Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cover Art: The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett

Please go to Speculative Book Review to read this post.

Friday, November 23, 2012

First Impression: Of Blood And Honey by Stina Leicht

Yesterday evening, when I heard about Night Shades Books' wonderful Thanksgiving Ebook Giveaway, I downloaded the books that were on offer: Agatha H and the Airship City by Phil and Kaja Fglio, The Emperors Knife by Mazarkis Williams and Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht.

I don't know you but when I receive new books I cannot simply put them down for later and go on with life. I have to look at them, turn their pages, read their first few chapters. I basically need to strike up an acquaintance with them. So I turned the first page of Of Blood and Honey.

It captured my attention immediately because the setting was Northern Ireland during the 70s, more specifically the protagonist seemed to be involved in the Irish-English conflict. I am not Irish but I have lived in Ireland for more than 13 years and I found the setting quite attractive.

The first few chapters that I read were short, dividing the story nicely. The author had a very pleasant-to-read, fluent style. And I found the plot (or I should say the beginning of it) interesting enough to make me want to continue to read.

When I put down Stina Leicht's Of Blood and Honey I was decided to get back to it very soon. It had just climbed at the top of my pile of books to be read.

Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Night Shade Books (@nightshadebooks)
Series: Book One of The Fey and The Fallen
ISBN-10: 1597802131
ISBN-13: 978-1597802130

"Fallen angels and The Fey clash against the backdrop of Irish/English conflicts of the 1970s in this stunning debut novel by Stina Leicht.

Liam never knew who his father was. The town of Derry had always assumed that Liam was the bastard of a Protestant. Liam’s mother never spoke of the man, so Liam had assumed him dead.

When the war between The Fey and The Fallen begins to heat up, Liam and the woman he loves are pulled into a conflict invisible to most humans— a conflict in which Liam’s father fights on the front lines. This centuries-old battle between supernatural forces seems to mirror the political divisions in 1970s-era Ireland, and Liam is thrown headlong into both conflicts.

Only the direct intervention of Liam’s father and a secret Catholic order dedicated to fighting The Fallen can save Liam from the mundane and supernatural forces around him, and from the darkness that lurks within."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

2 New Additions To My TBR Pile

The first book that went in my TBR pile is Jonathan Green's Time's Arrow. I think you're all familiar with Abaddon's Steampunk world Pax Britannia however it might still be a good idea to give a brief introduction:

Pax Britannia is a steampunk alternative history set in a late twentieth century in which Queen Victoria - now nearing the end of her sixteenth decade on the throne, and wholly dependent on steam technology for survival - rules over the vastly wealthy, powerful and decadent Empire of Magna Britannia. Airships ply the skies overhead as gentlemen of leisure admire the dinosaurs in the London Zoo, while the Empire has extended to the Moon. Across the pond, the United Socialist States of America, loosely allied with the might of Magna Britannia, is home to dreamers, poets, madmen, and heroes, poised to usher in a new era. 

Jonathan Green's Time's Arrow is the final instalment of an interesting publishing experiment. With the first two books of the series, Green gave his readers a choice about what would happen next. Time's Arrow is the single volume that contains all three books.

Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Abaddon Books (8 Nov 2012 - UK, 13 Nov 2012 - US, CA)
ISBN-10: 1781080631
ISBN-13: 978-1781080634

"Paris. City of lights. City of lovers. City of dreams. Yet if one man gets his way, its inhabitants will soon be forced to endure a nightmare such as they have never known.

Hero of the British Empire Ulysses Quicksilver is determined to stand in his way... even as he returns from the past to appear on the scene of a horrific murder!

Before he can hope to rescue the French capital from its fate, Ulysses must go on the run and track down the real killer. His intention: to clear his good name, and get back to England in one piece. And quickly, for the love of his life is about to take a most ill-advised trip to the Moon.

Can Quicksilver stop the terrorist known only as 'Le Papillon'?"

The second book that just made into my TBR pile is Juliet E. McKenna's conclusion to her The Hadrumal Crisis Trilogy: Defiant Peaks

Paperback: 528 pages
Publisher: Solaris (6 Dec 2012 - UK, 27 Nov 2012 - US, CA)
ISBN-10: 1781080577
ISBN-13: 978-1781080573

Archmage Planir and the wizards of Hadrumal have demonstrated their devestating powers and the corsair threat is no more. The mainland rulers' relief is overshadowed with fear of one day facing such a threat to their own dominion. Will Tormalin's Emporer make an alliance with Solura's wizards, who so openly covet Hadrumal's secrets? Will he seek out that other mysterious magic, Artifice, to counter Planir's magecraft? How will the aloof Aetheric adepts of the mountains answer such an appeal?

With many of the Wizard Council disputing Planir's chosen course, he must look beyond the island city for allies. To Suthyfer, the controversial haven for mageborn far away in the Eastern Ocean. To Caladrhia, where Corrain, Baron Halferan and Lady Zurenne believe they have finally won respite from all their trials. But absence of strife is hardly peace. The lull before winter's storms descend from the distant northern peaks will be a short one.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Cover Art: The Age Atomic by Adam Christopher

Above is the beautiful cover of Adam Christopher's The Age Atomic, the sequel to Empire State, a superhero, noir fantasy thriller set in an alternate New York. It is going to be published on 26th March 2013 in the USA/Canada and on 4th April 2013 in the UK.

"The Empire State is dying. The Fissure connecting the pocket universe to New York has vanished, plunging the city into a deep freeze and the populace are demanding a return to Prohibition and rationing as energy supplies dwindle.

Meanwhile, in 1954 New York, the political dynamic has changed and Nimrod finds his department subsumed by a new group, Atoms For Peace, led by the mysterious Evelyn McHale.

As Rad uncovers a new threat to his city, Atoms For Peace prepare their army for a transdimensional invasion. Their goal: total conquest – or destruction – of the Empire State."

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Book Depository's 24 Hours Of Offers

Book Depository is going to run another one of their 24 Hours of Offers tomorrow. Each hour, they are going to offer a book at a price discounted up to 70%. The campaign will run from 8th Nov 2012 Noon (GMT) till 9th Nov 2012 Noon (GMT).

Shiny New Covers For Gary Gibson's Shoal Series

Gary Gibson's Shoal series (Stealing Light, Nova War and Empire of Light) gets shiny new covers. I liked the old covers (especially the cover of Empire of Light) however the new artwork looks pretty good. Furthermore the new covers look more harmonious together. What do you think?

Stealing Light (The Shoal Sequence - Book 1)
For a hundred and fifty thousand years, the alien Shoal have been hiding a terrible secret behind a façade of power. In the twenty-fifth century, they dominate the galaxy and control all trade and exploration, possessing the secret of faster-than-light travel. Mankind has established just a handful of interstellar colonies; their freedom and knowledge of the galaxy limited by the Shoal’s punitive colonial charter. 

Dakota Merrick is a machine-head pilot on the run from one of the Consortium’s most powerful criminals. Desperate for escape, she contracts to ferry an expert team to a remote star system. Her passengers hope to scavenge a functioning FTL-drive from a derelict starship – rumoured to pre-date the Shoal. But they’ll expose an ancient genocide the Shoal will do anything to hide. And Dakota will be forced to face demons from her own military past.

Nova War (The Shoal Sequence - Book 2)
Found adrift far from Consortium space, pilot Dakota Merrick and Lucas Corso are taken prisoner by the alien Bandati. There, Dakota discovers that humanity’s knowledge of the galaxy is frighteningly inaccurate. The Shoal has apparently been fighting a frontier war with a rival species, the Emissaries, for thousands of years. As yet, the latter seem unaware of their FTL technology’s full destructive capabilities. But the Bandati now have this information, and they will use it for profit.

Dakota realises, to her shock, that the Shoal may therefore hold the Galaxy’s best chance for peace. Forging an alliance with Trader, a Shoal-member, she’s determined to prevent the Bandati’s deadly knowledge from reaching the Emissaries. Yet despite her efforts, a nova war now seems inevitable – a war that will destroy millions of inhabited worlds.

Empire of Light (The Shoal Sequence - Book 3)
The nova war spreads across the galaxy, as the Emissaries wage a fierce and reckless campaign. They’ve already reached human-occupied space and forced the alien Shoal into a desperate retreat. And when Dakota leaves to pursue a lead, Corso’s luck turns bad. Now commanding a fleet of human-piloted Magi ships, his authority crumbles before assassination attempts and politically motivated sabotage. Their best hope lies with Ty Whitecloud, currently light-years beyond Consortium borders. Only Ty can decipher messages left behind by ancient star travellers – which could be crucial to their cause.

But Whitecloud is imprisoned onboard a dying coreship, awaiting execution for war crimes against Corso’s own people. For humanity’s very survival, Corso must get to Whitecloud and keep him alive … if Dakota doesn’t kill him first.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Adam Nevill's New Three-Book Deal

Adam L. G. Nevill
Adam L. G. Nevill
There are only a handful of writers whose books I would buy without even reading their blurbs and Adam Nevill is one of them (I'm currently reading his The Last Days. I'm nearing the end of it and I'm loving it). Therefore you can imagine how glad I was to hear about Nevill's new three-book deal with Pan Macmillan.

According to the press release, after the upcoming (May 2013) House Of Small Shadows, two more books will be published in 2014 and 2015. Nevill's Banquet For The Damned will also be re-published as a paperback.

Here's the official press release:

Pan Macmillan acquires two new horror novels by British author Adam Nevill

Julie Crisp, Editorial Director at Pan Macmillan, has concluded a world rights deal for two further horror novels by British author Adam Nevill with agent John Jarrold. The deal also involves re-publication of Adam’s first novel, BANQUET FOR THE DAMNED, as a Pan paperback. The new books will be published in 2014 and 2015.

Adam Nevill’s novels APARTMENT 16, THE RITUAL and LAST DAYS have already been published by Pan Macmillan, with HOUSE OF SMALL SHADOWS due for publication in May 2013. THE RITUAL won best horror novel at this year’s British Fantasy Awards and the Guardian recently dubbed Adam ‘Britain’s answer to Stephen King.’

Julie Crisp said: ‘I’m absolutely thrilled that on the perfect day for it – Halloween – we’ve acquired the next two books from Adam Nevill. We have a proud tradition of publishing horror at Pan Macmillan and Adam is a shining example of brilliant – and terrifying – British horror writing!’

Adam Nevill said: ‘I am thrilled about this opportunity to keep building a body of work with a terrific publisher, and one with such a significant legacy in the field of British horror fiction. On Halloween too. Perfect timing. In celebration, sacrifices will be made to strange gods.’

For further information, contact Chloe Healy at Pan Macmillan:
00 44 20 7014 6186

Monday, September 10, 2012

Don't Do It If You Can't Kill It With Science!

I'm a software engineer. And there's a cheeky but widely used principle in our industry, especially among people working with servers (on the server-side): KIWI or "Kill It With Iron". When one has a scalability (hear "performance") problem, one of the options is usually applying KIWI, meaning throwing more server at it.

Where am I going with that? Well... I watched Total Recall last weekend (it is the remake of 1990 movie with the same name starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone. It is loosely based on the 1966 short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" by Philip K. Dick). Once again "the believability" of yet another sci-fi movie busied my mind.

I think, in Science Fiction, the author (or the director, if it's a movie) has the option to explain something with "advanced science". Drilling a tunnel from the UK to Australia through the earth is amazing. With enough resources and sufficiently advanced technology it is also probably achievable.

However if one has to rely on free fall, it is easy to imagine that 17 minutes won't get you from one end to the other. I'm not going to waste my time on precise calculations, but I'm pretty sure gravity would decrease as the shuttle gets closer to the core and the whole journey would take much longer than just 17 minutes.

Even if we think that the speed is linear and we accept that the passengers can get from one end to the other in 17 minutes (assuming the distance is earth's diameter for simplicity's sake) then this would correspond to a speed of approximately 28,000 miles/hour (45,000 km/hour). Can you imagine blowing a hole through the window, sticking your head out to shoot, climb a ladder etc. with that speed? Come on!

The moral of my complaint is: "Don't Do It If You Can't Kill It With Science". If you want to stretch what's acceptable or believable, try throwing science at it. If it doesn't work, just don't do it.


P.S. I'll deal with a different type on scientific progress in a future post:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cover Art: The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

The Mad Scientist's Daughter is Cassandra's second book. The author's first novel, The Assassin's Curse (released October 2012 from Strange Chemistry), has been garnering some wonderful reviews, with praise for her elegant prose and sweeping lyricism.

Here's the blurb:

There’s never been anyone - or anything - quite like Finn.

He looks, and acts human, though he has no desire to be. He was programmed to assist his owners, and performs his duties to perfection. A billion-dollar construct, his primary task is to tutor Cat.

When the government grants rights to the ever-increasing robot population, however, Finn struggles to find his place in the world.

The Mad Scientist's Daughter is being released in February 2013 from Angry Robot Books.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Blood And Feathers by Lou Morgan

This is a beautiful cover art. Beautiful! The first time I saw it, it reminded me of the cover of Chuck Wendig's Blackbirds.

Lou Morgan's debut novel Blood and Feathers has been on my radar since the first time I read about it on Solaris' Blog. It is going to be published next week and it has been getting excellent reviews. So I really hope that I'll have an opportunity to read it.

"What's the first thing you think of when I say 'angel'?" asked Mallory. Alice shrugged. "I don't know... guns?"

Alice isn't having the best of days. She was late for work, she missed her bus, and now she's getting rained on. What she doesn't know is that her day's about to get worse: the epic, grand-scale kind of worse that comes from the arrival of two angels who claim everything about her life is a lie.

The war between the angels and the Fallen is escalating; the age-old balance is tipping, and innocent civilians are getting caught in the cross-fire. If the balance is to be restored, the angels must act - or risk the Fallen taking control. Forever.

That’s where Alice comes in. Hunted by the Fallen and guided by Mallory - a disgraced angel with a drinking problem and a whole load of secrets - Alice will learn the truth about her own history… and why the angels want to send her to hell.

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Solaris (Aug 2, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1781080186
ISBN-13: 978-1781080184

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Joe Abercrombie's Red Country Has A Map

Yes! Joe Abercrombie's upcoming book, Red Country, has a new map and a very beautiful one it is.

I am a big fan of Abercrombie's. And I love it when fantasy books contain maps. Therefore it's no surprise that when one of my favourite authors publishes a map for one the most anticipated books of the year I get very excited.

As you've probably noticed, the map is the one that is used as the background of the wraparound cover art. I simply love its folds and creases, and its worn and torn state. It just adds to the realism. 

Red Country will be published on 18 Oct 2012. Pre-order it now: Amazon (UK) - BookDepository (Worldwide).

Monday, June 18, 2012

Book Review: The Devil's Nebula (Weird Space) by Eric Brown

Title: The Devil's Nebula
Author: Eric Brown
Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Abaddon Books (29 May 2012)
ISBN 10: 1781080232
ISBN 13: 978-1781080238

Starship Captain Ed Carew leads a carefree life of smuggling, gun-running and other illicit pursuits in a far future ruled by the fascistic Expansion Authority. But when an Expansion judiciary ship captures Carew leaving the planet of Hesperides, an out-of-bounds world now governed by the fearsome Vetch extraterrestrials, Carew and his crew are sentenced to death...

Unless they agree to travel through Vetch territory in pursuit of a human vessel that set off for the Devil’s Nebula one hundred years ago. Why are the Expansion authorities so eager to track down the ship? Will Carew and co. survive the journey through Vetch territory? And what might they find when they arrive at the Devil’s Nebula?

Please find the rest of the review on Speculative Book Review...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Book Trailer: Death of Kings by Bernard Cornwell

In many occasions, I've expressed my indifference to book trailers. They've never worked for me. Well... Almost...

Here is an exception: HarperCollins just posted the book trailer of Bernard Cornwell's Death of Kings and I really like it.

Title: Death of Kings
Author: Bernard Cornwell
Format: Paperback, 384 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publishing Date: 29 Sep 2011
ISBN-10: 0007331800
ISBN-13: 978-0007331802

The master of historical fiction presents the iconic story of King Alfred and the making of a nation.

As the ninth century wanes, England appears about to be plunged into chaos once more. For the Viking-raised but Saxon-born warrior, Uhtred, whose life seems to shadow the making of England, this presents him with difficult choices.

King Alfred is dying and his passing threatens the island of Britain to renewed warfare. Alfred wants his son, Edward, to succeed him but there are other Saxon claimants to the throne as well as ambitious pagan Vikings to the north.

Uhtred‘s loyalty – and his vows – were to Alfred, not to his son, and despite his long years of service to Alfred, he is still not committed to the Saxon cause. His own desire is to reclaim his long lost lands and castle to the north. But the challenge to him, as the king’s warrior, is that he knows that he will either be the means of making Alfred’s dream of a united and Christian England come to pass or be responsible for condemning it to oblivion.

This novel is a dramatic story of the power of tribal commitment and the terrible difficulties of divided loyalties.

This is the making of England magnificently brought to life by the master of historical fiction.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Earth Girl by Janet Edwards

Author: Janet Edwards 
Title: Earth Girl
Format: Paperback, 400 pages
Publisher: Harper Voyager (16 Aug 2012)
ISBN-10: 0007443498
ISBN-13: 978-0007443499

"Jarra is stuck on Earth while the rest of humanity portals around the universe. But can she prove to the norms that she’s more than just an Earth Girl?

2788. Only the handicapped live on Earth. While everyone else portals between worlds, 18-year-old Jarra is among the one in a thousand people born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. Sent to Earth at birth to save her life, she has been abandoned by her parents. She can’t travel to other worlds, but she can watch their vids, and she knows all the jokes they make. She’s an ‘ape’, a ‘throwback’, but this is one ape girl who won’t give in.

Jarra invents a fake background for herself – as a normal child of Military parents – and joins a class of norms that is on Earth to excavate the ruins of the old cities. When an ancient skyscraper collapses, burying another research team, Jarra’s role in their rescue puts her in the spotlight. No hiding at back of class now. To make life more complicated, she finds herself falling in love with one of her classmates – a norm from another planet. Somehow, she has to keep the deception going.

A freak solar storm strikes the atmosphere, and the class is ordered to portal off-world for safety – no problem for a real child of military parents, but fatal for Jarra. The storm is so bad that the crews of the orbiting solar arrays have to escape to planet below: the first landing from space in 600 years. And one is on collision course with their shelter."

I usually don't read YA novels. It's not because I am opinionated about them (I hope I'm not), it's simply because there are too many books to read and I end up being picky about what book I choose from the tall pile standing in my study (or from the virtual pile of e-books). However, if I have, in my hands, a book by an author whom I'm not familiar with, I quickly read a chapter or two to get a feel for her style and her story.

Earth Girl is told in the first person, through the eyes of Jarra, its teenage protagonist. It's late 28th century and portal technology has been around for more than six centuries. Since mankind stepped onto another planet a century after the discovery of the technology, babies incapable of supporting interplanetary portal travel have been condemned to live on earth abandoned by their parents. They are considered handicapped and labelled as "ape"s because of their genetic differences. By the 28th century, this makes Earth a planet nobody cares about and inhabited by people who cannot do otherwise.

This gives the author a very good way of introducing the setting to the reader. Because people are uninterested to know about life on Earth and the conditions of its inhabitants, the fact that Jarra goes through some of the details of life on Earth becomes natural. She even makes the reader feel guilty of not knowing such details.

All Jarra wants is to feel normal and travel to any planet just like the "norm"s (or "exo"s) do. As she is of age to decide what she's going to study at university, she tells her ProMum about her plan to take a course run by an off-world university.

Even though I've only read a couple of pages, Earth Girl strikes me as a book that I would like to read more. I simply would like to hear more about Jarra. I also think that Janet Edwards created a very interesting setting which contributes to my curiosity.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cover Art: Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

For many, Joe Abercombie's Red Country is one of the most anticipated books of 2012. It is going to be a long wait until November however every little new detail gives the impression that we're getting there slowly.

Here's some blurb to whet your appetite:

"Shy South comes home to her farm to find a blackened shell, her brother and sister stolen, and knows she’ll have to go back to her bad old ways if she’s ever to see them again. She sets off in pursuit with only her cowardly old stepfather Lamb for company. But it turns out he’s hiding a bloody past of his own. None bloodier.

Their journey will take them across the lawless plains, to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feuds, duels, and massacres, high into unmapped mountains to a reckoning with ancient enemies, and force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, a man no one should ever have to trust . . . ."

Friday, March 30, 2012

Vengeance by Ian Irvine - Free Chapter

Vengeance, the first book of Ian Irvine's new series, The Tainted Realm, will be released next week. For those of you who cannot wait or who would like to get a feel for the book, Orbit posted its first chapter freely.

Happy reading!

Format: Paperback - 512 pages
Publisher: Orbit (5 April 2012)
ISBN-10: 1841498289
ISBN-13: 978-1841498287
A story of a betrayal, murder and a girl's hunt for justice in a world where two peoples are divided and where mistrust can only lead to war.
Pre-order on Book Depository.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Railsea by China Miéville - Limited Signed Slipcased Edition

I just pre-ordered my copy of Limited Signed Slipcased Edition of Railsea by China Miéville and I'm very excited about it. "High expectations" anyone?

Please correct me if I'm wrong but I think only The Book Depository is running such a deal:

Railsea: Limited Signed Slipcased Edition

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Greatshadow by James Maxey - Free Chapter

James Maxey's Greatshadow (Book One of the Dragon Apocalypse) is released this week. To celebrate that, Solaris Books decided to give away its first chapter.

Happy reading!

Format: Paperback - 448 pages
Publisher: Rebellion (2 Feb 2012)
ISBN-10: 1907992731
ISBN-13: 978-1907992735

Greatshadow is the primal dragon of fire, an elemental evil whose malign intelligence spies upon mankind through every candle flame, waiting to devour any careless victim he can claim. The Church of the Book has assembled a team of twelve battle-hardened adventurers to slay the dragon once and for all. But tensions run high between the leaders of the team who view the mission as a holy duty and the superpowered mercenaries who add power to their ranks, who view the mission primarily as a chance to claim Greatshadow's vast treasure trove. If the warriors fail to slay the beast, will they doom mankind to death by fire?

About the author

James Maxey's stories have appeared in a score of anthologies and magazines. The best of his short fiction is now available in the collection There is No Wheel. He continues to write about ghosts and pirates, also spaceships, monkeys, and circus freaks and other geeky delights. His novels include the cult-classic superhero tale Nobody Gets The Girl and the Dragon Age trilogy.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane

After the brilliant anthologies The End of The Line and House of Fear, Jonathan Oliver, Solaris editor-in-chief, is editing another themed collection called Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane.

The news is given on When The Gravity Fails, The Solaris Editors' Blog with an exciting cherry on the cake: The anthology will contain the international best-selling author Audrey Niffenegger's her first ever story written for a commercial trade anthology.

The bad news is that we, the readers, are going to have to wait a little while because it is due for release in November 2012 in North America and the UK, in both paperback and ebook.

The line-up for Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane is set to include other high profile authors, including Richard and Judy Book Club-choice Alison Littlewood, NYT Bestseller Dan Abnett, and celebrated authors such as Christopher Fowler, Storm Constantine, Robert Shearman, Paul Meloy, Sophia McDougall, Will Hill, Gemma Files, along with new writers such as Sarah Lotz, Lou Morgan and Thana Niveau and more.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Seventh Star Singles Contest Winners

Here are the winners of our Seventh Star Singles Contest sponsored by Seventh Star Press:

  • Denise Zaky
  • Kevin Bozard
  • Robin Blankenship

Well done folks! I've passed your details on to the publisher. They'll contact you very soon.

Enjoy the books!
Happy reading!

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Stop-Whatever-You-Are-Doing-And-Read-This-Book Moment

I had one of those moments on Friday. You know what I'm talking about, don't you? A stop-whatever-you-are-doing-and-read-this-book moment. I received a copy of one of my most (if not the most) anticipated books of 2012: Kings of Morning by Paul Kearney. I loved the first two books of the Macht Trilogy (The Ten Thousand and Corvus) and you can imagine that I've started to read Kings of Morning with a big appetite. I'm planning to savor each word.

Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Solaris (Web | twitter) (1 Mar 2012)
ISBN-10: 1907519386
ISBN-13: 978-1907519383

For the first time in recorded history, the ferocious city-states of the Macht now acknowledge a single man as their overlord. Corvus, the strange and brilliant boy-general, is now High King, having united his people in a fearsome, bloody series of battles and sieges. He is not yet thirty years old. A generation ago, ten thousand of the Macht marched into the heart of the ancient Asurian Empire, and fought their way back out again, passing into legend. Corvus’s father was one of those who undertook that march, and his most trusted general, Rictus, was leader of those ten thousand. But he intends to do more. The preparations will take years, but when they are complete, Corvus will lead an invasion the like of which the world of Kuf has never seen. Under him, the Macht will undertake nothing less than the overthrow of the entire Asurian Empire.

Amazon (UK) | Book Depository (Worldwide)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Giveaway: Bundle of 8 E-books for 3 Lucky Readers

Thanks to Seventh Star Press, as part of the Seventh Star Singles Contest, I am giving away 3 sets of 8 e-books. If you would like to be one of these three lucky readers, all you have to do is to drop me an e-mail (betweentwobooks [at] gmail [dot] com) with your name and your format of choice (Kindle, Nook or ePub (for Sony e-readers, iPad, iPhone etc.)).

You can also increase your chances of winning by following Seventh Star Press on twitter and additionally by tweeting about the competition. In this case, please include your twitter name in your e-mail. Additionally, you can "Like" their Facebook page to increase your chances further.

The contest will run until 20 Jan 2012 12:00 GMT. The winners will be selected randomly using an on-line random number generator.

Good luck!

(I took this opportunity to interview Michael West who contributes to the giveaway with two books. I hope you'll like it.)

Here's what each virtual bag of e-books contain:

by Steven Shrewsbury:

Author and Finisher of Our Flesh
The first short story in the Blood and Steel: Legends of La Gaul collection from Steven L. Shrewsbury, Author and Finisher of Our Flesh takes the reader on a perilous Sword and Sorcery adventure in the ancient world alongside Gorias La Gaul. When vessels sent to a farming colony fail to return, and rumors of dark powers being involved begin to swirl, an aging general cleverly secures the help of the centuries-old legendary warrior Gorias to investigate.

In a world where ancient gods still walk, and unnameable horrors lurk at every turn, Gorias must face challenges of many kinds; some on the inside, and others from without.

A short story in the Blood and Steel: Legends of La Gaul collection, Insurmountable tells an action-packed tale of the centuries-old warrior Gorias La Gaul. Setting out to take care of one last task for his father, Gorias travels to a monastery set high in the mountains where he makes a horrific discovery.

For the reader that loves the Sword and Sorcery genre, this exciting short story series from Seventh Star Press builds upon the legacy of the heroic Gorias La Gaul, first introduced in the novel thrall.

by Michael West:

In this Tales from Harmony short story, a frightened child, in a rural Indiana farmhouse, attempts to fool the Angel of Death.

Goodnight was voted Best Horror Story of the Year in a 2005 P&E Readers Poll. First featured in the magazine Wicked Karnival #6, it was also included in Skull Full of Kisses, a single author collection from Michael West published by Graveside Tales. Now, it debuts Michael’s Tales from Harmony eBook short story collection.

For the River Is Wide and the Gods Are Hungry
In this Tales from Harmony short story, it should be the best time of Becky’s life. Her studies at Stanley University are going well, and her boyfriend, Mark, has just asked her to marry him. But when she returns to her childhood home, Becky finds she must deal once more with the events of one horribly hot summer day, a deadly past that now threatens to steal all her future happiness.

Tales from Harmony short stories offer horror fans much more to experience in the Harmony, Indiana setting that is featured in Michael West novels such as Cinema of Shadows and The Wide Game

by Stephen Zimmer:

(Rising Dawn Series)
Temples Rising
In this short story from the Annals of the Rising Dawn collection, the reader ventures back into an ancient world when demonic entities and humans have bred a race of monstrous creatures. In league with Fallen Avatars that have taken on flesh and blood, the Raven Queen is preeminent among the human rulers involved with the building of a great temple site in Albion.

Cuchulainn, the son of a Fallen Avatar and a human, has rebelled against his origins and sets out to help Cormac and other human warriors as they seek to strike a heavy blow against the coalescing Powers seeking dominion over all humanity.

(Fires in Eden Series)
Into Glory Ride
In this short story from the Chronicles of Ave collection, you are invited into Trogen lands. A brave young warrior of the Sea Wolf clan, Marragesh, sights the approach of an Elven raid while on a scouting foray along the cliffs of the northern coast.

Long under the shadow of the Elves, the Trogens have quietly been preparing a new development to aid in the defense of their lands. As the Elven fleet nears their land, brimming with sky steeds and warriors, a momentous choice must be made that has major implications for the Trogen clans.

Land of Shadow
In this short story from the Chronicles of Ave collection, the reader is invited to take an adventure into the Shadowlands. When a band of hardened Avanoran mercenaries take up an offer to search out a favorable site for a fortress, they are well aware of the warnings about the Shadowlands. Even a large, armed group of warriors is not safe, however, as the knight Godfrey finds out during a harrowing journey.

Lion Heart
In this short story from the Chronicles of Ave collection, the reader is invited to explore the lands of the Amazu and meet Sigananda, one of their greatest, legendary warriors. In this story, Sigananda is shown as a young man, just coming of age. When powerful Wizards threaten the Amazu people, Sigananda is sent on a journey that will test his resolve and courage. At ease against opponents of flesh and blood, he must contend with powers that transcend the laws of the physical world.

You can also buy any of these titles right now on the publisher's singles page.

Interview With Michael West

I had the pleasure to interview Michael West, the author of The Wide Game and Goodnight among others, as part of our Seventh Star Singles Contest sponsored by Seventh Star Press. I hope you'll enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed interviewing Michael West.

Michael West is a member of the Horror Writers Association and serves as President of its local chapter, Indiana Horror Writers. A graduate of Indiana University, West earned a degree in Telecommunications and Film Theory, and since that time, he has written a multitude of short stories, articles, and reviews for various on-line and print publications.

He lives and works in the Indianapolis area with his wife, their two children, their bird, Rodan, and turtle, Gamera. His children are convinced that spirits move through the woods near their home.

For further information, please visit Michael's site at

Don't forget to participate in our contest to be one of the 3 lucky readers to win 8 e-books, including Michael's Goodnight and For The River Is Wide And The Gods Are Hungry.

Hi Michael. Would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself?

Well, anyone who follows me on Facebook and Twitter knows I love two things: coffee and Horror. I’ve loved Horror as long as I can remember; as a child, I used to trick babysitters into letting me stay up late to watch Night Gallery episodes and Hammer films, I subscribed to Fangoria and read every Stephen King that came out, and I wrote my first novel while still in high school (A work that will never, ever see the light of day. Awful. *shudder*). My love of coffee didn't start until much later, but if you took it away from me...well, let's just say that would be a real Horror story.

Let's start with digital books. What do you think of e-books? What does the future hold for paper books and e-books? Do you have an e-reader?

I think e-books offer some great advantages. For older readers, it gives them the ability to adjust the font size and read without glasses. And with the smaller price tag of many e-books, it gives readers a chance to discover new, lesser known talents. People are more willing to take a risk on you when your work costs less than a cup of coffee. LOL I don't have an e-reader, but my wife has a Kindle and my son has a Nook. I hope the future will allow the two formats to peacefully co-exist. CDs have not gone away because of iPods and iTunes, and even vinyl records have made a resurgence for collectors. You can't have your favorite band sign an iPod, but as you can't have your favorite author sign your e-Reader, so I think that physical books will always have a place. I know for me, nothing can replace the experience of reading a book...the weight of it, the formats can't replace that.

My following question or my following set of questions are about knowing you as a reader. What kind of a reader are you? Who are your favorite authors? What are your favorite books? How do you choose the books that you read? Do you tend to go for a specific genre more than others? What are you currently reading?

Wow…well, I'm a slow reader. LOL I know people who can read several books a day, but I read several books a year. I also read a lot of short stories. And news articles. LOTS of news articles. I'm always doing research, always looking for that next great story idea. As for favorite authors, I love Clive Barker, Richard Matheson, and Rod Serling, but growing up in the eighties as I did, I’d have to say Stephen King is…well…king. I just love the way he can take a normal, everyday, real-life place or situation and make it into something horrific. Going to the grocery store? Well, you’re going to run into a monster. Oh, and that quiet little town you live in? Overrun by vampires. The hotel you’re staying in and the car you’re driving right now? Haunted. That’s something I try to do in my fiction as well, making the real fantastic and vice versa. My favorite books are King's The Stand and 'Salem's Lot, Barker's Books of Blood, and Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park. I read anything that sounds interesting, but as you can tell, the works are mostly Horror and Sci-fi. If I read Fantasy, it is usually of the dark and Urban variety. I like anything dark, really. I'm currently between books, but I just finished re-reading all six volumes of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing. I've read it several times, and it just gets better with each pass. Next, I need to pick up a copy of The Monster's Corner: Stories Through Inhuman Eyes. My friend Gary A. Braunbeck has a story in it, and I just love stories told from the monster's point of view.

Now let’s talk about Michael West the writer: When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always been a storyteller. Before I could write, I drew pictures to illustrate the tales that were spinning inside my head. As I got older, I wrote screenplays and made films with my parents’ video camera. And, when the stories that I wanted to tell outgrew my meager budgets, I turned them into short stories and novels.

Do you have a specific writing process? Do you follow a regular routine?

I tend to have an ending in mind when I start. That's not to say that the ending doesn't change half a dozen times by the time I get there, but I need to have a goal, something to work toward. I’ve got a coffee mug covered in artwork from my short story “Jiki.” I usually fill that up and turn on music, either film soundtracks or 80s music, I can’t work when it’s totally quiet. I also like the room to be as dark as possible, so I will turn off lights or close blinds before I start. Then, when I finish a novel or short story, I will go to my favorite restaurant and order my favorite thing on the menu to celebrate. And then I start the whole thing over again.

Do you work with an outline?

I don't tend to outline the novel as a whole, but when I get to the next chapter, I first jot down the key things that happen in it, then I fill in the prose. But even then, the characters really dictate what happens. I could do all the planning in the world, but the characters would just do their own thing anyway. LOL

Have you ever experienced writer’s block? Do you have any special remedy or routine that you apply in this situation?

Oh sure. All writers do at one time or another. There are days when I will type a thousand words and other days when I'm lucky to string a sentence together. I have to admit that I hate writing that first draft. For me, that’s the most difficult thing in the world, just getting all the words out onto the page and giving the story a beginning, middle, and end. But you just have to work through it. Sometimes, I'll just take a break and walk, watch a movie, or listen to music until something comes to me that I have to write down. I find that once it’s out there, once I get into the editing process and the re-writes, that’s when I’m most happy. I’ve spoken to writers who feel just the opposite, they love getting it all out there and hate doing edits, but I view it the way a sculptor views a huge block of marble; it’s a pain, getting that stone into the studio, but, when you start to chip away at it, when it starts to like what you envisioned, or, in some cases, better than what you envisioned... there’s no greater feeling in the world than that.

How did you choose the genre you write in?

I don't think it was ever really a choice. As I said, I’ve loved Horror for as long as I can remember. I’d collect toys based on the classic Universal monsters. In the eighties, when a new Horror film opened, I was always first in line. Even when I wrote scripts for Educational Television, I found ways to sneak in Horror themes. I pitched a program called Teen Terrors—a look at the stress, fears, and anxieties that all teenagers must face—and filmed host segments in graveyards and the torture chambers of local haunted houses. It was only natural that, when I finally put pen to paper to write prose, the result would be horrific.

I’ve enjoyed horror books since an age when I shouldn’t even have been allowed to read them and when I look back I see a constant change or evolution in what is popular. What do you think of the genre’s evolution? How has your take on horror changed throughout the years you’ve been writing?

Yes, what's popular is always changing. There was a time when nobody wrote about zombies and vampires were passe, but now they're all the rage. I'm not a big fan of the really extreme Horror. I’m certainly not afraid to hack and slash. I think a certain amount of blood is needed and expected when it comes to Horror fiction or films. But if you have characters who bleed like a lawn sprinklers, more than the body can physically produce, it just becomes laughable. All of my stories so far seem to have centered around relationships of one kind or another. My first novel, The Wide Game, was about first love, and my story "Goodnight," which is now available as a Seventh Star Single e-book, is about the love of a great-grandfather for his great-grandson. Most relationships are complicated, but, in my stories, some of those complications are supernatural.

Do you pay any attention to the reviews of your books? If yes, do they influence your writing in any way?

Sure, I read the reviews, particularly the ones from faithful readers on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, etc. They do tend to put a bit of pressure on you. Here are all these people who love your work and say things like, "I can't wait to see what he comes up with next," or "I don't know how he's gonna top this," and you start to wonder, "How am I going to top that? What if I can't top it?" But, ultimately, you just have to tell the best story you can tell and hope it resonates with people.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

Luckily, there hasn't been anything really scathing. *knock on wood* But sometimes I'll read a comment that will leave me scratching my head, wondering why the person didn't understand this plot point or that. The best compliments have been the remarks on how well-drawn my characters are. I think the most important element of writing is creating good, believable characters. You can have the most original plot in the world, an amazing monster or villain, but, if the reader doesn’t care about the people in your story, they’re not going to read it. That’s why a lot of movies made from horror novels fail. The filmmakers concentrate on the Big Bad—the vampire, demon, what-have-you—and the characters get short shrift. When you really care about the people in a story, you get lost in the narrative and you feel things on a very visceral level. That’s the type of connection I strive for in my own writing.

Do you have anything specific that you would like to tell your readers?

I just want to thank them for their support. Writing is a very solitary process, just you and your laptop with no idea how your work will be perceived. It's very gratifying for me that so many people enjoy what I do, that they're actually out there waiting for the next thing to come out, and I can't wait to give them more.

In the meantime, however, faithful readers can always get up-to-date information on me and my work at my website,

Michael, thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Short Stories are Alive and Well in Speculative Fiction - But Who's Reading?

While bookstores are struggling to compete with the likes of Amazon, book sales in general are in rude health, particularly speculative fiction. Fantasy, science fiction and horror have always had a large and loyal following, and there are no shortage of new writers out there to come up with fresh approaches to keep the speculative fiction market alive. Most new writers of sci-fi, fantasy and horror cut their teeth in the short story market. This too is in rude health, judging by the amount of magazines, anthologies and other markets advertised in Duotrope’s Digest, a website dedicated to listing all available markets for writers of fiction.

Literally hundreds of different magazines, anthologies and websites offer an avenue for writers to submit short fiction stories, and in particular speculative fiction, which is by far the largest market. Some of these magazines offer very little in payment, others advertise “pro rates,” so new writers face no shortage of potential markets. However, when you scrape beneath the surface a little, it soon becomes apparent that with a few rare exceptions, these short story markets are self-perpetuating. Many of these markets get almost as many submissions from writers as they do readers. In fact, other than a few long-standing and notable exceptions, the majority of the reading audience to these anthologies and magazines are writers themselves. It’s a case of writers writing to be read by other writers.

Very few general readers buy these short story publications, and even worse for a writer’s perspective is that very few publishers take any interest in them either. No matter how much of a reputation a writer makes in the short story market, they gain very little attention from mainstream publishers and readers. Few people in the average bookstore would have heard of the likes of Jason Sanford or Alison Littlewood, but they are two of the most exciting writers around in the science fiction and dark fantasy genres today. Yet, like other short story writers, their work goes very much unnoticed.

Publishers are of course interested in turning a profit so concentrate their abilities on promoting novels, as that’s where the money is. Very rarely will a mainstream publisher release a new author’s short story collection - arguing there’s just no money in it because people don’t buy short story collections anymore. But why? In today’s age of the e-book reader and iPad, and with an ever-busier population, with an ever-shortening attention span, the short story should be the ideal medium. As Hemingway suggested, a short story is written for consumption in one sitting. What could be better than reading a story when commuting to work in the morning, another on the way home, or rounding the day off by reading one in your comfiest reading seat? Yet few people do, preferring instead to steadily leaf through a novel.

It wasn’t always this way. Many of the greatest literature figures, particularly in science fiction, fantasy and horror, made their name writing short stories. Edgar Allan Poe only ever wrote one novel and is best remembered for his shorts. H P Lovecraft churned out hundreds of short stories, while Arthur C Clark, Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison, Robert A Heinlein and Philip K Dick, all made their names writing shorts. Many big name writers still regularly write short stories too; Stephen King and Neil Gaiman to name but two. But with such a limited audience, it begs the question as to why they bother. Well it’s certainly not for the money. Even the highest paid short fiction markets rarely pay above 7 cents per word. Sure big names like Stephen King and Neil Gaiman will probably attract a bigger audience for the magazines and probably get a bigger payment too, but it won’t be much, certainly not on the same scale as their novels and other writing earns them.

The reason is probably something to do with the art behind short story writing. The short story is perhaps the purest form of storytelling. Unlike a novel, where an author gets the chance to write page after page of verbose description and characterization, a short story requires a writer to cut things down and include only what matters to the story. The plot, narrative, characterization and description need to provide just enough detail to immerse the reader and serve the story. For this reason, some of the greatest works of fiction are written in the short form. So, next time you are browsing your local bookstore, why not pay a visit to the shelves containing the short story magazines and anthologies. You may find you are in for a pleasant surprise.

- Isabella Woods -