Wednesday, June 2, 2010 | | 0 comments

10 questions with author Jon Sprunk.

Jon Sprunk is the author of Shadow's Son, available as of yesterday from Pyr Books. I sat down with this engaging rogue (more like emailed back and forth, but that sounds kind of lame, doesn't it?) and we talked about swords and sorcery, assassins, ideas and so forth. You can, of course, find Jon's book at an excellent independent bookstore near you, or an online one. Here's a link to Amazon as well. Also make sure to check out his blog. Now, onto the questions.

1. What's your story? You know, the "this happened, then this, then this, and then I got the magical phone call and someone told me they wanted my book," story? 

Thanks for taking the time to talk. You want The Story? I had just finished reading Joe Abercrombie's excellent The First Law series, and I emailed Lou Anders at Pyr Books to say how much I enjoyed it. We got to talking and I mentioned (oh-so-casually) that I had a manuscript he might like. He agreed to take a look. The day he emailed me with an offer on Shadow's Son was one of the most exciting in my life.  

2. Your first published novel, Shadow's Son, tells the story of Caim, an assassin. How long did you have this novel in your head prior to getting it down on paper? I guess what I'm getting at is, was the process gradual, taking a number of years like author Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind, or was this something that you came up with and immediately set about writing?

It was a combination of those, actually. I had written a novella-length assassin story about four or five years ago, but never got around to fleshing it out. Then, one day I got an idea about a character that could manipulate shadows. The marriage of those inspriations became the Shadow Saga series.

  3. I've asked several other authors about this, but I wanted to get your perspective on it. I received a PDF copy of Shadow's Son from your publicist, and I'm assuming that at some point you'll have an e-book version out for Kindle, Nook, etc. What's your take on the ebook industry? Is it good for writers, bad for writers, or just different, and do you see it changing things over the next few years?

I think it's too early to tell where the ebook revolution is heading, but I hope it will be good for writers. A new format means a new chance to reach readers, and that's exciting.

  4. I love books about assassins. There's just something cool about characters who are hired killers, and there always will be. That being said, do you have a favorite character in Shadow's Son? If so, who is it and why?

I suppose I identify most closely with Caim, the assassin. He makes no excuses about his life or his profession. But I also like his ghostly companion, Kit. Both were fun to write.

  5. Question five isn't really a question, so much as an opportunity for you to shamelessly plug something, anything, that you think is really cool and want to share with the world. 

If you're in the Atlanta area this September, come to Dragon*Con and buy me a beer.

  6. There seems to be a distinct craving in the reading world right now for books that are just a little grittier, a little darker, than the epic fantasy of the 80s. Do you think that's a trend that will continue? Is there a boundary that authors just shouldn't cross in terms of sex, language, or violence?
I try not to think about trends, or boundaries. You have to write what speaks to you. Sometimes that might rub some folks the wrong way. That's life.

Personally, I prefer the grit because it feels more authentic to me. Fantasies about knights and princesses and magical unicorns have their place, but I like a smorgasbord of options when I go to the bookstore.

  7. For the sake of the aspiring writers out there (go me and a billion other people!) that want to gobble up the knowledge of The Mighty Published Ones, could you take us through your writing process? You know, do you outline, how long do you write, what software do you use, any quirks in outlining, writing, blah blah blah.

I write in the evenings because I look after our preschool-age son during the day. I aim for about four new pages per day when writing. I outline all my books scene by scene. Once I have a workable outline, I write the first draft all the way through without editing (much). Then begins a series of revisions aimed at different parts of the book (theme, plotting, language, character development, etc). Then I let my beta readers tear into it. Then I send it to my agent and my editor, and they suggest more things to change.

  8. Certainly you're hard at work on sequels to Shadow's Son, but do you have anything else in the pipeline that you can tell us about?
My hands are full with the trilogy at the moment, but there are fragments of other novels in various states of completion. I'm not sure which I will get to next.

  9. When I did an interview with Seanan Mcguire a while back, I asked her about why zombie fiction is so popular right now. Now I ask you, what is it going to take to get the genre that you're writing in back into that spot of absolute domination that the zombies and vampires hold right now?

More excellent books. Hopefully, I can be a part of the S&S revival of fantasy, but you can't think in terms of trend. I write the kind of books that I would want to read. That's where it starts. After that, all you can do is hope that some other folks want to come along for the ride.
10. Finally, if you were an assassin sent back in time, who would be your target and why?
Doesn't matter. No women, no children. Other than that, the only thing that matters is the paycheck.

Friday, May 21, 2010 | | 0 comments

First Chapters by Darren Part 2

This one is from Soul Proprietor:

    When I started my new job at the hotel, I never thought for a moment that the graveyard shift would lead to my actual grave. I had just finished cleaning up a beer spill in the elevator (yeah, it was just that kind of a night) and was "walking the grounds", a clever euphemism my friend taught me for staying away from the desk work. I was riding the elevators up and down, checking the  floors, when I noticed something strange.
    There were only four floors in the hotel, but the elevator sudddenly had a button labeled 5F. That was new. Yesterday we only had four floors... Out of curiosity, I pushed the button.
    I arrived on the fifth floor, and the doors chimed as they opened into a very different place. There was no carpet, or wallpaper, or windows. The room was very small, probably less than 20 feet square, and lit by a strangely dim light source I couldn't see. There was a single door with a sign on it saying "No Trespassing. Violators will be sacrificed". It would have seemed funny, if the atmosphere of the room wasn't creepy as hell.
    I hesitantly went up to the door, and put my ear against it. I heard voices that I recognized as my boss, and my friend Derrick.
    " doing this? I never did anything to you! I've worked for you, and I've never been late or sick or anything! Just... just put the knife down Mr. Rogers! Come on! Please?" shouted Derrick desperately. He sounded, well, desperate.
    I inched the door open, and looked through the crack. Mr. Rogers, my boss, was walking up to Derrick, who was tied to what appeared to be some sort of stone altar. He had a wavy-bladed knife in his hand, which I knew to be a kris from my martial arts background. He was right next to Derrick now, and laughing quite evilly. Before I could do anything, he plunged the blade right into Derrick's chest. Derrick gasped once, then convulsed. I saw some... thing hovering over him. It had long black robes on, and was humanoid in shape. Its arm shot out and pointed at Derrick, and I noticed it had very pale and skinny hands, almost like... bones.
    I wish I could put a better light on this, but I was freaked. I turned, ran to the elevator, and just shook the entire ride down. When I got the desk, I called the cops.
    "911, what is your emergency?"
    "I'm at the Westcreek Hotel, my boss just killed my best friend, he's on the fifth floor, please come quick!" I gasped into the phone, all of it rushing out at once.
    "Sir, please remain on the line, I'm sending someone over to you now."
    It took about five minutes for the cops to get there, and when they did, I took them to the elevator.
    "Right this way, gentlemen, it's just in here. He was on the fifth floor, it'll only take a second to get th..." the words died in my throat. There were only four buttons. The fifth had vanished.
    "But... it was... what?" was the best I could manage.
    The cops looked at me skeptically, asked if I was on anything, and called my boss at his house. He arrived on the scene a few minutes later, and said he was sorry about all the trouble, he'd take care of it.
    They left, but gave me a warning about calling the cops on a false alarm again.
    "Look, sorry about that, but could you do me a favor and go check his house? Please?" I asked, and gave them the address. They said they would, and left.
    "So James... what was all that about? Did you see something? What happened?" said Mr. Rogers, doing his best father figure impersonation.
    "I... no, I didn't see anything, sorry. I've just been having some trouble sleeping lately is all." I lied, hoping that he wouldn't ask me anything else about it.
    "Well, I can understand that, adjusting to a new schedule and all. Go ahead and go home, I'll finish the shift. Get some rest. I'll need you to be healthy for me, alright?" he said innocently enough, but I could tell there was an undercurrent of... hunger is the best way to describe it.
    "Sure, yeah... that'll be good. Thanks." I said, and walked out the door hurriedly, trying to figure out just what the hell had happened there. My cell phone rang. It was the officer I gave the address to.
    "Yeah, you sure this is the right place? No one's home. It looks like he might have just stepped out. No signs of a struggle or anything. Kid, thanks for the wild goose chase, but I have better things to do." He hung up.
    Great. I turned to go home, thinking furiously. What was that... thing above Derrick? How had my boss gotten home so quickly, and without me noticing? I didn't know of any back doors out of the hotel... then again, I didn't know there was sometimes a fifth floor either. "They really need to train us better" I though, and laughed. I knew I was still in shock, but laughing helped a little. Hell, it was better than crying.

That's all for now! I hope you enjoy!


First Chapters by Darren

So, these are two different beginning chapters of books I am currently working on, and I figured that since I didn't have any reviews prepared this week I'd at least give you all something to read. Feedback is appreciated!

This one is from Dangerous Words:

    I had just ordered coffee and sat down, whipping out my laptop to work on my book, when suddenly I looked out the window to see a car crashing headlong into an 18-wheeler on the highway. It was late, and the only people in the diner were me and the cook; he was in the back freezer, and probably didn't hear anything. I ran outside to see if there was anything I could do, but I was not prepared for what I saw when I got to the car.
    The driver was the only one in the car, and he was quite dead, though from the crash or the large caliber wound in his chest I couldn't tell you. Judging by the amount of blood seeping through his suit jacket, I was leaning towards the bullet. He had a phone clutched in one hand, and a pistol in the other. It had a very professional-looking silencer on the end, which was a bit disconcerting. A tally was starting up in my head: black SUV, pistol, silencer, bullet wound, nice business suit, ear-piece... Shit. This was some heavy stuff, and probably way above the pay-grade of a wannabe author like myself, but this would make a hell of a story if I told it right.
    Before I could call the cops, a couple more black SUVs barreled towards me out of the darkness. [Like Hell!] I thought. [I want this story, and no coverups!] I grabbed the phone, and the gun, and ran. I tried to keep the body of the crashed SUV between them and me, and hoofed it back to the diner. I grabbed my things, tipped the cook, and got the hell out of there.
    As I left, a couple guys in nice suits and sunglasses (oh yeah, they were REALLY trying hard to blend in) came up to the doors, and stopped me. They were of average height and build, with drab brown hair, and tans that made it obvious they worked outside often.
    "Sir, we'd like to ask you a few questions if you don't mind. Did you see the crash?" said the first agent (because I'm pretty sure that's what they were).
    "Of course I saw it. I was right there!" I pointed out the window seat where I had been. "It was really loud too! But you guys got there before I even thought to go and check what happened. Is everything alright?" I asked, keeping my face carefully blank of anything but worry. No need to tip them to the fact that I knew anything (which I wasn't sure I did, really. I mean, yeah, dead guy... but that's about it at the moment).
    "Okay, well, we just needed to get a better picture of things. Can we get your contact information for follow up questions?"  asked the second agent in a creepily similar manner. In fact, now that I thought about it, they both pretty much looked alike. I pride myself on my powers of observation, and I don't think I could tell these men apart if you put a gun to my head (now THAT was an unpleasant image).
    "Yeah, sure, of course." I gave them a fake name and address, of course. I'm not THAT stupid. I told them I didn't have a phone number at the moment, I had just moved in a couple days ago. Yes, I'm a damn good liar if necessary.
    "Thank you sir. We'll be in touch." said creepy clone-boy number one. The terrifying twosome then stared at me until I got the message, and left in a hurry. I didn't want to be around here much longer. I also wanted to go check out that phone, and see if it gave me any clues. No, I'm not a cop, or a P.I. I'm just an unnessicarily curious guy, and I was looking for some inspiration for a book. Plus, I mean, how often do you stumble across an obvious coverup of a murder? They hadn't asked me about anything other than where I was at the time of the crash, and if I had gone up to the car at all. It was pretty obvious they didn't want anyone to know that the driver was shot. That in itself was enough for me to investigate further. Plus now I had a gun, so I felt very Magnum P.I.
    Driving home I kept looking nervously in my rearview mirror for signs of a tail, but after a while I convinced myself that I was just being paranoid, and that I was way too good of a liar for them to think they needed to tail me. When I got home, I didn't immediately pull into my driveway, but instead rolled around the block one or two times, just to make sure. When I finally pulled in, I immediately ran inside, locked the door, and went into my study. My house is a decent-sized three room apartment in downtown Seattle. I had a living room with a kitchen tacked on, a bedroom with bathroom attached, and a small back room with no windows that I used for my study.
    I opened the phone, and when I read the last number dialed, my hair stood up on end. It was MY number. I looked at my phone, and my message light was blinking. I tried to calm myself down for a minute by writing down all the contact info from the phone, and then I turned it off, removed the battery, and the sim card. I'd seen way too many cop shows to let myself be caught by friggin GPS. I was still slightly hyperventillating when I walked over to my phone and pushed play.
    "You have one new message. Message one:" said the answering machine. A male voice spoke, sounding very much in pain, and I heard the sound of cars passing in the background.
    "Mr. Edwards, if you are there, please pick up, this is urgent. I have information that you really need. Your life is in danger. There are agents on their way to your house right now, and I am maybe 15 minutes ahead of them. My cover is already blown, and I am wounded, so I might not make it. If I don't, you need to know that you have information that is very interesting to the Organization, and you are considered expendable once they obtain that information. You need to talk to Eric Donahue, his number is..." and he cut off with a crashing sound. [That must have been him hitting the truck.] I thought detachedly, still in shock. [Why would anyone want to kill me? What information? What the hell is going on here?]
    I didn't know, but I was sure that if his timetable was on, agents should be outside my house in about 20 seconds, give or take. I had to get out of there, yesterday, and it didn't help that I didn't know where I should go. I pocketed the sim card, the contact info, and my phone. I also grabbed the pistol, because why not? I had a credible threat against my life, I felt I was entitled to fight back. Plus I'm a decent shot. I also grabbed a bottle of water and some aspirin, because I could feel the beginnings of the worst headache ever. It was going to be a long, long night.

 More to come!


Friday Rant: Megavideo needs to die in a fire.

You wanna know what really grinds my gears? Megavideo. I hate it with a fiery passion, and I don't see what the use for it is. You can't watch more than 72 minutes at a time, and you have to wait an hour in between each. That wouldn't be so bad if I didn't get all my TV online like a proper nerd. While looking for episode links, I ran across one of the greatest sites in the world,
It's a beautiful site to behold, so to speak, and it's really mostly perfect. There's just one little thing that annoys the everloving crap out of me: every episode has about 3 million megavideo links, and only like 4 that aren't. Since I prefer to watch TV in a barrage of episodes, I can't use megavideo. It doesn't work for me, and really, what's the point anyway? I can get it free elsewhere, obviously, so why even use the site? I don't know, this is just my opinion, that's why it's called a rant, but I believe that the whole megavideo idea needs to be rethought... Note that rethought here means "burned at the stake for crimes against the interwebs". It's just really annoying. It's like some dude that tries to sell you the latest version of Ubuntu: they fuel the world with hatred and animosity, and usually don't deliver anyway. That's all for now. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 | | 0 comments

Red Seas Under Red Skies

Disclaimer: I love Scott Lynch's writing, so I'm clearly going to be biased on this one. Also, they have adult language and content. This isn't so much a review as me sitting at the computer, tired after taking the baby to the doctor, and gushing about something I love.

Red Seas Under Red Skies came out in 2007. It's the sequel to The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. It is the second of a planned seven volumes. So, now that it's been almost 3 years since I first gave this guy a twirl, I've decided to do a re-read. How does this book stack up now?

Very, very well. RSURS is a fantastic sequel. I absolutely treasure The Lies of Locke Lamora, and RSURS gave me everything that I was looking for in a sequel to a first book of that quality. Locke and Jean are up to their usual tricks, and their comedic timing certainly hasn't lost a step from the first book. The characters are vivid, real, an enjoyable. I love the settings of this series, and especially love when Locke gets his chance to captain a ship.

For those of you who can't stand waiting for a sequel, this book might not be for you. Mr. Lynch has been going through some tough personal times, which I only bring up to explain that his writing output has slowed as a result. So, I might suggest holding off if you're one of those people that has to read a series straight through.

For the rest of us, there's absolutely no reason to not hop on, find the nearest bookstore and go and buy these two books. Yes, they've got language and adult content, so you might not let your teenager dive right in (unless you were like me and that was what you wanted from books as a teenager). But I would feel like I had cheated everyone on the interwebs out of a great thing if I didn't say that these books are some of the finest fantasy reading I've come across.

Sunday, May 16, 2010 | | 0 comments

Monday Morning Rant: Why I hate Facebook

Honestly, Facebook scares the crap out of me. It's like big brother for the internet, only it's not about stopping freedom of speech, it's about marketing it. Facebook counts on you not changing your privacy settings when you post something. It loves it. The more public things can be, the more they can be sold to people that want to target you. You specifically, for their ads. For instance, just take a look at this site. It searches public facebook posts, and yes, there's a lot of embarrassing stuff on there.

Try "hate my boss," and then you'll understand why facebook is so evil. The kind of stuff we once told our friends in confidence has now become public because the masses aren't smart enough to keep up with the privacy settings that Facebook seems to change almost weekly.

Now, I can understand why a lot of people would just say "survival of the fittest," and move on, but the fact of the matter is privacy is privacy, and where privacy is concerned, facebook doesn't care about its users. I guess the saying is true, that absolute power corrupts absolutely. It's all about money now, and with money you can't trust a big company to do the right thing.

This is why I left Facebook a few months back. I'm happy to say that I don't miss it at all. I'm still in touch with all my friends and family, I still know what's going on in their lives, and, best of all, I'm not contributing to facebook's bottom line every time I post something innocent like how much I love Marshmallow Mateys.


The Week in Review

As always, just click the review site to be taken straight to the full review. Credit this week goes to The Wertzone, Fantasy Book Critic, Debuts and Reviews, OF Blog of the Fallen and King of the Nerds!!!

"Stealing Fire (A+is the best of Ms. Graham's work to date and a novel I strongly recommend to both lovers of historical fiction and fantasy adventures as the 'perfect crossover'".- Fantasy Book Critic

"It is rare for a genre work, especially an epic fantasy, to leave me thinking about the meanings behind the narratives as this series has done so far."- OF Blog of the Fallen

"Sci-fi horror fantasy post-apocalyptic westerns that tie together a single author’s (with at least one pseudonym) fiction in its near entirety are hardly a common occurrence and the scope of the Dark Tower series really is something to marvel at so if you’ve yet to experience this series I highly highly recommend giving it a try."- King of the Nerds!!!

"Had hoped for an enjoyable story to finish my WoT-setting re-reads, but this book was just poorly-structured, with the usual wooden characters and pedestrian prose.  Might be another decade or more before I bother with this story again, if I ever do."- OF Blog of the Fallen

"Overall this book was a nice read, it brought about a bit of suspense and mystery that kept readers captivated. Those that aren't looking for an overly detailed novel, or ones that can appreciate a good 'Young Adult' novel will love this type of story."- Fantasy Book Critic

"Overall 'Speculative Horizons' achieves a sense of 'strangeness' and by mixing styles and subjects it offers quite a variety despite its relatively short 5 stories/120 odd pages."- Fantasy Book Critic

"The Alchemy of Stone is a little…melancholy for my tastes, but a worthwhile read nonetheless, and I think a number of you would enjoy it. A well-written steampunk novel, this book will appeal to those who like a literary style in their genre fiction and who don’t mind endings which are bittersweet."- Debuts and Reviews

"If you’re interested in fantasy, particularly of the sword and sorcery variety, if you’ve enjoyed authors like R. A. Salvatore, Fritz Leiber, and even Michael Sullivan then I think you’ll enjoy Alexy Prohov’s Shadow Prowler."- King of the Nerds!!!

"Those who read a lot of epic fantasy may feel the book brings nothing new to the table, but at the same time it is an enjoyable, solid read. Sprunk is a good writer and a capable storyteller with a lot of potential for the future..."- The Wertzone