Interview: Mitchell Charles, Author of The Kingdom of Oceana

CharlesTheKingdomOfOceanaEveryone, please give a warm welcome to author Mitchell Charles. I really enjoyed his book, The Kingdom of Oceana and am very excited to have the opportunity to interview him.

If you could, what book or movie or TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

Chinatown is probably my favorite movie, and without question my favorite script. I can watch it over and over. The Alchemist is my favorite book, and has a profound effect on me every time I read it. I especially like the audiobook version read by Jeremy Irons – Epic!

If you were sent on a magical quest, which other 4 historical fantasy authors would you take with you?

Michael Crichton, George R. R. Martin, James Clavell, James A Michener

Who are some of your favorite book villains? Who are your favorite hero duos from the pages?

Professor Snape is my favorite villain. You really never know for sure that he’s against Harry until the very end of the series.

You and your publisher have gone to the trouble to build some extensive educational aids and activities that go hand in hand with your book, The Kingdom of Oceana. This isn’t often seen with fantasy novels, even historical fantasy novels. Do you think other publishers and authors will take up this excellent practice? Do you expect even more educational media to be added as your book series progresses?

I was looking for a fun way to engage students into my fantasy world. Hawaii is such a magical place, so it was easy to create the study guides.

To check out these study guides and fun activities, have a look at the Mitchell’s site.

What were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

I’ve always love the ocean and sea creatures. My father taught me to SCUBA dive as a teenager and it’s still my favorite activity. I think I always had a knack for story, but didn’t put in the time and effort to write until The Kingdom of Oceana series.

If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

The Alchemist (The Alchemist), Walter White (Breaking Bad), Doctor Stephen Strange (Dr. Strange), Yoda (Star Wars) and Doc Brown (Back to the Future).

You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)?

Hermione Granger – she has a spell for everything!

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I am currently working on the sequel to The Kingdom of Oceana. The story takes place about 25 years later and follows the next generation of Oceanic heroes, King Ailani’s and Queen Momi’s three teenage children.

Book Blurb for The Kingdom of Oceana

CharlesTheKingdomOfOceanaFive centuries ago, on the island now called Hawaii, there was a kingdom filled with adventure, beauty, and magic.  When 16-year-old Prince Ailani and his brother Nahoa trespass on a forbidden burial ground and uncover an ancient tiki mask, they unleash a thousand-year-old curse that threatens to destroy their tropical paradise.
 
Warring factions spar for control of Oceana, sparking an age-old conflict between rival sorcerers. With the help of ancestral spirit animals, a shape-shifting sidekick, and a beautiful princess, Prince Ailani must fight for his rightful place as the future king of Oceana.
About the Author

MitchellCharlesAuthorMitchell Charles’ love of the ocean and its miraculous creatures began at the age of 12 when his father taught him to SCUBA dive. From his first adventure 50 feet (15 meters) beneath the Caribbean Sea he was hooked.  He has been involved in the Oceanic Society, America’s first non-profit organization dedicated to ocean conservation, established in 1969.

Mitchell’s inspiration for The Kingdom of Oceana was born of exploring the spectacular coastline, lush valleys, and vibrant coral reefs of the Hawaiian Islands. On these excursions, he imagined what Hawaii was like hundreds of years ago. Before Captain Cook arrived from England. Before the golf courses and hotels. Before the ukulele and the Mai Tai became icons of Hawaiian culture. He dreamed of a time when the islands were an undiscovered magical paradise.

These days, Mitchell divides his time between Southern California and Hawaii. He has two teenage children and a dog named Magic.

Mitchell is currently working on the second book in the Kingdom of Oceana series, The Legend of the Nine Sacred Pearls. For more information, visit http://kingdomofoceana.com/

Readers can connect with Mitchell on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Bloggity Award and Other Stuff

Lynn over at Books & Travelling with Lynn blog recently nominated me for the Real Neat Blog award. I tend to enjoy blog awards because it forces me to be a little more personable and chatty. Plus, we all get to talk about books.

The Rules:

    • Thank and link the blogger that nominated you.
    • Answer the 7 questions that the nomination has provided you.
    • Create 7 questions for your nominees.
    • Nominate 7 other bloggers.
    • Bend said rules

1. If you could meet any author, from any time (past and present), who would that be and what would be your most pressing question?

That’s a tough one. Andre Norton (Forerunner Foray, Timetraders, etc.), Alan Dean Foster (for his Pip & Flynx series), Isaac Asimov (for his Lucky Starr series), and Anne McCaffrey (for her Dragonriders of Pern series) all an impact on me as a kid and it would be cool to get a drink with them and find out what books, authors, or artists had an impact on them.

2. Who is your absolute favorite character, ever. I know you’re probably groaning and rolling your eyes but there must be one character that springs to mind immediately – probably followed by a host of others – but, I want that first knee jerk reaction please and why!

I find that if you ask me this today, you’ll get one answer and if you ask 6 months from now, you’ll get another. I’m easily swayed by whatever I’m reading and thoroughly enjoying at the moment. Let’s go with Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only practicing wizard PI. I like how he can think out side of the box and come up with crazy polka powered T-rex zombie type solutions to messed up situations.

3. What is your favorite series out of all the books you’ve read?  The series you would recommend without hesitation.

I will always adore Jacqueline Carey’s Terre D’Ange Cycle. The epic fantasy, the alternate history, breaking so many standard tropes! However, I’m not sure I would recommend it to everyone because of the sex. I love the sex, and that’s part of what breaks so many dated, sexist standards in fantasy fiction, but is everyone ready for it? Personally, 9/10 people I recommend this series to, has enjoyed it.

4. What’s your preferred reading format, book or e-reader?

These days I do a lot of audiobooks. I dabble in other formats, but find that my deep fatigue from illness makes concentration an issue. Audiobooks are great for me because I don’t get hung up on typos, grammatical errors, large words that I once knew but now find difficult to connect meanings to, etc. The story continues with an audiobook no matter what issues the book may or may not have.

5. The book you were most looking forward to but ended up being really disappointed with?

Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel. Wow! This book was a bit of a snoozer for me. The main character that ties it all together, that everyone knows or is tied to in some manner, is pretty darn boring. I kept on with it to the end hoping it would get better. There’s plenty of interesting side characters and I liked the slower pacing than usual for the fall of modern society story. But instead the book really is about this one guy who is pretty bland.

6. Blogging – what do you love/not love – any embarrassing moments?

I love that I don’t have a schedule. I blog when I feel like it (or when I feel up to it) and can take a break from it when I don’t. I like that I have kept it small and just blog what I want to blog about and don’t try to force myself into being glitzy, trendy, or the first to post a review on the latest hot ARC. There’s plenty of blogs that do focus on those things, and I’m glad they’re out there because I read them.

So far, I haven’t done anything too embarrassing. I know my typos and such have gone up this past year while I have been sick. But in the big scheme of things, that’s rather small.

7. Most anticipated book for the remainder of 2016?

Kevin Hearne is coming out with his first epic fantasy, I think. Hooray! I really enjoy his Iron Druid Chronicles (urban fantasy). Scott Lynch may be releasing his next Gentleman Bastards book (hooray!). As far as I know, there’s no release date yet for Peace Talks by Jim Butcher. Henry Hertz & his two sons have at least 2 more kids books coming out this year – they’re always so well illustrated! Of course, the next A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin. I always look forward to something new from Jim Bernheimer. I’m hoping Domino Finn does another Sycamore Moon book. I’ve really enjoyed the first 3 Jonathan Shade urban fantasy books by Gary Jonas and I’m hoping he puts more of the series out as audiobooks. Joe Hempel does a great job narrating them.

Here’s my 7 questions:

If you could be an extra on a period piece (Outlander, Spartacus, etc.) what would it be and what would you be doing?

What makes you cringe?

What’s the most interesting gross fact you know?

It’s time for you to host the book club. Who do you invite (living, dead, fictional, real)? And what 3 books will you be discussing?

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?

Bonus Question: If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class about your favorite genre, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

While I will mention some favorite blogs below, I’m going to leave this open mic. If you find the questions (or my answers) amusing, feel free to chime in down in the comments or create your own blog post answering them – if you let me know you did so, I’ll swing by and check it out.

I like to visit author David Lee Summers blog for the steampunk – most definitely for the steampunk. Viviana, Enchanstress of Books is doing a lot of cool audiobook stuff this month. Broken Teepee has a fun mix of home gardening, book reviews, and info on home brewing kits and such. I’ve found Home Cooked Books by narrator Karen White to be a fun place with lots of interesting bits on what it’s like to make an audiobook. Violin in a Void is constantly expanding my world of books, and I like her focus on African authors and book blogs. Mike Powell is a photographer and he focuses on nature. I especially love his photos of herons. Evelyn Aster, who writes mostly contemporary romance (which, admittedly, is a bit outside my favorite genres), regularly posts pics of her fancy nails and her fancy drinks.

On a personal note, I haven’t been as involved as I normally am due to chronic illness. 2015 was one of the toughest years of my life and 2016 is shaping up to be as well. However, just last month I finally got a diagnosis! Hooray! Turns out I have many, many tiny blood clots throughout my lungs. Because the blood clots have been tiny, the condition didn’t present with the normal sharp pains to the chest, etc. Various scans and doctors missed it, and I was often misdiagnosed as having an asthma exacerbation. Now my doctors suspect the blood clots could have been going on as long as 2 years, with my lungs absorbing at least some of them. Because it went on so long, I have a moderately high case of pulmonary hypertension, which in turn has enlarged my heart. So, I have lots of work to do to get better and it will take many months. I’ve been on 24/7 oxygen since January and will be for at least a few more months, perhaps longer.

So, if you pinged me about something and I haven’t responded, feel free to ping me again. I’ve been hypoxic for probably about 12 months now and when your brain doesn’t have it’s regular stream of healthy oxygen, you get stupid, tired, and forgetful.

Guest Post: Bubonicon 47 – Tea Time! by David Lee Summers

David Lee Summers with his daughter Verity at the their publishers table.
David Lee Summers with his daughter Verity at the their publishers table.

Folks, it is my great pleasure to have author and publisher David Lee Summers back on the blog. I was unable to attend New Mexico’s once-a-year scifi convention this year and asked (perhaps ‘begged’ is a better term) David to let me life vicariously through him. He was kind enough to offer up this guest post about Bubonicon 47.

Tea Time!

Who Can It Be Now: Characters With Flaws panel. From left to right: Ben Bova, David Lee Summers, S.M. Stirling (scratching his head at whatever Davids saying), Walter Jon Williams, and Caroline Spector.
Who Can It Be Now: Characters With Flaws panel. From left to right: Ben Bova, David Lee Summers, S.M. Stirling (scratching his head at whatever David’s saying), Walter Jon Williams, and Caroline Spector.

I enjoy attending science fiction conventions because they are a wonderful opportunity to connect with fellow readers and writers.  One of my longtime favorite conventions is Bubonicon in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  There are an amazing group of writers who live in or near Albuquerque and regularly attend Bubonicon including Walter Jon Williams, Jane Lindskold, S.M. Stirling, P.G. Nagle, and George R.R. Martin.  These writers, working with an outstanding convention committee, present a great set of panels and readings along with a diverse dealer’s room, art show, and gaming room.  What’s more, the convention has a great name, given when Egypt placed travel restrictions on New Mexico because Bubonic Plague had been reported in the mountains east of Albuquerque.  For most of the last two decades, Bubonicon has also been the convention closest to my home in Southern New Mexico.  That honor was only recently supplanted by Las Cruces Comic Con.

Red or Green panel.  From left to right: Dr. Catherine S. Plesko, Dr. Larry Crumpler, Christine MacKenzie, David Lee Summers, Loretta Hall, and Zachary Gallegos.
Red or Green panel. From left to right: Dr. Catherine S. Plesko, Dr. Larry Crumpler, Christine MacKenzie, David Lee Summers, Loretta Hall, and Zachary Gallegos.

The theme of Bubonicon 47 was “Women of Wonder” and featured an all-woman lineup of special guests.  The guests of honor were Tamora Pierce and Catherynne M. Valente.  The guest artist was Ruth Sanderson.  The toastmaster was Mary Robinette Kowal (in her own words, she’s a toastmaster because she’s nobody’s mistress!).  I was especially pleased to meet Ms. Kowal who, like me, had a story in the anthology of near-future stories 2020 Visions edited by Rick Novy.  Another special thing about that anthology is that it also features Bubonicon’s 2016 Guest of Honor, David Gerrold.  The convention schedule included such theme-related panels as “The Inescapable Romance Subplot: Passing the Bechdel Test?”, “Curse of the Strong Female: Pitfalls and Cliches”, and “Writing Different Genders: Your Point of View.”

Mary Robinette Kowal, right foreground. Photo credit James L. Moore and Jane Lindskold.
Mary Robinette Kowal, right foreground. Photo credit James L. Moore and Jane Lindskold.

Panels weren’t limited to the theme.  I participated in such panels as “Whither Ghost? Dancing With the Definitely Dead?” where we discussed ghost stories and stories with ghosts.  Of particular interest we talked about how ghost stories can take a science fiction twist when you imagine humans uploading their consciousness into a computer, becoming a “ghost in the machine.”  I also participated in a science panel called “Red or Green: NM as Mars Analog” in which we looked at how sites in New Mexico can be quite similar to sites on Mars, to the extent that they can be used to test Martian rovers or be used as test beds for humans traveling to Mars.  I moderated the panel, “It’s Alive: Scientists in Science Fiction” in which writers and scientists discussed how science and fiction have influenced each other.  Our conclusion was that although there is a societal perception of a “mad scientist” trope and a certain distrust of science in the media, science fiction writers generally respect scientists and the work they do.

David Lee Summers  Hillary Estell serving tea. Photo credit James L. Moore and Jane Lindskold.
David Lee Summers Hillary Estell serving tea. Photo credit James L. Moore and Jane Lindskold.

One of the highlights of Bubonicon for me is the Sunday Afternoon Author’s Tea.  The tea, which is unique as far as I know to Bubonicon, was conceived as a way for the authors to say thank you to the fans who attend the convention.  Seating is limited, simply due to limited space.  Because of that, there are sign-up sheets for the three sessions, but there is no charge.  Although there is no requirement to dress up for the tea, authors donate prizes and those who are judged to wear the best hat and glove combinations get to pick from the donated prizes.  Those fans who attend have the opportunity to sample four teas donated by the St. James Tea Room in Albuquerque.  This year’s choices included Lady Londonberry, a traditional black tea with a hint of strawberry flavoring, Black Pearl, a black tea scented with vanilla, Hesperides Golden Delight, a green tea scented with golden apples, and Daybreak in Martinique, a Rooibos scented with lemon myrtle and French lavender.  The authors also provide a range of sweet and savory snacks that range from smoked salmon and sausage balls to blueberry scones and lemon muffins.

SummersOwlDanceWhen not speaking on panels, giving a reading, or pouring tea for fans, I hung out at the table for my company, Hadrosaur Productions, in the dealer’s room.  This year, the dealer’s room was full of vendors selling books, comics, toys, and jewelry.  I found a snazzy steampunkish pocket watch to replace one I broke earlier this year along with several wonderful books.  The danger of hanging out in the dealer’s room is that my cash and I have a tendency to part company much too fast.  That said, I do like spending time there because it gives me a chance to interact with readers and writers, which of course, is the whole reason I’m there.

Places to Find David Lee Summers

Hadrosaur Productions

Tales of the Talisman

David Lee Summers: Wrong Turn on the Information Superhighway

David Lee Summers’ Web Journal

Goodreads

Amazon

Facebook

Twitter

You can also delve into David’s mine by reading his past interviews here on Dab of Darkness: 

David as an Author

David as a Publisher

SummersOwlDanceBook Blurb for Owl Dance:

Owl Dance is a Weird Western steampunk novel. The year is 1876. Sheriff Ramon Morales of Socorro, New Mexico, meets a beguiling woman named Fatemeh Karimi, who is looking to make a new start after escaping the oppression of her homeland. When an ancient life form called Legion comes to Earth, they are pulled into a series of events that will change the history of the world as we know it. In their journeys, Ramon and Fatemeh encounter mad inventors, dangerous outlaws and pirates. Their resources are Ramon’s fast draw and Fatemeh’s uncanny ability to communicate with owls. The question is, will that be enough to save them when airships from Czarist Russia invade the United States?

SummersLightningWolvesBook Blurb for Lightning Wolves:

It’s 1877 and Russians forces occupy the Pacific Northwest. They are advancing into California. New weapons have proven ineffective or dangerously unstable. The one man who can help has disappeared into Apache Country, hunting ghosts. A healer and a former sheriff lead a band into the heart of the invasion to determine what makes the Russian forces so unstoppable while a young inventor attempts to unleash the power of the lightning wolves.

HowellSummersKeplersDozenBook Blurb for A Kepler’s Dozen: 13 Stories About Distant Worlds That Really Exist

A Kepler’s Dozen presents thirteen action-packed, mysterious, and humorous stories all based on real planets discovered by the NASA Kepler mission. Edited by and contributing stories are David Lee Summers, editor of Tales of the Talisman Magazine, and Steve B. Howell, project scientist for the Kepler mission. Whether on a prison colony, in a fast escape from the authorities, or encircling a binary star, these exoplanet stories will amuse, frighten, and intrigue you while you share fantasy adventures among Kepler’s real-life planets.

SummersSpaceHorrorsBook Blurb for Space Horrors:

Space Horrors is the fourth anthology of the Full-Throttle Space Tales series. Edited by David Lee Summers, Space Horrors contains blood-chilling tales of vampires and ghouls in space, by established and rising-star authors. Terrifying tales contained in this volume: “Poetic Justice” by Alastair Mayer: Space hibernation does strange things to a man. “Listening” by Anna Paradox: It’s Halloween on the run to Mars. What could go wrong? “The Walking Man” by Glynn Barrass: A giant robot on Mars is in the hands of mutineers. “Natural Selection” by Simon Bleaken: The Zoological Institute warned Rebecca not to go study the bugs. “Oh Why Can’t I” by C.J. Henderson: The Earth Alliance Ship Roosevelt is pitted against a world swallowing creature. “Last Man Standing” by Danielle Ackley-McPhail: Mining can be hard work, depending on who – or what – is doing the mining. “Anemia” by David Lee Summers: Vampires prefer the eternal night of space, it seems. “Chosen One” by Dana Bell: A particularly unnerving game of cat and…something. “Sleepers” by Selina Rosen: Sometimes the nightmare you wake from is not as bad as the one you wake up to. “Divining Everest” by Patrick Thomas: When the vampires call for help, you know it’s bad. “Into the Abyss” by Dayton Ward: Ghosts haunting the depths of space. “Salvage” by David B. Riley: Insurance investigator Sarah Meadows is on a ghost ship and in trouble. “The Golem” by Judith Herman: A friend in need is a deadly reckoning. “In the Absence of Light” by Sarah A. Hoyt: Have you heard of the drifters? “A Touch of Frost” by Gene Mederos: Space is a hostile environment – except for zombies, of course. “Wake of the White Death” by Lee Clark Zumpe: Who will rescue the rescuers? “Plan 9 in Outer Space” by Ernest and Emily Hogan: Making bad space horror more horrible ain’t easy.

SummersDragon'sFallBook Blurb for Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order:

Three vampyrs. Three lives. Three intertwining stories.

Bearing the guilt of destroying the holiest of books, after becoming a vampyr, the Dragon, Lord Desmond searches the world for lost knowledge, but instead, discovers truth in love.

Born a slave in Ancient Greece, Alexandra craves freedom above all else, until a vampyr sets her free, but then, she must pay the highest price of all … her human soul.

An assassin who lives in the shadows, Roquelaure is cloaked even from himself, until he discovers the power of friendship and loyalty.

Three vampyrs, traveling the world by moonlight—one woman and two men who forge a bond made in love and blood. Together they form a band of mercenaries called the Scarlet Order, and recruit others who are like them. Their mission is to protect kings and emperors against marauders, invaders, and rogue vampyrs—and their ultimate nemesis, Vlad the Impaler.

Interview: Josh Powell, Author of The Berserker & the Pedant

PowellTheBerserker&ThePedantSeason1Everyone, please welcome Josh Powell, who authored the very entertaining The Berserker & the Pedant – so worthy! You can check out my review of it over HERE. Today we talk about Josh’s kickstarter project, other fantasy authors, TV shows and plenty more. Enjoy!

If you could be an extra on a SFF TV show or movie, what would it be?

Oh, that’s a fun one.  If it’s a main character, it’s too easy – Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous!  As an extra I’m thinking SG-1 as a Jaffa or Goa’uld.

Would you rather have a dragon, or be a dragon?

If the dragon can polymorph, be a dragon.  Otherwise, have a dragon.  Preferably a Pseudodragon or Pocket Dragon or a sarcastic Jhereg so I can bring them with me.

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

A superhero, the other ones might bite or probe after saving me.

Would you choose to live permanently in a fictional world, or visit as many as you liked but you couldn’t stay more than a few hours?

If I get to choose which fictional world, stay permanently.  If not, visit as many as I can.  There are some worlds you just do NOT want to live in 🙂

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

I see modern fantasy more as a reflection and recording of who we are and strive to be at the time it was written, rather than shaping who we are becoming.  Sci fi is the vision of what we want to become in the future and actively shapes it.

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

Sitting at a desk working for the government as a programmer.  The people were great, but I could not stand being given two weeks to do something that only took 30 minutes. That experience is definitely reflected in my Sci fi writing.  Writing is the opposite of that, I have 30 minutes to do what should take two weeks!

If you were sent on a magical quest which other 4 fantasy authors would you take with you?

Totally different answers than if I was hanging out in a bar with them. On a quest I’d like Jim Butcher as the wizard for his creativity and magical knowledge, Larry Correia to be the tank and kill the monsters, Patrick Rothfuss to be the bard, and since I’m not sure who the cleric is, Anne Rice to be the necromancer and raise the dead.  Back at the tavern, I’d want Steven Brust and GRRM swapped in there somewhere.

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

I try not to gush, when I see someone I’m a fan of I prefer to valiantly hide on the outskirts of their vision, stalking them just out of range saying “Oh my god, is that…” while pretending to look at something else.  That’s what I did at Baycon with Amber Benson, I think I really pulled it off well.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

There is a Kickstarter to turn The Berserker and the Pedant into a graphic novel series.  Some really amazing talent, veterans of Marvel and DC, have lined up to contribute to the work.  The sketches and pencils for the first issue are in, and the artists are working on the inks and colors.  So exciting!  You can find the details at www.pedantpublishing.com

Also, Dragon Apocalypse, the sequel to The Berserker and the Pedant, is available to preorder and will be out in another month.  It’s only 99 cents until soon after it’s released.

PowellTheBerserker&ThePedantSeason1Book Blurb for The Berkerker & the Pedant:

Gurken Stonebiter, avatar of Durstin Firebeard, templerager of the Stonebiter clan, is in a pretty pickle.

He’s an axe-happy, grammatically-challenged dwarf on the hunt for blood. Thieves made off with temple property, sending him into a fit of vengeful rage. Seeing as he’s a Berserker, it’s in everyone’s best interest not to get Gurken’s hackles up. Gurken often dissolves into a fury of blood, lust, and carnage unlike anything seen in the age of men. When he finds those whom he assumes to be the aforementioned thieves, he is unable to control himself. Thus for our heroes, a master magician named Arthur and a girl-child named Pellonia, the blood flows until poor Arthur is hacked into pieces.

It takes all the temple priests (and all the king’s men) to put Arthur back together again. Imprisoned for their supposed crimes, Pellonia and Arthur aren’t willing to sit around the dungeon on principle, and so promptly escape. They return the following morning to join Gurken on a hilarious and dangerous adventure to the Mines of Moog to recover the sacred Orb of Skzd. Along the way they face gruesome deaths at the hands of enormous arthropods, an amiable Minotaur, and excitable dragons, making them wonder what exactly they’re doing on this quest in the first place.

Pellonia, for one, is much more than meets the eye, and although she has the body of a pre-pubescent girl, she is full of snark and knowledge beyond her years. Her past and fate become apparent as they meet mysterious denizens from her childhood. Arthur’s ability to frequently engage in death throes only to return once more is to be admired as well as puzzled over. Unfortunately, one too many dismemberments occur and some shortcuts are taken during the resurrection process, to Arthur’s utmost shame and revulsion. Gurken, with his brash temperament and willingness to confront anything that challenges them, though it be ten times his size, is both an enviable asset and a terrible curse along the way. The three companions come together to brave obstacles and solve puzzles hindering them from obtaining the goal of their quest.

Within the Mines of Moog, the lurking creatures multiply in size, cleverness, and deadliness. Well, with the exception of a new knoll dwarf ally, who joins them as a healer to serve against future dismemberments. Kitten-sized ants, elven maidens, and others occasionally strive to assist our heroes on their oft-forgotten quest.

Gurken’s adventures run the gamut of the fantasy genre, taking us through the ridiculous to the mythological, passing through epic fantasy, and finally resting on fantastically improbable. The rapid, so-fast-you-might-miss-it pace of the short stories make for one incredible, bordering on the absurd, ride that will enthrall fantasy lovers everywhere. Fantastic creatures abound in these stories, and it takes a clever eye to catch all the different breeds and specimens from orc to elf. Blink and you will miss a flippant phrase or a clever beast of burden flickering into existence and going out. Gurken’s adventures have a cunning, dry, tongue-in-cheek style and quick-as-a-whip writing that will have fans of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride and Piers Anthony’s Xanth series begging for more.

Places to Stalk Josh Powell

Website

Facebook

Twitter

GoodReads

Audible

Interview: Wendy Garfinkle, Author of Serpent on a Cross

GarfinkleSerpentOnACrossEveryone, please welcome Wendy Garfinkle to the blog today! We chat about Scotland, Game of Thrones, retelling of classics, and much more. Enjoy!

1) Are minions/sidekicks just throwaway devices in a tale? Can they become more? Do they need to become more?

Sometimes they are throwaways and sometimes they become more. I suppose it depends upon the author, the story being told, and also on the other characters. In Serpent on a Cross, one of my characters, Benjamin, originally had only one scene in the second or third chapter. But somewhere along the way he became more important and has at least two major scenes, as well as several other mentions throughout the book.

In contrast, one of the other “sidekicks” is killed at the end of the book. This was simply because one of the characters had to die, so I chose one who, while he would be missed, wasn’t essential to the sequel.

2) Who are your non-writer influences?

My parents. They instilled within me a great love for reading before I could read. My father has always been a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to proper grammar and sentence structure. From the time I began writing essays in Middle School/Junior High, he gave me consistent, constructive criticism and instruction. Nine times out of ten, my essays would earn an “A,” even into college. And my mother is one of my biggest fans, now that I’m an author. Even though she doesn’t really like the fantasy genre, she loves my book. Maybe that’s because it was written by her daughter. But my mom has good taste in reading material, so it’s probably middle ground.

3) In my experience, some of the best fiction is based on facts and history. How do you build your research into your fictional works?

I researched the social and economic norms, political occurrences, prejudices and medicine of the time and area. At one point in the SOAC, Althea (Dennah’s mother) contemplates how the shifting political tides (historical fact) have allowed the villain, Lord Tarkan Maksimov, to basically invade Poland. Some Jewish birthing/midwife practices of the time are described in the childbirth scene that takes place early in the book.

These are just two examples of how facts and history made their way into my fictional story.

4) What reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

There have been so many wonderful retellings of classic fairy tales that I’ve enjoyed. Here’s a short list:

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

Fitcher’s Brides by Gregory Frost

Deerskin by Robin McKinley

Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (aka Anne Rice). Parts of that series worked for me and other parts didn’t.

And a short list of the ones that DIDN’T work for me:

Jack of Kinrowan by Charles de Lint

The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars by Steven Brust

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean

Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson

5) Is there a book to movie/TV adaptation that you found excellent?

Outlander and Game of Thrones. I’ve read most of the books in both of those series, and the TV adaptations have enhanced the experience for me. I’d love to wield a sword alongside Brienne of Tarth; or BE Claire Beecham. I want to fall through my own Craig na Dun and find my own Jamie Fraser.

6) As a published author, what non-writing/reading activities would you recommend to aspiring authors?

Travel as much as possible. Especially if you intend to write about people, places, and/or things that you don’t have daily or occasional contact with. If you want to write about Scotland, for example, and you’ve never been, or don’t have regular contact with a native, go to Scotland as soon as possible so you can get a “feel” for the country, her people, and her dialects.

7) What do you do when you are not writing?

Buy books. Read. Travel. Edit and proofread for fellow authors. Watch TV. Hang out with friends or family. Travel. Buy books. Read….

8) Which favorite fantasy worlds would you like to visit?

George R.R. Martin’s Westeros, Diana Gabaldon’s Scotland, and Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar.

GarfinkleSerpentOnACrossPlaces to Find Wendy Garfinkle

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Interview: Erin Gitchell, Author of The Feast

GitchellTheFeastWelcome Erin Gitchell, author of The Feast. Today we chat about the company of Ents, Firefly, library work, coverart and more. Enjoy!

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

Book / Movie: Howl’s Moving Castle. I’d like to read the book before seeing the movie. I did it the other way around and have regretted it ever since. I wish I could go back in time and read the book for the first time without the movie characters in my head.

TV Series: Firefly. It was such a fun show! Perfect blend of humor, danger, spunk, chemistry, violence, and shiny lingo. The first time I saw it, I missed a few episodes here and there. I’ve watched it multiple times since, but I wish I could go back in time and watch it properly the first time around.

Given the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs? Would you take a selfie with the beastie?

I think I’d enjoy traveling with an Ent for a while, and I’d REALLY enjoying talking to a dragon (but not the kind that would want to eat me). I would definitely avoid a dementor, since, being a muggle, I’d have no way to protect myself from them. And no, I’d never take a selfie with an Ent, dragon, or dementor. My daughter is the only beastie I’ll take pictures with (begrudgingly).

Who are your non-writer influences?

I work at a library and see a wide variety of people every day. Some just look so much like characters, it’s hard not to imagine them that way, inventing fantastical histories and personalities for them. The downside is when they do actually talk to me, I have to pretend like I didn’t give them a name and place in a story. I’m influenced by daily life, just little moments that trigger ideas, nothing grand or methodical. “There is learning in everything,” someone said in a book I read once, and it’s something I truly believe.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you chose to do?

I’d be an inventor or explorer. I like to take things apart and try and fix them, too, which kind of goes along with inventing. Or an artist (but not the snooty kind). However, I am pretty happy being a librarian (except when grumpy patrons yell at me).

McKinleyTheDoorInTheHedgeIf you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in SFF literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

Required Reading:

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings trilogy also encouraged)
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
1984 by George Orwell (if they somehow managed to make it this far in life without reading it)

Encouraged Reading:

A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin
Sabriel by Garth Nix
– Anything by Robin McKinley
– Anything by Robert Jordan (if they want to go down that road, more power to them!)

I guess the syllabus focuses on fantasy. Oh well.

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

In truth, I haven’t had one yet, unless you count joining the Legolas Fan Club in junior high with the first LOTR film came out. It was a very awkward club. I usually just demonstrate my admiration for an author by re-reading the book(s) over and over.

MarillierWildwoodDancingCover art can be so important for a book, making or breaking sales. What cover art has caught your eye, that you found stood above other books?

Some covers are so photoshopped these days, that’s all I see (the photoshopping)! It’s great authors have access to artists that can use that kind of software (whether they’re self-published or working with a publisher), but sometimes there are just too many layers. That being said, some of my favorite fantasy covers were created by Kinuko Y. Craft (she has done covers for Robin McKinley and Juliet Marillier, among others). They are EXTREMELY detailed, but in a way that’s not overwhelming…more like a, “The more you look, the more you see” kind of way. I’m intrigued when the cover tells a story, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be an illustration of a scene within the book.

Which mythical/fantastical race would you rather be?

I always choose mermaid (so long as I am speedy enough to avoid getting eaten) since there’s so much of the ocean that needs to be explored. However, not everyone can see the benefit of being a mermaid…

GitchellTheFeastGoodreads blurb about The Feast: Rebellion was sown…Revenge will be reaped…and The Feast for freedom awaits!

Delaterra, once a land of peace and prosperity, is tainted with suspicion and fear. The King’s Eyes and Ears, spies without conscience, hunt the Farmers, a group of Delaterran rebels who are dedicated to restoring Delaterra to her former glory. Yet there are whispers traveling fast on the wind, that the Farmers are not alone in their desire to rid the world of the Nameless One and the tyranny he sows. As The Feast draws near, a woman trapped in the body of a horse, an ex-knight, a seer, and an assassin must draw the factions together if they are to have any chance of success.

Places to Find Erin Gitchell

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Interview: Michael Meyerhofer, Author of Wytchfire

MichaelMeyerhoferAuthorEveryone, please welcome the author of Wytchfire to the blog today, Michael Meyehofer. We’re going to chat about poetry, ways to burn down a city under siege, the Star Wars Holiday Special, a college course in SFF literature, sidekicks, along with a lot more! Prepare to be entertained!

What are your non-writer influences?

Being an unapologetic addict to the History Channel (Ancient Aliens notwithstanding), I get a lot of inspiration from documentaries. I’m fascinated by ancient and religious history, and of course ancient military history, and I try to weave those elements into my stories whenever I can. One small example: in The Knight of the Crane, the forthcoming sequel to Wytchfire, I needed a quick way for one of my more loathsome antagonist-generals to take down a well-fortified city. I recalled a documentary that mentioned how someone (I think it was Olga of Kiev) conquered a hostile town by capturing birds, tying burning twigs to their claws, and setting them free to spread the blaze around the rooftops of the town. I thought it was a fascinating, if macabre, story (those poor birds!) and decided to incorporate something similar into my book. I also tried to incorporate a lot of my nerdy interest in the history of the samurai and medieval European knighthood.

MeyerhoferWytchfireWhich ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

Ha, I’ve always wanted to sit down and read Paradise Lost but to this day, I still haven’t gotten around to it. I’m really fascinated by different religious texts (especially the Epic of Gilgamesh). Not sure if this counts because I technically read them piecemeal in college, but I’ve always wanted to go back and spend some time with The Odyssey and The Iliad, too.

Who are some of your favorite book villains?

Not to state the obvious but pretty much all of George R. R. Martin’s villains are chillingly awesome—I think because they’re so complex, never quite completely evil. In that same vein, I’m also really partial to Tolkien’s Boromir, Lloyd Alexander’s Ellidyr, and Raistlin from the Dragonlance books.

Often various historical aspects (people, locations, events) are used in fantasy and sometimes rehashed in a far-flung future. Are there examples of such historical aspects being used well in the SF/F genre? Examples of what didn’t work for you?

Not to sound like a broken record but GRRM is another great go-to for this. His rugged, realistic depictions of realistic, messy warfare seem heavily influenced by medieval history and political intrigue. I think Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni books pull that off, too. Here are a couple more examples relating to warfare, since we’re already on that topic. As I mentioned earlier, I’m also a big fan of how Raymond Feist handles his battles (and even more so, the preparation for battle). There’s also the obvious example of how JRR Tolkien’s experiences with trench warfare affected his depictions of battle in his Lord of the Rings books, not to mention how Kurt Vonnegut’s experiences informed Slaughterhouse-Five and his other works.

There are plenty of examples of historical stuff woven into stories besides those involving warfare, though. I was recently impressed by the way Deborah Harkness uses her background as an academic to weave historical elements into A Discovery of Witches. I also love the echoes of “western” philosophy and “eastern” religion that frequently pop up in SFF, plus how the social and political strife in SFF worlds often mirror the social and cultural revolutions we’ve experienced throughout our country’s own relatively short history. Frank Herbert’s Dune books and Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series are a couple examples. In terms of what doesn’t work for me, though, I don’t have specific examples so much as a general complaint. I find that I’m not all that interested in stories that propagate rather silly historical misconceptions. For instance, the Knighthood in my Dragonkin Trilogy is heavily inspired by the samurai, but I tried to steer clear of silly stereotypes that the samurai were always honorable, undefeatable paragons of virtue. I think that, like medieval European knights, they could be as terrible and repressive as they could be honorable and selfless.

MeyerhoferClayShaper'sHusbandWhat reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

I’m a sucker for pretty much any dark re-imagining of fairy tales, ever since Anne Sexton did that in her poetry. I picked up My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me the other day and I’m already halfway through it, really digging the premise! Also maybe it’s just the English prof in me but I can’t help thinking that virtually all the stories we see today can in some way be traced back to Shakespeare (of which there have been plenty of excellent and awful adaptations, by the way). That’s not a bad thing, though, since probably all the basic story elements in Shakespeare’s plays can be traced back even earlier, maybe to Homer. And his stories echo even earlier myths, back and back, to cave-shadowed campfires near heaps of charred animal bones. Even back then, I think humans had the same basic fears, desires, and curiosities (but significantly less literacy and way more body hair).

In this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?

There’s no denying the fact that self-promotion is as challenging as it is essential—especially with so many other fine, hard-working authors clamoring to get noticed! You need to write countless blog and forum posts, plus maintain very active Facebook and Twitter accounts, and maybe even more importantly, you can’t just promote your own work! Especially with so many books coming out all the time, readers don’t just want to hear from someone who pops in once a year to announce a book release, then disappears. They want authors who are also active members of the community. And it has to be genuine because readers are smart and they’ll see through insincerity pretty quickly. In other words, an author also has to prove that they’re a voracious reader, that he or she loves the genre they’re writing in, that they’re as willing and eager to talk shop and promote other writers they admire. Oh, and authors need to do all this while still finding time to write and revise three, four, even five-hundred-page manuscripts.

That’s all pretty daunting, sure, but I don’t mind. Actually, I like it because it’s worthwhile. Whoever said that it should be easy? I’d add that I first came to publishing as a contemporary poet, and poetry has an even smaller audience than SFF! So that made me more respectful of what it takes to “make it,” and even more grateful and humbled when I find a reader willing to give my work a chance, or a fellow author willing to promote my work aside her or his own.

What is your favorite fictional holiday (from books, movies, or tv)?

I’d love to sit in a big smoky hall and hoist a mug on Durin’s Day (the Tolkien Dwarfish equivalent of New Years Day). Whacking Day from The Simpsons would be cool, provided the snakes are unquestionably eeeevil! I’m also tempted to add Life Day from the Star Wars Holiday Special, though I’m not quite sure I can bring myself to do it.

MeyerhoferDamnatioMemoriaeWhat were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

Oh, I was the poster child for shyness and over-sensitivity! I recall spending whole days sitting with a book—sometimes because I was lost in a story, other times because I was afraid to go outside and face bullying for birth defects (a malformed right ear and a bad limp, which seemed like the end of the world back then). Eventually, though, overcoming this gave me extra ambition and some extra perspective that I could weave into my own writing.

If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

Li Po – hot and sour soup and a salmon bagel. Walt Whitman – a big plate of hot wings. D. H. Lawrence – mead and a turkey leg. Emily Dickinson – a Cinnabon. Raymond Carver – straight whiskey, probably.

If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in SFF literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

Oh, that’s a tough one! I know there’s some disagreement as to whether or not this constitutes SF but Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five would be high on my list. I already mentioned George R. R. Martin earlier, though I’d probably start with The Tales of Dunk and Egg, his Song of Ice and Fire prequels. I’m also partial to the character development (particularly for Erik Von Darkmoor) and the realism in Shadow of a Dark Queen, the first book in Raymond Feist’s Serpentwar Saga. Of course, there’s Arthur Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (though I’m maybe a bit more partial to Childhood’s End). I’d also need Madeleine L’Engle, J.K. Rowling, and Philip Dick in there somewhere, too, though I’d have a terrible time picking one of their books over another.

KnaakReaversBloodSeaCare to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

What, me be awkward?! Ha, actually, I’d have a hard time coming up with an instance when I met a writer (novelist or poet) that I really admired and I wasn’t kind of a dork about it! I tend to get really, really excited when I read something I like. In fact, I have kind of a strange rule that if I come across a book that blows me away (or a short story or a poem, for that matter), I make an effort to contact the author and let them know. I’ve been lucky enough to have a few readers do that for me and let me tell you, that kind of thing makes it all worthwhile.

Cover art can be so important for a book, making or breaking sales. What cover art has caught your eye, that you found stood above other books?

While part of me has a soft spot for minimalism, I also love the epic feel of pretty much every cover made for Richard Knaak’s books. And I’m still jealous of the cover of Raising Chaos by fellow Red Adept author, Elizabeth Corrigan!

CorriganRaisingChaosWhat do you do when you are not writing?

I’m really into exercise, especially weightlifting. Like I said, I love documentaries. And video games. And, of course, reading.

Side characters can make or break a story. What side characters have you enjoyed in other works (books, movies, plays, etc.)?

Oh, I have a soft spot for side characters! I absolutely love Tolkien’s Faramir, Lloyd Alexander’s Prince Rhun, GRRM’s Davos Seaworth, Terry Brooks’ Garet Jax, and Margaret Weiss and Tricky Hickman’s Hugh the Hand.

You are also a poet, and as such, what works would you recommend for a science fiction, fantasy reader?

I like poets who know how to tell engaging stories with humor and cool imagery, but without pretension. Luckily, there are plenty who can do just that! Here are just a few of my contemporary favorites: Dorianne Laux, Sharon Olds, Yusef Komunyakaa, Stephen Dobyns, Allison Joseph, Justin Hamm, Norman Minnick, Peter Davis, George Bilgere, Djelloul Marbrook, Travis Mossotti, and Tony Hoagland. For poets technically no longer listed among the living, some of my favorites are Walt Whitman, James Wright, Li Po, Emily Dickinson, D.H. Lawrence, Basho, Issa, Chiyo-ni, Wallace Stevens, and Ai.

Places to Find Michael Meyerhofer

Website

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Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00K2DPJ60

Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wytchfire-michael-meyerhofer/1119392198?ean=2940149291106

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/wytchfire-3

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20935130-wytchfire

Book Page on RAP: http://redadeptpublishing.com/wytchfire/

Author page on RAP:  http://redadeptpublishing.com/michael-meyerhofer/

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My Book Loves of 2013

GaimanStardustHere is a post in which I gush about my favorite books of 2013. Out of the roughly 133 books I read this year, these are the ones that really stand out on reflection for one reason or another. Feel free to scroll until you see something interesting.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

A reread, and a read along. I love this book and the movie. Fantasy, a quest, coming of age. Loads of fun and happy ending.

MathesonIAmLegendI Am Legend by Richard Matheson

New-to-me author. Vampire/zombie book, but starts off 1970s California, a simple virus. Loved the science, the survivalism, the societal twist at the end.

Squatch with Turning Point
Squatch with Turning Point

Turning Point by Robert P. Snow

Murder mystery set in northern NM. Lots of fun, recognize lots of the places in the book.

CooperGhostHawkGhost Hawk by Susan Cooper

New-to-me author. A historical fiction about the early settling of America told through a Native American’s eyes. Done really well, fully engaging.

HaldemanForeverPeaceThe Forever War & Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman

New-to-me author. Great military SF. Awesome characters.

BearUndertowUndertow by Elizabeth Bear

Amphibious alien natives used as a workforce. Plus assassins. You can’t go wrong with that combination.

FremantleQueensGambitQueen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle

New-to-me author. Tudor historical fiction told from Katherine Parr’s point of view.

WatersPayingPiperPaying Piper by Ilana Waters

A children’s book, beautiful illustrations, excellent story.

Pico consented to pose with my book.
Pico consented to pose with my book.

The Shadow of the Sun by Barbara Friend Ish

This was a reread for me, and a read along. Still a damn good book even the 2nd time through, and dissecting it. High fantasy, swords & sorcery.

Smudge Cat as a book stand!
Smudge Cat as a book stand!

Shadow Chaser by Alexey Pehov

Book 2 int he series. Thieves, elves (black pointy teeth!), dwarves, gnomes, a quest.

FahyFragmentFragment by Warren Fahy

New-to-me author. A fun, modern-day beastie flick. The biologist in me loved this book.

Pico resting before dinner.
Pico resting before dinner.

The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham

New-to-me author. Epic fantasy that is different, heavy on the economics, various humanoid races.

SakurazakaAllYouNeedIsKillAll You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

New-to-me author. A short, excellent military SF with a twist.

HassonEmoticonGenerationCoverThe Emoticon Generation by Guy Hasson

New-to-me author. A fun collection of Hasson’s short stories. Some humorous, some creepy. All interesting.

ReichsBonesOfLostBones of the Lost by Kathy Reichs

New-to-me author. A later book in the series following the forensic anthropologist. Addictive.

CollingsBillyMessengerOfPowersBilly: Messenger of Powers by Michaelbrent Collings

New-to-me author. A kid’s book, but a good one. Adventure, magic, a quest. Lots of fun.

HearneHuntedHunted by Kevin Hearne

I love the whole Iron Druid series. I think I am all caught upon this series. Luke Daniels does an incredible job of narrating the books.

Pico was chasing the little green got my camera flash makes.
Pico was chasing the little green got my camera flash makes.

The Reason for Dragons by Chris Northrop and Jeff Stokely

New-to-me author. A graphic novel, modern-day, a nod to Don Quixote.

Claudie is an old, dilapidated kitty.
Claudie is an old, dilapidated kitty.

The Hero and the Crown & Sunshine by Robin McKinley

While Sunshine was a reread, The Hero and the Crown was my first read through. Both are excellent. Female leads, magic, companion war horse, and Death by Bitter Chocolate.

LynchRepublicOfThievesThe Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

The 3rd book in the Gentlemen Bastard series does not disappoint. Read this as part of a read along. Great series.

GabaldonOutlanderOutlander by Diana Gabaldon

A reread, but it had been nearly 2 decades. Excellent historical fiction with sex. Yep. Not just silly, light kissing.

Chilly day = Cat Nest (Pico, Heldig, Waffles, Smudge)
Chilly day = Cat Nest (Pico, Heldig, Waffles, Smudge)

Goblin Secrets by William Alexander

New-to-me author. This was an excellent audiobook. Kid’s book. Adventure, masks, goblins, theater.

CoorlimSkyPiratesOverLondonSky Pirates Over London by Micheal Coorlim

New-to-me author. These are fun, short stories set in a steampunk England. I’ve read 4 of the books so far and enjoyed this one the most.

ShowalterAwakenMeDarklyAwaken Me Darkly by Gena Showalter

New-to-me author. This is one of my naughty book secrets. Simple plots, fun characters, erotica element. Aliens, assassins.

Stout snuggling with the Nac Mac Feegle.
Stout snuggling with the Nac Mac Feegle.

Tiffany Aching books by Terry Pratchett (The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky)

All four were read this year as part of a read along, rereads for me. I love these books. They are my favorite Terry Pratchett novels, having a more serious bent than other Discworld books I have read.

BowmanTornFromTroyTorn from Troy by Patrick Bowman

New-to-me author. Another kid’s book and a great one for exploring Ancient Greece.

CoreyLeviathanWakesLeviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

New-to-me author. Well, I had read Daniel Abraham before this book, but Abraham writes this series with Ty Franck under the James SA Corey pen-name. Epic science fiction has never been better.

SchoonZennScarlettZenn Scarlett by Christian Schoon

New-to-me author. My inner biologist geeked out the entire time reading this YA SF.

HillTheHatchingThe Hatching by Liesel K. Hill

I know it’s a short story, but it was one of the best I read all year. Dragons. I won’t spoil it for you. Go read it.

Pico & Chupa
Pico & Chupa

Makers by Corey Doctorow

New-to-me author. Quirky, insightful, and fun. It follows these two tinkers for a few decades. Cutting-edge SF.

BensonBlackStilettoThe Black Stiletto books by Raymond Benson (The Black Stiletto, Black & White, Stars & Stripes)

New-to-me author. Addictive. 1950s superheroine, New York. Need I say more?

LornHopeForWickedHope for the Wicked by Edward Lorn

New-to-me author. I also read his Life After Dane, but I like the Larry Laughlin character quite a bit. Horror. Illegal substance level addictive.

BracewellShadowOnCrownShadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell

New-to-me author. 1001 AD Normandy, royal families. Excellent, excellent historical fiction.

Heldig will steal anyone's body heat...if they'll hold still for it.
Heldig will steal anyone’s body heat…if they’ll hold still for it.

The Wild Life of Our Bodies by Rob Dunn

New-to-me author. This nonfiction was incredibly fun. The odd, slightly embarrassing things I learned from it to sprinkle party conversations with…..

MimsHidingGladysHiding Gladys by Lee Mims

New-to-me author. A cozy murder mystery that I didn’t want to put down.

Tofu being used as a bookstand.
Tofu being used as a bookstand.

The Human Blend by Alan Dean Foster

More SF modifications for my inner biologist to geek out about. Excellent mystery, excellent SF, excellent characters.

Heldig & Tofu
Heldig & Tofu

Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan

Book 6 in the Wheel of Time series, and part of the massive read along of the series. Incredible ending to this particular book. Robert Jordan gets better with each book.

Waffles is always bathing. A very clean cat.
Waffles is always bathing. A very clean cat.

The Mongoliad by Neal Stephenson & crew

A very fun historical fiction set in the time of Genghis Khan. Luke Daniels was amazing as the narrator.

ScalziRedshirtsRedshirts by John Scalzi

Haha! A fun Star Trek parody. Wil Wheaton as the narrator was perfect!

Typical morning cat cuddle pile on the bed.
Typical morning cat cuddle pile on the bed.

The Legend of Broken by Caleb Carr

Another awesome historical fiction. Sorcerers, hunters, midgets, a pox, and a crazed ruler who needs to be taken down.

This is Heldig's 'nice kitty' face.
This is Heldig’s ‘nice kitty’ face.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

New-to-me author. This is Book 1 in the trilogy, and my favorite of the series. Steampunk, Austria, airships, a woman in disguise and in service to the crown.

I didn't catch Pico in a good mood.
I didn’t catch Pico in a good mood.

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls

Only Jeannette Walls can pull on my emotions as she does. Modern-day tale of two sisters trying to find some stability.

Chupa and Streak with a good book makes a decent cat pile.
Chupa and Streak with a good book makes a decent cat pile.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

New-to-me author. WWII female pilots and spies. One of the best WWII books I have ever read.

IgguldenBloodOfGodsThe Blood of Gods by Conn Iggulden

The 4th book in Emperor series tells what happens after Julius Caesar fell. Excellent series.

BernheimerPrimeSuspectsJim Bernheimer books (Confessions of a D-List Supervillain, Prime Suspects, Horror, Humor, and Heroes)

New-to-me author. Uh, yeah. You might of noticed that I listened to 3 of Bernheimer’s books in ~2 weeks. Yeah, addictive. Mostly SF. Go, read, enjoy.

I meant for this to be a more dignified pic, as I so enjoyed this book, but Pico refused to put his bath on hold.
I meant for this to be a more dignified pic, as I so enjoyed this book, but Pico refused to put his bath on hold.

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

I really should read beyond Book 2. Both Books 1 & 2 were excellent. Historical fantasy, or just straight up epic fantasy.

SilvermanGardensOfAmpheiaGardens of Ampheia by Joshua Silverman

A novella set in his Legends of Amun Ra series. Think Ancient Greece set on an alien world. Magic, armor, SF.

MunteanuOuterDiverseOuter Diverse by Nina Munteanu

New-to-me author. SF detective story. Lots of fun.

Stout wouldn't hold still for a pic!
Stout wouldn’t hold still for a pic!

The Aylesford Skull by James P. Blaylock

New-to-me author. Magic, steampunky, England, detective. Intrigued?

Toothless Waffles being used as a bookstand...again.
Toothless Waffles being used as a bookstand…again.

The White Princess by Philippa Gregory

Historical fiction, Elizabeth of York, the War of the Roses. Very good, easy to get into.

WillisBlackoutBlackout by Connie Willis

New-to-me author. Excellent time travel, WWII SF-Historical Fiction. Great characters, great plot.

AcevedoNymphosRockyFlatsThe Nymphos of Rocky Flats by Mario Acevedo

Vampire detective, nuclear weapons mill, and nymphos. Intrigued?

PoznanskyTwistedTwisted by Uvi Poznansky

A collection of her short fictions. Offers a darker twist to such things as the story of Job, working with clay, and elderly cats.

Bubonicon 2013: The Afterglow

The signed Kindle.
The signed Kindle.

First, here are a bunch of pictures of my signed goodies from the Bubonicon 2013 mass autographing session Saturday afternoon. I brought more books than I could carry in one backpack, and more than I could get signed in the 80 minutes allotted for it. I also went around with my kindle having the back signed. Some of the signatures on it are from Bubonicon 2012 and it came with one signature (David. B. Coe). We were allowed 3 items for the author to sign and then we could get back in line to have more signed. Since I had so many authors I wanted to stalk, I limited myself to no more than 3 items per author.

Books signed at Bubonicon 2013.
Books signed at Bubonicon 2013.

George R. R. Martin by far had the longest line. In fact, by the time I decided I was done (5 minutes left of the session), he still had somewhere between 20-30 people in line. So I spent my time stalking all sorts of other authors. Of course I had books for David Lee Summers to sign. Mario Acevedo, whose book The Nymphos of Rocky Flats I recently finished, was sitting next to Summers, so I couldn’t resist having him sign my kindle (devilish smiley face). I recently finished The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham and had a paper copy for him to sign. However, I listened to Leviathan Wakes (by Daniel Abraham & Ty Franck under the pen name James S. A. Corey), so I asked the two if they wouldn’t mind signing my kindle – and luckily I had a few permanent markers on me. Then I headed over to the Tim Powers line to get a few books signed for a fellow blogger and tripped over Joan Saberhagen on the way. Well, I just happen to have this anthology, Golden Reflections, she helped put together, so I asked her to give it a signing since I blundered into her. She was so nice. In fact, everyone I tracked down to sign this anthology went into smiles and commented on how much fun they had with it.

The only one I have read in this batch is The Outlander. Looking forward to diving into the rest.
The only one I have read in this batch is The Outlander. Looking forward to diving into the rest.

The Tim Powers line was shorter than I expected. In fact, Brent Weeks and Diana Gabaldon had longer lines, but Powers didn’t seem to mind. I told him my blogger friend threatened to beat me bloody with his books if I don’t give them a try and he seemed appreciative of the comment. Then I bobbled around to a few more – John Maddox Roberts, Walter Jon Williams, and Connie Willis. I got to tell her how much my man and I enjoyed the audio version of Blackout. I can’t wait to read the 2nd book, All Clear. Willis created one giganto novel and the publisher split it in two, so you really need to give both a read to get the full story.

My beloved Night Angel trilogy signed.
My beloved Night Angel trilogy signed.

Then I got in line for Brent Weeks. His wife and baby were right up there at the big table with him. The line had gone down quite a bit so he was chatting with folks as they came up to the table. I had my Night Angel trilogy that my man’s sister (thanks D.!) gave us a few years ago. Weeks was very cool. He let me babble on about how my man and I enjoyed his trilogy so much, we basically read it at the same time, having two sets of bookmarks and one staying up later than the other to get a chance at the book in use. My man won that little race, finishing the trilogy half a book ahead of me. Then over to Diana Galbaldon‘s table. By that time, the room was pretty darn warm and I and many others were beginning to wilt. I thanked her for doing this as I can only imagine that it might not be the most favorite part of a convention for the authors. I had found an old ARC of The Outlander and rescued it just for this con and was very happy to get it signed.

Sam Sykes books for my man.
Sam Sykes books for my man.

Finally, I swung by Sam Sykes‘s table. My man loved his first novel, Tome of the Undergates, and I picked up the next two in the series for him. Interesting factoid I didn’t know before the con: Sykes is the son of Diana Gabaldon. Sykes signed my kindle as the books were already signed, and he offered me two signed book plates! Hooray – keep putting out novels Mr. Sykes so we can use the book plates appropriately. Hmm… which brings up ideas of how to use them inappropriately. Anyhoo, I then asked Jane Lindskold (Firekeeper Saga) for a signature on the anthology. While I am not familiar with her work, I look forward to reading her story in Golden Reflections. Last on the list, but not least, was S. M. Stirling. My man really enjoyed his Island in the Sea of Time trilogy and we have both wanted to give The Change series a go. After all that, I was beat.

Mario Acevedo, Betsy James, Gabi Stevens, & Connie Willis
Mario Acevedo, Betsy James, Gabi Stevens, & Connie Willis

Now, on to Sunday, in which the festivities started at 10 and ended (for me anyway) at 4ish. Of course, I started off with a panel, Warehouse 2013: Odd Objects in Fiction. Gabi Stevens moderated and Mario Acevedo, Betsy James, and Connie Willis joined in. In this panel, they started off discussing objects that propel a story forward, such as the One Ring in Tolkien. The discussion then turned to metaphorical objects, such as searching for the truth. It was actually pretty good info for any aspiring authors because the dos and don’ts of how to use such objects in fiction were also touched upon.

Diana Rowland playing Toastmistress to Guests of Honor Tim Powers & Brent Weeks.
Diana Rowland playing Toastmistress to Guests of Honor Tim Powers & Brent Weeks.

I then stuck around for the hour and half Co-Guest of Honor Presentation. Diana Rowland played hostess to Tim Powers and Brent Weeks. This was a great discussion. I quite enjoyed Diana Rowland’s jokes and stories. She use to be a cop and use to work at a morgue. I know, you might be guessing things about me by my interest in such professions. At any rate, now I want to read her stuff. Library trip! All three shared publishing snafoos with the audience. Brent Weeks talked candidly, but kindly, about the narration to his first book and how reviewers found the narration (think surfer dude for the main character) to be not a good match for the book. Tim Powers, who has been a published author for many more years, talked about Canadian Harlequin’s failed SFF line of books and then his experiences with Lester Del Rey. I am constantly fascinated by all that goes on behind the scenes to simply get a book out there to the public. Then of course we talked movie versions of their books. Brent Weeks commented on how he would want a good match and to have a final product that he could be proud of. Tim Powers was at the other end of the spectrum, not minding at all if a book of his was turned into a musical with dancing hamsters. He commented that to him movies, or even audiobooks, were different beasts entirely than the source material, his books. The imagery of dancing hamsters doing a Tim Powers scene had many in the audience laughing. It was a great way to spend an hour and half.

Darynda Jones, Alan Beck, Caroline Spector, Debbie Lynn Smith, & Warren Spector.
Darynda Jones, Alan Beck, Caroline Spector, Debbie Lynn Smith, & Warren Spector.

Then I had a half hour to kill before going to a talk I didn’t want to miss, so I stuck around for the panel Reality Bites Back: Media/Game Shows Gone Wild. Caroline Spector moderated with Darynda Jones, artist Alan F. Beck, Debbie Lynn Smith, and her husband Warren Spector attending. This panel was about reality TV shows. We have a TV. It is hooked up to a blu-ray player and Netflix. I don’t watch a whole lot of TV preferring my audiobooks. So, I knew only a small fraction of the shows they were talking about (mostly the cooking ones). They made some interesting points about ‘scripting’ of such shows and just simply how human behavior changes if you add a camera and dangle money in exchange for outrageous behavior. I ducked out early to hit the 1PM talk.

 

Connie Willis giving her 55 minute talk.
Connie Willis giving her 55 minute talk.

Connie Willis was giving a solo presentation, Non-Formula Plotting. Again, this was geared towards writers and aspiring authors, but I enjoyed her novel Blackout so much, I figured listening to her chat for an hour would be a treat. She did not disappoint. She pointed out some basic plot frames that are used again and again, successfully. The man in a hole plot is usually a big draw. People love to see or read about a person digging themselves out of a hole – usually metaphorical. Even if you don’t care for the main character, you like to watch the struggle of the person trying to regain financial stability, power, life, etc. The other plot frame that I remember her talking about extensively was the try, fail, try, fail, try, succeed story line. She then went on to discuss how to modify these slightly, with either failing at the end, or succeeding in a way that made the whole mess worse. All in all, it was an entertaining and insightful hour.

Darynda Jones, Mario Acevedo, David Lee Summers, T. Jackson King, & Doug Beason
Darynda Jones, Mario Acevedo, David Lee Summers, T. Jackson King, & Doug Beason

I was waiting around for the art auction to announce whose silent bids won, and that wasn’t scheduled to happen until 3PM. So, I popped into the second half of another panel, What If Humans Never Go Into Space Again? This one was moderated by David Lee Summers with Mario Acevedo, Doug Beason, Darynda Jones, and T. Jackson King joining him. I walked in at the point where they were discussing how the travel industry and thrill seekers will propel humans into space (at least a vacation station) if world governments do not. Several on the panel made the point that as the world becomes more and more crowded, more and more eyes will turn towards the stars. I kind of wish I had caught all of this panel, but with the hour & half co-guest of honor presentation off setting the two main tracks, it was hard to jump back and forth catching all of a presentation.

Once this was over, I still had a half hour to kill, so I went to the afternoon auction. We could hear all the fun they were having through the floating wall. I sat near the back, where I could see one of the doors to the art show room. It was interesting to see the variety of items that had been donated for the auction. If I am reading the pamphlet right, these items were either for personal benefit or donated to Bubonicon to raise funds for next year. Of course there were plenty of books, some art donated by show artists, movies, Star Wars ice cube tray, even some VHS movies. Most people paid with cash on the spot. I think the highest item I saw was $40 or $50. Once I saw a line starting to form for the art show, I headed out there.

We waited. We waited some more. It was past 3PM when they came out with a handwritten list of all the bidders (by number) who won something. However, they repeated again and again that it was a very rough list and to check inside. I waited some more. Finally, about 330, they started letting folks in, but only 2 at a time, to pick up their items and pay for them. I was only 8 or 10 people back, so I was finally done about 410, not having won anything in the art show. Still, I had a great time.

My Favorite Moments: The autograph session, the Ty Franck & Daniel Abraham talk, with writer workshop put on by Diana Gabaldon, the co-guest of honor presentation.

Who Will I Be Stalking: Well, there were several new-to-me authors that caught my eye such as Diana Rowland, T. Jackson King, Susan Krinard, Jane Lindskold, Tim Powers, and Sam Sykes.

Next year I would like to attend the costume contest for fun. I saw several Saturday afternoon and wish I had taken photos. I loved staying at the Marriott where the convention was held as I kept bumping into authors here and there. If I do the art show next year (meaning more than look), I think I will do the quick sale instead of bidding. I could have either been enjoying another panel, the dealers room, or on my way home instead of standing around for just over an hour to learn that I had not won anything. At any rate, the art show is always fascinating to look at.

Sigh…. only 51.5 more weeks until the next Bubonicon.

Bubonicon 2013 Friday

Bubonicon 2013 Saturday

Bubonicon 2013: The Meat

Here we have Suzy Charnas, Daniel Abraham, Josh Gentry, David Lee Summers, and Joan Saberhagen.
Here we have Suzy Charnas, Daniel Abraham, Josh Gentry, David Lee Summers, and Joan Saberhagen.

Saturday of Bubonicon 2013 was an all day event, with the con suite opening at 9am. I opted to have tea in my hotel while messing around on the computer. 10AM brought about the first panel of the day: Short Fiction in the Era of Digital Publishing. Josh Gentry of SnackReads moderated this panel of Daniel Abraham (The Dragon’s Path), Suzy Charnas (The Holdfast Chronicles), Joan Saberhagen (manages the literary estate of Fred Saberhagen), and David Lee Summers (Owl Dance). This was a fascinating talk about how publishing has changed since ebooks came about, but also about how digital publishing has changed in the last few years and continues to change. Of special interest to this panel, was the subject of short fiction: how to sell it, should you sell it?, what format to provide it in, etc. Everyone agreed that ebooks were a great way to put an author’s backlist out there, but perhaps not the best way to become known as a new author (for a variety of reasons).

Walter Jon Williams reading a short story from a forth coming anthology.
Walter Jon Williams reading a short story from a forth coming anthology.

After that I bounced over to the 55 minutes with Walter Jon Williams. He was amazingly entertaining last year, doing the various voices for his characters in the short piece of fiction he read. I was hoping he would be just as charismatic again; he did not disappoint. His story, which will be published in a forthcoming anthology, was just a little longer than we had time for, but he paused in a good place. Of course this only added to my desire to pick up the anthology when it comes out. Let me just point out that I had a choice of listening to Brent Weeks for 55 minutes, or Walter Jon Williams. Sorry Brent, but I am sure you had plenty of fandom to glory in and my shy attention wouldn’t have added to it.

Back in the big main room, George R. R. Martin and Tim Powers had an hour long discussion about dark fantasy: Whatever Happened to Dark Fantasy. While I have read some of George Martin’s works going back to the Wild Cards days in my highschool days, I have not yet had the pleasure of reading Tim Powers’s works. Even with that bit of ignorance, the talk was fascinating. Both authors seemed to shy away from such categories as ‘dark fantasy’ or ‘horror fantasy’. I have to agree with them; having recently explored some H. P. Lovecraft works, ostensibly horror, I found them to be fantasy with some dark elements. Martin and Powers are discussed the differences between fantastical horror and psychological horror (where nothing magical is involved).

Bubonicon2013PowersMartin
Time Powers & George R. R. Martin

After all that sitting, I needed a walk, and what better place to walk than the art show. Lots of cutsy kitten & some magical or SF element art was on display. Some made me laugh out loud with the fun of it. Of course there was the requisite armed and nearly nude women that permeate the SFF world (some of which I appreciated, others I found improbable even with suspended disbelief). This year also had pottery and I loved that there were a variety of mugs named for Tolkien characters. While I bid on a few items in the silent auction, I failed to win any. Perhaps next year.

David Lee Summers giving a reading.
David Lee Summers giving a reading.

At the dealer room, I swung by Hadrosaur Productions and said hi to David Lee Summers. While we chatted, author Mario Acevedo happened by and stopped to chat. Of course I had to mention that I recently read his book, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, and from there we were off on conspiracy theories involving aliens and such. The dealers room had several more sellers than last year, which was nice to see. I wandered, looking for a corset to amuse my man with. Alas, I only found a few and nothing that struck my fancy. Perhaps next year.

I sat in on David Lee Summers‘s 25 minute reading. He entertained us with a short bit from his novella Revolution of Air and Rust, which is a steampunk or alternate history set in early 1900s near the beginning of WWI. Having recently finished the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld, I really enjoyed the short bit that Summers shared with us. I’ll be picking up my copy for reading in the winter (when I have much more time for eyeball reading versus audiobooks).

Diana Gabaldon & my shoulder (since I was making a stunned bunny face).
Diana Gabaldon & my shoulder (since I was making a stunned bunny face).

On a whim, I then attended a writing workshop hosted by Diana Gabaldon, How (And How Not) To Write Sex Scenes. I don’t write, other than bloggity stuff and government reports (which may or may not be fiction), but I had not attended anything with Diana Gabaldon yet and didn’t want to miss out. The room filled completely. While we had a few minutes before beginning, Diana Gabaldon invited folks to come up and take pictures with her. I couldn’t resist, but the lady I passed my camera off to looked at it dubiously and caught me making a distressed face that could be mistaken for gas. It was way cool of Gabaldon to make the offer to the room. This was one of the funnest hours of the entire con. We laughed often and loudly. The room was full of women and a few brave men. I read a few of her Outlander books way back in college and recently reread the first book, The Outlander, so I had a good idea of her sex scenes. She gave a lot of great advice that was highly entertaining to even those who don’t have an interest in writing.

Brent Weeks moderating a panel with Darynda Jones & Diana Gabaldon.
Brent Weeks moderating a panel with Darynda Jones & Diana Gabaldon.

The last panel of the evening for me was Assassins & Serial Killers in Fantasy moderated by Brent Weeks (The Night Angel trilogy rocks!). Diana Gabaldon, Darynda Jones (Charley Davidson series), John Maddox Roberts (well known for his SPQR series), and Melinda Snodgrass (who has done script writing for Star Trek: The Next Generation & other TV series) joined him. Once again, this was another great panel. Brent Weeks, well known for his assassin trilogy, was the perfect moderator, keeping the questions coming as the panel explored the various differences between serial killers and assassins. John Maddox Roberts pointed out that the traditional assassin, the hashashin, were folks who were called upon once in their life to take out one person, and then they were expected to die in the back blast of vengeance. The panel also explored the dark, disturbing attraction to serial killers whether in fiction or in the media.

John Maddox Roberts waiting for the panel to get started.
John Maddox Roberts waiting for the panel to get started.

After that was the mass autograph signing. I think I will do another post showing off the treasures I got signed as this post has grown a bit long. You can tell my enthusiasm though.

Melinda Snodgrass chatting as Brent Weeks looks on.
Melinda Snodgrass chatting as Brent Weeks looks on.