Thursday, November 28, 2013

Gift Guide #2: Headline


The second publisher-specific gift guide for the holidays. Here is a small selection of some great, recent books to come from Headline, and also a few upcoming titles that you should really all mark your calendars for…

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Q&A with Meg Howrey, one half of MAGNUS FLYTE


Meg Howrey is one half of the writing team that goes by the name “Magnus Flyte” – Christina Lynch forms the other half. Their second novel, City of Lost Dreams, was released in the US yesterday by Penguin (it is also available in the UK). Penguin US organised a Q&A, which is reproduced below, in which Howrey discusses writing as a partnership, cake (such good cake…), and the two novels (of course).

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gift Guide #1: Jo Fletcher Books


The first of this year’s round-ups of bookish things you and your bibliophile and SFF friends that should make your Christmas and/or holiday season all the better. I’ll be breaking these down by publisher, and maybe a smorgasbord post at the end. And, because I am always looking forward, I’ll include some recommendations for the new year, too. As much as I would like to include all the books published by my favourite publishers, it would take far too long, and so I’m just picking out a selection.

First up, books you should check out from Jo Fletcher Books…

Giveaway! THE NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS by Marie Brennan (UK Only)

BrennanM-NaturalHistoryOfDragonsUSA quick and cheerful post. I have one copy of The Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan to give away to some lucky reader in the UK. It’s the US Hardcover edition (published by Tor Books), but you should also know that it is going to be published soon in the UK by Titan Books, so if you don’t win, you will be able to get hold of the book easily in the near future.

Here’s what it’s about…

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.

Leave a comment or email if you’re interested in winning the book. That’s really all you need to do. I’ll select someone at random in one week (December 3rd, at midnight).

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Books Received (November 2013)


Another impressive book-haul, this month. Also rather varied, too, which is always nice. As per usual, I can’t read them all instantaneously, so here is an initial, first-look at the books that are coming soon to the blog and to bookstores/-shelves near you.

Friday, November 22, 2013



New Horus Heresy Artwork: “Vengeful Spirit” by Graham McNeill (Black Library)

I nabbed this piece from the Black Library blog. It is going to grace Vengeful Spirit, the next Heresy novel by Graham McNeill. Haven’t the faintest idea what it is about, specifically, but there’s an Amazon UK listing, now. The cover text states: “The Battle of Moloch” (no idea), and “The Sons of Horus reclaim their place at forefront of the galactic civil war.” It’ll certainly be nice to see the Sons of Horus back at the centre of the story – the last time was the original three novels, no?


That is one angry-looking Warmaster on the left. With a very big stick… [And what looks like a Star Destroyer up above.] Amazon also had the finished cover:


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Catching up with TOM LLOYD


Tom Lloyd is the author of the Twilight Reign epic fantasy series, which was completed earlier this year. Today, Gollancz publish the first in his new series, Moon’s Artifice. To mark the occasion, I caught up with Tom to get an update since my first interview with the author…

Your first fantasy series, The Twilight Reign, came to an end this year. How does it feel to have it finished?

Weird – damn good, but still weird. I started on the project when I was 18, so it’s been the major constant of 12-14 years of my life! Even when I was signed up by Gollancz I don’t think I appreciated just how much of my life was going to be devoted to one set of characters, one plot. It was just always there, so to suddenly realise you’ve written the last words puts you into mourning.

Of course, the very last words of Dusk Watchman are the inscription on a memorial stone – I can’t remember if I’d finished all the stories of God Tattoo by then, but most of them. Certainly in my mind, that final part of the epilogue was what really brought it home to me. When I wrote the last words and typed the inscription, I think I might have needed a few moments to myself... And again when I did the second draft of it and finally got the tone of those last couple pages as I really wanted it.

So yeah, years of my life and the voices in my head that had become my friends, all gone. I think that’s one reason why I didn’t want to go straight into an epic again. I didn’t want to have a project that I’d compare so directly with Twilight Reign. Plus I was knackered and the idea of planning a series-spanning plot was exhausting. I wanted a stand-alone book and handily had the bones of one already sketched out. I have an epic (or maybe two) idea at the back of my mind, but there’s the Empire of a Hundred Houses series and then another both ahead of them in the queue.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mini-Review: “A Time to Kill” by John Grisham (Arrow)

GrishamJ-ATimeToKillGrisham’s debut novel didn’t really work for me, sadly…

When Carl Lee Hailey guns down the monsters who have raped his ten-year-old child, the people of Clanton see it as a crime of blood and call for his acquittal.

But when extremists outside Clanton hear that a black man has killed two white men, they invade the town, determined to destroy anything and anyone that opposes their sense of justice.

Jake Brigance has been hired to defend Hailey. It's the kind of case that can make or break a young lawyer. But in the maelstrom of Clanton, it is also the kind of case that could get a young lawyer killed.

The story of Grisham giving away millions of dollars’ worth of A Time to Kill first editions is pretty well-known, now. After his first publisher went bankrupt, Grisham had to buy 1,000 copies of the 5,000 print run. Here’s what he told Newsweek:

“I took all the books down to the local library and we had a big book party. When the party was over, I still owned 882 copies… so I started giving books away. We took them back to my office and packed them in the reception area. The boxes were everywhere, and I would just give them away. If one of my clients wanted a book, I’d try to sell it. If not, I’d give it away. I’d sell them for 10 bucks, five bucks. I used them for doorstops. I couldn’t get rid of these books… These 5,000 books were the only first editions of A Time to Kill. That book today is worth about $4,000. I had 1,500 of them in my law office at one time. So that’s my big mistake — that’s about $6 million, the way I do the math.”

When I re-read A Time To Kill recently, I found it rather tricky. I’m a huge fan of Grisham’s novels, and have read them all – only two haven’t hit the mark for me (The Street Lawyer and, sadly, this one). But this one just didn’t have the skill and addictive quality of his later work. Mainly, that boils down to the way in which it was written, rather than the story itself, which is pretty great.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Upcoming: “Half Bad” by Sally Green (Viking YA/Penguin)

GreenS-HalfBadI just spotted this via an advert on Goodreads (well-played, Google Ad Algorithm, well-played…). The cover really caught my eye, and I thought I’d share it on here. It’s pretty cool, no? I particularly like the way the blood in the water has been shaped (in a surprisingly realistic way) into a face, in an otherwise minimalist image.

The premise is pretty interesting, but I have a suspicion that it’s perhaps a little reminiscent of something else… If only I could remember what it reminds me of… Anyway. Here’s the synopsis:

One boy’s struggle for survival in a hidden society of witches.

You can’t read, can’t write, but you heal fast, even for a witch.

You get sick if you stay indoors after dark.

You hate White Witches but love Annalise, who is one.

You’ve been kept in a cage since you were fourteen.

All you’ve got to do is escape and find Mercury, the Black Witch who eats boys. And do that before your seventeenth birthday.


Half Bad will be published by Penguin UK in March 2014. Penguin are also publishing in the US and Canada. It is Sally Green’s debut novel, and the first in a projected trilogy. The author is also on Twitter. Described as “supernatural thriller set in a modern world inhabited by covert witches”, I am pretty sure there are going to be a lot of people interested in reading this. Despite the obvious Harry Potter parallels (justified or not, as they may end up being). There’s a slightly different synopsis on the book’s website:

Sixteen-year-old Nathan lives in a cage: beaten, shackled like a dog, trained to kill. In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world's most terrifying and violent witch, Marcus. Nathan’s only hope for survival is to escape his captors, track down Marcus, and receive the three gifts that will bring him into his own magical powers — before it's too late. But how can Nathan find his father when his every action is tracked, when there is no one safe to trust, not even family, not even the girl he loves?

I did some Googling, and it turns out that the rights to this novel have already been sold in 25 foreign rights deals. Within 13 weeks of Penguin’s first acquisition. Holy crap, that’s impressive. The Bookseller rightly (perhaps rather tamely) referred to the deal as “unprecedented”. No idea how much it went for in the first place – in secret-publishing-deal-speak, the deal was only referred to as “substantial”. This sort of deal is pretty unusual, so yeah. I’m a bit more intrigued…

An interview with DAN NEWMAN

Today’s interview is with Dan Newman, the author of The Clearing (published today by Exhibit A, the crime/thriller imprint of Angry Robot Books). To mark the release of his book, he was kind enough to answer a few questions…

NewmanD-TheClearingLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Dan Newman?

Stefan, thank you for the opportunity to stop by... with a new novel in the market I really do appreciate the chance to be part of your blog.

As for who I am, that’s probably best defined through my experiences growing up in-transit around the globe. My father worked in international development, so we moved a lot, and lived in some wonderful places. I was born in England, and currently live in Canada, but in between there’s been a tidy little list of places in Africa and the Caribbean. I was at a friend’s party a few days ago and a childhood pal of his spoke about how they had known each other and remained friends since they were four or five years old. That seems incredible to me, and something I can’t say of anyone, given how I grew up. Still, life’s a constant trade-off, and I what I missed in long-held childhood friends, I made up for in places around the world where I can stop in for a free meal and a night on the couch.

I thought we’d start with your fiction: Your latest novel, The Clearing, was published by Exhibit A in October 2013. How would you introduce the novel to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

The Clearing is really a book about our past, and how, if left unaddressed, it can inform every part of our future lives. It’s about being a parent, about being an adult, and about recognising youth as a root system that feeds the lives we grow into.

The Clearing was written such that it could stand alone as a complete story, but there are a number of things I’ve set in there for a sequel – which I’m just completing now. It follows Nate Mason at three key periods in his life, and traces the path he’s compelled to take back to his childhood to deal with a formative tragedy that happened there. It dabbles a little in the occult, a little in psychological thriller territory, and a little in crime.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Recent Acquisitions – WFC 2013. Or, “That’s a lot of swag…”


I was in Brighton for the World Fantasy Convention a couple of weekends ago (I arrived bleary-eyed and caffeine-starved on Friday morning), and after a good amount of time telling myself to go easy on purchases and books for signing… I failed miserably. I was there for work, rather than as the writer of this blog (though it was great to finally meet a number of my fellow bloggers for the first time, too). It was a lot of fun, but even only being there for two days, it was pretty tiring – anyone who was there for all four days, burning the candle at both ends: I salute you, and especially for the volunteers who did a fantastic job. As you can see from the photo above, it was a very good weekend. However, only the left and middle pile were from WFC, and the pile on the right is made up of review copies that arrived while I was away. So, in advance of reviews, here is some information on what I have recently acquired… [More has arrived since this photo was taken, but I’ll put those in a monthly post or something in the near future.]

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Great Bill Watterson… Nails it.

One of my favourite Calvin & Hobbes strips. Speaks volumes – for life, certainly, but also blogging…


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Guest Post: “Confessions of a Four-Color, Benday-Dot, Super-Deformed, Ultra-Compressed Science Fiction Writer” by Paul di Filippo


Paul Di Filippo is the author of Wikiworld, a great science fiction short story collection, which was recently published by (now award-winning) ChiZine. To celebrate the release of his new book, he has written the following piece about comics and their relationship with literature, and his own experiences as a reader and writer…


My first reading, beyond the typical picture books of my era, such as Harry the Dirty Dog and Hop on Pop, consisted of comic books. Lots and lots of comics. I recall the very first comic I ever read, in 1961, in the summer between first and second grades. It was Mighty Mouse in Outer Space, and it blew my primitive juvenile brain to flinders. (I recently tracked down a copy on eBay, and had lots of fun revisiting it.) I’ve never been the same since. You might very well say that this comic was my first introduction to the literature of fantastika, and set me on the course to becoming a writer of same.


After this soon came the hard stuff. Batman, Superman, and the strange new antiheroes from Marvel. Alas, though I read them fresh off the drugstore stands, I retain no issues of Fantastic Four #1 or Amazing Fantasy #15, or similar lucrative titles. I concentrated on buying DC, while my pal Stephen covered the Marvel stuff, and we shared issues for mutual reading pleasure. Stephen, wherever he may be these days, got rich, and I got Lois Lane #53.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Theodore Roosevelt Responds to a Lampooning Review. Or, “This Probably Couldn’t Happen Today, on the Internet”

GoodwinDK-BullyPulpitUKAnyone who knows me, or perhaps anyone who reads my other blog, Politics Reader (yeah, I know, there’s a theme to the blog names), will undoubtedly have come across my interest in Theodore Roosevelt, his presidency and time. I am fascinated by the period of American history between (approx.) 1880 and the start of World War I. Given this interest, I devour pretty much any book I can get my hands on that focuses on that time and the people who shaped American history and politics then. At the moment, I’m reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s excellent, exhaustively-researched The Bully Pulpit. The book is about Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the media. Today, I came across an amusing passage, which I thought I would share, here.

First, some context. Theodore Roosevelt was US president from 1901-08, first ascending to the Presidency after the assassination of William McKinley. Alongside his storied career in public service, he was a prolific author – between 1882-1919, he had 45 books and collections (of essays and letters) published. Finley Peter Dunne was a writer and humourist from Chicago, who wrote the nationally syndicated “Mr. Dooley” satires and lampoons.

In the fall of 1899, a copy of The Rough Riders, Roosevelt’s wartime memoir, came across Dunne’s desk. “Mr. Dooley’s” book review in Harper’s Weekly mocked Roosevelt’s propensity for placing himself at the center of all action: “Tis Th’ Biography iv a Hero by Wan who Knows. Tis Th’ Darin’ Exploits iv a Brave Man be an Actual Eye Witness,” Mr. Dooley observed. “If I was him, I’d call th’ book, ‘Alone in Cubia.’” Three days after this satirical assessment amused readers across the country, Roosevelt wrote to Dunne: “I regret to state that my family and intimate friends are delighted with your review of my book. Now I think you owe me one; and I shall exact that when you next come east to pay me a visit. I have long wanted the chance of making your acquaintance.” (pp.257-8)

GoodwinDK-BullyPulpitUSThe full review is the first in Mr. Dooley’s Philosophy (which is available as a PDF online – pp.13-18). collected Dunne was clearly touched by Roosevelt’s letter, and in his reply to Roosevelt, accepting the invitation, he also said:

“... the way you took Mr. Dooley is a little discouraging. The number of persons who are worthwhile firing at is so small that as a matter of business I must regret the loss of one of them. Still if in losing a target I have, perhaps, gained a friend I am in after all.” (p.258)

Dunne never had to regret the loss of TR as a target, however. The reviewer continued to poke fun at TR (“the nation’s premiere target” as Goodwin calls him) for years to come, and the two remained friends throughout.

Today, when an author responds to a negative or critical review – especially on the internet – it never seems to go well for the author (see, for example, who-knows-how-many self-published authors lashing out at bloggers; or even the more recent, bizarre-and-quite-pathetic reaction to Ben Aaronovitch’s polite pointing out of a review’s factual misunderstanding). The above response and exchange between Dunne and Roosevelt… It could never happen today. Which is a real shame.

[I am currently reading The Bully Pulpit for review on Politics Reader. The book was provided by Goodwin’s UK publisher, Viking/Penguin. In the US, the book is published by Simon & Schuster.]

Monday, November 11, 2013

Upcoming: THE REMAINING series, by D.J. Molles (Orbit)

Molles-R1-TheRemainingI caught the announcement of D.J. Molles’s The Remaining series via a Twitter conversation between Justin and Rob (both are among the best SFF bloggers, in my opinion, so be sure to check out their sites and reviews). Naturally, I invited myself to join in the discussion, and decided to put together this post (I was on a role – it’s the third tonight).

Seeing as I’ve just blitzed through the first four The Walking Dead collected volumes, I must admit to being rather intrigued by this – certainly enough to read the first book at least. I have a weakness for the Zombie Apocalypse sub-genre. I’ve been pretty good at resisting reading everything, though, as I know I could quickly get sick of it. Thus-far, alongside The Walking Dead, I think my favourite has been V.M. Zito’s The Return Man (also published by Orbit, but only in the US – and it’s excellent, so you should all go out and buy it). The four books follow “Captain Lee Harden and a group of survivors as they fight to rebuild a devastated America.” Hm. Barrington’s After America but with added zombies? Here’s the synopsis for the first novel:

In a steel-and-lead-encased bunker 20 feet below the basement level of his house, a Special Forces soldier waits for his final orders. On the surface, a plague ravages the planet, infecting over 90% of the populace.

The bacterium burrows through the brain, destroying all signs of humanity and leaving behind little more than base, prehistoric instincts. The infected turn into hyper-aggressive predators, with an insatiable desire to kill and feed.

Soon the soldier will have to open the hatch to his bunker, and step out into this new wasteland, to complete his duty: SURVIVE, RESCUE, REBUILD.

The eBooks of all four books will be made available in January 2014, with print editions coming out in successive months from May (not sure why there will be such a gap, though). It would appear, though, that the series was self-published before Orbit snapped up rights (I remain skeptical of the hunger for re-publishing self-published work, but it does seem to be something a handful of publishers are embracing…). Here are the publishing & purchasing details, followed by the covers for books 2-4:

THE REMAINING  (US | UK) – Paperback – May 2014, eBook January 2014

AFTERMATH (US | UK) – Paperback – June 2014, eBook January 2014

REFUGEES  (US | UK) – Paperback – July 2014, eBook January 2014

FRACTURED (US | UK)– Paperback – August 2014, eBook January 2014


Upcoming: “Traitor’s Blade” by Sebastien de Castell (Jo Fletcher Books)

deCastellS-GC1-TraitorsBladeWhile stumbling about on the internet, looking for information on upcoming new books by authors I like, I found the synopsis for this novel. Another from Jo Fletcher Books (a publisher who seems to be publishing some of the most interesting SFF novels at the moment, which I have been singularly inept at keeping up with), it looks rather promising. Traitor’s Blade is the first in Sebastien de Castell’s Greatcoats series. Here’s the synopsis…

Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.

Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters.

All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission. But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn…

deCastellS-SpellslingerTraitor’s Blade is due to be published in early March 2014. Penguin will be publishing the novel in Canada, and Piper will be bringing it to shelves in Germany. I’m rather looking forward to it. Although, I do wonder if the Dragon Age-esque aesthetic of the cover is leading…? Be sure to check out de Castell’s website and Twitter for more news. Including, as it turns out, some preliminary information on the second Greatcoats novel, Greatcoat’s Lament (which looked a bit spoilery to me, so I haven’t included it here), and also Spellslinger, the author’s “heroic fantasy with a western flavour” (synopsis below). There is also a free mini-audiodrama, set in the Spellslinger world, “Card Trick”.

A Tale of Magic, Intrigue & Talking Raccoons

Kellen Argos is cursed with the Shadowblack and on the run from his own family when the mysterious young queen of Darome promises him a cure in exchange for his protection. Kellen soon discovers that someone inside the nobility is plotting to take over the country. Now he has to find a way to outsmart the conspirators before they get to the queen over Kellen's dead body.

Upcoming: “Fortune’s Blight” by Evie Manieri (Jo Fletcher Books)

ManieriE-SK2-FortunesBlightLast year, Evie Manieri’s Blood’s Pride was one of the pleasant surprises of the speculative genres. The first in the author’s Shattered Kingdoms series, it arrived unannounced one day in the mail. I had known nothing about it, I dove in and enjoyed what I read. Today, I spotted some information about the anticipated sequel, Fortune’s Blight

Victory for the Shadari rebels has come at a terrible price. Hardship, superstition and a murderous cabal poison King Daryan’s young regime, but help is nowhere to be found: the mercenary who led their rebellion has vanished, their Nomas allies have troubles of their own, and the Norlanders who returned home to plead – or fight – for the Shadari’s independence have found themselves embroiled in the court politics of an empire about to implode.

As the foundations of the two far-flung countries begin to crack, an enigmatic figure watches from a tower room in Ravindal Castle. She is old, and a prisoner, but her reach is long, and her patience is about to be rewarded…

Fortune’s Blight is due to be published in February 2015, by Jo Fletcher Books. So, it’s quite a way off, still, but that means there’s plenty of time for you to hunt down Blood’s Pride in time. (It is also currently for sale in the UK Amazon Kindle store.) Manieri’s series is published in the US by Tor Books.

Also on CR: Interview with Evie Manieri, Guest Post (“Why I Write Fantasy”)

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Marvel Graphic Novel Catch-Up: Fearless Defenders, Avengers, and Thor


Three new Marvel NOW collections that I’ve read and enjoyed recently. I had my doubts about the new re-launch/re-boot, but I have actually rather enjoyed the stories themselves (despite, sometimes, only have movie knowledge to get me situated…).

Reviewed: Avengers, Fearless Defenders, Thor: God of Thunder

Friday, November 08, 2013

“The Crystal Cave” by Mary Stewart (Hodder)

StewartM-M1-CrystalCaveOne of the best-loved interpretations of the Merlin Myth

Fifth century Britain is a country of chaos and division after the Roman withdrawal. This is the world of young Merlin, the illegitimate child of a South Wales princess who will not reveal to her son his father’s true identity. Yet Merlin is an extraordinary child, aware at the earliest age that he possesses a great natural gift – the Sight.

Against a background of invasion and imprisonment, wars and conquest, Merlin emerges into manhood, and accepts his dramatic role in the New Beginning – the coming of King Arthur.

Hm. How to review a book that is well-written, well-conceived, but didn’t fire one’s imagination? In brief, I suppose, is the best answer. I received this as part of the Hodderscape Review Project, which has been a great way to try out some classics of genre fiction. True, only one has truly wormed its way into my mind (Stephen King’s The Shining), but I am very happy that I’ve had the opportunity to read these books (this is the third so far). I’m especially looking forward to the next title in the project (by none other than Ursula le Guin…). The Crystal Cave, however, must also be put on the Shelf of Classics That Disappointed.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Jonathan Franzen on Writers and Social Media

JonathanFranzen-AuthorPicIn the October 6th issue of the Atlantic Weekly, author Jonathan Franzen had an article called, “Why Novelists Should Stay Off Facebook”. [Before I continue, I must say I’ve been enjoying the Atlantic Weekly a great deal – it’s a brilliant read for anyone who can’t wait the month between each issue of the main magazine – and I’ve particularly enjoyed the articles on books and literature.]

The author is no shrinking violet when it comes to his opinions on technology, and especially any advancements that have an impact on publishing. He is not, for example, a big fan of eBooks, and has warned that they are “corroding values” and “damaging [to] society”. Anyway, the article was interesting, so I thought I’d offer some comments here, and see what other people think. The article carries a pretty restrictive prescription, especially in this day and age, but if you stand back and take a look at it, there may be some truth in what he writes (subjective and individual truth, of course, as there is no One Way to Write a Novel).

Let’s begin with this comment:

“... the internet in general – and social media in particular – fosters the notion that everything should be shared, everything should be communal. Where that becomes especially dangerous, I think, is in the realm of cultural production – and particularly literary production. Good novels aren’t written by committee. Good novels are produced by people who voluntarily isolate themselves, go deep, and report from the depths on what they find. The result is communally accessible, but not the process itself.”

An Interview with DANIE WARE


Danie Ware’s debut novel, Ecko Rising was very well-received by the SFF community, when it hit shelves last year. The sequel, Ecko Burning, is dropping imminently, and it seemed like a perfect time to grill the author about her series, writing, and more…

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

I Have Never Read… Graham Joyce. (But I’d really like to.)

JoyceG-SomeKindOfFairyTaleUKAuthor Graham Joyce’s latest novel, Some Kind of Fairy Tale won the British Fantasy Award for best novel this past weekend (announced during the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton). This is the sixth time Joyce has won the Best Fantasy Novel Award. Here is the synopsis:

Some Kind of Fairy Tale is a very English story. A story of woods and clearings, a story of folk tales and family histories. It is as if Neil Gaiman and Joanne Harris had written a Fairy Tale together.

It is Christmas afternoon and Peter Martin gets an unexpected phone-call from his parents, asking him to come round. It pulls him away from his wife and children and into a bewildering mystery.

He arrives at his parents house and discovers that they have a visitor. His sister Tara. Not so unusual you might think, this is Christmas after all, a time when families get together. But twenty years ago Tara took a walk into the woods and never came back and as the years have gone by with no word from her the family have, unspoken, assumed that she was dead. Now she’s back, tired, dirty, disheveled, but happy and full of stories about twenty years spent travelling the world, an epic odyssey taken on a whim.

But her stories don’t quite hang together and once she has cleaned herself up and got some sleep it becomes apparent that the intervening years have been very kind to Tara. She really does look no different from the young women who walked out the door twenty years ago. Peter’s parents are just delighted to have their little girl back, but Peter and his best friend Richie, Tara’s one time boyfriend, are not so sure. Tara seems happy enough but there is something about her. A haunted, otherworldly quality. Some would say it’s as if she’s off with the fairies. And as the months go by Peter begins to suspect that the woods around their homes are not finished with Tara and his family...

Joyce’s other winning novels were: Dark Sister (1993), Requiem (1996), The Tooth Fairy (1997), Indigo (2000), Memoirs of a Master Forger (2009). In addition to these six wins, perhaps more impressive is the fact that he’s been nominated a total fourteen times.

Earlier this year, Joyce was diagnosed with aggressive lymphoma cancer.  The awards ceremony was his first public appearance since his diagnosis – indeed, six months ago, his condition was extremely precarious. Accepting the award, the author stated, “Just being able to stand here today is a wonderful award, thanks to the doctors and nurses of the NHS.”

Graham Joyce’s novels have always somehow managed to escape my attention. True, in this case, the synopsis doesn’t appear to be entirely to my taste. However, given just how many people rave about his work (and irrespective of the number of awards he’s won), I am intrigued. Especially as I start forcing myself to read more outside my ‘comfort zone’, and as my general Reader’s Block continues (‘standard’ fantasy novels have started to blur into one…).

I thought I’d also pick up on something from the biography I received today from his publicist:

“In 1989 Joyce quit his job as a youth worker and went to live and write in a beachside shack on the Greek island of Lesbos. He sold his first novel after a year in Greece. Since then he has written twenty novels and numerous short stories. His novels have attracted admirers including Isabel Allende, Iain Banks, A.S. Byatt and Stephen King.”

I wish I had the courage (not to mention the talent) to do this… Too often, I feel like my life has been dictated by “safe” choices. True, I’d like to retire to a cabin in North America, but there are rather strict visa concerns to take into account…

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Reader’s Block…

… is apparently a thing. Which I am experiencing at the moment. I haven’t liked about 3/4 of the books I’ve tried to read over the past two weeks. I’m still reading, and have managed to get through a couple (reviews pending), but I’m finding I have zero patience for a lot of things. I’ve even tried to go with safe bets, comfort reads (Star Wars, something published by Black Library, or by authors I know I’ve really enjoyed in the past). But… nothing is hitting the mark.

This may be a case of genre-overload (I have to read this stuff for work, now, too), which could explain why I’ve been reading more real-world novels (thrillers, literary fiction, etc.). For this reason, I think we’ll be seeing a temporary shift, and I’ll be focusing more on non-SFF novels for just a little while, as I clear my brain. Then, after that, we’ll be seeing far more genre breadth on the blog – in terms or reviews, news, and hopefully interviews. I haven’t stopped liking SFF or anything of the sort. I think I just need a bit of a break. They’re starting to blur into one mass, right now…

Monday, November 04, 2013

“Wonder Boys” by Michael Chabon (Harper Collins / Random House / Open Road)

Chabon-WonderBoysA University Professor’s Crippling Writer’s Block and Drug-Fuelled Self-Destruction

Grady Tripp is a pot-smoking middle aged novelist who has stalled on a 2611-page opus titled Wonder Boys. His student James Leer is a troubled young writer obsessed by Hollywood suicides and at work on his own first novel. Grady’s bizarre editor Terry Crabtree and another student, Hannah Green, come together in his wildly comic, moving, and finally profound search for an ending to his book and a purpose to his life.

This is the second of Michael Chabon’s novels that I’ve read – and in a very short time, too. I still have no idea how to review The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which may rank as one of my all-time favourite novels. (Needless to say, it’s not difficult for me to see why it won the Pulitzer Prize.) Wonder Boys, the novel Chabon wrote before Kavalier & Clay, is a rather different novel. It’s nowhere near as long, for one thing – and yet, strangely, it feels far more rambling and unfocused. I enjoyed it a great deal, and zipped through it in just a couple of days. Chabon has a wonderful way with words that can make even the mundane a pleasure to read about.