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

Saturday, May 15, 2010 | | 0 comments

Felix Gomez series by Mario Acevedo

That's the homepage of one of my newest favorite authors, Mario Acevedo.

This review is focused on the first four books, and I will review book 5, Werewolf Smackdown, when I get my hands on a copy.

Warning: These books contain adult language and situations. Very adult.

Despite the somewhat heavily-sexual nature of these books (or perhaps I should say because of it, depends on what you like) these books are amazing. The vampires aren't sparkly and wussy. They are sexy, dangerous predators, and that is EXACTLY how they should be portrayed. They incorporate many of the better parts of the vampire mythos, and adds some new ones, such as the kundalini noir (the energy that powers a vampire). The main character is, of course, a detective. That is in no way a detriment however, as these books are full of very intriguing mystery.

Characters: I really get Felix. He's actually a pretty likable guy, even though he doesn't let anyone get close (you know, cause of the whole vampire thing). The characters are pretty well written, and they seem alive (or undead, anyway). 3/3.

Plot: There's a mystery to solve, and it's either a client that pays a suspicious amount of money, or the Araneum (the vampire council for lack of a better term) that gets Felix on the case. Looking at the names of the books (The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, X-Rated Bloodsuckers, Undead Kama Sutra, Jailbait Zombie) one sees the sexual nature of the books, but that isn't the main focus of the plot. In fact, there is quite a bit of other action, and not a small amount of humor. There is also a heavy Latino influence, which is great for me, because I am kind of sick of mainstream American culture. 4/4.

Setting: Umm... Colorado, California, Florida... a few other locales. Modern day Earth, realistically probably set the year they are written. It's an easily integrated setting, and one that the audience better be familiar with, because you LIVE IN IT. 3/3

Total Score: 10/10. I am really enjoying myself with this series, they are short enough to read in a day (or in an hour or so, depending on how fast you read), and they put a great and interesting spin on the generic Urban Fantasy Detective story. I really hope to get my hands on book 5 soon, and when I do, you'll be the first to hear about it. Mr. Acevedo, please, keep writing. I love these books.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 | | 1 comments

At the Gates of Darkness by Raymond E. Feist

I'll start by saying that I am a HUGE fan of this whole meta-series, The Riftwar Cycle. It starts with a 5 book series called the Riftwar Saga, at which time the Empire Trilogy written by Feist and Janny Wurts also takes place, and moves on to the Krondor's Sons series. Bah... enough of this, I'm just giving you his wiki:

It's all there. The man is a living, breathing, writing deity (according to the "how many books have you written" rule which states that a person's level of Deity is directly proportional to the amount of material they have written) and he has been writing since 1982, when his first book Magician came out. Okay, that's the series so far (and it is AMAZING) so on to the actual review of his latest book, At the Gates of Darkness.

Characters: Pug, the main character of probably half or more of these books (or at least a character that features prominently) is an easy character to relate to. The characters in these books are well written, and their motivations are clear and very human. They are some of the most well-written characters I have ever encountered, and this book doesn't fail to live up to that. 3/3

Plot: This is a sequel to Rides a Dread Legion, the first book in the Demonwar saga, where (unsurprisingly) we encounter demons on a more regular basis than previous books. I don't want to spoiler, but I will say that this book in every way lives up to the plot setup from the previous book. I recommend that you start with the beginning (so to speak) if you are going to read this series. Yes, it might take a while, but it is also well worth it. 4/4

Setting: The ever familiar setting of Midkemia, which is pretty much analogous of Earth (except for the fantasy parts of course). It is a well set up world, and I really enjoy my dual-citizenship there. There are other places as well, but we don't get to see them in as much detail (which makes sense, because neither do the characters). 3/3

Total Score: 10/10. This book is a great read, I couldn't put it down (and wouldn't have anyway), and I really look forward to the next book(s). Thank you Mr. Feist for keeping me entertained all these years.

Friday, May 7, 2010 | | 0 comments

Interview with author Seanan Mcguire

Seanan Mcguire is the author of Rosemary and Rue (Review) and A Local Habitation (Review), both starring supernatural P.I. October Daye. Her newest book, Feed (Review coming soon), is part of what I can best describe as a "post zombie-apocalypse political fiction," which in no way does it justice. It's the first of a planned three books in The Newsflesh Trilogy, and is written under the name Mira Grant. The one-stop shop for all things Seanan Mcguire is, of course,

So, without further ado, let's ask her some questions.

1- What’s your story? You know, the one people ask you about over and over. The “How did you make it” story.

The "how did you make it" story? I wrote a book. It stunk. I wrote another book. It stunk less. I re-wrote the first book. I wrote a third book that kinda didn't stink. I re-wrote the second book. I wrote a fourth book. Somewhere in all that, I figured out how, precisely, one writes books, and stopped stinking (at least, that's my fervent hope). I found an agent. Agent make go.

2- With three books in print (that I know of) do you feel that you’ve arrived as an author? Have you been able to "quit your day job" and do writing full time?

Cheese and crackers, no. I am the most neurotic Halloweentown blonde on the planet, and I spend most of my waking hours working, one way or another. I'm still working a full-time day job, so I don't sleep much.

3-Having read both Rosemary and Rue  and A Local Habitation , I can say that I love October Daye as a character. Is she your favorite character to write? If so, what makes her so enjoyable?

I love the hell out of Toby, and yeah, sometimes she's my favorite character to write. Other times, she's not -- it really depends on my mood. When she is my favorite, it's her pragmatism that makes her so much fun.

4-The time of the e-book seems to be upon us. While I’m not carrying a sign around telling folks to repent of their papyrus ways, it seems pretty clear to me that we’re quickly approaching a tipping point in the way the publishing industry works. What is your opinion of all of this, and how has it affected you as an author so far?

I like my books not to be turned off during airplane take-off and landing. I am a paper book girl. I use them to insulate my house. Also, and this has been a big one recently, there isn't a single e-book format -- every format requires a separate contract, negotiation, and release. This matters because when someone doesn't have their preferred format available instantly, I get angry email, sometimes accompanied with justification of piracy. As someone trying to make my living doing this, this makes me sad. So do the cries for an e-book price limit of under five dollars. I like eating. My cats like eating. So it's a thing.

I do tend to think that the publishing world is changing, and will have to change, but I don't think overnight change is a good idea, either for authors or for readers. We need to do this in a sustainable way.

5-Along the same lines as the e-book question, I want to ask about internet presence and self-marketing. It seems this is now the norm for authors, having to work hard to draw fans in through their websites, blogs, and other methods. Do you enjoy posting a livejournal and having social networks or other websites, or is it something you wouldn’t mind living without?

I've been blogging since 2000, and prior to that, I did a weekly humor column distributed to my college and an email list. I really love interacting with fans and being able to go "golly, I have this in-universe short story, guess I'll just put it up online." I wish there wasn't such a need for all the self-promotion, just because not everybody enjoys it? But I am a perky perky princess when you get me going, so it's a good time.

6-What’s your writing process like? I know people hate this question, so feel free to be as specific or general as you’d like. Some folks in the past have given me and hour by hour breakdown of a day in their life, and other people have just told me, “I get up and write.”

It depends on the project, honestly. Sometimes books start with detailed outlines and serious points. Other times, I sit down and start writing. I have beta-reading pools aligned by project, and they get installments every chapter or two. When they return their commentary, I back-track, edit, and carry on. I also retype books completely between drafts one and two, introducing typos and fixing jumbled sentences. It's a thing.

I type a hundred and twenty words a minute, and my cats make sure I occasionally get up and walk around.

7-Lucky number seven is an opportunity to shamelessly plug anything you’d like.

I have two series of short stories available for free online reading. "Sparrow Hill Road" is at The Edge of Propinquity and is the story of Rose Marshall, hitchhiking ghost from the 1940s, as she travels America in search of a jacket, a cheeseburger, and vengeance on the man who killed her. "Velveteen vs." is at my website,, and is the story of Velma Martinez, also known as "Velveteen," a former child superheroine who just wants to be left the hell alone. It's deeply silly, but stealth serious at the same time.

8- Your new series, The Newsflesh Trilogy, is really something great. We've chosen it for our segment Two Dudes Review: and we'll have a full review up soon. For the people who didn't immediately rush to the bookstore (oh, the shame they must feel), could you provide a quick synopsis of what's going to be going on in the first book, Feed?

Twenty years ago, the dead rose. This was a problem for a while...but we got over it, for the most part. In the post-Rising world, all the balances of power have changed, but some things are forever. Bloggers Shaun and Georgia Mason, and their friend Buffy, have been tapped to follow the Ryman campaign as he tries to become President of the United States. Then things get messy.

I tell people it's what you get when you cross Night of the Living Dead with The West Wing and Transmetropolitan. It's more political science fiction than straight horror. I'm very fond of it.

9- I'm learning more and more that I'm a fan of zombie fiction. Can you explain why you think zombie fiction has "risen from the grave" to become so popular lately?

Because vampires got sexy.

Look: we always need a monster that's just a monster, and things are cyclic. Zombies are the fear of contagion, they're the fear of loss of self, they're the fear of blending back into the crowd. This is the age of the zombie, where they're the only thing we can kill without guilt, and where we're terrified of becoming them someday.

10-And finally, the great equalizer: If you were an assassin traveling through time, who would you be sent to kill and why?

I tend to think that messing with history is a form of genocide, since the ripples will unwrite countless human lives. It's not cool. So I'd "accidentally" leave my gun in the time machine, and spend an afternoon hanging out with Vincent Price. Man was a god.


A Local Habitation by Seanan Mcguire

A Local Habitation is the second October Daye book from Seanan Mcguire. For a review of the first book, Rosemary and Rue, click here.

In a sentence: A Local Habitation builds on the successful points of Rosemary and Rue, while still introducing us to new characters and concepts to the world of Faery.

Setting: I really enjoyed this particular chapter in Toby Daye's life. We got to see how she would work with a sort of "locked room" mystery. I was pleased to see that these books will move around a little bit, rather than just remain within the city of San Francisco. The setting was small, since the majority of the story took place in a single building (granted, a building that kept changing like Hogwarts on crack). I could see myself in the building with the characters, which is probably more important than it sounds. When you've got a story that takes place in a single building, it needs to be real enough that you understand where you're at and what's going on at all times. Mcguire did this very well. Looking back, I want to say that I felt like she was a little light on the description of the building itself, but the fact that it was an office building sort of leads you to that sterile, white room kind of place anyway. My own mind filled in the blanks, which is how a good author writes a setting, so I was satisfied.

Character: Toby is really a fun character. I'm also glad to see that Quentin gets some more screen time. It was good that Mcguire didn't drop him after foreshadowing him as an important character from the first book. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed in the characters of Alex and Terrie, but I think that falls under plot a little more clearly than character. Tybalt is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. He's an interesting combination of street smarts and naiveté in that he's very good at being the King of Cats and at understanding how things work in the more dangerous parts of the city, but doesn't spend enough time with the common man to really get a grip on what daily life is like for someone that isn't nobility.

Plot: I'm torn on this book's plot, and I guess I'm just going to say that the mystery was better than the first book, but in other ways it didn't work as well. With the locked room mystery, it gets progressively easier to figure out the "whodunnit" simply because people keep on dying, increasing the odds of making a correct guess. In my first read through the book, I was disappointed because I thought I had figured out the mystery at about the 1/3 mark. In reality, I had only figured out half the mystery, but managed to get the whole thing by about the 2/3 mark. This still leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth, since I wasn't really sure who had committed the crime in the first book until nearer the big reveal. This could have simply been me reading more for enjoyment in the first book, though, since in theory it presented less characters, and therefore, an easier mystery.

Now, before you get the feeling that I didn't like this book, I want to point out that there were lots of things that I really LOVED about this book. I thought that we got some really good looks at Toby getting kicked while she was down a few times, and really got to see the woman under the mask of toughness and confidence, which was a great add-in to the story, and I also really liked the development of Quentin. I'm looking for to hearing and seeing more of Toby's relationship with her mom, and I'm assuming at some point the dam is going to burst as far as romance is concerned, and we'll see a full-blown love interest of some sort, and all the pain and difficulty associated with that.

Overall, A Local Habitation (8.75/10) is a fine sequel. In many ways, it builds on what was already there, and there are really no major drawbacks to the book. It's nice to see an author that's consistent, as so many seem to have that second book slump, where it just doesn't measure up to their first brilliant idea. I am definitely looking forward to An Artificial Light, coming in September.


Rosemary and Rue by Seanan Mcguire

Rosemary and Rue is the first published work of author Seanan Mcguire (who, incidentally, seems like a very cool person. Interview coming soon!). It's urban fantasy starring October Daye, a changeling fae with limited powers who works...worked as a P.I. in San Francisco...until she got turned into a fish for 14 years. Yep, very catchy beginning. In the hope of giving some sort of order to my reviews, I'm going to try and separate all future reviews into Character, Setting and Plot.

Character- I really like Toby Daye. She's a funny, sort of bungling, magical creature that loves her cats, has a troubled past, a very interesting present, and an even more interesting future. I think she's the best character in the books, which is a very good thing because she's the narrator. The thing I like most about her is that she's not Superwoman, not by a long shot. It's nothing original to have a weak (magic-wise) main character, but after reading lots of epic fantasy (local boy makes good, becomes magical demi-god) and urban fantasy (local super-wizard get the crap beat out of him, saves the day anyway), it's sort of nice to not have Gandalf in the driver's seat. Don't get me wrong, Harry Dresden is awesome, but sometimes I wish he wasn't more powerful than a locomotive, able to decimate ranks of the undead with a single, "fuego!" It's sort of nice to see a character that gets a headache every time she pulls the, "these aren't the droids you're looking for" card.

The other characters in the story seem to have been given characterization appropriate to importance. Those we don't see much get just enough to keep them memorable, while those with a larger part to play get a little more of that magic paint that brings characters to life. That sits just fine with me, and I like my stories that way. Other good characters from the series include Tybalt and of course Toby's cats. Oh, and a walking rosebush.

Setting- I liked having a book in San Francisco. Mcguire's description of the town seems to show that she's got a soft spot for the city by the bay...well, at least Toby does. Again, I like the way she does setting. The description is there, and very well done, but I don't get to hear what every leaf on every tree looks like. Sometimes I feel that books take it too far, but this is just fine. In my own writing (yes, I do that sometimes) I don't do enough setting, so clearly I'm on the spartan side of the setting fence. The realms of faery are very well done, and I like the idea of different famous landmarks being duchies and whatnot. All in all, a cool idea, and pretty well executed.

Plot- Though parts of the story, as with a lot of urban fantasy P.I. books, read like a checklist (checkered past? Check. Main character gets the crap beat out of them but saves the day? Check), I really liked the story of this book. You really get all the emotions that come with someone whose life was in ruins and is just trying to make a second go of it. I connected with this book in a lot of ways, and that rooting interest in the characters, especially Toby, made the whole story greater than the sum of its parts. The mystery of whodunnit wasn't the most complex thing I've ever seen, but it was enough to make you feel things for the characters involved, and that's what a story is really about.

Rosemary and Rue ( 8.75/10) stacks up very well against all of the urban fantasy I've read in the last couple of years. The characters, setting and plot all come together to make you feel something, and thus it becometh a page turner. If you're a fan of the genre, you're going to want to add this to you list of things to read this year. The second book, A Local Habitation just came out about a month and a half ago, and from what I've read it looks to be adding to everything the first book established. Also, if you're a fan of zombie fiction, she's got a new trilogy coming out, the first of which is called Feed. I'm looking forward to that one for sure. In short, go and read them, you'll probably like 'em.

Monday, May 3, 2010 | | 0 comments

Thraxas by Martin Scott

Warning: this book (and series) contains language and actions not suitable for children.

So to start, I read all of this series in one go, so I can barely remember which book was which (as far as plot goes) but I can give you a review of what the books were like. In the first book you meet Thraxas, a "Sorcerous Investigator" who happens to be the cheapest investigator in the whole city of Turai. He used to be an imperial investigator, until he got really drunk and hit on his boss's wife at their wedding. He was fired, and had to move to the poor sector of town, Twelve Seas, where he lives in a room in the upstairs of his friend and fellow onetime mercenary Gurd the Barbarian's tavern. He sometimes works with Makri, a barmaid who works there. She is an interesting person, in that she is 1/4 elf, 1/4 orc, and 1/2 human, an odd combination that few people seem to like (no one likes Orcs). She is also probably the best fighter in the world, and was Undefeated Champion of the Orcish gladiator pits for 6 years running before she broke out, killed all of her captors and their lord, and escaped to come to Turai. That's the two main characters in a nutshell. They are funny, interesting, and above all terribly flawed, which makes them quite reader-friendly. There are other characters of course, but we won't go into detail (I wouldn't want to spoil anything).

The book starts out with Thraxas taking on a job. That is pretty much how ALL the books in this series start, but it's okay because each job is different and interesting. He gets into trouble, and uses what little magic he has to get out of it (also a commonality of the series) but ends up getting into even more trouble BECAUSE of a) his magic, or b) him being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He gets thrown in jail in almost every book, and someone tries to kill him at least three times (this is all pretty generic for the series, but in no way is it boring). I make it sound like the books are all the same, and to a certain extent they are; that being said, they are all equally as good as each other, which is why I had a hard time deciding which one to review. I chose the first one because of the fact that, well, it's the first book.

The plot is always pretty intriguing, and I (almost) never called who the culprit(s) were. There are plenty of recurring characters that make appearances, sometimes important, sometimes not, and for the most part they are all well rounded and entertaining. The city and other countries seem to be pretty realistic, and give the world a feeling of life that it would not otherwise have. There's enough fighting, magic, and mystery to impress even the most hardcore readers, and more than enough drinking and drug use for anyone (done with entertainment in mind, of course). By the end, though, one really doesn't mind that Thraxas is an overbearing, overweight, racist, sexist, alcoholic gambler; in fact, I believe people come to like him more as a character because of these things.

Overall I really enjoyed this series, and this book specifically. They are short (I think the longest was 250 pages) and well worth the time. The only complaint I have is that the series isn't actually concluded; no one bought the ninth book, so it isn't out (and doesn't look like it will be anytime soon). Even without a proper ending, though, I gave this series a 9/10. This book, however, definitely gets a 10/10. It's a great start to a great series, and I hope that someday the rest of the series will be published. That is all.


The Week in Reviews...In Review

Note: As always, just click on the website to be taken straight to the full review. Enjoy!

"The epilogue part which is predictable but quite good, redeems a little what came before, but overall New Model Army was a B from me and a minor disappointment."- Fantasy Book Critic

"It will definitely be hard to top a novel such as this and I'm not sure if other novels will be as developed and well rounded as Neverland was."- Fantasy Book Critic

"The King of the Crags" was less of a favorite then The Adamantine Palace since it brought only a little new stuff at the table so to speak..."- Fantasy Book Critic

"The Hourglass Door has caught my eye as a YA romance/time travel novel. It seemed to have a unique twist on the regular romance novels that were coming out in mass quantities."- Fantasy Book Critic

"Plot-driven adventures with characters so vivid you feel like you’re right there with them through every disaster. These books are like potato chips–you can’t stop eating them up. It’s a rare gift to craft a book as riveting as Bewitched and Betrayed."- Debuts and Reviews

"This, my friends, is how young adult fantasy is done. In The Blue Sword, Robin McKinley has created a world out of whole cloth and polished it until it shines..."-

"So while it wasn't as disjointed in feel as was Lord of ChaosA Crown of Swords contained too many dull and redundant moments for me to be enthused about reading it.  Onwards and upwards."- OF Blog of the Fallen

"‘Spellwright’ made for some infuriating reading at times. I could see a potentially very good story itching to get out from underneath a mass of unnecessary text, very much like Nicodemus’ latent powers in fact!"- Graeme's Fantasy Review

"Kraken is...the story of a young man awakening to world around him, it’s a story of loss, it’s an apocalyptic, action-packed thriller, it’s magical, it’s squidpunk, it’s all a bad joke…and it’s simply an example of a master at work. Highly recommended. 8.5/10"- Nethspace

Thursday, April 29, 2010 | | 1 comments

Two sides to a story: Darker Angels by MLN Hanover

Warning: This book contains adult language and sexual content.

Bryce's Take:

Darker Angels continues The Black Suns Daughter series from Daniel Abraham, AKA MLN Hanover. In this second installment, more mayhem ensues, as main character Jayne receives a phonecall that there's a demon loose in New Orleans.

This book surprised me initially, since I expected for Jayne to have progressed a little bit more in her understanding of the supernatural and what was going on around her. The book begins more quickly than I had thought it would, taking place just a few weeks or months after the first book. Development-wise, Jayne is coming into her own a little more as a character, which I liked. This is going to be one of those reviews where I say that if you liked the first book, you'll like the second one as well. The twists and turns didn't seem quite as exciting to me this time around, and I figured out what was going on about twenty pages before the characters, but that's to be forgiven. Maybe the foreshadowing was too heavy, or maybe I was particularly brilliant in my insight.

This book is an opportunity for the reader to really settle in and get into the series. Jayne's a little more mature, and a little more thoughtful. Those polished gems of ideas about demons moving from person to person, using them as horses don't shine quite as much as they used to, but that's only because the idea isn't brand new anymore. This second effort is worthy of the original, and expands the world that this story is taking place in. I also love that Jayne has the means to travel the globe, since so many urban fantasy books revolve around the idea of "one wizard, one town." I enjoy that the scenery changes with each book, and Abraham does just enough to get me into each new setting. Using New Orleans in this second installment was brilliantly done, and I enjoyed the atmosphere that it created for the book.

Darker Angels (8.5/10) is a worthy sequel to Unclean Spirits, and I'm definitely looking forward to continuing the series later this fall when Vicious Grace is set to come out.

Darren's Take:

Darker Angels was a very good sequel to Unclean Spirits, and I think I like this series maybe slightly more than Bryce, because I didn't think that anything wasn't polished or shiny. The idea still had a lot more fleshing out to do (the demons I mean) and this book delivers. I'm gonna surprise you all and... agree with Bryce about the rest of what he said. If anything, this book delves even deeper into the emotional angle, and by the end I wasn't sure that Legba was all that bad (it's not a spoiler if you have no context). I found myself able to get emotionally invested (at least slightly) in a demon, a serial killer, and a guy who really needs to stop being such a dick and get laid (I can kind of understand that one, hehehe). I'll keep this short, only saying that it was an interesting turn for the plot to take, and it didn't suffer at all from the dreaded Book 2 Lull that happens so often in trilogies.
Another 9 of 10, and I hope that I can be one of your ARC readers in the future, Mr. Hanover (Or Mr. Abraham, whichever you prefer).