Monday 31 December 2012

Books Received December 2012

These are all sequels to previous books I haven't read yet, so I won't be reviewing these anytime soon.  Too many books...  In the interests of not spoiling the previous books, I'm giving synopses for book 1 in each series here.

Bard's Oath - Joanne Bertin
Last Dragonlord: 
Dragonlord Linden Rathan, last-born of a race of immortal weredragons, has spent six hundred years alone, searching for his soultwin while his fellow Dragonlords watch over humanity''s Five Kingdoms.

When the Queen of Cassori dies mysteriously, Linden and the other Dragonlords are called upon to prevent civil war as two human claimants vie for the regency.

As the battle for Cassori rule escalates, Linden becomes the target of the Fellowship, a secret society of true-humans who could actually destroy his immortal life.

Then he meets a beautiful young ship captain named Maurynna who may be the only one who can help Linden bring Cassori back from the brink of chaos.

Truancy City - Isamu Fukui
Some kids were rebellious….

In an alternate world, in a nameless totalitarian city, the autocratic Mayor rules the school system with an iron fist. Fighting against the Mayor and his repressive Educators is a group of former students called the Truancy, whose goal is to take down the system by any means possible-at any cost.

Fifteen-year-old Tack is just trying to survive. His days are filled with sadistic teachers, unrelenting schoolwork, and indifferent parents. Things start to look up when he meets Umasi, a mysterious boy who becomes Tack's mentor.

Then someone close to Tack gets killed in the crossfire between the Educators and the Truants, and he swears vengeance. To achieve his purpose, he abandons his old life and joins the Truancy, looking for an opportunity to confront Zyid, its enigmatic leader. But Tack soon finds himself torn between his desire for revenge and his growing sympathy for the Truants…

River Road - Suzanne Johnson
Royal Road:
As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco's job involves a lot more potion-mixing and pixie-retrieval than sniffing out supernatural bad guys like rogue vampires and lethal were-creatures. DJ''s boss and mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that might slip over from the preternatural beyond.

Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans' fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters.

While winds howled and Lake Pontchartrain surged, the borders between the modern city and the Otherworld crumbled. Now, the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering the soldiers sent to help the city recover. 

To make it worse, Gerry has gone missing, the wizards' Elders have assigned a grenade-toting assassin as DJ's new partner, and undead pirate Jean Lafitte wants to make her walk his plank. The search for Gerry and for the serial killer turns personal when DJ learns the hard way that loyalty requires sacrifice, allies come from the unlikeliest places, and duty mixed with love creates one bitter gumbo.

Friday 28 December 2012

New Author Spotlight: Alex Hughes

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

Today's spotlight shines on Alex Hughes!

Her debut novel is Clean published by Roc.
 Here's the cover copy...

A RUTHLESS KILLER- OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND   I used to work for the Telepath's Guild before they kicked me out for a drug habit that wasn't entirely my fault. Now I work for the cops, helping Homicide Detective Isabella Cherabino put killers behind bars.  
My ability to get inside the twisted minds of suspects makes me the best interrogator in the department. But the normals keep me on a short leash. When the Tech Wars ripped the world apart, the Guild stepped up to save it. But they had to get scary to do it-real scary.  
Now the cops don't trust the telepaths, the Guild doesn't trust me, a serial killer is stalking the city-and I'm aching for a fix. But I need to solve this case. Fast. I've just had a vision of the future: I'm the next to die.
Check out her book if you're interested in novels with telepaths and/or addictions:
  • Catspaw by Joan D. Vinge (Tor Books)
  • State of Decay by James Knapp (Roc)
  • Personal Demons by Gregory Lamberson (Medallion Press)

Thursday 27 December 2012

So, what awesome stuff did you get?

I had a nice, if not very relaxing, Christmas.  My work schedule was on the crazy side, so being off for Christmas eve and day was great.

Somehow my sister-in-law found an amazing store (or stores, she won't tell me where she got them) that stocks dragon and other medieval themed stuff.

Like dragon bookends:

Dragon jewelry (the one on the left curls around - and through - your ear):

And medieval armour/weapon pens:

So, how were your holidays and what awesome stuff did you get?

Wednesday 26 December 2012

The Japanese Tradition

My husband showed me these videos way back when we were dating.  They're done up like serious videos but their information's quite amusing.  I'm posting the Sushi video here.  I love the salt lick joke. :)

They're done by a Japanese comedy duo called Rahmens, consisting of Jin Katagiri and Kentaro Kobayashi.

Some others in the series are: Chopsticks, Apologizing, Ocha (green tea) and Origami.  Check out youtube for more by them.

Friday 21 December 2012

New Author Spotlight: Col Buchanan

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

Today's spotlight shines on Col Buchanan!

His books are:
  • Farlander
  • Stands a Shadow, both published by Tor.
Here's the cover copy for Farlander:

The Heart of the World is a land in strife. For fifty years the Holy Empire of Mann, an empire and religion born from a nihilistic urban cult, has been conquering nation after nation. Their leader, Holy Matriarch Sasheen, ruthlessly maintains control through her Diplomats, priests trained as subtle predators.
Ash is a member of an elite group of assassins, the Roshun, who offer protection through the threat of vendetta. Forced by his ailing health to take on an apprentice, he chooses Nico, a young man living in the besieged city of Bar-Khos. At the time, Nico is hungry, desperate, and alone in a city that finds itself teetering on the brink.
When the Holy Matriarch's son deliberately murders a woman under the protection of the Roshun; he forces the sect to seek his life in retribution. As Ash and his young apprentice set out to fulfil the Roshun orders, their journey takes them into the heart of the conflict between the Empire and the Free Ports . . . into bloodshed and death.
Check out his books if you like tales of assassins, subversive religions or conquering empires, like these:
  • The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks (Orbit)
  • The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman (NAL Trade)
  • Lamentation by Ken Scholes (Tor Fantasy)

Thursday 20 December 2012

If I Had ALL the Time in the World, Teen Edition part 2

There are so many books I'd love to read, both old and new.  Since I won't actually get to read them all, I figure I could showcase some.  Maybe other people will read them and tell me what I'm missing. :)

Hunted by Cheryl Rainfield

Caitlyn is a telepath in a world where that is illegal. She is on the run from government troopers, trying to stay hidden and alive-and trying to help make the world a better place for others with paranormal talents. 

As a child, Caitlyn watched as an angry mob killed her father, murdering him for being a Para. Since then, she and her mother have been on the run from government troopers, and constantly searching for her missing brother who disappeared during the riots. When Caitlyn starts at a new high school she thinks she will have to do what she's always done-blend in as best as she can, and never, ever let anyone know she's a Para who is able to read people's thoughts. 

But when Caitlyn meets Alex, an attractive fellow swimmer, and Rachel, one of her first true friends, she finds herself not wanting to hide any more. All the while, government troopers are closing in, and someone is killing Paras, draining them of their life energy. Caitlyn knows that she doesn't have much time before her identity is discovered. Ultimately, she must make the decision whether to save herself or save the whole human race.

Numbers by Rachel Ward

Whe3ever Jem meets someøne new, as søon as she looks into their eyes, a number pops into her head. That number i5 a date: the date they will die.

Since the day her mother overdosed, Jem has known about the num8ers. With such an awful burden, she avoids relationships. Until she meets Spider, another outsider, and takes a chance. But on a visit to London, Jem foresees a chilling chain of ev3nts. The city's a target. The cløck's running out. The countdown is on to a blowup, and her world is about t2 explode!

Earth Girl by Janet Edwards

2788. Only the handicapped live on Earth. While everyone else portals between worlds, 18-year-old Jarra is among the one in a thousand people born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. Sent to Earth at birth to save her life, she has been abandoned by her parents. She can't travel to other worlds, but she can watch their vids, and she knows all the jokes they make. She's an ''ape'', a ''throwback'', but this is one ape girl who won't give in.

Jarra invents a fake background for herself - as a normal child of Military parents - and joins a class of norms that is on Earth to excavate the ruins of the old cities. When an ancient skyscraper collapses, burying another research team, Jarra''s role in their rescue puts her in the spotlight. No hiding at back of class now. To make life more complicated, she finds herself falling in love with one of her classmates - a norm from another planet. Somehow, she has to keep the deception going.

A freak solar storm strikes the atmosphere, and the class is ordered to portal off-world for safety - no problem for a real child of military parents, but fatal for Jarra. The storm is so bad that the crews of the orbiting solar arrays have to escape to planet below: the first landing from space in 600 years. And one is on collision course with their shelter.

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien

In the future, in a world baked dry by the harsh sun, there are those who live inside the wall and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife, Gaia Stone, who live outside. Gaia has always believed it is her duty, with her mother, to hand over a small quota of babies to the Enclave. But when Gaia's mother and father are arrested by the very people they so dutifully serve, Gaia is forced to question everything she has been taught to believe. Gaia's choice is now simple: enter the world of the Enclave to rescue her parents, or die trying.

Starters by Lissa Price

Callie lost her parents when the Spore Wars wiped out everyone between the ages of twenty and sixty. She and her little brother, Tyler, go on the run, living as squatters with their friend Michael and fighting off renegades who would kill them for a cookie. Callie's only hope is Prime Destinations, a disturbing place in Beverly Hills run by a mysterious figure known as the Old Man.

He hires teens to rent their bodies to Enders—seniors who want to be young again. Callie, desperate for the money that will keep her, Tyler, and Michael alive, agrees to be a donor. But the neurochip they place in Callie's head malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her renter, living in her mansion, driving her cars, and going out with a senator's grandson. It feels almost like a fairy tale, until Callie discovers that her renter intends to do more than party—and that Prime Destinations' plans are more evil than Callie could ever have imagined. . . .

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Japanese Music Video: Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra

Several months ago I announced my desire to post Japanese music videos I liked.  Well, I haven't done a very good job but here's your next installment.

It's a song by the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra (東京スカパラダイスオーケストラ) called Utsukushiku Moeru Mori (美しく燃える森).  This was my first experience with Ska, and I liked it. :)

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Book Review: We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

Pros: interesting ideas, historical significance

Cons: unsympathetic characters, disjointed narrative, scarce descriptions

D-503, builder of the INTEGRAL, the space ship that will bring the OneState to the stars, starts this missive with the intent of including it in the propaganda transported by the ship.  But his treatise on the virtues of the OneState gets hijacked when the mysterious I-330 crosses his path.  Suddenly his writing is more about dreams and hopes than the realities of life and the happiness brought by a lack of freedom.

The fun of reading dystopian fiction is seeing how things run in this 'perfect' society.  We is surprisingly lacking in this regard.  We learn that buildings are made of glass (with blinds that can be lowered only for scheduled - and approved - sexual encounters), that lives are carefully regulated with the exception of two personal hours each day, and how crimes are punished.  There's a glass wall keeping the outside world out and people eat a manufactured petroleum product.  But there's no information about how children are authorized and raised (I say 'authorized' because one character becomes pregnant illegally).  There's little description about the work D-503 does, though it's quite important to the state.  There are only vague references to what is taught in the auditoriums each evening.  In other words, you get tantalizing images but no full picture of life in the OneState.

The writing style is first person narration, but the narrator has trouble forming complete thoughts - or at least, writing the ends of his thoughts down.  The reader must constantly work at understanding his meaning, which isn't always easy.  This is especially noticeable when recounting conversations.

The characters aren't very sympathetic.  I felt sorry for O-90, but really disliked I-330 and even D-503 became irritating in his lack of clarity and indecision.  I wasn't sure how to take the description of R-13 and his 'African lips' (one of the few character descriptions given).  It's unclear if he's actually African (and therefore the society is multiracial) or if he just has large lips.  I-330 seems too mercenary in her actions and, given his narrative style, it's impossible to tell if she is just using D-503 or if she honestly cares for him in some way.

While some of the ideas posited were interesting, this isn't a book I can recommend outside its historical significance as one of the (or even the?) first dystopian novels.  Many of the themes and plot points used in We are also used in the more readable - and more famous - 1984.  Given the choice between the two, I'd suggest 1984.

Sunday 16 December 2012

The Hobbit - One Ring Parody Video

Saw this great parody video of One Direction's 'One Thing'.  It's by TheWarpZone.  They've done a great job with the costumes, lyrics, everything.  They've also done X-Men Born This Way (mildly NSFW), Turn Me On - Console Wars and more.  

Friday 14 December 2012

If You Like... Try... Reading List (x3)

This is my third year doing this reading list.  It's based on an endcap display I do for the bookstore where I work.  Basically I pick books (mostly) from this year that fit specific SF/F/H categories.  These aren't 'best of', they're more 'you may not have seen these', titles, including several smaller press books.  Similarly, some categories that I would have added (like Western Fantasy) aren't here as I've done separate displays for them.  Not all of them fit on the endcap at the same time, but I need extras for when books start selling out.  That's why you'll notice the written list has more books than the picture shows.  Oh, and I've increased the number of horror titles on the list.

Psychological SF - Janus by John Park
Apocalyptic Fiction - After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress
Alien Encounters - Ghost Planet by Sharon Lynn Fisher
Steampunk - Dead Iron by Devon Monk
Military SF - Bloodstar by Ian Douglas
Alternate History - Himmler's War by Robert Conroy
Terrorism - Genocidal Organ by Project Itoh
Biological Terrorism - Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers
Alternate Realities - Bullettime by Nick Mamatas
Robots - vN by Madeline Ashby
Crime Fiction With an SF Twist - The Man From Primrose Lane by James Renner
Energy Crisis - Energized by Edward Lerner
Thrillers - Blades of Winter by R. T. Almasi

Elizabethan Fantasy - Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle
Epic Fantasy - Besieged by Rowena Cory Daniells
Persian Inspired Fantasy - The Emperor's Knife by Mazarkis Williams
Medieval Fantasy - Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman
Secrets - House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier
Gritty Fantasy - Seven Princes by John Fultz

Immortality - Enma the Immortal by Fumi Nakamura
Animal Stories - At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson
Scary Angels - Blood and Feathers by Lou Morgan
Werewolves - Silver by Rhiannon Held
Shapeshifters - In a Fix by Linda Grimes
Demon Law School - Dark Light of Day by Jill Archer
Native American Myths - Zadayi Red by Caleb Fox
Norse Gods - Thunder Road by Chadwick Ginther

Zombies - Devil's Wake by Steven Barnes & Tanarive Due
Witches - Thirteenth Sacrifice by Debbie Viguie
Classic Horror - Hell Train by Christopher Fowler
Scary Short Stories - The Monster's Corner edited by Christopher Golden
Horror Houses - Deadfall Hotel by Steve Rasnic Tem

Thursday 13 December 2012

Movie Review: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Director: Wallace Worsley, 1923

The hunchback living at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris (Lon Chaney) hates and is hated by the populace.  Like the Arch-Deacon's brother, Jehan (Brandon Hurst), and Captain Phoebus (Norman Kerry), he becomes enamored of the gypsy dancer Esmeralda (Patsy Ruth Miller), foster daughter of Don Claudio (Nigel de Brulier) the King of Thieves.

Based on the book by Victor Hugo, this film details the treachery of Jehan, the love affair between Phoebus and Esmeralda, the torment of Quasimodo and more.  Much of the film is set in and around the Cathedral of Notre Dame, a magnificent edifice, and wonderful backdrop for such a complicated story.

I was impressed by the number of side plots the writers kept in and how expressive the actors were given the silent nature of the film.  Black and white is a great medium for a dark tale, though unlike some other b&w films I've seen the director didn't make as much use of light and shadow as he could have.

The music was fairly repetative at the beginning getting more interesting and varied as the film progressed.

Lon Chaney's performace as the hunchback was fantastic.  The make-up looked great and he managed to look hideous while still being sympathetic in the right places.

In fact, all the characters were well cast.  Esmeralda was beautiful, Phoebus charming and handsome, Jehan somewhat creepy, etc.  The acting was a bit more restrained than in other silent films I've seen, while still being expressive.

If you've read the novel, you'll notice some major changes, namely Phoebus and Esperalda not sleeping together and the happy ending they gave the film.

Still, it's well done and whether you've read the book or not there's no trouble following the plot.

The film is in the public domain and you can watch it for yourself here or here.

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Fellowship of the Ringwraiths

This is a short, humerous video directed by the Clarkson Twins that explains what the Ringwraiths in The Lord of the Rings were doing while we followed the adventures of the Hobbits.  I saw it last week, but with being busy and all am posting it now.

They've also got a Star Wars - Disney sing-a-long parody that is hilarious.

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Book Review: Merchant of Dreams by Anne Lyle

Pros: fully realized Renaissance world with great attention to detail, lots of intrigue, learn more about Skrayling magic

Cons: several characters started to grate on my nerves, making decisions that irked me; first third of the novel is spent on ships, with little happening plot-wise; towards the end of the book several aims are suddenly - and suspiciously easily - achieved 

Mal and Coby, now living in France, discover the Skraylings are courting trade alliances with Venice, a venture that, if successful, could undermine the current arrangement with England.  They pick-up Sandy on their way to England to inform Walsingham of their news.  Mal is sent to Venice to discover the state of negotiations and takes Ned Faulkner with him.  Meanwhile Coby is tasked with keeping Sandy out of trouble in London.  Needless to say, she fails.

There's a lot of intrigue and a great sense of adventure in this sequel to The Alchemist of Souls.  There are several sea voyages, an attack by monsters, torture and the reunion of Mal and Sandy with their older brother, Charles.  

Where Lyle excells is with the amount of accurate historical detail she peppers the book with.  She's careful about using period expressions and terminology, making the book feel authentic.

We also learn more about Skrayling magic in this book.  Mal is tutored in dreamwalking, and starts to accept that part of himself.  Meanwhile, despite having two personalities, Sandy's Skrayling identity as Erishen is dominant, and has no qualms about using magic to further his aims.

There were several things I didn't like about this book.  Sandy's personality started to grate on my nerves early in the book as he cares nothing for the humans around him or the problems he causes.  He sees nothing wrong with manipulating others with magic to get what he wants.  I mention the other issue that bugged me with regards to the characters in the spoiler section as it deals with things later in the book.

A lot of the action for the first third of the book took place on boats.  While a long sea journey between London and Venice is realistic, nothing important seems to happen and the book starts to drag.  Conversely, in Venice things go slowly for a while and then, suddenly, everything happens quickly, with events that seemed difficult before all happening in quick succession.  In other words, it seemed too convenient that all their plans suddenly worked without problem.  

The ending brought back complications and did a good job of keeping the tension and action high.  The characters face real consequences for their actions earlier in the book (though a few things are swept under the rug - which I mention below as well).  I was impressed by how well the author tied up the loose ends, given the state of affairs at the end of the book.

I found this second volume more problematic and less enjoyable than the first, but it did have some redeeming features and leaves enough questions hanging that I'll definitely finish the series.

Out December 18th

*** Spoilers ***

Ned's attempts to seduce Mal annoyed me as I like my characters to stay paired and I consider him and Gabriel a couple (as do they but with more a more open relationship than I like).  I'll admit this is a personal preference and may not bother other readers.  Mal's affair later in the book bothered me for similar reasons.  I wanted him and Coby to get together and saw this as a betrayal of her trust.  It also bothered me because in both cases, the seducers were pushing Mal to do something it appeared he didn't want to do.  Given the ending of the book, I'm also annoyed that he and Coby don't discuss what happened and whether Mal will act like that again in the future.

I was a bit annoyed that Mal and Ned were released from jail so easily and without explanation.  It seemed highly unlikely that an inquisitor, who's just heard a confession of murder, would let his quarry go like that, regardless of how much sway Olivia had.  

The book Sandy steals at the beginning of the novel, that seems so important, suddenly vanishes from the plot and is only mentioned again briefly at the end.  I know he learns the critical piece of information he needs from it, but I still expected to see him translate more of it as the story progressed and was surprised that this otherwise important plot point was ignored.  Maybe in returns in book 3?

Friday 7 December 2012

Author Interview: Allison Pang


A Brush of Darkness
A Sliver of Shadow
A Trace of Moonlight


> What is A Brush of Darkness about?

It’s the story of Abby Sinclair, who is pretty much a normal girl, essentially tossed into this mystical world that overlaps our own. Everything she does has political repercussions, but directions are hard to come by and she finds herself struggling to figure out how to manage. When her Faery boss goes missing, Abby is forced to try to find her, joined by a perverted unicorn and a sexy incubus, who may or may not be setting her up.

> How did you go from marine biology to writing urban fantasy?

That’s actually a pretty long story. I ended up in a few science based internships after graduation that were sponsored by grants. After getting laid off a few times because a grant wasn’t renewed, I got tired of living that way, so I ended up in the tech industry (which is my “real” job, atm.) I had taken a few English classes in college, but was fairly discouraged in them. (Mostly because I didn’t fit in. I wasn’t a literary writer and I felt really looked down on.) So I didn’t write anything for about 12 years after college. It wasn’t until I started a gaming forum for women and got involved in playing Play By Post D&D games that I decided I really like writing and I started looking into what I needed to do to get published.

> You do a webcomic called Fox& Willow with Irma 'Aimo' Ahmed. How did that get started?

I had actually hired Aimo to do some character design and sketch cards for a different project. I was a huge fan of her Bioware fan art, and through our discussions we found out we had a lot in common. I’d always wanted to try my hand at writing for comics, so I asked her if she’d be interested in doing some sort of collaboration. Turns out, she wanted to do some more original work as well, and thus we formed Sad Sausage Dogs. So far it’s been a great partnership.

As far as the comic itself goes, we both developed the overall story arc, though I’m doing the actual writing. I let her decide on the pages – how many panels, etc. I’m really happy with how it’s turning out. Our only real obstacle is that she lives in Malaysia, so we’ve had to get creative in our communication efforts!

> Abby Sinclair has a miniature unicorn in your novel. Is that a pet you'd like too?

Oh yeah.

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

Probably not. It would definitely be cool to interact with the OtherFolk in some way, but I don’t think I’d want to have to face any of the issues most of them have!

> When you're not writing, what kinds of books do you like to read?

High fantasy, mostly? I’ll read just about anything, but I’m definitely more of a fantasy/sci fi person.

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

A Brush of Darkness, actually. Started it in June 2008, finished it in April 2009. Sold it in Jan of 2010.

> What was the hardest scene for you to write?

Most of the scenes involving Abby’s mother. My own mother died in 2002 and I was in denial for a very long time about it. A lot of Abby’s mom issues are mine – they were basically just leaking out of me at that point and writing it was the only way I could deal with it. (Though my mother died of cancer.)

> When and where do you write?

Mostly at night, after work and the kids are in bed. I usually write at a desk in my office, but honestly, I
have a netbook I bring with me everywhere – any time I can slip in some writing (the doctor’s office, for example) I try to do so.

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

Well writing in general is just fun for me – it’s a lot of hard work, but there’s something very satisfying
about it. Knowing that I’m able to entertain people as a result of that work is just the most fabulous
thing imaginable. The only bad thing is balancing a day job and my family. The kids have to come first, so...
> What is something you didn’t know about the publishing industry before you had your first book published?

How slow it is? Traditional publishing moves at its own pace.

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

Just keep writing. Workshops and how-to books are fabulous, but they don’t mean anything unless you’re actually writing. That’s the only real way to learn. Also, take advantage of all the great resources
out there – how to write query letters, what agents are looking for, what publishers to avoid, etc. Do
your due diligence up front to avoid disappointment later.

> Any tips against writers block?

It depends on the writer. I’m a panster so sometimes I’ll hit a wall where I’m not sure where I want to go in the plot. I tend to take a lot of hot showers at that point – I tend to think better under the hot water
for some reason. I’ll also sketch out notes on a sheet of paper – that tends to loosen things up. If I’m
really stuck, I’ll do something else for a few days – write something fun, game, read. But you can’t let
that go on too long or you fall out of the writing habit. So, I have to do that sparingly.

> How do you discipline yourself to write?

I don’t know if I discipline myself, but it’s more a question of balancing my time. I do try to write every day, but some days it doesn’t happen. I don’t beat myself up over that, but I think in the end, it’s my responsibility to do the writing. I don’t HAVE to, but if I don’t? Nothing’s going to happen.

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

Less than 10. I was really lucky.

Thursday 6 December 2012

Sunburst Prize Winners 2012

 The winners of the 2012 Sunburst prize for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic have been announced.

For adult fiction: Paradise Tales by Geoff Ryman
For young adult fiction: All Good Children by Catherine Austen

Here's what the judges had to say about each of the books:

"Paradise Tales is a terrific collection of stories covering a dizzying range of imaginative possibilities and narrators. A superb stylist, the author fully adjusts the tone and rhetoric of each story to its narrator and its context. This masterful and eclectic collection includes looks at a truly post-human future in which intelligent animals carry the seeds of a new humanity but may not want to produce it, as well as stories featuring various suggestive biotech possibilities, to the pioneering filmmakers of Mars, and to tender ghost stories, such as the fantasy dreams of the first lover of Pol Pot’s daughter. The author puts wit and consummate style at the service of profoundly human philosophical extrapolations."

All Good Children: "In a physically and morally crumbling United States, 15-year-old Max Connors finds his family, friends, and himself under threat by a semi-covert Homeland Security plan to vaccinate all school children to be “good” – or, as Max calls it: zombification. Max, who’s smart, artistic, and a troublemaker, is horrified to learn that their parents and teachers are complicit and uses desperate measures to escape with his little sister and best friend. The author includes knowing nods to 1984, Brave New World, Stepford Wives, Alien and other pop-cultural touchstones in this tension-filled, fast-paced, and surprisingly tender dystopian thriller that’s narrated by its teen protagonist with wit and vigour."

If I Had ALL the Time in the World, Teen Edition part 1

There are so many books I'd love to read, both old and new.  Since I won't actually get to read them all, I figure I could showcase some.  Maybe other people will read them and tell me what I'm missing. :)

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

They say that the cure for Love will make me happy and safe forever. And I've always believed them. Until now. Now everything has changed. Now, I'd rather be infected with love for the tiniest sliver of a second than live a hundred years smothered by a lie.

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Incarceron is a prison so vast that it contains not only cells and corridors, but metal forests, dilapidated cities, and wilderness. It has been sealed for centuries, and only one man has ever escaped. Finn has always been a prisoner here. Although he has no memory of his childhood, he is sure he came from Outside. His link to the Outside, his chance to break free, is Claudia, the warden''s daughter, herself determined to escape an arranged marriage. They are up against impossible odds, but one thing looms above all: Incarceron itself is alive . . .

The Bridge by Jane Higgins

The City is divided. The bridges gated. In Southside, the hostiles live in squalor and desperation, waiting for a chance to overrun the residents of Cityside.

Nik is still in high school but is destined for a great career with the Internal Security and Intelligence Services, the brains behind the war. But when ISIS comes recruiting, everyone is shocked when he isn''t chosen. There must be an explanation, but no one will talk about it. Then the school is bombed and the hostiles take the bridges. Buildings are burning, kids are dead, and the hostiles have kidnapped Sol. Now ISIS is hunting for Nik.

But Nik is on the run, with Sol''s sister Fyffe and ISIS hot on their trail. They cross the bridge in search of Sol, and Nik finds answers to questions he had never dared to ask.

The Bridge is a gritty adventure set in a future world where fear of outsiders pervades everything. A heart-stopping novel about friendship, identity, and courage from an exciting new voice in young-adult fiction.

Brain Jack by Brian Falkner

In a dystopian near-future, neuro-headsets have replaced computer keyboards. Just slip on a headset, and it''s the Internet at the speed of thought. For teen hacker Sam Wilson, a headset is a must. But as he masters the new technology, he has a terrifying realization. If anything on his computer is vulnerable to an attack, what happens when his mind is linked to the system? Could consciousness itself be hacked?

Brian Falkner, author of The Tomorrow Code and The Project, delivers an action-packed and thought-provoking sci-fi thriller in which logging on to a computer could mean the difference between life and death.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Triumph Over Tragedy

Like science fiction and fantasy short stories?  Want to help victims of Hurricane Sandy?  Indigogo's Triumph Over Tragedy campaign lets you do both.

For $7 you get an anthology with 40+ stories from old and new authors alike, though you can type in whatever contribution you choose to give if you want to donate more than that.  The money goes to the American Red Cross Society to help those in need.

From the site:

You will get (when completed) the anthology in whatever eBook format you wish. .mobi, .epub, .pdf. All DRM free (no digital rights management). Authors contributing to this effort to date:

• Robert Silverberg (Hugo & Nebula Award winner)
• Marion Zimmer Bradley (Locus Award winner) (donated by the MZB Literary Trust)
• Timothy Zahn (NYT Bestseller & Hugo Award winner)
• Michael Stackpole (NYT Bestseller)
• Elizabeth Bear
• Michael J. Sullivan
• Mark Lawrence
• Bradley P. Beaulieu
• Philip Athans
• Adrian Tchaikovsky
• Tobias Buckell
• Stephen D. Sullivan
• Rick Novy
• Jean Rabe
• Maxwell Alexander Drake
• SM Blooding
• Erik Scott de Bie
• Alex Bledsoe
• Elisabeth Waters
• R.T. Kaelin
• Ari Marmell
• Matt Bone
• Sarah Hans
• Rob Rogers
• Jaym Gates
• C.S. Marks
• C.J. Henderson
• Marian Allen
• Bryan Young
• Donald Bingle
• Janine Spendlove
• T.L. Gray
• Miya Kressin
• Matthew Wayne Selznick
• Steven Saus
• Addie King
• Rob Knipe
• Vicki Johnson-Steger
• Tracy Chowdhury
• Doris Stever

If you can't donate, please spread the word.  :)

Barely Political: Kreepy Kids

Ever wonder where horror movie production companies get the creepy kids they use?  Well, Barely Political has the answer, the Kreepy Kids Kasting.

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Audiobook Review: War of the World by H. G. Wells

Read by: Christopher Hurt

This review requires a preface.  I listened to this on vacation in the Dominican Republic, where it was very hot and sunny.  I also wasn't sleeping well.  As a result of listening, rather than reading, I often closed my eyes to avoid the glare of the sun on the beach and, would subsequently, fall asleep.  So I got through this book rather sporadically, having to rewind and listen to things twice because I wasn't paying attention the first time and making a general mess of the experience.  Please keep that in mind as you read this review.

Pros: lively narrative (audiobook version), pseudo-science, lots of detail

Cons: disjointed reading made it hard to remember the numerous details Wells peppered the novel with, pseudo-science

A professor & writer of philosophy details what he witnessed during the Martian attack of London and its environs.

As with other books of the period, The War of the Worlds is presented as the narrator's account of true events.  The book tries to make the science plausible, explaining what the Martians must have been thinking, why they attacked and how they got their ships to Earth.  The story pauses at times to explain what the Martians look like, how their machines work and how quickly the red weed they brought with them grows.  While Wells tries to get his science right he ultimately fails since there was so much he didn't understand about space travel, etc.

The ending of the book, which always seemed so strange given the obvious advanced knowledge of the Martians makes sense here, given their evolution and difficulty in examining the Earth at close range (based on the science of the time).  In other words, if, like me, you've only seen the film (and I mean the 1953 version), then you don't know the real story.  In fact, much that happens in the film is not in the book and vice versa, particularly the love story (in the book the protagonist spends most of his time trying to rejoin his wife, whom he fears has died in his absence).  Similarly, the book has only minor religious overtones, much less than the film.

The book includes a lot of details about the Martians, their looks, actions, etc. but there are few details about their feeding, which is presented as a horror and then ignored.  I'd have liked to know more about that, as it played a large role in their invasion.

I highly recommend the audiobook.  I've found from reading other Wells novels (Invisible Man, Island of Dr. Moreau) that his narrative style is rather dry and hard to read at times.  But listening to the book, well, that was an experience.  The narrator really made this come alive (my fatigue notwithstanding).

Sunday 2 December 2012

Sunburst Award Society Announces the Winners of it's First Copper Cylinder Awards

From the press release:

Toronto, Ontario (December 2nd, 2012) The Sunburst Award Society is pleased to announce the debut of its newest literary awards. The Copper Cylinder Award is an annual member’s choice award selected by members of the Sunburst Award Society for books published during the previous year.

The Copper Cylinder Award derives its name from the first Canadian scientific romance, “A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder,” by James De Mille (1833-1880). The winners receive a unique, handcrafted, copper cylinder trophy.

The first winner of the 2012 Copper Cylinder Adult Award is Among Others by Jo Walton, (TOR)

The first winner of the 2012 Copper Cylinder Young Adult Award is Once Every Never by Lesley Livingston (Penguin Canada).

The Sunburst Award Society also confers annually the juried Sunburst Awards for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Both awards celebrate the best in Canadian fantastic literature published during the previous calendar year.

For additional information about the Copper Cylinder Awards, Sunburst Award Society membership and the voting process please visit the website at

For additional information about the Sunburst Awards, the nominees and jurors, eligibility and the selection process, please visit the website at

Saturday 1 December 2012

Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels Coming in January, 2013

As always, this list is made up primarily by using the Indigo Books website and so reflects Canadian release dates.  If there's a mistake or a book missing, mention it in the comments and I'll make the change.


Doctor Who: The Wheel of Ice – Stephen Baxter
The Six-Gun Tarot – R. S. Belcher
Impulse – Steven Gould
Ever After – Kim Harrison
The Dog in the Dark – Barb & J. C. Hendee
A Memory of Light – Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson
Kalimpura – Jay Lake
Imager's Battalion – L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
The Kassa Gambit – M. C. Planck
Tiger by the Tail – John Ringo & Ryan Sear
Doctor Who: A History of the Universe in 100 Objects – Steve Tribe
Battle – Michelle West
Star Wars: Scoundrels – Timothy Zahn

Trade Paperback:

The Eldritch Conspiracy – Cat Adams
Magic Bites – Ilona Andrews (special edition reprint)
We Modern People: Science Fiction and the Making of Russian Modernity – Anindita Banerjee
Elves: Rise of the TaiGethen – James Barclay
Range of Ghosts – Elizabeth Bear
Shaman of Stonewylde – Kit Berry
Doktor Glass – Thomas Brennan
Shifter's Wolf – Patricia Briggs
Pathfinder Tales: Called to Darkness – Richard Lee Byers
The Red Knight – Miles Cameron
Wide Open – Deborah Coates
Supernatural Short Stories – Charles Dickens
Daughter of Regals & Other Tales – Stephen Donaldson
Hadon of Ancient Opar – Philip Jose Farmer (reprint)
What I Didn't See – Karen Joy Fowler
Seven Kings – John Fultz
Future Games – Paula Guran, Ed.
Home Improvement: Undead Edition – Charlaine Harris & Toni Kelner, Ed.
Riddley Walker – Russell Hoban (reprint)
Battle of Kings – M. K. Hume
Glamour in Glass – Mary Robinette Kowal
A Hero's Throne – Ross Lawhead
Bio-punk: Stories From the Far Side of Research – Toby Litt
Fire Logic – Laurie Marks
Ice Forged – Gail Martin
Warhammer 40K: The Greater Good – Sandy Mitchell
The Warlord of the Air – Michael Moorcock (reprint)
The Iron Breed – Andre Norton (reprint)
Turtle Recall: The Discworld Companion... So Far – Terry Pratchett
The Educated Ape and Other Wonders of the Worlds – Robert Rankin
Blue Remembered Earth – Alastair Reynolds
Warhammer 40K: Gotrek & Felix: Road of Skulls – Josh Reynolds
The Unconquered Countries: Four Novellas – Geoff Ryman
The Bandit King – Lilith Saintcrow
The Hedgewitch Queen – Lilith Saintcrow
Scourge of the Betrayer – Jeff Salyards
Redshirts – John Scalzi
Valentine Pontefex – Robert Silverberg
The Explorer – James Smythe
Warhammer 40K: Ravenwing – Gav Thorpe
The Blight of Muirwood – Jeff Wheeler
The Scourge of Muirwood – Jeff Wheeler
The Wretched of Muirwood – Jeff Wheeler
Sunset of the Gods – Steve White
Chung Kuo – David Wingrove

Mass Market Paperback:

Throne of the Crescent Moon – Saladin Ahmed
The Daemon Prism – Carol Berg
Fair Game – Patricia Briggs
Shadows in Flight – Orson Scott Card
Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier – Myke Cole
She Returns From War – Lee Collins
Magic and Loss – Nancy Collins
Songs of the Earth – Elspeth Cooper
Star Wars: Apocalypse – Troy Denning
Orb Sceptre Throne – Ian Esslemont
Star Trek: Allegiance in Exile – David George III
Sixth Column – Robert Heinlein (reprint)
Between Their Worlds – Barb & J. C. Hendee
City of Dragons – Robin Hobb
Under the Gun – Hannah Jayne
The Games – Ted Kosmatka
Warhammer 40K: The Horus Heresy: Angel Exterminatus – Graham McNeill
The Host – Stephenie Meyer (reprint)
Warhammer 40K: The Last Ditch – Sandy Mitchell
Dangerous Gifts – Gaie SeboldMan-Kzin Wars XIII - Larry Niven
Song of Ireland – Juliene Osborne-McKnight
Shattered Circle – Linda Robertson
Touch of the Demon – Diana Rowland
Between – Kerry Schafer
A Conspiracy of Alchemists – Liesel Schwarz
The Shape of Desire – Sharon Shinn
Skirmish – Michelle West

Carina Press eBooks:

Nobody's Angel – Stacy Gail
The Impetuous Amazon – Sandy James
Asher's Dilemma – Coleen Kwan
Trick of Time – J. L. Merrow
Claws Bared – Sheryl Nantus
Caught in Amber – Cathy Pegau
Threads of Desire – Eleri Stone

Friday 30 November 2012

Books Received, November 2012

I got my holiday work schedule yesterday and it's a doozy.  I work retail so I know Christmas is going to be busy but I think this is the most I've worked in succession since I moved away from Toronto and got an hour+ commute each way.  Needless to say I may not be posting as much for the next few weeks and I definitely won't be commenting that promptly.

Next week is still pretty light, so I'll try to set up posts in advance for the weeks I'll be busier.  I'm not sure how reviews will go as the commute gives me time to read, but I've been pretty slow with finishing books the past few weeks and I don't really expect that to change as I'm going to be pretty tired.

Anyway, here are the books I got in November and hope to read soon.

Dualed - Elsie Chapman.  This book reminds me of Marie Brennan's Doppelanger and Warrior & Witch duology (republished as Warrior and Witch), which I really enjoyed.  I'm interested in seeing how the author deals with the subject matter here.

Two of you exist.
Only one will survive.

The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate-a twin raised by another family-and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage-life.

Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West's confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she's no longer certain that she's the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.

Etiquette & Espionage - Gail Carriger.  This one sounds like The Agency by Y. S. Lee, which I haven't had time to read but has an intriguing premise.  A finishing school novel told with Carriger's humour... gotta read this and soon.

It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners--and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but the also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage--in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education.

Set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate, this YA series debut is filled with all the saucy adventure and droll humor Gail's legions of fans have come to adore.

Every Day - David Levithan.  I heard about this book at the Random House kids preview, and it sounds incredible.

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.

There's never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.
It's all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin's girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with-day in, day out, day after day.

The Kassa Gambit - M. C. Planck.  This is an alien first encounter novel that caught my eye.  It's out in early January.

Centuries after the ecological collapse of Earth, humanity has spread among the stars. Under the governance of the League, our endless need for resources has driven us to colonize hundreds of planets, all of them devoid of other sentient life. Humanity is apparently alone in the universe. 

Then comes the sudden, brutal decimation of Kassa, a small farming planet, by a mysterious attacker. The few survivors send out a desperate plea for aid, which is answered by two unlikely rescuers. Prudence Falling is the young captain of a tramp freighter. She and her ragtag crew have been on the run and living job to job for years, eking out a living by making cargo runs that aren't always entirely legal. Lt. Kyle Daspar is a police officer from the wealthy planet of Altair Prime, working undercover as a double agent against the League. He's been undercover so long he can't be trusted by anyone--even himself.
While flying rescue missions to extract survivors from the surface of devastated Kassa, they discover what could be the most important artifact in the history of man: an alien spaceship, crashed and abandoned during the attack. 
But something tells them there is more to the story. Together, they discover the cruel truth about the destruction of Kassa, and that an imminent alien invasion is the least of humanity's concerns

Fast Archery Technique Rediscovered

People have been posting this video to facebook and it is amazing.  Danish painter, writer and archer, Lars Anderson has been breaking world records by using ancient archery techniques that have been lost for generations.  On his youtube site he comments:

Shooting with bow and crossbow. In the beginning I built repeater crossbows, but discovering man is faster than machines, so today I shoot only with bow.
I try to get back to a orginal archery before today's archery only focused on hitting a target. Historically, archery was to shoot series of arrows, fast, and hit targets in the Movement and even be in motion simultaneously, and also hit a target that shoot back.
His english isn't the best grammatically, but that doesn't detract from the awesomeness of his abilities.  I'd love to see more information about this technique, especially how he holds all the arrows in his hand and reloads without fumbling (though I imagine there's a TON of practice involved with that).

Thursday 29 November 2012

Real Life Transformer

Kenji Ishida has posted a video on youtube of an actual remote control car that transforms into a robot made by Brave Robotics.  Pretty awesome.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

New Author Spotlight: Sharon Lynn Fisher

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

Today's spotlight shines on Sharon Lynn Fisher!
Sharon's debut novel is:
  • Ghost Planet, Published by Tor
Here's the cover copy:

Psychologist Elizabeth Cole prepared for the worst when she accepted a job on a newly discovered world—a world where every colonist is tethered to an alien who manifests in the form of a dead loved one. But she never expected she'd struggle with the requirement to shun these "ghosts." She never expected to be so attracted to the charming Irishman assigned as her supervisor. And she certainly never expected to discover she died in a transport crash en route to the planet. 
As a ghost, Elizabeth is symbiotically linked to her supervisor, Murphy—creator of the Ghost Protocol, which forbids him to acknowledge or interact with her. Confused and alone—oppressed by her ghost status and tormented by forbidden love—Elizabeth works to unlock the secrets of her own existence. 
But her quest for answers lands her in a tug-of-war between powerful interests, and she soon finds herself a pawn in the struggle for control of the planet…a struggle that could separate her forever from the man that she loves.  
Check out her book if you like alien first encounter stories with romance, like:

  • Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch (DAW)
  • Triptych by J.M. Frey (Dragon Moon Press)
  • Solaris by Stanislaw Lem (Mariner Books)

Book Review: The Scarlet Plague by Jack London

Pros: doesn't use dialect/guttural speech you're told the characters are actually speaking, good post-apocalyptic story, lots of description, good attempt at extrapolating future of telephone and air travel, cites 2012!

Cons: second half of the story especially is racist and has class overtones

Professor James Howard Smith tells his 3 grandsons about the plague that destroyed civilization in 2013.

Note: I read this on vacation just a few days before the US presidential election.  It was with a sense of shock that I came to this passage early in the book.  The professor is walking with one of his grandsons and mentions money, which the boy doesn't understand.  He remembers that he has a coin and shows his grandfather.  The old man looks closer to see the date the coin was minted, prompting the following speech:

"2012," he shrilled and then fell to cackling grotesquely.  "That was the year Morgan the Fifth was appointed President of the United States by the Board of Magnates.  It must have been one of the last coins minted, for the Scarlet Death came in 2013..."

According to London then, the world won't end in December 2012, we've got one year more before a plague decimates the world population.

The characters in the book, we are told, speak a guttural, clipped language.  Only the grandfather uses any refined speech, and that only when he's deep into reminiscence of the past.  Thankfully London doesn't write the book in dialect.  He gives a bit of it at the beginning for colour, but not enough to annoy the reader, and the longer the book goes on the less you see of it.  

The story is interesting, plausible given current populations and the speed with which this particular plague kills.  The decline of language and banding together of the remaining people into clans is very believable.

While London tries to extrapolate what the world of 2012 will look like, he's coming from a time (1915) when airplanes are in their infancy, the Hindenburg disaster hasn't happened and telephone communication is just beginning.  In other words, he's completely wrong, but you have to give him credit for trying.  I imagine steampunk affictionados would have enjoyed his mix of planes and airships.

London's prose is highly descriptive, giving the reader a real sense of place and time.  Unfortunately part of that time includes the racism of his own day.  In the first half of the novel it's easier to ignore, as the character in question isn't described physically, only his negative character traits are brought up.  But towards the end of the tale it becomes clear that this horrible person has dark skin and is 'lower class' than the white woman he enslaves.  For modern readers the language he uses really kills an otherwise great post-apocalyptic story.  I found a few parts towards the end painful to read due to this issue.

It is well written, and, given the referencing, 2012 seems the right time to read it.  But be aware of the content before you crack this open, and if you don't like other books of its period for their racist references, give this book a pass.

The book is in the public domain and can be downloaded for free from the Gutenberg site. If you like paper, HiLoBooks has reprinted The Scarlet Plague as part of their Radium Age SF series.