears, etc. In other words, she psychologically attacks him while they're 'doing it'. The entire scene was less erotic and more creepy for me considering what we're led to believe about the guy. Even though I believed Packard's story about Otto was wrong, I was disturbed by the idea that Justine, who DID believe it, would sleep with him. The whole scene felt off.

The 'love' scene also took place after a restaurant scene wherein Justine notices that Otto's not asking her input for anything. He chooses the restaurant, he orders their meals. And when they go back to his place, right before things get down and dirty, he's making remarks that Justine considers threatening. So, why's she willing to sleep with him again?

And then there's the, rather unclimactic, ending. Otto, who locked Packard up 8 years previous because he was a dangerous crime lord, releases him on the promise that Packard will be good now and only disillusion people Otto tells him to.

That's it. There's no discussion. Otto accepts his promise and Packard goes free. No mention of the fact that Packard's psychologically manipulating people already. No mention of what his new crime lord status will lead to.


I found Justine's 'humerous' thought about the two men at the end very disturbing as well. "It's amusing, the way Packard and Otto both take credit for everything." Um, that's actually not amusing. That's narcissistic. And it's not a good thing in a boyfriend if you've got self-esteem issues. It's not a good thing in a boyfriend period. Rather than feeling triumphant at the end of the book, I felt sorry for Justine. I sense major psychological hardships ahead for her.

Wednesday 19 May 2010

6 Awesome Sci-Fi Music Videos

There have been some great sci-fi inspired music videos on youtube. Here are a few of my favourites:

Bohemian Matrix by icemancocker

Aliens Rap, from Robomayhem's page.

Total Recal: the Musical, from legolamb's page.

An older, but still amazing, video the Star Wars (John Williams is the Man) a cappella medley by Corey Vidal and Moosebutter

Weird Al Yankovic comes up with some great songs, The Saga Begins, about Star Wars Episode One is no exception. Taken from b2ftube's youtube page.

And a really old one, Star Trekkin' by the Firm. I heard this for the first time about 2 years ago, but it definitely deserves a newer audience. Taken from roopert's youtube page.

Tuesday 18 May 2010

"9", Movie Review

Shane Acker, 2009

Pros: interesting characters, post-apocalyptic world, lots of action

Cons: uses info dumping to explain plot elements, I found 9 surprisingly unsympathetic

This animated feature came out of a short film by Mr. Acker (which is excellent). The fleshing out of the characters and plot loses some of the mystery and horror of the short.

A ragdoll with the number 9 on its back wakes in a laboratory. It discovers others of its kind hiding out in a cathedral after watching #2 get kidnapped by a mechanical cat. His insistence on saving 2 changes their world.

The story is interesting, though its reliance on a naive mistake struck me as somewhat cliched and made me dislike the character 9 (more on this below).

That aside, the animation is incredible, there's lots of action and tense moments. It's definitely worth seeing.

And if you haven't see Shane Acker's short that 9 was based on, check it out here.


I got the feeling that I was supposed to find 9's ignorance and innocent endearing. Instead I found his determination to act without understanding himself and his world to be arrogant. His ignorance causes 2's death and awakens an enemy who claims the lives of several other ragdolls. Not exactly endearing characteristics.

Friday 14 May 2010

Harry Potter Starts A Band - Dragonballs!

An original movie wherin two boys convince Harry Potter to start a band. They've actually dubbed themselves into film clips. Very well done. It's taken from the PistolShrimps youtube page. They've got other videos on their site, some of which have a bit more adult content.

Thursday 13 May 2010

Debut Authors Reading List III

This is a list of debut Authors from about January 2010 to May 2010 (I've snuck a few older horror debuts, since I didn't have horror on my previous lists. Once again, these are not books I'm endorsing, they're simply new authors whose first novels came out within the state period. If I've missed any, please note them in the comments and I'll add them to the list.


Spellwright – Blake Charlton

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms – N. K. Jemisin

The Poison Throne – Celine Kiernan

Last Stormlord – Glenda Larke

The River King's Road – Liane Merciel

Lord of the Changing Winds – Rachel Neumeier

*Tome of the Undergates - Sam Sykes (UK debut, US release in August, 2010)

*Empire of Black & Gold - Adrian Tchaikovsky (US debut)

Urban Fantasy

Master of None – Sonya Bateman

Embers – Laura Bickle

Mind Games – Carolyn Crane

Shadow Blade – Seressia Glass (wrote 4 romance novels, first UF)

The Dark Storm – Kris Greene

Hunted by the Others – Jess Haines

And Falling, Fly – Skyler White

Science Fiction

Prison Ship – Michael Bowers

Veracity – Laura Bynam

Song of Scarabaeus – Sara Creasy

A Grey Moon Over China – Thomas Day

State of Decay – James Knapp

Touched by an Alien – Gini Koch

Alternate History

*Dream of Perpetual Motion - Dexter Palmer

*Bitter Seeds - Ian Tregillis


Mr. Shivers – Robert Jackson Bennett

Play Dead – Ryan Brown

Firefly Rain – Richard Dansky

A Book of Tongues – Gemma Files

Hater – David Moody

Monstrous Affections – Dave Nickle (short stories)

Chimerascope – Douglas Smith (short stories)

* Thanks to Mad Hatter for mentioning these in the comments.

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Jim Hines Book Giveaway

Jim Hines, author of the Goblin series (Goblin Quest, Goblin Hero and Goblin War) and the Princess series (Step-Sister Scheme and Mermaid's Madness) is hosting a book giveaway to launch his new book, Red Hood's Revenge.

I was lucky enough to get an ARC of Red Hood's Revenge, and loved it. His writing keeps getting better and his kick-ass princesses are great fun to read. Look for my review in June, and head over to his site for a chance to win one of his novels.

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Author Kim Harrison Comes to the Toronto Area in May, 2010

As part of Harper Collins' Early to Death, Early to Rise tour, Kim Harrison, author of the Hollows and Madison Avery series, will be coming to the Toronto Area at the end of May.

Burlington, Ontario
TUESDAY MAY 25th 7:00 pm
Woodview Place
3315 Fairview

Oshawa, Ontario
WEDNESDAY MAY 26th 7:00 pm
419 King Street West, Unit #1135,

Toronto, Ontario
THURSDAY MAY 27th 7:00 pm
Yorkdale Shopping Centre
3401 Dufferin Street Unit #29

Not in the GTA? Check out her events page to see if she'll be coming to a town near you.

Monday 10 May 2010

Medieval Fortress Being Built in Arkensas

Ever wanted to see a medieval castle under construction? Head on down to Lead Hill, Arkensas. The Ozark castle building project, estimated to last the next 20 years, opens this month. Authentic building practices will be used, the project being as much a learning tool as the chance to build a French inspired castle in the modern age.

For a small fee you can even volunteer or become an intern.

Check out the site.
And their press release for a brief overview of the project.

Friday 7 May 2010

J. A. Pitts - Author Interview

Novel: Black Blade Blues

What's the premise of Black Blade Blues?

This book is about understanding the world for the way it is, even when it's a surprise. We spend so much of our lives wishing things were different, that we were different, that we often miss the beauty of the world around us. Be who you are. Embrace yourself, don't measure your worth on the opinion of others, and never pretend something is what it just isn't.

Blacksmithing's an unusual career. How did Sarah get into it?

It more or less found her, honestly. Interesting back story that I'll write some day. She went to college, got a degree in English and was trying to figure out what to do with her life. Her father wanted her to come home, get married and have kids. She went to a Renaissance Faire and met a weapon-smith and she fell in love with the craft. The smith suggested she try farrier school as a

way into the trade. She decided to go on a whim, as much to spite her father and not return home as anything. Along the way, she fell in love with the craft.

What are your favourite three books?

Tough call. I'm still in love with the Lord of the Rings, but that's the foundation for my love of reading. I read a lot of series. If I had to only pick up new books in a series right now, I would go with Patricia Briggs' Mercy books, Carrie Vaughn's Kitty books, and S. M. Stirling's The Protector War series. I'm a sucker for urban fantasy and post-apocalypse stories.

If I had to pick three books that impacted me the most growing up, I'd have to start with Runaway Robot, by Lester Del Ray. This book introduced me to science fiction and drove me to seek out more. John Carter of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, both for the swashbuckling adventure, and because my grandmother loved them before me. And finally, I'd have to choose Hamlet, by Bill Shakespeare. My senior English teacher would be surprised to learn how big an impact the Bard had on this boy from the wilds of rural Kentucky. I have not regretted one second of Shakespeare's beautiful language and story.

What made you want to be a writer?

Story. I've been a voracious reader from way back. I remember getting my first library card when I was five, and convincing the librarian that I should be allowed to check out more than the limit of 2 for a kid my age. I checked out seventeen books, and had them all read by the time I got back the next week. I just love story, all kinds, and I learned early that I was a story teller. It's a gift. Going from oral telling, to writing is not a very big step in my mind. Besides, I wanted to share all the cool things that I thought up.

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

I tend to be pretty rough on my characters. I'd be afraid, I think, to live in their shoes. Sarah is a winner, tough and strong willed, but she suffers more than I ever want to. Maybe I'd like to be one of the rabbits in “Chasing Peter”. It’s a story of a derelict generation ship and the menagerie of critters that have evolved to explore the confined wasteland after all the humans have died out. It's a fun story, with AIs and adventure. That might be fun.

I love my life. I wouldn't mind being thinner and younger, but overall, battling zombies, mutants, aliens and/or robots -- like I have in some of my short stories -- is not my cup of tea. Being hunted by giants, trolls, witches and dragons like in my novels doesn't appeal to me very much, either. Oh, but the adventure. There is something appealing about that. So, maybe, if only for a little while.

If you could live in your fantasy world, would you?

Absolutely. In a heartbeat. I'd love to find out that there really were dragons out there. Or that goblins and elves lived in the between places. I'm all about having adventure, but like a good hobbit, I'd prefer to be home for dinner.

Would you live in somebody else’s?

Same answer. I have a lot of worlds I'd love to explore. Can you imagine taking holiday in the Shire with the hobbits? Taking long walks through the countryside, eating all the great food. Or visiting the elves? Can you just hear the singing?

Don't forget the adventure... battling orcs in the wild lands? Always knowing the right thing.

Or maybe getting to go to Hogwart's school, living in an alternate world of magic? Who wouldn't love that?

And space travel. Oh, man. Travelling between stars. The possibilities are overwhelming. Where do I sign up?

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

Redneck Elves -- currently unpublished. It took me about a year and a half to write it. I got bogged down part way through and had to set it aside. Finally, I broke it back out and spent a summer pounding out the words. It was a very exciting time. I proved I could write a novel. That experience alone is worth every second of work.

What was the hardest scene for you to write?

There's a scene in Black Blade Blues where my main character puts herself in a pretty stupid position. It is a critical scene to the book, but it was difficult to gauge the level and intensity to show just how bad a place she was in, without offending the reader's sensibility. Luckily I have an excellent editor and an equally excellent agent who both gave me tips on softening it enough to still be powerful, and not lose the reader.

The scene is significantly better than I first wrote it. I'll leave it to your readers to figure out which one it is.

For me, the hardest scenes are the most powerful, as long as I don't pull back. If I start a scene that is hard and cut it short, or give it a light touch, I'll feel it. I know I'm close to something very important and frequently highly emotional. That's a sure sign of something good. I let myself walk away from those scenes if I have to, but always go back to them and try and do them justice.

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

I'm a computer consultant. I'm counting the days until I can be a full-time writer.

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

BA in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing and a Masters in Library and Information Science. They are good degrees, but as a writer, I wish I'd taken more history. There is a significant portion of my writing degree I've had to unlearn to be able to write the kinds of stories I love. That took a while to parse out. Honestly, the instructors were great, it's all about what you are ready to learn at the time. That's why I'm a believer in being a life-long-learner.

When and where do you write?

I can write most anywhere, but usually I write in my office. Most of my first novel was written at the dining room table. It's a very cool table. We bought it unfinished and my wife wood burned it in Celtic motifs, stained it and finished it. It's a place of joy and very good energy. I can write in coffee shops, malls, anywhere. I may need to put on my headphones to get a soundtrack running and help block out the world, but I'm flexible. Black Blade Blues, and the first sequel, Honeyed Words, was written in my office.

As for when, any time I can. I write in the cracks. Mornings, afternoons, nights. I have a wife, 2 kids, a career, I do Tae Kwon Do, and I'm studying to be an outdoor specialist with the Girl Scouts. Mostly I write between 8 - 10 pm.

What’s the best/worst thing about writing?

Best thing about writing is having written. I love when I finish a project and can sit back and relish being finished. The worst, for me, is the second draft. It's that moment when you realize you can say and do anything, literally, anything that comes to mind, and yet, you want it to be the best thing that could happen in the story. It's frustrating having so many possibilities sometimes. When I got questions from my editor, that was easy.

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

How long things take. My time from first phone call to published book is faster than average. There are books published quicker than mine was, but on overage, the length of time to get everything done is astounding to me. And the funny thing is, I can't see where you could cut out time. Each stage is so critical to the overall process, that to scrimp anywhere would hurt the final product. I feel very lucky to have the help and support of some spectacular people -- they've been forthcoming on why things take the time they take. It's all logical. Just surprising.

Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

Write. Write. Read and Write more. Oh, and submit your work. You are not the best judge if your story is good enough to sell. Make it as good as you can, and send it out to an editor who will pay you money. Money flows to the writer, never, ever the other way around.

Any tips against writers block?

Find a soundtrack. I can put on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and my writer brain flips on like a switch. It's something I've trained over the years, but it works for me. Also, I've started outlining my novels and I find that a HUGE help for avoiding the "muddle in the middle" I've gotten in the past. With both Black Blade Blues and Honeyed Words, I didn't get stuck at all as long as I followed the outline.

How do you discipline yourself to write?

With a leather strap. No, I just had to make it a priority in my life. I played Everquest for almost five years, loved it. It gave me story. One day, I realized if I put the time I was using for television and online gaming into my writing, I could really do something with it, instead of just putzing around. I started selling almost immediately.

Really, just set a daily word count to reach for. A friend of mine writes something like 200 words a day, every day. 250 is a page. One page a day is a novel a year. It comes down to setting achievable, short-term goals.

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

My first novel has had only one rejection. Black Blade Blues had none. I've sold short stories with as many as twenty rejections. It's all about persistence and tenacity. Keep writing, keep sending, relish the rejects. They show you that you are working the process. I have one story, “F*cking Napalm Bastards” which got rejected over and over again. Editors told me I'd never sell the story with that title. I listened to them for a while, changed the title and kept racking up rejects. Finally, after a workshop where folks read some of our work blind (no idea who in the group wrote them) I found out many people loved the story. I put the original title back on and sent it back out. I've sold that story twice now. Never give up, never lose hope.

Thursday 6 May 2010

Harry Potter Theme Park Opens in June

For those of you who can't get enough Harry Potter action, the Universal Studios theme park's website is live. Check it out:

The park opens for business June 18th.

Post-Apocalyptic "Desert Story"

A short post-apocalyptic video of a man trying to barter for some hookers. An aspect of post-apocalyptic stories that is often overlooked, but reasonable for a time when people would be scarce. The production values are very good, though I do agree with a comment made by zeparoff on the youtube site that the protagonist seems a little bizarre in his chivalry, given the circumstances.

The film will be part of a series called 'Nuclear Coleslaw'.

Thanks to Tim Pape for the link.

Wednesday 5 May 2010

Desert Spear, Book Review

By: Peter V. Brett

Pros: excellent characterization, immersive writing, fast paced

Cons: some readers may not like the brutal realism of the narrative (lots of rape - though nothing is graphically described)

The Desert Spear is one of those rare books when the sequel is better than the first book. Mr. Brett really comes into his own in this book.

The plot (and if you haven't read The Warded Man/Painted Man this will contain spoilers):

Jardir, now proclaimed Shar'Dama Ka (Deliverer), has left the desert to conquer- ahem - unite the men of the North under his banner in preparation for the Sharum Ka, the final battle with the demons.

Through flashbacks we get to learn how Jardir progressed to his current position, creating a sympathetic, though still brutal, antagonist. And if you don't like realism in your fantasy (rape, bullying, etc.) you won't like this.

Meanwhile, Arlen, going solely by the name 'the Warded Man', tries to ally the northern nations to fight against Jardir's forces. During this mission he encounters many people he hasn't seen since his childhood, meetings that cause him to question the decisions he has made. And though others hail him as their deliverer, he has no desire to take on that role.

Finally, we are reintroduced to Renna Tanner, whose father Harl became too friendly with his daughters after his wife's death. Her story is quite horrific.

Mr. Brett's characters are fascinating, and remain complete people, each with good and bad points. Even Leesha, Deliverer's Hollow's herb gatherer who, under a different author would be insufferably perfect, is written so well you like her despite her many many abilities. Each character's story is interesting and heartbreaking in its own way. In fact, I wanted to skim by the (well-written) fight scenes just to get back to the character based storylines, they were so good.

The demons get nastier, with a new breed introduced who are watching the two potential deliverers.

Final verdict: read these books. Peter Brett's one of the best new epic fantasy writers around.

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Marjorie Liu's "Tiger Eye: Curse of the Riddle Box" PC Game

PassionFruit Games has released a PC (and soon Mac) game based on Marjorie M. Lui's novel Tiger Eye. Looks interesting.

From their website:

PassionFruit Games is thrilled to announce one of the first ever “romance casual” games written by, designed by, and created for women. The game is a hidden object-style adventure game loaded with compelling puzzles and addictive mini-games. Between levels, players will experience hand-drawn, voice-acted cut scenes that depict the story from bestselling author Marjorie M. Liu’s novel Tiger Eye.

The game will be divided into two episodes. Curse of the Riddle Box corresponds to the first half of the book and takes place in China; the concluding installment takes place in the United States. Each episode will be available as a stand-alone game for just $6.99. Players will also have the option to purchase the games as part of larger packages which include soundtracks, artwork and strategy guides. Curse of the Riddle Box will be available for the PC on April 28, 2010 – the Mac release will follow soon after in May.


Play as the psychically-gifted Dela Reese as she’s hurtled into danger after purchasing an ancient riddle box in a Beijing dirt market. From the box emerges Hari, a striking 7-foot tall warrior who has been imprisoned for 2000 years. Help Dela thwart assassins who seek the power of the box, and find a way for her and Hari to safely return to Dela’s homeland, while earning each other’s respect and love.

And the game's already received a few reviews. Here's one by a gamer and one by a romance author.

Saturday 1 May 2010

Science Fiction and Fantasy Books Coming in June 2010


Distant Thunders – Taylor Anderson

Naamah's Curse – Jacqueline Carey

The Passage – Justin Cronin

The Infinity Gate – Sara Douglass

The Palace of Impossible Dreams – Jennifer Fallon

Threshold – Eric Flint & Ryk Spoor

From Hell With Love – Simon Green

Song of the Dragon – Tracy Hickman

The Left Hand of God – Paul Hoffman

Transformers: Exodus – Alex Irvine

Dragon Soul – Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett

Mouse and Dragon – Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

Kraken – China Mieville

Dog Blood – David Moody

The Double Human – James O'Neal

New Model Army – Adam Robets

Metatropolis – John Scalzi

Mission of Honor – David Weber

Trade Paperback

Afterblight Chronicles: Children's Crusade – Scott Adams

Blood Song – Cat Adams

The Map of All Things – Kevin Anderson

The Anvil of the World – Kage Baker

The Swords of Albion – Mark Chadbourn

The Walrus & the Warwolf – Hugh Cook

The King of the Crags – Stephen Deas

Khepera Rising – Nerine Dorman

The Dark Design – Philip Jose Farmer

May Contain Traces of Magic – Tom Holt

Ancient Shadows: Dark Tales of Eldritch Fantasy – William Jones, Ed.

No Man's World: Black Hand Gang – Pat Kelleher

Forgotten Realms: The Erevis Cale Trilogy – Paul Kemp

Shades of Gray – Jackie kessler

The Dragon Variation – Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

The Adventures of Professor Thintwhistle and his Incredible Aether Flyer – Richard Lupoff

Star Trek: The Entropy Effect – Vonda McIntyre

Absorption – John Meaney

White is for Witching – Helen Oyeyemi

Zima Blue – Alastair Reynolds

The Bloodstained Man – Christopher Rowley

Hylozoic – Rudy Rucker

Fantasy Life – Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Lightborn – Alison Sinclair

Shadow's Son – Jon Sprunk

Swords & Dark Magic – Jonathan Strahan & Lou Anders

The War That Came Early: Hitler's War – Harry Turtledove

Revenant – Phaedra Weldon

Retribution Falls – Chris Wooding

A Matter of Magic – Patricia Wrede

Mass Market Paperback

Close Contact – Katherine Allred

Diamond Star – Catherine Asaro

Eberron: The Tyranny of Ghosts – Don Bassingthwaite

Star Trek: Seek a Newer World – Christopher Bennett

Naamah's Kiss – Jacqueline Carey

Infinite Crisis – Greg Cox

The King's Bastard – Rowena Corey Daniels

Mirror Space – Marianne de Pierres

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Abyss – Troy Denning

Pray for Dawn – Jocelynn Drake

Dust of Dreams – Steven Erikson

Flinx Transcendent – Alan Dean Foster

The Hollow Crown – Diana Francis

Faery Moon – P.R. Frost

Is Anybody Out There – Nick Gevers, Ed.

A Drop of Red – Chris Green

The Spy Who Haunted Me – Simon Green

Act of Will – A.J. Hartley

The Enchantment Emporium – Tanya Huff

Prospero Lost – L. Jagi Lamplighter

Red Hot Fury – Kasey Mackenzie

The Prodigal Mage – Karen Miller

Land of the Burning Sands – Rachel Neumeier

The Human Disguise – James O'Neal

Black Dust Mambo – Adrian Phoenix

Fires of Freedom – Jerry Pournelle

Unseen Academicals – Terry Pratchett

Fatal Circle – Linda Robertson

Stargate Atlantis: Hunt and Run – Aaron Rosenberg

The Holmes-Dracula File – Fred Saberhagen

The Dame – R. A. Salvatore

Wireless – Charles Stross

Chimera – Rob Thurman

Kitty Goes to War – Carrie Vaughn

Contact With Chaos – Michael Williamson

Warhammer Heroes: Sword of Justice – Chris Wraight