Thursday, 30 April 2009

YOUNG ADULT REVIEW: Demon Stalkers: Torment - Douglas Hill


BOOK BLURB:

Having succeeded in defeating the deadly Mr Redman, Nick and April are left alone with the knowledge that their only friends, Paddy and Julia, may be dead as a result. But as time passes April, whose psychic powers are increasing, begins to sense that they are still alive. So begins a journey in search of their friends. A journey for which even stronger magic is required. And a journey which takes them into a terrifying nether world where soulless beings walk a never ending path of mist and sorrow. And if they find their friends...what then? Even with the help of creepy skeletal Bertrand do they have the slightest hope of escaping the path and returning home? Or are they too doomed to be swallowed by the mists and lost to the mortal world forever...?


REVIEW:

If you happen to love horror stories and want something that has magic as well as demons within, in an urban fantasy setting. Then this is the series for you as Douglas’ protagonist struggles against a cartel of high powered individuals set to ruin the world to their own advantage whilst remaining ignorant of his true powers. A born survivor in this gritty story and one that really does pull the heart strings along with proving that friendship has a higher power than double dealing and backstabbing. A tale to inspire, a tale to enthuse and a tale to be enjoyed.

YOUNG ADULT REVIEW: The Map Makers Monsters: Beware the Buffalogre - Rob Stevens


BOOK BLURB:

When Christopher Columbus-wannabe Rupert Lilywhite decides to set sail and discover a new land - it's all the rage in the fifteenth century - Walter Bailey and his twelve-year-old nephew Hugo are employed as the ship's mapmakers. And when the sailors do eventually spot a mystery island, it is Walter and Hugo who are dispatched to investigate (nobody else can be bothered). Arriving on a beach of purple sand, the intrepid pair believe that they have found paradise ...until Walter is picked off by a giant flying rat. But with the help of some weird and wonderful talking creatures, including Pigasus the flutterhog, Delphina the water-breathing merphin and Savage, the tiny but fearless mouse, Hugo is given a chance to save his uncle and put his mapmaking training to the test.


REVIEW:

To be honest I had a bit of a hard time getting into this story however when I got past the initial beginning it really picked up and allowed the reader to have a lot of fun in the authors own indomitable and quirky style. Its light hearted, it pokes a lot of fun at the world of adventure and above all it’s a story that really has opened a world in a young adult Terry Pratchett sort of way. A nice bit of escapism for readers and an author I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on in the future.

INTERVIEW: Tony Ballantyne


When Tony originally burst onto the Sci-Fi front with his first novel, Recursion, a lot of readers in the genre sat up and paid attention to him. Whether its humanised AI's or futuristic Geisha's he's always added something different to his work to get the reader to pay attention.

Here we chat to Tony about the future of life, his own indomitable worlds and how to rock out to Status Quo on an Accordian...


Falcata Times: Writing is said to be something that people are afflicted with rather than gifted and that it's something you have to do rather than want. What is you opinion of this statement and how true is it to you?

Tony Ballantyne: Yes, it's an affliction, but a mostly enjoyable one. Saying that, my wife says I get moody if I don't get to write.


FT: When did you realise that you wanted to be a writer?

TB: When I first became a reader.



FT: Its often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves your POV?

TB: Yes, its true, but that doesn't mean you don't have to learn how to do the other things. For example, writing a novel is very different to writing a short story. Nonetheless, my advice to any would be writer is always to start with short stories. If nothing else, you get feedback quickly, and if you've got it wrong, you can always move onto the next one.


FT: If someone were to enter a bookshop, how would you persuade them to try your novel over someone else's and how would you define it?

TB: I wouldn't try to persuade anyone. But if I had to I would probably say "If you only read one book about robots conquering a world inhabited solely by robots this year, then make sure it's this one."


FT: How would you "sell" your book in 20 words or less?

TB: The robots of Artemis are committed to the progression of their nation. Only the robots of Turing City stand in their way...


FT: Who is a must have on your bookshelf and who's latest release will find you on the bookshops doorstep waiting for it to open?

TB: J.L.Carr and Terry Pratchett.


FT: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your idea's develop as you write?

TB: Both! I plot quite intricately, but I think real writing happens when the characters start to do their own
thing.


FT: What do you do to relax and what have you read recently?

TB: Read a book! I recently finished THE REST IS NOISE by Alex Ross, a history of the 20th Century heard through its music. I also enjoy listening to music, and I've been reacquainting myself with the pieces mentioned in the book.


FT: What's your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

TB: Playing Status Quo songs on the accordion


FT: Lots of writers tend to have pets (mainly cats.) What do you have and what are their key traits (and do they appear in your novel in certain character attributes?)

TB: My children have two cats, and they made a cameo appearance in Divergence. One of the cats can talk, and has long conversations with me when I am at the computer.


FT: Which character within the book is the most fun to write and why?

TB: Kavan, because he gets to do bad things.


FT: How similar to your principle protagonist(s) are you?


TB: Not very. I rarely get to do bad things, and when I do I usually get into trouble.


FT: What hobbies do you have and how do they influence your work?

TB: I walk and cycle, I play the piano and the accordion. They don't so much influence my work as give me time to recharge and to reflect upon it.


FT: Where do you get your ideas from?

TB: Everything and everywhere. Plus, my children's talking cat has a great imagination.


FT: Do you ever encounter writers block and if so how do you overcome it?

TB: No. I just keep several stories on the go at once. And on the days when its just not working I go and do something else.


FT: Certain authors are renowned for writing at what many would call uncivilised times? When do you do write and how do the others in your household feel about it?

TB: Whenever I get the chance. I now carry a laptop with me and I write what I can when I'm stuck waiting in places. I learnt shorthand so I could write things down without anyone knowing. This is useful for copying conversations on crowded buses and making notes in meetings without my boss knowing what I'm doing. (Don't tell her I said that)


FT: Sometimes pieces of music seem to madly influence certain scenes within novels, do you have a soundtrack for your tale or is it a case of writing in silence with perhaps the odd musical break in-between scenes?

TB: I like to have music playing while I write. Twisted Metal is heavily influenced by folk ballads, (you can read more about that on my blog) and I listened Bellowhead's Burlesque while plotting. I played a lot of Shostakovich when writing the scenes set in the north, particularly the 4th Symphony.


FT: What misconceptions, if any, did you have about the writing and publishing field when you were first getting started?

TB: None really, because I didn't know anything about it. If I were to have my time over again, however, I would join a writers group.


FT: If music be the food of love, what do you think writing is and explain your answer?


TB: Writing is the solace of unrequited love.


FT: What can you tell us about the next novel?

TB: You get to learn a little more about the history of the robots, a lot of the action takes place on Yukawa, the second continent briefly mentioned in Twisted Metal, and it still hasn't got a title.


FT: What are the last five internet sites that you've visited?

TB: Probably my email browser, BBC News, Scrabble on Facebook, Wikipedia and my blog.


FT: Did you ever take any writing classes or specific instruction to learn the craft of writing a novel?


TB: I read an awful lot about what to do. I still do. Sol Stein's books were particularly useful.


FT: How did you get past the initial barriers of criticism and rejection?

TB: I read somewhere that the best way to get over the rejection of your last story is to be writing the next. That's very good advice! Positive criticism is a good thing, you need to take it on board if you are going to develop in any field. Negative criticism? I never take anything personally.


FT: What are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living, in your opinion?

TB: The best thing is you're being paid for your hobby. The worst thing is that when you are writing you're not participating in real life. That happens outside the door of the study...

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Thicker than Water - Mike Carey


BOOK BLURB:

Old ghosts of different kinds come back to haunt Fix, in the fourth gripping Felix Castor novel. Names and faces he thought he'd left behind in Liverpool resurface in London, bringing Castor far more trouble than he'd anticipated. Childhood memories, family traumas, sins old and new, and a council estate that was meant to be a modern utopia until it turned into something like hell ...these are just some of the sticks life uses to beat Felix Castor with as things go from bad to worse for London's favourite freelance exorcist. See, Castor's stepped over the line this time, and he knows he'll have to pay; the only question is: how much? Not the best of times, then, for an unwelcome confrontation with his holier-than-thou brother, Matthew. And just when he thinks things can't possibly get any worse, along comes Father Gwillam and the Anathemata. Oh joy ...


REVIEW:

If you want a realistic London with a Supernatural twist then no one does it better than Mike Carey. Here Castor gets not only into the dark paranormal world up to the elbows but in this tale he’s in it up to his neck and probably beyond as the events spiral out of control even by Castor’s standards. It’s a cracking tale, its well written and above all the characterisation within the novels continue to develop so that each person is like a living breathing human. It makes the losses harder to bear and above all I love the way that Carey’s writing grabs me to the last word.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Every Last Drop - Charlie Huston


BOOK BLURB:

After a year hiding out in the Bronx, Joe Pitt is given an assignment he can't refuse. One Clan needs Joe to inform on another, but he's playing them both while keeping his eye on the main prize: his girl Evie is on the Island somewhere and he'll do anything to get her back. And in this case, 'anything' means coming face to face with the horrendous secret that lies beneath the Vampyre world. It's a quest that will drive him to the heart of the two most perplexing mysteries of the Vampyre community: how were the Clans originally formed, and where do the powerful ones get all that blood? The search for the answer takes Joe to a dark corner of Queens, puts him face to face with a mythic and savage Clan, and leaves him in possession of a vision he'll never scrape off his retinas - as well as a bargaining chip that redefines his place in the Vampyre universe.


REVIEW:

If you want a more humanised vampire in a film noir world then no author does it better than Charlie Huston as his latest release in the Pitt series really does allow the reader to get their monies worth as Pitt proves how hornery he is in this tribute to the pulp fiction detective magazines of the thirties and forties. Its cracking adventure and whilst the writing style will not appeal to everyone its one of those really addictive pieces that you just can’t put down. To define Huston defies logic and above all I wouldn’t want to look too deeply into what makes Pitt a must read every time they land. As a newbie I wouldn’t advise you to jump straight into this characters world on this tale, I’d advise you to start with book one to get the most from what Huston has to offer.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Hellgate: Covenant - Mel Odom


BOOK BLURB:

London, 2038. Man became dependent on science, believed only what he could define or create. Ancient knowledge and rituals were lost. Prophecies ignored. So when the harbingers of evil began to manifest, few saw and fewer believed. So when the demons came there was little to stand in their way. Emerging from the swirling chaotic Hellgate, they overwhelmed humanity's defenses. The usual tactics of war were useless were useless against them - only the few who still respected the old ways, with their holy, ancient, and arcane rights could stand against the dark invaders, using weapons and spells forged in the traditions of their forefathers. But their scattered sucesses attracted vastly powerful enemies, forcing the survivors of London deep into the relative saftey of the Underground. Above them London lies in ruins. A massive, sinister gash in the fabric of reality swirls and churns, dominating the horizon as it blends into a permanently darkened sky. The Burn - transforming our world into theirs - began, while the remnants of our civilsation hid. But mankind is a race of survivors. Men and women hide in the shadows of their former world, struggling to survive, yearning to strike back at their conquerors. They are banding together, and they are learning. Learning how to travel undetected. Learning how to forge effective weapons. Learning how to harness the forgotten power of magic, and fuse it with science. Learning how to kill demons, and close the Hellgate . . .


REVIEW:

To be honest this tale felt a little rushed compared to the other two in the series based on the computer game. Don’t get me wrong, it is still well written, its adventurous, its full of action but the pace just seems to go from nought to sixty in seconds and doesn’t slow down throughout. A reader needs lulls and peaks in order to get the most from a book, whether the pace was set due to the author trying to get too much into the tale I’m not so sure but it does have that rushed feel to it in an effort to finish the contract over giving the reader an overall conclusion. Add to the mix that the tale could easily extend into at least one more novel and I think that it could have been the best option for all concerned.

FANTASY REVIEW: Wrath of a Mad God - Raymond E Feist


BOOK BLURB:

The final book in The Darkwar series from the world-wide best-selling author of Magician. Wrath of a Mad God witnesses the cataclysmic end to one of Feist's best-loved worlds. The Darkwar has fallen upon the worlds of Kelewan and Midkemia; a time of heroes, trials and destruction. Following their dangerous mission to the realm of the alien Dasati, Magnus and the other members of the Conclave must now find a way to use what they discovered to help save their own people from the wrath of a mad god.


REVIEW:

A tale that continues in much the same vein as those that have come before in Firest world of Midkemia. Whilst this does continue the current epic in the series its is full of all the usual trademarks that we've come to expect from this author. Fast action paced storytelling with characters that just jump out of the page yet here, as opposed to having time to think, they have to hit the ground running as they have to stop the forthcoming war before it can begin as their opponents are not used to losing Yet unlike his earlier stories the tale wends its way down a darker road leading each character to not only have to face their own personal "demons" but also having to struggle to remember that what they do is right. A great story for fans, yet for the uninitiated you'd be best going for Magician to see if its to your taste.

NEWS: Tor Authors Appearing at Sci-Fi London Event

The following Tor UK authors will be appearing at Sci-Fi-London (Wednesday 29th April – Monday 4th May)

Saturday 2nd May, 11am

China Miéville

‘Writing Young Adult Fantasy’ panel discussion

with Paul Stewart, Chris Ridell, Oisin McGann and Chris Wooding

Saturday 2nd May, 5.15pm

Tony Ballantyne

‘Robots and Reality’ discussion with Oisin McGann

Tony will also be signing copies of his new book, TWISTED METAL,

2-3pm at Forbidden Planet, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, WC2H 8JR

Sunday 3rd May, 11am

Adrian Tchaikovsky

‘The New Heroic Fantasy’ panel discussion with Joe Abercrombie and Stephen Deas

Monday 4th May, 2.20pm

Liz Williams, Mark Charan Newton and Adrian Tchaikovsky

‘Building a Sci-Fi/Fantasy World’ panel discussion

Monday 4th May, 3.45pm

Liz Williams

‘A Woman in a Man’s World?’ Panel discussion

With Pat Cadigan, Karen Traviss and Jaine Fenn

Monday 4th May, 4pm

Mark Charan Newton – debut author who works for Solaris

‘Fantasy Fiction From All Sides’ workshop session in the bar

NEWS: War of Words Competition


Tor and SciFiNow are delighted to announce War of the Words, the search for the next Tor author! We’ll be offering one lucky reader a publishing contract.

The competition kicks off in the May issue of SciFiNow; readers will be asked to submit a full synopsis together with the first three chapters by 20th August. A shortlist of six will then be drawn up before the winner is announced in November. Follow the search in each issue or catch up with exclusive news and updates on the Sci-Fi Now Website
.

Monday, 27 April 2009

INTERVIEW: Jonathan Maberry

Famed for his work within the Martial Art field, Jonathan is breaking out in more ways than one with his current offering, Patient Zero.

Martial Arts meets Zombie as his principle protagonist not only kicks the zombie ass, but its head, its arms and its legs into next week.

Here we chat to him about his work for everything from Marvel to Disney and get to see his ecclectic record selection for the pure enjoyment of Patient Zero....


FALCATA TIMES: Writing is said to be something that people are afflicted with rather than gifted and that it's something you have to do rather than want. What is your opinion of this statement and how true is it to you?

JONATHAN MABERRY: I don’t agree at all. Writing is a gift. If someone considers it a burden, then they should buzz off, stop writing and get out of the way of those of us who are having a lot of fun with it. I get tired of the ‘tortured artist’ mentality. It’s a bit self-indulgent.

Being able to articulate thoughts and feelings is liberating, cathartic, and uplifting. It’s also a great to connect with people who may have had similar life experiences but can’t necessarily articulate them. Great friendships are forged that way, and some of my closest friends started off as fans.



FT: When did you realize that you wanted to be a writer?

JM: Just about the time I was able to form my first thought. Before I could write I was telling stories with toys and drawings. I’ve never wanted to be anything else, though like most writers I did a lot of other jobs along the way to pay the bills, until I was able to become a full-time writer. I’ve been a bodyguard in the entertainment industry, a college teacher at Temple University, a jujutsu instructor, a police/SWAT trainer, an Expert Witness, a medical information specialist and a graphic artist.


FT: It is often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves this POV?

JM: Not sure if any statement like that will be true across the board. I know a lot of short story writers who find writing a novel incredibly difficult; and I found making the transition from novels to short stories a challenge. I’m a big believer, however, that if a writer studies the form he/she should be able to take a reasonable swing at writing just about anything.


FT: If someone were to enter a bookshop, how would you persuade them to try your novel over someone else's and how would you define it?

JM: That’s a marketing thing. If I’m there doing a signing, I chat with folks about the book and how it came to be written, and about how much fun I had writing it. Fun is infectious. Often I talk to potential customers about the genre and about books in general.

If I’m not there, it all comes down to the book design and jacket copy, and authors have very little to do with that.

Often, however, I can entice them there by buzzing the book online. I maintain a pretty strong social networking presence and I love talking books. Not just mine, either. I’m as much a dedicated reader as I am a writer, so I like talking books in general. Sometimes that alone –that enthusiasm—draws people to my writing.

I’m not a big fan of the hard sell, though.


FT: How would you "sell" your book in 20 words or less?

JM: PATIENT ZERO is a mainstream thriller with fun, action, romance, really bad guys, action, and a lot of heart.


FT: Who is a must have on your bookshelf and whose latest release will find you on the bookshops doorstep waiting for it to open?

JM: My must-have list is long. But I’ll beat down the door to get the new James Lee Burke book. He’s always been my favorite.


FT: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie Do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your idea's develop as you write?

JM: Yeah, I usually know the ending and the core story right from the beginning, but I almost always start with characters first. Even though I write thrillers, my books are character driven. Characters have to be real people and I have to know them inside and out. Once I know who my story is about, I set about building a story that will challenge then, hurt them, warp them, damage them…and I discover how the characters manage to cope with the stress I put them through.

But even when you plot a book out, the story is organic. My outlines seldom match my finished product. Sometimes the story changes because of the characters, sometimes the logic you had at the outset was skewed and a
s you learn more about the subject it demands a change in plot. Sometimes you just come up with a better idea. And sometimes –very often—there’s a point in the writing where you realize that you’ve laid down enough of a trail of breadcrumbs that the reader should be caught up, and that’s when you need to cook up a few twists that they won’t see coming but which are logical and sensible.


FT: What do you do to relax and what have you read recently?

JM: I unwind with theater, music (lots of music), books, and spending real quality time with my wife, Sara Jo.

My recent reading list includes a lot of comics. I just started writing for Marvel and I’m having fun catching up on all the characters and storylines. And I’m reading several novels for possible cover quotes.


FT: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

JM: I dig the music of Laura Branigan. Corny, cheesy post-disco stuff, but I love it.


FT: Lots of writers tend to have pets. What do you have and what are their key traits (and do they appear in your novel in certain character attributes?)

JM: Sadly, my cat passed last year. Cobbler was nineteen. So, I wrote him into PATIENT ZERO. Now he belongs to the hero, Joe Ledger, which means he’ll get to live forever. Cobbler was a marmalade tabby who, as a kitten, had been marked down to $4.95. I couldn’t pass up a bargain counter kitty, so I bought him and he was my good friend for almost twenty years. He was not, however, an agile cat. Only cat I ever saw fall off the arm of the couch –repeatedly.


FT: Which character within your latest book was the most fun to write and why?

JM: Without a doubt ‘Toys’ was the most fun to write. He’s the right-hand man of the main villain, Sebastian Gault. Imagine Jack from Will and Grace, and then give him a high intellect and the cold blooded viciousness of a scorpion. That’s Toys. He’s funny, chic, and complex.


FT: How similar to your principle protagonist are you?

JM: Hmm. Joe Ledger is younger, thinner and better looking, but we do share a lot of qualities. We both went through similar childhood traumas; we’re both advanced practitioners of martial arts. He’s a better shot, I’m less of an emotional basket case.


FT: What hobbies do you have and how do they influence your work?

JM: I’m a pop culture geek, so my hobbies are built around film, music, TV, comics, books. I also teach jujutsu (I hold an 8th degree black belt and have been studying for over 45 years). And I draw. The pop culture stuff informs a lot of my writing and keeps it relevant. The martial arts factors into all of my fiction, and I teach workshops on how to write good fight scenes. And the art gives me a good visual sense that allows me to ‘see’ the scenes I’m writing.


FT: Where do you get your idea's from?

JM: Everyday life. Every writer I know has more ideas that he knows what to do with. Imagination is a muscle that, once used and toned, is constantly functioning.


FT: Do you ever encounter writers block and if so how do you overcome it?

JM: I don’t believe that writer’s block exists. If it did, how come it never hits newspaper reporters and feature writers? Writers block is an excuse people use when they either don’t know (or have yet to learn) the habits of orderliness, process and discipline in writing.



FT: Certain authors are renowned for writing at what many would call uncivilized times. When do you write and how do the others in your household feel about it?

JM: I write every day from eight in the morning until five. On weekends I write a couple of hours, and sometimes I’ll get up and write in the middle of the night if an idea won’t leave me alone.


FT: Sometimes pieces of music seem to influence certain scenes within novels, do you have a soundtrack for your tale or is it a case of writing in silence with perhaps the odd musical break in-between scenes?

JM: I wrote PATIENT ZERO with the following albums in heavy rotation on my CD player: RAINDOGS by Tom Waits; VARIOUS POSITIONS by Leonard Cohen; MURDER BALLADSD by Nick Cave; WISH YOU WERE HERE by Pink Floyd; KING BEE by Muddy Waters; WAITING FOR HERB by the Pogues; LONDON CALLING by the Clash; and CITIZEN STEELY DAN.


FT: What misconceptions, if any, did you have about the writing and publishing field when you were first getting started?

JM: I believed the propaganda that creative people aren’t able to be good at business. I’ve since learned different.


FT: If music be the food of love, what do you think writing is and please explain your answer?

JM: Writing feeds the soul.


FT: What can you tell us about the next novel?

JM: THE DRAGON FACTORY is the second Joe Ledger novel. It deals with scientists using cutting-edge genetic science for ethnic cleansing and to restart the Nazi Eugenics program. It’ll be out in April 2010.


FT: What are the last five internet sites that you've visited?

JM: IMDB, Facebook, Twitter, Marvel and Indiebound.org


FT: Did you ever take any writing classes or specific instructions to learn the craft? If so please let us know which ones.

JM: I studied journalism at Temple. I learned discipline, the value of deadlines and good research skills. I never became a newspaper writer, however. I never took a creative writing class.


FT: How did you get past the initial barriers of criticism and rejection?

JM: Rejection isn’t personal. The agents and editors don’t know me, so why should I take rejection as some kind of personal attack? Ditto for the critics. Sometimes I get annoyed at a reviewer, but that’s rare. I let it pass and look to the future.



FT: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living?

JM: It’s the best job in the world. There are frustrations, but that’s true of any field.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Patient Zero - Jonathan Maberry


BOOK BLURB:

'When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week, then there's either something wrong with your skills or something wrong with your world. And there's nothing wrong with my skills.' Police officer Joe Ledger, martial arts expert, ex-army, self-confessed brutal warrior is scared. The man he's just killed is the same man he killed a week ago. He never expected to see the man again, definitely not alive, and definitely not as part of the recruitment process for the hyper-secret government agency the Department for Military Sciences. But the DMS are scared too - they have word of a terrorist plot straight from a nightmare - a bid to spread a plague through America - a plague that kills its victims and turns them into zombies. Time is running out and Joe has shown he has the abilities they need to lead one of their field teams. And so begins a desperate three mission - to contain the zombie outbreaks, to break the terrorist cell responsible and to find the man in their own team who is selling them out to the terrorists. Patient Zero is astonishingly fast moving, incredibily violent and down-right terrifying thriller - a new breed of thriller of techo-thriller that plays on our fears of mad science.


REVIEW:

This is a bit of a strange tale as it blends beautifully action adventure with the supernatural as Jonathan allows a Romeroesque tale to run full throttle. Its fun, its got all the things that you just can’t wait to rip into with all the gusto of a Zombie trying to get an all you can eat brainfest and whilst its not high literature it really does tick the boxes and delivers what it says on the tin. It won’t require any heavy thinking which whilst some would see this as a bit of an upset, it was a huge relief as too many authors seem to think that you need to twist the hell out of a tale to get the full impact along with sale. Jonathan proves that keeping it simple will not only keep a happy reader but allows you the chance to enjoy it to the max and will be a tale I’ll put back into my reading cycle again shortly when I need a bit of light relief.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Evil Ways - Justin Gustainis


BOOK BLURB:

Quincey Morris and Libby Chastain investigate a series of murders where white witches are being hunted down and killed—and Libby may be next on the list. Meanwhile, the FBI is stymied by a series of child murders around the country, in which the victims' organs are being removed for use in occult rituals. Quincey and Libby don't want to get involved, but they may have no choice. From Iraq to Idaho, the trail of clues leads straight to Walter Grobius, a crazed billionaire who plans the biggest black magic ritual of all time. If he isn't stopped, all Hell will break loose—for real.


REVIEW:

Having discovered Justin last year I really couldn’t wait for his second novel so when it landed from Solaris I just had to get started. Its well written, the characterisation building upon the world for which he developed and thanks to a certain Mr Butcher a trip to Chicago allowed for others to penetrate the world in such a way to allow for a greater world building experience as others make an appearance. The sad thing about the book is the dedication within the text that tells the reader how hard a time it must have been for the author to write the piece. That said it doesn’t show within the text and it clearly demonstrates how much of himself the author has thrown within the tale. Its concise, it’s a wonderful read and it adds a touch of magic to the world that we wish we’d inhabit even if its darker than the norm in the continual epic struggle of good vs evil where a descendant of a character in Dracula continues the family pursuit of justice.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

NEWS: Whedon's Dollhouse UK Air date


The SCI FI channel (Sky Channel 129) brings Whedon's Dollhouse to the UK onTuesday 19th May at 9PM.

The lives of an elite, underground group of beautiful and seductive operatives known as the "Dolls" are revealed in Dollhouse, starring Eliza Dushku as Echo, who is part of a highly illegal and underground group known as the "Actives," or "Dolls." Echo is imprinted with any number of new personas that fit her assignments. Afterwards her thoughts, feelings and experiences are erased. She enters each new assignment with no memory of before. Or does she? As the series progresses, Echo becomes increasingly self-aware and hungers to discover her true identity.

More as we get it.

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Principles of Angels - Jaine Fenn


BOOK BLURB:

Khesh City floats above the surface of the uninhabitable planet of Vellern. Topside, it's extravagant, opulent, luxurious; the Undertow is dark, twisted and dangerous. Khesh City is a place where nothing is forbidden - but it's also a democracy, of sorts, a democracy by assassination, policed by the Angels, the elite, state-sponsored killers who answer only to the Minister, their enigmatic master. Taro lived with Malia, his Angel aunt, one of the privileged few, until a strange man bought his body for the night, then followed him home and murdered Malia in cold blood. Taro wants to find the killer who ruined his future, but he's struggling just to survive in the brutal world of the Undertow. Then an encounter with the Minister sets him on a new course, spying for the City; his target is a reclusive Angel called Nual. Elarn Reen is a famous musician, sent to Khesh City as the unwilling agent of mankind's oldest enemy, the Sidhe. To save her own life, she must find and kill her ex-lover, a renegade Sidhe. Though they come from different worlds, Taro and Elarn's fates are linked, their lives apparently forfeit to other people's schemes. As their paths converge, it becomes clear that the lives of everyone in Khesh City, from the majestic, deadly Angels to the barely-human denizens of the Undertow, are at risk. And Taro and Elarn, a common prostitute and an uncommon singer, are Khesh City's only chance . . .


REVIEW:

New author Jaine Fenn really doesn't pull punches in her dark look at the future of mankind in this tale where Dark City meets Bladerunner and one of the cheapest commodities is life.

Well written with an almost classical class of characters the reader is treated to a story within a story as the characters each struggle to find their own way in this dangerous world only to end up discovering that through cooperation do they stand any chance of success as the tale builds up to a climatic finish that no one will see coming. This really is Science Fiction at its best with risks that only a new author will take allowing the reader to see a world in vivid colour against the backdrop of a power struggle for societies elite using the denizens of the undercity as pawns in a masterful game of political court chess where even a pawn can become King. If you're looking for something different to many books out there, this one truly does stand on its own two feet and will more than entertain.

The review of Jaine's second book, Consorts of Heaven will appear on the 21st May.

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: House of Suns - Alistair Reynolds


BOOK BLURB:

Six million years ago, at the very dawn of the starfaring era, Abigail Gentian fractured herself into a thousand male and female clones: the shatterlings. Sent out into the galaxy, these shatterlings have stood aloof as they document the rise and fall of countless human empires. They meet every two hundred thousand years, to exchange news and memories of their travels with their siblings. Campion and Purslane are not only late for their thirty-second reunion, but they have brought along an amnesiac golden robot for a guest. But the wayward shatterlings get more than the scolding they expect: they face the discovery that someone has a very serious grudge against the Gentian line, and there is a very real possibility of traitors in their midst. The surviving shatterlings have to dodge exotic weapons while they regroup to try to solve the mystery of who is persecuting them, and why - before their ancient line is wiped out of existence, for ever.


REVIEW:

Cracking characters within the tale by perhaps one of the best known Space Opera writers of the day. Whilst this is book 8 by Alastair its with a fascination that I eagerly await each new novels release date as Im never sure whats going to happen. This is what keeps it a great as well as ideal read as it does everything and reveals plots within plots in ever increasing circles so the reader can at times think that they are chasing their tale along with the characters. A cracking read and something that demonstrates that Alastair is growing as a writer in both confidence as well as writing wise with each subsequent story.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Tyrant: Storm of Arrows - Christian Cameron


BOOK BLURB:

Kineas, the Athenian cavalry commander, has come a long way since being dismissed from the army of Alexander and vengefully exiled by his own city. Together, his mercenary force and their Scythian allies have defeated a mighty Macedonian army at the Ford of the River God, and his adopted city of Olbia is now free once more. But his destiny will not allow him to enjoy the fruits of victory for long. Far to the east, at the farthest edge of the Sea of Grass, Alexander is threatening to crush the Scythian hordes once and for all. The Lady Srayanka of the Cruel Hands, the Scythian warrior-princess who spurned a king's love to be at Kineas's side, is pledged to take her tribe east to help stop 'the monster' - and Kineas knows he has no choice but to follow, even if it means embracing the violent death in battle that he has seen prefigured in countless dreams. But long before he can confront the might of Alexander's army alongside his beloved Srayanka, he must undertake an epic journey, of breathtaking daring, taking an army through hundreds of miles of hostile terrain - towards his own appointment with fate.


REVIEW:

I arrived late to the camp of Christian Cameron when I only got round to his original novel in June (when it was released in January) last year. Swiftly spotting my original error with the quality of writing of the first piece I made a note on my calendar of the release of the second tale in the series and thus more or less mugged the posty when he tried to deliver this tale.

As a fan of historical fiction you’ll generally find me gripped in the earlier histories as I’m fascinated with the warcraft as well as the strategies and emotional context of the times, here Christian delivers everything in spades that really does give the reader a cracking story along with all the action they can handle. A true joy to read and a book that I’m sure will impress that historical lover in your life. However don’t make the error of bypassing the original as without it, some of the events won’t have quite the same impact.

HISTORICAL FICTION: The Secret War (Books 1 and 2) : The Secret War, The Hoard of Mhorrer - MFW Curran


BOOK BLURB:

The Secret War:
For thousands of years a secret war has been fought between Heaven and Hell. Daemons and angels, vampyres and knights, clash for the future of mankind, and as the two sides wage war across the world, innocent people are caught up in the conflict - men like Captain William Saxon and Lieutenant Kieran Harte, two great friends who have recently survived the horrors of the Battle of Waterloo. But now they face a greater struggle, against the daemonic forces of Count Ordrane, and the clandestine ambitions of the Vatican. They must try to survive assassination attempts, political machinations, epic battles on land and sea, and above all the power of a mysterious bronze pyramid - the Scarimadean - that brings everlasting damnation too all who come into contact with it. Their only allies are an old man, a fading secret organisation in the Church, and an enigmatic warrior, who may hold the key not only to the friends' fates, but to the fate of all mankind...

The Hoard of Mhorrer:
Prepare to confront the incarnation of evil. It is 1820 and the world is on the brink. A fearless cohort of soldier-monks, led by Lieutenant William Saxon, has been dispatched to Egypt on the most important mission in history. For thousands of years a great secret has been kept: a stockpile of appalling malevolence, which, if let loose, will plunge the world into eternal damnation. This is the Hoard of Mhorrer. The soldiers must find and destroy the Hoard before the daemonic agents of the evil Count Ordrane of Draak locate it.In a heart-stopping race against time, ranging from Papal Rome to the desolate heart of Egypt's Sinai peninsula, the soldiers must battle murderous militiamen and pitiless daemons, and finally, terrifyingly, the bloodthirsty Guardians of the Horde. If William and his men succeed, the clandestine war between Heaven and Hell will at last begin to favour the forces of light. But if they fail, and the agents of Hell claim the Hoard, then they will unleash an army of invincible daemons, and humankind - what is left of it - will come to know the true meaning of evil.


REVIEW:

If you want a story that blends the horrors of the real world into an eternal war then few have thought to treat many of the worlds battlefields in quite the same way as MFW Curran. Its novel, its gripping and above all it’s a tale that will suck the reader in from the first page as the descriptive style whilst slightly flourished has that gritty realism that allows the reader to see the horror of what mankind is capable of inflicting upon itself. A series that I‘ll definitely be passing on to many other readers within my family who enjoy an eclectic selection of releases as they’ll enjoy this and demand more. Definitely an author to watch although I wouldn’t leave this offering on the shelf for long, one of our tips to pick up and get into before the masses learn of them.

Friday, 24 April 2009

NEWS: Visit the Asylum (Steampunk Convivial)


Weekend at the Asylum is the first UK Steampunk "Convivial" or Festival. It is a gathering of Steampunk enthusiasts and Neo-Victorians and a celebration of a retro-futuristic world.

Weekend at the Asylum will be held over the weekend of 11th-13th September 2009 in the City of Lincoln, Lincolnshire. We are aiming to take over much of the Old Quarter of the city but the main venue on Saturday is the Asylum from which the event takes its name.


Weekend at the Asylum consists of Live Music, Comedy, Dance and Speciality Acts, Exhibitions, Seminars, Panels, a market in the form of our Bazaar Eclectica, Competitions, Workshops and lots of socialising. If you are a steampunk, neo-victorian or even a re-enactor we will strive to make you welcome at what is set to be one of the most exciting weekends of the year.

The event is proving to be very popular with one third of the tickets already booked within the first two weeks of being on sale. We hope to welcome as many steampunks to Lincoln as we can and have a really enjoyable weekend.

For more info please visit thier website.

YA REVIEW: Vampirates : Black Heart - Justin Somper


BOOK BLURB:

There's a new ship of vampirates roaming the seas, leaving a trail of fear and devastation in its wake. When a high-profile pirate is slain, the Pirate Federation takes decisive action and begins training up a ship of dedicated vampire hunters. Amongst the dynamic crew is young pirate prodigy Connor Tempest. Meanwhile, Connor's twin sister Grace enjoys a bittersweet reunion with their mother, Sally, who has some important and shocking news for her daughter. As Grace uncovers the truth about her family's past, she realises that she and Connor face a daunting and uncertain future.


REVIEW:

Black Heart sees the return of the Tempest Twins as they come to terms with the cataclysmic events of the last tale and learn to live with startling revelations in an epic twist on everything we thought we knew in the latest offering of the Vampirate saga. As you’d come to expect from Justin, its well written, the characters continue to develop and the twins are becoming much stronger individually as each book progresses. You can jump into the series at this point however you really will have missed a treat in this futuristic adventure series on the high seas. Miss it at your peril.

YA REVIEW: House of Night 1-3 - Marked, Betrayed, Chosen - PC and Kristin Cast


BOOK BLURB:

Marked:
The House of Night series is set in a world very much like our own, except in 16-year-old Zoey Redbird's world, vampyres have always existed.In this first book in the series, Zoey enters the House of Night, a school where, after having undergone the Change, she will train to become an adult vampire--that is, if she makes it through the Change.Not all of those who are chosen do.It's tough to begin a new life, away from her parents and friends, and on top of that, Zoey finds she is no average fledgling.She has been Marked as special by the vampyre Goddess, Nyx.But she is not the only fledgling at the House of Night with special powers.When she discovers that the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school's most elite club, is misusing her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must look deep within herself for the courage to embrace her destiny--with a little help from her new vampyre friends.

Betrayed:
Fledgling vampire Zoey Redbird has managed to settle in at the House of Night. She's come to terms with the vast powers the vampire goddess, Nyx, has given her, and is getting a handle on being the new Leader of the Dark Daughters. Best of all, Zoey finally feels like she belongs - like she really fits in. She actually has a boyfriend...or two. Then the unthinkable happens: Human teenagers are being killed, and all the evidence points to the House of Night. While danger stalks the humans from Zoey's old life, she begins to realize that the very powers that make her so unique might also threaten those she loves. Then, when she needs her new friends the most, death strikes the House of Night, and Zoey must find the courage to face a betrayal that could break her heart, her soul, and jeopardize the very fabric of her world.

Chosen:
Dark forces are at work at the House of Night and fledgling vampyre Zoey Redbird's adventures at the school take a mysterious turn. Those who appear to be friends are turning out to be enemies. And oddly enough, sworn enemies are also turning into friends. So begins the gripping third installment of this “highly addictive series” (Romantic Times), in which Zoey's mettle will be tested like never before. Her best friend, Stevie Rae, is undead and struggling to maintain a grip on her humanity. Zoey doesn't have a clue how to help her, but she does know that anything she and Stevie Rae discover must be kept secret from everyone else at the House of Night, where trust has become a rare commodity. Speaking of rare: Zoey finds herself in the very unexpected and rare position of having three boyfriends. Mix a little bloodlust into the equation and the situation has the potential to spell social disaster. Just when it seems things couldn't get any tougher, vampyres start turning up dead. Really dead. It looks like the People of Faith, and Zoey's horrid step-father in particular, are tired of living side-by-side with vampyres. But, as Zoey and her friends so often find out, how things appear rarely reflects the truth…


REVIEW:

If you’ve enjoyed Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy and want something in a literally similar vein, then this is definitely the series for you. PC and Kristin Cast’s House of Night follows the adventures of newly marked Vampire Zoey as she learns to accommodate not only the changes in her life but also make new friends in an environment where everything is not as it seems. A tale of growing up and friendship along with the normal teenager angst and worries to satify many a reader. Great stuff.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

INTERVIEW: Kari Sperring

Famed as a lecturer on the Medieval Celtic history it will probably come as no real surprise that the next step taken by Kari (Photo by Phil Nanson) was to create her own world based on the rich tapestry of what has come before.

Here we chat to her about writing, the creative processes and her "guardians" who protect her between the realms as she allows her mind to wander to the gods of rock whilst her muse whistfully dances away...


FT: Writing is said to be something that people are afflicted with rather than gifted and that it's something you have to do rather than want. What is your opinion of this statement and how true is it to you?

KS: It's somewhere between an itch and an obsession. It certainly makes me question my sanity sometimes -- writing and the urge to write can seriously derail your life, even before the part when you're having arguments with imaginary people, muttering to yourself in the street and hunting frantically for some way -- any way -- with which to record the neat idea/cool dialogue/whatever that you just came up with in the shower/at 3 a.m./while driving. I find it hard to start and hard to stop, hard to talk about and hard to ignore, and however much I drag my heels about getting on with it, I always feel better when I make myself sit down and work at it. So an affliction? In a lot of ways, yes.


FT: When did you realise that you wanted to be a writer?

KS: I'm not sure I remember: possibly when I first discovered that books were written by people and not conjured entire from the ether. That would be when I was around 6.


FT: It is often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves this POV?

KS: I don't know. I'm not a natural short story writer, perhaps because the shorts I grew up reading were predominantly the 'neat idea' type -- Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein. So I had it in my head that to write short stories in my favourite genres of SF and fantasy, you needed to be a scientist (or Ray Bradbury, who was clearly a genius). And it was unlikely I was ever going to be that good at science. I didn't really come across the classic fantasy short story -- Howard, Leiber -- until I was quite a bit older, and by then I knew that these belonged to an age and a context that no longer existed. So it felt as if short stories weren't right for me. I enjoyed writing stories at school, but they somehow didn't feel the same as the ones I read in published collections. It was only when I came across writers like Tanith Lee and George R R Martin (whom I already admired as novelists)writing shorts that I realised that this was a form I found attractive and that I might be able to work in. By then I was already trying to write at novel length (these usually came out as novellas, but in structure they weren't shorts.) It seems to me that short stories and novels are rather different disciplines and I'm not n sure that one can and will lead to the other.


FT: If someone were to enter a bookshop, how would you persuade them to try your novel over someone else's and how would you define it?

KS: I'm very bad at self-promotion. I might find out what sort of book they enjoyed and recommend mine if I thought it would be a good fit. I am lucky enough to have a great cover by Chris McGrath and that has proved a good selling point on the book so far, so I'd hope they'd see that and respond to it. If they asked me, I'd say that's it's a swashbuckler, with ghosts and conspiracies, mist-creatures and swordfights, mysteries and salons, shapeshifters, ancient pacts, star-crossed romance and a lot of water.


FT: How would you "sell" your book in 20 words or less?

KS: The Three Musketeers with magic and ghosts!


FT: Who is a must have on your bookshelf and whose latest release will find you on the bookshops doorstep waiting for it to open?

KS: There are so many! Alexandre Dumas -- I've been collecting him since I was 15, but there are still some of his I don't have; Tanith Lee; Roger Zelazny; Steven Brust; Liz Williams; Rumer Godden; Elizabeth Goudge; L M Montgomery; Justina Robson; Phil Rickman; Janet Evanovich; Judith Tarr; Ronald Hutton; Vikram Chandra; Miyuki Miyabe; Louis Cha... I could go on and on and on.


FT: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie Do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your idea's develop as you write?

KS: I start with a character or a group of characters, and a scene. So with Living With Ghosts, I had an image of two men -- one of them injured -- and a ghost on a river bank in a lot of mist, with a sense of great danger all around them. I had some idea of who they were and what they wanted, and I started writing with that in mind. When I came to the end of the first chapter, a woman walked in and announced herself the main antagonist: I was more surprised than my protagonists, as they seemed to know her. That gave me a feel for the book and a vague image of where I was headed, but nothing very firm. Set pieces and key scenes presented themselves at various times (usually not the right ones!) and after a while I found I usually knew where the next chapter or two was headed. But I'm not a very structured writer in that sense. My manuscripts are invariably covered with running notes containing fragments of dialogue, stray ideas and the phrase 'Where does this go'? That being said, once i get going, I try my best to write in order, not to reread more than the previous few paragraphs and not to start on rewriting until I have a complete first draft. The book I'm working on now (it's called The Grass King's Concubine) began with a scene -- two shapeshifters in a house being asked to work magic -- and a series of images (an orrery, two figures riding across a frozen landscape, a palace under amber light). I'm about three-quarters of the way through, I think, and I have a sense of the ending, but it may well be subject to change...


FT: What do you do to relax and what have you read recently?

KS: I read, I do crewel-work embroidery and I watch a lot of films (particularly from Hong Kong and India). I also follow tv shows like Battlestar Galactica, Damages and Heroes. The last book I read was an academic study of late 19th and early 20th century occultism, The Place of Enchantment by Alex Owen. Before that, I read two of C E Murphy's supernatural mysteries (Thunderbird Falls and Coyote Dreams). Right now I'm reading Imran Ahmad's memoir, Unimagined. I read a lot, fiction and non-fiction, and I'll try almost anything.


FT: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

KS: Many people are baffled by my love for Hindi cinema, but I find the sensibilities and pacing a lot more appealing than a lot of US products. The characters are more believable to me and -- I have to admit -- I enjoy romance and melodrama more than car chases and gun battles. The Indian film industry produces some excellent films and I recommend them highly (my current favourites are Rand De Basanti, about student apathy and the context of rebellion; Teen Deewarein, a character study set in a prison, and Rangeela, a musical with a terrific score, wonderful choreography and a cast of interesting but nice characters).
And I'm a role-player. I play D & D and Feng Shui at present, but I played all sorts of other systems also.


FT: Lots of writers tend to have pets. What do you have and what are their key traits (and do they appear in your novel in certain character attributes?)

KS: I have cats! Three to be precise -- Ahmoon, Iskander and Horus. Mooncat is sweet-natured, home-loving girl, who likes to sit on my desk and wash my fingers as I type. Ish is the boss cat of the three -- he's the one who insists on staying out all night and worrying us. Horus is daft -- he's bright but has no common sense whatsoever and is prone to getting into odd scrapes. They don't get into my writing (although they do shed on it). But my very first cat, Caspian, has a guest appearance (in disguise, as he was grey) as Amalie's tabby cat in Living With Ghosts.


FT: Which character within your latest book was the most fun to write and why?

KS: That's quite difficult to answer. Thiercelin is most like me, so in a lot of ways he was the easiest to write, but at the same time I love to write sword fights, so I had a lot of fun writing Valdarrien and Joyain. Iareth Yscoithi was probably the hardest, as she's so reserved.


FT: How similar to your principel protagonist are you?

KS: And this is another difficult one. As I said above, I think Thiercelin is the most like me: I tend to feel I have to prove myself to people and I can be quite diffident. But Gracielis is probably the principle protagonist, and I suspect that I was more like him when I was younger than I am now. At least, I hope so!


FT: What hobbies do you have and how do they influence your work?

KS: I'm a great one for obsessions: I'll become interested in a subject and read up on it voraciously. A lot of these find their way into my writing in one form or another, be it sharks or astronomical water clocks or seventeenth century French history. My current burning interests is the French Revolution and the history of magic, there are lots of things that I am fascinated by -- fencing, Chinese wuxia novels, sharks, clocks, bridge-building, hill-forts, wind power....


FT: Where do you get your ideas from?

KS: Everywhere. Things I've read or seen or heard, images, things I've come across in my work (I'm trained as a mediaeval historian specialising in the Celtic and Gaelic speaking countries and I've taught that at university level, but I've also been a tax officer, a bar maid, a shop-worker and a P.A.)


FT: Do you ever encounter writers block and if so how do you overcome it?

KS: I have to be very firm with myself or I grind to a halt. I set myself a weekly word count and try and stick to it. Otherwise, I can waste time for weeks and weeks and weeks.


FT: Certain authors are renowned for writing at what many would call uncivilised times. When do you write and how do the others in your household feel about it?

KS: It depends. Usually I work in the day time, as I'm lucky enough to be able to write full-time, and my best writing time is the morning. But if a book is going really well, then I write anywhere and everywhere -- in bed, on the bus, during meals -- and it can be hard for me to stop and go and do something else. My partner is very tolerant, but he gets fed up if I keep writing across something we're meant to be doing together. And the cats really complain if I forget their meal times.


FT: Sometimes pieces of music seem to influence certain scenes within novels, do you have a soundtrack for your tale or is it a case of writing in silence with perhaps the odd musical break in-between scenes?

KS: The key song for Living With Ghosts was Alice Cooper, Poison, which said something that fitted very closely with how the main protagonist feels about his controller. I'm not sure if Grass King has so tight a theme song -- possibly the Blackmore's Night version of Wish You Were Here (not the Pink Floyd piece, but a different song written by L. Teijjo) I write to music or to the radio, as I enjoy the company and I find the rhythms helpful. What I listen to varies -- I tend to have phases of listening to a particular set of CDs over and over, and then moving on. At present, my play-list includes Nolwen Leroy, Histoires Naturelles; Lais by Lais; Renaissance by Faun; Evanescence, Fallen; and various film soundtracks -- Rang De Basanti, Fallen Angels, Once Upon a Time in China. But at other times I'm listening to other artists -- Kate Bush, Seth Lakeman, Live, Gabriel Yacoub, Sandy Denny, Doro. And I love Requiem Masses.


FT: What misconceptions, if any, did you have about the writing and publishing field when you were first getting started?

KS: I think when I was a child and an early teenager, I thought it would be easy -- I'd write the book, send it off and it would be published. But I've been writing and publishing non-fiction for so long (since 1986) that I don't think I had a lot of time to develop illusions. One thing that always used to baffle me in the days of paper submissions was the issue of boxes, though. Publisher would request that a manuscript be sent to them in a typing paper box, which I duly did, but the ms was invariably returned without its box and held together with elastic bands. I always wanted to know what they did with the boxes.


FT: If music be the food of love, what do you think writing is and please explain your answer?

KS: It's an opiate: it possesses, it promises, it creates visions and snatches them away, it leads you on and taunts you, winds you up and lets you down; it addicts and obsesses. Or perhaps a roller coaster.


FT: What can you tell us about the next novel?

KS: It has the working title The Grass King's Concubine. It has shape-shifting ferret women and a journey into the underworld, civic unrest and elemental warriors. It's about the power of the written word, about the fear of change and the problem of property. And bees and water clocks and a stone boat and a mystery. I tend to describe it as 'Orpheus and Eurydice meet the French Revolution: part one'. It's set in the same world as Living With Ghosts, but later and with a different cast of characters. If anyone has read Ghosts, then Grass King is more about the magical side of the world than the human one.


FT: What are the last five internet sites that you've visited?

KS: Livejournal, where I blog as la_marquise_de_ (it's a role-playing reference, alas); The Guardian home page; Amazon.co.uk, the BBC and Pastiches Dumas, a website devoted to spin-offs and homages to the novels of Alexandre Dumas.


FT: Did you ever take any writing classes or specific instructions to learn the craft? If so please let us know which ones.

KS: I attended an SF and Fantasy writing course at the Arvon Foundation, where I had the great privilege of being tutored by Adam Roberts and Justina Robson. It was invaluable, and I'd recommend it to anyone. I've also been to the Milford UK Writing Workshop, which is challenging, invigorating, inspiring and a lot of fun. I'm a member of a local monthly writing group. And I have a shelf and a half of writing books. Most of them haven't proved to be a lot of use, but there are a few that I return to over and over -- Dennis Palumbo, Writing From the Inside Out; Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird; Stephen King, On Writing; Ray Bradbury, Zen and the Art of Writing; and -- for a book with exercises and a learning structure, Ursula LeGuin, Steering the Craft..



FT: How did you get past the initial barriers of criticism and rejection?

KS: It's a difficult area. Criticism is important, but I had to learn to listen, to shut down the initial 'ouch' response and to let myself reject criticisms that seemed to be non-constructive or irrelevant as they could be very derailing. My instinct is to do as the external reader says, and it took me a while to learn that this was not always essential and if something really didn't fit or felt inappropriate, I could let it go. And as for rejection... I'm not a role-mod
el for this: I find it very hard indeed and tend to go away and hide. Or clean the house. That's often very soothing.


FT: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living?

KS: I love that I'm allowed to daydream, to work with words (which I love), to stretch my imagination out all over page after page, I love working from home, I love being surrounded by books. I enjoy the company of ot
her writers, I enjoy research and discovery -- I can spend hours upon hours in library chasing up cross-references and hints and images. On the other hand, I have to structure my own time, which I'm bad at; I am on my own a lot and I get lonely and the waiting is a killer.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Men of the Otherworld - Kelley Armstrong


BOOK BLURB:

I don't remember the first time I changed into a wolf. One night I passed out, and awoke to find my body covered in yellow fur. My brain was beyond reacting. It took this in its stride, as it had everything else in my new life. I got to my feet and went in search of food. As a curious and independent six-year-old, Clayton didn't resist the bite ? he asked for it. But as a lone child werewolf his life is under constant threat. So when enigmatic Pack member Jeremy Danvers saves him, Clayton is determined to protect his adoptive father, no matter what the cost. So begins this gripping collection of four tales chronicling the bloody feuds of the American Pack, and the coming of age of Clay Danvers, a very powerful ? and very singular ? werewolf.


REVIEW:

Of all the women who write in the Supernatural world, Kelley Armstrong is one of my favourites with cracking characters, outstanding plotlines and above all a friendly nature that really does step out of the pages to gently guide the reader through their adventure. Here, in this novel, published in a paperback format for the first time are some of the short stories that were originally written at the requests of her fans and were available on her website for free. But why purchase it if you can get them for nothing? They’re well written, they add another flavour to the Otherworld and above all, the proceeds from the sale of this novel go to help a literacy charity. Definitely one of my favourites of all of Kelley’s work and a book I’m going to highly recommend to everyone.