Thursday 28 February 2013

Books Received in February 2013, part 2

Here's the second half of the books I got this month.

Orius: Sent to Kill - Written by David Wohl & Brian Buccellato and Illustrated by Pat Lee
There's no official synopsis up yet, as far as I've been able to find, so I'm using the one I came up with when I reviewed this issue.

There are two races on the planet Orius, who are forced to work together after years of segregation, in order to find a means of leaving their dying world.  They create artificial intelligences meant to infultrate Earth, which they're testing by having them fight each other to the death.  Meanwhile on Earth, two women meet and unexpectedly know each other, while one of their bosses wonders what is happening with regards to the deal he made with the Orius Greys.
Pariah - Created by Aron Warner, Written by Philip Gelatt and Illustrated by Brett Weldele
I've already read and reviewed this as well.

They’re not super powered, they’re just super smart. The teen protagonists who lead us through the world of Pariah, a twelve-book graphic novel series from the mind of Oscar-winning film producer Aron Warner and published by Sea Lion Books, are the next generation of heroes in the comic book world. Eisner-nominated illustrator Brett Weldele (The Surrogates) will bring the stories to life in ink, and Philip Gelatt penning the scripts set in Warner’s world.
Collecting issues 1-4.

Witch Wraith by Terry Brooks
This doesn't seem to have a synopsis up online yet.  It's the third book in the Dark Legacy of Shannara trilogy (which comes after the High Druid of Shannara trilogy).  Here's a synopsis of the first book from this trilogy, Wards of Faerie.

Tumultuous times are upon the world now known as the Four Lands. Users of magic are in conflict with proponents of science. The dwindling Druid order is threatened with extinction. A sinister politician has used treachery and murder to rise as prime minister of the mighty Federation. Meanwhile, poring through a long-forgotten diary, the young Druid Aphenglow Elessedil has stumbled upon the secret account of an Elven girl's heartbreak and the shocking truth about the vanished Elfstones, which once warded the lands and kept evil at bay. But never has a little knowledge been so very dangerous-as Aphenglow quickly learns when she's set upon by assassins. Yet there can be no turning back from the road to which fate has steered her. Whoever captures the Elfstones and their untold powers will surely hold the advantage in the devastating clash to come.

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan
For some reason I haven't read anything by her since her debut duology (Warior, Witch) several years ago.  I'm really interested in this one and with any luck will have time to read it soon.

Marie Brennan begins a thrilling new fantasy series in "A Natural History of Dragons, " combining adventure with the inquisitive spirit of the Victorian Age.
"You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart--no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon's presence, even for the briefest of moments--even at the risk of one's life--is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. . . ."
All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world's preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.
Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.

Wasteland by Susan Kim & Laurence Klavan

Welcome to the wasteland
At fifteen,
the citizens of Prin marry.
At seventeen,
they reproduce.
And at nineteen,
they die.
Esther thinks there's more to life than toiling at the assignments-Harvesting, Gleaning, Excavating-day after day under the relentless sun, just hoping to make it to the next day.
She doesn't care that her best friend, a variant, is considered "the enemy." She doesn't care that Levi, who controls the Source, is the real enemy and might send his Taser boys after her if she makes one wrong move.
Then Caleb shows up. Could there be another way to fight for survival.

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Books Received in February 2013, part 1

I got a fair number of books this month, so I'm splitting the post into two parts, so it doesn't get too long.

The Arena Man by Steve Englehart
As this is the 4th book in the series, I'm giving the synopsis for book one, The Point Man.

Max August was a point man when he served during the Vietnam War, the guy who had to lead his patrol through dangers he couldn't possibly anticipate. Now he's a disc jockey, at one with the music and his faithful audience . . . until the day when he is swept into a battle invisible to all but the participants.
For nearly five centuries, Cornelius Agrippa has fought against an evil that has threatened to corrupt and destroy everything good and untainted in the world. Now, Max has joined the battle. It wasn't his idea to fight a demonic entity that can become anything it wants: an undying monster or the most desirable woman in the world. Max has been chosen by fate to fight those who would use magick to destroy freedom and wreak havoc on an unsuspecting world. Along with Agrippa and Valerie Drake, a beautiful, talented singer, Max is the only hope of the free world.
Kalimpura by Jay Lake
Third book in the series that started with Green, I'll give it's synopsis here, to avoid spoilers.

Her exquisite beauty and brilliant mind were not enough to free her from captivity. That took her skills with a knife, plus the power of a goddess.
She was born in poverty, in a dusty village under the equatorial sun. She does not remember her mother, she does not remember her own name--her earliest clear memory is of the day her father sold her to the tall pale man. In the Court of the Pomegranate Tree, where she was taught the ways of a courtesan…and the skills of an assassin…she was named Emerald, the precious jewel of the Undying Duke's collection of beauties. She calls herself Green.
The world she inhabits is one of political power and magic, where Gods meddle in the affairs of mortals. At the center of it is the immortal Duke's city of Copper Downs, which controls all the trade on the Storm Sea. Green has made many enemies, and some secret friends, and she has become a very dangerous woman indeed.

Dust City by Rober Paul Weston
With his dad doing time for the double murder of Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother, Henry Whelp tries to keep a low profile in Dust City-a gritty metropolis known for its black-market, mind-altering fairydust. But when he begins to suspect that his father may have been framed, Henry ventures deep into the City's underworld. There he comes face to snout with the legendary mobster Skinner and discovers what really happened to his father... as well as the horrifying truth about fairydust.

Imager's Battalion by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
The seventh book in this series, I'll give the synopsis to Imager, the first.

Although Rhennthyl is the son of a leading wool merchant, he has spent years becoming a journeyman painter. With his skill and diligence, Rhenn stands to be considered for the status of master artisan. Then, his entire life is transformed when his master patron is killed in a flash fire, and Rhenn discovers he is an imager-one of the few in the entire world who can visualize things and make them real.
He must leave his family and join the Collegium of Imagisle. Imagers live separately from the rest of society because of their abilities (they can do accidental magic even while asleep), and because they are both feared and vulnerable. In this new life, Rhenn discovers that all too many of the "truths" he knew were nothing of the sort. Every day brings a new threat to his life.

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Book Review: The Office of Mercy by Ariel Djanikian

Pros: thought provoking ending, didn't read like a dystopia but ended like one

Cons: protagonist is very naive and makes some questionable decisions

Natasha Wiley lives in America-Five, one of several enclosed cities set up by the Alphas to protect the people from the evils of the outside world: suffering and death.  She works in the Office of Mercy, whose job it is to end the suffering to the tribespeople living outside their walls, by giving them a quick, merciful, death.

But she starts to doubt her mission and the 'wall' she's been taught to keep up between herself and the humans living outside.  She empathizes with them, and when she comes face to face with some tribesmen, she makes choices that forever change her life and the lives of those around her.

This book was problematic for me in that I had certain expectations about what was going to happen, given that it's a dystopian novel, that the author didn't follow.  The bad thing about this was that I spent a lot of time thinking about how I would have done things to elicit the response I thought the author was going for rather than enjoying the fact that this dystopian novel was going in directions I couldn't predict.  Looking back on the book after finishing it,  it followed the dystopian conventions, just not in a way that's easily recognizable while you're in the middle of it. 

Natasha is a complex individual.  She's learned the propaganda of the inside and has helped 'sweep' (ie kill) tribespeople in the past via the intelligence she's gathered on them.  However, her upbringing has left her surprisingly naive with regards to the tribespeople.  Despite watching them on screens in the Office of Mercy she doesn't seem to understand how difficult life outside really is.  And while her sheltered upbringing does make it understandable that she not comprehend how people relate to each other in a war like situation, some of her decisions are still frustrating to read.  Instead of understanding them as separate people with their own motivations and drives, she projects her own desires on the tribespeople, something she's been very specifically trained to avoid doing, and makes decisions based on faulty reasoning.  Indeed, she makes decisions that lead to consequences she never considered possible.

Part of me wanted Natasha to get away with her plans, as ridiculous as they seemed, so she could have a happy ending.  And part of me wanted to see her come face to face with the consequences of her actions in a true coming of age style ending.  Because I wasn't sure what the author was up to, the conclusion took me completely by surprise.  In retrospect all the clues were there, but my uncertainty with regards to what message the author was trying to get across made the ending more exciting.

In the middle of the book Natasha falls in with a group of malcontents in the community who also believe the sweeps should stop.  I found it interesting that rather than portray these people as freedom fighters in her eyes, they came off as crackpots.  Even when she was working with them.

There are several discussion possibilities for this book with regards to how people are portrayed and how/if we project our own beliefs on them rather than seeing them for who they are.  I was surprised that a group with the opportunity to brainwash their citizens so easily (as propaganda does to the young) would end up with so many malcontents without some sort of outside force giving opposing views.  Do people question their beliefs if they're not faced with a reason to?  Under what circumstances?

The book uses several conventions from both post-apocalyptic and dystopian novels.  The ending packs a punch though some of Natasha's decisions are hard to swallow and may turn off readers who want a grittier read. 

Saturday 23 February 2013

Weird West Reading List

This is a fairly new subcategory of fantasy and so doesn't have a large number of books yet, but I figured for those of you looking for more, a list might be useful.  This list is made up from books in stock at the bookstore where I work, plus any I heard about from internet sources.  If you know others that should be on this list, please mention them in the comment section and I'll add them in.

This particular list is a mix of horror and SF/fantasy books.  I tried to keep it to books with cowboy like figures or with a western feel to the story, so no civil war or depression era stuff.

 The Six-Gun Tarot – R. S. Belcher
Territory – Emma Bull
Bloodlands – Christine Cody
The Dead of Winter – Lee Collins
Portlandtown – Rob DeBorde
A Book of Tongues – Gemma Files
West Ward Weird – Martin Greenberg & Kerrie Hughes, Ed.
The Gunslinger – Stephen King
Buntline Special – Mike Resnick
Alloy of Law – Brandon Sanderson
American Vampire - Scott Snyder + (graphic novel)
Blood Riders – Michael P. Spradlin
Six-Gun Snow White – Cahterynne M. Valente
Cowboys and Aliens – Joan Vinge

From the comments:
Red Country - Joe Abercrombie
The Half-Made World - Felix Gilman
The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl - Tim Pratt

Friday 22 February 2013

ChiZine's Picking Up The Ghost optioned for film

A YA novel out from ChiZine Publications in 2011 has been optioned for film/TV rights.  This is the first time one of their books has been optioned as well as one of their first YA titles.  Due to the success of this and their other YA titles, they're starting a new line of YA books, ChiTeen, in 2014.

About the novel:

Living in St. Jude, a 110-year-old dying city on the edge of the Mississippi, is tough. But when a letter informs fourteen-year-old Cinque Williams of the passing of the father he never met, he is faced with an incomplete past and an uncertain future. A curse meant for his father condemns Cinque to a slow death even as it opens his eyes to the strange otherworld around him. With help from the ghost Willy T, an enigmatic White Woman named Iku, an African Loa, and a devious shape-shifter, Cinque gathers the tools to confront the ghost of his dead father. But he will learn that sometimes too much knowledge can be dangerous - and the people he trusts most are those poised to betray him!

Thursday 21 February 2013

Comic Review: Orius: Sent 2 Kill, Issue 1

Created by: Pat Lee, Rosanne Wong & Race Wong
Written by: Brian Buccellato & David Wohl
Penciled by Pat Lee

There are two races on the planet Orius, who are forced to work together after years of segregation, in order to find a means of leaving their dying world.  They create artificial intelligences meant to infultrate Earth, which they're testing by having them fight each other to the death.  Meanwhile on Earth, two women meet and unexpectedly know each other, while one of their bosses wonders what is happening with regards to the deal he made with the Orius Greys.

Page 6
As this is a review of the first issue of the series, I'm going to give my impressions rather than a full pro/con breakdown.  The artwork is monochrome, all black, white and grey, with a hint of green, which looks fantastic.  The lines are sharp and the shading well done.  There's a lot of motion in the characters and scenes.  My only concern here is that because it's all black and white, it's hard to tell a few of the characters apart, especially when the action picks up.

The story is really interesting, with multiple things happening at once, both on Earth and Orius.  There's only time for a brief introduction of the many characters (I suspect some of the Earch and Orius characters overlap eventually) but they sound pretty cool.  The two alien AIs are women, which has the potential to be really cool in a kick-ass sort of way, or exploitative, as they're dressed in typical female comic attire.  I'm expecting more of the former based on how the story went in this issue.  The story, alas, cuts out suddenly at the end of an intense action sequence and a small bit of dialogue.  You turn the page to find... the issue is over.  It's definitely an intriguing opening plot wise. 

Out from Sea Lion Books on March 13th, this is definitely a comic to keep your eyes out for.

Reselling 'used' ebooks?

Nathan Bransford has a great rundown of the used ebook kerfuffle started by the filing and granting to Amazon of a patent that will:

"let customers sell their previously read eBooks, audiobooks, music and movies the same way that consumers can now sell print books, DVDs and CDs, ..." (source

(where I originally read about this)

Redigi is a site that's already trying for legal resale of digital music, with the assurance that the song is properly removed from the original owner's devices when sold.  It's not much of a stretch to extend this to ebooks.

I highly recommend Nathan's article, which goes over some of the pros/cons of such a service as well as links to some very interesting responses.  

In reading the comments on one of the pages he links to (John Scalzi's blog) I also came across this tidbit of info, that Valve is being sued in Germany because it won't allow the resale of video games.  I find this especially interesting given that the new XBox 720 has been designed to not allow gamers to use second hand games on their systems (and the assumption is the PlayStation 4 will have a similar lockdown when it comes out later this year).

So what do you think?  Should people have the right to actually own (rather than license) their digital content, including the right to first resale (as they do with physical products)?  What do you think that would do to the sales of new content (which won't be any different from the used version, just more expensive)?  How do you think this would affect authors (or other artists) since they make no money from resales of their works?  

I'm curious how well the software checking for backups of the files would do, since for this to work they'd have to ensure you're not making/keeping a copy and then selling your files.


Wednesday 20 February 2013

Medieval Fragments

Literary Agent Janet Reid posted about this blog post on tweeting, by a medieval historian over at a site called Medieval Fragments.  Intrigued, after reading that post, I started reading others on the site.  And boy, are they fun.  They're on a range of interesting topics, from how scholars can sometimes read previous text on reused manuscript pages, to how manuscript liturgical music would sound when performed, to places manuscripts have been discovered.  And those are just the last three posts. :)

Their 'about us' page states:

This is the project blog of “Turning Over a New Leaf: Manuscript Innovation in the Twelfth Century” based at the Institute for Cultural Disciplines, Universiteit Leiden.  You can find out more about our research interests by clicking this link
Led by Erik Kwakkel, paleographer and intellectual historian at the Universiteit Leiden, the project brings together an international team of researchers  from the Netherlands, Ireland, Canada and America.  Erik is investigating how the physical appearance of the medieval manuscript evolved in the ‘long twelfth century’. Irene O’Daly, postdoc on the project, is looking at the use of classical manuscripts in medieval education. Jenny Weston, PhD student, is examining medieval reading practices. Julie Somers, PhD student, is researching medieval women scribes.

There are nice photos illustrating the blog posts and some fun information on offer.  Wish I'd found this site earlier.

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Book Review: Dualed by Elsie Chapman

Pros: interesting premise, fast paced ending

Cons: protagonist isn't very likable and makes unwise decisions,  no social commentary

For Parents: no language or sexual content, lots of gun and knife violence 

West Grayer's world is an enclosed city.  Fear of those on the outside breaking in created a law that all babies are born with the physical aspects of two sets of parents, genetically altered to look like identical twins.  Sometime between the ages of eleven and eighteen both people are activated.  At that point they have thirty-one days to kill their Alternate (Alt).  If neither completes, they'll both die.  West's oldest brother and younger sister were both killed by their Alts.  Her mother died as a PK, a Peripheral Kill, during someone else's completion and her dad's just committed suicide.  West is determined to survive her activation and prove she's the best qualified for their city's way of life.

This is a teen book adults won't enjoy as much as the intended audience.  As a protagonist, fifteen year old West is too determined to do things herself, doesn't need help and makes her decisions with the idea that her actions don't impact anyone else.  She's angry and feeling unworthy of being the alt left alive, and makes choices that cause her to feel these things more over time, rather than less. 

Despite how the synopsis sounds, this isn't a cat and mouse hunt between the girls like Marie Brennan's fantasy duology Doppleganger and Warrior and Witch (republished as Warrior and Witch).  It's focused primarily on West's avoidance of her assignment, though the ending does have some tense scenes when she's finally on the prowl.  

It's also not a vehicle of social commentary, the way Battle Royal and the Hunger Games are.  There's no deeper meaning to why the kids are forced to kill each other or much in the way of questioning its efficacy of turning out a society of adults prepared for - and ready to repulse - an invading army.

I found West's decision to become a striker interesting as I would have expected assassinating a legal target to be easier than killing random people.  I wanted to see more of the psychological effects that killing had on her.  Instead she's emotionally shut down (which is an effect, but not the one I'd expected).  I didn't quite believe she would be accepted so readily as a striker.  I would have expected their qualifications required more than merely a desire to become one.  She should have had to pass some sort of test of skill and/or discretion before she got the tattoos.

I expect teens will love this, while adults who want more philosophical discussion in their books may want to give it a pass.

Friday 15 February 2013

New Author Spotlight: Isaac Marion

OK, I know New Author Spotlight is for authors with up to 3 books in the different SF/F subgenres, and this author has 4, but as the first 3 were self-published and his 4th is now a film, I'm spotlighting him anyway. :)  Oh, and he's written a ton of short stories too.

Today's spotlight shines on Isaac Marion! His books are:

The Inside, The Hungry Mouth (a book of short stories), Warm Bodies
(Note: I know there are only 3 books there but I've been unable to discover what the 3rd self-published title was.)

Here's the cover copy for Warm Bodies:

R is a young man with an existential crisis--he is a zombie. He shuffles through an America destroyed by war, social collapse, and the mindless hunger of his undead comrades, but he craves something more than blood and brains. He can speak just a few grunted syllables, but his inner life is deep, full of wonder and longing. He has no memories, noidentity, and no pulse, but he has dreams.
After experiencing a teenage boy''s memories while consuming his brain, R makes an unexpected choice that begins a tense, awkward, and stragely sweet relationship with the victim''s human girlfriend. Julie is a blast of color in the otherwise dreary and gray landscape that surrounds R. His decision to protect her will transform not only R, but his fellow Dead, and perhaps their whole lifeless world.
Scary, funny, and surprisingly poignant, Warm Bodies is about being alive, being dead, and the blurry line in between.
Check out these other books if you like zombie romances:

The Loving Dead by Amelia Beamer
Breathers by S. G. Browne
Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

Thursday 14 February 2013

Game Review: Little Inferno

Pros: fun, quirky items & explanations, takes about 6 hours to complete, letters from various people create a story around the burning, good graphics (mix of cute/creepy), music is repetitive but not annoying

Cons: some of the combos are hard to figure out, which gets frustrating, only supports a single touch point (tetronimos, for example, are hard to place as you can't rotate them)

In a future where the weather is getting colder, the Tomorrow Corporation has created Little Inferno: Entertainment Fireplace so little boys and girls can burn their toys and stay warm.  Burned all your toys already?  Then buy new ones from the catalogues they send you!  You get coins for burning things and stamps for completing special burn combos.  You also get letters from the owner of the Tomorrow Corporation, the Weather Man and a little girl who wants to be your friend.

This game is so much fun to play.  I've played it through twice already.  The items you're buying are a mix of cute and creepy.  For example: "Corn on the Cob: Made with all-natural, high-fructose corn syrup!  Also doubles as car fuel."  Put this in your fireplace, light it up and watch the kernels pop.  Or "Raccoon Plushie: So cuddly and adorable you can't not hug him!  May contain rabies."  He makes little raccoon noises and froths a bit at the mouth when you burn him.

The music is fun and though it gets repetitive, it's never annoying, which is so important when you're listening to it for several hours in a row.

My only complaints were that a few of the burn combos were really hard to figure out (I ended up googling one and trying combos for at least half an hour for another).  There's also only a single touch point, which is fine for most of the items, but it meant that with some items, like the tetronimos (or tetris blocks) it was very hard to place them specific ways before burning them.

The Tomorrow Corporation has its own website with more information on the game, including a free download of the soundtrack.  Rated for Teens due to crude humour and drug references, it's currently available from the Apple app store ($5 Canadian), Steam for Windows (and soon for Mac and Linux, though it's $10 there), and the Wii U eshop. 

Here's the commercial:

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Lord of the Rings Olympic Rivalry

PistolShrimps has a great pair of Lord of the Rings Olympic Rivalry parody videos.  The editing on these is remarkably good.  Here's a link to the first part, and the video of the second (which I liked better, though both are fun).

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Book Review: Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal

Pros: interesting uses of magic, written with historical accuracy and sensitivity, complex and realistic marital relationship, slow pacing that builds to an exciting climax


Married a scarce 3 months and already completing a comission for the Prince Regent, Jane and Vincent decide to take a Honeymoon trip to visit an acquaintance of Vincent's in Belgium.  But with Napoleon recently abdicated the throne of France, things in Belgium are unsettled as Vincent and his friend exchange glamour secrets.

This is a fairly quick read, though the pacing is slow.  It reads like a novel written during the regency period, as well as one set in that period.  Kowal knows her stuff, and uses period words and situations perfectly.  So don't expect any sex and only limited impropriety.  Some readers may find parts dull - particularly prolongued dinner conversations - but I enjoyed the entire book.

In addition to the Sphere Obscurcie, this book introduces the Chastain Damask as well as the possibility of making glamour transportable, rather than tied to the earth as usual.  The couple also create a few glamourals along the way.

My favourite aspect of the book is the complexity of Jane and Vincent's relationship.  She's happily married, but easily shaken in her belief of his regard, especially when he becomes more and more preoccupied and evasive in Belgium.  Jane excuses his actions, rationalizing them away, while at the same time feels saddened by the distance that seems to grow between them.  It's a very realistic look at newlyweds, the constant shift between bliss and uncertainty with regards to your partner.  The need for intimacy with the acknowlegment that you can never fully know another person.

The climax of the novel is quite exciting, bringing in glamour, politics and a hint of war.

Friday 8 February 2013

Author Interview: Lee Collins

The Dead of Winter
She Returns From War

Short Stories:
"The Dome" – Ensorcelled (May 2009)
"Purity" – Morpheus Tales (October 2009)

> What is The Dead of Winter about? 

Both The Dead of Winter and She Returns From War follow the exploits of Cora Oglesby, a bounty hunter who roams the Old West in search of supernatural bounties. The Dead of Winter tells how a seemingly ordinary job for Cora and her husband Ben descends into a nightmare, forcing her to question the truth about her past. She Returns From War picks up four years afterward, when a young British aristocrat seeking to enlist Cora's help in avenging the death of her parents draws them both into the path of a Navajo witch.

> Fantasy set in the American west is becoming more popular.  What drew you to writing about that period?

It grew out of a short story submission. Morpheus Tales announced a Western-themed horror special issue a few years ago, and I really liked the idea. I wrote a story about Cora's initial incarnation hunting down some necromancers, and the character stuck with me long after I'd finished. When I started researching more about the time period in preparation for a full-length novel, I realized how much potential the Old West has as a setting for fantasy themes.

 > What do you call this new sub-genre, western fantasy, weird west, or something different?

The term I've heard most often is Weird West. It encompasses all speculative fiction set in the Old West, including science fiction and steampunk stories along with fantasy. In terms of my books, I'll use both Weird West and historical fantasy interchangeably.

> What made you want to be a writer?

I didn't really decide I liked writing until well into high school. My brother made a comment about how good I was with words when I was trolling a message board he posted on, and the idea started to grow on me. While in college, I read Stephen King's Dark Tower series and decided that making up worlds sounded like a pretty neat thing to do with my time. I switched my major to English (which, in hindsight, was probably a mistake given the lack of day-job demand for such degrees) and started on my way.

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

Probably not. While I enjoy reading and writing about the Old West, I don't think I'm cut out for that kind of thing myself. I prefer to avoid the threats to one's person that come with a lifestyle of killing monsters, jailing drunken miners, or being among the British aristocracy.

> How long did it take you to turn your National Novel Writing Month submission of The Dead of Winter into a publishable novel?

A good six months, at least. I went through two or three drafts before I felt it was ready to submit to agents, and it turned out I still wasn't done. One agent provided some very helpful revision suggestions after he saw the manuscript. Although he ended up passing on it, a lot of his suggestions went into the draft (the fourth one if I'm counting correctly) that the Angry Robot editors saw.

> When and where do you write?

If possible, I try to sneak in some writing at my day job. As you might expect, any progress made that way is rather slow, so the majority of my writing happens in the evenings. Both of my books were largely written on the floor or couch of my living room while watching my girlfriend play video games.

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

The best thing is easily the absolute freedom it gives you with the story and characters. Nothing happens unless you want it to happen, anything can happen if you want it badly enough to make the world you're creating accommodate it, and everything ever written is on the shelf for you to mix and match until you get something you're satisfied with. The one thing I've found that truly limits this freedom is the worst thing about writing: deadlines. I didn't realize this until I was writing under contract for She Returns From War, but deadlines frighten me considerably. If I didn't already have a solid synopsis of the story, I don't know what my editors would have ended up with. I can work under pressure if I need to, but I'll hate every minute of it.

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

How very social it is. I was under the impression, probably from my undergraduate studies, that writers lived their lives in seclusion. Perhaps that was true in previous centuries, but today's writer is expected to be half creative master, half entrepreneur. Not only are active social media presences expected of today's authors, but there are more conventions and events than one can possibly attend in a year.

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

Build yourself a collective of other writers whose opinions you respect and trust. Avoid echo chambers and soul jackals if possible, finding instead a middle ground of people who will be both honest and encouraging. Not only will they improve the quality of your manuscripts, but they are invaluable as sounding boards for new ideas and new approaches.

> Any tips against writers block?

Know where you want to go. I had a very clear synopsis of each book in my mind before I ever started writing, and as a result, I didn't find myself roadblocked that often. When I did hit a snag, I would go back to the synopsis and figure out how to bridge where I was with where I wanted to story to go. Usually, that involved sketching out the next few scenes before I went back to writing the actual prose. Even if it isn't the most graceful solution, write it just to keep yourself going. You can always revise.

> How do you discipline yourself to write?

I'm not very disciplined by most standards, actually. I certainly don't write every day, mostly because I tend to be very skeptical of my own ideas. Until I've bounced a plot line or character around in my head for some time without it caving in under the pressure, I won't dignify it with any words on a page. Once I do have an idea I feel can hold itself up, however, I'll usually write it in a frenzy. The first drafts of both The Dead of Winter and She Returns From War only took me about two months to write.

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

The Dead of Winter received about a dozen rejections before it was picked up by Angry Robot Books. This doesn't sound like very many, and it's probably below average, but I didn't take the shotgun approach to querying agents, either. Most agents list the genres they represent somewhere on the Internet, and I didn't find too many that outright said "Weird West." Thus, I was more cautious in making my query list, as I didn't want to waste an agent's time if I figured they wasn't any way they would consider representing this lesser-known genre.

Thursday 7 February 2013

Can You Shoot An Arrow Through An Epic Fantasy Novel?

The Red Knight author, Miles Cameron, wanted to know.  So, dressed in medieval garb and using medieval arrows and shooting technique, he shot an arrow through his new hard cover epic fantasy novel.

You can see the results here:

Also, if you haven't seen this yet (I saw it posted by a few people/publishers on facebook) then check it out.  It's a post of author reactions to seeing their book in print for the first time.  The reactions vary, so it's an interesting read.

Graphic Novel Review: Pariah Volume 1

Created by Aron Warner, Written by Philip Gelatt and Illustrated by Brett Weldele

Pros: varied characters, interesting premise, plays on politics and racism

Cons: artwork wasn't to my liking, not much info given as to how vitros were created and why they're so different 

This graphic novel collects the first four issues of the Pariah comic books.  Each comic details the background of a vitro character (or in one case a set of characters), and how they react when vitros are accused of blowing up a lab, releasing a virus into the environment.   Together, the issues form a complex picture of how vitros are treated, how they differ from 'normal' humans and how they're trying to survive.

The premise, that kids created using a special in vitro technique meant to eliminate disease, which boosts their intelligence, is a very interesting one.  I wish more information were given about how they were born/what makes them different, but the series focuses more on the current crisis than their origins.

There's a variety of protagonists, offering several points of view with regards to what's happening and how the vitros should deal with it, culminating in Franklin Hyde, whose radical plan is enacted to unexpected results.

While I enjoyed the story the artwork wasn't to my liking.  This is purely a matter of personal taste and as the art didn't detract from the story it wasn't a problem.  But, unlike other graphic novels, this isn't one I pick up because I liked the artwork.   

This graphic novel ends with the characters coming together in unexpected circumstances, and the kind of cliffhanger that makes you wish the artist could draw faster.

Pariah Volume 1 comes out from Sea Lion Books on February 19th.

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Short Film: Plurality

This is a short science fiction film directed by Dennis Liu.  Given how pervasive fear mongering is now, it's not hard to picture people giving up personal freedoms for the illusion of peace, especially if there's a very real drop in crime.

This short really watches like the pilot episode of a TV show.

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Book Review: The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett

Pros: characters continue to grow, several people get much needed dressing downs, lots of romance (and sex), more background on the dama'ting

Cons: several characters in Everam's Bounty have similar names, which got confusing at times, cliffhanger ending

The Daylight War picks up directly where Brett's previous book, The Desert Spear, left off.  The third in the Demon Cycle, I can't give much of a synopsis without seriously spoiling the previous books.  So all I will say is that you learn more about the dama'ting, from Inevera's POV as she grows to womanhood within the organization and both Arlen and Leesha return to the Hollow, much changed by recent events.

The characters continue to grow, with - and I loved this - several of them growing backbones and telling the interfering people in their lives to butt out while they make life changing decisions.  It was great seeing Rojer come into his own and Gared getting some much deserved recognition for his contributions.  I'm still not sure how I felt about some of Leesha's decisions but I loved seeing Arlen's relationship.

One of the most interesting parts of the book was Inevera's upbringing and her reasoning behind certain decisions.  You also learn a lot about pillow dancing, as most of the characters in the book indulge in it, multiple times.

This only happened a few times, but there are several characters in Jardir's court at Everam's Bounty whose names start with 'A' and who all appear in the same scenes, specifically Ashia, Asome, Ashan and Asukaji.  There's a glossary of certain characters and terms at the back of the book (called the Krasian Dictionary), but I've found using those with ebooks (the form of my review copy) more hindrance than help.  Context usually helped with who was whom, and the author tried to remind the reader of everyone's connections, but there were a lot of similar names in this book.

The ending is shocking, with a sudden cliffhanger that will have your cursing the fact that the next book isn't out yet.

If you've liked Brett's previous books, this is a superb follow-up.  If you haven't read Peter Brett and like well written fantasy, I urge you to give him a try.

World SF Travel Fund + Fantasy Author Calendar

A few years back I contributed to the World SF Travel Fund's Peerbacker campaign to send Charles Tan to World Fantasy Con.  They're fundraising again, this time to send two people to the con:

Csilla Kleinheincz is a Hungarian-Vietnamese writer living in Kistarcsa, Hungary with her husband and daughter. She is the author of two novels and a short story collection. Her stories can be read in English in the anthologies Interfictions, Heiresses of Russ 2011, and The Apex Book of World SF 2. Some of her stories were translated into Portuguese, Finnish, Czech and Estonian. Csilla is also a translator of works by Peter S. Beagle, Kelly Link, Ursula K. Le Guin and Catherynne M. Valente. She currently works as the editor of the SF/F publishing house Ad Astra, and in her free time edits the Hungarian online SF magazine SFmag.

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz is a Filipino writer of science fiction and fantasy. A graduate of the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop, Rochita was the recipient of the 2009 Octavia Butler Scholarship, and the first Filipina writer to attend Clarion West. Her short fiction has appeared in a variety of online and print publications, including Interzone, Fantasy Magazine, Apex Magazine, Weird Tales, and the anthologies Robots: The Recent A.I., and The Apex Book of World SF 2. In the Philippines, her short fiction has been published in Philippine Panorama, Philippine Speculative Fiction 2, and Philippine Speculative Fiction 4. Rochita currently resides in the Netherlands with her husband and her two children.

There's only 12 days left for them to reach their $3000 goal (but they're pretty close) and the rewards are mostly Angry Robot ebooks.

There's another interesting campaign on Kickstarter to make a fantasy calendar using fantasy authors.  The photographer, Lauren Zurchin, will make custom costumes for each author with the help of Nami Ogawara, that the authors will then do a photo shoot wearing.  She isn't going to turn the authors into people from their own works though, she's got more generic fantasy themes in mind.

She's got her 12 authors on board already and they are:

  • Holly Black (The Spiderwick Chronicles; The Curse Workers Series)
  • Gail Carriger (Soulless; The Parasol Protectorate)
  • Cassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments; The Infernal Devices)
  • Lauren Kate (Fallen)
  • Gregory Maguire (Wicked; The Oz Chronicles)
  • The Merry Sisters of Fate- a trio of authors consisting of: Tessa Gratton (Blood Magic; The Blood Keeper), Maggie Stiefvater (Shiver; The Scorpio Races; The Raven Boys), and Brenna Yovanoff (The Replacement; Paper Valentine)
  • Brandon Mull (Fablehaven; Beyonders)
  • Lauren Oliver (Delirium; Before I Fall)
  • Christopher Paolini (The Inheritance Cycle)
  • Patrick Rothfuss (The Name of the Wind)
  • Brandon Sanderson (Wheel of Time; Mistborn)
  • Tad Williams (Otherland; Memory, Sorrow and Thorn)

Rewards are for digital images of the photos, postcards, bookmarks and signed photos of various sizes by the authors.

Monday 4 February 2013


Today I welcome James K. Decker, author of The Burn Zone, and pseudonym of James Knapp, to my blog.  I've read his previous books, State of DecayThe Silent Army, and Element Zero and highly recommend all three.

The Burn Zone hits stores February 5th. 

Making stuff up is fun, but it’s hard.

Although I've written a lot of Science Fiction, The Burn Zone marks the first time since college that I've ever written about an alien species. They are central to the story, in fact one of the first ideas that sparked the series was imagining one of what I came to call the Haan watching a human from the shadows of an alleyway, but their creation was one of the most difficult parts. At the time, I had a sense of how I wanted them to be - intelligent, and helpful, but secretive. I had no idea how involved coming up with my fictitious species, the Haan, would become.

There have been hundreds of alien species concocted by writers over the years - just go to and follow any alien thread and you'll see (just finish this post first...once tvtropes sucks you in you will never emerge). Coming up with something that hasn't been done is no simple task, as almost anywhere you step will press your shoe squarely into a used trope. How the haan look physically is something that went through a few iterations, but though I'm sure parts of them may have been done before, I like where they landed. I knew that I needed them to be somewhat humanoid in appearance, but that I didn't want them to be 'prosthetic forehead' aliens (not a dig - some of my favorite television sci-fi like Star Trek and Farscape put them to very good use). Their physiology is very different from ours as you will see, but their spindly figures, translucent skin and glass-like bones are arranged in a two legs, two arms, one head configuration, and for a good reason. I put everything on display with the haan, and their hearts, beehive ribcages and other organs are visible, if cloudy. The ambient light from their eyes illuminates the inside of their faces and skulls, to reveal shapes like feeding tubes, their two brains, and other nodules of less-clear purpose. Alien, but not without a certain degree of elegance, and with an innate level of exposure that makes them vulnerable.

Still, while appearances matter (as the haan well know), the key to any alien race (or fantasy race, if you lean that way) isn't as much about how they look as it is about who they are. Unless you're dealing with, say, the xenomorphs from Alien where the point of them is to be dangerous and little else, then the race has to have depth to it. They have to have societal norms, and deviations from those norms. They have to have purpose, at both the group and individual level. I knew going in that I didn't want a single trait race who came from a planet of merchants, or a planet of warriors. I wanted them to be cohesive as a group, because they have to be out of necessity if nothing else, but vary in attitude as individuals. Nix, the haan we get the closest look at in The Burn Zone, ultimately goes against the grain because he doesn't agree with a lot of his kind's attitudes about their situation.

The haan are essentially stranded in the middle of a huge city, their ship surrounded by a force field. After years of turtle-ing, they slowly began to emerge. We meet them fifty years in, when relations are still tense but they've begun to be granted extra space in the form of colony districts which are surrounded by security walls. Because of the situation they're in, the haan are, understandably, cautious, and secretive. No human has ever been inside their ship, or even behind the force field that surrounds it. They reveal themselves slowly, and what is seen in the first installment of the series is just the tip of a very large iceberg.

What drew me to the idea of using aliens at all, though, and what interested me most of all, was the idea of a much more advanced culture, even a small sample of one, stumbling into an already entrenched society of less advanced people. There may not be many haan compared to humans in the city of Hangfei, but Cortez didn't have that many people with him relatively speaking when he found the Aztecs, either. That's not to say the haan are conquerors - they're not - but they have a huge impact on the world around them nonetheless. The world they find themselves in is extremely overcrowded, and space is at a premium. If the haan want to grow, and to survive, then they'll need a share of that space, and getting it won't be easy. How far they're willing to go, both at a group and individual level, to ensure their race can survive is something the book studies.

I can say no more without risking spoilers. I hope you'll see how their situation plays out in The Burn Zone, and I hope you enjoy the world, and the aliens, I've created.

James K. Decker was born in New Hampshire in 1970, and has lived in the New England area since that time. He developed a love of reading and writing early on, participating in young author competitions as early as grade school, but the later discovery of works by Frank Herbert and Issac Asimov turned that love to an obsession.

He wrote continuously through high school, college and beyond, eventually breaking into the field under the name James Knapp, with the publication of the Revivors trilogy (State of Decay, The Silent Army, and Element Zero). State of Decay was a Philip K. Dick award nominee, and won the 2010 Compton Crook Award. The Burn Zone is his debut novel under the name James K. Decker.

He now lives in MA with his wife Kim.

Saturday 2 February 2013

Free Kindle ebooks: Class Heroes

Author Stephen Henning is letting readers get their hands on both of his books, A Class Apart and What Happened in Witches Wood for free on February 5th and 6th.  This only applies to the Amazon kindle editions, but if you don't have a kindle you can still read the books on other devices that allow apps.  The links are to the US editions, but this offer includes the UK editions as well.  I believe Canadian accounts can still get the US book from that site, but I know they've made some changes so don't quote me on that.

I read and really enjoyed A Class Apart, and What Happened in Witches Wood is on my soon to be read pile.

Here's the synopsis for book one, to whet your appetite.

Teenage twins James and Samantha Blake are caught up in a seemingly random terrorist bombing while on a school trip. Many of their friends are killed. When the twins wake up in hospital, their lives have changed forever.
The doctors are amazed at the speed with which James and Sam recover from their injuries and, when the twins begin to exhibit extraordinary powers, it is obvious that something incredible has happened.
As James and Sam attempt to overcome their fears and embrace their new abilities, a series of murders and disappearances start plaguing the hospital. The twins aren't the only ones with special abilities and it becomes apparent that someone is coming for them.
Will James and Sam be able to survive the nightmare into which they have been plunged? Who, or what, is behind the murders at the hospital? And was that terrorist incident quite so random after all?

Friday 1 February 2013

Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Coming in March, 2013

As always this list was compiled from the Indigo and Carina websites.  They reflect Canadian release dates for the books.  I made the 50th Anniversary Dr. Who collection a separate category so they'd all be together.  Terry Pratchett's stuff is being reprinted as trade paperbacks again, but I chose not to mention those titles in the list as they're all in print already in several formats.


The Necromancer's Grimoire – Annmarie Banks
Halo: Silentium – Greg Bear
Shattered Pillars – Elizabeth Bear
Written in Red – Anne Bishop
Children of Kings – Marion Zimmer Bradley & Deborah Ross
Frost Burned – Patricia Briggs
Bloodfire Quest – Terry Brooks
The Gate Thief – Orson Scott Card
Deep Down – Deborah Coates
Hellhole Awakening – Brian Herbert & Kevin Anderson
Wolfhound Century – Peter Higgins
No Return – Zachary Jernigan
Rebel Angels – Michele Lang
Forgotten Realms: The Last Threshold – R. A. Salvatore
Red Planet Blues – Robert Sawyer
A Conspiracy of Alchemists – Liesel Schwarz
A Wolf From the Outlands – Richard Taylor
Quintessence – David Walton
Shadow of Freedom – David Weber

Trade Paperback:

Cyberpunk: Stories of Hardware, Software, Wetware, Evolution and Revolution – Victoria Blake, Ed.
The Scourge – Roberto Calas
Seven Kinds of Hell – Dana Cameron
The Shape Stealer – Lee Carroll
The Age Atomic – Adam Christopher
Garrett For Hire – Glen Cook (omnibus)
A Turn of the Light – Julie Czerneda
Queen Victoria's Book of Spells – Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling Ed.
Under My Skin – Charles de Lint
Freaks in a Box: The Myths of Media – Paul Di Fillippo
The Wind Whales of Ishmael – Philip Jose Farmer (reprint)
Warhammer 40K: Fire Caste - Peter Fehervari
The Wreck of the River of Stars – Michael Flynn
Dead Reckoning – Charlaine Harris
Doughnut – Tom Holt
A Few Good Men – Sarah Hoyt
Revenge of Frankenstein – Shaun Hutson
Rebellion – Ian Irvine
Warhammer: Gothrek & Felix the 3rd Omnibus – William King
Warhammer: Gotrek & Felix the 4th Omnibus – Nathan Long
The Human Front – Ken MacLeod
The Scrivener's Tale – Fiona McIntosh
Star Trek TNG: On Board the U.S.S. Enterprise – Michael Okuda
The Lost – Vicki Pettersson
Knuckleduster – Andrew Post
Pathfinder Tales: Liar's Blade – Tim Pratt
Ashes of Candesce – Karl Schroeder
Goldenland Past Dark – Chandler Klang Smith
Hope Returns – S. M. Stirling & David Drake
Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 7 – Jonathan Strahan
The Air War – Adrian Tchaikovsky
Farthing – Jo Walton (reprint)

Mass Market Paperback:

The Good, The Bad and the Infernal – Guy Adams
Agave Kiss – Ann Aguire
Marching Dead – Lee Battersby
Bridge of Dreams – Anne Bishop
Galactic Courier – A. Bertram Chandler
Intruder – C. J. Cherryh
Star Trek: The Weight of Worlds – Greg Cox
Black Feathers – Joseph D'Lacey
Deadly Sting – Jennifer Estep
1636: The Kremlin Games - Eric Flint, Gorg Huff & Paula Goodlett
Dog and Dragon – Dave Freer
Deadlocked – Charlaine Harris
A Dance With Dragons – George R. R. Martin  [My apologies, the publisher has pushed back the publication of this book yet again.  It's now slated for the end of October]
Freedom's Landing – Anne McCaffrey (reprint)
Midnight Blue Light Special – Seanan McGuire
Princeps – L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
The Gift of Fire / On the Head of a Pin – Walter Mosley
The Books of Barakhal – Mickey Zucker Reichert
Triggers – Robert Sawyer
Of Shadows Born – Dianne Sylvan 
Slashback – Rob Thurman
Kitty Rocks the House – Carrie Vaughn
Solaris Rising 2 – Ian Whated, Ed.

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Collection

Remembrance of the Daleks – Ben Aaronovitch
The Silent Stars Go By – Dan Abnett
Fear of the Dark – Trevor Baxendale
Ten Little Aliens – Stephen Cole
Players – Terrance Dicks
Last of the Gaderene – Mark Gatiss
Festival of Death – Jonathan Morris
Earthworld – Jacqueline Rayner
Dreams of Empire – Justin Richards
Only Human – Gareth Roberts
Beautiful Chaos – Gary Russell

Carina ebooks

The League of Illusion: Prophecy – Vivi Anna
Hunger Awakened – Dee Carney
Soul of Kandrith – Nicole Luiken
Pooka in my Pantry – R. L. Naquin
Magick by Moonrise – Laura Navarre
Cards and Caravans – Cindy Spencer Pape