Saturday 31 March 2012

Science Fiction and Fantasy Events in Toronto, April 2012

This will be my last SF/F Events post.  I started my evens calendar with the idea that, knowing what was happening, I'd attend more events.  But living outside of Toronto, I've found it's too much effort to head downtown for events, so...  I'll keep up the links I used to find events, so anyone interested can do their own research.  And, as always, check the websites to confirm times and locations.

Tuesday April 3

Rober J. Saywer: Triggers Book Launch
Where: Dominion on Queen (500 Queen Street East), Toronto, Ontario
When: 7:00 p.m.

Thursday April 5 

Dr Who Information Network (DWIN) Pub Night

There is a regular Doctor Who Tavern/Pub gathering in Toronto on the first Thursday of each month

Where: Paupers Pub, 539 Bloor Street West (near Bathurst). We meet up at the back near the dartboards.
When: People usually start to arrive around 8:00pm.

Wednesday April 11

The ChiSeries is pleased to invite James Alan Gardner, Rio Youers and Ursula Pflug!
Where: Augusta House (152 Augusta Ave)

When: 8-11 PM

Saturday April 14 - Sunday April 15 

Wizard World Toronto Comic Con

Where: Metro Toronto Convention Center
When: Sat 10 AM - 7 PM, Sun 11 AM - 6 PM
Ticket info and more

Friday April 20 - Sunday April 22 


Where: Delta Hotel Toronto Airport West (5444 Dixie Road, Mississauga)
Cost: pre-register before April 14th, prices and pre-registration form here.

Saturday April 21

Toronto Public Library

Keep Toronto Reading: Anime North at the Library
Where: North York Central Library Auditorium
When: 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Cosplay and a screening of the complete "Read or Die!" series. Speaker Chris Warrilow ("War Horse") on creating amazing costumes and props. Plus: win passes to Anime North 2012. Presented with Anime North.

Sunday April 22 

Space-Time Continuum SFF Discussion Group

Where: Bakka Phoenix Books, 84 Harbord Street
When: 1 pm
Topic: TBD

Saturday April 28

Third annual Toronto Atlas Obscura day - A compendium of the Worlds Wonders curiosities and esoterica.
Where: Comedy Bar, Dupont Street
When: 10 pm - 1 am
Cost: $20, available at Helles Belles and eventbrite

Join your host Mysterion as he presents some of the strangest acts to ever-

Marvel at the worlds tiniest burlesque dancer, Viva Le Muerte, half the size but with all the parts!!

Be thrilled at the Mighty Leviticus, able to withstand darts against his bare skin and twist metal rods with his bare hands!!

The Evil Professor Sinister, he enjoys pain so much you will scream and squeal when you see what he does to his own body just for you, ungaffed and real!!!

The Cloven Path ministries, your guide to Satanic Salvation!!!

Dr. Eugenia Mooney- What secrets lie beneath 5000 years of mystery... an authentic Victorian mummy unwrapping LIVE, will it be royalty or will a curse be unleashed on the crowd..... witness this spectacle if you dare!

Sinful Burlesque of the most unique- The bizarre Obyskyura, Kitty kane from the UK, Octogirl Fionna Flauntit, the cannibal Dolly Berlin, The 4 legged Tanya Cheex, and the twisted AUTOPSY Of Chaos Divine and Vanity Boom.

All this and a curative of the only sideshow museum you can come up and touch and handle- Do you dare hold cursed objects, a real Kampala skull used for blood rituals, or the torture tools of the sickening WW2 death camps.... these items are real and from the personal collection of Mysterion, part of a collection featured in the media as one of the most oddest in the country.

Friday 30 March 2012

Women in SF Month and YA Book Scavenger Hunt

Fantasy Book Cafe is hosting a Women in SF Month in April and I'll be doing a guest post there, so swing by during the month (or better yet, follow her blog) and see what's happening.  The first week's line-up includes: Nancy Kress, Elizabeth Bear and Carol Berg.


I stumbled across a blog called YA blog scavenger hunt that is currently hosting a scavenger hunt.  Up for grabs are 3 batches of 20 signed YA books.  To win, you have to follow one of three hunts, redblue and yellow (and yes, you can enter all three).  Find the hidden letters on each blog, make the phrase, and enter the contest.  Most of the blogs are having side giveaways for swag and extra books as well as showing exclusive content.  The hunt ends at noon on April 1st, so you've got some time.   And it's an international contest.

I had a lot of fun following all three hunts, and here are some of the books I discovered along the way:

In a near future, society is segregated according to whether people are genetically disposed to mental illness. 17-year-old Ana has been living the privileged life of a Pure due to an error in her DNA test. When the authorities find out, she faces banishment from her safe Community, a fate only thwarted by the fact that she has already been promised to Pure-boy Jasper Taurell.

Jasper is from a rich and influential family and despite Ana’s condition, wants to be with her. The authorities grant Ana a tentative reprieve. If she is joined to Jasper before her 18th birthday, she may stay in the Community until her illness manifests. But if Jasper changes his mind, she will be cast out among the Crazies. As Ana’s joining ceremony and her birthday loom closer, she dares to hope she will be saved from the horror of the City and live a ‘normal’ life. But then Jasper disappears.
Led to believe Jasper has been taken by a strange sect the authorities will not interfere with, Ana sneaks out of her well-guarded Community to find him herself. Her search takes her through the underbelly of society and into the pits of the human soul. And as she delves deeper into the mystery of Jasper's abduction she uncovers some devastating truths that destroy everything she has grown up to believe, but she also learns to love as she has never loved before.
You can see the trailer for it here and enter to win copies on her website.

When a strange boy tumbles down a river embankment and lands at her feet, seventeen-year-old adrenaline junkie Deznee Cross snatches the opportunity to piss off her father by bringing the mysterious hottie with ice blue eyes home.
Except there’s something off with Kale. He wears her shoes in the shower, is overly fascinated with things like DVDs and vases, and acts like she’ll turn to dust if he touches her. It’s not until Dez’s father shows up, wielding a gun and knowing more about Kale than he should, that Dez realizes there’s more to this boy—and her father’s “law firm”—than she realized.
Kale has been a prisoner of Denazen Corporation—an organization devoted to collecting “special” kids known as Sixes and using them as weapons—his entire life. And, oh yeah, his touch? It kills. The two team up with a group of rogue Sixes hellbent on taking down Denazen before they’re caught and her father discovers the biggest secret of all. A secret Dez has spent her life keeping safe.
A secret Kale will kill to protect.
The premise reminds me of Shatter Me, which I really enjoyed. And here's Mr. Accardo's website.

Sixteen-year-old Noli Braddock's hoyden ways land her in an abusive reform school far from home. On mid-summer's eve she wishes to be anyplace but that dreadful school. A mysterious man from the Realm of Faerie rescues her and brings her to the Otherworld, only to reveal that she must be sacrificed, otherwise, the entire Otherworld civilization will perish.

And Ms. Lazear's website.

And while this last book doesn't fall under SF/F, it sounds pretty awesome.

Murder is such a dirty word…
In Port Gamble (aka “Empty Coffin”), Washington, truth is about as hard to come by as a sunny day. One minute Katelyn is a depressed teen with a loser life. The next, she’s lying on a stainless steel slab, eyes glassy, skin frosted over, and very, very dead.

Down the street from Katelyn, twins Hayley and Taylor Ryan can’t escape the encroaching winter darkness. As they recover from the shock of Katelyn’s death, they realize how entwined they already are in the evil circulating Empty Coffin. And while they can’t explain it, an unknown force pushes them to uncover the truth. Is Katelyn Port Gamble’s first and only victim?

And Mr. Olsen's website.

Makes me want to spend more time in the teen section.  There are a lot of other great books, so go check out the scavenger hunt.

New Author Spotlight: Leah Bobet

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 Leah Bobet!

Her debut novel is Above published by Arthur Levine Books.

Here's the cover copy...

A gorgeous urban fantasy about dangers outside and in.

Matthew has always lived in Safe, a community hidden far beneath the pipes and tunnels of the city Above. The residents fled to Safe years before to escape the Whitecoats and their cruel experiments, and now Matthew is responsible for both the keeping of Safe's stories and for Ariel, a golden-haired shapeshifter, and the most beautiful girl he's ever seen.

But one horrifying night, an old enemy murders Safe's founder, Atticus, and the community is taken over by an army of shadows. Only Matthew, Ariel, and a handful of friends escape Above. Now they not only have to survive in a sunlit world they barely know, but they must unravel the mystery of the shadows' fury and Atticus's death. It's up to Matthew to find a way to remake Safe, not just for himself and his family, but for Ariel, who's again faced with the life she fled, and who needs him more than ever before.

An urban fantasy and a love story, Above is the breathtaking debut of an extraordinary new voice.

Check out her book if you like stories where teen protagonists are forced underground:

  • Shade's Children by Garth Nix (HarperCollins)
  • Unwindby Neal Shusterman (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Quirk Books)

Thursday 29 March 2012

Book Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Pros: interesting setting, brilliant assassin school/convent idea, characters all have realistic motivations (including the antagonists)

Cons: I didn't understand why Ismae was chosen for the mission

Ismae is 17 years old and about to be married off to a man who is likely as boorish and abusive as her father, when she's spirited away to a convent.  There she learns that being the daughter of Death is not a curse but a blessing and is trained in the ways of assassins.  

But she skips out on her lessons on courtliness and seduction, lessons that would have helped with her third assignment, at the court of Brittany's besieged twelve year old Duchess.  A Duchess whose hand in marriage was promised to a boorish, brutal man.  This is a marriage alliance that her older half-brother, Duval, the man Ismae is to accompany to court, and whom she must watch for signs of treason, intends to prevent.  

As she tries to see through the various plots at court, Ismae discovers she has feelings for Duval.  But Death's Handmaidens are not trained for love.

Late Medieval Brittany is a fantastic setting, with all the political intrigue at the Duchess's court as well as the threat of attack from the French.  There's even the threat of attack from her suitor should she break the betrothal agreement her father made with him.  The countryside is suitably rustic and court extravagant.  

The convent to the old God of Death, Mortain, now called a Saint after the Christianization of the land, and its training of assassins who work for His cause, was brilliant.  It feels more like a boarding school setting, with the girls learning the different arts they will need.  The only off note here was the inclusion of Eastern style martial arts, which would have been unknown in those parts at that time.  But as it's historical fantasy, one cannot fault the author for wanting to include throwing stars (or rondelles as they're called in the book) and the like in the arsenals of the girls.

The motivations for each characters actions is realistic, even those of the bad guys.  Indeed, the book shows court life in all its complexity, with few being trustworthy and everyone working towards their own aims - even when those aims are in direct opposition to those of their sovereign.  It also shows the power and lack thereof of women.  Though Duchess, due to her age and sex Anne's  voice isn't held in high esteem.  And her council members try to make the best decisions for Brittany, even though they may not be the best decisions for Anne herself.

My only real complaint with the book was that Ismae shouldn't have been sent on this mission.  She didn't have the understanding of court life required nor was she sufficiently adept at hiding her identity or mission.  I was surprised that no back story was created to explain her meeting Duval, and she was constantly jumping to conclusions, or assuming that events could only point to one answer, while I often saw other options that she missed or only considered in passing.  This pushed me out of the story on many occasions, when I wondered why the convent would send her, as a novice, when they must have had more experienced women they could have sent who would have done a much better job.  She was also accepted at court more readily than I believed possible (given her peasant upbringing and her lack of comfort with court/city life) and allowed to wander everywhere, something I doubt a real court would have allowed of a high ranking officer's mistress (which was her cover story, and an odd cover story for a woman who is trying to hobnob with ladies-in-waiting).  Ismae was surprisingly bad at talking to servants, which given that she was looking for gossip, seemed a serious failing.  She also tuned out the gossip of the Duchess's ladies on those few occasions when she met with them.  I was surprised that their gossip was always passed off as being frivolous, when in reality there would have been some political undertones to their conversation.  

The book ended well - indeed Ismae came into her own for the last hundred pages and I liked her a lot more for it.  

If you can overlook Ismae's unsuitableness for the mission, it's an interesting read.

Books Received March 2012

These are the books I received in March.  Quoted synopses are from the linked pages.

Amped by Daniel H. Wilson: "people are implanted with a device that makes them capable of superhuman feats. The powerful technology has profound consequences for society, and soon a set of laws is passed that restricts the abilities-and rights-of "amplified" humans. On the day that the Supreme Court passes the first of these laws, twenty-nine-year-old Owen Gray joins the ranks of a new persecuted underclass known as "amps." Owen is forced to go on the run, desperate to reach an outpost in Oklahoma where, it is rumored, a group of the most enhanced amps may be about to change the world-or destroy it."

Shadow and Betrayal by Daniel Abraham (an omnibus edition that includes A Shadow in Summer and A Betrayal in Winter): "...the aggressively expansionist Galt empire has alreadyconquered lands across a huge continent. But the cities of the Khaiem resist Galt's power with the andat-creatures of magic with godlike powers.

Each andat is brought into being by a "poet" who must say the right words and exert the iron will needed to control gods. Theindustrialized Galt war machine is helpless against the powers of the andat…but political intrigue and deep treachery combine to shift the balance of power in a world of ancient empires and immortal magics.

One man, Otah Machi, stands at the crossroads of history in these imaginary world fantasies, the fulcrum around which the wheels of epic history rotate through achingly poignant cycles of life and death, love and betrayal."

Spirits of Glory by Emily Davenport: "One morning, the people of the North woke up and the people of the South were gone. That’s the first thing every child learns on the colony world of Jigsaw. But for one girl, knowing about The Disappearance is not enough. Hawkeye wants to know why. Her curiosity won't let her refuse a journey to the Forbidden Cities, even though she's going into more danger than she can imagine."

Article 5 by Kristen Simmons: The US has instituted a series of moral decrees, which have led to the incarceration of 17 year old Ember's mother and Ember being sent to a correctional school.  Her feelings for the boy she used to love - who was part of the team that took her mother away - complicate her life as she tries to reunite with her mother.

Claws and Saucers: Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film A Complete Guide 1902-1982 by David Elroy Goldweber: "Discover CLAWS AND SAUCERS, the fullest and strongest guide to classic science fiction, horror, and fantasy films ever written."

Aria Hahn by J. M. Carnright (a Cinematic interactive ebook, iPad app) : "ARIA HAHN - The Sena Project blends cinema, art, and an original symphonic score with a story based in the distant future while being hauntingly pertinent to our world today. This complete sensory experience of sight, sound, and touch takes the reader far beyond where ordinary eBooks go, thrusting you into other worlds filled with visual wonder and, at times, menacing fear."

Wednesday 28 March 2012

On The Shoulders of Giants

On the Shoulders of Giants is an independently produced film coming out this summer.  It's a 50's retro SF film, done in homage to Forbidden Planet, directed by K. D. Barker.

From their press release:

In the 23rd century mankind had finaly travelled beyond the confines of Earth's solar system and made contact with intelligent extraterrestrials. New forms of atomic propulsion has finally made space exploration to distant worlds possible. 
During starship Andromeda’s maiden voyage its Einstein-Rosen (ER) drive is successfully tested. A vessel equipped with an ER drive is capable of crossing the galaxy in days by travelling through self-generated wormholes. The ER drive was designed by the child science genius N'tron Zepethar.
Fifteen years earlier the starship Leviathan (with Zepethar aboard and propelled by his first version of an ER drive) disappeared on its maiden voyage. As the only other vessel equipped with an operational ER drive the Andromeda is reassigned to the Leviathan's rescue mission.
After fifteen years on Theta-25L, Zepethar is the sole survivor of the Leviathan's crew.
When Commander Altaire begins searching for answers to the Leviathan’s demise it soon becomes apparent both Zepethar and Theta-25L harbour terrifying secrets...

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Book Review: Article 5 by Kristen Simmons

Pros: protagonist shows real growth at the end of the book, spunky heroine

Cons: heroine is surprisingly naive given her age and circumstances, willful misunderstandings between Ember and Chase that complicate their interactions and romance, minimal worldbuilding

For Parents: no swearing, no sexual content, some violence (corporal punishment, off stage executions)

Ember's world is shattered when her mother is arrested on an Article 5 violation, putting Ember into the custody of the state.  She is desperate to escape her new home, reform school, and help her mother at all costs.  Meanwhile she wonders at the betrayal of her closest friend, and first love, Chase, who was drafted into the army and was one of the arresting officers who took her mother away.

While I imagine teens will love Ember, she's feisty and won't back down from defending her rights, most adults will find her attitude tiresome.  Yes, you can argue that she's doing the right thing by fighting back, but she's not doing the SMART thing.  The smart thing at the reform school would have been to lay low and find out how things work before planning an escape attempt.  Instead she draws attention to herself right away, so she's watched more carefully - making it harder to escape and bringing down draconian punishments on herself.

Having said that, the ending is that much better as you finally see her realize that there's a time to fight and a time to watch and plan.  And while her plan comes off better than I believe it would have in real life, I felt proud of Ember for growing up and learning this very important lesson.

Part of her rebelliousness shows in her relationship with Chase.  Both characters complicate their interactions and their own feelings by willfully misrepresenting their circumstances (Chase lying about how he was treated in the army for example).  I understood why Chase didn't tell her what happened to her mother but I was amazed that she didn't figure it out.  And a lot of Ember's actions relied on spur of the moment decisions based on fear rather than planned actions.

Finally, Ember is very clueless about her world, and that shows up in the minor worldbuilding.  We're told of the war that has allowed the President to corrupt the US using the Statues of Morality, but we aren't told who the war was against or why it was fought, nor do we learn if there was opposition to the Statues, etc., etc..   

The ending made the book worth reading, but I suspect many adults will not make it that far.  This is one for teens - and they'll love it. 

Racism and the Hunger Games

Sometimes people make me very, very angry.  This is one of those times.  I noticed A Dribble of Ink's post last night, linking to this article about racist white people complaining about the casting of Cinna, Rue and Thresh in the Hunger Games movie.  Personally, I thought all the actors in the film did a fantastic job, these three included (Cinna's one of my favourite characters in the book and I thought Lenny Kravitz was dead on).

I think Rue's role would have been better with a bit more time to develop her relationship with Katniss, but again, Amandla Stenberg did a fantastic job in the role.  In fact, I'd love to see her in something else (and looking at her imdb bio, she's also in Colombiana, which features parkour, so I guess I know what I'll be picking up soon).  She's even more impressive when you realize she plays violin, drums and guitar and started modelling at age 4!

We like to think that racism is gone or getting better.  It isn't.  Until people can see other people as, well, people, instead of 'black' or 'asian' or 'hispanic' or 'white', etc. we'll always have racism.  I'm not saying that nationality or family background are bad.  But there comes a point when you have to stop asking where people are from and who their parents are and just accept them as people.  Like you.  With the same rights, privileges, foibles and positive aspects that you and people who look like you have.  Regardless of where you're from, where you are now and what you look like.

End of rant.

Sunday 25 March 2012

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

Directed by: Gary Ross, 2012

Pros: fantastic acting, faithful to the book, great costumes, both touching and brutal

Cons: too much unnecessary shaky cam

For Parents: no swearing, no sex, lots of violence in the last 3rd of the film (though there's little blood and most of the deaths occur offstage, you do see a few of the tributes kill each other)

The Hunger Games is a faithful adaptation of Suzanne Collins' popular dystopian YA novel of the same name.  Katniss Everdeen is chosen as one of two District 12 tributes to fight to the death in the 74th Hunger Games, a televised sport spectacular used to punish the 12 Districts for rising against the Capitol years before.  

Katniss has hunting skills and is desperate to return to her beloved little sister, but there are 23 other tributes, some of whom have trained for the games all their lives.  And her people skills, important to garnering support and help during the games, are vastly underdeveloped.

I was a little worried by Woody Harrelson's casting as Haymitch (I still see him as the 'boy next door' from Cheers, and had trouble picturing him as a drunk), but thought he - and the other actors - did an amazing job.  Jennifer Lawrence, who played Katniss, was especially good, showing apathy, fear, determination and finally the desire to game the system and give the audience what they wanted in hopes of surviving to the end.  Indeed, though brutal at times, the film managed to also portray the tragedies associated with the games (watching the reactions of kids forced to kill other kids and sorrow over certain deaths) without overdoing it.

The special effects were good - contrasting the poverty of District 12 with the opulence and technology of the Capitol.  And the costumes, especially the flaming outfits, were spectacular.

I appreciated the few minor additions to the story - scenes not from Katniss's POV, and therefore not in the book - that helped flesh out the world a bit more.

My only real complaint was with the amount of shaky cam/hand held camera usage at the beginning of the film.  There were times when the effect was used to show scenes from Katniss's POV, which were well done.  But there was also a lot of unnecessarily blurry shots of Katniss running and people milling around.  Thankfully, as the action increased towards the end of the film this became less and less noticeable.

If you haven't read the books you'll have no problem following the story.  Everything you need to know is explained, though people who have read the book will get more out of the scenery/costumes, etc..

***** Spoiler Area *****

I was disappointed that the scene where Rue's district sends a parachute to Katniss was cut, but appreciated the scene they replaced it with.  

I also thought the scene with the berries at the end was cut short.  In the book the pair have the berries in their mouths before the games are called off.  I didn't believe the Capitol would accept anything less than the pair having the berries in their mouths, considering the stakes involved for those running the Games.

The game masters also have more specialized control of the arena in the movie.  For example, they specify what tree will fall when expanding the forest fire and send fire blasts at Katniss.  My husband pointed out that this would invalidate the betting that went on as to which tribute would win.  If the people running the games can target and kill specific players, then what's the point of betting that a particular player can outsmart/kill the others?

Friday 23 March 2012

Author Interview: Michael J. Sullivan


Theft of Swords (The Crown Conspiracy & Avempartha)
Rise of Empire (Nyphron Rising & The Emerald Storm)
Heir of Novron (Wintertide & Percepliquis)

Short Stories:

The Viscount and the Witch


> What is The Riyria Revelations about?

The Riyria Revelations is a classical epic fantasy about two unlikely heroes who find themselves caught in a series of ever escalating adventures. There’s no ancient evil to defeat, or orphan destined for greatness, just two rouges in the wrong place at the wrong time. Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his ex-mercenary partner Hadrian Blackwater make a profitable living carrying out dangerous assignments for conspiring nobles until they are framed for the murder of a king. Told through six individual episodes, the series starts out simply and grows in complexity as Royce and Hadrian find themselves in the middle of a conspiracy that reaches beyond the mere overthrow of a tiny monarchy.

> What drew you to writing fantasy? 

I actually write all kinds of novels: science fiction, mysteries, thrillers, literary, coming-of-age, just about everything except romance and erotica. I’m known as a fantasy writer because The Riyria Revelations were the first (and to date only) books to be published, which is a bit ironic as when I started, I had no intention on publishing them. I wrote these books for my daughter, who was struggling with dyslexia, and the reason I chose fantasy was because it was the genre that had gotten me interested in reading when I had been her age.

> Your novels had a long and interesting publishing history - being on the internet for free, publishing the first book with a small press, self-publishing five of them and finally publishing all six books in three omnibus editions with Orbit Books. What did all of this teach you about the publishing industry?

I think it demonstrates that the world of publishing has changed, and there isn’t a single path to success. I actually did well in each endeavor. I sold out the entire print run of the small press I started with, sold more than 70,000 copies when self-published, and I’ve received a higher than average advance, gone through multiple print runs (I think we are up to nine reprints), and have obtained over a dozen foreign translations as part of my switch to Orbit. In the old days, the only route that led to any possibility of financial reward was big-six publishing, but now there are so many more options.

There are some people (on either side of the indie vs. traditional debate) who claim their way is the only way, but I don’t believe that. I think each path has its own pros and cons, so the important thing is for an author to recognize which one best aligns with their goals, and to recognize that those goals may change over time. In today’s publishing climate there are more opportunities than any time in the past, and it truly is the best time ever to be a writer.

> With all the changes in the book industry, would you go the self-publishing route again?

Sure, I love the freedom that I had with self-publishing. For some it is just too much work, and I understand that perspective, but for someone like me, I enjoy being in control of the cover, title, price, and all the other aspects of the books. Plus, you can’t beat the income potential that comes from self-publishing because the author receives 100% of the profit instead of 6% - 10% of list price for print books, and 25% of net for electronic versions. Plus a book can get to market much faster when self-published.

I think Orbit did a great job with The Riyria Revelations and would prefer them to do all my books, but what if they don’t like what I write going forward? Or what if my books don’t sell well enough to cover their costs? Or we can’t agree on price or timing? The one thing I can be sure of, is that books I write will be “put out there”…one way or another.

> What were your literary influences for The Riyria Revelations?

It’s funny because people often see influences that don’t exist. For instance, often my books are compared to Fritz Lieber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, but the truth is, I’ve never read any of those books. On a subconscious level, Royce and Hadrian probably owe some of the dynamics of their friendship to the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as well as the television series I Spy with Bill Cosby and Robert Culp. Both of these were favorites of mine when I was growing up.

One conscious influence pertains to the way I structured the books. J. Michael Straczynski had written five years worth of scripts for Babylon 5, even though he had only been signed for a limited number of episodes. Likewise, I wrote all the books in my series before publishing the first. What’s great about that is you can have individual episodes but also weave threads of a larger plot that spans multiple books. Discovering a small clue, and suspecting that it will have more meaning later, is one of the things I really liked about that series and I applied a similar technique for The Riyria Revelations.

> What made you want to be a writer?

I’ve always been a storyteller, but didn’t pursue a career as a writer because my grammar and spelling were atrocious. When we started having children, my wife and I decided that one of us needed to stay home to raise them, and since my income was much lower than hers, it made sense for it to be me. I needed something to occupy my time when the kids took their afternoon naps, so I decided to get serious about my writing, and correct my deficiencies. I spent about a decade studying the works of authors such as Steinbeck, King, Rand, Hemmingway, and Updike, while writing a novel each year. When I couldn’t get anything published, I actually stopped writing for more than a decade, and as I mentioned, when I sat down at the keyboard again, I did so with no intention of publishing.

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

No, I consider myself the most fortunate person on earth and wouldn’t change places with anyone. I found and married the love of my life; I get to play God by creating worlds from my own imagination; I have tens of thousands of people who enjoy my writing, and as Dudley Moore said in Arthur, “I have weekends off and I am my own boss.” I’m very much an individualist and love my freedom, so writing for a living is the perfect career for me. So I really feel as if I have everything I could ever want. Why would I give that up?

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

Hmm, that might need a clarification as the first book was written when I was thirteen and was called The Wizards Scepter. It took me about three months to write and was the first book in a trilogy. As to the first “serious attempt” at a novel, in other words one that I wrote with the intention of publication, that would be a book which at the time was called Wizards, and I worked on it for about nine months. I actually have recently rewritten that book, and re-titled it Antithesis. Little remains of the original, except for the premise.

> What was the hardest scene for you to write?

No single scene sticks out in my mind. When thinking about this question I contemplated what types of scenes I find easy to write and which ones are more challenging. In general, any scene that I initially find boring is difficult, because I have to work hard to make it interesting. Some of the ship’s scenes for The Emerald Storm were more difficult than others, because it involved seafaring and required a lot of research. Finding the right balance when discussing nautical issues was delicate work…but I’m not sure I would classify that as overly difficult. So what kind of scenes to I struggle with the most? I guess those that involve hand-to-hand fighting. A simple recounting of strokes can be very boring, so I need to create a story within the scene with associated highs and lows. Taking a fight scene and making it compelling requires a higher degree of effort on my part, but that’s about as close to “hard” as I can think of.

> When and where do you write?

I have an office in my house (short commute), and always start my day by writing. I usually get up, have a coffee and Danish, and dig in. I usually shoot for 2,000 words by lunch, at which point I take a break. Afternoons tend to be drowsy times for me, so I only write during that time if I’m really on a roll. Sometimes I’ll return to writing after dinner. But there are many days that the morning session is all I’ll do, and I spend the rest of the time reading, writing a blog, or talking to readers.

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

The best part is creating. I love breathing life into characters and coming up with trials and tribulations to put them through. After all, that which does not break us makes us stronger. The worst part is coming upon a negative review. While I enjoy my writing, I have my doubts that others will, so a single bad review reinforces my insecurities. It can halt my writing for days, or even weeks. I’m fortunate to have so many good reviews, but even so, I often need ten or twenty of those to offset the effects of a particularly critical one.

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

I think there are three keys to success: talent, skill, and persistence. If you have all three there is no doubt in my mind that you will make it. Skill isn’t necessarily something that can be taught, but it’s absolutely something that you can learn. I don’t believe you can have much influence over talent…either you have it or you don’t. But the good news is that if you lack talent, you can still succeed with skill and perseverance. There are many untalented writers, some of which have done very well for themselves. Persistence is the biggest component, and is totally within your own control. The only guaranteed way to fail is to give up, especially now that there are so many different paths to success.

 > Any tips against writers block?

Most writers will hate to hear that I’ve never really suffered from that. Sure there are times when I’m not as motivated as others, but I’m not sure that is the same thing as being “blocked.” My best advice is to put your butt in the chair, fingers on the keyboard, and just write...write anything…even if what you are producing is crap. You need momentum to get unstuck, and you can always discard or fix what you have written after you get the juices flowing again. If you let the block keep you away from the keyboard, then it will be really hard to get on that horse again. So my best advice is to plow ahead, even if it takes you somewhere that you don’t want to go. It’s a better alternative than stagnation.

> How do you discipline yourself to write?

This is kind of like asking a child, “How do you find time to play your favorite game?” Writing is what I do for enjoyment. I look forward to writing, and if I’m prevented from doing so because of other commitments, I get antsy. When I hear other writers say that they have to “force their butts in the chair” or that they are often distracted by the Internet, I find it difficult to relate. For me writing is what I look forward to doing each day, so I don’t have a problem with motivation.

Thursday 22 March 2012

The Host Movie Trailer

I haven't read the book by Stephenie Meyer, but this trailer looks pretty awesome.  Here's the premise as found on the back of the book:

Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of human hosts while leaving their bodies intact. Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, didn't expect to find its former tenant refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.
As Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of Jared, a human who still lives in hiding, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she's never met. Reluctant allies, Wanderer and Melanie set off to search for the man they both love.
Featuring one of the most unusual love triangles in literature, THE HOST is a riveting and unforgettable novel about the persistence of love and the essence of what it means to be human.

(If you're using an rss feed, you'll have to click through to see the trailer.  Or you can see it on the Yahoo! movies site.)

Japanese Music Video: Do As Infinity

I was recently updating my mp3 player, after not doing so for numerous years, and was reminded of all the old Japanese songs I used to listen to back when I lived in Japan.  Songs that have fantastic music videos (which for some reason played at 2:30 in the morning).  So I thought I'd make that a new feature on my blog, sharing some great foreign music (I'm saying foreign, rather than Japanese because I might post some Russian and other music at some point).

So, first up is Do As Infinity's 陽のあたる坂道 (Hi no ataru sakamichi / "Sunlit Hill")

If you want to learn more about the group, check out their official website, youtube channel (with other music videos by them) and twitter account.  They're all in Japanese, so you might want to check out their wikipedia page instead. :)

I love the fantasy feel of this video, especially the falling cherry blossoms at the end...

If you want to know what they're singing, you can find an English translation of the lyrics here.

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Fantasy Artist: Diana Harlan Stein

Diana shows up at a lot of conferences.  I bought some of her 'cute' artwork as fridge magnets several years ago:

She only does fantasy art (cute, fantasy and furry).  She also does custom work.  Here are some other examples of her sketch work, from her site.
 If you like cats, elves and/or dragons, check out her website.

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Audiobook Review: The Thirteen Hallows by: Michael Scott and Colette Freedman

Read by: Kate Reading

Pros: fantastic narration, interesting interpretation of British and Christian mythology, good pacing, suitably evil bad guys

Cons: minor character and plot problems, lots of repetition

Judith Walker is aware that the other Keepers of the thirteen Hallows are being killed and her turn is coming.  So she's not too surprised when she's accosted one afternoon.  She is surprised that a young woman comes to her rescue.  

Sarah Miller's life changes forever when she helps an old lady.  Her kindness leads shady characters to her home who later threaten her life, asking for what Judith Walker gave her.  Sarah must figure out what they want and honour a dying woman's wish to pass on and protect an ancient artifact.

The narrator, Kate Reading, did a fantastic job.  Her reading is crisp with different voices for each character, including accents.  And you don't understand just how jarring curses can be until you hear a woman playing a man, swear.  

The book has good pacing, alternating between chase scenes, attacks and down time where you got to know the characters - both good and bad - as well as, eventually, more about the Hallows themselves.  I would have loved to learn more about each individual Hallow, but thought their background blended British mythology and Christian religion together in a fascinating way.  Perhaps the next book will explain more about the various holy objects and their powers.

A few things about the characters and the plot bothered me.  They weren't inconsistencies per say, but they did come accross as strange.  Sarah's actions with the sword for one, and her lack of care concerning the damage she does with it.  This is partly explained but I imagine she would still have a stronger reaction, given her character and the seriousness of her actions.

Another regarded the Dark Man.  He's been searching for the Hallows for years, slowly killing the keepers.  And yet, he plans his finale when he still has several Hallows left to acquire.  Seemed to me he should have waited a bit and secured the last ones before starting his final plans.

Given how fascinating the mythology of the book was, I was disappointed it took so long to dole out some of that information.  While the chases and attacks were interesting, if often gorey, I found the history of the Hallows a lot more compelling with regards to finishing the book.

I probably noticed this more because I listened to an audiobook rather than read the text, but the authors repeated information a lot.  It made it easier to pick up the story after a week, but it was also a bit irritating when I listened to long stretches at once to hear basic information repeated several times.

If you liked The Da Vinci Code, this is the book for you.

Singularity & Co. - Save the SciFI!

My husband pointed out a cool kickstarter project to me yesterday.  They've already reached their goal, but there's still time to help support them if you're interested.  Here are the details:

Our Big Idea is a simple one, but we think it’s pretty great. So do some beyond great scifi authors.

We love books.  A lot.  And we love sci-fi books, new and old.  But mostly old.

We’ve seen too many sci-fi books that are out of print, out of circulation, and, worst of all (given the subject matter) unavailable in any digital format. Meaning, as of now, these books may never be seen in the future imagined in their pages. That’s just not right.

So here’s what we’re going to do: Each month we’ll choose one great classic, obscure or otherwise fascinating sci-fi book that’s no longer in print and not available online, track down the copyright holder and/or author (if they’re still around), acquire or otherwise clear the copyright, and publish the title both online and as an e-book, for little or no cost. Our supporters and followers will help us choose which books will be digitally rescued from copyright and publishing limbo via a monthly poll on our website, and we'll share the story behind the story, including with each ebook what we learned about the book, the author and their history along the way.

And while Singularity & Co. promises to keep our mission alive, in perpetuity, throughout the universe, we need your support to get started. This Kickstarter campaign will allow us to rescue our first four neglected works by providing for the following:

* Acquiring and curating the treasures to be found  among many, many paper copies of old, out of print sci-fi books
* Expanding our current website to allow us to display and deliver our sci-fi library - physically as well as electronically - and support voting capabilities for fans to help decide the next titles to be rescued
* Building an open source book scanner (see for an example) to aid in turning forgotten paper books into e-books
* Covering costs associated with tracking down rightsholders, authors and/or their estates, as well as clearing or acquiring the electronic publishing rights to our orphaned books
* Spreading the word not only to established fans but also potential supporters who love great books and ideas (may include attending conventions, creating t-shirts, prints and anything else we can think of)
* Covering costs associated with legal work to be done by our attorneys, all of whom are generously contributing their time pro bono (we’re trying to keep our costs as low as possible)

This is part adventure, part detective story, and part story about the intersection of the past and the future.  So as we dig into a particular book, and pull on the various threads that we need to to make sure we can share it without taking something that isn't ours, we end uncovering the story of that book.  That means that as part of each release, we plan on sharing that story, telling you what we learn about the book, it's author, it's history, and the adventure we had bringing it to you.

Rescuing beloved, forgotten, fondly remembered, out-of-print and otherwise lost sci-fi books by bringing them into the digital domain is more than a labor of love - it’s our way of celebrating visions of futures past that shaped the way we live now.  And it’s all in a day’s work for your average, ordinary, time-traveling bookshop. Please help us bring the past and future together - Singularity loves company.

Sunday 18 March 2012

Prometheus Trailer

Finally, we get to see some of the actual story for Prometheus, rather than ideas and special effects.  And does it ever look amazing.

The (Totally) Phantom Menace

This is hilarious.  It's from FirstManOnTheSpoon's youtube channel.

Friday 16 March 2012

Dystopian Reading List

I've tried to pick books that are actual dystopias, rather than post-apocalyptic, etc.  Meaning, books wherein the governments (or other entities) tried to create a utopic society but failed, creating instead a society that limits freedoms in some way or another, or is simply controlling society.  I've bent my own rules at the end of the fiction section by adding some books that don't quite fit this definition, but which may interest readers who like this type of fiction.  And I'll admit that in a few instances I had to guess if they fit my definition, as I haven't had the chance to read all of these - they're set off from the rest of the fiction list.  I got a few of the books listed here from the book of essays by Erika Gottlieb.

I know this list isn't complete, so if there's a book you know of that should be on it, mention it in the comments.

With one exception, the links go to the Indigo website, where you can learn more about the books.

I've put asterisks next to books I thought were especially good for one reason or another.  And as usual with my reading lists, this is also a display at the World's Biggest Bookstore.



Brave New Worlds - John Joseph Adams, Ed.
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
We - Yevgeny Zamyatin
1984 - George Orwell
* This Perfect Day - Ira Levin
Feihrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
* Battle Royale - Koushun Takami
* Metropolis - Thea Von Harbou
Stand on Zanzibar - John Brenner
The Sleeper Wakes - H. G. Wells
Player Piano - Kurt Vonnegut
* V for Vendetta - Alan Moore and David Lloyd
* The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
* Veracity - Laura Bynum
* When She Woke - Hilary Jordan
He, She and It - Marge Piercy
Woman on the Edge of Time - Marge Piercy
Logan's Run - William Nolan and George Clayton Johnson
Inverted World - Christopher Priest
The World Inside - Robert Silverberg
Jennifer Government - Max Barry
Pure - Julianna Baggott
The Long Walk - Stephen King (as Richard Bachman)
The Bradbury Report - Steven Polensky
The Third - Abel Keogh
The Foundation Pit - Andrey Platonov
The Trial - Franz Kafka
The Running Man - Stephen King (as Richard Bachman)
The Games - Ted Kosmatka
Space Merchants - Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth
Technicolor Ultra Mall - Ryan Oakley
Everyone in Silico - Jim Munroe
The Man in the High Castle - Philip K. Dick
* Postmortal - Drew Magary
* Eutopia - David Nickle
Seed - Rob Ziegler


The Giver - Lois Lowry
* The Unidentified - Rae Mariz
Uglies - Scott Westerfield
Matched - Megan McCafferty,
Divergent - Veronica Roth
* Unwind - Neal Shusterman
* The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Delirium - Lauren Oliver
* The Declaration - Gemma Malley
* Legend - Marie Lu
Article 5 - Kristen Simmons
* Shatter Me - Tehreh Mafi
Feed - M. L. Anderson
The Pledge - Kimberly Derting
XVI - Julia Karr
The Blending Time - Michael Kinch
Inside Out - Maria Snyder
Water Wars - Cameron Stracher
Incarceron - Catherine Fisher
Eve - Anna Carey
Swipe - Evan Angler (forthcoming)

Reader Suggestions:

Swastika Night - Katharine Burdekin (writing as Murray Constantine)
Benefits - Zoe Fairbairns
The Carhullan Army - Sarah Hall
> Wither - Lauren DeStefano
> Birthmarked - Caragh O'Brien
> Anthem - Ayn Rand
> The Line - Teri Hall
> The Gate to Women's Country - Sheri Tepper
The Vaults - Toby Ball
The Fifth Sacred Thing - Starhawk
Among The Hidden - Margaret Peterson Haddix
# The House of the Scorpion - Nancy Farmer
# Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card (I consider this more pure SF, but there is a birth cap and little adult presence among the chosen teens, so I can see how it made their list.)
# Partials - Dan Wells (I didn't add this to my list as I wasn't sure how much of a government presence exists, and it sounds more post-apocalyptic to me)
^ A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess (I REALLY don't know how I missed this one)
A Scanner Darkly - Philip K. Dick
^ Akira - Katsuhiro Otomo
^ Ghost in the Shell - Shirow Masamune
^ Children of Men - P. D. James
^ Neuromancer - William Gibson

(books marked with > come from the fantastic article Dystopian Birth Control by Caragh O'Brien and its comments.  Which reminded me that had a dystopia week, so I looked up some of those articles.  John Joseph Adams, who edited the Brave New Worlds anthology, as a fantastic definition of dystopian fiction here.  You can read some of the stories from the anthology on its website.  Adams also hosted a round table talking about favourite examples of dystopian fiction, which lists several books I don't.

books marked with # are from this Flavorwire article.

and marked with ^ are from this article.)

Lee & Low Books has come up with a list where the protagonists/authors are from diverse backgrounds (people of colour, LGTB, etc.).  You can see their list here.

Ah, Technology...

I posted about Phuture News' enhanced ebook yesterday, and apparently people encountered some trouble accessing the novella, Atopia 1.  I didn't try it myself, not having a kindle or using the kindle app.  But what's the fun of new technology if it doesn't have little hiccups along the way?

This morning I received an email from Mr Mather:

Many apologies, but after talking with a few people it seems there was a technical issue with the augmented reality target in "Atopia 1 - Blue Skies" yesterday that made it difficult for some people to view the augmented reality image.

I have corrected the issue with an updated version. If you had any problems seeing the augmented reality image yesterday (it should work very easily!) you can upload a new augmented reality image by downloading "Atopia 2 - Timedrops" (the 2nd part of the series) right now (it is $0.99 cents...)...

...or you can download a new copy of "Atopia 1 - Blue Skies" tomorrow (Saturday) by following the instructions below  ...

To load a new copy of Atopia 1 you would need to erase your current version by following these steps

1) Type "my kindle" into search bar in
2) Cllick "manage my kindle" from list of options that appear
3) On list item "Atopia 1" that appears in your list of Kindle items, click "actions" and then choose option "delete"
4) Type "Atopia" in search bar and reload Atopia 1

Many apologies for any wasted time or is a very cool effect and I will make sure to test for thoroughly in the future...!

Thursday 15 March 2012

New Author Spotlight: Mark Lawrence

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 Mark Lawrence!

Mark's debut novel is Prince of Thorns published by Ace.

Here's the cover copy...

When he was nine, he watched his mother and brother killed before him. By the time he was thirteen, he was the leader of a band of bloodthirsty thugs. By fifteen, he intends to be king...

It''s time for Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath to return to the castle he turned his back on, to take what's rightfully his. Since the day he was hung on the thorns of a briar patch and forced to watch Count Renar's men slaughter his mother and young brother, Jorg has been driven to vent his rage. Life and death are no more than a game to him - and he has nothing left to lose. 

But treachery awaits him in his father's castle. Treachery and dark magic. No matter how fierce, can the will of one young man conquer enemies with power beyond his imagining?

Check out these other books if you like gritty fantasy:

  • Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie (Orbit)
  • The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas (Roc)
  • Lord Foul's Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson (Del Rey)

Enhanced E-Books

It seems that the next step to reading on a tablet device is to read enhanced books on a tablet device.  Enhanced books are ones with extra features: music, video clips, pictures - even, apparently, 3D images.  I've recently heard of two different projects that use enhancements.

First up is an iPad app called Aria Hahn - The Sena Project, by J. M. Carnright.  Here's a description:

"ARIA HAHN" - a cinematic interactive ebook, reveals a disturbing allegory to our own world society - both past, present and likely future life. The setting unveils a far future stellar system human society sharing Space with other forms of advanced intellect. This stellar system alliance of human life is facing both dire issues with Nature and growing rebellion within its societal structure, ignoring most other intellect for its own survival. This enovel embodies a love story, adventure, interstellar political turbulence, far far astral journeys via a magnificent Natural intellect and deeply rooted environmental consequences all culminating within one of life's most desperate of tragedies yet to be experienced.

The physical makeup of our ARIA HAHN enovel incorporates 648 written pages; music when appropriate - rock and symphonic(all music is original - created, written, composed and mixed for ARIA HAHN by ASCAP Composer, Pat Portfolio), Sound Effects & Mixing (created by Academy Award Winning Musician/Composer, Brian Keane); 40 + minutes of Cinematic Scenes; CGI, Special Effects, Original Artwork; Voice Overs, Interactive Imagery and more. Equally, it introduces our contribution to a rapidly formulating interactive multimedia trend that fully blends designed configurations of cinema, literature, music and art as cinebooks for the future. 

You can learn more about J. M. Carnright's work on his website.

And today I got a press release from Phuture News about using the Kindle Fire for what they're calling an augmented reality platform for their series of interconnected novellas, Atopia.

Today author Matthew Mather announced the release of the Atopia series of novellas, the first to use the Amazon Kindle or other reading device as an augmented reality viewing platform. Using augmented reality markers embedded in the stories, readers are able to view fully 3D images of the world of Atopia "floating" above their Kindle. Everything to experience this effect is available for free right now, including a free limited time offer (March 15th -18th) of the first Atopia story. To try it out for yourself, just click here to go to Amazon to download for free today, or type "Atopia" into your Kindle (or Kindle app on PC or iPad), download "Atopia 1 - Blue Skies" and then follow the instructions at the end of the story. 
"The ability to use augmented reality to add an extra dimension to storytelling is very powerful," said author and technologist Matthew Mather. "Now that we've demonstrated it's possible, I think you'll begin to see a lot of other books using this technique to illustrate concepts. In less than a week after its release, Atopia has shot into the top five of new tech sci-fi releases on Amazon." 
Blue Skies is the first novellette of Atopia, a near future world without borders that teeters on the brink of post-humanism and eco-Armageddon. The series breaks new ground not just with its use of augmented reality, but also in the way it organizes its content. All the novelettes begin at the same moment and cover the same stretch of time, focusing on one specific character story line. Each story paints a new brushstroke against the canvas of the world, gradually combining together to reveal a deeper mystery that connects them all together. 
Each novellette is a story unto itself and can be read by itself, and in fact there is no particular order to read them. They can be read in the suggested order, or read in whatever order the reader chooses to create their own unique experience. 
Atopia is also unique as it brings to life many of the objects and characters in the book as an experiment in "real life" augmented reality. The futuring portal, a key element in the series of books, is a real website that readers can visit. As well, many of the characters are brought to life, with their own LinkedIn and Facebook pages. See if you can find them out there! ***

Have you tried an enhanced ebook yet?  If so, what did you think of it?  If not, does the idea of multi-media integrated into your book appeal to you?

*** One of the fun things about technology is that it never seems to work correctly the first time  :) .  I don't have a kindle or the kindle app, so I didn't try viewing this myself, but apparently others had trouble downloading and seeing the image.  This morning I received an email from Mr Mather:

Many apologies, but after talking with a few people it seems there was a technical issue with the augmented reality target in "Atopia 1 - Blue Skies" yesterday that made it difficult for some people to view the augmented reality image.

I have corrected the issue with an updated version. If you had any problems seeing the augmented reality image yesterday (it should work very easily!) you can upload a new augmented reality image by downloading "Atopia 2 - Timedrops" (the 2nd part of the series) right now (it is $0.99 cents...)...

...or you can download a new copy of "Atopia 1 - Blue Skies" tomorrow (Saturday) by following the instructions below  ...

To load a new copy of Atopia 1 you would need to erase your current version by following these steps

1) Type "my kindle" into search bar in
2) Cllick "manage my kindle" from list of options that appear
3) On list item "Atopia 1" that appears in your list of Kindle items, click "actions" and then choose option "delete"
4) Type "Atopia" in search bar and reload Atopia 1

Many apologies for any wasted time or is a very cool effect and I will make sure to test for thoroughly in the future...!