Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Study of the Feminine Graces: Wit, Charm, Snark, and Theft

Thief's Covenant
Ari Marmell
Pyr Books
Hardcover, 273 p., $16.95
various ebook editions (Nook, Kindle) $7.99

I've heard of Ari Marmell, but until now I hadn't read one of his books.  Thief's Covenant won't be the last. 

Part of Pyr's new YA line, this is a fun, albeit dark, novel.  The central character is Widdershins, formerly known as Adrienne Satti.  She's an orphan, at one time adopted into a noble family.  Until she was witness and sole survivor of a massacre at the temple of her god.  Fearing she would be blamed for the killings, she fled back to the slums, adopting the identity of Widdershins.

Oh, and there's one thing.  Her god went with her. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Blood and Thunder, Release 2.0

Blood and Thunder
Mark Finn
The Robert E. Howard Foundation Press
$45 REHF members, $50 nonmembers, plus shipping

It's been a few years since the first edition of this volume was published, and in that time Howard studies have moved forward, with new biographical material coming to light.  In fact, new biographical details  have continued to be unearthed since this edition went to press. That will probably (hopefully) continue for some time.

As he explained in the two part interview posted here last year (part 1, part 2), Mark Finn felt it was time for a second edition.  Rather than rehash his remarks, I'm going to get straight to the point and discuss the book.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sailing on the Carpathia

Matt Forbeck
Angry Robot Books
1 March 2012
384pp B-format paperback, £7.99

28 February 2012
384pp trade paperback
$12.99 US / $14.99 CAN

28 February 2012, £4.49

That movie by James Cameron a few years back kind of cooled my interest in the Titanic.  Matt Forbeck has rekindled it.  It seems the shipwreck was only the beginning.  The real nightmare started after the Carpathia picked up the survivors.  The ship was infested with vampires trying to return to the safety of the  old world.  Can you say smorgasbord?  Now why couldn't Cameron have filmed that part of the story?  It would have made a much more interesting movie than that sappy love story.  Oh, well.  To each his own.

This is the story of Quentin Harker, Abe Holmwood, and Lucy Seward (perhaps you've heard of their parents?), who are traveling to America.  Abe and Lucy, engaged to be married, will travel the continent until Lucy starts college in the fall, at which time Abe will return home to England and wait for his bride-to-be to finish school.  Quin will seek employment in a law firm in New York. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Report on ConDFW XI

Author GOH Cherie Priest
ConDFW XI was held over the weekend, beginning on the afternoon of Friday, February 17 and ending, as these things tend to do, just over 48 hours later, on Sunday February 19.  The author Guest of Honor was Cherie Priest, and the artist Guest of Honor was William Stout.

I wasn't able to get away as early as I'd hoped Friday morning, so I missed the afternoon panels.  I visited with friends, kibitzed with Mark Finn during his signing, then went and grabbed some food.  The Opening Ceremonies were held after dinner and only lasted five minutes.  Since I was five minutes late, I got there just as everyone was leaving. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Guest Post by Ty Johnston

Fantasy writer Ty Johnston is touring the blogosphere this month, in part to promote his latest e-book novel, Demon Chains, but also because he loves blog touring. His other fantasy novels include City of Rogues, Bayne’s Climb and Ghosts of the Asylum, all of which are available for the Kindle, the Nook and online at Smashwords. To learn more about Ty and his writing, follow him at his blog tyjohnston.blogspot.com.

Some questioning from a fellow fantasy writer got me to thinking recently. Why do I write mostly in the fantasy genre?

It is a question with no easy answer. Literature of the fantastic and speculative was part of my childhood, a big part, so perhaps there is a bit of nostalgia which keeps my interest going.

That being said, after spending some time thinking over this topic, I came to what I feel is a stronger reply, a better answer. I remain tied to the fantasy genre because of the freedom it allows me as a writer and as a reader.

While the general public might hear the word “fantasy” and think of dragons and men waving around big swords, fantasy is so much more than that, not that there’s anything wrong with dragons and men waving around big swords. When I write in other genres, I often find myself feeling limited intellectually and emotionally, possibly even spiritually. I have no sense of such fetters when working within fantasy.

Fantasy writers write in their favored genre for a lot of different reasons, but one of my draws is exploration of the mind and perhaps the soul. I like to delve into the various elements that makes us human. I find the ability to do my exploring through fantasy. When I am withdrawn into fantasy, I feel as if I’m an explorer of old, charting new territory. If not new territory for others, often enough I am discovering new territory for myself, within myself.

Again, I gain little sense of this from the other genres.

I do not mean to belittle other genres of literature, because each has its place, its good and its bad, and I read widely across all genres. However, as a writer, I find the other genres limiting, making me feel forced to refrain from boldly traveling to new worlds, whether those worlds are physical or metaphysical or beyond.

Within fantasy, nearly anything can occur, anything can be thought and weighed. Admittedly some of the sub-genres of my favorite literature offer limitations, but those limitations are often similar to the ones I find in the non-fantastic genres. When I feel the need, I can work within those limitations, but when I wish to expand, it is to the wider possibilities of fantasy I must turn and return.

The simple answer, then, is that I write mostly in the fantasy genre because of the philosophical freedom it allows me as a writer and reader. The other genres I find somewhat stifling, at least part of the time, and often too literal, too strict, too methodical. With fantasy, I can fly, I can soar.

And hopefully readers will explore and travel with me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Next Week or So

I'm getting over a sinus infection at the moment, something that isn't helped by the dust and the wind here on the South Plains.  Unless something major happens tomorrow, I probably won't be posting anything new until Sunday night or more probably Monday evening.  I'll be attending ConDFW this weekend and will give a full report when I get back.  I'm also reading Mark Finn's updated biography of Robert E. Howard, Blood and Thunder, and Matt Forbeck's Carpathia.  They're both great reads, and I'll review them next week.  I had hoped to finish one of them in time to write a review before the con, but being sick has slowed me down some.

In the meantime, this Saturday will see the first guest post here.  Author Ty Johnston is doing a blog tour to promote his new book, Demon Chains, the latest in his Kron Darkbow series.  I'd like to thank Ty in advance for his column.  I've read it, and it's good.  Check it out.  And if you haven't read any of his books, start with City of Rogues, which I reviewed a few months ago.

Coming up after the report on ConDFW, I've got commitments to review (not necessarily in this order) Shadow's Master by Jon SprunkThief's Covenant by Ari Marmell, The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle, Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig, Trang by Mary Sisson, and Rise and Fall by Joshua P. Simon.  I'll probably look at some short fiction in the midst of all that, plus the occasional essay.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

First Professional Payment

After years of sporadically collecting rejections, I received my first payment for something I'd written.  Well, for fiction at least.  Review copies of books don't count in this context.  And while it's not professional rates by SFWA standards, I got paid for it, so by that loose definition it's professional.  I just transferred the money from my Paypal account to my bank account.  What a rush.  I can definitely get used to that.  Anyway, the story is supposed to be available in a few weeks, so I'll post a notice when that happens.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Visit to the World House

The World House
Guy Adams
Angry Robot Books
 416pp A-format paperback
£7.99 UK   $tbc Aus
416pp mass-market paperback
$7.99 US    $8.99 CAN
 ISBN 978 0 85766 037 4
ebook  £4.49 / $5.99
 ePub ISBN 978 0 85766 038 1

This one has been out for a while but it's still worth a read.  As Dean Wesley Smith likes to point out, books aren't produce; they won't spoil.  When the book arrived in the mail, I was on my way back to work after meeting my wife for lunch and had stopped by the post office.  I decided to read it on my lunch breaks.  That didn't happen for two reasons.  One, I keep having to run errands during lunch, and two, I was just too drawn into the story to be able to read only a short number of pages every few days.

The idea of a house where each room contains a world or a passage to a world isn't new.  James Stoddard used it in The High House and The False House, just to give one example.  And while Stoddard's books had some creepy moments, The World House does them one better.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

John Seery-Lester's Safari Paintings

Cover Painting for Legends of the Hunt
Jim Cornelius had a new post this evening over at Frontier Partisans.  It featured a link to the safari art of John Seery-Lester.  These are paintings of classic safaris, many of them based on actual safaris.  Teddy Roosevelt is prominently featured in some of them.  The paintings brought back my boyhood dreams of going on safari.  If this is something that might be of interest to you, check it out.  If you really like his work, there's a link to order a collection of John's paintings.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Battlepug to be Collected by Dark Horse

For just over a year now, Mike Norton has been writing a weekly webcomic, Battlepug.  With Allen Passalaqua and Crank assisting on the artwork, it's a unique blend of a Conan-like barbarian and giant animals.  I just discovered it today.  I'm still trying to decide if it works for me, but I like the visuals and the framing story.  With weekly installments, it took a while for the story to really get going, but it seems to be picking up steam.  Norton is beginning to flesh out the background and add supporting characters.  Dark Horse recently announced it would collect the first year, to be published in July.  Anyway, I thought I'd mention it in case some of you who aren't aware of it might be interested.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

New Links to Reviews of Small Press and Indie Books

It seems I'm running perpetually behind these days.  I've been intending to put links to all the reviews I've done of indie and small press books in the sidebar.  Tonight I finally got around to it.  You'll find it just above all the other links to posts on various topics.  I've included links to some essays (rants?) as well.  The links are grouped by broad category, either fantasy/adventure or science fiction.  One of the reviews I did for a different site.  I thought about creating a separate list for YA books, but for now I'm going to group them in with whichever category they best fit. 

I've got a number of indie published books in the queue to review, if I can ever get to them.  That perpetually behind thing again.  Right now I'm reading Mark Finn's revised biography of Robert E. Howard.  Or at least trying to; daily life things keep getting in the way.  I hope to have the review done by the time I go to ConDFW next weekend.  Anyway, I intend to review a great many more indie published work over the course of the year.  Some of the most exciting work seems to be published by indie writers these days, and I intend to share as much of it as I can with you.

Now, back to trying to get some reading done.

Watchmen Humor

A new Dork Tower strip went up a few minutes ago spoofing DC's Watchmen prequels.  Check it out here.  And for what it's worth, I rather fancy this rendition of Silk Spectre.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Watchmen Prequels - You've Got to be Kidding

I wasn't exactly thrilled with the announcement the other day that DC Comics is going to be publishing prequels focusing on the characters in the Watchmen, the legendary and ground breaking series from the 1980s written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons.  I was a huge fan of the series, buying them as they came out.  A sophomore in college who for the first time lived near a direct sales comics outlet, the complexity of storytelling really rocked my world.

I don't see an need for prequels, especially not if Alan Moore isn't going to be involved.  And given the history between him and DC, I expected pigs to fly before that happens.

Other than the occasional graphic novel or collections, I haven't followed comics closely in a number of years, mostly due to time, money, and space concerns, but lately I've considered picking the habit back up, at least in electronic format.  I'm only familiar with a few of the people working on the various projects in the Watchmen prequels.  I do respect the ones I'm familiar with, but none of them will be enough to entice me to buy these comics.

There are other issues at play here, though, besides should a self-contained story be added to.  Depending on who you listen to, Alan Moore was cheated out of the rights to his creation.  Or not.  Over at Black Gate, Matthew David Surridge has summarized the situation, using extensive quotes as well as his own opinions.  If you're a comics fan and haven't seen it already, it's worth a read.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dunsany's Heir

The New Death and Others
James Hutchings
0.99, various ebook formats (Kindle)(Smashwords-various formats)

About one hundred years ago or so, give or take a decade, there was a fantasy writer named Lord Dunsany.  Some of you may have heard of him.  He wrote a couple of novels, but most of his reputation was built on short stories, many of them about a chap named Jorkens who had all sorts of fantastical adventures.  Other stories, though, the ones that weren't about Mr. Jorkens, ah, those were a delight.  They were often brief, what would be referred to today short-shorts.  Dunsany was known for his irony and wit.  And while writers who wrote witty, ironic tales, often about chaps who have fantastical adventures, have continued to this day, none have mastered the short-short the way Dunsany did, certainly none with his bite.

Until now.  James Hutchings has taken up that mantle, and he wears it well.  The New Death and Others contains 44 short stories and 19 poems.  And to quote from the promotional copy, there are no sparkly vampires.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

RIP, Ardath Mayhar

Ardath Mayhar, not afraid to use computer or gun
Martha Wells posted a notice on her blog a few minutes ago that Joe Lansdale is reporting Ardath Mayhar has passed away.  Mayhar was an SF/F author and SFWA Author Emeritus.  She was probably best known for her novel Golden Dream:  A Fuzzy Odyssey, one of several sequels to H. Beam Piper's Fuzzy series. 

I don't have any details other than what I've written above.  When more details become available, I'll post them here.

I met Ardath a few times over the years at different Texas conventions.  I don't recall all of them; the ones in the 90s are a little vague.  The first clear memory is when she attended the first Fencon in 2004, although I know I had met her previously.   She may have been at one or two other Fencons.  I hope there will be a memorial for her at this year's event.

Ardath was a short, stocky lady who wore her hair in a tight bun, looking every bit like someone's sweet grandmother.  She often had knitting in her hands, I suspect in part because the needles could be used as weapons.  For a while she allegedly carried a gun in her purse.  I don't know if she ever actually did, but it would be consistent with her personality and makes a good story, true or not.  Ardath was the embodiment of feisty.  Until she was physically unable to do so, she would go for walks in the snake infested woods near where she lived in East Texas. 

Ardath was a blast to talk to.  The last time I saw Ardath was at the 2007 Nebula Awards in Austin, Texas, where she was awarded the title of Author Emeritus.  I sat in the lobby with several others and visited with her, mostly just listening.  I knew it was a rare opportunity I was unlikely to ever have again.  Someone else later voiced the same thought. 

Aradath Mayhar was the type of character we don't have enough of these days.  She was also an accomplished writer.  I have several of her fantasy novels I've never gotten around to reading, in addition to the things I have read.  I may discuss one of them here later this year.