Friday 31 August 2012

Books Received August 2012

Here's a list of the review books I received this month.  Most of the descriptions are from the Indigo website, Chara's Promise is from Amazon and the Amazing Stories description is from their website.

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

A god has died, and it's up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart.
Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb. Without Him, the metropolis's steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot.
Tara's job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in. Her only help: Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead god, who's having an understandable crisis of faith.
When Tara and Abelard discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb's courts-and their quest for the truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and Alt Coulumb's slim hope of survival.
Set in a phenomenally built world in which justice is a collective force bestowed on a few, craftsmen fly on lightning bolts, and gargoyles can rule cities, Three Parts Dead introduces readers to an ethical landscape in which the line between right and wrong blurs.

Beyond by Graham McNamee:

Jane is not your typical teen. She and her best friend Lexi call themselves the Creep Sisters. Only Lexi knows why Jane is different from anyone else: Her own shadow seems to pull her into near-fatal accidents. Jane is determined to find out why these terrifying things happen, and to overcome her shadow enemy. Her sleuthing with Lexi connects her own horrors to the secret history of a serial killer.

Chara's Promise by J. F. Owen:

Earth’s climate is a mess, the United States has been torn apart by a second bloody civil war and the world economy is in the toilet. But it’s been that way for a while, so to Seth Kelly everything seems pretty normal.
Seth is a regular guy with regular problems who happens to make his living building starships. He didn’t have any plans to relocate, but hey, you gotta go where the jobs are. Who knew the next job was going to be twenty-seven light years away or that he’d have to deal with grown children who think Dad needs special guidance, a sapient computer, an egocentric captain, terrorist attacks, flying buffaloes and an incredibly beautiful woman along the way.
Oh well, one out of six isn’t bad.
Amazing Stories Magazine Volume 0, Number 1

The first issue of Amazing Stories since 2005!
The Relaunch Prelaunch issue(s) were put together to give everyone an idea of what would be coming down the pike when then world’s FIRST science fiction magazine is once again reborn!
Featuring fiction by Jack Clemons, articles by Robert Silverberg, Barry Malzberg & Patrick L. Price and an extensive interview series with thirteen of the Book View Cafe authors, this issue is destined to become a classic!

Shadowlands by Violette Malan:

The long-awaited sequel to Violette Malan's acclaimed debut novel, The Mirror Prince.

The war in the Land of the Faerie has finally ended. Prince Cassandra dispatches Stormwolf, formerly a Hound but cured by his prince's magic and restored to the Rider he once was, to the Shadowlands to call home the People who remain refugees there. But Stormwolf finds the Hounds of the Wild Hunt now prey upon the souls of the humans, draining them of the magic which is the very lifeblood of the People. With the help of Valory Martin, a mortal psychic, Stormwolf must find the magic needed to defeat the Hunt before it's too late.

Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr:

In a city of daimons, rigid class lines separate the powerful from the power-hungry. And at the heart of The City is the Carnival of Souls, where both murder and pleasure are offered up for sale. Once in a generation, the carnival hosts a deadly competition that allows every daimon a chance to join the ruling elite. Without the competition, Aya and Kaleb would both face bleak futures, if for different reasons. For each of them, fighting to the death is the only way to try to live.
All Mallory knows of The City is that her father, and every other witch there, fled it for a life in exile in the human world. Instead of a typical teenage life full of friends and maybe even a little romance, Mallory scans quiet streets for threats, hides herself away, and trains to be lethal. She knows it's only a matter of time until a daimon finds her and her father, so she readies herself for the inevitable. While Mallory possesses little knowledge of The City, every inhabitant of The City knows of her. There are plans for Mallory, and soon she, too, will be drawn into the decadence and danger that is the Carnival of Souls.

Thursday 30 August 2012

Movie Review: Space Battleship Yamato

Director: Takashi Yamazaki, 2010

Pros: great character development, good special effects, interesting story

Cons: several plot holes, convenient pauses during battle for conversation (especially at the end), plot felt rushed

The year is 2199 and Earth's space fleet has been destroyed.  Only one ship that fled from the battle under Captain Okita (Tsutomu Yamazaki) survived the most recent attack by the alien Gamila.  Earth is a radioactive ruin, with survivors living underground.  On a scavenging mission, former pilot Susumu Kodai (Takuya Kimura) finds an alien device with schematics to an alien world outside the solar system.  It seems they have a cure for radiation and Captain Okita intends to get it from them using the newly repaired Space Battleship Yamato.

Kodai reinlists and quickly clashes with the captain, whom he believes left too many men to die including his older brother, when he ran away from the last battle.  As the mission progresses and the Gamilas attack more than once, Kodai is thrust into a position of leadership and learns that being a captain means making difficult decisions and personal sacrifices.

I was very impressed by Kodai's character arc.  He starts off as a brash and angry though competent young man, and ends as a mature and charismatic leader.  My only complaint about his character was that he was a little too perfect.  He was good at everything, a skilled pilot, good commander, concerned for the men and women under him, etc. etc.

His foil, in the form of Yuki Mori (Meisa Kuroki), ace pilot of the unit Kodai used to command, believes him a coward and not worth following.  Her realization of his tragic past and his humanity changes her from a brash and angry though competent young woman into a team player.

See a theme here?  But the coming of age stories of these two young people is offset by the very real dangers of the aliens.  The writers were not afraid of real world war situations.  Major characters get killed during battle, which increases the tension of the film and the viewer's concern for everyone.

The special effects were very well done, with a lot of explosions, a few warp jumps and some alien encounters (outside of the ships).

Based on an anime of the same name which ran for 28 episodes, the story in this live action film was rushed, having to set the scene, introduce the characters and mission, and then go on the entire mission and return.  The film does a great job of getting you to love the characters, but a lot of the journey is condensed and felt very rushed.  

On several occasions, most notably towards the end, the action paused so that two characters could have a sentimental moment.  While this was great for character building, it killed momentum for the action sequences and created a disconnect, as the viewers know the aliens would not wait so long before attacking again.

Despite it's flaws it's a fun movie with some good effects and great characters.

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Winner of the Ready Player One Contest Announced Tonight

Ernest Cline, author of Ready Player One, hid an Easter Egg in his novel attached to video game challenges, and someone has completed them.  As announced on prweb:

To celebrate the release of the READY PLAYER ONE trade paperback this summer, author Ernest Cline held an epic video game contest. This real life contest mirrored the contest from the novel and included three increasingly difficult video game challenges and "gates" to clear - just like in the novel. Cline hid an Easter Egg in the form of a URL in both print editions of READY PLAYER ONE. When readers found the hidden clue, it led them to the first of three increasingly difficult video game challenges. Once through the first challenge and upon the opening of the second gate, players encountered a second video game challenge, designed by none other than Richard "Lord British" Garriott, the famous video game creator and the inspiration for READY PLAYER ONE character James Halliday.
Cline is now thrilled to announce that one fan has not only completed the first two video game challenges, but has just completed the third and final challenge: setting a new world record on Joust for the Atari 2600. Twin Galaxies has verified the record and we have a winner!
And the prize?  A 1981 DeLorean complete with Flux Capacitor.  The car will be awarded to the winner by Mr. Cline on G4s "X-Play" television show tonight at 6:30 pm Eastern time.

Sweet Potato Cookies

I know this is an odd topic for an SFF blog, but there is a correlation.

About 10 years ago I taught English in Japan.  While I was there I learned several recipes from people I knew.  Unfortunately, though I kept a daily journal and mentioned that I'd learned these recipes I never wrote them down.  Why should I?  I was using them often enough and remembered the ingredients and directions.

A few years ago I decided to try making one of these recipes again, sweet potato cookies.  It's then that I realized I hadn't written the recipe down and I couldn't find it anywhere on the internet.

Yesterday at work I mentioned this recipe to one of my co-workers.  After the brief chat I went back to shelving manga.  I had some copies of Kitchen Princess (by Natsumi Ando) to put away, a manga another co-worker that day said was pretty good.  So I decided to flip through the first one and see if it interested me.  One thing interested me a LOT, which is that the manga includes recipes at the back.  I wondered what the odds were that this sweet potato cookie recipe would be in one of the mangas, and started looking.  Not in the first or second.  We were out of the third.  Not in the fourth or fifth.  But I wasn't giving up.

And there it was at the back of the 6th issue.

Baked Sweet Potato Mash

In the interests of not losing the recipe again, here is it for anyone who wants to try it.

Baked Sweet Potato Mash (or cookies)

1 large sweet potato
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 egg

1. The author recommends cutting the sweet potato into large slices and cooking it in the microwave.  I tried that but you get rough skin which makes mashing it tough and gives you chunks in the mash.  In Japan I remember boiling the sweet potato (peeled), so it's soft all the way through.

Peel the sweet potato and mash it in a bowl.

2. Add the butter and sugar.  Let it cool to room temperature (so you can handle the mixture).

3. Add the milk.

4. Form the dough into cookies (the author suggests 4 larger ovals, but I did several smaller ones, as that's what I was taught).  The dough is pretty mushy but should hold a Lady Fingers style shape (small ovals that bulge a bit in the center).  Whisk the egg and brush egg over the tops of the cookies.  (This is an optional step but will give you a more browned top.)

5. Bake for 5 minutes at 480 degrees Fahrenheit (250 degrees Celsius).  This seems REALLY high, so I baked mine for 20 minutes at 400F.  The point here is to brown the egg topping a bit and caramelize the sweet potatoes.  They should be soft inside with a slight firmness to the outside (remember, they're basically already cooked from the microwave/boiling from step 1).

Here's how mine turned out and they are delicious.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

If I Had All The Time in the World

I've seen other bloggers point out upcoming books they're interested in reading.  Well, this is my response to that.  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. :)  Some of these I'm actually planning to read once my current pile of 'obligation' books is gone (and it's almost gone.  I've been pretty harsh about not accepting new review requests as I really want to read books I've been hearing about for years).  These are some books VERY high on my I want to read list.  Look forward to other lists, in several genres.

Showcasing today: science fiction, part 1 of many.

The Unincorporated Man by Dani Kollin & Eytan Kollin

I was sent a copy of the third book in this series, and only recently realized it's a dystopian world.  You had me at dystopian.

The incredible has happened.  A billionaire businessman from our time, frozen in secret in the early 21st century, is discovered in the far future and resurrected, given health and a vigorous younger body. He awakens into a civilization in which every individual is formed into a legal corporation at birth, and spends many years trying to attain control over their own life by getting a majority of his or her own shares. Life extension has made life very long indeed.
Justin Cord is the only unincorporated man in the world, a true stranger in this strange land. Justin survived because he is tough and smart. He cannot accept only part ownership of himself, even if that places him in conflict with a civilization that extends outside the solar system to the Oort Cloud.

Kop by Warren Hammond

Kind of reminds me of James Knapp's Revivors novels, which I really enjoyed.  And the publisher sent me book 3.

Juno is a dirty cop with a difficult past and an uncertain future. When his family and thousands of others emigrated to the colony world of Lagarto, they were promised a bright future on a planet with a booming economy. But before the colonists arrived, everything changed. An opportunistic Earth-based company developed a way to produce a cheaper version of Lagarto's main export, thus effectively paupering the planet and all its inhabitants.

Growing up on post-boom Lagarto, Juno is but one of the many who live in despair. Once he was a young cop in the police department of the capital city of Koba. That was before he started taking bribes from Koba's powerful organized crime syndicate. Yet despite his past sins, some small part of him has not given up hope. So he risks his life, his marriage and his job to expose a cabal that would enslave the planet for its own profit.

But he's got more pressing problems, when he's confronted with a dead man, a short-list of leads, and the obligatory question: who done it? Set up for a fall, partnered with a beautiful young woman whose main job is to betray him, and caught in a squeeze between the police chief and the crooked mayor, Juno is a compelling, sympathetic hero on a world that has no heroes.

Terminal Point by K. M. Ruiz

I really enjoyed book one in this series and can't wait to jump into book two.

Threnody Corwin and her team of rogue Strykers contend with the aftermath of the events in Mind Storm and the unlocking of a new kind of psion power. They're on the run with Lucas Serca, who is closer than ever to destroying the World Court and his father's grip on the planet. Targeting the hidden cache of the planet's food supply meant to transform Mars into a paradise for the chosen few, Lucas triggers an escalating fight with the ruling government as worldwide chaos ensues. It's up to Threnody to save society before it destroys itself, but the cost is high and in the end, there is no such thing as compromise.

There is only survival.

Book Review: Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines

Pros: fantastic premise, interesting protagonists, magic had rules and limits

Cons: conflicted 'romance', Isaac makes life hard for himself, Gutenburg is too powerful

Isaac Vainio is a Libriomancer, able to pull objects out of books.  Due to a mistake two years ago, he's been taken off of active Porter duty and now works at a library, forbidden to use his magic.  That changes when three vampires attack him at work.  Only the arrival of a powerful dryad, Lena, saves him and together they must figure out why the vampires are attacking and what's happening to the Porters, several of whom have recently been killed or kidnapped.

The premise of magic that allows certain people to pull objects from books is fantastic.  I liked how the magic was described and that there were rules that dictated its use and real limits to what you could do with it.  I also liked the idea that some items were too dangerous to use, so their books are locked.

Both Isaac and Lena are interesting characters.  I liked that Lena wasn't tall and thin, as dryad's are generally portrayed, but that she was very powerful both physically and magically.  I thought her back story was tragic and her way of dealing with it refreshing (I can't change who/what I am so I'll just live with it).  

As for Isaac, it's complicated.  I liked the fact that he's not perfect.  He takes things too far at times, pushing himself and others farther than seems prudent, but accepting the consequences of his actions.  He's a sensitive guy, questioning whether a relationship with Lena would work or is even moral given her circumstances.  He discovers hidden abilities of magic and somehow survives quite a number of dangerous situations.  The complicated part is that, by taking things too far in every encounter, you start to wonder how he's still alive.  He narrowly escapes death several times in this book alone and are given to understand he acted similarly two years ago, prompting his removal from the active Porter duty.

Smudge the fire spider just rocks. 

Talking about the negatives of a book is difficult without giving spoilers so I've put more detailed responses below.  I found the potential romance between Lena and Isaac difficult.  I wanted to root for them becoming a couple, but Lena's backstory - and Isaac's reaction to it - made that hard.  I felt that Isaac dwelled too long on her backstory given the choices she makes in the book.  

I also felt that Gutenberg, when we finally meet him, is simply too powerful and not held accountable for any of the things Isaac discovers about him (in this book - I'm hoping some of the questions regarding his power and accountability are brought up in book 2).

As a reader who doesn't care much for urban fantasy, I found this book refreshing in some ways.  The focus wasn't on the romance (which was a bit of a catch 22 here), and the magic use was unique.  I've really found myself conflicted over this book, not quite sure where I stand on it.  What I liked about it I liked a lot.  What I didn't like about it really bothered me to the point that I can't stop thinking about the book and the choices the characters made.

*** Spoiler Alert ***

Let's talk about the 'romance'.  Lena's backstory is that she's a magical entity and part of her magical make-up is to become the perfect lover for whoever she's with.  Once he learns this, Isaac wonders if, by accepting her as a lover, he's denying her free will.  By the time he's solved this dilema to his satisfaction it's a moot point as her previous lover's reentered the story.

First, when her lover disappeared Lena made a choice.  She knows she'll become the perfect lover of whoever 'takes' her, so she DECIDES FOR HERSELF who she wants her next lover to be.  Note, part of her magic states that she must have a lover, so if she's to exert any power over her own fate she has to decide fast.  And she does.  She immediately chooses Isaac and seeks him out.  

When thinking about her situation Isaac never considers that she has made a choice.  The only thing he needs to decide is whether he can be part of a long term relationship.  He can deny her or accept her.  And it is an important decision as it will affect the rest of his life.  But anything else is him trying to mess with the one decision she's able to make in her circumstances.  His agonizing over whether he'd be taking advantage of her if he sleeps with her lessens the importance of the decision she has already made for herself.

While I liked the final conclusion of this love triangle, Isaac joined in rather quickly.  This didn't fit with his earlier waffling over the complex issue.  His obvious discomfort seeing Lena with Shah shows that he should have taken a few days to think things over before deciding.  Given how things ended here, I have trouble picturing a happy relationship between the three of them.

Going to another part of the book, when Isaac wakes up in the house of his Porter boss to the news that they're retiring him again because what he's doing is making things worse, his response is to quit.  Despite believing him a loose canon, his boss lets him go.  What?  Why?  He doesn't agree to not use magic (and indeed, uses quite a lot of it over the next day or so), nor does he agree to stop looking for the bad guy.  And yet they just let him walk out to continue the investigation they're afraid is making the vampires angrier and causing more problems.

Jumping to the end of the novel, I found Gutenberg way too powerful.  Yes, he had limitations, but look at what he was capable of; picking up a book and automatically pulling out what he needed without looking at the title or the page, siphoning magic from other objects (Smudge, his Automatons) in order to perform spells, etc.  He also seems to have no regards for the limits the other Libriomancers work under, for example putting magic items away asap (he gives Isaac a suit from a book, knowing he'll have to wear it for some time).  Even before Gutenberg woke up I was thinking that Isaac should probably drain his magic.  Someone who's willing to wipe minds and lock people in books and automatons on his own authority is a very dangerous person indeed.  And yet, somehow he's shown to be a decent person - stopping the war with the Vampires, etc.  As if his previous crimes don't matter.  And no mention is made of Isaac wanting to make him accountable in the future, if not for the things he's done in the past.  

Friday 24 August 2012

Author Interview: James R. Tuck

Deacon Chalk Novels/E-Novellas:
That Thing at the Zoo (e-novella)
Blood and Bullets
Spider's Lullaby  (e-novella)
Blood and Silver

Hired Gun (collection)
"He Stopped Loving Her Today" in One Buck Zombies
"Shop 'Til You Drop"
"Twas the Fright Before Christmas"


> What can readers expect from your Deacon Chalk: Occult Bounty Hunter novels?

Guns, monsters, heroes, action, thrills, chills, spills, sacrifice, a new look at a supernatural world, a different kind of hero, action AND adventure.

The Deacon Chalk books are a rollicking, thrill-ride of kickass. They are dark, and scary, and violent, and apparently funny too.

I would recommend my books for someone who is looking for something different in the urban fantasy genre. I wrote them from the idea of: "If these things existed, if monsters were real, then what kind of man would hunt them for a living?" The answer is a man like Deacon. He's damaged, dangerous, and deadly. He has a laundry list of issues inside himself from the loss of his family five years ago at the hands of a monster, his choice of lifestyle which drives him to do horrible things to keep humanity safe, and his personal desire to die and be with his family but his religious conviction that he cannot kill himself or he will be separated from them for eternity. He's a complicated hero.

> What did you chose to write dark urban fantasy?

I love the genre of urban fantasy so when I decided to write a book it was the genre I wanted to start with. I write dark urban fantasy because I was tired of reading books where everyone is safe and you know they will be safe at the end of the book. Most urban fantasies you read almost have a Happily Ever After, and they pull back from truly putting the characters in any danger. Not my books. In my books all bets are off and NO ONE is safe. It's a dangerous world in the Deaconverse. Here there be monsters and the monsters are vicious and cruel and powerful. My characters get hurt, things change drastically for them, people die. Don't become attached to anyone because they are soldiers in a deadly war and there will be casualties. I write these as if the events were real and give them the consequences that would happen in the world if they were.

> Why did you decide to epublish several novellas, both in and out of the Deaconverse?

The novellas are a great way to put story in the hands of the readers for a VERY affordable price. Plus the books happen about 6 months apart from each other on the timeline and the novellas really help to bridge that gap. Each one of them is a nice stand-alone story, you can read them in any order or alone and they are complete from beginning to end, however if you read from THAT THING AT THE ZOO (e-novella 1) then follow straight through to the end of book 3 next year then you will have one long story that will be like the first season of a really kick ass urban fantasy television show. And let me tell you, the character you meet in THAT THING AT THE ZOO is not the same man you find at the end of BLOOD AND MAGICK (novel 3 March 2013)

> What made you want to be a writer?

A really terrible urban fantasy that was supposed to be an awesome, dark, violent, gritty urban fantasy. I read it, put it down, and said out loud "I can write better crap than THAT." Then I looked into how to write a novel and found Lilith Saintcrow's writing advice blogs, read them all, and realized that I could write a novel. So I did. That became BLOOD AND BULLETS (novel 1).

> Who is you favourite character from the Deacon Chalk universe and why?  

I love them all. There is a lot of me in Deacon. He is closest to my voice and my viewpoints on the world. But I love the supporting cast. Charlotte the Were-spider is a scene stealer. She is a huge fan favorite. She is both terrific and creepy when she is in full-on spider lady mode. I like Tiff a LOT. You get to see her as she transforms from a fairly immature young woman into someone who not only knows who she is but also what she wants. And her being human means she interacts with the craziness of the Deaconverse much differently than Deacon or any of the other supernatural cast and crew. And what's not to love about Father Mulcahy? The foul-mouthed, chain smoking, coffee-swilling, whiskey drinking Catholic priest that is mentor and father figure to Deacon. I love writing him because I am not writing him as a joke. A lot of people add a priest into a book that is as dark and supernatural as this one and they either go for the funny or make him some sort of comment on the Catholic church. In my books he is a real character. He is a man with a dark, terrible past who is honestly working to atone for his sins and truly is a convicted religious man. His faith is grounded in the reality of the world he lives in, monsters and all. And in this new book you get to meet some NEW characters that I think readers are going to really enjoy.

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

NO. Absolutely not. All my characters have suffered great tragedy and loss. They have to give so much, sacrifice sometimes everything they hold dear because of the world I have put them in. I would not want to be them, not even for a moment. I will stick to my quiet life with my wife and children. :)

> What were your literary influences for BLOOD AND SILVER?

My early influences are Robert E. Howard who wrote the Conan stories, and Don Pendleton who wrote the Mack Bolan stories. You can see both of those in my writing. I am also pretty heavily influenced by Lilith Saintcrow. She writes nice, dark characters and NOBODY writes an action scene that reads so much like poetry like she does in her Jill Kismet series. I love the Sonja Blue series by Nancy A. Collins and think she is one of the early pioneers in the genre of urban fantasy. Simon R. Green, Steve Niles, Richard Kadrey. I am a HUGE Laurell K. Hamilton fan. Jim Butcher's Dresden Files are on my must read list. I get every new one.

> Beyond the matter of length, do you find it easier writing short stories, novellas or novels?

I am a huge novella fan. I like the length of them and think they give you just enough room to hit your stride as a storyteller but are short enough to keep you on task. I like the way a novel gives you the ability to really flesh out your story and character, but a novella is a clean, sharp cut.

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

BLOOD AND BULLETS was my first novel. It took me about 9 months to write and revise. I was writing by the seat of my pants for some dumb reason, just letting the story flow. Now I outline and I have really picked up my pace. I just wrote book 3 and e-novella 3 in about 2 months.

> What was the hardest scene for you to write?

There is a scene in the new book BLOOD AND SILVER that I wrote with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. I certainly hope it affects the reader the same way.

> When and where do you write?

I am pretty mobile. I write on my laptop, the desktop at work, the desktop at home, just wherever I am and have time.  I also write at different times. Lots of late night writing sessions and a lot of writing between 2 and 7 pm at the tattoo shop I own. I just go in my station between customers and write.

> What's the neatest tattoo you've done for a customer?

The neatest tattoo...hmmmm. I've been a professional tattoo artist for over 16 years now and I have done a ton of really cool tattoos. I am blessed with a clientele that does let me do a lot of my original artwork on them. I've done big tattoos and small tattoos and a LOT of tattoos that I didn't care about at all. (Sometimes you are making art, sometimes you are paying the electric bill.) But my neatest? I think that would be a small star with the face of Andre the Giant in it. It's the Obey star by artist Shepard Fairey. About nine years ago a gorgeous woman came into the shop I was working at and wanted that tattooed on her arm. We talked during the process. It was small, took only 20 minutes, but she was charming and funny and intriguing. Plus, as I mentioned before, she was a knockout. One thing led to another and at the end of the tattoo I got her phone number. We've been married now for over 8 years. So that would be the neatest tattoo I ever did.

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

I love everything about writing. I really do. I enjoy writing the first draft, coming up with all the ideas. I even enjoy revision and copy editing. Most writers find copy editing to be tedious and nightmarish, but I truly look forward to it. I also love being a writer. Going to a convention and meeting a reader, talking to other authors, discussing publishing with industry professionals, meeting bloggers and reviewers, it's all a blast.

The worst thing is trying to remember character's eye colors. lol.

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

How LONG everything takes. Publishing moves really slow. Write a book and sell it and it might hit the shelves a year later. You have to be patient in this gig. Write your ass off and bring your long game.

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

Four words: HEAD DOWN, MAKE WORDS. You have to consistently write. If anything is more important then just go do that. You may find you need a certain time, a certain word count, a schedule, you may free form it...whatever works for you, but you cannot let more than a few days go by without writing. A lot of writing is just having the disciple or stubbornness to simply put your ass in a chair and type.

Oh, and go read Lilith Saintcrow's writing advice on her blog and pick up THANKS BUT THIS ISN'T FOR US by Jessica Page Morrell. It is HANDS DOWN the best book on writing I have ever read (and I have read a LOT). Lilith Saintcrow taught me I could write a book. Jessica Page Morrell taught me how to write it well. I do credit that book for my series selling. And remember kids, I sold the FIRST book I ever wrote to a major publisher in a 3 book deal without an agent. I credit that book as the reason why. I cannot overstate this. If you only buy one book on writing ever it should be that book.

> Any tips against writers block?

Realize it doesn't exist. Okay, it does exist. If you get in an accident or a barfight and break all the fingers on both hands THEN you can claim writers block. Other than that you have the ability to write. You may have STORY block, especially if you are a "seat of your pants" writer. If you are just letting your story come to you without an outline or a synopsis then you will probably suffer from story block. When that happens change your game. Get up, move around, motion creates emotion. Go for a walk WITHOUT headphones, go for a drive without the stereo on. Don't clutter up your head with distraction and lyrics and music. Make your body move in a way that your mind doesn't need to think and then it will disengage and feed on what you put there last which will be the story you are working on. It won't take long for your brain, that wonderful chemical super computer that God stuffed between your ears, to do some calculating and spit you out a new way to go in the story.

> How do you discipline yourself to write?

I sit down in front of a computer that is on, open up the document, make a few notes about what I want to accomplish in the next chapter, and then BANG! KAPOW! ZOOM! I am off and typing.
Oh, and turn off the internet. It is nothing but a waste of time. You do not need that devilspawn timesuck up and running seductively in the background with it's siren call of "it's been 2 minutes you should check your email or see what your friends are doing online".

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

I emailed about fifty queries to different literary agents seeking representation. I had some requests for partials but all of them came back with a rejection or no response at all. Even after my publisher made the offer I still got rejected by agents. Contract in hand I had no one say yes. So, I am proof that it can be done on your own if you work hard and try to be smart. Persevere. Keep writing. Keep submitting. You will get there. Chase your dreams and when you catch them you handcuff your self to them so they can't get away!

Thursday 23 August 2012

Dead Mann Running Excerpt

Author Stefan Petrucha is offering a pdf excerpt of his new book Dead Mann Running, book two in his Hessius Mann series.

Here's the synopsis for book one, Dead Mann Walking, for those of you who haven't read it (and don't want possible spoilers).

After Hessius Mann was convicted of his wife's murder, suppressed evidence came to light and the verdict was overturned-too bad he was already executed. But thanks to the miracles of modern science Hessius was brought back to life. Sort of.
Now that he's joined the ranks of Fort Hammer's pulse-challenged population, Hessius attempts to make a "living" as a private investigator. But when a missing persons case leads to a few zombies cut to pieces, Hessius starts thinking that someone's giving him the run-around-and it's not like he's in any condition to make a quick getaway...
You can read the synopsis for book two on his website.

Harry Potter and the 10 Years Later

And speaking of things being extended, looks like the fine people at Furious Molecules who make the Harry Potter and the 10 Years Later videos are splitting the final episode into two parts.

If you haven't seen these yet, they're quite good, if for an adult audience only.  I love Ron's character (and I didn't particularly like him in the books).  Here's the premise:

The webseries, colloquially known by the hashtag #HPplus10 online, takes a look at our hero ten years after taking down He-Whose-Name-Nobody-Quite-Remembers (but before that sappy epilogue full of kids). Things have changed significantly in Harry’s world. With no dark wizards or witches left, the Ministry of Magic’s Auror Department shuts down, leaving Harry unemployed. Ginny wants to start a family, Hermione is having doubts about her goody-goody lifestyle, and Ron... well, he’s Ron. Everything seems very average in a late-twenties-problem kind of way-- but as always, trouble finds Harry yet again.

The first five episodes are cued up here.  But here's the first one to get you started.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

The Hobbit: Extended Trailer Parody

This video, written by Mark Douglas and Bryan Olsen and directed by Tom Small of Barely Political, sums up my feelings about the announcement that the Hobbit is going to be 3 films nicely.  Basically Gandalf finds new 'quests' for Bilbo.  NSFW.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Book Review: The Rook by Daniel O'Malley

Pros: amazing world-building, fast-paced, tightly plotted, interesting protagonist, subtle underlying humour

Cons: some situations are hard to believe given the circumstances

"Dear You,

The body you are wearing used to be mine."

When Myfanwy Thomas wakes up in the rain, surrounded by bodies wearing latex gloves, she has no idea what her name is or how to pronounce it (it rhymes with Tiffany). The two letters in her coat pocket reveal both her identity and a choice: run or stay. A second attack convinces her that running away isn't an option so she decides to impersonate Thomas, a high ranking official in a secret British government organization (the Checquy) that deals with supernatural threats. Despite copious letters left by her 'predecessor' this is no easy task, made harder by the knowledge that one of her high ranking compatriots was behind the attacks on her and a traitor to the realm.

This is not The Bourne Identity for sf/urban fantasy fans. As a Rook, Myfanwy is in charge of the workings of the Checquy officers in Britain. She has meetings with various people and makes sure the realm is secure by covering things up and reporting them to the appropriate people. Her counterpart, Rook Gestalt, usually handles the field work side of things while she does the desk work. And she's very good at desk work. As the book progresses, the action picks up as Myfanwy is forced to attend to some of the field work, something her predecessor was ill suited for, but which the new Myfanwy is surprisingly adept at.

As a character Myfanwy is fascinating. She's learning about her former self while no longer being that person. She's more direct, more assertive and less willing to leave certain things to underlings. She's also more willing to use her own special abilities. You realize after a while that she's quite different from who she used to be, making it bizarre how few people comment on the change. It also makes for several ridiculous conversations where she's fishing for information she should already know. Sometimes this is commented on in the novel, a few times it is not.

The world-building is excellent. The author gives a lot of information via letters from Thomas, but they're written with dialogue and description, so the book never feels stilted. And while many of the letters are interspersed when specific information is needed, at times the letters are used to enhance the tension, by explaining a necessary side story while the main story builds up to an action sequence. The world of the Checquy is complex, with a school for children with special abilities, a complex hierarchy of the court and pawns, 'normals' who act as servants and compatriots but who can't rise to levels of power, an American office, etc. Learning about the world is almost as much fun as trying to figure out who the traitor is.

The author is aware of how ludicrous some of the powers and emergency situations are and often makes subtle jokes. When talking about Bath we learn,

According to Thomas the city had once been a veritable hotbed of manifestations, with every sorcerer, bunyip, golem, goblin, pict, pixie, demon, thylacine, gorgon, moron, cult, scum, mummy, rummy, groke, sphinx, minx, muse, flagellant, diva, reaver, weaver, reaper, scabbarder, scabmettler,... [the list continues for several lines] ogre, cat in shoes, dog in a hat, psychic and psychotic seemingly having decided that this was the hot spot to visit.
The book is surprisingly fast paced given the partial narrative writing style. There's a fair amount of tension and enough action to keep things interesting.

If you like mysteries and intricate world-building, pick this up.

Sunday 19 August 2012

Violette Malan Signing

I had the pleasure of meeting with Violette Malan at one of her three book signings in Toronto this weekend.  Here she is signing copies of her books. :)

If you haven't read Ms. Malan's work, I highly recommend both Mirror Prince (if you like urban fantasy/fairytale fiction) and Sleeping God (if you like traditional fantasy).  I actually recommend everything she's written but these are the starts of her two series.

Her newest book, Shadowlands, is a sequel to her debut, Mirror Prince.

Saturday 18 August 2012

Dimensions Screening in Toronto, time change

If you're heading to the screening of Dimensions in Toronto at the Projection Booth tonight (Saturday August 18), be aware that the time of the screening has changed from 9 PM to 8 PM.

For more info check out their facebook page.

Friday 17 August 2012

New Author Spotlight: Saladin Ahmed

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 Saladin Ahmed!

 Known for his short stories and poetry (he was a finalist for both the Nebula and Campbell Awards), Ahmed's debut novel is Throne of a Crescent Moon published by DAW. Here's the cover copy...

The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, home to djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, are at the boiling point of a power struggle between the iron- fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince. In the midst of this brewing rebellion a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. It is up to a handful of heroes to learn the truth behind these killings.
Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, "the last real ghul hunter in the great city of Dhamsawaat," just wants a quiet cup of tea. Three score and more years old, he has grown weary of hunting monsters and saving lives, and is more than ready to retire from his dangerous and demanding vocation. But when an old flame's family is murdered, Adoulla is drawn back to the hunter's path. 
 Raseed bas Raseed, Adoulla's young assistant, is a hidebound holy warrior whose prowess is matched only by his piety. But even as Raseed's sword is tested by ghuls and manjackals, his soul is tested when he and Adoulla cross paths with the tribeswoman Zamia. 
Zamia Badawi, Protector of the Band, has been gifted with the near- mythical power of the lion-shape, but shunned by her people for daring to take up a man's title. She lives only to avenge her father's death. Until she learns that Adoulla and his allies also hunt her father's killer. Until she meets Raseed.

When they learn that the murders and the Falcon Prince's brewing revolution are connected, the companions must race against time-and struggle against their own misgivings-to save the life of a vicious despot. In so doing they discover a plot for the Throne of the Crescent Moon that threatens to turn Dhamsawaat, and the world itself, into a blood-soaked ruin.

Check out these other books if you you like Persian inspired fantasy:
  • The Desert of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones (St. Martin's Press)
  • The Emperor's Knife by Mazarkis Williams (Night Shade Books)
  • Swords from the Desert by Harold Lamb (Bison Books)

Need Help Finding Your Next Read?

Here are some recommendation sites you can try:

The newest book suggestion program I've heard about is Curated Fantasy Books / Curated Science Fiction (they've done some other genres as well).

Here's a little about them:

Here at, we suggest only the best fantasy books, selected by a human curator, and organized by specific fantasy category. Unlike many sites on the web, we can’t be gamed and we can’t be bought. Imagine entering the world’s best fantasy bookstore, with table after table filled with great suggestions. Find the books that you will really love reading.
Another site that's still in Beta is Book Browsr.  Again, the point with this site is personal recommendations.  A bit about them:

The recommendations come from book buyers and avid book readers. These people’s jobs and passion are to read books and choose the very best.
So yes, the recommendations are good. And they will get better and better as you interact with Bookbrowsr and your favorite recommenders.

And one that was suggested to me by the folks at SF Signal for helping with the New Author Spotlight posts, What should I read next?  You type the title/author/ISBN into the database and see what pops up.

I have to admit, I don't use these types of sites often generally use these types of sites myself.  My to be read pile is always too high for me to actually read everything, so the idea of looking for new books doesn't come up often.  And, of course, I see new books arrive at the store (and preview them for my upcoming books segment) so there's always plenty to read.  I'm currently reading old SF novels, I've recently 'discovered' short stories, and with publisher/author requests for reviews...

*Edited to add* Personally I haven't found these types of sites to be very accurate in terms of finding books that I'd enjoy.  "You should read this" types of endorsements don't take into consideration different likes/dislikes, and so can miss the mark easily.  I liked Battle Royale, but I know it's not a book everyone should read.  If my review consisted of, "it's a totally awesome book that'll make you think", I'd be accurate but readers who don't like excessive violence would feel misled reading the book based on that recommendation.

Do you find sites like these useful?  Where do you find your next book?

Thursday 16 August 2012

Movie Review: Chronicle

Director: Josh Trank

Pros: interesting story, diverse protagonists

Cons: shaky cam, protagonist grated on my nerves

Chronicle tells the story of 3 boys who stumble across a mysterious object in a hole in the ground at a party.  They soon discover they've gained special powers and play around with them.  As time passes, Andrew (Dane DeHaan), whose mother is sick and father is abusive, starts to use his powers for selfish gains.

This film is shot entirely with hand held cameras, most of the time by Andrew Detmer, and later with a few shots from security cameras and the camera of a female friend of one of the boys.  In other words, get ready for a lot of shaky cam.  At times this made the story telling feel forced, as how often does someone film every moment of their lives?  Yes, there are cuts, but Andrew still manages to film himself running, going to bed, etc. etc.  This was especially noticable with the girlfriend, who also seemed to film every day of her life, when they needed a scene where Andrew wasn't present.

The characters developed their powers pretty quickly, going from moving small objects to flying in a remarkably short amount of time.  It was also surprising that no attempt was made to find out what the object was that gave them their powers.

While Andrew is portrayed as a sympathetic character, he had a sick mother, a selfish and abusive father, had trouble fitting in and making friends, had trouble with girls, etc. I still didn't like him.  His personality was very grating.   

The ending had some great special effects and reminded me of Akira, with one friend pitted against the other.  It was by far the best part of the movie.

If you like films with reluctant heroes or kids developming super powers, check this out.

Colin Harvey Memorial Charity Booksale

From their press release:

Angry Robot author Colin Harvey died of a massive stroke on August 16th 2011, aged just 50.
To mark the one year anniversary of his passing, and to continue to bring his work to the wider audience it so richly deserves, we're offering a bundle of Colin’s ebooks - his two Angry Robot novels Damage Time and Winter Song, plus his flash fiction mini-collection for the special price of only £6.00 - via the Robot Trading Company.
All proceeds from the sale of this bundle will be donated by Angry Robot to Colin’s favourite charity, Above and Beyond.

Colin was kind enough to do an interview for me a few years back.  Here are the books in the bundle, which would normally sell for £11.57:
Damage Time

It's 2050 and sea-levels have swamped today's coastal regions. New York City is protected by tidal barriers and the USA is bankrupt.

Detective Pervez (Pete) Shah serves with the NYPD's Web Crimes Division as a Memory Association Specialist. When he's accused of murdering a glamorous woman in a bar, he must find the killer, save himself ... and the world.

Winter Song

When Karl Allman's spaceship crashed, he had only one question:

Nano Edition

It's unlikely that many of you will have read more than one of the stories in this mini-collection; two of them appeared in print magazines two or three years ago - this is their first appearance online - while the last story is original.
'Footsteps in the Snow' was a Christmas piece for which the editor wanted something of the flavour of the Season. The illegal immigrant Icelandic elves are amongst my favourite creations.
'Transient' >was - almost inevitably - written for Halloween, while 'A Little Respect' was sparked off by the 70th anniversary of the Second World War.
Lastly, 'Fairytale' was a Valentine's Day piece for which the recipient changed his mind. No matter; I'm delighted that Ella gets her moment in the sun.
These stories are also fairly atypical of my work. These are lighter than most of my stories, written for people who are new to SF and fantasy. Hopefully you'll have as much fun reading them as I had writing them.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

E-book Sellers Record Your Reading Habits

Nathan Bransford mentioned this on his blog and linked to a Wall Street Journal article that detailed it more.  I'm pretty sure I read it one other place that I can't recall at the moment  Apparently e-book retailers are storing - and using the data - compiled by reader's habits.

Leaving aside the disturbing idea that someone can see what you're reading, underlining and where/when you're stopping for the night, is the implied usage of this data: that authors can (may be encouraged to) use the data to improve perceived boring areas (if enough people stop at a certain passage) and change aspects of their books to cater more to their readers.  The Wall Street Journal article mentions a new e-publisher that encourages reader feedback so as to get immediate changes/adjustments in the sequels.

I find this disturbing because it assumes the populace knows best despite their not knowing the ending.  Writing is a challenging activity.  But I wonder how much pain and suffering characters will go through if readers start calling the shots.  What about killing major characters?  Would an author be able to afford to do away with someone - as planned - if too much of their audience likes that character?  Even if letting that person live makes the story weaker?

I know whatever companies are tracking my ebook reads are getting a lot of useless information.  Because of the slow turn speeds on my original Kobo I only use that for commuting (when I dont' want to risk losing/having my iPad stolen).  So I cut off at strange points, because I've reached my destination or need to change trains.  If someone interprets my data to assume I'm bored, well, then I'd be getting bored at really bizarre passages.  I've also only completed one or two books on the device, while I've started dozens.  There's so much context involved that's missed by this type of recording.

With my iPad data, things would be more complete, but still somewhat disjointed as I switch between devices for stories (for example starting on the Kobo and finishing on the iPad).

And getting back to the whole idea of tracking, as mentioned in the WSJ article, there are books people don't want others to know they're reading, that they might not read if they knew their reading habits were being tracked - books on sexuality, health issues, etc.  As with the internet, we assume our devices are private - even when they aren't.  I know some people who feel embarrassed reading romances due to the racy covers, who like the ebook idea.  Finally they can read what they want, when they want, without people knowing.  Not so, apparently.

So, how do you feel about the idea that your ebook reading habits are being recorded?  Will this make you think twice about reading something?  Would you want authors to write according to feedback?  As an author, would you like the chance to glimpse your reading public's habits?

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Book Review: Fat Girl in a Strange Land Edited by Kay T. Holt and Bart R. Leib

This is a short story collection dealing with two things: overweight women and fantastical locations.  Aside from those criteria, the collection is quite diverse.  The stories are a mix of fantasy and science fiction, in some the women are comfortable with their weight, in others they aren't.  The stories that take place on earth are situated all over (Guatamala, Australia, New York City), and though most of the authors are American, there are several from other countries as well.  The quality of stories is quite high, and in all cases the women are sympathetic protagonists.  Ultimately this collection showcases a great variety of plus sized women.

(Note, I've used a star rating for the stories as my previous method of stating if I liked a story or not seemed too convoluted.  In each case I rate the story, give it's title and author, a short synopsis and my thoughts on it.  As the stories are short and I don't want to spoil them I've kept my comments to a minimum.)

***** "La Gorda and the City of Silver" by Sabrina Vourvoulias - La Gorda, The Fat One, was born into a wrestling family but told she could never enter the ring.  She makes the Guatamalan streets of City of Silver her ring, wearing a mask and making the streets safe for women and girls until a masked menace comes.

This is a touching story of wanting to be more than you are, and more than society allows you to be.  It's about heroes and sacrifice.  It's not really a science fiction story (as no one has superpowers), but it is a well written story.  

**** "The Tradeoff" by Lauren C. Teffeau - Commander Clarinda Hilliard is on a mission to begin the terraforming process on Caldwell, an ice planet.  In order to work long hours in the cold, her and the other members of her team must bulk up.  She's left very uncomfortable in her new body. 

The examination of a woman who's become fat, if on purpose, is interesting.  Many women are uncomfortable with their bodies, so it's a story with realistic underpinings and an interesting look at food rationing in the future.  

*** "Cartography, and the Death of Shoes" by A. J. Fitzwater - A city woman whose size belies how much walking she does and how many shoes she goes through, tries to find the cobbler shop she remembers as a child where she got a perfect, lasting pair of shoes.

The author puts a fun spin on an old trope though I wasn't a fan of the rather unusal second person singular the story was written in.

**** "Survivor" by Josh Roseman - Overweight Wen Irons is the only survivor when her graduation party shuttle crash lands on Sidqiel.  She's told by a Sergeant on the nearest space station that she must walk 35 kilometers to an old research substation on the planet before sunrise 7 hours away or she will be killed by the radiation.

A great story about persevering under pressure, both physical and mental.

**** "The Right Stuffed" by Brian Jungwiwattanaporn - Two large women are hired for what they're told will be secretarial positions, but turn out to be something else.

This story deals with a digital world and utilizes its protagonists in an interesting way.

***** "Tangwystl the Unwanted" by Katherine Elmer - It begins with a princess stuck in a tower, but if you think this is a retelling of Repunzel, think again.  Elmer combines several fairy tale motifs to create a new story, about a young woman fed daily fairy cakes with no room to exercise.

This is a fun story that has the dependence on 3s so prevalent in fairy tales.  Tanny's a great character who never learned that being large is a problem and so merely considers it objectively as her situation changes.

**** "Flesh Of My Flesh" by Bonnie Ferrante - Alina's not thrilled to learn her fiancee is en route to the distant alien planet where she provides translation  He's controlling and she's learned to love her new home.  

Creepy story and quite short.

*** "How Do You Want To Die?" by Rick Silva - A group of captured soldiers escape the desert city of Ahman and run into a sand storm.  Their leader, Donna Stone, contemplates how she'd like to die. 

This is an atmospheric story.  The author packs a lot of character detail into Donna, considering the setting and length.

***** "Nemesis" by Nicole Prestin - When Flux, a size 14 soccor mom who can manipulate molecules (think Kitty Pride of the X-Men), joins Liberty Force, she's dismayed by the attitude of one of her teammates and the press about her size.  She quickly proves that intelligence and skill are what make a superhero.

This is the only story in the collection to have typos.  Most notably, the team is called Liberty Force five times and Omega Force three.  That aside, it's a brilliant story, the type that makes you want to cheer for the heroine who's completely comfortable with who she is and won't take grief from anyone or change herself to meet others' standards.

***** "Davy" by Anna Dickinson - The unnamed narrator of the story suffers from post-partem depression and excessive weight gain.  In an attempt to help his despondent wife, her husband buys a painting.  All is not well when the wife starts seeing grey, elf like figures emerge from it.

Another creepy story with antecedents in old folk and fairytales.

*** "Sharks & Seals" by Jennifer Brozek - Corelli, a member of the First Circle of the Order of the Sacred Eye, is asked to a meeting with the leader of the Children of Anu.  

This story felt like a prologue or first chapter to a novel.  While it was self-contained, as I reader I was left wanting more. 

*** "Marilee and the S.O.B" by Barbara Kransoff - Marilee's hobby when depressed is to follow interesting looking people and see where she ends up.  Her latest target is an overly good looking boy on the subway.

An interesting premise, with a classical ending.

**** "Blueprints" by Anna Caro - The unnamed narrator of this dying earth story wants desperately to travel to Terra Nova, a beautiful, unpoluted planet.  But people above a certain weight are denied transport on the grounds of health.

An interesting look at getting what you wish for versus knowing what you want.

***** "Lift" by Pete Alberti - Teenaged Mary Beth determines to build her own spaceship after friends tell her she's too fat to ride in theirs.

A great story about hard work and effort paying off in the end.  And that some friends aren't worth keeping.

Ultimately I was happy with this collection.  I would have liked more stories where the protagonists were not bullied/teased about their weight or where they were content with their weight despite outside criticism.  However, the collection does pack a lot of realistic emotions into its stories, exploring a number of different personalities and situations.

Want some great stories with a character set that's usually ignored (as far as being the protagonist is concerned)?  Then pick this collection by Crossed Genres up.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Atopia Chronicles on Sale

This weekend the first book of Matthew Mather's Atopia Chronicles, Blue Skies, is free, with the 6 book series on sale for 0.99 at

Want to know about the series?
In the story, Dr. Patricia Killiam is rushing to help save the world from itself by giving everyone everything they've always wanted. The question is whether she's unwittingly saving the world only to cast it towards an even worse fate as humanity hurtles across the brink of forever.

The story is set on Atopia, a near future world teetering on the brink of post-humanism and eco-Armageddon. Each book is a stand-alone work that can be read individually in almost any order. Each starts at the same moment in time, and collectively they are puzzle pieces that connect together to reveal the mystery and terrifying danger that lies at the heart of Atopia.

Friday 10 August 2012

Author Interview: Madeline Ashby

Novel: vN


> What is vN about?

My publisher, Angry Robot Books, summarizes it this way: "Amy Peterson is a von Neumann machine, a self-replicating humanoid robot. For the past five years, she has been grown slowly as part of a mixed organic/synthetic family. She knows very little about her android mother’s past, so when her grandmother arrives and attacks her mother, little Amy wastes no time: she eats her alive.Now she carries her malfunctioning granny as a partition on her memory drive, and she’s learning impossible things about her clade’s history – like the fact that the failsafe that stops all robots from harming humans has failed… Which means that everyone wants a piece of her, some to use her as a weapon, others to destroy her."

I mean, they leave out the bounty hunters and the sea monster and the Cuddlebug, but it's a good description. More concise than what I'd write.

> Where did you get the idea to write about von Neumann machines?

My first husband introduced me to the term. But I was also intrigued with the recent innovations and proliferations of devices like the MakerBot and the RepRap and so on. I was intrigued with the idea of a machine that could build an exact replica of itself. I thought it was a fantastic metaphor for reproduction. Or rather, an externalization of an internal dilemma. So much of what we do as humans, biologically, artistically, and intellectually, is about reproduction and copying. It's how we learn. It's how we create. So I wanted to tell a story about how machines would deal with those dilemmas.

Madeline has a Masters of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation and has written a fantastic article for about the differences and similarities of writing science fiction and strategic foresight.

> What made you want to be a writer?

Writing is one of my favourite experiences in life. I enjoy losing myself in it. I enjoy no longer being conscious of myself. That's not because it's easy, or even physically pleasant, or because it wins me a lot of friends, or anything like that. It's not rewarding in any traditional sense of the term. But it's definitely an altered state, one that opens up another perspective on the world and on human experience.

That's why I enjoy writing, though, which isn't really an answer to your question. I wanted to be a writer when I saw other people doing it for real. It took meeting other professional writers to get a sense of how it worked as a career, and whether or not I wanted to do it. When I saw how they did it, and how their lives worked, I wanted it for myself.

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


> Beyond the matter of length, do you find it easier writing short stories or novels?

Short stories are harder because they have to be perfect. It's the difference between preparing a holiday feast and a single dish. With the former, it's okay if some elements outshine the others, so long as everyone goes home satisfied. With the latter, each bite has to be perfect. Short stories are usually about five thousand words -- that's not a lot of room to screw up.

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

I wrote a novel when I was about fourteen that I completed when I was sixteen. It was about archaeologists. I wrote the first chapter as part of a Grade 9 assignment in an advanced placement history class, where we had to write stories about the ancient civ unit we were studying. I wrote a huge story that was more like a novella. My teacher -- himself an Oxford man and a Fulbright scholar -- challenged me to write a whole novel with those characters, with one chapter per unit. I'd get an A for the whole year in that class and be excused from regular homework, provided I agreed to a) finish the job and b) submit it to publishing houses. He made it very clear that if I wanted to do this, I couldn't do it half-way. Nobody bought the novel (for reasons that are patently obvious to me now) but it was really a good lesson in not screwing around with professional fiction writing. Go big or go home.

> What was the hardest scene for you to write?

I re-wrote the opening for vN many, many times. That's in part because it started out as a short story. But it also took me a long time to figure out which tone to strike. It wasn't until I watched A History of Violence, the Cronenberg film, that I knew precisely what I wanted. Now whenever I watch the beginning of a film I'm always sensitive to what happens in those first fifteen or twenty minutes.

> When and where do you write?

I write on my side of an office shared with my partner, writer David Nickle (Eutopia; Rasuptin's Bastards). We live in the hayloft portion of a century-old converted stable, so we're surrounded by trees. Green light streams in through the leaves. I write under a Nine Inch Nails promo poster, and under a Hollow Ichigo mask from Bleach, and a print from my friend Miriam Libicki's comic Jobnik! There are other pictures I'd like to put up, from Seattle and Kyoto and Detroit, but I haven't printed or mounted them yet. While I write, I wear noise-cancelling earbuds -- a pair of Sony XB-1's. (I tried some cheap Panasonic clones recently, and they were just awful. A step above airplane headphones, really. Don't waste your money. If you have the money, but the XB-4's. They're stunning. Heart-stoppingly expensive, but stunning.)

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

The best thing about it is saying exactly what you meant to say, or creating exactly the feeling you meant to. This is a hard thing to do, but when you nail it, and you know it, it's awesome.

The hardest thing is being alone. Writing is a lonely job. You mostly sit alone, and you can't really explain the challenges of what you're doing to someone who doesn't also do it, who therefore probably also wants or needs to be alone. But the loneliness is only part of it. You're lonely because nobody's watching you, which means that nobody can force you to stay on task. That can cause problems with productivity. On the other hand, there's nobody to keep you on task, which means nobody annoying you, and not having to wear trousers unless the doorbell rings.

So really, the best thing and the worst thing are the same thing. You're alone.

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

How slow it is. This is the thing I wish more people knew. Publishing operates at a glacial pace. And it's not because people are lazy, or aren't working, or anything like that. It's because all the decisions are usually group decisions, and they're hard. Publishing is a gamble, and most of the decisions made in publishing are made to mitigate risk. That means there's strategy involved, and strategy takes time.

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

I suppose that depends on what they're hoping for. If you're hoping to get a short story published, that will happen eventually. (If you keep trying, that is. Nothing happens without trying.) If you're hoping to get a novel published, that's trickier. (It might happen, if the book is good enough and if the right factors line up. The book's quality is the only factor you have any control over.) If you're hoping to improve, though, that's a whole different game. I think most people (myself included) start out hoping to get published. But hoping to be a better writer, that's the hope you should really keep burning in the centre of your being. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't submit things, or that you should sit on your stories for too long. I've seen people waste a lot of time and effort by not submitting their work. Rather, if you're hoping to improve, you have to open yourself to the pain of improvement. It's not about you. It's not about making you happy. It's about making something good. That is often a totally different experience from being happy.

> Any tips against writers block?

Take a shower. It's bad for your water bill, but good for your brain. It's probably the one place in your home that you're least distracted. There's no TV, phone, internet, food, kids, dogs, cats, whatever. Without those distractions, the solution to your problem -- and writer's block is always, in my experience, the result of a problem -- has room to creep in.

Also, competition works. There's nothing like seeing a bunch of other writers blowing past you in wordcounts and contracts to make you want to buckle down and get things done. It sounds shallow, I know, and I know that in theory we shouldn't be motivated by pride and so on. But if you've been stewing in your own juices for too long, it occasionally takes a reminder of how your peers have been able to just suck it up and deal to prod you to do something about it. This is why it's good for people to post their wordcounts. A rising wordcount raises all books.

If you're still stuck after all that, it's time to admit that you have a problem. This happened to me recently, and it wasn't until I spoke the words aloud to someone else that things began to turn around. It can be really embarrassing -- is there any more whiny problem than admitting you have writers' block? -- but owning the problem and the attendant embarrassment is part of solving it. Not least because in all likelihood, the people around you can help and want to do so.

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

Too many!

Actually, I don't know the total number. My agent, Monica Pacheco at McDermid, does. This is part of why I like having an agent. If I had to deal with that stuff directly, I'd be an even more insecure writer than I already am.