Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Interview with Tim Marquitz author of the Demon Squad series

And then there were two. Second interview on the blog, maybe I'm getting the hang of it. This time it's with author Tim Marquitz, a die hard groupie of the blog. Just so happens that I'm a big fan of his too.

Be warned, this interview got weird in a few places and could be uncomfortable to some, so continue at your own risk. We're entering one twisted mind, without accounting for my own. As such, this interview is rated M for mature, maybe X rated. Not for the faint of heart.

Please welcome Tim Marquitz, author of the Demon Squad urban fantasy novels and enjoy the tour.

Bastard: I know I promised you'd be my first, but Myke Cole was just sexier. Would you accept my sincerest apologies?

Tim Marquitz: I guess if I have to settle for sloppy seconds, there could be worse people to follow behind. You’re forgiven, but only because I enjoyed Myke’s book. Had it been Lincoln Crisler you let go first, you and I would be having a very different conversation. J

Bastard: I guess it's best to continue with the tradition which began on the first interview, what is your favorite beer? Coors Light?

Tim Marquitz: I’m easy, but I’m not that easy. The Rocky Mountains can keep that nastiness.

I’m not really much of a drinker these days, preferring on those rare occasions to drink a Black Jack & Coke, but since you asked about beer I’ll stick to the question. Back in the day, I would have listed a bevy of thick, motor oil-like beers with groovy names, but these days when I’m up for a beer, I go simple. Nothing beats an ice cold Budweiser.

Bastard: Oh, Budweiser. A man after my own heart, but speaking of beer, I understand you've worked as a bouncer before. Was it bars, at clubs?

Tim Marquitz: It was mostly at clubs, but I’ve worked at bars, too. I used to work shows at one of the places, anything from heavy metal acts to foam parties. Both have given me plenty of stories to share. Where I worked the longest was a huge country bar that felt it rational to make Thursday ladies night, during which they proceeded to alternate between playing country music and hip hop, changing it about every half hour.

The dance floor had four exits, all relatively small, so every time they shifted musical genres, you had to very diverse crowds of people pushing to get on and off the dance floor. Since the place housed about 1,800 patrons, and Thursdays were always packed, you can imagine the hijinks that followed…all…night…long.

American Me
Bastard: "Both have given me plenty of stories to share," now you're not just going to leave me hanging like that right?

Tim Marquitz: Yes, yes I am. No, not really. The foam parties and shows have gotten me into a whole bunch of fights. At one of the foam parties, which are basically an underage gathering that brings in high school kids from all over the city to frolic in soap foam, we had our usual grouping of opposing gangs. So, here we are, all five of us bouncers, in the middle of hundreds of teenagers, when a fight breaks out.

I was outside the club when a literal riot erupts. I’m keeping an eye on one of the managers when I see two guys beating a kid down. I shove them off and one of them hits a cinderblock wall nearby and is standing there all loopy. Right then, some punk runs to punch him. I step in the middle and push him back and he throws a punch, and hits my buddy who walks right between us. My buddy and I look at each other like we’re asking if the punk really swung on us.

There were a few minutes there where we reenacted a scene from American Me before the police and SWAT showed up to shut the scene down.

Sadly, that’s but one of the tons of stories I have.

Bastard: What else have you worked as? I've heard you say you've been a gravedigger, but I'm partly convinced you're just busting my balls. Tells us a something about that, certainly a curiosity.

Tim Marquitz: I’ve done a lot of things, all blue collar type stuff. I’ve managed convenience stores, worked for quality assurance, delivered pizza, worked fast food, as well as clerical work, and manual labor. But no, I’m not lying to you. I worked at a cemetery for about five years.

Honestly, it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had, from a psychological perspective. It was hard work, mind you, because we did everything: installing gravestones, installing sprinklers, cutting grass, planting grass, maintaining the vehicles. It didn’t matter what the weather was like. If there was a funeral or a hole to dig, we were out there, 120 degrees or 10, but I loved it.

I’ve put more bodies in the ground than any serial killer can lay claim to.

Bastard: Rumor has it that you fought with one vicious lion a few years back, which left you a bit handicapped. As you feared for your life, what went through your mind? Also, what injuries still remain to this day, and how do they affect both your daily life and your writing process?

Tim Marquitz: Honestly, I didn’t even know I was hurt until it was all over, and I wasn’t even concerned with it. I cleaned the wounds and went to bed. The next morning, however, I woke up in agony. It was like someone had crept in overnight and replaced my finger with John Holmes’ schlong. The thing was huge!

Ultimately, the infection destroyed the middle joint on my right ring finger. Over the course of three years, I had seven surgeries on my finger to restore mobility to the joint, to include tendon replacement and a joint replacement. I endured three years of physical therapy, the pain kept in check by Vicodin and the hope for a miracle that never came.

My finger is still limited in mobility and it’s dragged my overall strength down as it’s my dominant hand. The injury doesn’t do much to impact my writing, fortunately, as I’ve learned to work around it, but it radically changed the way I face life. I’m not the same person I was before the injury.

Vicious Lion
Bastard: You're a self-proclaimed metalhead, some of which gets featured in your Demon Squad stories. Do you recall when you became a fan of heavy metal, and which are your favorite bands? Got to admit, never a big fan of heavy metal, though I like Metallica plenty.

Tim Marquitz: I became a fan early on. When I was around 12-13, a buddy of mine showed me the first Venom album, Welcome to Hell, and I was hooked. I’d kind of already gravitated toward rock, at the time, but it never really satisfied. It wasn’t until Venom that I realized what it was I was looking for in music.

Like my writing, the style I migrate toward is dark and confrontational, irreverent and brutal, somber and depressive. I’m a huge fan of old style thrash like early Metallica, Venom, Slayer, Exodus, Nasty Savage, Dark Angel, and a billion more bands, but I like the classic vibe, too. Bands like Angel Witch and Hell, Victor Griffin and Pentagram. These days, I listen more to atmospheric doom bands such as Anathema, My Dying Bride, Candlemass, Isole, and a host of others.

Metallica is like the gateway drug of music listeners. They’re diverse enough to appeal to those who would never sit down and listen to Cannibal Corpse or Nile or Emperor. But don’t worry, Bastard, I won’t hold your non-metalhead status against you…much.

Bastard: Keeping it with the heavy metal theme, have you ever been part of a mosh pit? If so, tell us about it, and did anyone squeeze your ass?

Tim Marquitz: I’ve never had the kind of restraint it takes to be a part of a real pit. I’ve been to a bunch of shows and have stood at the edges, but I’m way too quick to put my foot in someone’s ass to willingly go into a circle where someone wants to run me over. I’ve moshed with friends at parties, and laughed as our heads were nearly taken off by a ceiling fan, but never at a show.

And while I can’t say I’ve been groped in a pit, I can tell you about a show I worked. It was one of those faux-rock bands that the young girls like, though I can’t remember the name. Muse, maybe, or along that style. Anyway, I was working the stage, which means I’m standing behind the small metal gate that separates the band from the crowd. When the kids come surfing over, it was my job to step up onto a foot-wide ledge and make sure they don’t come crashing down onto the concrete floor. Normally, it’s not an issue. Most of the kids weighed 100-120 pounds, no big deal. You grab a piece of them, pull them to you, and set them behind the gate and get ready for the next one.

In one memorable instance, for all the wrong reasons, there were about five young women hoisted up at the same time, all being passed toward the stage. So I’m trying to sort them out when they all get dumped on me at once and we crash to the floor in tangled mess. So here I am, the paragon of innocence and virtue, buried in young, nubile flesh for what seemed forever as they squirmed and squirmed and squirmed in what I remember thinking was a Twister game gone horribly right, until they managed to get back to their feet. Best damn moment of that entire show, let me tell you.

Bastard: In the next few days you'll be at Horror Con. When and where is it this year? Also, have you been there before, and how have you found it? Lastly, what do you hope to accomplish there other than having a good time?

Tim Marquitz: This year’s World Horror Convention will be in Salt Lake City, Utah, from March 29 through April 1. I was at last year’s con, which was held in Austin. I’ve never been to SLC. As far as the convention goes, it’s great. There are ton of writerly type events going on that help prepare writers, teach them new things, and plenty of opportunities to put your work in front of the agents and publishers you might not normally be able to reach. There are also a ton of parties, which are great for networking and getting to know your fellow authors, agents, editors, and publishers.

This trip might be more about a good time than normal, but my hope is to reach out and make contacts that will help further my career in writing. No specific plans, but things just happen at these conventions, so I’ll be keeping my eyes open and basking in the literary greatness.

Bastard: Going back to my interview with Myke Cole, he had made mention of, 'Also occurs to me that when my goal was "get published," I didn't. Once my goal became "write a great book," I got published.' How do you think this applies to you, particularly balancing it with the pressures of providing for your family?

Tim Marquitz: I struggle sometimes with frustration seeing authors succeed at their first book while I’m trudging along, but I understand it’s part of the business. It’s subjective and things aren’t always going to work out the way I’d like, but that’s okay.

My goal has always been to write great books, and that isn’t going to change. I still want a publishing deal with one of the big six, but that’s not the only goal I’m shooting for in my career. I work to get better with everything I write, and I’ve set more realistic goals below the top ones, to simply better my position, my career, at least once every year. As long as I stick to that, I’ll be content with what I’m doing.

As for my family, I don’t look at writing as my priority in that aspect. I work a full time job, go to school full time, in order to carve a life out for us regardless of what happens with my writing. If the author thing works out, great, if it doesn’t, I’ll continue doing what I’m doing whether I continue to get published or not.

Bastard: In addition to being a writer, you also offer your services as an editor. Can you tell us about those services and what books have you edited?

Tim Marquitz: I had opened up my own editing business, but it was really too time consuming so I shut it down. I wasn’t getting any writing done. I’ve also edited for Damnation Books. That said, I’ve edited books from Lincoln Crisler, Nick Cato, Naomi Clark, Ed Erdelac, Alan Spencer, Dave Bullock, AC Croom and a number of other folks.

When I was editing, I tried to impart some of the things I’ve learned along the way about pacing and storytelling and do my best to catch all the errors that are inherent in writing. It’s a time intensive effort and very draining, but quite rewarding as it really helps you to notice your own writing flaws by seeing them in other people’s work.

Bastard: Does being an editor affect the way you read stories, stories you're not actually editing? I know that since I became a reviewer the perspective of what I'm reading has changed, for example, less patient.

Tim Marquitz: Yeah, for sure. It turns you into a picky bastard (no offense) if you can’t shut the editor part of your brain down. I’ll pick up a book and realize I’m criticizing the intro, the stylistic choices, and I’m shaking my head at typos. It’s very frustrating and ruins a lot of good books for me because I can’t stop tearing them down into the basic parts and analyzing them. I feel like Spock around Captain Kirk. “That’s just not logical.”

Bastard: Among your writing, you have written some horror, urban fantasy, and dark epic fantasy. Which genre do you love to write the most, which has been a better fit for your writing skills, and which one has been the most challenging? As a tangent, which genre do you enjoy reading the most?

Tim Marquitz: I enjoy writing them all, but I think writing the Demon Squad urban fantasy books are when I have the most fun. They're the closest to my real personality, so the writing flows and the attitude just slips into the writing.

However, the DS books are also the most complicated, in a sense. Because the entire book is from Frank's simplistic point of view, there are a lot of little glitches that pop in because I'm so limited by what Frank would notice or do. While there are others characters to help drive the plot, it comes down to Frank to pick up the slack. His tunnel-vision mentality can often be a hindrance.

I think writing the epic fantasy story was a test for me as it was so different from the DS series. With so many viewpoint characters and an emphasis on world building, it took me a little while to get into the right gear. I had to avoid being so terse and on point as far as the writing and plot. There was some wiggle room there that I wasn't used to operating with.

As far as reading, I have to say I prefer horror and urban fantasy. My interest in reading is purely entertainment-based, so I like the fast-paced stories that don't require much thought from me. I want to get into a world and get out so it doesn't wear on me.

Bastard: You have referred to yourself as both a horror writer and a dark fantasy writer, and its subgenres, having only read your Demon Squad books the part that has resonated with me the most has been the comedy; dark perverted comedy at that. Bottom line it has been the funniest series I've read so far. Was the comedy aspect something you wanted to focus on with this series, or did the character of Frank just made it happen as he was developed?

Tim Marquitz: Thanks. The comedy actually came first. I’d written the start of a story where comedy was the primary objective. It was, however ineptly, similar in style to Terry Pratchett, but I realized how limited I was comedically. My strength lies in the one-liner, the off-the-cuff response to things that come up, so writing pure comedy just wasn’t working.

As I realized that, I took the story I had about a minion of Death being unemployed after God and Lucifer called a cease fire, and thought about what I could do to make it work. Fortunately, I already had a role model for the series: the Die Hard movies. That was the foundation for what I wanted to do, combining the sarcastic attitude with over-the-top action, the underdog who gets his ass kicked the entire time, but wins out in the end. The Demon Squad evolved from there as I figured out what would be the most unlikely of heroes to stick in the middle of all that.

Bastard: The Demons Squad novels seem like books that male readers would enjoy the heck out of, particularly with Frank being well, a pig. I'm always hesitant to recommend it to female readers because of this, but to my surprise, they're also enjoying the books. Has this been your experience so far, and why do you think it has been accepted as it is?

Tim Marquitz: I’ve also been surprised that a number of women, older and younger, have enjoyed the Demon Squad books. While I didn’t intentionally target it toward males, it just seems natural they’d be the dominant audience given the nature of the books.

I think women enjoy them because they can relate. They all have uncles, brothers, fathers, husbands or boyfriends who probably act like Frank does. It’s probably no real shock to them to see someone like him, so they’ve probably grown numb to it. I also think they can see beyond the BS he spews and can tell there’s more to him buried under it all.

Then again, I could be pulling all of this out of my ass. Who knows? I don’t understand women and won’t pretend otherwise.

Bastard: Frank Triggs has quite vivid sexual fantasies, some of them involve Scarlett, his Angel cousin. Do you think he ever fantasized about his mom that way?

Tim Marquitz: And I thought Frank was the freak. :)

Frank was taken to Hell at the age of 15. He was basically turned loose in a world without morality and lots of opportunities to get into trouble. He was also protected and allowed to indulge, thus Frank was a kid in a candy store. That lifestyle lasted for over 400 years and was a big part in shaping Frank's personality, such as it is. It’s who he is, even now.

That said, while he drools all over his cousin (as he does every woman), Frank is a massive mama's boy. She was around before all of the experiences that perverted him so badly. His mother is his link to humanity and to a moral existence, because that's how he remembers being raised by her. Her memory is the rock he clings to when he’s in too deep or knows he’s gone too far.

So for the record, no, Frank doesn't think about his mother the same as he does Scarlett, but thanks for asking. Sicko!

Bastard: Recently the anthology Corrupts Absolutely? edited by Lincoln Crisler, who you mentioned previously, was released by Damnation Books. Can share a few words with us about what the anthology is about and how it originated? Also, what role did you play in it?

Tim Marquitz: The anthology is built on the question, “What would happen if real people were to develop super powers?” There wouldn’t be a lot of Supermen out there, but there would probably be a whole bunch of Wolverines. The reality is, people are often too selfish and morally ambiguous to be these classic icons of heroes. We would use super powers for good, for sure, but we’d probably use them for personal/selfish reasons, too, and likely more often.

Lincoln came up with the idea and pitched it to Damnation Books. He’s very interested in comics and the world of superhero prose, but felt there just wasn’t enough out there. He wanted to make a statement with a strong book that carried the superhero/metahuman idea to a new level.

My part in the book ends at me contributing my story, Retribution, which is about a man who watches his wife and unborn child die in 9/11 and is given the opportunity for revenge. 

Bastard: Can you tell us a bit about your other works? Yes, too lazy to look them up.

Tim Marquitz: Of course you are. Good job, Mister Interviewer.

Well, my flagship series is the Demon Squad, but I’ve got a bunch of other things going on.

I’ve released a young adult horror book entitled Skulls, which I think gets a little overlooked in my bibliography. It’s about a young man, Jacob, who stumbles across a hidden bunker full of skulls. Through the eyes of the skulls, he’s able to witness the death of the person it belonged to, from their perspective, at the hands of an axe-wielding serial killer. Ultimately, the killer learns of Jacob’s trespass and forces a horrific choice on him.

Sepulchral Earth is my entry into the zombie genre. Written initially as a serial novella, the first two episodes follow Harlan Cole, a necromancer, who traverses the zombie infested landscape in a quest to free his wife and daughter’s spirits from the machine that keeps them from their peace in the next world. The last two episodes are plotted, but not written. I have plans to finish the series and release it all as an omnibus so people can read it all together.

Dawn of War is my effort to expand my fantasy writing by diving into a more epic style. It’s the first book in a trilogy entitled the Blood War Trilogy. In the story, an ancient magic is returned to the world and delivered into the hands of a savage race of carnivorous beasts intent upon laying waste to the world. The story revolves around a group of folks caught up in the chaos and brought together to stop the carnage only to learn the plots runs much deeper.

Bastard: What else do you have planned in the near future, and any future projects that are in the planning stages?

Tim Marquitz: This year is going to be pretty busy. I’m currently accepting short stories for an anthology out through Damnation Books, entitled Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous. That releases on September 1, and I’ve got some great names and stories lined up for it.

I also have a literary horror story, Cenotaph, coming out June 1, through Damnation Books. Bundled with that will be all new stories by Lincoln Crisler, Ed Erdelac, and Malon Edwards. The collection is called Four in the Morning and it examines the idea of aging (child, young adult, middle age, old age) in a speculative manner. This was a fun one to write. All of the stories are radically different in style, from steampunk to urban fantasy to sci-fi. Each of the guys stepped up to write their ass off.

Coming sometime between July and September, give or take, I have two novellas bundled into a single book, Prey and Anathema, which will be published by Genius Publishing. Prey is a horrific suspense thriller while Anathema is more classic horror in the vein of Stephen King.

I’m also looking to release the fourth Demon Squad book sometime this year, as well as the second book in the Blood War Trilogy. No real details on those yet.

Bastard: Before I remove the handcuffs and let you go, anything you've read lately worth mentioning?

Tim Marquitz: Kinky.

Yeah, definitely. I ran through the entire series of the Riyria Revelations by Michael J. Sullivan last week and thought it was great. Wonderful characters and a fast, enjoyable read that kept pulling me back. I've also managed to get back into the Shadow Saga by Jon Sprunk. The books are cool. Lots of action and good stories.

I've also read the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne that I thought was just fantastic. Very Dresden-ish but with it's own identity. Mark Lawrence's book, the Prince of Thorns was another amazing read. Dark and gritty and full of violence, I loved it.

On the indie trail, everything by Ed Erdelac is something to look for. He tells a story from left field, but it's always smart and well written. Naomi Clark is another writer whose books I've been digging, Night and Chaos being a visceral read. There's, of course, the usual suspects I always preach about, Lincoln Crisler and Malon Edwards.

Bastard: Thanks for stopping by Tim, always a pleasure. Make sure to leave the donation on your way out. Any last words?

Tim Marquitz: Thank you for honoring me with Myke Cole’s leftovers. I feel...dirty.

Congratulations, you've survived. You have made it to the end. Make sure to check out the current giveaway for five e-copies of Corrupts Absolutely? and eBooks from Tim Marquitz.

Thanks for stopping by Tim, hope we can do it again some other time. It's been fun. And for those interested, here's my review for Resurrection, second book in the Demon Squad series. I should have a review for At the Gates at some point soon too.

For more information, please visit Tim Marquitz's website, and urban fantasy fans, don't miss out on his Demon Squad series, they're a blast.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Bastard Giveaway: Corrupts Absolutely? Anthology

Corrupts Absolutely? is an anthology edited by Lincoln Crisler and published by Damnation Books. It includes short stories dealing with metahumans. I haven't read through it all yet, but the few I've read have certainly been interesting. It includes a short story from Tim Marquitz, and followers of this blog know that I'm a big fan of his. I also interviewed Tim here for those interested.

So we got a giveaway for 5 eBook copies of Corrupts Absolutely? in addition to an eBook of choice by Tim Marquitz for 5 winners. The top winner will get two eBooks of choice by Tim Marquitz, details at the end of the post. Open world wide, just in case.
Dark Metahuman Fiction.

The only family member to survive the 9/11 attacks. A sidekick-turned-construction-worker. The teenaged products of an institute for unwanted metahuman children. The man who can make anyone do anything. Are they heroes? Are they villains? Sometimes they’re both. Often, even at the same time.

Corrupts Absolutely? collects twenty brand-new stories from veteran authors and newcomers, each with a unique perspective on what it might really be like to be superhuman in today’s day and age. In the center of such a roiling mass of uncertainty and excitement lies one important truth: the fight against good or evil is never as important as the fight for or against oneself.

Contributors: Weston Ochse, Jeff Strand, Joe McKinney, Cat Rambo, A.D. Spencer, A.S. Fox, Andrew Bourelle, Anthony Laffan, Edward M. Erdelac, Jason Gehlert, Jason M. Tucker, Jeremy Hepler, Karina Fabian, Kris Ashton, Lee Mather, Lincoln Crisler, Malon Edwards, Tim Marquitz, Trisha J. Wooldridge, Wayne Helge, Wayne Ligon, and William Todd Rose.

Participants have to be 18 years of age or older to participate. Void where prohibited by law. Giveaway rules are subject to change. 

The giveaway is open WORLD WIDE, and it will run from March 26, 2012 until 12:01am ET on April 7, 2012.

How to participate:
  • Once logged in to the Rafflecopter, enter your email. This is the only mandatory thing to do to enter the giveaway.
  • One entry per person, or face disqualification.
  • Entries accepted until 12:01am ET on April 7, 2012.
  • There will be 5 winners total, who will get one ecopy of Corrupts Absolutely?
  • Those 5 winners will get 1 eBook of choice by Tim Marquitz too
  • Of those 5 winners, 1 winner will get an additional eBook of choice by Tim Marquitz
  • Will have to confirm email to be considered a winner within a week after April 7, 2012.
  • Additional entries may be had by following the steps provided in the Rafflecopter instructions, and only by doing those steps. 
  • Winners will be chosen by random selection using the Rafflecopter.

Well, that's pretty much it. Have fun, and good luck!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

K.J. Parker, what does it say about SFF reviewers?

For the past few weeks there's been plenty of talk around the blogosphere about the coverage, particularly in reviews, female authors get in SF/F. This was in part due to this study posted on lady business website. I think it's interesting, but as with stats and sampling, if not handled with care they can lead to "dangerous" conclusions. And I think there are plenty of those conclusions going around (not necessarily by those who made the study, but all sorts of commenters not limited to those on the site). The one I'm going to pick on is the idea that male reviewers don't review female authors. Not really because I disagree with that notion, but because the studies being made don't really care to differentiate about the subgenres and gender dominance in those subgenres, in particular how they skew the stats in ways that can easily mislead and/or deceive.

More importantly, people see the data, see the results and they seem to be more interested in drawing these "dangerous" conclusions from them than stepping back and asking the most important question of all, "why?" Why is this data presenting itself as it is? The most common answer is "oh, girl cooties", which I think is just over-simplistic and misleading.

My theory is, though I think someone with a science background might say that it's actually a hypothesis, that even though there will be tendencies towards reviewing same sex authors, the variable that most impacts what is being reviewed is the subgenre the blog focuses on. Now, why that is, I don't know. That's a question and problem for someone else to figure out. Is it a problem of what and how authors are writing? Is it a problem of what publishers are picking up? Is it a problem of what review copies are being sent and to whom? A marketing problem? Or is there a real problem of gender bias in the SF/F review community? I don't know.

One of the things that the study on lady business was interested in was finding out if it's true that women are more diverse in their reading and reviewing habits. The study does illustrate that, and I can agree with that notion. For good or bad, the study is an eye opener for some to self examine their habits and it does bring focus to the issue and gets people talking.

The reason these stats have shown such a divide on male to female reviews is that many of the blogs studied from female reviewers have a lot of urban fantasy reviews and also reviews from YA categories. As I understand it, these are dominated by female authors. I take a look at a review site like All Things Urban Fantasy and the studied Janicu's Book Blog on lady business and all I see is the same divide found in genres like epic fantasy and science fiction, only the inverse. But somehow, this divide is considered by many as acceptable; it balances the scale so to speak. When in reality, it's doing nothing of the sort. The male reviewers, though, as depicted, don't venture into these areas as often which is a problem in itself, but does nothing to rectify the idea that female authors aren't being as reviewed in epic fantasy and science fiction genres. These stats while illustrating the diversity of female reviewers, it says nothing of how much they're contributing in non-UF subgenres.

For example, there are very few female bloggers I currently follow that really focus on subgenres outside of urban fantasy, two of them being Bookworm Blues and Little Red Reviewer who I think are great; if people can point me towards more of them I'd appreciate it. I take a look at their review index, and on the eye test, it's quite apparent that they review more male authors than female authors. As a quick confirmation I asked Bookworm Blues' blogger about this, and she told me that she was certain she reviews more males than females. Now that doesn't jibe with what was found in the lady business research and what it says about female reviewers' habits. Then I take a look at what's been reviewed on our blog, a blog that has a tendency to review urban fantasy, and what I find doesn't jibe with what is found in the lady business study either. We're two male reviewers and 58% of our reviews contain a female author component (some are co-authored) if I'm counting right.

So maybe males and females aren't as distinct in what sexes they review, but the difference lies in the diversity of genres/subgenres they review. Or are we the exception?

Which brings me to my initial intent of this post: K.J. Parker. Sorry for the detour, I honestly had no intention of writing any of the above, at least in that exhaustive manner. But, the show must go on. Over the past week or two, I've been discussing K.J. Parker quite a bit, mainly on how I'm missing out since I haven't read any of his/her books. So after everyone made me feel like a complete turd for not reading any of Parker's books, we got to asking if anyone really knew what his/her sex is. You see, K.J. Parker is a fantasy author who is widely believed to be female, but for some time now rumors of Parker actually being male have surfaced. Few know, and they're not telling.

And that got me to thinking, what does K.J. Parker mean to the state of the SF/F community, particularly in regards to the idea that men don't review female authors? But keep in mind that Parker is not the only gender neutral author around.

As a matter of laziness, I took to the same blogs that lady business studied to see how widely Parker was reviewed. Keeping in mind that I excluded two sites, one because it was difficult to search through, and another because the sex of the reviewers are unknown, I researched 19 of them. From those 19, male review blogs accounted for 11 of them, 6 of them were for females, and 2 of them were mixed. On 19 blogs, K.J. Parker was found to be reviewed 26 times, and 16 of them were from male review blogs, while 3 reviews were from female blogs. There are still 7 reviews unaccounted for, which I'll add to the males since they were reviewed by a male reviewer. So of 26 reviews, 23 were done by male reviewers on 9 blogs out of 12 (remember I added one). Comparing it to females, they got 3 reviews in 2 blogs out of 6.

I don't know, but I find that quite curious. Am I onto something? Maybe what we need is more female bloggers reviewing female authors outside of urban fantasy? How many of these blogs have reviewed some of the recent female debut authors from Night Shade Books, various of whom have been reviewed and enjoyed by male reviewers, for example?

Also I ask, why has K.J. Parker been so successful with male reviewers? Is it something about how he/she writes? Is is the mystery of his/her sex? But remember, K.J. Parker to this point has been believed to be female. But whatever he/she is doing, it's resonating very well in the SF/F community.

Some final thoughts. There's certainly gender inequality all around, but let's not limit it to how women are having a tough time in epic fantasy and science fiction, I see plenty of men struggling to find an audience in urban fantasy, too. Maybe what we need is more men reading and reviewing urban fantasy, as well as more women reading and reviewing epic fantasy and science-fiction (regardless of the sex of the author)? I don't think the burden has to be entirely in a shift of habit from what current bloggers are doing in the respective subgenre they're reviewing.

If reviewers, both male and female do their part, so to speak, and there still exists a divide on epic fantasy and science fiction reviews, then I think the only recourse is for changes to be made outside of blog reviewers. I don't think that forcing, well exhorting for that matter, bloggers to review more females for the sake of reviewing them is the way to go, I think it should come naturally and organically, but maybe that's just me being idealistic. But I'm of the idea that if more female reviewers are interested in fantasy and science fiction, outside of UF, and more male bloggers get interested in UF it might cause a chain reaction on what books are picked up by publishers and how books are sent to be reviewed.

And last question, if K.J. Parker were revealed to be a male writer, what does that say about SF/F reviewers,  and does it mean anything at all?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bastard Promotion: Yurine's Pot by Richard Auffrey

Before you go further, download Yurine's Pot by Richard Auffrey for FREE during this weekend.

Anyways, friend of the blog, Richard Auffrey has just published his first short story via Kindle called Yurine's Pot. Before I went into reading fantasy novels and the likes, my background was on things related to anime and manga, and I'm constantly surprised by how much Richard knows about the them. I'm starting to believe more than me, which is not common around my circles. So it's no surprise that this short story deals with a Japanese sake legend, and at the very least I trust that he knows quite a bit on the subject.

For those that don't know, Richard runs a blog known as The Passionate Foodie which focuses on, well, food. Wine, cheese, gourmet food, you name it, he's well informed in the subject, an expert, so I'm curious to see how he seems to mix some of his passions in prose.

Anyways, here's more info on the story:
If your son was dying of cancer, what would you do to save him?

I have taken a big step, self-publishing a new short story for the Kindle. I have always loved writing fiction, and have previously posted five of my food & wine related tales on my blog. I have written plenty of other fiction that has yet to be posted anywhere. It is time to take the next step, to start publishing my work and the advent of the e-book has made that more accessible. So this story is a pioneer, blazing a path for me which I hope will lead to a better realm.

The tale, Yurine's Pot, is a modern fantasy, revolving around an ancient Japanese legend about Sake. A father, whose son is dying of cancer, may have discovered a mystical cure but others are willing to kill for it. Is the legend real or is the father merely deluding himself? What is the father willing to sacrifice to save his son?

This short story is now available HERE and will be Free on Saturday and Sunday, before reverting back to its $0.99 price.

I hope that you enjoy this short story, and if you do, please leave a review on Amazon as well as leave me a comment here on my blog. If you have any constructive criticism, I would love to hear that as well. If this story is well received, it could be the first of more Sake-centric short stories.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bastard Reaction: The Rift Walker by Clay & Susan Griffith

Once I finished up The Greyfriar, I dove right into The Rift Walker. As mentioned in the debut's review, an extremely fun novel, but noted some grievances I had with it. So started reading the sequel with some trepidation and leveled my expectations; I shouldn't have. The Rift Walker took all my concerns and rendered them moot. If Clay & Susan Griffith's debut was a good one, then The Rift Walker is an excellent sequel in the Vampire Empire series.

War has been averted for the time being, though concerns still remain and the possibility of retaliation is being planned. The citizenry have romanticized through numerous plays and stories the possibility of a relationship of Greyfriar with their Princess Adele. In the meantime she's set to be wed to Senator Clark and finally forge the alliance between their respective empires, and the date is fast approaching; Adele has been trying to avoid it. The vampires are on the move, and they're planning something big, maybe even catastrophic with the cunning Cesare leading the way.

I described The Greyfriar as a very fun, but unbalanced novel. It was action packed, but a bit uneven on the plot progression and some of the character interaction. I'm glad to say, that as far as I'm concerned, these issues were fixed in The Rift Walker. While still having plenty of action, it was more sparse allowing many of the underlying elements to come to the forefront to be developed. This is particularly true with how the political intrigue gets into the meat of the story and makes it that much more interesting. I've always felt that a good political intrigue, no matter how small a part it has, really has the potential to enhance a story exponentially. The misuse of it in the debut novel hurt it in my opinion, but it made The Rift Walker that much richer for me. It added another layer to the plot and actually gave it the support it needed, making it stronger.

Going back to the character interaction aspect, once again much improved, particularly with the interaction between Princess Adele and Greyfriar. The dialogue was more natural and abundant, and despite my usual reservations about romantic elements, some of it was introduced to the story which I thought was for the better. They got a good dynamic going, with its usual up and downs, but I think there are some interesting things going on between those two. I just hope that the balance that exists at the moment remains.

Outside of the two main characters great strides were also made, I thought just about every character that has been introduced in the story to this point became plenty better, a marked step in the right direction. Even Senator Clark, who I figured to be annoying in the first book. Still annoying as heck, but Clay & Susan made it work, even making fun of the character's buffoonery which is a sign that the authors know what they actually have with him. There was also Cesare, a prince among vampires and the main antagonist, who I thought was misused in the first book as his tactics were inconsistent and underwhelming, really shines in this one. Lastly, recognition has to be given to two of my favorite side characters, Mamoru and Colonel Anhalt particularly since they were given plenty of exposure, as opposed to being relegated to obscurity.

The only real complaint that I recall having through the book is that pace could have been better. This time the story takes a while to develop, and there were some slow, maybe even dull moments, during the middle portions. While I'm usually a patient man, I think the story progression could have used some speeding up, while still remaining detailed. The good thing is that through all of this we get plenty of interesting developments, plot twists and we get plenty of world building; learned about the history of the world and the place of magic in it.

Speaking of world building, once again I have to compliment of the steampunk devices that have been introduced. They fit just right with all other aspects of what has been created, making the action plenty interesting and well balanced with magic and other supernatural aspects. That said, I hope we get even more of the steampunk variety going forward, there's plenty of room for it. And of course, the magic gets a bigger focus this time around, so looking to see what more they can do with it. Lastly, the world is expanding. We're entering new territories, delving deeper into Africa and we also got a few glimpses of life in North America. Asia has been mentioned, so I wonder if we'll get there at some point too.

These books have been quite action packed, and though in The Rift Walker it was a bit less so, when the action comes it comes hard and quite violent. It can get a bit graphic at times, but not overdone. Let's call it tasteful violence. But let's just say, that the story doesn't shy away from creating a bloodbath when it calls for it. And when coupled with the improved plot progression and the numerous plot twists the novel introduced, it simply makes for very good entertaining read.

My main complaints to this point have been about characterization, about plot progression, about balance, about consistency, about character interaction. I think I've said enough to illustrate how The Rift Walker has improved upon these issues. And let's not forget that I also had mentioned about the inconsistency of how warm weather affects vampires, and that's also addressed in this one, and put to good use. The characters have been given more depth, more moral ambiguities, and simply became less predictable throughout. Betrayals and trust issues abound, never quite knowing who we can rely on, adding to the suspense of an already improving plot.

This is one of those books that I feel make a good crossover between the YA market and the adult market, in a similar vein to that of Blake Charlton's Spellwright books have been doing, but only in that context. The story is not complex, it reads simple, but not simplistic. But it's building towards something more which has me plenty interested.

I simply loved reading The Rift Walker, thought it to be an outstanding follow-up to Clay & Susan Griffith's debut. I'm still of mind that the more discerning adult readers might not find much to their liking here, particularly those who look for more challenging reads, but this is a book that I'll recommend with little hesitation, even to those that might have not found the first one to their liking. I'd have seen plenty of the aforementioned readers enjoying the heck of these books, so what do I know? It simply gave me exactly what I was looking to get out of the Vampire Empire series, and very much looking forward to the next installment, The Kingmakers.

Buy The Rift Walker from The Book Depository.

Please visit Clay & Susan Griffith's website and blog for more information.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mihir's Thoughts: Curran Volumes Vol 2.5

So I’m back as B. basically promised that if I didn’t get this review done he would unleash all types of spam-bots on my e-whereabouts. Like the previous post about the Curran Volumes, these were written exclusively by Andrew Gordon (one half of the excellent writing team that is Ilona Andrews). Gordon released two more Curran snippets, one after their character won in a fan voting against that of J.R. Ward a few months ago and recently when an awesome fan mailed them something pretty cool.

With such largesse, all us fans get some truly amazing scenes to read about. Both these snippets are set in the past; the first one is set after the events of Magic Strikes and one week before the events of Magic Bleeds. Read snippet over HERE.

In this snippet, Jim comes to Curran with some dire news about Kate’s past. All of this is already known to us readers as we have been privy to Kate’s thoughts and knowledge of her past through her POV, but it was interesting to see both Jim and Curran digest it. The event shown in the snippet has not been shown in the books. It’s not a big scene, however its importance resonates quite spectacularly as it shows the depth of Curran’s passion for Kate. At the same time we also get to see his foresight as well. As a reader of the books, we often see Curran and his actions from Kate’s viewpoint and so they are colored by her prejudices and her upbringing. So certain things, when viewed from Curran’s sight are not only refreshing but simply exciting. The snippet ends rather quickly and we are left to rue the events that would take place thereby further lengthening the twisted courtship process which takes place between Kate and Curran.

The second Curran POV snippet is set into the latter third of Magic Strikes; read snippet HERE. Once again we get to see events which we have read about but now from Curran’s eyes. This snippet is what the authors reveal to be “smexy”. Gordon’s not overtly comfortable with such scenes and he’s made it clear in the start, “I am not super comfortable with the smexy scenes. However, I was bribed with action figures by Diana G. I did my best to convey the Beast Lord’s thoughts and feelings but we men are simple creatures, not much goes through our head in these situations beyond “Boobies,” and “I got Snu snu” to quote Futurama. The scene where the guys are in pelvic casts, high-fiving each other is pretty spot on. With that said, please take it for what it is, warts and all.”

The scene involves Kate and Curran in a hot tub and we get pretty much what most readers wish for, the twist being that things end up a bit abnormally but considering its Kate & Curran they could be classified as normal. There’s not much I can write about this snippet without revealing what it’s all about. We do however get the depth of Curran’s passion and some might be a bit troubled by it but considering his character, this is pretty much in line. Once he’s set on something, he will do anything to get it done. On a separate note the authors also had to clarify a few things about the scene and one of their inside jokes about their author friends in a post the very next day. I thought this was a bit funny simply because of the level of fan discussion that prompted this second blog post. All things considered Ilona Andrews do have a very active and vociferous fanbase and sometimes they really do voice their thoughts to the extreme.

In all, these Curran snippets and scenes are very much appreciated and both Bastard and I hope that we get more of them along with the books. Lastly, this year sees the release of Andrea Nash’s solo book (titled GunMetal Magic) and a Kate Daniels novella (more info HERE). The book’s cover is different from the look of the Kate Daniels series and some info about it can be found HERE.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bastard Giveaway: Dragon in Chains by Daniel Fox

I've got to admit, whenever I see one of those giveaways that has a Rafflecopter in it, I shy away from it. Seems like a pain in the ass to enter the giveaway. In the past few days I've been warming up to the idea of using it for my own giveaways here. Just seems like the right tool to make my life a bit easier running them.

So, as a complete random test run, I just came up with this giveaway. It'll be for the paperback edition of Dragon in Chains by Daniel Fox, the first novel in the Moshui: the Books of Stone and Water series. Published by Del Rey, which is a Random House imprint, so seemed appropriate; because it's "random". Yeah, moving on. This is a personal copy of mine. It's unread, and although it's not in perfect condition, it's pretty much "Like New".

The reason I'm giving away this book is that I've come to the realization that I may never get to read it, so it's better off in someone else's hands. Seen a lot of praise for the book though, so hope one of you ends up enjoying it. Here's the description for Dragon in Chains:
From award-winning author Daniel Fox comes a ravishingly written epic of revolution and romance set in a world where magic is found in stone and in water, in dragons and in men–and in the chains that bind them.

Deposed by a vicious usurper, a young emperor flees with his court to the small island of Taishu. There, with a dwindling army, a manipulative mother, and a resentful population–and his only friend a local fishergirl he takes as a concubine–he prepares for his last stand.

In the mountains of Taishu, a young miner finds a huge piece of jade, the potent mineral whose ingestion can gift the emperor with superhuman attributes. Setting out to deliver the stone to the embattled emperor, Yu Shan finds himself changing into something more than human, something forbidden.

Meanwhile, a great dragon lies beneath the strait that separates Taishu from the mainland, bound by chains that must be constantly renewed by the magic of a community of monks. When the monks are slaughtered by a willful pirate captain, a maimed slave assumes the terrible burden of keeping the dragon subdued. If he should fail, if she should rise free, the result will be slaughter on an unimaginable scale.

Now the prisoner beneath the sea and the men and women above it will shatter old bonds of loyalty and love and forge a common destiny from the ruins of an empire.

Participants have to be 18 years of age or older to participate. Void where prohibited by law. Giveaway rules are subject to change. 

The giveaway is open for US mailing addresses only, and it will run from March 18, 2012 until 12:01am ET on March 26, 2012.

How to participate:
  • Once logged in to the Rafflecopter, enter your email. This is the only mandatory thing to do to enter the giveaway.
  • One entry per person, or face disqualification.
  • Entries accepted until 12:01am ET on March 26, 2012.
  • There will be 1 winner total, who will get one copy of Dragon in Chains by Daniel Fox.
  • Will have to confirm email to be considered a winner within a week after March 26, 2012.
  • Additional entries may be had by following the steps provided in the Rafflecopter instructions, and only by doing those steps. 
  • Winners will be chosen by random selection using the Rafflecopter.

Well, that's pretty much it. Have fun, and good luck!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Interview with Myke Cole - author of Shadow Ops: Control Point

It has arrived, the best interview that has ever been posted on this blog. Just so happens to be the first one, but who cares about the details. Have been very hesitant to do one, so hopefully this turned out better than OK, it's the best one after all. Joining me today is fellow interviewer Mihir as we asked a few question to the great Myke Cole, author of Control Point. There's also a quick cameo question from author Tim Marquitz who I had been discussing Cole's book with.

In any case, hope you guys are entertained and if that doesn't occur, at least learn something. And if by chance you encounter a silly or lame question, it wasn't my fault I swear. Without further ado, here's Myke Cole uncensored and unedited.


Bastard: Before we get started, let me just say that I'm about to lose my interview virginity and feeling a bit nervous about it. Please be gentle, ok?

Myke Cole: Just relax. Remember, I liked you before you were an interviewer. If you’re a little awkward, or clumsy, I’ll understand. I’m so excited to be your first time.

Bastard: Let's start with the most important question then, what's your favorite beer (mine is Budweiser, please don't shoot me)?

Myke Cole: I would never shoot you. You’re a man after my own heart. The truth is that I hate bitter flavors, so ales are right out. When it comes to lagers, I prefer Asian brews like Tiger (Saigonese) or Gold Medal (Taiwanese). But honestly? I drink hard cider mostly. If I can’t get that, I’ll order a wiessebier or wheat beer. Go ahead, make fun. You can’t be worse than my sailors.

Bastard: Now that we got that out of the way, what can you tell us about Myke Cole which you deem is important for us to know and understand you a little better?

Myke Cole: My life is defined by two disciplines to which I’m equally committed: Nerd-culture and military service. I am a committed comic book, fantasy novel, SF/F TV/movie, table-top gaming and RPG dork. I never grew out of it and never will. It is the center of my life and that cannot ever change. At the same time, I am equally committed to public service of the most dangerous breed. This is partly because I’m an adrenaline junky, and partly because I think that if you really want to help people, you need to be willing to take risks so they don’t have to. For better or for worse, armed service is a kind of risk I’m well suited to. When you blend these two streams, you get me – distilled. Bring up guns or D&D at a bar and stand back while I hold forth.

Mihir: Just out curiosity, why the “Y” in your name? I don’t think you were born with it so what lead you to change it?

Myke Cole: It’s true, I wasn’t born with it. It started in college when Peter V. Brett began spelling his name “Peat” for a lark. I switched to “Myke” in solidarity, and quickly discovered that it got editors to pull my manuscripts out of slush piles (“Hey, why does this guy spell his name funny . . . Oh! Neat story . . .) After that, I committed to it and it stuck. It’s now a registered alias, and engraved on my officer’s saber.

Mihir: How much of your military experience was useful for you in drawing the vivid background of the story which you have created?

Myke Cole: All of it, but the parts that stand out are likely the opposite of what you’d expect. The actual fighting in the book needed to be dramatic (real combat is short, ugly and confused, and not terribly well suited to fantasy novels), so I wound up drawing from that only slightly. Where real military experience came in most handy was in the depiction of bureaucracy, paperwork, waiting and hidebound commitment to process over people. That kind of stuff never gets the detail it deserves in military fiction. Or, at least, not the resonance.

Bastard: When you worried about how to write the dramatic aspects in the "actual fighting", was it specific to individual fights, full on battles, or both? Can you write us a quick little scene of how you'd depict a fight had you gone for an accurate and realistic portrayal instead of worrying about the dramatic to the extent that you did?

Myke Cole: Individual/fire-team level fights are easier, because they tend to run on CQB (Close-Quarters Battle) TTPs (Tactics, Techniques and Procedures). These are inherently dramatic and lend themselves more easily to writing cool battle scenes.

What folks don’t understand is that the vast majority of modern combat (even at the fire-team level) often takes place at great distances. You usually have only the vaguest idea of where your enemy is and whether or not you’ve hit him. You’re either firing your weapon at a faint light or a spot on the horizon, or you’re calling in fire from a platform that can be miles away.

And that doesn’t make for pulse-pounding action scenes. A radio crackling “Shot, over” and then a faint boom in the distance is nowhere near as cool as a breacher blowing the lock off a door and then kicking it in.

Bastard: During the war, what was your weapon of choice, if the choice was given? If you carry, or if you had to carry a weapon while off duty in the states, which would you choose and why? Or maybe you carry multiple weapons?

Myke Cole: I was not given any choices in armament. My long gun was always the M4. My sidearm was the Glock 17 when I was contracting and the M-11 (9mm Sig) when I was direct government. In the guard, our longs are the M-16 or Remington 870 and our short is the Sig P229-DAK.

Off duty in the states, I never carry any weapons. I am not authorized to do so and even if I was, I would far prefer that authorized law enforcement officials with appropriate jurisdiction handle any problems wherever I am. I have very strong feelings on appropriate use of force. I wrote a blog entry on the topic, which you can read here -

Bastard: You used to be a security contractor, or as you say, "a nice way of saying 'mercenary'." Mercenary seems to have a negative connotation, often through their portrayals in movies and TV shows like Jericho. Is that warranted in any way, and if not, what can you tell us about being a security contractor to alleviate some of the misconceptions about what being a security contractor entails?

Myke Cole: Thanks for asking this question. I refuse to sugar-coat what I did, but at the same time, I think people slander the term “mercenary” without knowing what they’re talking about much of the time. I became a contractor in a weird window (post 9/11) where the public was willing to permit private contractors to do pretty much all of the work our uniformed services did, seamlessly integrated. That window has now pretty much closed.

The vast majority of us who went into security contracting during that period did so idealistically: We wanted to help. We saw ourselves as public servants every bit as much as our government counterparts. We risked our lives. We wanted to make things better in dangerous places, and many of us (like me) even began to see it as a foot in the door to finally get into actual federal service later on down the line. As soon as I could, I became a direct federal employee and even joined a uniformed service on the reserve side. This was the norm with my colleagues. Of the folks I began contracting with, I’d say around 70-80% of us wound up as civilian government employees or military personnel, or both.

So, yes. I was a mercenary. But I was never a profiteer. My motive was NEVER money. I signed up to help, and I did that, to the best of my ability. Thanks for giving me the chance to say that.

Bastard: You shared this video with us the other day, which I personally found hilarious. Was it funny for you too? Also, which of them do you get the most often, which do you find the most lame/annoying, and which one do you find the most insulting personally? And no, I won't be asking you if you're a lesbian again.

Myke Cole: Honestly? The thing folks say to me most often isn’t covered in that video: “Thanks for your service.” The video is harping on the annoying/clueless things folks say most often. It doesn’t address the fact that the vast majority of folks I meet are very respectful of my service. They say thanks and change the topic, figuring that if I want to talk about it, I’ll bring it up.

Bastard: Serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, which has been your proudest moment? And I'm linking this post you make in December, which I thought was excellent.

Myke Cole: Glad you liked the post. I wasn’t going to write it originally, but once my agent suggested I do so, it just came pouring out.

Proudest moment? Man, this is going to sound really lame, but it’s the truth. I was at Balticon (Baltimore’s SF/F convention) a few years back. I had just checked into my room at the hotel when my cell phone rang. There’d been a major oil spill off the Gulf Coast (it was the Deepwater Horizon disaster). I had 24 hours to be in New Orleans. I hung up, checked out of the hotel, got in my car, drove home and grabbed my sea bag. Within 18 hours, I was mustering in New Orleans.

Driving out of the hotel parking lot, I waved goodbye to my friends, my agent, other writers. They were carrying on with the con, enjoying themselves, safe and happy. And I was part of the reason why. There was a disaster, a crisis unfolding that could potentially affect them, but they didn’t have to worry about it, because I was on the job (it also helped that, since this was an oil spill, it had none of the moral conflict that a war does).

I was so unspeakably proud at that moment, giving up my good time to secure theirs, having them watch me go, knowing that I was on the job. Those 5 seconds made everything else I put up with in the military well, well worth it.

Bastard: "...where failure is unforgettable and success is often invisible," can you give us an example of each in your life?

Myke Cole: There’s absolutely no way for me to answer this question without coming across as either entitled, ungrateful or self-aggrandizing. The job I do comes with special pressures and public expectations that I acknowledge are unfair. I embrace that challenge as part of what is required to serve in my capacity. The motto on that sign is there to remind us of that. There will be times when we will be blasted for trying to do the right thing. There will be times when we do amazing things and nobody will know or care. We can’t do it because we want to be acknowledged. We can’t do it because we want to be treated nicely. We have to do it because we love the people we’re serving.

Bastard: Homosexuality in the Army, there are multitudes of myths and theories of the negative impact it allegedly has there. Would you care to bust one of them? Or simply what's your general opinion of what place sexual orientation has in the Army, and should we care?

Myke Cole: I’m not going to answer this question for a specific reason: as a uniformed officer, it’s critical that members of the public believe I am there to serve and protect them, no matter what their political beliefs or sexual predilections. If I start holding forth about my own personal opinion, they might doubt my commitment to lay down my life for them. I can’t have that. My opinion on military matters is irrelevant. What matters if that I do my job, do it well and do it without hesitation.

However, I will say this: Our Commandant, Admiral Robert J. Papp, was the most vocally supporting of the repeal of DADT of all the service chiefs. He has made it abundantly clear that homosexuals are welcome in the guard and that they are to be treated with dignity and respect.

And I am very, very proud to serve under Admiral Papp. 

Bastard: Applying your own context, what's your biggest weakness and your greatest strength?

Myke Cole: Well people ask me this all the time in terms of writing, so let me shift it to personal. Personally, I am the most intensely loyal person I know. I am the guy who helps you move, who helps you paint your apartment, who stays up until 4AM listening to you vent your anxiety attack. Better, I am the guy who stands up for you when people tear your down behind your back. Ultimately? I’m the guy who wades into the fight when you’re beset. I am the guy who will take a bullet for you if necessary.

And this loyalty is also my greatest weakness. I have a really hard time saying “no” to people and often find myself overwhelmed and falling behind on work because I’ve over-extended myself for social events or agreeing to support my friends in their various trials. That’s no good either. I’m not good to anyone if I let my own life go to pieces.

Bastard: A few days ago, I jokingly commented that since you're now a published author and bathing in riches that you should hire an accountant to help you with your complicated tax situation. You quickly proceeded to put me in my place in my wrong perception. From your experience, what can you tell us about why is it so difficult to make a good living being a full-time author, and what's your outlook of the future in the book selling market?

Myke Cole: I won’t tell you anything you don’t already know. It’s difficult to make a living as a writer (assuming the baseline that you’re a good writer who has a real book deal with a major publisher) for the following reasons:
  1. Less people are reading (why this is, is a whole other discussion)
  2. More and more people are reading eBooks, and eBooks are vulnerable to ePiracy
  3. As publishers lose money, the terms they offer writers (royalty rates, size of advances, etc . . .) get steadily worse.
  4. The digitization of books has changed public expectations as to what a fair price for a book is, resulting in a “race to the bottom” in book pricing. There’s simply less and less money to go around as everything gravitates to free.’s use of books as a loss-leader is a very troubling development here.
I won’t lie. The future of book selling isn’t looking great right now. I’d say the best-case scenario would be for things to continue as they are right now: A reduction (but stabilization) of brick and mortar stores, and maybe an increase of independent stores as they eat up the space left by Borders. I’d also like to see a stabilization of ePiracy to the point where a mostly digital industry can survive.

The worst case scenario? EPiracy and falling book prices (driven by Amazon’s loss-leading/power-leveraging tactics and the public’s refusal to pay much, if anything, for books) finally make traditional publishing unsustainable. Along with this collapse, we see the end of the brick and mortar bookstore, to the point where bookstores occupy the same niche that vinyl record stores do today (they exist, but only as boutique, out-of-the-way places). In such an scenario, a writer gets a book out there the same way a painter gets art out there: You produce, you exhibit, you hope that you can generate a grassroots following.

I don’t like that scenario, because I think it would be REALLY hard for the public to weed through all the junk to find the good books. Review blog Staffer’s Musings just did an interesting experiment on this topic (see it here - I also think it would become MUCH harder for writers to make a living or be discovered (and it’s already really hard).

But in such a scenario? I’d keep going. Because this is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do with my life. 

Bastard: Be it boxing, wrestling, fiction, sports, there's always this fascination with "go to moves", "signature moves", "finishers", "special skill"; Kamehameha!!! What martial arts disciplines have you studied? In a fight, do you use a combination of all of them, or do you switch it up depending on the opponent's style or what your intention is, disable, defend, kill? Lastly, do you have a "go to move" and/or a move that you'd consider your "finisher"?

Myke Cole: Specific military TTPs are not for public dissemination. That’s a great way to let the bad guys know precisely how we come after them. This makes me wonder how movies like ACT OF VALOR get made. I know that the Department of Defense’s motion picture liaisons were all over that film and approved it, but it seems to me like the movie will be showing a lot of people just what to expect if the SEALs ever come calling.

Bastard: I'm a huge manga fan and I understand you've been a big comic book reader since your youth. Do you read any manga or are you exclusively a comic book reader? Also, what has been your favorite comic book series?

Myke Cole: I do read manga, though I admit it’s not my preferred comics mode. I dug the old Lone Wolf & Cub series, and followed Macross all the way through the Invid Invasion. I grew up on Voltron and Battle of the Planets and watched Vampire Hunter D and Akira in college.

My favorite comics would take waaaay too long to list here, so let me just stick to the classics. Not surprisingly, Captain America is my personal totem (and I’m talking about Ed Brubaker’s vision of the hero, bring cap from WWII into the present), but I also need to give shout outs to Mark Smylie’s Artesia, Kirkman’s Walking Dead, Waid’s Irredeemable and the Pini’s Elfquest. The list goes on. And on. And on.

Mihir:  Among the many things which I noticed in your book was this strong parallel to the Watchmen series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. What I mean is that in both, the creators have very realistically portrayed an epoch event [Magic, superheroes] with the common banalities of the world; the governmental regulation and red tape. I found this to be particularly fascinating, your thoughts?

Myke Cole: I am intensely flattered to be compared to Watchmen in any way. Moore is a brilliant writer (who, like Frank Miller, unfortunately went bats$#t crazy) who has influenced me tremendously. I would be lying if I said that Watchmen didn’t deeply influence my thinking about epochal events (really apocalyptical) and played a role in developing CONTROL POINT and the SHADOW OPS series.

Bastard: X-Men has been mentioned as one of the big influencers on how Control Point came about, to that end, which is your favorite X-Men character and whose mutant ability do you wish you had?

Myke Cole: Ha! Awesome question. My favorite X-Man used to be Wolverine (because I think that’s a requirement for every adolescent boy), but it has since become Magneto. Actually, he’s not an X-Man, but you get the idea. I did an in-depth character study on him once Peter V. Brett suggested that I make Scylla more Magneto-like (she was originally more angry and less justified/Machiavellian). I like how . . . reasonable he is. His arguments, while intensely destructive and evil, make perfect sense.

My kind of villain.

Mihir: You have eschewed a usual characteristic of Urban Fantasy stories by going in with a third person narrative, why so?

Myke Cole: First person narratives rob stories of tension because you assume the narrator can’t be killed. I’ve done them successfully before (and I know some writers have killed narrators in the first person), but it’s not my preferred mode.

I also don’t want to be locked into a single POV. CONTROL POINT is from Oscar Britton’s POV, but FORTRESS FRONTIER will be split between him and a new protagonist and even briefly show a third one. BREACH ZONE is currently outlining on three POVs. Third person gives a lot more latitude on that sort of thing.

Bastard: Peter V. Brett seems to be a great friend of yours, a friendship that began in High School, and an influence in your writing. How did this friendship come about? Give us the dirty details of your school days.

Myke Cole: Hah! Not ducking the question, but let me direct you to a joint podcast interview of us over at Functional Nerds. You can find it here - It lays it out much better than I could do here.

Suffice to say, we met in high school when Pete was managing a battle of the bands that I was competing in (we both had long hair at the time). By total coincidence, we met again on our first day of college (we both went to the same school), and became fast friends there. From then on, we were D&D partners, and encouraged one another in writing as well as our personal lives. We currently live about a 20 minute walk from one another (he’s on the good side of town). He’s busy now, raising his daughter, but we still try to see one another at least once every two weeks or so.

Mihir: Peter V. Brett had mentioned this on his blog, “Myke has been one of my inner-circle test readers for many years, and vice-versa. There is a lot of him in The Warded Man, and a lot of me in Latent. Keep your eyes peeled for it.” In regards to this statement could you give us an example of a suggestion which was encapsulated by PVB in his series and vice versa.

Myke Cole: Well, I just gave you the Scylla-as-Magneto example. That (along with many other good ideas) absolutely transformed her as a character and took CONTROL POINT over the top, enabling it to sell to Ace.

If you’re looking for my influence in Pete’s DEMON CYCLE, I would point to Krasian culture. Pete spent a lot of time puzzling it out with me over the phone, email and instant messenger. Pete knew that I’d worked with Iraqis during the war, spoke Japanese and was a competitive Kenshi (Japanese fencer). I’d lived some time in Japan as well. Medieval Arab and Japanese culture (along with some other influences, such as ancient Sparta) played into Pete’s thinking about what he wanted Krasia to look like, so he had a lot of questions for me on that topic. When I read the Krasian characters in his books today, I can see some of those conversations playing out. It’s enormously gratifying.

Bastard: In your twitter stream, you said the following, 'Also occurs to me that when my goal was "get published," I didn't. Once my goal became "write a great book," I got published.' Can you expand on that, particularly on how it applied to the process of writing and publishing Control Point?

Myke Cole: I talk about this in the podcast I referenced earlier. For years, I focused on understanding the market, networking and trying to anticipate publishing trends. I wrote well, but that was never good enough. I had some minor successes (won Writers of the Future, sold short stories to some major magazines), but never hit my real goal of a book deal. Then Pete hit it and THE WARDED MAN was a runaway success. This caused me to take stock of what I was doing.

When I sat down and really thought about what Pete had done differently from me, the answer became obvious fairly quickly: He hadn’t concerned himself with “knowing the market,” or going to cons, or writing short stories as a gateway in. He hadn’t bothered to learn the names of the important agents and editors. Instead, he’d focused on CRAFT. He’d written the best book he possibly could and let everything else take care of itself.

And it did. THE WARDED MAN beat all expectations and established him as a major force in the fantasy field with record speed.

That was when I sat down and SWORE to myself that I would never submit another manuscript to Joshua (my agent, who had already rejected 3 from me) until I knew it was the best book I could ever write, even if that took me the rest of my natural life.

And that was when the switch flipped. Once I committed to WRITING AN AMAZING BOOK instead of GETTING PUBLISHED, accepted the possibility that getting published might never even happen, I was able to put in the kind of focused work necessary to produce something that actually could get published.

And it did.

Bastard: In my review I mention that author Mark Lawrence asked in the SFFWorld forums, "What was the last fantasy book that mattered to you?" To me it's currently Control Point as detailed in said review. If asked this question, which novel would you choose and why? And no, you can't pick your own novel, that would be cheating.

Myke Cole: That’s incredibly kind, thank you. Ironically enough, the last fantasy book that mattered to me was Mark Lawrence’s PRINCE OF THORNS. Jorg’s trauma is so honestly painted that it reminds me of my own struggles post-Iraq in some very resonant ways. He’s a brilliant author and I can’t wait to read his next one.

Bastard: Control Point takes Oscar Britton on a journey partly focused on making choices under tough extraordinary circumstances, often pitting duty and following orders against one's beliefs and core values. Being part of the U.S. Armed Forces and a security contractor, is it safe to assume that this is something you experienced and if so, how did you deal with these kinds of situations?

Myke Cole: I deal with this all the time, and the truth is this: I am not Oscar Britton. I don’t have the courage of my convictions and the bravery to buck the system when I feel it is wrong. When the military orders me to do something I don’t agree with, I do it anyway (provided it isn’t Illegal). If I ever reached a breaking point, I would likely simply resign my commission after carrying out the order.

Oscar is a hero. I’m just a regular guy.

Mihir: The character of Fitzsimmons is someone whom most readers will love to hate, what lead to his creation and what were your thoughts in his creation?

Myke Cole: I actually feel an incredible amount of sympathy for Fitzy. I wrote a lot from his POV (and necessarily had to cut it from the book). Usually, people like Fitzy aren’t the way they are because they like it. They are warped into those forms by sustained trauma. Fitzy isn’t so much a bad man as broken one, and I am hoping one day to have the opportunity to share his perspective with my fans.

Tim Marquitz: Oscar Britton is the lead in Control Point, but is he going to continue as the MC or do you have plans to explore other characters as the lead voice of future books?

Myke Cole: The SHADOW OPS series was never intended as Oscar Britton’s story. It is the story of our world and how it copes with the introduction of magic. Britton has a major role to play (and a diminishing one, I should point out) in FORTRESS FRONTIER and BREACH ZONE, but there are other characters I intend to move to the fore. You will be seeing a lot more of Harlequin and FORTRESS FRONTIER will be introducing an entirely new POV character as well.

If I’m lucky enough to be able to write SHADOW OPS books beyond BREACH ZONE, I do not want to be locked into writing Oscar Britton stories. The world is too big and too exciting for that. I want freedom to explore it fully.

Mihir: In your debut while you focused majorly on the US army and latents, I also noticed that you mentioned the French & Indian forces as well. So in your sequel books, which other nations and mythologies will you be exploring?

Myke Cole: Heh. Fitting Mihir should be asking this question. He was kind enough to consult for me on Hindi/Sanksrit and Hindu mythology for FORTRESS FRONTIER, which features the army of the Republic of India fairly in-depth. As I outline BREACH ZONE, it is looking more and more certain that the magic-using military of an independent Quebec will be integrally involved. Naomi Novik explores foreign militaries extensively in her Temeraire series, and I found that really compelling. I’d love to do the same thing in SHADOW OPS.

Bastard: During a portion of Control Point, it was mentioned that pilots aren't as well trained in physical close combat as other officers. Is this a truth currently in the military services, and is it something you think should be addressed if it is?

Myke Cole: Well, I’m not a pilot, so I’m going on research here. My understanding is that military pilots’ combat training is focused mostly on SERE skills, with “combat arms” roles providing more intensive weapons and hand-to-hand combat training. But, that said, you have to keep in mind that I am telling the story of a future military in a fantasy world. It is meant to extrapolate off the real military, but it is NOT the real military, and I have to be given some leeway on that point. Or, at least I hope I will J

Bastard: Portal magic could be a tool that represents freedom and escape, yet through much of Control Point it was a tool that enslaved (for lack of better term) and restrained its main character. Personally I found this dichotomy to be one of the more interesting factors in the novel. When you initially thought of using this power, was this an original purpose for its introduction or did it develop organically through the story's plotting?

Myke Cole: When I first conceived of Oscar Britton, he was a Terramancer! I very quickly determined that if he was to be a compelling protagonist, he’d have to be a lot more special. Portamancy’s singular nature helped provide that edge, as well as doing the double duty of a.) being awesome and b.) making him absolutely indispensible to the US army. He is not someone they can put low on their priorities list.

But yes, I did really enjoy that irony: the thing that most ensures freedom guarantees his slavery.

Bastard & Mihir: Thanks for stopping by Myke, good luck in the rest of the series and congratulations on your early success. Any final words or want to give a shout-out to someone?

Myke Cole: The military is not a perfect organization. Yet for all its drawbacks, I believe it to ultimately be a force for humanitarian relief, social mobility and global security. As our nation becomes more and more wary of pre-emptive foreign entanglements, I am hopeful our armed forces will take on an even greater role in domestic security and humanitarian aid missions. Military service has been an incredible boon in my own life and I invite others to consider a reserve commitment. If you can’t join the reserve, all 5 branches (in this country at least) offer auxiliary roles where you can still help out. Stand with me. I can’t do this alone.

Myke, thanks once again for answering all the questions that were thrown at you, much appreciated. And the rest of you, make sure to go read my review from two days ago, or better yet just do yourselves a favor and buy Shadow Ops: Control Point. You can blame me...sorry, thank me for it later.

Also, please make sure to visit Myke Cole's website and you can follow him on Twitter @MykeCole.