Thursday 30 September 2010


Minecraft is an addictive game that's randomly created for each user. The purpose of the game? To survive. This Machinima tutorial by X will explain the game better than I can, as well as show you how to play if you're interested. I will state that it's addictive - I'm not a big video game player and I spent 3 1/2 hours on it last night in multi player. I'll also say that X was lucky to find coal so easily. My introductory single player round found me scrambling to build a tower out of rock to survive the night, as I couldn't light torches.

As there are no rules or objectives, beyond surviving and mining materials, you can spend your time in the world anyway you'd like. You can even build a USS Enterprise like codbug!

The Sevenfold Spell - Book Review

by Tia Nevitt

Pros: great characterization, interesting premise

Cons: short (I would have loved more description), simplistic writing

This is a novel being published by Carina Press. As I mentioned in my post yesterday, it's a new branch of Harlequin Enterprises specializing in digital books (as in, there won't necessarily ever be a print version of the books published by them). The books are sold non-DRM protected, for reasonable prices.

I got a copy of The Sevenfold Spell via Netgalley, for review purposes. The book came out on September 27th for the extremely low price of $2.99 US. The price is less surprising when you take into account the fact that the book is only 97 pages.

The premise was intriguing so I decided to give it a read. The story begins with all spinning wheels in this unnamed country being destroyed. A curse has been laid on the princess that when she turns 16 she will prick her finger on one and die. Another fairy mitigates the curse so that she will simply fall asleep but the royal family is determined that this event never occur. At no point do they consider the hardships this will cause those who have no other means of income than spinning thread.

Enter Talia and her mother, spinsters who find themselves living off of money Talia saved up for her dowry. With her prospects ruined, her only suitor's father has decided to send the boy to a monastery rather than have them wed.

Talia enjoys a few weeks of pleasure with him before he leaves, ruining her reputation and awakening her desires.

The book isn't quite a romance, nor is it erotica (though is has a few quick, explicit scenes), nor is it fantasy (though there are fairies). It's a fairy tale, from the point of view of someone who doesn't have a fairy godmother.

While there's little description in the novel, Talia is a well realized character. Her motivations are sound, even when she makes 'bad' choices. She experiences true growth in the novel, and gives one potential lover, Andrew, some good advice. And, being based on fairy tales, despite how bleak things become, it does have a happy ending.

Ultimately, it's a quick, entertaining read. Talia's a great character and Tia's interpretation of Sleeping Beauty is good.

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Carina Press

I stumbled across Carina Press, a subsidiary of Harlequin Enterprises, via NetGalley. It's a new press that focuses on romance, but will accept other genres as well. How does it differ from Harlequin's other imprints? I'll let their site FAQ explain:

  1. As Carina Press is a division of Harlequin Enterprises Ltd, how is it different?

    At the very basic level, Harlequin is a traditional print publisher with a robust digital-offering, while Carina Press is a digital-first publisher.

    Both the contract and distribution channels are very different:

    • The Carina Press contract does not include an advance or DRM, and authors are compensated with a higher royalty.
    • Unlike Harlequin there is no guaranteed series distribution (no standing order, no direct mail, no overseas translation markets).
    • Carina Press titles will be sold direct to consumers through the Carina Press website, and we’ll be securing 3rd party distribution with retailers such as Books On Board, Fictionwise and Amazon.
  2. Will my manuscript be edited and copy edited?

    Yes. Carina Press goes through the same rigorous acquisition and editorial development processes as traditional print publishers.

  3. Will I be charged to publish my book with Carina Press?

    No. Carina Press is not a vanity publisher and the author is not asked to pay for publication, editing, cover art or other services.

In other words, it's an ebook press. Harlequin provides the editorial services and is willing to publish things that don't work in book form, for example they'll accept shorter manuscripts than regular publishers. I read one of their titles, The Sevenfold Spell by Tia Nevitt, and the review will be up tomorrow.

So, if you're a writer and you're considering your publication options, here's another one.

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Pages Added

Ok, across the top of my blog, just under the title, are the links to the pages I've set up. They are as follows:
Author Interviews
Reading Lists
Fantasy Book Reviews (including teen)
Science Fiction Book Reviews (including teen)
Other Book Reviews (comprising horror, books on writing & graphic novels/manga)
Movie Reviews

Now, I've alphabetized the book reviews by author and the movie reviews by title, but have kept my interviews and reading lists in the order I posted them. In the interest of making my pages more accessible, would you prefer that I keep them this way or alphabetize them? I've set up a survey on my blog, so please check the one you prefer (and if you're reading this on an RSS feed, please click through and give your feedback).

Debut Authors from May to September 2010

My debut author lists will - if all goes well - become a monthly feature on SF Signal starting next month. In the interests of having those posts all follow the same format, I'm posting the titles I've been collecting since May (when I last posted a debut list). I tried to be complete, but I'm sure I missed some, so if you know an author that fits the following criteria please tell me.

1) published with a press carried in bookstores (sorry, it's too overwhelming to try to find out self-published authors and smaller presses - I do the lists based on what comes into the store, which will be changing...)
2) had their first book published between May and September 2010 in the SF/F/H fields.

Sorry, these lists are short so I'm not bothering to alphabetize them, but I will sort them by genre. And while I try to verify these are debuts, I have been wrong before, so if you notice a mistake please tell me in the comments. And since it's come up before, these are debuts with regards to the Canadian market (publication dates sometimes differ by country). Lastly, this is the second list where I've included Horror. I haven't been watching it as closely so I know I'm missing some books in that category.

Stuff of Legends - Ian Gibson
King's Bastard - Rowena Cory Daniells
The Last Page - Anthony Huso
Shades of Milk & Honey - Mary Robinette Kowal
The Left Hand of Darkness - Paul Hoffman
Shadow's Son - Jon Sprunk
The Spirit Thief - Rachel Aaron

Urban Fantasy
Death Most Definite - Trent Jamieson
Confessions of a Demon - S. L. Wright
A Devil in the Details - K. A. Stewart
Dark Oracle - Alayna Williams
Married With Zombies - Jesse Petersen
Black Blade Blues - J. A. Pitts
Red Hot Fury - Kasey MacKenzie
Mob Rules - Cameron Haley
Afterlife - Marie Destefano
Deadtown - Nancy Holzner (came out in January but I missed it on my previous list)

Science Fiction
The Human Disguise - James O'Neal
Wind Up Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi
Noise - Darin Bradley

The Dream of Perpetual Motion - Dexter Palmer
Native Star - M. K. Hobson
The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack - Mark Hodder

Blood Oath - Christopher Farnsworth
Zombies of Lake Woebegotten - Harrison Geiller
The Loving Dead - Amelia Beamer
Dust - Joan Frances Turner
The Reapers are the Angels - Alden Bell
Emma and the Vampires - Jane Austen & Wayne Josephson

R. A. Salvatore Booksigning in Toronto

That's right, author R. A. Salvatore, of Forgotten Realms (and other) fame, will be returning to the World's Biggest Bookstore in Toronto on October 7th, 7 pm, for a booksigning to promote his new book, Gauntlgrym. If you missed him last year, he's a great public speaker so head on down to the store and show him some fan love.

Not in Toronto? Check out his tour page to see if he's coming to a city near you.

Friday 24 September 2010

Jesse Petersen - Author Interview




It’s a zomedy (a zombie comedy) about a couple on the verge of divorce who have to use their dead therapist’s advice to escape the zombie apocalypse. Someone called it “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” meets “Zombieland”. Which works for me!

What drew you to writing about zombies?

I’ve always been a zombie fan, especially zombie movies with a funny twist. After we went to see “Zombieland” with our friends the idea for MARRIED WITH ZOMBIES came to me. It was outside the genre I usually write, but I was driven to write it, mostly just to entertain myself. But then my agent got ahold of what I had so far and really encouraged me to finish it.

Where do you think the division between humour and horror is?

I think horror serves a purpose because we love to be scared. It’s the thrill of it, I guess. But we also like to deal with scary things or uncomfortable things by laughing at them. Which is why horror mixes with humor so beautifully in so many books and movies.

What made you want to be a writer?

I have always had stories in my head and enjoyed writing them down. In fact, I wanted to be a writer from the time I was a little girl, though I didn’t think that would be possible. But it still comes down to having that voice in my head and wanting to hear where it goes and what it ends up saying.

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

From MARRIED WITH ZOMBIES, probably not. Getting chased by the zombie horde is not good. LOL. But I think I am somewhat like Sarah. We share a snarky sense of humor, though I hope I’m a little nicer to my husband.

What was the hardest scene for you to write?

Honestly, this book was a dream for me! It stretched out ahead of me like a movie (which normally doesn’t happen) and was really fun to write! The second book in the series was harder since I started second guessing myself. LOL

If you still have one, what’s your day job? If you don’t, how long did it take before you could support yourself only on your writing?

I don’t have a day job. Actually when I left college my husband really encouraged me to follow my dream and write full time. I couldn’t have supported myself on my income until the last couple of years, but it’s slowly but surely becoming a more lucrative profession for me. You definitely can’t write for the money, the industry is just too unpredictable. And it will break your heart.

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

I actually have a degree in psychology and intended to get a Masters in counseling. So I think in this book it definitely helps, though I’m not sure what it means that my main characters kill the thing I intended to be right off the bat. I’m sure some other psychologist would have something to say about that.

When and where do you write?

I have a home office and I write there mostly (though I do occasionally break out with the laptop if I’m traveling). I write every day, five days a week and try to meet a certain number of pages each day to get to my final goal.

What’s the best/worst thing about writing?

The best thing is being able to share those stories with readers. There’s nothing better than having a reader contact you to say they loved your book or it made them laugh or made them cry. It’s an amazing feeling. The worst part? Well, most of publishing is out of the hands of the authors. You can do everything right and a book just won’t “hit”, which is frustrating. Or someone will just hate the book and lambast it everywhere. All these things, I cannot control.

Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

Write something you love and your enthusiasm will come through. Also, realize that publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. For most people, a first sale or success doesn’t happen overnight. Write because you love to write.

How do you discipline yourself to write?

I just know I have to do it every day. People are depending on me to deliver a manuscript on a certain date and I know I have to write X pages every day to get to that date. So I do it. I don’t wait for a “muse” or “the mood” to strike me. I sit down and I write. And I know I can edit later and make the words I’ve put down perfect. Or closer to perfect anyway.

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

Before I sold my first book, which was in a different genre, I stopped counting rejections after 100. For the zombie books, I was lucky to have an auction for my book, which meant multiple publishers were bidding on the work. There were a few passes, but the publishers were very supportive and excited about the book. So I can’t complain.

Meet SF Signal's Newest Reviewer

That's right. I'll be contributing monthly reviews to SF Signal. Here's my first. I'm also planning on doing monthly debut author lists. You'll see my posts on this blog eventually, but in the meantime SF Signal has lots of great content and if you haven't been there, you definitely need to check it out. I psyched at being picked to join such an amazing team.

Thursday 23 September 2010

Bespelling Jane Austen - Book Review

Bespelling Jane Austen is a great introduction to paranormal romance for anyone who enjoys romance, especially Jane Austen romances. The four stories get progressively more paranormal the further you read.

Each of the stories is based on a Jane Austen novel, and has an interesting premise. The first two stories remain in Victorian settings, the last two are modern day. Unfortunately not all the stories fare equally well in the mash-up.

The first story, Almost Persuaded, by Mary Balogh, is about a couple (Jane Everett and Captain Robert Mitford) who are doomed to keep reliving their failed romance until they stop making the same mistakes. Robert knows Jane's family won't accept him as a suitor for Jane, so he tries to convince her to elope with him. Unfortunately, the length of the story didn't give the author room to properly develop the characters or their coming to terms with the past life premise, so, while it starts very well, Jane ends up seeming very immature (unable to make a decision and stick to it) and Robert looks infantile (I won't explain why as it would spoil the story). And this is a shame, as Balogh's writing is excellent, the description and dialogue superbly done. I can only wonder what she'd have made of this story if she'd done it as a novel.

In Northhanger Castle, by Coleen Gleason, a very naive Caroline visits Bath with her aunt. Caroline's overactive imagination is given full reign, as she imagines the stories behind various people while touring the sites with friends. It's a thoroughly entertaining story, humerous in many ways as Caroline comes up with some VERY paranoid explanations for things. The ending is abrupt, leaving the reader with numerous unanswered questions.

Blood and Prejudice was my favourite story out of the collection, and not just because Pride and Prejudice is my favourite Austen novel. Susan Krinard brought in most of the elements of the original novel (truncated of course) and did so in clever ways. I particularly liked her reimagening of Rosings. Bingley's company is taking over Bennet Laboratories, and Elizabeth's not happy about it. She finds out Bingley's friend, Darcy, is a vampire, and sets out to learn what this fiend is up to. The story had a good ending, with everything nicely wrapped up. My only complaint is that her opening was a bit confusing, with BL (Bennet Laboratories) and BP (Bingley Parmacuticals) mentioned primarily via acronym.

The last story, Little to Hex Her, by Janet Mullany, tells the story of Emma, a scholarly witch running her sister's paranormal dating agency for a year. Things start to go wrong when her secretary Harriet turns a elven client, Elton, into a frog. This is the only story in the collection with numerous types of paranormal characters. Emma and Knightly's negative traits from the book are amplified in this story, making Emma, already a hard character to like, even harder. And yet Janet Mullany pulls it off, making them seem like people who've made bad choices in life and now have the chance to put things right.

In the end, it's a good collection of stories. There are some flaws, but some great writing as well.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Books Received

I tend to get sporadic books from publishers, to the point that I haven't had to do a 'books received post' before. Ultimately, if I requested the book or agreed to review it in advance, I'll review it - whether it be negative or positive. If books are sent without such an agreement, then I consider it within my rights to not finish the book (if I'm not enjoying it), thereby preventing the need to post a negative review.

I understand the value of negative reviews, I simply don't enjoy writing them. I'm an aspiring writer. I can empathize with the pain of reading a negative review of my book. But I'm also a book blogger and reviewer, which means I will post a negative review if I have taken the time to finish a book and didn't like it.

The following are books I received in the past month or so. They will all be reviewed here, like them or not (I'm pretty choosy about the books I request, so expect more positive than negative reactions). After this, as this list is mostly new titles, I'll be reading a few 'for fun' titles (ones I've pushed aside because there hasn't been time to read them), followed by some mix titles (this is where I even out my reviews - adding more SF or whatever genre I haven't read recently).

Bespelling Jane Austen - Mary Balough, Colleen Gleason, Susan Krinard, Janet Mullany (Harlequin - via NetGalley)
The Sevenfold Spell - Tia Nevitt (Corina, Harlequin - via NetGalley
Eon - Alison Goodman (Penguin)
Shades of Milk & Honey - Mary Robinette Kowal (TOR)
Crown of Crystal Flame - C.L. Wilson (HarperCollins - via NetGalley)
Empire in Black & Gold - Adrian Tchaikovsky (PYR)
Cold Earth - Sarah Moss (House of Anansi Press)
Wondrous Strange - Lesley Livingston (HarperCollins)

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Angry Robot Books

There's a new SFF paperback publisher in town. I saw this book by Mr. Dan Abnett (yes, of Warhammer 40K fame) come into the store yesterday. Intrigued, my co-worker and I looked on the spine to find a new publisher logo. So check them out, Angry Robot Books. They're also building up their Robot Army of bloggers, if you're interested.

Their initial line-up depends on if you're in the UK or Canada/USA and includes Andy Remic, Chris Roberson, Ian Whates, Matthew Hughes and more.

Friday 17 September 2010

Apocalyptic And Post-Apocalyptic Reading List

As with my other lists, this isn't meant to be comprehensive, though I've added all the titles I could think of/find at the store browsing shelves in fiction. If you know titles I've missed, feel free to add them in the comments section.

This list encroaches on the Zombie reading list, so I only picked those titles that I thought showed the apocalypse/aftermath well.

Wastelands - John Adams, Ed.
Beyond Armageddon - Walter Miller, Ed.

Oryx & Crake; The Year of the Flood – Margaret Atwood
Ariel, Elegy Beach - Steven Boyett
Noise – Darin Bradley
Postman – David Brin
Armageddon's Children; The Elves of Cintra; The Gypsy Morph – Terry Brooks
World War Z – Max Brooks
Parable of the Sower; Parable of the Talents – Octavia Butler
Plague Year; Plague War; Plague Zone – Jeff Carlson
The Hunger Games; Catching Fire; Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
The Passage – Justin Cronin
One Second After – William Forstchen
Alas, Babylon – Pat Frank
Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse – Victor Gischler
Xombies: Apocalyptic Blues; Apocalypticon – Walter Greatshell
White Plague – Frank Herbert
Brown Girl in the Ring – Nalo Hopkinson
Children of Men – P.D. James
Cell – Stephen King
Left Behind – Tim LeHaye & Jerry Jenkins
I Am Legend – Richard Matheson
Chronicles of the Apocalypse: Species – Michael McBride
The Road – Cormac McCarthy
A Canticle for Leibowitz - Arthur Miller, Jr.
Homeland – Paul William Roberts
Last Light; Afterblight – Alex Scarrow
The Last Man – Mary Shelley
On the Beach – Neale Shute
Earth Abides – George Stewart
Y: The Last Man – Brian Vaughan
Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham

Deathlands - James Axler
Afterblight Chronicles: The Culled - Simon Spurrier
Afterblight Chronicles: School's Out - Scott Andrews

Additions from Commenters
Rot & Ruin - Jonathan Maberry
Sos the Rope; Var the Stick; Neq the Sword - Piers Anthony
Flood; Ark - Stephen Baxter
Exit Earth - Martin Caidin
Dies the Fire - S.M. Stirling

For other Apocalyptic Reading Lists, check out:

Read More Books' list
And for what's probably the most comprehensive list of Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic fiction on the net, there's Exit of Humanity's list.

Oxford American has published a list of 10 great apocalyptic novels, finding some titles I've never heard of.

Skiffy and Fanty have a list of 10 Post-Apocalyptic novels written by women, with several titles new to me.

Thursday 16 September 2010

Cthulhu Sells Old Spice Bodywash

I love the Old Spice commercials, and this video, using Cthulhu as the dude in the towel, is hilarious (especially when he shows the 'unspeakable horror').

Taken from DungBeetleComics' youtube site.

Mockingjay - Book Review

By: Suzanne Collins

Pros: fast paced, compelling, realistic portrayal of war, character growth, more mature tone to match the subject matter

Cons: more graphic violence (which didn't bother me but might bother younger readers' parents)

This book did exactly what I wanted it to at the end of Catching Fire. We see Katniss deal with the consequences of her desperate actions in a realistic manner, and then see her grow up in ways that are heartbreaking in one so young who has already been through so much.

Again, this review will have spoilers, so if you haven't read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, I'd suggest you do so before reading further.

Katniss has been rescued after surviving her second games, by the rebellion forces of the no longer hiding District 13. Peeta was not. And President Snow has already retaliated by bombing District 12 into dust. Some survivors of 12 make it to 13 and help the rebels, but it's Katniss, the Mockingjay, the rebels really need. And she needs convincing.

Katniss grows a lot in this book. Her avoidance of her duties is less adolescent tantrum and more trauma victim. When she starts going too far, Haymitch reminds her that others have suffered as well, bringing her back to reality. She acknowledges that the war won't be won by her own actions. She's a figurehead, a symbol. And while she does some characteristically stupid things, she also learns from her mistakes and works hard to achieve her goals.

The depictions of the war are well done. They're gruesome, graphic and in no way glorifying. Collins shows both sides - Capitol and rebel - using tactics that ignore the potential loss of life, showing that in war all things are equal and in the end, only those in power are victors.

I loved the ending. I suspect this book will become a classic and that future generations will read and discuss this in school. The tone of the writing is more mature than that of the first two books. However, I think teens (depending on their age and maturity) will benefit from the messages contained in the novel.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Boyz N the Ring

This is a hilarious mashup of the Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring. I pulled it from PistolShrimp's youtube site. I'm not sure who put it together, but they took great care with the lighting and did an all round excellent job of splicing in the new footage.

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Catching Fire - Book Review

By: Suzanne Collins

Pros: fast paced, compelling

Cons: little to no character development, no 'down time'

There's no way to avoid spoilers in this review, so if you haven't read the Hunger Games, and intend to, don't read this until you're ready to start Catching Fire.

Katniss and Peeta have both survived the Hunger Games and it's time for their victory tour. And their lovebird act. Unfortunately, President Snow isn't convinced that Katniss is in love, and neither are rebels all over the country. Now she has to prove that it was love, not defiance, that had her pick up those berries or her family and friends are dead. If only Katniss were a better actress.

In The Hunger Games Katniss has no opportunity - or reason - to think about the deception Peeta's invented to keep her alive. They weren't supposed to both survive the games. Her decision to ignore the situation with Peeta after the games have ended, is consistent with a 15/16 year old girl, but was disappointing to see as a reader.

This book is another roller coaster of emotions, as events spiral out of Katniss' control. Towards the end the action is so intense, with no time for reflection (which is necessary for character growth), that I felt drained.

It's still a great book, but I would have loved to see Katniss face things in a more adult way. It's definitely a bridge novel, and I'm already reaching for the conclusion.

Friday 10 September 2010

Rowena Cory Daniells - Author Interview


The King's Bastard

The Uncrowned King

The Usurper



As the first book in your Kingdom of Rolencia series, tell us about The King's Bastard.

I'm a fan of the Spec Fic genre from way back. I used to have a bookshop in my late teens and early twenties and I remember discovering authors and devouring their books. I wanted to write the kind of book that just sweeps you away. Imagine you've worked hard all week, you'd done the washing and the cleaning and it's Saturday afternoon. You want a book you can curl up with and get lost in.

That's what I was trying to create, when I wrote the King Rolen's Kin trilogy. One reader told me the book should come with a warning - Don't start reading at night if you have to get up for work early the next day. LOL.

According to your bio page, you've got 6 children and have studied several martial arts. How do you find time to write?

Writing has kept me sane! No, seriously, writing is how I'd reward myself for all the boring stuff that goes into running a large house. That, and choc chip cookies. I make legendary choc chip cookies.

In what ways has studying martial arts helped with your writing?

There's the obvious things like knowing how to do a flying side kick, knowing what it feels like to go up against someone at the national championships. Then there's the less obvious things like immersing oneself in the mindset of the warrior code (Bushido). I spent five years learning Iaido, the art of the Samurai sword. It is a beautiful thing.

Your trilogy is being published in 3 consecutive months. How was that decided?

When the trilogy sold all three books were completed and, when I heard the publishers decided to release them a month apart, I was delighted. As a reader, I hate waiting for the rest of the books in a trilogy.

How do you feel about that fact that American publishers have recently 'discovered' Australian writers?

Have they? I'm way over here in Australia. We've always been here. I have lots of great friends who are really talented writers. Which reminds me, I was chatting to my skin specialist who was amazed to hear I was a writer. I laughed and told him all my friends were writers. He laughed and said all his friends were skin specialists! (In Australia we have to be careful of skin cancer. Don't know if people in the US have this problem and I guess in Canada you're happy to see the sun).

What are your favourite three books?

My favourite book is whatever I happen to be reading right now. I like to go into the specialty bookstore in town and ask the guy who works there for any obscure and interesting books that push the boundaries of their genre. Two of my ROR buddies have books coming out which play with the Dark Urban Fantasy genre. Trent Jamieson’s new series Death Works is about a guy who works for Corporate Death but for once the story isn’t set in the UK or the US, it’s set in steamy, subtropical Brisbane. And Tansy Rayner Roberts’ new series Creature Court combines shapeshifters, the 1920s and Ancient Rome and it works!

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

Oh no. I do terrible things to my characters. I really make them suffer. No way, would I want to swap places!

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

I'd written ten books before I was twenty five. (You see I'd read everything I could find in my bookshop that interested me. I was desperate for something to read so I started writing the books I wanted to read). Then I had 6 kids in 10 years. Then I went back to writing and sold the first children's book I wrote. I'd already done my apprenticeship. They say it takes about 10 years to learn the craft of writing. Of course, it wasn't smooth sailing. Silly me, I thought once you were published editors would look at your work differently but you still get rejections. The important thing to remember is Never Give Up, Never Surrender. You can tell I'm a true SF Nerd, I'm referencing Galaxy Quest!

What was the hardest scene for you to write?

If a scene is hard to write it isn't working for some reason. You need to come at it from another direction. Tell the scene from the point of view of the person who has the most to lose. Or you could go out and mow the yard. Doing something physical will free up your subconscious and, before long, the solution will pop into your mind. If changing the point of view character doesn't work, there's probably a scene earlier in the book that needs to be tweaked which will have a ripple on effect and make this difficult scene better.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

The best thing I ever did for my writing - other than reading non stop. I used to have a bookshop and read a book before lunch, a book after lunch and a book after dinner- the best thing I ever did as a developing writer was start the ROR [Ripping Ozzie Reads] writing group. Marianne de Pierres and I had been running a writing group that concentrated on short stories. We wanted to challenge ourselves and polish our book length fiction. The group are really supportive, but really incisive, so you come away with useful insights into how to improve your book. Plus analysing other people's manuscripts helps exercise your analytical muscles, too. (For more detail including how to set up your own writing group, and how to critique see the site).

What’s the best/worst thing about writing?

Worst thing, not being able to switch off the internal editor. If I find a book that makes me forget I am reading then I'm delighted. I read it a second time to see what really works. Then I read it a third time to see what is weak. Then I go out and buy all the author's books and read them in chronological order to see how they grew and developed as a writer. You have to be a little bit crazy to be a writer!

KRKhd from Daryl Lindquist on Vimeo.

Thursday 9 September 2010

Aspiring Romance Authors - Contest

If you have, or know someone who has, a romance novel you're considering submitting to a publisher, Harlequin Mills & Boon is hosting a contest. Submit your first chapter by September 22nd, to be eligible to win editorial services, an ipad and a prize pack.

They're accepting entries for a variety of romance subgenres, including paranormal. The books have to fit one of their 'series' themes though (Nocturne, Blaze, Intrigue), which means my chick lit is unfortunately out. Still, it's worth looking into. You only have to submit 2 chapters, so even if your manuscript isn't finished, it's a way of getting industry professionals to look at your work. Click here for terms & conditions.

Local Artist Showcase Part 2

Here's the second batch of artists whose business cards I picked up at Fan Expo. Of course, there were a lot more artists than this, many of them fantastic.

First up today is Panda Pad. I almost bought the example print then realized I had nowhere to put it, so I'm posting it here to show the complexity and simplicity of Genevieve Tan's work. She had other, more colourful pieces, but I loved how she kept this stark and all the detail in the dress.

We bought some magnets from Moonlight Whispers, who has several categories of items for sale at her shop as well as a nice gallery of fantasy and other art. Here's one of her magnet designs.

Next up is Bluefeathers. Mengling Chen has a decent collection of artwork, some in a gothic style others anime or steampunk inspired.

Christopher Yao at yaozagraphics does mostly cartoon artwork.

The last artist is a bit different. Rather than working with paper, Cheryl Garrett-Jenkins works with glass out of her Rubyeyes gallery. She does mostly custom work, but even when she doesn't, her items are all one of a kind.

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Local Artist Showcase Part 1

I collected a number of business cards at Fan Expo Canada and thought it would be nice to showcase some of the local talent for those who couldn't attend.

First up is Faebyl Art. Monika Ptok-Byard has a lot of nature/fairy themed artwork. Here's a sample:

Next is Echo Chernick Fine Art Nouveau. There's mythological and fairy inspired art nouveau as well as a few steampunk pieces:

Brain Lag has an awesome logo on their business card. You can see it at the top of their site (woman with dagger and dragon jumping in front of the moon). It's a two person group, Janson & Jinx. Jinx does photography as well as anime based and traditional fantasy art while Janson does comics. Here's one of Jinx's pictures.

I'm not sure if this last group is local, but they had a great booth and several artists in attendance. Imaginism Studios. There are 6 artists listed on their site but only 4 have sample work up. They've done concept art for television and movies, most recently for Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland.

Tuesday 7 September 2010

The Hunger Games - Book Review

By Suzanne Collins

Pros: tense, good pacing, compelling

Cons: heavy subject matter for younger teen target audience, but author does a great job with it

Ever since the Treaty of Treason following the Dark Days when the 13 districts rebelled against the capitol and lost, the remaining 12 districts have given 2 youths as tributes for the yearly Hunger Games.

This year, district 12 is sending Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark. Along with their counterparts from the other districts, these two will fight to the death in the Gamemakers' arena, for the entertainment of those in the capitol.

The Hunger Games is a teen reimagining of Koushun Takami's Battle Royale. With some important changes. The Hunger Games takes place in a post-apocalyptic America. In The Hunger Games everyone understands the purpose of the games (in Battle Royale this is only revealed at the end, where it has a bigger psychological impact), and there's a LOT less violence. Battle Royale depended on the shock value of its extremely graphic content to get its point across. The Hunger Games does a surprisingly good job of keeping the violence to a minimum given the novel's plot. And what violence there is, is fairly tame. Still, this is a book which I'd recommend parents read first and judge if their child is mature enough to handle what happens, and then discuss the contents with them afterwards.

The novel is very fast paced and compelling. being a teen book it's also a very quick read. I can't wait to finish the series and see what happens.

Friday 3 September 2010

Fan Expo Canada Part 5

The Games

I always think of the Warhammer tournament when I think about games at Fan Expo, because the 2 years I worked the show there was a gaming booth off to the side of the autograph area. This year I was surprised by the number of new tech gaming booths there were. I took short videos of three: Playstation's Move, the Xbox 360's Kinect, and Ubisoft. I'm not that good at games and the lines tended to be long so I didn't try any of them, but they all looked fun.

Thursday 2 September 2010

Fan Expo Canada Part 4

Artist Alley

One of my favourite parts of the con, Artist Alley is filled with local (and not so local) talent. You can find stained glass, fuzzy bats and lots and lots of drawings. There's a heavy slant on comic and anime art, but you can find other things as well (I got some great gothic magnets for a friend).

I also loved the Portal inspired buttons. Cake, anyone?

And here's a video of Olivier Coipel, one of many artists sketching at the con. Here he's shading a picture of Storm.

Fan Expo Canada Artist Alley Artist from Jessica Strider on Vimeo.

The Magicians And Mrs. Quent - Book Review

By: Galen Beckett

Pros: reminiscent of Regency and Victorian authors, uses a Victorian inspired setting, flows well, literary but the fantasy aspects are fully realized

Cons: story develops a little too slowly

The Magicians And Mrs. Quent is split into three parts. In the first, we are introduced to the major players - the Lockwell girls, of which Ivy is the dominant, Mr. Rafferdy and the upperclass circle he inhabits, and Eldyn Garritt, a gentleman whose father ruined the family name and has left him in dire straits. This part of the novel feels very much like Pride and Prejudice. There's matchmaking among those of unequal backgrounds and much prejudice abounding because of it.

The second part is more like Jane Eyre. I won't say more than that as it would give away a major plot twist. The third part of the novel was entirely original in that it didn't make me think of a Victorian novel, and is designed to tie the other parts together.

The story meanders, following the fortunes of the various players. There is a plot, but you don't really see it until the third segment - though that's not to say it isn't present in the first two. The first two entrance you with their language and the doings of the people so it's not until near the end that you see what the author's been working towards. While the Magicians make a brief appearance in the first part, Mrs. Quent doesn't show up until the end of the second.

And while the setting is Enlightenment/Victorian, it's a fully realized fantasy world. The planet is not earth (the day/night cycle follows an uneven rotation so almanacs are consulted to learn how long each will be). There's history, there are the seeds of revolt and there are the underpinnings of emancipation. Which makes it a unique book among fantasy novels which tend to stick to Medieval worlds.

And it's hard not to read a book that begins, "It was generally held knowledge among the people who lived on Whitward street that the eldest of the 3 Miss Lockwells had a peculiar habit of reading while walking."

If you like Regency or Victorian literature or just want to read a fantasy novel that's a bit different, this is a good choice.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Fan Expo Canada Part 3

People weren't the only ones making celebrity appearances. Also in attendance at the show were some extremely famous cars. The batmobile...

Supernatural's Impala...

and Back to the Future's Delorean.