Wednesday 30 November 2011

Science Fiction and Fantasy Events in Toronto, December 2011

These events are from the science fiction & fantasy calendar I run.  If you have an event that's not listed, email me ( 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.

Note that there are a TON of non-SF based events on during December, so if you'd like to get out and about it won't be hard to find something going on.

Thursday December 1

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.

Saturday December 3

Launch Party for Future Lovecraft
Where: basement programming room of the Lillian H. Smith branch of the Toronto Public Library system, located at 239 College St.
When: 1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m

The Friends of the Merril Collection will be holding a book launch for the Future Lovecraft anthology at the Friends’ annual Christmas Cream Tea. Several local authors whose stories appear in the anthology (Ada Hoffmann, Helen Marshall and Michael Matheson) will be on hand to read from their work.

Neurodance: Tron Resurrection
Where: Nocturne  (550 Queen St. West)
When: 10 pm
Get your costumes ready. It's our Christmas party, and we're giving away a ton of prizes for best Tron-inspired outfits!!

Corruption plagues the system!! Fight for the Users, or give in to your dark side and let the logic errors consume you! It's an all-out battle between chaos and perfection; dance to survive!

Thursday December 8

Japan Foundation Free Film Screening of Shindo (Genius)
Where: Location: The Royal Cinema (608 College St., Toronto)
*Please note that the screenings will NOT be at the Bloor Cinema this year*
When: 7 pm
Admission: Free
Language: All films shown in Japanese with English subtitles

A fierce and conflicted prodigy, 13-year-old Uta plays the piano with effortless talent but has been in a slump since the disappearance of her father, also a classical pianist. She strikes up a friendship with the less-talented but enthusiastic Wao, 19, whose cacophonous piano playing has been driving his neighbours crazy. Wao is faced with two choices- get into music school, or take over his parents' vegetable stand- so Uta helps him prepare for his music school entrance recital by taking him to her abandoned house to use her father's grand piano, which she can no longer afford to keep. Despite Uta's insistence on neglecting her own talents, she is gradually drawn back to the piano as she learns more about the mysterious circumstances of her father's death..

National Post: Signal Books Launch with Margaret Atwood (In Other Worlds) and Janice Gross Stein (Diplomacy in the Digital Age)
Where: The Monk School of Global Affairs (1 Devonshire Place)

When: 12 - 2 pm
Cost: $30
To buy tickets.

Friday December 9

Japan Foundation Free Film Screening of Linda Linda Linda
Where: Location: The Royal Cinema (608 College St., Toronto)
*Please note that the screenings will NOT be at the Bloor Cinema this year*
When: 7 pm
Admission: Free
Language: All films shown in Japanese with English subtitles

In the days just before the school culture festival, a girls’ rock band is facing a dilemma. They planned on playing an original piece of music but…three days before the festival, the guitarist appears to have broken her finger and an argument has broken out between two members.

While the remaining three girls are pondering these problems, they hear “Linda Linda Linda” by the famous Japanese rock band Blue Hearts and decide they want to play it at the festival. Reshuffling their lineup and recruiting a Korean exchange student as their vocalist, they practice day and night to learn the song.. Despite their exhaustion, a deep friendship develops among the four girls.  

Saturday December 10 

Bakka Phoenix is throwing a Not-Exactly-Annual Christmas Party!
Where: 84 Harbord St.
When: 1 pm - 6 pm
From 1pm onwards, we'll share snacks, and stories, and a sweet sale (15% off everything).  It's a chance for you to just hang out, meet some fellow SFF readers, and even get a jump on your seasonal shopping.  But mostly it's a chance for us to say thanks for all of your support. 
Small Press of Toronto Winter Book Fair
Where: Hart House (7 Hart House Circle)
When: 10:30 am - 4: 30 pm

Indie zines, chapbooks, comics, graphic novels, poetry, fiction, Children's books, magazines - Come and see what's new and exciting in the small press scene! Meet the authors/illustrators/creators of the most intriguing and engaging work from around the GTA and beyond!

Japan Foundation Free Film Screening of The Summit: A Chronicle of Stones
Where: Location: The Royal Cinema (608 College St., Toronto)
*Please note that the screenings will NOT be at the Bloor Cinema this year*
When: 2:45 pm
Admission: Free
Language: All films shown in Japanese with English subtitles

The year is 1907. Shibasaki, renowned for his skills as a surveyor, is suddenly called to General Staff Headquarters, where he receives orders to conquer Mt. Tsurugidake, the last uncharted region of Japan. At the time, the survey unit attached to General Staff Headquarters was in the process of charting Japan and had already created maps after triangulation of numerous mountain peaks. Aside from mountains climbing of which was prohibited for religious reasons, the survey group has climbed almost all the mountains in the country with the exception of Tsurugidake. Moreover, shortly after its inauguration, the Japan Alpine Club was already planning the tackle Tsurugidake and the army survey unit could not be seen to lose out to a civilian organization.
After receiving his orders, Shibasaki tackled the challenge of reaching the peak of Tsurugidake together with Chojiro, a local guide of good character familiar with the Tsurugidake area. Can they achieve the daunting task of crossing the precipitous mountain range and planting the survey records?

Japan Foundation Free Film Screening of Always Sunset on Third St. 2
Where: Location: The Royal Cinema (608 College St., Toronto)
*Please note that the screenings will NOT be at the Bloor Cinema this year*
When: 6 pm
Admission: Free
Language: All films shown in Japanese with English subtitles

Following last year’s successful screening of Always: Sunset on Third St.(2005)in Hamilton, the 2007 sequel, Always: Sunset on Third St. 2, returns to the same Tokyo neighbourhood and its memorable characters. This heart-warming, award-winning drama features stellar performances from some of Japan’s top actors and actresses, and the digitally enhanced set design, says Variety, “creat[es] a feeling of living in a bygone Tokyo rather than just watching a movie set there.”  

Sunday December 11

Michael Rowe signs copes of his vampire novel, ENTER, NIGHT.
Where: World's Biggest Bookstore (20 Edward St)
When: 1 - 4 pm
call 416-977-7009 for more information
Toronto Anime Con
Where: Metro Toronto Convention Centre (255 Front St. W)
When: 11 am - 5 pm
Admission: $10
Special Guest: Sean Schemmel (Dragon Ball)

Wednesday December 14

Very ChiZine Holiday Special Special
hosted by Special Guest Liana K!
Prepare yourself for a night of books, booze and holiday entertainment fit to wake the dead with guests

Where: Augusta House (152 Augusta Ave)
When: 8 pm
Don Bassingthwaite & a new Darby Cavendish story!
Samantha Beiko, the belle chanteuse!
Sandra Kasturi channeling Damon Runyon!
Kari Maaren & her amazing ukelele!
Jason Taniguchi in another holiday performance!
The song stylings of Halli Villegas!
The sketch comedy of Obvious Rabid Machine (featuring Adrienne Weiss!)

Prizes! Raffles! Chocolates! And, of course, special holiday cocktails! Come one, come all!

Friday December 30 - Sunday January 1

Futurecon 2
Where: Holiday Inn Markham 7095 Woodbine Avenue
Cost: $48 per person for the night (group discounts available), $65 for New Year's Eve dinner buffet, $50 for meal plan (not including buffet) See this page for more details.
Pre-registration ends Dec. 5th

Mind Meld and Posting Frequency

The latest SF Signal Mind Meld asked several contributors what the best media they consumed in 2011 was, and I've answered with regards to books.  Once the year is over I'll revisit that list, adding a few more titles and adding descriptions as to why I thought each book was good (or, more likely, links to the reviews I've done for each).  Mention your own favourite reads of the year (so far) in comments!

In the meantime, with the Christmas season upon us, I'll be working more often and will therefore have less blogging time.  I'm hoping to keep up my current schedule, and I have a few interviews and reading lists, etc. planned and ready to go, but if I do post less frequently it's because I'm at work or trying to recuperate from work. 

This is the best - and worst - time to be a bookseller.  Best because people want suggestions and I get to rave about the amazing books I've read, point out books people haven't heard of and do nifty displays, worst because some people aren't as polite as they could be, what with the frustrations of shopping and all.  Still, I'm looking forward to seeing co-workers I don't normally get to work with anymore and help people find great books for all their loved ones.  :)

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Book Review: Legend by Marie Lu

Pros: dystopian/postapocalyptic America, complex world building, intelligent characters, minor romantic elements, fast paced, real concequences for actions, clear POV


For Parents: some violence, no language, kissing

Day is 15, from a poor sector, and the Republic's most wanted criminal: for acts of terrorism and because they can't identify him.  He breaks into a hospital to steal plague medicine for a family member and has a run-in with military Captain Metias while trying to escape. 

June is also 15, the only person to score a perfect 1500 in the Trials.  She's being training for a job in the military.  When her brother - and only living relative - Metias is killed by the fugitive Day, she's given the job of hunting him down.

Legend takes place in a future where the U.S. has broken up into the Republic and the Colonies.  Electricity is intermittent outside the richer sectors and, due to the war, sometimes even within it.  Lu has crafted an intricate world but only shows what the characters would notice or care about, so there's a lot of information regarding class distinctions (especially pointed out by June) but little history or politics outside Los Angeles, where the story takes place.  Hopefully later books will add more of such information.

The two teen protagonists tell the story in alternating chapters, with Day's side in a brown font so it's impossible to mix up whose point of view it is.  And while both teens are super smart, noticing details and getting into adult problems/situations, they're not angsty at all.  The characters face very real consequences for their actions even as they develop feelings for each other.

The pacing is fast and the plot is compelling.  If you like dystopian YA, read this.

Monday 28 November 2011

Zoo City Optioned for Film

From the press release:


"Beukes' energetic noir phantasmagoria, the winner of this year's Arthur C. Clarke Award, crackles with original ideas." - (Jeff VanderMeer, New York Times Book Review)

Helena Spring, widely regarded as one of South Africa's most accomplished motion picture producers, has just been awarded the highly sought-after film rights to Zoo City, the Sci-Fi thriller penned by South African author Lauren Beukes - who garnered the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award for best Science Fiction novel. In the wake of whopping sales figures, multiple awards and critical acclaim Beukes' book generated fierce interest from numerous bidders in the entertainment industry, putting Spring alongside major US and UK producers eager to tell Beukes' unique tale.

Zoo City was published first in South Africa by Jacana Media and thereafter internationally by by Angry Robot.

The urban fantasy is set in a futuristic, gritty and hard-core Johannesburg where the eponymous ghetto has been colonised by society's outcasts - like criminals, drug-dealers and psychopaths, and their animal companions. Like the other residents of the Zoo City slum, Zinzi, the anti-heroine, is "animalled", but she is also a shrewd, street-smart girl with the gift (or burden) of finding lost things. Zinzi wears her power animal, a sloth, on her back. When she is hired to find a missing teenybopper star, she hopes that it will be her ticket out of Hell's waiting room.

"I'm delighted to have secured the film and television rights for Zoo City," commented Helena Spring. "It is a groundbreaking, magical novel begging for a life on the big screen. Lauren's storytelling is masterful - edgy and futuristic, unique yet universal. It is high in entertainment value yet emotionally charged, a dream project for any producer."

Beukes positively acknowledges the choice of the winning producer. "Every novelist dreams of a movie deal - but you actually want more than that. You want to find a producer of great vision and integrity and experience who fundamentally gets the book and understands how to transform it into an entirely different creature based on the same genetic material. I'm thrilled that it's being produced in South Africa - for an international audience."

See Angry Robot's website for more information.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Kobo Vox Review

Sorry it's taken longer than expected for me to get my Kobo Vox review up.  I hit a run of physical books that needed reviewing and therefore couldn't read on the Vox for a bit.

I've now read a PDF file on the Aldiko app (since the Kobo app doesn't support PDF files) and here's what I found.

The weight isn't a problem.  The quilting on the back makes holding the Vox comfortable.  I typically held it with both hands, propped on my lap (on the subway and at home).  With the PDF the entire page showed in a readable font (as opposed to the original Kobo where you either have to read with a miniscule font, or scroll down and / or across once or more per page.

When it came to pictures, while the page render time was a bit slower than text only pages, the resolution is very good.  This goes for both colour and black and white images.

The page turns are fast, and having the black border, where the touchscreen doesn't extend, does make holding it without accidentally turning pages easier.  Having said that, touches at or outside the edge of the screen seem to be ignored even if afterwards you finger moves within the active area of the screen, which can result in missed swipes or missed touches near the edges of the screen.  I found myself tapping the screen a centimeter in in order to reliably achieve page turns.  A firmware update should be able to address this issue.

I keep the backlight low when reading at home, but you can raise it for easier reading in sunny areas.  Another way to prolong battery life is to turn off WiFi when not browsing the web.

On the negative side, while the Aldiko app has the means to search for words within books, the Kobo app does not.  The Kobo app also doesn't let you search for books in your collection, and you can only sort your collection by title, author or last read.  In other words, you can't make your own shelves to sort books by genre or another means.

As for video, you can play HTML5 videos no problem, but if you want to play flash videos you do need to download a player for that.  Video quality is good, and the only problems we've encountered have been with youtube, where if you log into your account, for some reason videos won't play (it stays stuck on the video loading screen until you force quit the browser).  If you're not logged in and your cookies have been cleared, you can watch videos.  Also, and this is a problem with YouTube, not the Vox, some of YouTube's videos have yet to be encoded for HTML5, so they won't play on the Vox without the previously mentioned flash player.

Surfing the web works fine on the device.  One thing to be aware of is that if you use the preloaded links to facebook, etc., the device opens a new tab in the default browser each time.  If you forget to close unneeded tabs, you'll quickly use up all of the device's memory, resulting in poor performance.

The onscreen keyboard works well, with the exception that the touch locations appear to have a small offset from where they should be, which is especially noticeable close to the edges of the screen.  I found the 'keys' a good size and like that the keyboard changes depending on the context, adding options (like numbers and punctuation) to the main screen rather than having to switch to a secondary page for these.  It is a capacitive touch screen (like the iPhone), which means you can't use your fingernails or other non-conductive surface (e.g. gloves) to trigger presses.

A fully charged battery can last several days in standby if WiFi is left off (I saw around 10% discharge per day), and reading with WiFi off and the backlight dimmed seemed to result in an entire day's worth of reading time.  But you'll likely find yourself recharging the device every night to be sure you have a full day's worth of reading charge.  Running the device with WiFi enabled, and surfing the web has a much greater battery drain, with the device going from fully charged to nearly empty in just 4 or 5 hours.

One thing my husband pointed out is that he has been unable to get a third party input manager (onscreen keyboard) to replace the built in one.  This is something that should be possible with Android, and there are several alternative input managers available in various application stores.  But though they seem to install fine, the originial Kobo keyboard is the one that still shows up when input is required.

If you're considering an e-reader or tablet, it's good to remember that Kobo has a history of openness with its devices, allowing hackers to do what they want with them, and for users to do whatever they want with their devices, something neither Apple nor Amazon allow.

In the end, the Vox is not meant to compete with the iPad or other premium tablets.  If you're expecting the performance and speed of a high end device, expect to pay high end prices.  For the lower price you're getting a very good e-reader that handles colour and gives you benefits a standard e-reader can't provide.  You can browse the web, play some simple games and watch videos, but on the whole, this is an e-reader first and foremost, and that is what you should be primarily buying it for.

[And if you want more information about the Kobo Vox, check out my preliminary review.]

Saturday 26 November 2011

New Author Spotlight: Rhys Thomas

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 Rhys Thomas!

Rhys Thomas has written:

Here's the cover copy for On The Third Day:

Society is on the brink of collapse. The Old World is vanishing, the New World is taking over. There are no rules. Not now that a deadly disease is spreading that causes its victims to turn violent. Previously loving people become murderous. No-one can tell who will turn and who will not.

A work of force and dark brilliance - the perfect expression of the terrors of the 21st Century

If you like plague based horror, here are some other books you might enjoy:

  • Hater by David Moody (St. Martin's Press)
  • Infected by Scott Sigler (Broadway)
  • Feed by Mira Grant (Orbit)

Friday 25 November 2011

Stephen King Interview on Q Uncut

Q Uncut has posted an excellent interview with Stephen King, talking about his newest book 11/22/63.  One of my co-workers, who knows more about SF & F than I do, told me this book has the most unique take on time travel she's ever seen.

Click here for the interview.

Thursday 24 November 2011

What Books Do You Like To Reread?

I saw this post by David B. Coe after writing about Anne McCaffrey yesterday and knew I had to post about it.

Here are the books I used to reread - or sometimes skim the best parts of - back when I had time to reread books or, conversely, when I didn't have time to read a whole book but needed a quick pick-me-up.

Transformation by Carol Berg for it's incredible mix of sorrow and humour, its characters and the unique magical world she created.  Indeed, her books are so good, and each series so unique, that I highly recommend everything she's written.

Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold because Ista is just such a great character, a feisty middle aged woman, stuck in the middle of a fascinating story involving gods and demons.  It's a unique mythology and always makes me smile.

Resenting the Hero by Moira Moore for its subtle, sarcastic humor and personable protagonists.

Dhampir and Thief of Souls by Barb & J.C. Hendee for the comraderie turned sexual tension between the protagonists, and Magiere's straight woman to Leesil's humourous quips.

The Harper Hall Trilogy (specifically Dragonsong and Dragonsinger) by Anne McCaffrey because Menolly is just that cool.  And I always felt sorry for her horrible home life.

Poison Study by Maria Snyder, for her fiesty protagonist and the subtle love story that develops under your nose.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.  If you've only seen the movie, do yourself a favour and read the book.  It is SO much better, and quite different.  It always makes me laugh - and cry.

I just realized these are all by women...  And all fantasy novels  I guess when I'm skimming books or reading to be uplifted, I like a bit of humour and romance.  Or at least a good, moving story.  SF doesn't usually do that for me (considering I prefer post-apocalyptic and dystopian SF that's not surprising).

There are more, of course, but these are the main ones.

What books do you turn to again and again, and why?

Wednesday 23 November 2011

R.I.P. Anne McCaffrey

I was sad to hear yesterday that Anne McCaffrey passed away a few days ago.  You can read obituaries by, Locus Magazine and other locations.

There were a group of authors whose books got me into fantasy: Terry Brooks, Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman, Raymond E. Feist and Anne McCaffrey.  I tore through her Pern books, rereading them every few years when I realized more books were out.  I still have her Harper Hall trilogy on my favourite reads shelf (Menolly remains one of my favourite female characters in a fantasy world).

She will be missed.

* Note, for those of you viewing my blog via google reader, this was originally posted on the 23rd, but I tried a new way of adding photos that google reader didn't like and so this post (and the Stephen King interview) didn't show up until I redid the photos.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Book Review: The Death Cure by James Dashner

**Please note, as this is the 3rd book in the series it's impossible to give a synopsis and critique without potential spoilers for the other books.  You can read my reviews for The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials here.**

Pros: fast paced, lots of action

Cons: still don't learn much about Wicked, middle lags, lots of violence

For Parents: a fair amount of violence (by the Gladers as well as against them) including murder; no swearing, no sexual content

It's time for the Gladers to learn why they've been put through hell.  Twice.  But Thomas and a few others decide they don't care.  All they want is to escape Wicked's compund and live their lives.  Things become complicated when it's revealed that someone close to Thomas has the Flare and Thomas may hold the key to the cure.

The Death Cure has the same level of action as the other two books with the exception that in those the teens have a purpose - surviving the trial.  In this book, that purpose is missing, causing a lag in the middle where they're not sure what to do next and simply react to outside forces.

Beyond that, it angered me that Thomas didn't get his memories back because I, as a reader, desperately wanted to know his role in Wicked and how the trials came to be.

Still, it ends with a bang and is a good conclusion to a decent series.

Friday 18 November 2011

Author Interview: Michael Dempsey

Novel: Necropolis


> What is Necropolis about?

Paul Donner is a NYPD detective with a drinking problem and a marriage on the rocks.  Then he and his wife get dead—shot to death in a "random" crime.  50 years later, Donner is back—revived courtesy of the Shift, a process whereby inanimate DNA is re-activated.  This new "reborn" underclass is not only alive again, they're growing younger, destined for a second childhood. The freakish side-effect of a retroviral attack on New York, the Shift has turned the world upside down.  Beneath the protective geodesic Blister, clocks run backwards, technology is hidden behind a noir facade, and you can see Elvis at Radio City Music Hall every night at nine.  In this unfamiliar retro-futurist world of maglev Studebakers and plasma tommy guns, Donner must search for those responsible for the destruction of his life. His quest for retribution, aided by Maggie, his holographic Girl Friday, leads him to the heart of the mystery surrounding the Shift's origin and up against those who would use it to control a terrified nation. 

> In the past you've written TV episodes and plays, and are an award-winning stage actor and director. What made you try your hand at writing novels?

Throughout my theatre, TV and film career, writing a novel stayed in the back of my head—a childhood dream.  It's the hardest form to master, so I was intrigued by the challenge.  The other reason was geographic.  When I moved home a few years ago to be closer to family, it seemed the logical thing to do.  To be a successful in TV or film, you have to live on a coast, but you can be a novelist anywhere.

> Does having an acting background help with your writing? 

Absolutely.  A good actor analyzes a script to discover its structure and themes—exactly the things you need to construct when writing. Also, an actor analyzes what motivates his character and why, what tactics he uses to get what he wants, what his stakes are and what obstacles lie in his way.  I think about these things when writing characters—the more obstacles you can throw at them, and the higher you can make their stakes, the more dynamic and exciting the story will be.

> Why do you think zombies/reanimated dead have such staying power?  

We're terrified of death more than anything else, and as much as we'd love to come back, we know it's unnatural.  If people are resurrecting as zombies, something is terribly wrong with the Universe in a much deeper way than simply having to survive their attacks. Being eaten is a also primal fear that goes back to our earliest days as a species, and cannibalism is even worse—a taboo that goes right down to our DNA.  The combination of these horrors taps into the most primitive terrors of our psyche.

Don't laugh, but even though people revive from the dead in NECROPOLIS, when I was writing it, I never really thought of them as a variation on the zombie motif, since the method of their resurrection is scientific, not supernatural.  Despite the youthing issue, they're essentially themselves again. 

> What kinds of books do you read for fun?

I'm an omnivore.  But I do have a weakness for genre fiction—horror, science fiction and crime novels rank at the top of the list.  But I also love the classics and history.  Probably because I'm actor, I'm also a huge Shakespeare fan.  If you don't love to read, don't be a writer.  Writers have to be voracious.

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

Absolutely not!!  Necropolis isn't the nicest place to live. 

> What was the hardest scene for you to write?

The parts about Donner's failed marriage.  I'm divorced, and although I think that drawing upon the memory of that pain and guilt and confusion made the writing richer and more believable, it was still very difficult to re-experience.

> When and where do you write?

I write in my office, first thing in the morning, before life can intrude.  I also "write" on walks and late at night before bed, when my mind is more free to daydream.  I always keep a pad on the nightstand.

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

Best thing: getting to create worlds and stories and then share them with others (and maybe even earn a little money doing it).  It's the best job in the world.  Worst thing: I suppose it's rejection and criticism.  Putting your writing out there is a very courageous thing, in my came from deep inside you, you're vulnerable, so when people are callous with their criticism it can be very difficult.  You have to develop a really tough skin and keep working to believe in yourself to survive.

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

I am stunned and grateful how generous and supportive other fiction writers have been to me.  It's often not often that way in film and television—it's a very cut-throat business.

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

The most critical trait of a successful writer is perseverance.  Many talented people fall by the wayside and give up.  Also:  writing is rewriting. Don't be satisfied with your first draft.  Get input.  Never fall in love with your own writing to the extent that you can't "kill your babies" when they don't work.  It can be painful but necessary.  Stay open to constructive criticism.  No one is so good that they can't grow.

Write what you love, not what you think will sell.  Writing is a long process, so you better be incredibly turned on by the tale if you're gonna make it through.  Write what you yourself would love to read.

Finally:  get out there and LIVE!  There is no replacement for life experience.  If all you do is sit in a room and write, your writing will be two-dimensional and derivative.

> Any tips against writer's block?

Force yourself through it.  Write something no matter what.  Five pages of crap is better than no pages, if for no other reason than you're practicing discipline.  Writing is work, and the muse won't always be there to magically inspire you. 

> How do you discipline yourself to write?

Well, look, you have to love it.  There's no replacement for that.  Everybody wants to write a book, but you have to love the process, otherwise it's a burden.  Carve out a special time for yourself that allows no intrusion and stick to it, no matter what.  (If the house is on fire, you're allowed to stop.)

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

I received about 10 rejections from agents before one said yes.  And she found a publisher in less than four months, which is incredibly fast.  This is all very atypical.  Many talented writers must wait a long time for the "stars to align," so I consider myself blessed.  Hopefully that also means the book is good!

Thursday 17 November 2011

Genre News

Here are some tidbits of news that I've been notified of and haven't had time to post until now.

Angry Robot Books announces its new YA imprint Strange Chemistry!

Angry Robot, the award-winning publisher of SF, F and WTF are pleased to announce their newest venture – a sister imprint, Strange Chemistry, which will publish Young Adult genre fiction.

The imprint will launch in September 2012, with five titles appearing before the end of that year, before settling down to one book each month. Strange Chemistry will follow AR’s strategy of co-publishing its books simultaneously in the US and UK, in both eBook and paperback formats. Subject matter will include fantasy, science fiction, supernatural and horror, and as with Angry Robot the lines between those genres are likely to be very blurry at times.

Running the imprint will be Amanda Rutter, until recently best known as the tireless blogger behind genre review site, Floor-to-Ceiling Books. She takes up her position in Angry Robot’s headquarters in Nottingham on December 12th.
I'm stoked.  Angry Robot's been publishing some great stuff, so I'm glad to see them turn their sights on YA.

Need a gift for a bibliophile?  Gone Reading has a fun line of products (t-shirts, mugs, aprons, bags, etc.) and "has pledged 100% of company profits in perpetuity to fund reading libraries and other literacy projects in the developing world".  They've got a number of cute images with text, like these:
From a press release that's a bit old now, but still interesting:
Max Brooks’ novel, WORLD WAR Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, published by Three Rivers Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, has now sold more than 1 million copies in print and digital formats combined. The milestone was announced today by Tina Pohlman, VP, Publisher, Trade Paperbacks, Crown Publishing Group.
Paramount Pictures will be releasing the film WORLD WAR Z starring Brad Pitt on December 21, 2012.
I'm not really a fan of zombie books, but I thought WORLD WAR Z was fabulous.  If you haven't read it yet, you should.  :)
Speaking of top sales, 
INHERITANCE, the fourth and final installment in Christopher Paolini’s #1 bestselling Inheritance cycle, has achieved the highest first-day sale in 2011 of any fiction or non-fiction, adult or children’s  title published this year in the U.S. and Canada, it was announced today by Chip Gibson, President & Publisher, Random House Children’s Books. The conclusion to Paolini’s epic saga went on sale in North America on Tuesday, November 8th, and sold a staggering 489,500 copies in print, digital, and audio formats.  Hardcovers dominated the opening-day sell-through for INHERITANCE, with an 83/17% print to digital split.
“This is both a thrilling and gratifying end to a wonderful journey that began more than a decade ago,” said Paolini. “I could have never imagined that the Inheritance cycle would become what it has, and I’m grateful to the fans for their continued support and enthusiasm. I look forward to seeing them in person on my tour this month, but most of all, I hope they enjoy the book!”
Paolini has started his tour for the book, so if you're in the states, check out his tour schedule

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Danger 5 Webseries

Danger 5 is a new webseries that starts November 21st.  It's... interesting.  Nazis, dinosaurs, intentionally cheesy special effects...  It's kind of an alternate history adventure story.

From their youtube site


Dinosaur Presents:

From Dario Russo and David Ashby, of Italian Spiderman, comes...

Watch this channel for PART 1 of:


10pm EST
21 NOVEMBER 2011

Victory has a new name!

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Book Review: All Men Of Genius by Lev A. C. Rosen

Pros: fabulous writing, witty, complex story with multiple subplots, endearing characters, emotional punch

Cons: the first 5 pages are a bit over the top, get past them and the rest of the book is fabulous

The Importance of Being Earnest meets Twelfth Night in this fabulously written debut novel.  Violet Adams has a plan to attend the illustrious school of science, Illyria, by dressing the year as her twin brother Ashton.  Being a man is more difficult than Violet considered, and it turns out to be quite an interesting year, filled with experimentation, drinking, exploring the labyrinthine basement of the school, blackmail, avoiding the love of Cicely (ward of Illyria's duke) and dealing with her own complicated feelings towards said duke.

This is a delightful romp that could well have been written by Oscar Wilde himself.  It has the feel of Victorian literature, with subtle wit and constant references to things of the period.

As a steampunk novel there's a lot of experimentation going on, but very little scientific explanation, so those who want a more hard SF feel should look elsewhere, while those wishing for a book to ease someone into genre should think of this as the perfect gift.

The plot becomes more and more complex as new characters are added, each with their own plans that interfere with those of the others.  And the characters are all complex.  Rosen takes a few pages here and there to flesh out even minor characters so their motivations are understood.  And while he jumps between heads often, it's always clear whose thoughts you're following.

This book made me laugh, out loud, at several points.  It also made me cry.  Can't ask for more than that.

Monday 14 November 2011

SF Signal Podcast: YA Fiction

I had the pleasure of being part of SF Signal's 92nd podcast, talking about YA Fiction with fellow panelists: Ashley Crump, Jeff Patterson and Patrick Hester.  The questions we discussed were:

YA Fiction is taking the publishing world by storm but it's not just for Young Adults - people of all ages are enjoying what YA has to offer. Are you one of them?

  • What are some examples of genre YA you've enjoyed reading?
  • Is YA getting too dark?
  • Is YA not dominated by dark stories?
  • Is YA a bubble waiting to burst as some new thing takes the publishing world by storm?
Go on over and listen in.  Or, if you don't have time for that, here are some of the points I made.

1.There are 2 types of YA fiction, the kind that's specific to teens, their problems and ways of thinking and books that are written for anyone, but which happen to have teen protagonists.  If you're an adult, try to find the latter books as the former will make you want to argue with the characters about their choices and how in a few years they'll look back on this time and wish they'd chosen differently.

2. If you're avoiding YA literature because you think the writing quality won't be there, think again.  While some books are more simplistic, most are not.  If they were, do you think teens, who hate being talked down to, would read them?

3. As for YA being dark, would you rather kids learned stuff by doing it or by reading about it and deciding it's not for them?  Books afford the opportunity of learning from the mistakes of others.  And what's dark for 13 isn't necessarily dark for 17.  Parents need to be aware of what's out there and make educated decisions with regards to their own teen's development.  Each generation thinks the next is worse than their own.  The world has always contained dark corners.  That kids are exposed to it faster simply means they've got more tools to combat it (says the childless blogger).

Here are some reading suggestions if you want to try YA lit (some I mentioned on the podcast and some I didn't have time to mention).  They're listed here in no particular order.

Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins (I didn't mention this one on the podcast as it's well known.  But if you want to see darkness in teen fiction, as well as some fantastic characters and worldbuilding, start here.)
The Adoration of Jenna Fox - Mary Pearson (SF)
The Unidentified - Rae Mariz (dystopian)
Tankborn - Karen Sandler (SF)
The Declaration - Gemma Malloy (dystopian)
Mrs Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs (dark fantasy)
Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness (SF)
O.4 (British title) / Human.4 (US title) - Mike Lancaster (SF)
Leviathan - Scott Westerfeld (steampunk)
Eon - Alison Goodman (fantasy)
The Summoning - Kelley Armstrong (urban fantasy)

Hunger Games Trailer

The wait is over - for the trailer at least.  The Hunger Games looks fantastic.


Paperback Writer's 10 Things Women Do Only In Novels

Paperback Writer (ie Lynn Viehl / S. L. Viehl) has an awesome post on her site called 10 Things Women Do Only In Novels.  It's a good list.  I especially like her second example:
Confront an Intruder: I am amazed at how often women in novels will get out of bed in the middle of the night to investigate the glass-breaking sound out in the living room. Alone, unarmed, drowsy and dressed in my pajamas? I'm going to do the sensible thing and call 911 on the cordless as I climb out through a window and run away.
Her posts are often filled with an undercurrent of humour.  I like how, in addition to blogging about her novels, she also blogs about her hobbies - photography and quilting being the most prevalent. 

Sunday 13 November 2011

New Author Spotlight: Michael Dempsey

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 Michael Dempsey.

Michael Dempsey's debut novel is: Necropolis (Night Shade Books).

Here's the cover copy:

Paul Donner is a NYPD detective struggling with a drinking problem and a marriage on the rocks. Then he and his wife get dead--shot to death in a "random" crime. Fifty years later, Donner is back--revived courtesy of the Shift, a process whereby inanimate DNA is re-activated.

This new "reborn" underclass is not only alive again, they're growing younger, destined for a second childhood. The freakish side-effect of a retroviral attack on New York, the Shift has turned the world upside down. Beneath the protective geodesic Blister, clocks run backwards, technology is hidden behind a noir facade, and you can see Bogart and DiCaprio in The Maltese Falcon III. In this unfamiliar retro-futurist world of flying Studebakers and plasma tommy guns, Donner must search for those responsible for the destruction of his life. His quest for retribution, aided by Maggie, his holographic Girl Friday, leads him to the heart of the mystery surrounding the Shift's origin and up against those who would use it to control a terrified nation.

If you like this title, you might also like:

  • Dead Mann Walking by Stefan Petrucha (Roc)
  • Nekropolis by Tim Waggoner (Angry Robot)
  • Amortals by Matt Forbeck (Angry Robot)

Saturday 12 November 2011

Book Review: The Emperor's Knife by Mazarkis Williams

Pros: political intrigue, action, middle eastern setting, fantastic world building

Cons: abrupt ending

The Emperor's Knife follows many threads as a disease that tattoos its victims, and then takes over their minds, becomes more prevalent in the Cerani Empire.  Lord High Vizier Tuvaini has learned that the childless Emperor Beyon has been touched by the disease, a death sentence by his own law.  Beyon's younger brother, and heir, locked in a tower for 15 years, has gone mad, talking to himself and able to see patterns in the marks on his brother's skin.  He has discovered two things: that he is able to use magic and that there is a master behind the plague.

Tuvaini sends the Emperor's Knife, Eyul, the only assassin permitted to shed royal blood, to a wise hermit in the desert, several days' ride away, to see what must be done.  But Tuvaini is not a patient man, and has his own plans for the throne.  Meanwhile, the emperor's mother has sent for a plainswoman to marry her younger son, in hopes of maintaining the royal lineage.

This is a fast paced novel with a lot of political intrigue and action.  There's a little something for everyone: assassination, magic, romance.  The world building is superb, focused on the desert Empire, but mentioning things beyond the desert, lands with people who have different skin tones, religions and cultural practices.  We see this directly in the religion of the Yrkmen and their one god and with Mesema and the people of the Felt.

The characters are all complex, with desires, regrets and fears.  From the assassin Eyul, who was forced to kill children at the start of the book, to Tuvaini, who wants to see the empire thrive and expand.

For the start of a trilogy this book is surprisingly self-contained.  The ending is abrupt, but closes off many story threads, creating a book that could easily stand alone.

If you liked Daniel Abraham's The Dragon's Path this is the debut for you.

Friday 11 November 2011

Paranormal Mystery Reading List

It occurred to me a few months ago that there are a large number of mystery novels that have paranormal elements, enough so that they're almost urban fantasy (just with the emphasis on the mystery).  Here's a list I compiled for an endcap at the store.  It's not comprehensive, but it's a good starting place if you want something a little different from the traditional urban fantasy read.  I tried to get the first book in each series, but mistakes happen, so I apologize in advance for any errors.  Victoria Laurie and Sue Ann Jaffarian have 2 series that fit this criteria, hence why there are two books by their names.  And just for fun I added in a few general fiction novels that rely heavily on psychic phenomenon. (Note: I've added some new titles since first publishing this list)

A Charmed Death – Madelyn Alt 
Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders – Gyles Brandreth
Night of the Living Dead – E.J. Copperman
Charmed to Death – Shirley Damsgaard
The Chick and the Dead – Casey Daniels
Ghost of a Chance – Yasmine Galenorn
Work of the Angels – Kat Goldring
Ghost of a Chance - Simon Green
Mind Over Monster - Jennifer Harlow
Grave Sight – Charlaine Harris
The Cowboy and the Vampire – Clark Hays & Kathleen McFall
Touching Evil – Kay Hooper
Murder in Vein, Ghost A La Mode – Sue Ann Jaffarian
First Grave on the Right – Darynda Jones
Carpe Demon – Julie Kenner
The Ghost and the Dead Man's Library – Alice Kimberly
Addy Cooper: Psychic Eye, What's a Ghoul To Do? – Victoria Laurie
Desolate Angel – Chaz McGee
Crossfire – Miyuki Miyabe
Cosmic Clues – Manjiri Prabhu
Death in the Cards – Sharon Short
High Priestess – David Skibbins
Dracula's Heir: An Interactive Mystery – Sam Stall
Thru Violet Eyes – Stephen Woodworth

And from the comments:

Marilynn Byerly [I've found the first books in the series she mentions and listed them here along with my paraphrasing of her comments about series when needed]:

Phantom Evil, Ghost Shadow, The Death Dealer, etc. - Heather Graham (her books are marketed as paranormal romantic suspense, but are really paranormal mysteries)

18 Seconds - George Shuman
House on Tradd Street - Karen White 
Southern Ghost - Carolyn Hart
Defending Angels - Mary Stanton
Dating Can Be Deadly - Wendy Roberts
Haunt Me Still - Jennifer Lee Carrell
Hard Magic - Laura Anne Gilman (marketed as urban fantasy but really police procedural)

Along Came a Demon - Linda Welch

Thursday 10 November 2011

Books Received in October, part 2

The cure for aging has been found, and society slowly goes to pot in this first person account of those forgotten years.  (Read my review of The Postmortal.)

Margaret Atwood's new collection of essays regarding science fiction.
Ready Player One takes place in a future where the world has turned to pot and video games are the only relief.  The creator of a major game has died, leaving 80s pop culture clues within the game for people to find in hopes of inheriting his fortune.

In a dystopian future based on Nathanial Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, When She Woke sees Hannah Payne punished by dying her skin red.  The colour denotes her crime: murder.

Avry, a healer in a world that fears they are spreading the plague not providing a service, is kidnapped by a group who - surprisingly - do value her abilities.  They want her to heal a plague-stricken prince who is campaigning against her own people.

Spellbound is the continuation of Waking the WitchSavannah's alone and must deal with the consequences of decisions made in the previous book.