Fantasy Book Critic

Book Reviews, Author Interviews, Giveaways and more…

Archive for April, 2008

Winners of the Scott Sigler/Infected Giveaway! Free Reading! And a Press Release…

Posted by cervantor on PM00000070000000030 1, 2008

Congratulations to Charline Stanley (Kentucky), Karrie Millheim (Florida), Barbara Leclerc (Massachusetts), James Baker (Maryland), Serge Belozerov (Massachusetts), Sheri Mcwilliams (Michigan), Betty Mordecai (Mississippi), Jennifer Cecil (Florida), Mary Primorac (Texas), and John Rasmussen (Tennessee) who were all randomly selected to win a copy of Scott Sigler’s hardcover debut “Infected” (Reviewed HERE) thanks to Crown Publishing!!!

In news, I’m pretty slammed at the moment and have to keep this brief, so here are some links to excerpts, sample chapters and books that can be found online:

~Remember when Elizabeth Bear posted the Prologue to her upcoming book “Ink and Steel”, Volume Three of The Promethean Age? Well you can now read Act I, Scene I from the novel HERE.
Daniel Abraham’s 2008 Hugo Award-nominated short story “The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics”—found in the “Logorrhea” anthology edited by John Klima—has been made available online by Bantam Spectra for free HERE. My thanks to Grasping For the Wind for the heads up!
~Moving on,
Andy Remic, author of “War Machine” (Reviewed HERE) has recently revamped his website HERE which includes an excerpt from his next Combat K novel “Biohell” to be released in November (US).
FantasyBookSpot, there’s an exclusive excerpt HERE from R.A. Salvatore’s new book “The Ancient”.
~Lastly, starting today, April 29th (9:00am), and running through Tuesday, May 13th (midnight),
Del Rey is offering “Betrayal”, the first book in the Star Wars: Legacy of the Force sereis, as a free downloadable PDF, audio book, and eBook HERE. I would post the entire press release that I received, but since Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist has already done so, you can read that HERE 🙂 Also, Realms of Speculative Fiction has more links to FREE READING HERE.

Finally, here’s an interesting press release that I received and was also mentioned on The Book Swede:

AUSTIN, TX – Technohorror author and horror industry entertainment journalist Gabrielle S. Faust announces the release of the first novel in her apocalyptic vampire series, Eternal Vigilance, Book One: From Deep Within the Earth, by publisher Immanion Press (Stafford, UK), owned and operated by legendary fantasy author Storm Constantine.

Forward by Bram Stoker and International Horror Guild Award–winning horror writer, fiction editor of the online horror publication Chiaroscuro, and a nationally syndicated commentator on genre film for the Public Radio Satellite System show, Movie Magazine International, Michael Marano.

Eternal Vigilance, described as “if Anne Rice went cyberpunk”, is the futuristic tale of the vampire Tynan Llywelyn. After a century of Sleep, Tynan has awoken to find the world he once knew utterly obliterated by a brutal war of epic proportions. In a new apocalyptic society, bitterly divided by magic and technology, the Tyst Empire has found that a hundred years of global domination is not enough to sate their thirst for power. They have discovered the secret of the vampire race and have designed a plan to seize their own sinister form of immortality with the help of an ancient vampiric god. The Phuree, a rebel uprising that has been engaged in a bloody war with the Tyst since the beginning of the new regime, have obtained the knowledge of Lord Cardone’s plans and have allied themselves with the remaining Immortal clan. The powerful Phuree oracle, Nahalo, has had a vision that in Tynan alone lays the power to defeat the vampiric god and the dictatorship. Cast into the midst of a global war between magic and technology, mortals and vampires, in a new world he is still struggling to define, Tynan must make the harrowing decision to save the world he so bitterly detests or stand and watch as humanity is destroyed by a primordial evil beyond all imagining…

What the literary world is saying:

Eternal Vigilance is the main artery leading to the heart of all vampire stories. Not since Interview With a Vampire has there been a greater tale of the undead. My mouth became dry reading it. My pulse quickened. This book makes you thirsty for bloodlust. Gabrielle Faust is the queen of vampire fiction.” –Eric Enck, Author of The Reckoning & Ghost of a Chance

“Like if Anne Rice had gone cyberpunk. Gabrielle Faust is an author of immense talent, and Eternal Vigilance keeps the reader enthralled from the first page to the last.” –Sire Cédric, Author of Angemort & Dreamworld

Gabrielle Faust’s new book, Eternal Vigilance, is Haiku pumped to the max! You can smell the roses, but first, you feel the prick of the thorns, and you drink the slow, seeping blood. Lock the door, turn off the telephone, pour a glass of fine Cabernet and immerse yourself into Faust’s world…a ‘world that fears silence, a culture that never breathes’. In her world, vampires are romantic, street smart, and, yes, dangerously sexy. Trust me, you will enjoy the trip.” –Gary Kent, Director of L.A. Bad & Producer of The House Seven Corpses, Author of Shadows & Light: Journeys With Outlaws in Revolutionary Hollywood

Faust is currently at work on the second novel in the Eternal Vigilance series, which she hopes to have turned over to Immanion Press by the end of the summer, 2008. She also continues to pursue her career as an author, illustrator and freelance journalist/entertainment critic for such publications as Fear Zone, Doorways Magazine, Darkened Horizons and Fatally Yours Reviews.

Eternal Vigilance, Book One: From Deep Within the Earth was officially released on April 21st. Gabrielle S. Faust kicked off her 2008 book tour on Friday, April 25th as a selected author to participate in the Nebula Awards author signings. She is currently scheduling appearances and signings at conventions and bookstores nationwide to occur throughout the year.

Personally, I’m a big fan of Storm Constantine’s work, I love anything that has to do with vampires, and I just can’t get enough cyberpunk. In short, Eternal Vigilance just sounds like my kind of book 🙂


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"Little Brother" by Cory Doctorow

Posted by cervantor on PM000000120000000030 1, 2008

Official Cory Doctorow Website
Official Little Brother Myspace
Order “Little Brother
Listen To An Excerpt
Read Reviews of “Little Brother” via SFFWorld + Strange Horizons

When I was a high school senior back in 1996, the world was a much different place. Security wasn’t something we ever thought about. I mean cameras, metal detectors, x-ray machines, security guards? Heck, our school couldn’t even afford air conditioning let alone any kind of security measures! And don’t get me started on how technologically deficient we were. Computers? The first time I touched a computer was when I was seventeen and it wasn’t to browse the Internet. Instead, I got the dull pleasure of learning DOS. Adding insult to injury, we actually had to use typewriters any time we needed to turn in a report or put together a resume. Cell phones? Never heard of them. Video games? I was still pounding away on my Gameboy and Super NES. MP3s? I thought a portable CD player was the most amazing device I had ever seen. Yep, the times have definitely changed and not necessarily for the better if Cory Doctorow’s new book “Little Brother” is any indication…

Taking place in the very near future, “Little Brother” follows the account of Marcus Yallow, an ordinary, tech-savvy, seventeen-year-old high school senior whose hobbies include Harajuku Fun Madness—a Japanese Alternate Reality Game (ARG)—LARPing (Live Action Role Playing), computer programming, building gizmos from everyday materials—a spy-cam detector using a toilet paper roll, a pinhole camera out of Legos, etc—and hacking. Of this last, Marcus takes particular pleasure in defeating his school’s security systems which includes gait-recognition cameras, Radio Frequency ID tags—arphids—and issued laptops that log your keystrokes, watches for suspicious keywords, and keeps track of the websites you visit. All in good fun 🙂 Then, in the wake of the ‘worst terrorist attack ever committed on American soil’—the bombing of San Francisco’s Bay Bridge—everything changes. Marcus becomes identified as a potential terrorist threat by the Department of Homeland Security, his privacy violated; a second PATRIOT Act is passed; a new proactive enforcement program instituted where anyone can be detained for ‘nonstandard’ activity; his school becomes an outlet for propaganda rather than teaching; and to top it off, Marcus’ best friend is missing, either dead or a prisoner of the DHS.

So what would any ordinary, tech-savvy, seventeen-year-old high school senior do in this situation? He fights back using the tools that are available to him, namely his brains, his hacking abilities, and the righteousness of youth. What follows is a riveting battle for freedom involving everything from Xboxes, cryptography, rave parties, and camera phones to blogs, memes, Player vs. Player video games, and LARPing. In short, Cory Doctorow’sLittle Brother” is one of the best releases of the year and here’s why:

One, “Little Brother” is just incredibly timely. Even though the book is set in a future where gas is seven bucks a gallon and Microsoft is on their fourth videogame system—the Xbox Universal—almost everything utilized in “Little Brother” is stuff that‘s actually in use today. Gait-recognition cameras, The Onion Router, arphids, the Great Firewall of China, Fast Passes/FasTraks, ARGs, face-recognition robots, tunneling . . . its all real. Look it up on Wikipedia if you don’t believe me 🙂 And then of course there’s the War on Terror, the loss of privacy, the definition of civil rights, national security, voting, and the corruption of American press. These are all issues happening right now. You just can’t get any timelier than that…

Secondly, “Little Brother” is smart. Part of it’s the subject matter, but really Cory just knows what he’s talking about. He’s done the research, he’s knowledgeable in many of the related areas—according to his bio Cory is an activist, a teacher, a public speaker and a technology expert—and the book is just intelligently written including a clever plot, believable characters & dialogue, and a lot of fascinating info-dumping. In fact, one of my favorite aspects about the book was the stuff it teaches. Not familiar with ARGS, LARPing, the history of ciphers, Bayesian math, Yippies, tunneling, et cetera? Don’t worry, by the time you finish reading “Little Brother” you will be 🙂

Then there’s the character of Marcus Yallow. Written in the first-person, Cory does an amazing job of realistically capturing the voice and personality of a seventeen-year-old hacker. From the slang he uses to his choice of similes, metaphors and references—Astro Boy, Castle Wolfenstein, Sailor Moon, Alan Turing, Jon Postel and Jack Kerouac’s On The Road—his knowledge of all things computer & cyberspace-related, and the emotional rollercoaster that he goes through including feelings of indignation, betrayal, guilt and horniness; it’s like a teenager actually wrote “Little Brother” instead of the thirty-six year old Cory Doctorow 😉

Fourthly, the book doesn’t pull any punches. So even though “Little Brother” is a Young Adult novel—Cory’s first by the way—the author keeps things real. For instance, Marcus doesn’t just talk like a seventeen-year-old, he acts like one including ditching class, drinking, and having sex. Even more authentic is how Marcus eventually turns to his parents and other adults for help—after all, there’s only so much a group of teenagers can do—and how he was held accountable in the end for his actions since he does break a few laws 😉 The thing that really stood out for me though was the DHS’ treatment of innocent people—involving psychological & physical torture—which is frankly a little bit frightening considering how believable it all is 😦

Lastly, “Little Brother” is just a lot of fun to read and that’s the book’s most important quality. Because no matter how relevant, smart, or plausible a novel may be, it just wouldn’t be as memorable or provocative if it wasn’t also entertaining. That’s what makes “Little Brother” special. It’s timely, smart, relatable, realistic, thought-provoking and fun, and that’s why I strongly believe that readers will be talking about Cory Doctorow’s novel for a very long time. I know I will be…

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"Death’s Head: Maximum Offense" by David Gunn

Posted by cervantor on PM000000120000000030 1, 2008

Official David Gunn Myspace
Order “Death’s Head: Maximum Offense
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REVIEW of “Death’s Head
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s INTERVIEW with David Gunn

I find myself inspired by the straightforward approach of Lieutenant Sven Tveskoeg, so let me blunt here. David Gunn’s Death’s Head novels—military science fiction cut from the same cloth as Neal Asher, Richard K. Morgan, and Andy Remic—are not about sympathetic characters, in-depth worldbuilding, or thought-provoking ideals. There’s also hardly any info-dumping involved, the plot is pretty simple, and the author doesn’t like to use big words 🙂 So what does that leave us with? How about a character so badass he makes the Terminator look like C-3PO, a ton of in-your-face action that is unforgiving in its brutality, and humor so sardonic you could cut steel with it. In short, the Death’s Head novels are just awesome, testosterone-fueled fun 😀 Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I read “Maximum Offense”—the second volume in the Death’s Head sequence—that I came to fully appreciate just how much fun I could actually have with the books…

If we flashback to my review of David’s debut HERE, you’ll notice that while I really enjoyed reading “Death’s Head”, I admittedly had some issues with the book including the lack of info-dumping and shallow supporting characters. Surprisingly I didn’t have the same problems with “Maximum Offense” even though the book is almost exactly the same stylistically. For instance, background information is once again hard to come by. In fact, if you haven’t read “Death’s Head” you might find yourself a little lost since the plot deals with concepts that the author already assumes you’re familiar with including Enlightened, the Uplift virus, Silver Fists, the United Free, the Octovian Empire, ferox, Sven’s kyp, and so on.

Regarding the characters, Sven remains the center of attention as the novel’s first-person narrator, but just as important this time around are his Death’s Head auxiliaries who were introduced at the end of the first book. Dubbed ‘the Aux’, Sergeant Neen, Corporal Franc, Sniper Rachel, Shil and Haze may not get the same kind of treatment as Sven, but David does a much better job with the supporting players in “Maximum Offense”, which also extends to Colonel Vijay and General Indigo Jaxx. This includes defining distinctive character traits and establishing relationships. Best of all though is the interaction between Sven and the Aux which results in some really entertaining moments 🙂

Speaking of Sven, few protagonists are more compelling. It’s not just the fact that he’s a complete badass—I’m talking seven feet tall, insanely strong, deceptively quick, lethally proficient with both weapons and hand-to-hand combat, with an incredible threshold for pain and unnatural healing abilities. Not to mention being armed with a fully intelligent gun whose vocabulary can be deadlier than its ammunition, a knife that Sven sheathes inside his body, a prosthetic arm, and a symbiont with telepathic properties. I’m also talking about the succinct way Sven narrates the novel—imagine concise sentences, short chapters, and simplistic descriptions—how he doesn’t take shit from anyone even if it means killing one of his troops because they can’t follow an order, his lovely personality, and how he doesn’t like to think too hard 😉 Plus, we finally get to learn a bit more about where Sven originated from which just adds to his growing infamy…

As far as the story, Sven and his Aux have been personally handpicked by U/Free ambassador Paper Osamu for a secret mission that takes the group, led by the untested Colonel Vijay, to Hekati, a ringworld that once inhabited millions but is now home to just a few prospectors, some Silver Fists, mercenaries, and a missing U/Free who is the object of their mission. Or so they’re told… Like “Death’s Head”, “Maximum Offense” likes to surprise the reader and almost everyone has a secret including Colonel Vijay, Paper Osamu, General Jaxx, OctoV, the Enlightened, U/Free, even the ringworld Hekati. Additionally, David likes to put Sven in impossible situations and let all hell break loose such as the Ilseville battle at the end of “Death’s Head” where only two and half thousand soldiers, out of a hundred thousand, survived. If you thought that was rough though, it’s nothing compared to what Sven and the Aux have to go through at Hekati. Just expect things to get violent, crazy and so damn exciting you’ll need oxygen afterwards 🙂

In the end, “Maximum Offense” is basically more of the same in-your-face military SF that was on display in the author’s debut, but where I enjoyed “Death’s Head” I absolutely loved the new book. What’s even better is that there will be at least one more Death’s Head novel and if the first two are any indication, then the book is going to kick some ass

NOTE: The UK edition of “Death’s Head: Maximum Offense” is set for publication June 16, 2008 (Transworld) and like David’s debut, I prefer the UK cover (see inset) to the stateside version, although they are both impressive 🙂

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"Fallen" by Tim Lebbon w/Bonus Q&A

Posted by cervantor on PM000000120000000030 1, 2008

Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Review of the “Dusk/Dawn Duology” + “After the War

In “Dusk” and “Dawn”, Tim Lebbon’s first foray into the fantasy genre, the award-winning author (White, Face, Hellboy: Unnatural Selection) introduced readers to Noreela, a dark and twisted world populated by exotic peoples, places and creatures. Since then, Noreela has been the backdrop for a number of Tim’s stories including the Subterranean Press release “After the War” (Reviewed HERE) and now the standalone novel “Fallen”…

Set 4000 years before the “Dusk/Dawn” duology, “Fallen” takes readers back to a different Noreela, one that is still dangerous and familiar due to the inclusion of tumblers, skull ravens, the always mysterious Cantrass Angels, Ventgorian wine, fodder and other familiarities, but this version of the world is not nearly as despairing and still possesses a sense of hope, of potential. In this time period, much of Noreela remains uncharted and is a playground for the Voyagers whose vocation is to discover the undiscovered. For the Voyagers their greatest challenge, their Mt. Everest if you will, is the Great Divide in the south, a vertical cliff that rises miles into the sky and extends from east to west seemingly forever. According to legend, the Great Divide marks the end of the world and no one who has Voyaged there has ever returned. For Voyagers Ramus Rheel and Nomi Hyden—friends as well as competitors—all that changes when they meet a fellow Voyager who has not only survived the Great Divide, but has brought back evidence of an unknown civilization…and a Sleeping God

Starting out Ramus, Nomi, and a group of Serians—hired warriors from Mancoseria who attain adulthood by killing a seethe-gator—are Voyaging to the Great Divide together, but because of the complex relationship existing between Nomi & Ramus involving hidden feelings and deep betrayals, the party is quickly fractured into two groups who are now competing against each other to be the first to reach the top of the cliff. From here, each Voyager faces their own set of perils and complications as they journey to the Great Divide, but the real danger is what they discover on top of the cliff and the decisions they end up making that impacts the future of Noreela

Like the author’s previous Noreela stories, “Fallen” is all about the setting and Tim takes full advantage of the plot to let his imagination roam wild. So as the Voyagers travel from Long Marrakash, across the Pavissa Steppes, into the uncharted lands before the Great Divide, up the cliff, and into the world above the clouds, readers are introduced to all sorts of interesting wildlife and phenomena like squirm-storms that rain down lizards & insects, march wisps, Rokarian traps, gray people who feed on unhappy memories, a place where certain berries & herbs will make you high, and a forgotten race. There’s much more of course, but the joy of reading one of Tim Lebbon’s Noreela tales is discovering what new surprises the author has conjured up 🙂

Character-wise, “Fallen” features a really small cast—basically the two narrators Ramus & Nomi, the six Serians, and a few minor players—which is helpful because even though the novel is self-contained, Tim still has time to fully develop his characters. For instance, each Mancoserian possesses his or her own individual personality while the relationship that the two Voyagers have going on is explored in all of its strange complexity including conflicting feelings of friendship, envy, disappointment, rivalry, and even love, not to mention the lying, treachery, and a fatal disease that allows Ramus to experience Nomi’s nightmares. In short, my only complaint about the characters was one scene between the Voyagers—when the group splits into two—that felt like watching a bad soap opera…

Of the plot, “Fallen” is essentially a quest novel that takes readers from Point A to Point B. Despite this conventional setup though, the journey itself is fascinating because of Noreela, the story is excellently paced, and the ending is just mind-blowing. Specifically, when “Fallen” shifts to the top of the Great Divide, Tim really turns up the heat on his characters and forces them down a dark & bloody path toward events that are shocking, tragic, and haunting. In other words, don’t expect any happy endings… And, as a bonus to those who are familiar with Noreela, the book’s finale marks the beginning of the Kang Kang mountain range and The Blurring which is a really nice touch 🙂

If you’ve read my reviews of the “Dusk/Dawn Duology” and the “After the War” novellas, then you know I’m a huge fan of Tim Lebbon’s Noreela universe. Not surprisingly, I had pretty high expectations for “Fallen” and apart from a couple of minor gripes—namely the novel’s simplistic story and certain fantasy conventions—my expectations were met quite satisfactorily. To sum up, “Fallen” is just another outstanding addition to the Noreela mythos, and every time I visit this terrifying yet fascinating world, the harder it becomes to tear myself away…

BONUS FEATURE — Tim Lebbon Author Q&A:

Q: In “Fallen” (April 29, 2008) you return to the world of Noreela that was first established in the “Dusk/Dawn” duology and has been the setting for a couple of short stories and two novellas that were found in “After the War” released by Subterranean Press earlier this year. You also have another book called “The Island” that is coming out next year that is set in the same milieu. In short, what’s so special about Noreela?

Tim: It’s a whole new world, and it’s mine. I have so enjoyed writing novels and stories set in Noreela, a world where I make many of the rules. Some writers say writing fantasy is extremely difficult because of the detailed world building you have to undertake, but I’ve actually found it quite liberating, and I always love sitting down to visit Noreela once again. So that’s part of it – the fact that I can create many of my own rules, places, civilizations, religions and mysterious tattooed women. But part of it is also the sense of exploration and discovery I feel every time I start a new Noreela book. The stuff you read in “Fallen” was all new to me when I wrote it as well, and that’s really quite thrilling. These stories are set nowhere I recognize, and whereas if I did that with my contemporary, Earth-bound fiction, it would be an obvious fault in the book . . . with fantasy, it’s a distinct advantage.

I also like to think that Noreela is rich in history. Everything I write there plants seed for other stories. The more I write about it, the more I start to think of it as a whole, distinct world . . . and how may novels have there been set on Earth?

Q: Good point 🙂 “Fallen” actually comes with a nice preview from “The Island”. What more can you tell us about the book?

Tim:The Island” is a book I’m very pleased with. It was also perhaps the most difficult Noreela novel to write. For a start it’s almost entirely in one coastal village (apart from a series of flashbacks), whereas the first three novels have all spanned Noreela in their settings. That in itself was an enjoyable test – I really had to try and bring this strange fishing village to life, at a time when it’s challenged by its greatest threat – but I also had to make sure the action of the story flowed well within the confines of that place. Actually there is one extended scene that takes place on the island of the title . . . but I can’t reveal anything about that. Oh, no, I can’t.

The novel opens with the village of Pavmouth Breaks being hit by a tidal wave, and when the survivors emerge at dawn, there’s a new island several miles out to sea. And between them and the island . . . boats.

Q: Do you have any other projects lined up for the Noreela setting? Personally I would love to see the Bajuman starring in his own series 🙂 Also, for readers new to Tim Lebbon, should they start with a certain Noreela book or can they start anywhere?

Tim: I’ll definitely be writing more stories set in Noreela, whether they be novellas or novels. Actually I have several ideas for future novels, all of them stand-alone stories staggered at various points through Noreela’s history. “Dusk” and “Dawn” is essentially one story split into two books, but I’ve enjoyed writing “Fallen” and “The Island” much more . . . the landscape is recognizable, some of the places, people and religions will be identifiable from other Noreela stories . . . but the tales themselves are contained. I like that. I think of Noreela as a big wide world, and the stories I’m wanting to tell are now more and more confined in space and time. I think that’s a sign that I’m becoming more comfortable with the world. You mentioned the Bajuman, Korrin, and he’s a fascinating character, a real anti-hero who I’d definitely like to write about some more. In fact, you might have just given me an idea…

As to where to start for new readers, I don’t think there’s any right or wrong place. The only order you’d have to follow is to read “Dawn” after “Dusk”, but other than that, just jump in!

Q: Because of your horror background, your fantasy novels have a darker, grittier vibe to them which seems to be a growing trend if you look at authors like Steven Erikson, Joe Abercrombie, Richard K. Morgan (The Steel Remains), David Keck, Alan Campbell, et cetera. What are your thoughts on this movement and the audience’s response to such books?

Tim: Some would say (and many have said), that such fiction is becoming more popular because of the dangerous times we find ourselves in right now. Me, I just think people like reading good stories, well told. As far as I’m concerned, the best, most gripping stories are where the darkest, grimmest histories are occurring. Noreela doubtless has many stories to tell of princess weddings, court politics and royal shenanigans, but they won’t be told by me. I enjoy writing about normal people – or normal alternate-world people – facing huge challenges. Sometimes they rise to the occasion, sometimes they’re corrupted by it; sometimes they win, sometimes they lose. That’s life. And for me, the important thing about writing fantasy is to make the characters, and their reactions to situations, believable. This may be fantasy, but all good fantasy is about being human.

The reaction I’ve had to these books has been mixed, and that’s fine. For “Dusk”, some readers said it redefined the genre, others said it was clichéd-ridden. I’d rather have reaction like that, than mere apathy.

I’m very excited to see what people think of “Fallen”. I definitely think it’s several steps onward and upward from “Dusk” and “Dawn” . . . I guess they were my initial foray into fantasy, and with “Fallen” I feel as if I’m settling in a bit. Hopefully, for a long run!

Q: Speaking of horror, why doesn’t the genre get the same kind of love in literature that fantasy and science fiction does? What can be done to correct the problem?

Tim: Blimey, if I could answer this question… Really, I don’t know. Horror exists in any and every genre (many people have called my Noreela novels horror novels set in an alternate world, and I see their point). Defining horror, what people want from it, why it doesn’t sell as well as fantasy or science fiction (if that’s indeed the case), all these questions are raised time and again. I have no easy answers.

Q: In a recent interview HERE, Christopher Golden talks a bit about “Mind the Gap: A Novel of the Hidden Cities” which comes out May 20, 2008 and is a co-authored by you and Chris. Is there anything else you’d like to say about “Mind the Gap“, its sequel “The Map of Moments“, and the young adult novels that Chris mentioned?

Tim: I’ve had a fantastic time writing these books with Chris. He’s a fine writer, a huge imagination, and a great storyteller. We’re both immensely proud of these books, and we’re hoping the Novels of the Hidden Cities will continue long into the future. There’s certainly no shortage of cities for us to write about! We collaborate well, we see many things from the same point of view, and I really believe we’ve come up with something in these books that neither of us would have written otherwise. There’s a website at where there’s more information.

As for the YA novels, yes, we’ll be writing two novels under the title The Secret Journeys of Jack London for Atheneum. You heard it here first! Very excited about these books, and there’ll be more information released about them pretty soon.

Q: Could you also tell us more about the British Invasion anthology (Cemetery Dance-May 28, 2008) that you edited with Christopher Golden + James A. Moore, and any other writing projects?

Tim:British Invasion” was a huge amount of fun. Myself, Chris and Jim were sitting in the bar at a convention a few years back, discussing the differences (if any…) between British and US genre writing. One of us said ‘You know, we should edit an anthology for publication in the USA and call it British Invasion. Brit-only stories!’ I think it was Chris who decided to try and sell it there and then. The three of us finished our drinks and marched down to the dealers’ room, cornered Rich Chizmar, and fifteen minutes after the anthology was imagined, it was sold. I think it’s a very strong anthology, containing original stories from the likes of Ramsey Campbell, Phil Nutman, Mark Chadbourn, Paul Meloy, and many more. I’ll be excited to see the reaction when it’s released.

As for other stuff, I have a lot of work due out this year. As well as “Fallen” and the forthcoming “Mind the Gap”, I’m delighted that my new horror novel “Bar None” will be published by Night Shade Books this year. “A Whisper of Southern Lights” has just been released by Necessary Evil Press, and in September Humdrumming will publish my new novella “The Reach of Children”. There’s a huge collection of short fiction due soon, and I’ve also written the first novel in a young adult trilogy which my agent is sending out right now. Very excited about that. There are a couple of other projects I can’t mention yet. All in all, it’s shaping up to be a busy year.

Q: Definitely sounds like it! Finally, could you give us an update on how the movie versions of your books including “White” are progressing, and if anything else has been optioned since the last time we spoke?

Tim:White” is still ticking along. I’ve read a screenplay from The Mob Film Co. who’ve optioned “Until She Sleeps”, and it’s excellent. Expecting big things of that. A couple of other options are crawling along at snail’s pace, and it looks like “Face” will be optioned again soon (for the third time). I think “Fallen” would make a superb, dark fantasy movie, but I think a lot of studios are still nervous about this sort of property because of the Tolkien/Jackson comparisons.

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Winners of the William Dietrich & Lois McMaster Bujold Giveaways! Plus, miscellaneous news..

Posted by cervantor on PM00000090000000030 1, 2008

Congratulations to Amy Dange (North Carolina), Margaret Herrin (Tennessee), Brian Kovich (Illinois), Eugene Mortensen (California), and Mary Williams (Missouri) who were all randomly selected to win a SET of William Dietrich’s Ethan Gage novels including copies of “Napoleon’s Pyramids” (Paperback) and “The Rosetta Key”, all thanks to HarperCollins!!!

Congratulations also to Stephanie Howlett-West (California) who was randomly selected to win a SET of Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Sharing Knife novels including copies of “Beguilement”, “Legacy” and her new book “Passage” thanks to EOS Books!!! For excerpts, be sure to visit the ‘Browse Inside’ feature HERE and check out Fantasy Book Critic’s review of “Passage” and an interview with the author HERE.

In news, just a few tidbits… One, Clare Bell’s new book “Ratha’s Courage”, the fifth volume in the Named series, has been recently released as an E-book HERE via Baen Books Webscriptions. The young adult fantasy series about sentient prehistoric cats was at one time pretty popular, but unfortunately “Ratha’s Courage” was unable to secure print publication, so the author decided to go a different route. Basically, if “Ratha’s Courage” does well in E-book format, then there’s a good chance that fans will see the novel published in print.

Secondly, awarding-winning screenwriter (La Cucina) and author A.W. Gryphon is holding an auction HERE in support of Women’s Cancer Research. The auction ends Wednesday, April 30th and the prize is a SIGNED COPY of Allison’s debut novel “Blood Moon”:

London, England. Mysterious. Beautiful. Full of legends and lore. It is home and a safe place for Ameila Pivens Kreutzer. For an ancient society of witch hunters, and practitioners, it is an easy place to go unnoticed. And for Scotland Yard’s Denny Carlisle, on All Hallows Eve, when the Full Blood Moon reaches its highest point in the sky, it will become a city of awe and mayhem as the most powerful witch in modern history rises, to avenge her lost love and forever end the ancient war among the witches and those who hunt them…

Blood Moon” is the first book in the Witches’ Moon Trilogy and you check out a review of the book via Darque Reviews.

Lastly, Pyr Books has unveiled the John Picacio artwork (see above) for the publisher’s June 2008 reissue of Robert Silverberg’s classic novel “Son of Man”. All I can say is, wow

Around the Blogosphere:

~Adventures in Reading mentions that the prologue to Elizabeth Bear’s upcoming new book “Ink & Steel” can be found online HERE. “Ink & Steel” is the third volume in the Promethean Age series and will be released July 1st followed by the fourth volume, “Hell & Earth”, in August 2008.
Andrew Wheeler has reviewed a couple of books that I’m a big fan of including Paul Melko’s debut novel “Singularity’s RingHERE and “The Born QueenHERE, the excellent concluding volume to Greg Keyes’ The Kingdoms of Thorn & Bone fantasy series…
Dark Wolf has very nice, story-by-story review of the John Joseph Adams-edited anthology “WastelandsHERE which is just one of the many books that I need to read 🙂
Darque Reviews covers Thomas E. Sniegoski’s forthcoming book “A Kiss Before the ApocalypseHERE which is in my review pile. Kimberly also reviews Charlaine Harris’ new Southern Vampire book “From Dead To WorseHERE, a series that I’d like to try out one day…
FantasyBookSpot has a short, but interesting interview with Ekaterina Sedia, author “The Secret History of Moscow”, HERE.
~Over at
Fantasy & Sci-Fi Lovin’ Book Reviews, there are a few nice giveaways going on including a copy of Cheryl Brooks’ novel “SlaveHERE, a copy of Scott Mackay’s upcoming book “Omega Sol”—which I hope to review if I have time ;)—and a BOX DVD SET of Alien Nation: Ultimate Movie Collection HERE!!! Want more chances to win a BOX DVD SET of Alien Nation: Ultimate Movie Collection? Well you’re in luck because SciFiChick is also hosting a giveaway for a BOX SET HERE 😀
Fantasy Debut has a great review HERE of the debut novel “Truancy” by Isamu Fukui who wrote the book when he was fifteen! Tia also spotlightsNight Life” by Caitlin Kittredge who I had the pleasure of meeting at the Norwescon 🙂
Graeme’s Fantasy Book Reviews reveals his thoughts on Richard K. Morgan’s forthcoming fantasy novel “The Steel RemainsHERE. In fact, reviews of this book have been popping up all over the place including Sandstorm Reviews and The Book Swede, not to mention the earlier coverage including The Genre Files, Joe Abercrombie & The Wertzone. Considering that the book isn’t even out until August 21, 2008 (UK-Gollanzc), that’s already a lot of advance press. But you know what? It deserves it. I was lucky enough to read a proof and “The Steel Remains” is just an amazing novel. Basically, if you like epic fantasy that is gritty and unconventional, and you’re a fan of Richard K. Morgan, then “The Steel Remains” is the perfect storm 🙂 As far as Fantasy Book Critic, a review is definitely on the way, but you probably won’t see it until much closer to the book’s August 21st release date…
Leap In the Dark has a fantastic review HERE of “The Hakawati” by Rabih Alemeddine which is described as an ‘Arabian Nights for this century’. The book definitely sounds interesting and is out today!
Neth Space actually has a rare giveaway going on HERE 🙂 This time he’s giving away a copy of Margaret Weis’ new book “Amber & Blood” which concludes her Dark Disciple trilogy.
Newsarama has a report HERE about the Dabel Brothers panel at this year’s New York Comic Con, which talks about their projects including Dean Koontz’ Frankenstein: Prodigal Son, George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards: The Hard Call, and The Dresden Files: Welcome To the Jungle.
~As usual,
OF Blog of the Fallen has some interesting articles including How to be a better, more pretentious blogger/review 🙂 Larry also makes up his own list of speculative fiction books that should be read HERE in response to Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist’s list of What to read next?
~Speaking of Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, there’s a wonderful interview HERE with Kay Kenyon, author of “Bright of the Sky” and “A World Too Near” from her SF series The Entire and the Rose. The interview was actually a collaboration with Rob from SFFWorld 🙂 Also, there’s a giveaway for Jeff Somers’The Digital PlagueHERE—yet another book that I hope to review—and a REVIEW of Brian Ruckley’sBloodheir”, which is the sequel to “Winterbirth”. For another review of “Bloodheir”, be sure to check out The Book Swede.
~If you haven’t seen it yet,
Realms of Speculative Fiction has this great article HERE highlighting a bunch of SF/fantasy-related blogs, including yours truly 🙂 It’s a fantastic list and it’s pretty cool to see how many excellent blogs there are out there! Also be sure to browse around Realms of Speculative Fiction while you’re there because the website has a lot of wonderful content to offer…
The Wertzone has a fabulous post HERE for readers who aren’t familiar with Britisth SF author Alastair Reynolds and a review of Stephen Baxter’s forthcoming book “FloodHERE.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

"Iron Angel" by Alan Campbell

Posted by cervantor on PM000000120000000030 1, 2008

Official Alan Campbell Website
Official Alan Campbell Blog
Order “Iron Angel
HERE + HERE (UK-May 2, 2008)
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Reviews of “
Scar Night” + “Lye Street
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s INTERVIEW with Alan Campbell

For me, reading Alan Campbell’s debut novel “Scar Night” was a mixed affair. On the one hand, I was really impressed by the author’s vivid imagination and couldn’t get enough of Deepgate—an ancient Gormenghastian city suspended by giant chains over a cavernous abyss that is home to Ulcis, god of chains and Hoarder of Souls—the exotic characters, and the rest of Alan’s gothic, steampunk-influenced world of fallen gods, angels, and demons. On the other hand, I was incredibly frustrated by the inconsistent writing which I felt prevented the novel from reaching its full potential and therefore had some reservations before starting the second book in The Deepgate Codex. Not only were those worries unfounded, but “Iron Angel” may just end up being one of the best fantasy novels I read this year…

Like its predecessor, “Iron Angel” is all about the environment and the aura, but where “Scar Night” primarily took place in the city of Deepgate, Alan’s new book widely broadens the canvas and takes readers all across the Deadsands, into the land of Pandemeria, and down into the depths of Hell. So if you thought Deepgate was fascinating, wait until you get a glimpse of Cinderbark Wood—a forest where every single branch, thorn, twig, and root is saturated with toxins that kill at a single touch—Pandemeria where technology is fueled by soul magic, and my personal favorite, Hell. Of this last, I was reminded of Wayne Barlowe’s Paradise Lost-inspired novel “God’s Demon” because of the way souls are used as building materials for such things as walls, doors, weaponry and vehicles, but there the comparison ends and Alan’s lurid imagination takes over, envisioning all sorts of wonderful and macabre ideas including Icarates, witchspheres, Iolites, dogcatchers, the Legion of the Blind, shiftblades, and the colossal arconites—‘iron & bone-forged automatons built around an angel’s soul.’ Creatively, “Iron Angel” is one of the richest and most inventive novels I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing—almost every single page reveals something new—and for me the highlight of the book was discovering every unique characteristic that the world had to offer.

Almost as compelling was the story which builds on the mythos that was hinted at in “Scar Night”, specifically the War Amongst the Gods when Iril and his seven sons rebelled against the goddess Ayen and were defeated with Iril shattered to pieces throughout the Maze in Hell, the sons imprisoned on earth, and the gates to Heaven sealed. From this setup we learn that Ayen’s sons are plotting a new uprising against the goddess, but before they can accomplish that they must first defeat the upstart King Menoa and his army of Mesmerists who have been warring with the fallen gods for centuries to escape from Hell and make the world their own. Unfortunately, because of what happened at the end of “Scar Night”, a second portal to Hell has been breached under the city of Deepgate and with the gods’ forces firmly entrenched in Pandemeria, the brothers have enlisted the aid of Cospinol—god of brine & fog, the second oldest of Ayen’s sons, and the only one to remain imprisoned—to seal the portal before the Mesmerists can gain a foothold. As payment for this mission, Cospinol is told of the scarred angel Carnival, the daughter of Ayen’s eldest son Ulcis and the key to his freedom…

From here, “Iron Angel” is divided into three parts—each reads like a separate story but are connected overall—with the first set in Deepgate and the surrounding Deadsands including Sandport and the Cinderbark Wood. In this segment, ex-Spine assassin Rachel Hael and the angel Dill are trying to avoid the clutches of the Spine who are tempering everyone they can get their hands on—it’s a technique using torture and neural toxins that scours away a person’s ego & emotions, while allowing them to temporarily heighten their senses. Readers also get to visit a vastly different Deepgate, one that is literally falling apart and haunted at night by phantasms, as well as meeting for the first time John Anchor, an immortal giant who serves Cospinol by pulling his ship Rotsward and collecting souls. For John, his two primary goals are reaching Deepgate and finding Carnival… In the second segment Alan takes us to Hell where King Menoa and Hasp, youngest of Ayen’s seven sons and Lord of the First Citadel, are fighting for Dill’s soul. Also involved in this subplot are Mina Greene—a thaumaturgist who was first introduced in the novella “Lye Street”—and Alice Harper, one of the new character POVs. Finally, the last segment takes place in Pandemeria and concerns a diplomatic mission securing a new peace treaty between King Menoa and Rys, the god of flowers and knives. In this segment expect convergences, Victorian steampunk, a mystery, thaumaturgy, murder, betrayal, war and a wicked cliffhanger…

As a whole, I just thought the story rocked! The prologue was superb, the mythology fascinating, the conflicts epic and compelling, the villains were larger-than-life, the narrative was unpredictable, the action cinematic (and gory), and the climax was breathtaking promising one hell of a battle in the third and final chapter of The Deepgate Codex 🙂 In short, Alan Campbell just does a much better job with the plotting in “Iron Angel” than he did in his debut. In fact, Alan’s overall performance is much better including stronger prose and more consistent characterization, all of which really complements the author’s already impressive descriptive and creative gifts. Plus, taking a page out of his “Lye Street” novella, there’s a bit more humor in the book—thanks to John Anchor, Mina Greene, the Soft Men and the White Swords—which I really appreciated 🙂

That all said, the book still has some room for improvement starting with the characterization which remains a bit shallow, while some of the narrative choices were questionable like the forgettable Alice Harper; writing from the viewpoint of the cutthroat Jack Caulker instead of John Anchor who would have been much more interesting; and characters being underrepresented or disappearing for long stretches. There were also a few pacing problems in the third segment particularly with the train sequence, and times when Alan really leaves the reader hanging, like wondering what happened to Carnival after her confrontation with John Anchor. While these are all issues that the author can work on improving, none of them really detract from the novel’s enjoyment. Sure, improvements in these areas would definitely enrich the book, but you have to understand that “Iron Angel”—and The Deepgate Codex in general—is more about the setting and the ambiance and offering escapism than it is deep characterization or stimulating moral examinations. So at times it may feel like you’re reading a comic book, or playing a videogame, or even watching a cartoon/anime, but that’s all part of the novel’s appeal and I for one wouldn’t want to change that.

In the end, Alan Campbell takes everything that was great about “Scar Night”—the concept, the unforgettable milieu, the evocative atmosphere—and makes it all bigger & better, while fixing most of the problems that plagued the debut. The end result is a huge improvement over “Scar Night” and just an incredible urban/gothic fantasy that will be hard to top…

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Interview with Alan Campbell

Posted by cervantor on PM000000120000000030 1, 2008

Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Reviews of “Scar Night” + “Lye Street

A former designer and programmer of the internationally bestselling video game series Grand Theft Auto, Alan Campbell made his writing debut in 2006 with “Scar Night”, one of the most interesting fantasy novels to be released in recent years and the first book in The Deepgate Codex. Continuing the series is the sequel “Iron Angel” and in promotion of the new book’s release, Alan has graciously answered several questions that cover a variety of topics including new & returning characters, the Deepgate novella “Lye Street”, why the second novel was harder to write than the first, and plenty more…

Q: “Iron Angel”, the follow-up to your debut novel “Scar Night” (2008), is scheduled for publication April 29, 2008 in North America and May 2, 2008 for UK readers. For those who haven’t read “Scar Night” yet, what are they missing out on?

Alan: The city of Deepgate is suspended by chains over a seemingly bottomless abyss. It’s an ancient, crumbling place ruled by the Church of Ulcis at its heart. On the day a naive young angel, Dill, begins his service in the Church he is assigned a new overseer, the cynical assassin Rachel Hael. The story follows their growing friendship, through Dill’s first tentative steps outside the Church, and ultimately to the depths of the abyss beneath the city.

Two murderers are loose in the chained city: The scarred angel Carnival, who hunts for souls on the night of the dark moon; And the Church’s own Master Poisoner, Alexander Devon, who is performing illegal experiments in secret. One of them has killed the daughter of a loner and drunk, Mr. Nettle.

When Mr. Nettle decides to take revenge for his daughter’s murder, he sets in motion a series of events that endangers the chained city and everyone in it.

Q: For those who have read “Scar Night”, what can they expect in “Iron Angel”?

Alan: The cataclysm at the end of “Scar Night” has attracted the attention of a new enemy. “Iron Angel” follows some of the key characters from “Scar Night” and “Lye Street” through a war that extends from the chained city, into Hell itself, to the distant land of Pandemeria. Hmm. I’m finding it hard to say more without giving too much away. Like “Scar Night”, it’s a complex tale told from the viewpoints of multiple characters. It’s probably darker. And because it’s set in the midst of a vast war, it’s necessarily much more violent than the first book.

Q: Originally, the UK version of the sequel was titled “Penny Devil” before they decided to go with “Iron Angel”. Why were there different titles in the first place, and what does ‘Iron Angel’ refer to in the book?

Alan: I wanted to call the book “Penny Devil”, but my US publishers weren’t overly keen on that title and suggested “Iron Angel” for the US market. Of course I didn’t mind at all. Then Macmillan thought it would cause less confusion if we then renamed the book here in the UK. It made a lot of sense. So “Iron Angel” it is. The title refers to changes experienced by a character in the book.

Q: A couple of the characters returning for the sequel are the angel Dill and the Spine assassin Rachel Hael. How have these two evolved from the first book, and what other familiar faces will be appearing in “Iron Angel”?

Alan: Rachel’s cynicism has turned firmly against the Spine. She no longer recognizes herself as a temple assassin or yearns to be tempered, and continues to find her humanity through her feelings for Dill, or what’s left of him. Dill evolves more than any other character. In “Scar Night” he found the courage to overcome his fears. In “Iron Angel” he grows up, more so than he would have imagined.

Q: Of the new characters, there’s the god of brine & fog Cospinol and the giant John Anchor who is forced to pull the god’s vessel. What can you tell us about these and any other new characters that will be making an appearance?

Alan: John Anchor is amiable and gregarious on the surface, but he has a hidden, darker side. He arrives from Pandemeria to murder Carnival and ends up on a mission of mercy. And he shoulders a burden much greater than that of Cospinol’s airship.

His master, Cospinol, is the oldest of the living gods and yet he is the last to remain imprisoned as Ulcis was. He’s very much under the thumb of his younger brothers, and naturally resents them for that. Despite his impotence, Cospinol’s relationship with his slave has given him more human qualities than his siblings. He is the best hope for mankind. Mina Greene from “Lye Street” reappears as one of the five key characters in Iron Angel. She has grown up, but her demonic little dog hasn’t.

Q: I had a feeling we hadn’t seen the last of Mina and her demon dog 🙂 So between all of the characters you’ve written so far, do you have a favorite?

Alan: I like Mr. Nettle, because of his relentless determination.

Q: One of the most distinguishing qualities of “Scar Night” was the setting, particularly the city of Deepgate. While Deepgate was primarily the focus of your debut, you hinted at a much larger world. Will we get to see any of that world in “Iron Angel” and if so, can you give us a preview?

Alan: Of course. This is the introduction to Pandemeria:

The train to Coreollis rumbled along a narrow slag embankment above Upper Cog City, dragging mountains of smoke behind it. The lower districts remained flooded, but here the waters had receded some fifteen yards below the raised steel tracks, leaving streets clogged with silt and rusting warships. From the embankment’s slopes to the horizon, ten thousand vessels had been left to rot among the waterlogged shops and houses. Mangled heaps of gunboats and destroyers filled the plazas of Highcliff and the Theatre District, while the cries of these adapted souls rose higher still. Battleships loomed like great red headlands above rows of townhouse roofs, their hulls scarred by cannon-fire or scraped and dented by rubble from collapsed buildings, their groans of pain long and low. A Mesmerist-adapted war-barge had come to rest against the roof of the cathedral in Revolution Square, her bow pointing skywards, her stern deep amid café-tables and mud. The late evening sun gave a molten edge to those funnels, decks and gun-batteries which rose above the chimneystacks, and bathed the brickwork between ships in soft amber light.

South of the terminus the embankment sank with the surrounding streets towards Sill River, and here the waters rose to within a foot of the newly-laid railway sleepers. Flooded lanes looped around the Offal Quarter factories like a giant fingerprint, or like the canals of Hell, all choked with flotsam, furniture and corpses. Nacreous swirls of oil and yellow, aquamarine and ochre froths revolved between hull, keel and lamppost. Cannon-boats drifted in the deep square pools of old Workhouse Yards or lay beached on tenement roofs, their lines fouled in weathervanes. The bloodied waters in Emerald Street, Minster Street and Canary Row were clogged with steam-yachts and with painted dolls from the Low Cog Puppet Workshop. A breeze came up from the city: bitter, engine-scented air full of hot dust and strange metallic cries.

Q: As far as Deepgate, where did you get the inspiration for the city? What does it represent, both for you personally, and in the story?

Alan: The idea came to me in a hostel room in Budapest. The crumbling towers and glooming courtyards probably have their roots in Gormenghast, since that book had such a profound effect on me. In the story Deepgate simply represents life suspended over the unknown, the constant proximity of death.

Q: You’re an atheist, yet religion plays a very important role in the series. Why, and are you trying to make any statements about religion, especially regarding the science vs. theology theme that can be found in the books?

Alan: I’m not trying to make a conscious statement about religion. Faith is an integral part of all societies, and so you can’t ignore it in fantasy. The conflict between science and theology in “Scar Night” seemed inevitable, just as it has been in our world.

Q: As is often the case, both the US and UK covers for your books sport different artwork. What do you think about the different covers and what are your thoughts on the subject as a whole, including how important artwork is in selling a book, how speculative fiction covers are considered generic, the difference between international & stateside covers, et cetera?

Alan: They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but we all do. I think artwork is tremendously important. A dodgy cover would never stop me from buying a book I wanted to read, but I’ve picked up books from the shelf simply because the cover caught my eye. I’m fortunate to have had remarkably talented artists create my book covers and illustrations. They have all been superb. Are speculative fiction considered generic? I suppose a large number of fantasy covers portray magical landscapes which seem to promise the reader escapism. If it works, then why not?

Q: What kind of response has your debut received in the UK compared to North America, and what differences have you noticed between the two book scenes, specifically for speculative fiction?

Alan: I have no idea what my US sales have been. I didn’t think to ask – I was too busy working on the next one. Macmillan tells me that the UK sales have been very strong. “Scar Night” went into reprint very quickly. The press response has been good.

Q: For “Scar Angel”, Pan Macmillan designed a pretty cool website for the book HERE. Is either of the labels doing anything special in promotion of the new book “Iron Angel”?

Alan: Again, I don’t know. I’ll leave all that to the publishers, while I focus on the third book.

Q: Back in January 2008, Subterranean Press released a limited edition prequel novella called “Lye Street” which ends where the prologue in “Scar Night” begins. How did the novella come about, and what was it like having such talented artists as Dave McKean + Bob Eggleton involved in the project?

Alan: The novella came about when Bill at Subterranean Press emailed me with the suggestion. I loved the idea of a limited edition novella and greatly enjoyed writing it. To have such talented artists involved was a dream. My father is an artist and I’ve worked alongside artists for most of my life. I’m constantly in awe of their work. If I could draw or paint, I’d be doing it myself.

Q: How different was it writing a 26,000 word novella compared to the long-form novels you’ve completed? What do you feel are the advantages and disadvantages between the two formats?

Alan: I suppose I’m naturally inclined towards large complex stories, as a reader as much as a writer. The short format of the novella obviously limits the complexity of the story you can write. It needs to be simpler. But otherwise I don’t see any great differences between the two. And of course the advantage of the novella is that you don’t need to juggle so many things in your mind.

Q: One of the things I noticed when reading “Lye Street” was that it had a lot more humor, especially black humor, in the novella than it did in your debut. Is that something we can expect to see in the sequel?

Alan: I think there is more humour in “Iron Angel”. But it’s darker too.

Q: Looking back, what are your overall thoughts on how “Scar Night” turned out? Would you change anything if you had the chance?

Alan: I’m happy with the way “Scar Night” turned out. If I read it again, I’m sure I’d find a thousand things I’d want to change, but I don’t intend to read it for a long, long time. Seven drafts are enough for now.

Q: For some authors it’s easier writing their second novel, while for others it’s more difficult. How was it for you, and did you learn anything when writing “Scar Night” that helped prepare you for “Iron Angel”?

Alan:Iron Angel” was more difficult for me because I was up against a deadline. There was a lot of pressure that simply wasn’t there while I was writing “Scar Night”. I suppose writing the first book prepared me for the process of revision. It isn’t easy to chop out huge chunks of narrative that you like. But if they don’t work, then they have to go. It’s like the opposite of the way local councils work.

Q: I believe the Deepgate Codex is projected as a trilogy. Is that still going according to plan, and how far along are you with the next book? Any details you can share?

Alan: It is still projected as a trilogy, and I’m storming ahead with the third installment. It’s probably too early to share any details, because the story in my head will probably evolve considerably before the book is published.

Q: You’ve mentioned before that you’re involved in a bunch of other writing projects like short stories, comic books, screenplays, etc. Can you talk about any of these projects? What about other Deepgate Codex-related endeavors that might be in the works or that you’d like to pursue?

Alan: These are all on the back burner right now, while I concentrate on the third book. But I have enough ideas to keep me going for the next decade or so. I don’t know how many will find their way into print. There is another Deepgate-related endeavor in the pipeline, but I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about it.

Q: Speaking of comics and screenplays, has there been any interest or any of your books optioned for adaptation (of any kind), and if so, can you give us some details?

Alan: There was a flurry of interest from a lot of film production companies in the US. I’m still waiting.

Q: Well hopefully you’ll hear back 🙂 Just out of curiosity though, what would be your dream adaptation for the Deepgate Codex?

Alan: It would be nice to see Tim Burton’s interpretation of Deepgate. I like to joke about it, but I haven’t really given it any serious thought. The odds are very much against it happening. My partner thinks Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp ought to be in any film production, but I’ve no idea why.

Q: Tim Burton would be a great choice! I also wouldn’t mind Alex Proyas (The Crow, Dark City) taking a stab at the film…

Now because of your experience as a videogame designer/programmer and now as a fiction author, what are your thoughts on the cross-pollination today between different mediums such as literature and movies, comic books and videogames, TV and animation, etc? Is it getting to the point where writing in one format just isn’t enough?

Alan: Writing fiction is just telling stories, and most of these mediums are different ways of presenting stories. There’s going to be the inevitable cross-pollination. But I don’t think sticking to one format limits a writer’s career. Video games are interactive, and so I think they’re more of a fringe medium for writers. Writing can provide some background depth, atmosphere, but it’s far less important than game-play. Tetris didn’t have a plot.

Q: Actually, you recently got back in the videogame business, this time as a writer. How does the experience differ from when you worked as a designer/programmer, and what have you learned from writing novels that has aided you in writing for a videogame?

Alan: When I first worked in videogames I was far more involved in design and in problem solving on an engineering level. My job this time round was simply to fill in details and provide a foundation that the designers could use as a reference. Novels are heavily structured, and I think it’s a mistake to apply the same sort of rigid format to a game. When a game is forced to adhere to a plot, then it’s doomed.

Q: Some of the authors that you’ve listed as influences include Mervyn Peake, M. John Harrison, George R. R. Martin, Steven Erickson, Alan Moore, Stephen R. Donaldson, Iain M. Banks, Michael Moorcock, Philip K. Dick, etc. One thing they all have in common is that they write speculative fiction. What is it about speculative fiction that you not only love to read about, but you also love to write?

Alan: The simple answer is that it sparks the imagination – or my imagination at any rate. Speculative fiction is full of cool ideas. That’s not to say I won’t thoroughly enjoy a good Western or Thriller.

Q: Has anything else influenced your writing, like movies, music, art?

Alan: It sounds weird, but the Pixies probably had an influence on my writing. I listened to them a lot while I was writing “Scar Night”. The chains, the self-mutilation, it’s all there in Frank Black’s lyrics.

Q: That’s interesting. Now since you weren’t able to participate in the 2007 Review/2008 Preview HERE, I thought I would take this opportunity to ask you again. Basically, what were your favorite books that you read in 2007 and what titles are you most looking forward to in 2008?

Alan: 2007:

Blood Meridian” by Cormac McCarthy
The Road” by
Cormac McCarthy
Tao Zero” by
Poul Anderson
The Theory of Poker” by David Slansky


I still have a lot of catching up to do. So I’ll read all those books I’ve been meaning to, including: “Winterbirth” by Brian Ruckley, “Before They are Hanged” by Joe Abercrombie, and “Ink” by Hal Duncan. Then I’ll have a look at what’s coming out in 2008. Of course it will be 2009 by then.

Q: Besides writing, you also have a passion for photography. How is that going for you and what do you hope to accomplish?

Alan: It’s going fine, but I’ve been too busy to take many new photographs. The ones already in my stock library still generate some income. When I have more free time, I’ll add to that stock.

Q: Reading your blog HERE, you’ve had the most extraordinary battle with a phone company! I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it 🙂 What has this experience taught you?

Alan: Fortunately it has all now been resolved by a nice chap from BT who read “Scar Night”, and then looked up my blog. It’s taught me that keeping a blog is really good idea, even if I mostly use it to rant.

Q: Do you have any last thoughts or comments you’d like to share?

Alan: Thanks for taking the time to ask all those questions. And did you know that the world’s largest living organism is believed to be a fungus living under a forest in Oregon. Cool, huh?

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

The Sharing Knife: Passage by Lois McMaster Bujold w/Bonus Q&A

Posted by cervantor on PM000000120000000030 1, 2008

Order “The Sharing Knife: PassageHERE
Read Excerpts HERE

Fantasy comes in all forms. Epic fantasy. Dark fantasy. Contemporary fantasy. Historical fantasy. Erotic fantasy. Then there’s The Sharing Knife series by award-winning author Lois McMaster Bujold (The Vorkosigan Saga, The Spirit Ring, the Chalion novels) which is an altogether different kind of fantasy…

In a familiar world that recalls The Last of the Mohicans, there are two peoples—Lakewalkers and farmers—who are ignorant of each others ways. Despite this centuries old prejudice, a young farmer girl and a Lakewalker patroller manage to fall in love and get married, which is basically Beguilement & Legacy in a nutshell. Obviously there’s much more to the story like the vast cultural barriers that the lovers have to face, the age difference—Dag is 55, Fawn 18—their families to contend with, and many other complications including Fawn’s unwanted pregnancy, Dag’s first wife, and his handicap. And what’s a fantasy novel without a little magic and adventure? That’s where groundsense abilities, sharing knives, mud-men, mind-slaves and malices come in. But overall, the premise in The Sharing Knife is really quite simple and because of this simplicity the author is able to really imbue her characters and the world they reside in with a depth and realism that is lacking in a lot of fantasy today.

The real beauty of what Lois McMaster Bujold is trying to accomplish though starts to take shape in Passage, the third Sharing Knife novel. Still recovering from the climactic events that took place in Legacy, Dag Redwing Hickory and Fawn Bluefield have decided to go on a belated wedding trip by boat down to the Southern Sea. On this journey, they are joined by new companions including Fawn’s brother Whit, the farmer boy Hod that Dag accidentally ‘beguiled’, a couple of in-training Lakewalker patrollers (Remo & Barr) who have gotten in trouble with their elders, and Captain Berry Clearcreek who is hunting for her missing father, brother and betrothed which eventually leads to an even greater mystery and a new threat…

What’s interesting about this book is that while Passage is a continuation of The Sharing Knife series and again revolves around Dag and Fawn—specifically alternating between their two point-of-views—the novel is a bit different from the original duology. For one, the romantic elements have been really toned down with Passage focusing more on what Dag is going to do with his life now that he’s ‘retired’ from patrolling and how he can bridge that cultural gap between Lakewalkers & farmers. As a result, Dag spends a lot of time explaining ‘secret’ Lakewalker customs to farmers and experimenting with groundsense which introduces some new abilities like ground-ripping as well as offering intriguing insights into medicine making, beguilement and knife making. At the same time though, these experiments and explanations bring up a bunch of new questions that will hopefully be addressed in the next Sharing Knife book, as well as explaining where the Lakewalkers got their abilities in the first place 🙂 Secondly, supporting characters are figured more prominently in the new book. In other words, when I was reading Beguilement and Legacy the only characters I really cared about were Dag & Fawn which makes sense since they were the center of the story. In Passage however, the book is not just about Dag & Fawn, but also their companions, and by the end of the novel I came to think of everyone as this one big happy family 🙂 Lastly, unlike the duology which was obviously one single story split into two volumes, Passage—for all that it is a sequel and possesses overriding themes & plotlines that will be concluded in Horizon—is essentially a self-contained novel…

Of course, for all its differences Passage remains a Sharing Knife novel. That means the prose remains accessible and colorful—particularly the Lakewalkers/farmers’ dialect—the pace is page-turning, and the story is character-driven. That also means there’s not very much action in the book, at least not the kind that is normally associated with fantasy novels. In fact, Passage may have less action in it than either of the previous Sharing Knife book since the mystery/threat that our heroes do face is resolved relatively quickly. Then again, Passage is not meant to be an action-thriller and instead, it’s the journey and how it changes the characters that is important and from that viewpoint, Lois succeeds wildly. And then there’s the good-natured humor that has been a staple of the series so far and continues in Passage including a sheep-rescuing operation, a giant catfish, and a joke involving pots, as well as various other humorous asides 😉

As a whole, Passage is another delightful and gripping entry in The Sharing Knife saga, a fantasy series that continues to offer readers a unique, but no less rewarding experience. So if you decide to give Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Sharing Knife a chance, expect characters you can’t help but fall in love with, a world that sometimes feels more alive than our own, and themes that we can all relate to including prejudice, sacrifice, family, and of course, love…

NOTE: For my thoughts on Beguilement & Legacy, please visit my review of the duology HERE and read on for a wonderful interview with Lois McMaster Bujold below…

BONUS FEATURE — Lois McMaster Bujold Author Q&A:

Q: Your new book Passage is out April 22, 2008 and continues The Sharing Knife saga that began in Beguilement and Legacy, and as I understand it you’ve already completed book four which is titled Horizon (February 2009). Now are the new books like the first duology which was basically a single story split in half? Also, is it better for new readers if they start with Beguilement first or can they just pick up Passage; and what is it about Fawn Bluefield, Dag Redwing and their world that you find so enjoyable to write about?

Lois: Since the second pair of books in the Sharing Knife quartet were intended to be a duology from (nearly) the start (instead of being split apart after the fact), they individually are somewhat more rounded than the first pair. Each volume has plot elements that are set up and resolved within its covers, as well as each being unified by its setting (Passage is a river journey, Horizon is a road trip.) So they may be read as stand-alones, or at least, the mid-point between the two isn’t the sort of cliffhanger to give readers heart failure. But there are larger plot and thematic concerns that spread over both volumes – in fact, all four volumes – that will only be resolved at the end of Horizon, when the whole pattern can at last be seen.

If I could draw it here, the TSK series structure would look like a row of four little arcs (the volumes) surmounted by two arcs (the two duologies) surmounted by one over-arching arc (the series/tetralogy).

There is enough backstory round-up at the start of each volume that they could in a pinch be read as stand-alones (and undoubtedly will be, by some readers), but that’s not what the Chef Recommends; pieces of the thematic foundation would be missing from the structure growing in the reader’s head.

For those who haven’t caught up with the beginning, a sample can still be found HERE.

First three chapters of Beguilement, free on-line. Why make the poor writer sit there and tell you about the book, when you can see it for yourself? Books are meant to be experienced, not described.

TSK began as a project to give myself pleasure in writing again, at a time when I felt very dry, and it held up well for that purpose pretty much from end to end. I was doing several literary experiments at once, including playing with landscapes and social-scapes that were distinctly New World, not recycled European medievaloid. Another quest was to see what would happen if I gave my characters a real grown-up problem to grapple with, one that defied easy, cathartic solutions like cutting off some bad guy’s head or toppling the Dark Tower du Jour. “Demographic” is a word that doesn’t even exist in Dag’s vocabulary, but he sees the shape of the tale’s central problem clearly enough. Seeing the solution is as hard for him as it is for us.

But foremost I wanted to see what would happen when I tried to make a romance the central plot of a fantasy novel – and wow was that ever a learning experience, not only about what makes a romance story work, but, more unexpectedly, uncovering many of the hidden springs and assumptions that make fantasy work. It turns out to be a much harder blending that I’d thought, going in – after all, I’d had romantic sub-plots in both my fantasy and my SF books before, and wasn’t it just a matter of shifting the proportions a bit?

Well, no, it turns out. The two forms have different focal planes. In a romance in the modern genre sense, which may be described as the story of a courtship from first meeting to final commitment, the focus is personal; nothing in the tale (such as the impending end of the world, ferex) can therefore be presented as more important. On a secret level, it’s also true; romances are in effect tales about the promulgation of human evolution through sexual selection, a far more fundamental and important long-term activity than any year’s, or millenia’s, passing politics. (For one thing, it is now theorized by evolutionary biologists that human intelligence is a result of sexual selection.) So romances are at once more personal and more universal than most F&SF plots.

Viewing the reader response to the first two volumes of TSK, it has been borne in upon me how intensely political most F&SF plots in fact are. Political and only political activity (of which war/military is a huge sub-set) is regarded as “important” enough to make the protagonists interesting to the readers in these genres. The lyrical plot is rare, and attempts to make the tale about something, anything else – artistic endeavor, for instance – are regularly tried by writers, and as regularly die the grim death in the marketplace. (Granted The Wind in the Willows or The Last Unicorn will live forever, but marginalized as children’s fiction.)

I have come to believe that if romances are fantasies of love, and mysteries are fantasies of justice, F&SF are fantasies of political agency. (Of which the stereotypical “male teen power fantasy” is again merely an especially gaudy and visible subset.)

At any rate, the second pair of TSK books grapple more directly with the political issues that have been inherent all along in the persons of Dag and Fawn, each representing their own culture in this tale of culture clash. It will be interesting to see if the fantasy readers therefore find their plots more apprehendable. The books as a group are very much about the tensions between the personal and the political, and how the latter depends, so thoroughly that it dares not acknowledge the debt lest it face bankruptcy, upon the former.

Anyway, the courtship tale being a done deal by the end of the second volume, the second duology shifts more to the political plane; I loved the worldbuilding and the characters, and even when I was forced to plunge again into a political plot for the continuation, they carried me along. I look forward with fascination to the reader response from both sides of the genre fence to this second duology, and wonder if it will be as revealing as what I’ve seen so far.

Q: Currently you’re working on a new Vorkosigan novel for Baen Books which I’m sure many readers are excited about. Is there anything you can tell us about this book or any other writing projects that you might be working on?

Lois: The new Miles book is, as they say, Under Development at present, happily a lot more so today than, say, a month ago, when I was getting very unhelpfully frantic and cranky about it. Pre-writing is starting to happen, scribbling notes to myself and what-not. There isn’t a lot more I can say about it at this time, except that as it is getting started about four months later than I’d hoped, with about two months worth of unplanned interruptions still to come, it will also be finished later than originally projected. It will be a book; it will have Miles in it.

The Vorkosigan Companion, a compendium of interviews, articles, and a concordance on the Vorkosiverse (as the readers have dubbed it, since I declined to name it myself) will be upcoming from Baen. I haven’t been told the schedule yet, though Locus lists it as Dec. 2008. My oldest friend Lillian Stewart Carl is one of the editors, along with the crew at Marty Greenberg’s Teknobooks.

WorldCon wants something from me for their program book, preferably a story, which I should have expected but somehow didn’t. (They also want a speech.) I haven’t written a short story for two decades, so that may be a problem; unless some neurons fire big-time between now and May 1st (which is a problem since I really want all my remaining brain for the Miles book) they’re probably going to get an excerpt from the upcoming The Vorkosigan Companion. I have at least two more promised e-interviews circling in the queue this month (blog posts for Eos, an interview from my Chinese publisher). I’ve done what feels like about three hundred but is probably half a dozen e-interviews this year, and even with cut ‘n pasting I’m not keeping up. More to come, I’m sure.

Q: In speculative fiction there seems to be this great divide between science fiction & fantasy, including the way publishers market books, fan support and so on. Since you’ve had the pleasure of writing both science fiction and fantasy, what are your thoughts on this divide and what do you feel are the differences between science fiction and fantasy literature?

Lois: I know some people feel fantasy and science fiction are two different genres, but I think they are more a continuum. A long, branching, and complicated continuum, true. I would say, “If the supernatural is presented as real, it’s fantasy”, but where does that leave alternate history? SF aims at inducing a sense of wonder in the reader, fantasy at inducing a sense of the numinous; are these really two different things, or only two names for something that’s the same at heart? And so on.

For me, the technical aspects of writing – setting up scenes and viewpoints, worldbuilding, characterization, pacing and plotting – are the same for both genres. And, as discussed above, both genres share a peculiar focus on the political as subject matter, although I’ve tried to wrest my work away from that, in different ways, in both the Chalion and The Sharing Knife books. So while books out on the extreme ends of the F&SF continuum are readily distinguishable, not much in the middle is.

Classification is a problem for theorists. I’m data. My job is not to explain, but simply to be, to the best of my abilities.

Q: Staying on this topic, what is your opinion on the evolution of fantasy and science fiction since you were first published in the mid-80s, and where do you see speculative fiction going in the future especially concerning technological advancements?

Lois: Certainly there is hotter competition for audience time and attention, on which there is a hard limit of 24/7. There comes a point – for me, rather quickly – where a person simply can’t take in any more information, any faster, without a pause to digest it all. I sometimes feel, in this world of information-glut, like a person who has been led into a giant supermarket and told she must eat all the food on the shelves. It’s just not going to happen.

If SF as a literary genre is to be saved (does it need to be?) it will need to be done by the younger writers, I suspect. I do run into odd pockets of anti-genre bias here and there – Britain, I am told, is hostile to the genres. (No, I don’t know how this jibes with Harry Potter, Tolkien, etc; this assertion doesn’t add up for me, either.) But if there is a falling-off of interest, I haven’t seen signs of it yet; what I do see is a loss of market share to individual writers simply because there are so many more of us producing so much more stuff – and the stuff from the past is not only not going away, but being actively recovered and made simultaneously available. The e-book purveyor is adding 125 new titles a week. So we’re hitting that 24/7 limit. In other words, a town that can support two grocery stores can’t support three, or five, or five hundred.

But actually, this is a boom time for readers.

I can say, I watch almost no broadcast/cable TV these days; I watch more DVDs, however, mostly anime, science and nature, and travel. This is a result of TV filling up with trash and DVDs becoming more available (through such services as Netflix, which is now shifting to direct downloads, by the way.) It’s been pointed out that while movies make their living selling stories to the viewers, TV makes its living selling viewers to advertisers. If the market structure shifts so that we’re buying TV-length stories directly again, instead of having our attention being sold to sponsors who have no direct interest in the art, it might help divert, at least in part, that race-to-the-bottom effect that made TV so repulsive. Or not…

Something I hadn’t expected was what the development of iPods and MP3 downloads is doing to the audiobooks market, which is, by its modest standards, exploding. Instead of having to wrestle with bulky and expensive physical media, people can just load up whole books, or libraries, into audio format and go. Because access is made easy and choices are so hugely expanded (as Netflix did for me with DVDs), more people are trying more books, and getting into the habit of listening.

I do think all the new media creation tools distributed to mass hands is going to make new art forms possible, plus art coming up through non-traditional channels. On-line comics, self-made videos (no, not that kind, though even that kind may find itself having to improve quality in order to attract and hold viewers), pixel-based imaging – the top few percent of works from any huge enough base of creative people is bound to be pretty impressive.

Q: Considering how long you’ve been writing, all the awards (Hugos, Nebulas) that you’ve accumulated and being a New York Times bestselling author, what still challenges you and what do you still want to accomplish?

Lois: Well, for one thing, I’m only a NYTimes bestseller by the broad definition – I’ve been in the top 35 several times, which qualifies one to emblazon it on one’s books, but I’ve not yet hit the Big List, the top 16, the list that gets placed in every bookstore and newspaper in the country. This wouldn’t have occurred to me as an ambition except that I’ve come so close inadvertently – why not those last few steps? It’s an award that’s given out 64 times a month, how can it be so much harder to gain than an award that’s given out once a year? Or so I muse. So that remains an unclimbed mountain for me.

But I think what I want most these days is to gain control of my own time. I’ve puzzled over what “retirement” means to me when what I’d want to do, if I retired, is stay home and write books, which is pretty much what I do now. I would very much like to retire from having deadlines, however, and from doing excessive PR, although it seems that’s incompatible with that NYT hankering. I sometimes wonder about the utility of the effort, though. I mean, J.R.R. Tolkien doesn’t go on book tours, or maintain a blog, or blare his opinions all over the Internet, and his books sell just fine. If I hid out and pretended I was dead, would they let me just write? I picture a steady stream of newly-discovered posthumous Bujold manuscripts emanating from a Minnesota attic, or in my case, basement…

Without actually faking a funeral, I think I would like to circle back to my beginnings and write all my books on spec, at my own pace, selling nothing till it’s finished. (Except without getting my utilities cut off, or having my checks bounce, or having no health insurance, or all the other un-charms of that long-ago era.) I would be there right now this year, but I made a special exception for publisher Toni Weisskopf at Baen, in light of the two decades we’ve been working together.

Q: Recently on SF Signal’s Mind Meld the following question was asked: “Two of the most highly regarded fantasy authors – Tolkien and Lewis – were also Christians, whereas the fathers of science fiction were atheists, and SF itself, it could be argued, grew out of Darwinism and other notions of deep time. Is science fiction antithetical to religion?” The answers to this question can be found HERE, but how would you respond?

Lois: Given the number of F&SF writers I know who are variously devout, including Quakers, Roman Catholics, Mormons, Jews, assorted Protestants, as well as agnostics and atheists (and the same goes for scientists), I’d say no; religion or its absence is a matter of the writer’s world view, and will vary with the writer, not with the genre.

Darwinism isn’t necessarily incompatible with religion, either, but it requires a non-childish and perhaps less comfortable form of religion.

Everything is incompatible with the goofier sort of fundamentalism that isn’t itself, by self-definition; there’s no way any art can respond to that, since such beliefs basically stick their fingers in their ears and cry La-La-La to the world. Self-defending with a vengeance.

Q: In closing, last year was tough for writers of speculative fiction. Several authors passed away including Robert Jordan, Madeline L’Engle, Lloyd Alexander, Leigh Eddings, Fred Saberhagen, Jack Williamson, Alice Borchardt, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. while Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. And just recently SF legend Arthur C. Clarke passed away. Were you affected by any of this and is there anything you would like to say?

Lois: It has certainly renewed my consciousness of the value of my own time, and the people in it, and put all careers, including my own, into perspective. Leaves in the wind. All voices fall silent. I suppose it isn’t rational to say “But it’s too soon!” about writers passing in their 90’s, though we do, but finding the increasing number of folks my age or younger in the Locus obituary column naturally gives me more pause. (Don’t forget John M. Ford in that list.)

It also reminds me that this genre I work in is still new, only one long generation old. I do quite hope I live long enough to see it hijacked by a younger generation and carried off to new life and uses, preferably to a chorus of “But that’s so wrong!” from the superannuated, of which, if I’m lucky and careful, I hope to be one. And if not, well, I’ve had one heckuva turn already.

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Winners of the Kate Elliott/Crossroads Giveaway + Misc. News!

Posted by cervantor on PM00000070000000030 1, 2008

Congratulations to Jennifer Javarone (New York) and Katherine Gaines (Arkansas) who were both randomly selected to win a SET of Kate Elliott’s Crossroads books including copies of “Spirit Gate” and “Shadow Gate” courtesy of Tor Books!!! And just in case you missed it, I recently posted an interview with the author HERE and my review of “Shadow GateHERE, which is officially released today 😀

In book news, Stephen Baxter’s short story “Last Contact” has been shortlisted for the 2008 Hugo Award. In celebration of this achievement, Solaris Books—who originally printed the short story in The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction anthology edited by George Mann—have decided to make “Last Contact” available online for FREE. So be sure to take this opportunity and read “Last ContactHERE.

In other news, “Street: Empathy”, the debut novel by UK-based cyberpunk novelist Ryan A. Span, has been released by Gryphonwood Press. Span is the author of the popular online serial Street of Eyes. “Street: Empathy” comprises the first year of the online serial, and includes a preview of year two. Span says of his debut novel, “If you like dark science-fiction, you’ll like it. If you like cyberpunk in particular, you’ve hit gold.” Street: Empathy is Gryphonwood’s sixth release. Other titles include “The Silver Serpent” (Reviewed HERE) by David Debord, “Seabird” by Sherry Thompson, “Dourado” by David Wood, “An Old-Fashioned Christmas” by James Weidman, and the anthology “Stories From the Inkslingers”.

Moving on, Bragelonne, the leading French fantasy publishing house, and Gollancz, an imprint of the Orion Publishing Group, are delighted to announce that Pierre Pevel’s dragon fantasy sequence, beginning with “Les Lames du Cardinal”, will be translated and published in English in 2009.

The first adult French fantasy novel to be translated into English, “Les Lames du Cardinal/The Cardinal’s Blades” is a superb swashbuckling novel set in a vividly realized seventeenth century Paris where intrigue, duels, spies and adventure are rife and Cardinal Richelieu’s men may be prevailed upon to risk life and limb in the name of France at a moments notice. And the defense of France has never been more pressing. A threat is growing in the south – a threat which would see a huge dragon-shaped shadow cast over France, quite unlike the little pet dragonets which roam the cities like stray cats, or the tame wyverns men can ride like horses high above the Parisian rooftops. These dragons and their descendents are ancient, powerful, terrible . . . and their influence is spreading. It’s up to Captain La Fargue and his elite group of men, the Cardinal’s Blades, to stop them – or to die in the attempt.

Gillian Redfearn, editor at Gollancz, says: ‘I’m delighted to welcome Pierre Pevel to the Gollancz list, and am looking forward enormously to working with him on The Cardinal’s Blades. It’s a great concept, and a gripping, superbly executed story – you can feel the menace, taste the Parisian mud and feel the breeze stirred up by dragon’s wings.’

Stéphane Marsan, Editorial Director of Bragelonne, adds: ‘This is a great day for the genre, and a fabulous personal reward after the thirteen years I’ve devoted to publishing French Fantasy writers, to see a French fantasy be translated for the English speaking market. For such a prestigious UK imprint to choose to publish Pierre Pevel’s work is cause for immense joy and great pride. It’s also a fantastic, and deserved, achievement for Pierre Pevel and a testament to the skill and broad appeal of his work. This deal shows Gollancz’s open mind, curiosity and taste and I hope it’ll pave the way for more English translations of foreign Fantasy novels in the future.’

Pierre Pevel, born in 1968, is one of the foremost writers of French fantasy today. The author of seven novels, he was awarded the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire in 2002 and the Prix Imaginales in 2005, both for Best Novel. He’s also Ian Fleming’s James Bond series French translator and an expert on TV series scriptwriting. “Les Lames du Cardinal” is also sold in Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, the Czech Republic and Russia. Sounds a little bit like Naomi Novik’s Temeraire novels and I’m definitely intrigued. I wonder if it will get published in North America?

Lastly, if you’re a fan of the author James Rollins—also writes fantasy under the pen name James Clemens—like I am, then be sure to stop by The Signed Page who is offering preorders for signed copies of both James’ novelization of the upcoming movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and his new Sigma Force adventure “The Last Oracle” (Release Date: June 24, 2008)!!!

Oh, one last thing 🙂 I just happened across this little blog called Cover Out Loud that features books covers and thought some readers might be interested in it, particularly the various artwork on display for Neil Gaiman’s forthcoming release “The Graveyard Book” (Fall 2008). Like the image above for instance 😉 So definitely check it out!

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Interview with Kate Elliott

Posted by cervantor on PM000000120000000030 1, 2008

Official Kate Elliott Website
Order “Shadow Gate
Read An Excerpt
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s REVIEW of “Shadow Gate

One of my favorite fantasy series of all time is the Crown of Stars saga by Kate Elliott—pen name for Alis A. Rasmussen—so when she agreed to participate in an interview supporting the release of her new book “Shadow Gate”, I couldn’t have been happier 🙂 And whether you’re familiar with the author or not, I think you’re in for a real treat because Kate goes over and beyond in answering the following questions which offers incredible insight into the kind of writer she is, her goals & inspirations behind the new Crossroads series, her thoughts on the Crown of Stars saga, and future projects including four more books set in the Crown of Stars milieu:

Q: You’ve been a published writer since the late 80s, first under your own name Alis A. Rasmussen (The Labyrinth Gate, The Highroad Trilogy), and then as Kate Elliott including the Jaran books, the Crown of Stars series, the Golden Key collaboration (w/Melanie Rawn & Jennifer Roberson), several short stories, and your current series Crossroads. For someone who hasn’t read any of your titles, how would you describe your writing style and where would you recommend they start?

Kate: I write lurid adventure fiction.

I write historical novels set in imaginary worlds.

I write HBO-style fantasy and SF, heavy on the characterization and detail with a big canvas and complex narrative.

Take your pick, or ask me to come up with a different description.

While there are many “traditional” elements to the novels I write, I also work to bring stories and characters into the epic fantasy (and epic space opera, when I’ve written it) that are normally not considered to be part of “the tradition”. Whose lives are “worth” examining? Whose stories get neglected or overlooked because they aren’t deemed “important enough”? Who decides what matters? As a writer, I get to decide for my own books, and I always try to challenge my own expectations and assumptions about who needs, and gets, a voice.

As for where to start, I think it depends on what any given person likes to read.

Jaran” (1992) can be read as a standalone adventure novel with a love story, steppe nomads, alien overlords, light cavalry inspired battle scenes, and a young woman trying to figure out her place in the world. The subsequent Novels of the Jaran (1993-94) follow up by expanding the field of play from a single region on a single planet to the larger conflict among humankind and their alien masters, but there are still lots of horse-riding nomads, big battle set-pieces contrasted with more intimate scenes, actors, colonialism, and more characters trying to figure out who they are and where they fit into the cosmos. I might call it anthropological SF, with sabers.

The Labyrinth Gate” was published (1988) before I had heard the term steampunk. It’s set in the early Industrial Revolution in a world in which factories are powered by magic and ancient powers still work in the land. Also, there is a magical tarot-like deck (of my own devising) as well as a sub-plot about universal suffrage and the early development of unions. It’s a “through-the-looking-glass” novel in which two people from our world accidentally cross into another world.

The Highroad Trilogy (1990) is space opera, set in an isolated region of space colonized by cryo-ships that has long been cut off from the main inhabited systems of the galaxy. I borrowed elements of the plot from the story of the Russian Revolution because I was interested in the mechanisms of revolution and also because any Stalin analogue makes a great villain. The heroine’s sidekick is a little robot called Bach, who communicates in—as you might expect—music. Looking back, I realize that the majority of the characters in this trilogy are PoC for reasons embedded in the way I set up the colonization of Reft Space. By the way, this trilogy and “The Labyrinth Gate” were written under my real name, Alis A Rasmussen, and are currently out of print. Everything else is under Kate Elliott—and if it isn’t in print, it should be!

The Golden Key” (1996): magic and art set in an Italo-Spanish-Mediterranean alternate world setting, with a villain so fabulous (if I must say so myself) that the amazing cover artist Michael Whelan used himself as the model for the cover art, which portrays the antagonist. Working with Melanie Rawn and Jennifer Roberson was an exceptional experience; we clicked on this thing and wrote something no one of us could have managed alone.

Crown of Stars (1997-2006): if you like long convoluted fantasy narratives set in an alternate medieval world with lots of dirt and plenty of battles and magic and drama, this is the series for you.

At the heart of everything I write lies character and landscape. Having studied martial arts and fought in the SCA back in my youth, I enjoy writing a good fight scene. I’m particularly interested in the historical process and in examining the ways cultures change over time and how they meet—with resistance, with conflict, with cooperation and curiosity—and interact with other cultures.

Q: “Shadow Gate”, the follow-up to last year’s “Spirit Gate” and second volume in your new Crossroads series, is set to drop in the UK on April 3, 2008 (Orbit) and April 15, 2008 in the US (Tor). What can you tell us about the new book?

Kate: First of all, I want to say that I write multi-volume novels not because publishers tell me to do so but because my mind works that way: that is, all my books to a greater or lesser degree explore the nature of unfolding, and often unexpected, consequences.

As a digression on this subject, with each book I identify an aspect of craft I want to specifically work on for that book. With “Shadow Gate” I chose two things: 1) use of detail and 2) trimming words. I made a couple of passes through the manuscript purely for cutting words, phrases, sentences, and sometimes entire paragraphs. Once or twice I was able to cut whole pages of text. On those days I was scarcely able to contain my excitement.

Additionally, I worked hard to make every detail in the book (and it’s a long book) work not just as a narrative detail for “local color” but to perform at least one other duty, whether as characterization (it’s the kind of detail this character would notice that another character would not), foreshadowing (that’ll be important later), backshadowing (recalling an earlier incident), targeted world-building, cultural contrast, and so on.

Oh—the plot? As befits the title, I think this is a darker book than “Spirit Gate” because I highlight consequences of social breakdown, war, and systemic slavery, although it’s also very much a book about how people find the strength to adapt, survive, and fight back.

Q: As with your previous series, Crossroads looks to feature excellent worldbuilding. What is it about worldbuilding that you love, and what are the keys to successfully crafting such a believable, yet fantastical world like that of the Hundred?

Kate: I don’t believe in keys or secret handshakes—different approaches will work for different people or for the same people but at different times—but two things I use for world-building are:

ordinary life + immersion.

I try to conceptualize, comprehend, and construct the ordinary lives of ordinary people.

Ordinary life goes like this: Where do we (in this world) get our food? How often are we likely to be hungry? What songs do we sing? What festivals do we observe? What clothes do we wear and why? What technology do we take for granted? How do we relate to our family groupings and to larger social groupings? How do they relate to us? And so on. That gives me some insight into the kind of attitudes and expectations the characters will have.

I then work to write from inside their perspective, not outside it from my perspective, so the characters’ views of the world are embedded within the culture they are “living” in rather than being viewed as by an outsider. For instance, obviously we are embedded in our own cultural views of the world. We often don’t really think much about it, but if I am writing in a secondary world that is not this world I am always thinking about how my view of their world is not meant to be their view of their world. This is the part I call immersion. (As a footnote I would reference Farah Mendlesohn’s argument for “four categories within the fantastic: the intrusive, the estranged, the portal, and the immersive fantasy,” [from her article “Toward a Taxonomy of Fantasy”] but if I understand her argument correctly—see her forthcoming book Rhetorics of Fantasy—my secondary world fantasies use elements of both portal and immersive fantasy as she defines them; that discussion is beyond the purview of my comments here.)

In order to write this way, I have to craft both the world and the characters, and that takes more text time than, say, urban fantasy set in a modern—usually familiar suburban-urban USA lifestyle—setting in which the writer can take for granted that a lot of the setting and expectations are understood by the reader. I also try to avoid writing second world fantasy in which some bad exists which is not seen as bad in the context of the society being portrayed (let’s use slavery as an example) but in which one “enlightened” character—who stands in for our own modern attitudes—parades around self-righteously for us to identify with. Note my use of the word “try” since, as with pretty much every other trick known to writers, I have employed this my own self although I’ll leave you to judge whether I did it on purpose or accidentally.

But in general, and preferably, if I write about a society in which, say, slavery is part and parcel of the cultural and economic landscape, I may well write characters who either approve of it or who never question it, not because I approve of slavery but because they function within the context of their society. I may also write characters who disapprove of slavery within the context of their own situation, where appropriate. In Crossroads I do in fact deal with the some of the ramifications of slavery, and if you read closely I hope you will see my critique of that institution through the cruelties it imposes on people who are enslaved, even if certain of my most sympathetic characters never question slavery’s existence or immorality.

Having said that, do I think every writer of secondary world fantasy or SF ought to write as I do, with intensive world-building? Not at all. This isn’t a manifesto, just an exploration of how I work. I have enjoyed novels with modern characters in fancy dress; I have enjoyed stories that employed modern settings where I don’t have to work to figure out the landscape. I’ve enjoyed sff that skimmed over the landscape to focus on character interaction or prose style.

I think the strength of our field is that we have so many disparate voices writing so many different kinds of narrative. Why on earth would I want everyone else to write like me? I can write like me. I need writers to write like them, so I can read something I couldn’t or wouldn’t write. Indeed, we could use more inclusion, not less. Celebrate diversity. If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with. Sorry. I’m dating myself.

Q: Speaking of the diverse cultures and mythologies explored in Crossroads, what were some of your influences?

Kate: The instigation for Crossroads was an online comment made years ago by a person who stated that no polytheistic religion could be moral. Of course then I had to write one. I ended up getting interested in how justice is conceptualized, which inevitably meant that the story-line was destined to spend most of its time dealing with injustice.

Add the eagle reeves, courtesy of my spouse, a former police officer.

Toss in the nine cloaked guardians who are out-takes from my first completed (never published) novel, written when I was 19; all that is really left from the original conception is the different colored cloaks. I have no idea why I then found or still find this bit of business (cloaks of many colors) appealing.

Stir with the law code of medieval Danish king Vladimir II, in whose reign was promulgated the Jyske Lov (Jutland Code), whose first statement can be translated as “with law shall the land be built.” (Yes, reader, I stole the phrase. And I was proud to do it, being of Danish-American heritage.)

Construct an Asia-Pacific inspired setting courtesy of my exposure to the Asia-Pacific culture of Hawaii, where I now live.

Place in a sub-tropical physical landscape because I didn’t want to have to write about snow.

That’s the short version. I’m not sure you really want the long one.

Q: Crossroads was originally conceived as three trilogies with “each trilogy telling a complete story but with one larger narrative strand that will link all three together (over three generations)”. While the first and third trilogies would each have three volumes, I believe your plan was to tell the middle trilogy in a single volume. So, with “Shadow Gate” on the way, is your overall concept still progressing the way you wanted it to, and how far along are you with the other books in the series?

Kate: Crossroads is not a seven volume novel.

If all goes well, the book I am writing now will close off several major plot lines and thematic explorations so that the first three books will function as a trilogy. If I can pull it off, the middle story would not even be a trilogy, it would just be a standalone novel. What a challenge!

The “second trilogy” is actually the original story I wanted to tell, but as I was writing the prologue for that story, the prologue got longer and longer and longer and finally my husband suggested I separate it off and turn it into a (single) book. Next time he suggests that I might just, um, shoot him. Or me. Or something.

Maybe I should also state that (at this point in time) I do not want to ever again write a seven volume novel as long and complex as Crown of Stars. It was exhausting, for one thing, and honestly—in purely economic terms it does not benefit a writer to write 300,000 words over two and a half years and have a single volume appear on the shelves almost three years after their last book while another writer has written 300,000 words and had three volumes appear in the same period of time. Not that I would ever reduce things to purely economic terms, mind you, but I do have to eat.

I have no quarrel with myself for what I did in the sense that I wrote what I had to (and was able to and wanted to) write at the time. I hope I am a better writer for what I did well, that I learned from my mistakes, and that over the long haul I can build on my strengths and mitigate my weaknesses in order to write stronger, leaner, but equally powerful and in-depth books in the future.

Q: You’ve always maintained a close relationship with your readers which I think is fantastic. Why is this important to you?

Kate: If a tree falls in a forest and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? As a writer, my career doesn’t exist without readers (I note parenthetically that I don’t think writers need an audience to be writers; people who write are writers). Therefore, I have a profound appreciation for my readership. I mean, they read my books! How amazing is that!

Q: This leads me to another question: how much do you let readers’ feedback inform your writing? For instance, one major complaint against the Crown of Stars was that the series ‘rambled’ too much and could have been condensed into fewer volumes. Is this something you’re addressing with Crossroads?

Kate: That’s a tricky question, to which the answer is yes and no. I do keep an eye on reader reaction, partly out of vanity but mostly because it helps to know what readers are responding to and how. That helps me figure out what is working, and what isn’t.

For example, from reader reaction I could tell that the character of Hugh in Crown of Stars was evoking exactly the emotional response I had written for.

If some element was clearly not getting across, I might then try to adapt how I was approaching it. For instance, in “Shadow Gate” I worked very hard to make every detail count and to make the pacing run quickly and smoothly because I recognize that for some readers the later Crown of Stars books bogged down a bit.

On the other hand, I have to write the books and characters as I conceive them. As a writer, I can’t substitute another person’s wishes or wants or ways of seeing for my own; otherwise—to make the obvious point—they wouldn’t be my books.

I do bring a particular and specific point of view to everything I write. Sure, there are universally only three stories, or seven stories, or whatever ancient and modern writing pundits like to say, but any storyteller can put their unique spin on the tale s/he is telling, so that it isn’t a story anyone else could have told. In fact, as a reader that’s what I look for. I’m happy to read nifty clever new concepts but I don’t privilege them; I’m more interested as a reader in feeling that the approach, the angle, the way detail is used, the insight into character, and/or the development of cultures and landscapes—whatever—is something this particular author is bringing to me regardless of how “novel” the main plot line is.

There is a thing I want to clarify: I often read the complaint that publishers force writers to pad their books in order to give them “epic length” (or some such variation on this complaint). Let me state for the record that I have never been asked to make my books longer in order to give them the magical “heft” to be marketed as a certain kind of fat fantasy novel. So if you need to blame someone for, say, Crown of Stars being too long and convoluted, blame me.

No, never mind, don’t even blame me. Blame John Hamby, who came to one of my signings years ago and assured me that it was FINE that I write as many volumes as it took because he would happily read them all. So it’s all his fault, and I’m sure he’s man enough to accept responsibility.

Q: On the topic of the Crown of Stars, what are your thoughts on the series as a whole and will there be any further stories set in that world or are you done with it?

Kate: Can I write a seven volume trilogy as an answer? Wow, big question.

Here’s the short answer: I am satisfied that I wrote the ending as I had envisioned it all along. Getting to that end took me the long way round.

The long answer follows:

First of all, the basic stories—Alain, Liath, and Sanglant—fell out as I had planned, although there were numerous detours along the way as is obvious to anyone who read the series.

Detours can be both good and bad.

They are problematic if, as happened to me at times, they end up going off on a tangent and diffusing the story to the point where it gets too complex, too tangled, too spread out in too many directions. Did I do that with Crown of Stars? Well. Probably. It’s very tempting when a new path opens up to go charging down it. Sometimes the well worn paths get boring because you know them, and the unknown track has a sense of mystery that makes you want to explore that way: should I write another scene with a well known character in a well known setting working through an issue I’ve already dealt with even if it’s not quite yet resolved? Or launch someone into a new culture or up against a new obstacle? I did not always say ‘no, not that way’ when maybe I should have.

On the other hand, the question of what I could have done differently with the complexity and letting some of the sub plots get away from me is a tricky one. Looking back on it from this side, I’m not sure which plot lines I would cut (as opposed to trim); I’m not sure I would cut any of the plot lines because they do all actually contain plot elements that feed into the larger narrative as I specifically conceived it, which may not be exactly the narrative some readers thought they were getting. Anyway, I’m continually learning as I go, so there remains a question of how much I learned from writing Crown of Stars that allows me to look back on it with hindsight, as opposed to how much I could really have changed what I did knowing what I did at the time.

The one thing I definitely had trouble doing and which needed to be done was cutting excess verbiage, extraneous description, and in general just trimming back the undergrowth to make the whole thing leaner. So while I don’t think there could or should have been fewer volumes (with the exception of volumes six and seven which were originally written as a single novel but split in half because of length), the individual volumes could, with better cutting, have been shorter. Was I capable of doing that cutting at that time? I don’t know. I did my best. I labored mightily over those books. I’m still learning.

To go back to main narrative: when would detours be good, you may ask?

As a writer I have learned to trust that oftentimes my subconscious works better than my conscious. Through the process of writing first draft and revising later drafts, I stumble across scenes, places, interactions, details, characters and etc. that work far better than anything I could have plotted out in advance. There is for me something in the movement and development of a first draft in its forward motion that triggers a kind of subconscious hyperlinking.

For instance, in “King’s Dragon”, in the chapter in which I introduce Liath and her situation, I quote from a rather dumb little poem I made up which seemed like a good idea at the time but which I later was kind of embarrassed by. Until I hit the end of “The Burning Stone”. Then, while shaping the basic plots of volume four, “Child of Flame”, I realized that my dumb little poem was the architecture on which the entirety of Liath’s plot in “Child of Flame” would be built. It was as if I had planted it without knowing what I was planting.

Likewise, in my current work in progress (Traitors’ Gate, the third Crossroads novel), I was slowly working my way through a section with character M which I had outlined to cover all the things I knew needed to happen, an open and shut case. As part of this section, I had to write a paragraph travel sequence in which M travels over many many days into isolated country, and at one point she halts for a night, a break from traveling on a beach where, I thought, no human lived. Only one did. In fact, many more than one. Several isolated villages caught, in a way, in the past because the big events of recent decades had passed them by. And suddenly an entire scene flowered into being that illuminates aspects of what society used to look like in, I think, a way that really matters both for the character’s journey and for the reader to understand what has been lost. I could not have planned out that scene in advance; it came alive, as it were, out of the act of writing.

Looking back over the seven volumes of Crown of Stars, there are parts I can still read back through and really enjoy – scenes, interactions, or descriptions that caught as well as I am capable of the emotion or color or movement I wanted to get across. I could do a tour of “my favorite scenes and lines” in the books. Also, I really like the chapter titles. I’m pretty much entirely satisfied with all the Alain chapters, although I admit I became too emotionally attached to the Bronze Age segments in “Child of Flame” and did not trim them down as I should have. And in the larger narrative sense, with the big questions I attempted to tackle and the big canvas on which it was all painted, I feel I achieved epic scope.

Finally (I told you it would be a seven part answer), in terms of my original vision of creating a world of a certain technological level and a certain set of cultures in conflict, I think overall that I accomplished what I set out to do. I feel the world comes across as having a sense of grittiness and mud and physical hardship, unfairness due to the social system, distances made difficult by lack of good transportation and roads, and diversity of cultures explored. I also worked hard to evoke a kind of depth of field so that the reader gets the sense that if s/he were to “read off the page” into something going on at the same time elsewhere, there would be such a place; that characters walk off the scene and keep going rather than folding up until they’re deployed later; that there is another village over the hill. But this is an important part of why I write: I do like to world build.

As for reader and critical reaction, naturally I am chuffed when people like the books, and crushed when they don’t like them. However, I recognize that once I have released the finished manuscript into the world, it’s out of my hands and people will (and should) respond to it according to their own tastes. I do get annoyed by people who insist on judging my work by what they think must be in it rather than what is in it (I’ve had people tell me to my face what kind of fantasy I write—they’re usually wrong—and then in the next breath as good as admit they haven’t read it yet), but beyond that, part of being a writer is giving up control over reader reactions.

Q: What about Jaran and “The Golden Key”? Can you update readers with any news pertaining to possible sequels to these books? How about other writing projects that you might be involved in?

Kate: At this point in time I think it unlikely I will write another novel in “The Golden Key” universe.

I do have more to say about the Jaran universe, but I don’t currently have a timetable for completion of additional novels.

I have a plot set in the Crown of Stars world about five hundred years after the events in “Crown of Stars” (characters from the first series will be long dead). It will most likely be a Young Adult-style quartet of shorter books in which each novel functions with its own complete plot but the larger quartet follows a longer narrative arc as well. It will, among other things, answer the question of what exactly happened to Count Lavastine.

Related to the YA-style fantasy series mentioned above, I am writing a short story for Subterranean Press. Look again at those words—short story—and wish me luck.

As always, I have other things stewing but nothing I can discuss at the moment.

Q: One of the things that most impresses me about you as a writer, is your ability to produce novels at a regular, almost yearly rate. What’s your secret?

Kate: Desperation.

On a material level, in terms of earning a living, a person might write and produce because s/he needs the money. I am currently able to write full-time, but I also have a spouse whose work provides lower-cost health insurance for our family. Obviously if I had to work another job and write, I would not be able to write as much.

On a career level, perhaps one is driven to produce regularly in order to maintain the momentum of a building career, or at least not to lose too much momentum. Big gaps between books can hurt shelf life, can cause an author to fall out of the public eye, can hurt sales. In some cases, a big gap between books might throw the much awaited novel of a writer into high relief (e.g. George R. R. Martin’s forthcoming fantasy), but it’s just as likely to set back a writer’s career.

When my children were little—and given that I was home all the time with them—I often wrote in order to get mental space for myself, in my own world where others did not, for five minutes or an hour or two, intrude. Writing at that time was a form of sanity.

In the larger sense, I have difficulty conceiving of existing without writing, so in that sense I write and continue to write because it’s like breathing. It’s not that I’m desperate to breathe; it’s that I have to in order to be alive.

Also, I am aware that we cannot predict what will happen tomorrow: my career or my life could be over next week (although obviously I hope not!), or I could (as I devoutly hope) be churning along still writing and publishing in my 90s like the late Jack Williamson. I have a lot of stories I want to tell, and boy will they be pissed if they don’t get their chance to be told. That’s desperation.

Q: Are there any preconceived notions that you’d like to dispel about being a female speculative fiction author?

Kate: I don’t own or lease any cats. Nor am I owned by any cats. Other than that I’d be interested to hear what your readers think are the preconceived notions relating to female spec fic authors.

Q: After everything you’ve accomplished so far as a writer, what still challenges you?

Kate: Writing short.

Q: LOL 🙂 Lastly, is there anything else you’d like to say to your fans?

Kate: I’d like to say: Thank you. I am continually amazed (but in a good way!) by what smart and interesting people you lot turn out to be. You all are the best.

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