Monday, November 4, 2013

Guest Post & Giveaway: Making Different Cities by Max Gladstone, author of the Craft Sequence

Each city has its own music.

I mean that literally—blues and hip hop and jazz and rock differ from town to town—but also figuratively.  Cities have different rhythms, different styles of driving, different prides and language patterns.  Writing urban fantasy is at its best an exercise in writing the city's music, transcribing its crazycool dreams and sometimes nightmares into monsters, magic, and mayhem.

That's difficult enough for cities that actually exist, places a person can walk around and breathe and come to know.  New York's real; you can taste it like wine on your tongue.  Boston you shoot more than sample.  London rolls smoky in the mouth.  Beijing you drink like baijiu: raise it in toast with your friends in thimble-sized cups and slam it down and exhale to avoid as much of the taste as possible, then do it all again, and probably light a cigarette because you're dying already aren't you?  The country kills you.

It's possible, I mean, to know a real city.

But I had to go set my books in a world that's not Earth.  I did that for good reasons—I wanted to depict a society where magic is woven through life, rather than Something Scary Out There.  For my first book, THREE PARTS DEAD, the task was pretty straightforward.  I imagined a city, and built it.  But I wanted the next book, TWO SERPENTS RISE, to focus on a different city in the same world, so that city had to feel different from the one in the first book.  I couldn't just go there to walk around.

Alt Coulumb, where THREE PARTS DEAD took place, had a very Northeastern feel: vertical lines, skyscrapers and tight alleys and central city parks and the like.  I drew off New York and Boston and London and Shanghai.  So, for the next book, why not go to the opposite extreme?  Which meant a horizontal city, a city that sprawled, a city of low roofs and occasional massive buildings, a city of heat and open space.  My wife's from Los Angeles, so I'd visited before, and, Tennessee boy as I am at heart, the place bowled me over with difference; Beijing did the same when I lived there.  And both cities had trouble with water, which fed into ideas I'd been worrying over about debt and dependency.

So far, so good.  I started paying more attention to Los Angeles when I visited, and I dredged up old memories of Beijing, some pleasant.  I stole stuff wholesale, reconfigured, warped, revised.  Cackled, sometimes, to myself, when I thought no one could hear.

What can I say?  I wrote this book in stolen half hours when any reasonable person would have been sleeping.  If you can't cackle at your own work at one o'clock in the morning before a long day at the office, when, I ask, are you allowed to so cackle?

 And at the end of all that cackling and warping and cutting and rearranging, I found myself with a city that owned its own rhythm, and its own horror.  A city in which my characters could live—which Caleb and his friends could love, hate, and want to defend.

Excellent, I thought.  Now I have something to destroy.



I read Three Parts Dead recently and really enjoyed it, a good combination of urban fantasy mystery set in a secondary world. One of the aspects I liked most of it was the world building, so glad that Max visited here and touched a bit upon his approach on creating societies and cities for his stories; thanks for stopping by.

Hope to read the sequel soon.

Well, let's get on with the giveaway, one winner for physical copies the two books of the Craft Sequence: Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise.

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 and Canada shipping addresses only, and it will run from November 4, 2013 until 11:59 pm ET on November 15, 2013.

How to participate:
  • To participate simply log-in into to the Rafflecopter and "Enter" through the easy entry.
  • One entry per person, or face disqualification.
  • Entries accepted until 11:59pm ET on November 15, 2013.
  • There'll be ONE winner only for a physical copy of Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise.
  • Will have to confirm email to be considered a winner within 48 hours.
  • 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.
Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can buy Two Serpents Rise at:

 Amazon, IndieBound, Barnes and Noble, Powell's, and The Book Depository.

For more information follow Max Gladstone on his blog or on Twitter @maxgladstone.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Guest Post: Warning: Coarse Language by Skyla Dawn Cameron, author of Demons of Oblivion

“People who swear just aren’t very creative.”

Raise your hand if you’ve heard someone say that as they lift their nose and take on an air of superiority.

Look, if you feel that way about naughty words, you’re not using them correctly.

Exhibit A: George Carlin




So...I curse.

A lot.

And so do a lot of my characters.

I think initially I got it from my mother. She could swear a blue streak, though didn’t get particularly creative with it and usually apologized afterward (not so now—I think I’ve influenced her in turn).

A lot of kids swear for the forbidden aspect but as I grew older it stuck with me. It’s not forbidden now; I am entirely comfortable with all manner of words. I can say things that’ll make a sailor blush and I don’t bat an eye at any of them. But the fact is, words have power. They have power that we assign to them, and it’s impossible to ignore the gendered aspect.

Fuck’s had lots of attention before. But let’s talk about cunt.

For a long time, this word made me uncomfortable. It was a word even my mother didn’t use. I know many women who will say anything but that word.

But here’s the thing: in a real life situation, I don’t want that word to scare me. I’ve been in uncomfortable—sometimes dangerous—situations before and froze when I heard that word. It carries a lot of baggage.  When used by certain people in certain circumstances, at the least it feels dismissive and at worst threatening. But I don’t want a simple word to have power over me.

I respect those who still refuse to use it, but for me, it was important to reclaim cunt. To say it over and over and over until it stopped sounding shocking, to use it and take the power from it. And that ends up in my writing.

Although I throw around a lot of curse words in my work, I tend to choose them with care. Different characters will lean toward different words.

For Peri in Lineage, a mercenary, she tends toward plain, harsh language like fuck, cocksucker, occasionally cunt. I’ve known a lot of blue-collar, midnight-shift workers, and that’s what I modeled her language after.

Ryann in Hunter is something else entirely: she’s a nun. And while it’s not her position in the church that keeps her from swearing—plenty of her colleagues do—it’s just her own personality that prefers not to say such things. She won’t even use darn. Despite cursing by other characters peppering the rest of her novel, when she finally utters a “Shut the hell up” at an opportune moment, it’s all the funnier.

Zara in Bloodlines and Exhumed is among my favourites, because she simply enjoys the words. She’ll use any and all curse words to make her point, and prefers to twist them in fun ways. (Like “fucktard.” C’mon, that one’s just fun to say.)

Including the forbidden c-word. From Exhumed:

I blinked, just in case I missed some look of irony but nope, he was serious. “I’m sorry, I think I’m having trouble hearing since she screamed TRAP so loud in my ear. She’s not just a lying cunt, she’s the Supreme Lying Leader of the Lying Cunts in Cuntania.”

“Cuntania” was a word that only Zara would end up saying. And it still makes me giggle.

I get it: words like these can draw a reader out of a story because they’re unexpected. The more shocking they are to the reader, the more out of place they’ll seem if used more than 2-3 times in a book. But all of that is subjective. Opinion. Period. You know what word draws me out of books? “Darn.” I don’t know a single person in real life who uses “darn.” I don’t see how sticking a word in place of “damn” is any less sweary. But, again, subjective.

Does this language put some people off of my books? Probably.

And that’s cool. It’s a creative choice like any other. There’s also graphic violence and vaguely sociopathic main characters; if it’s the swearing and not the violence that puts you off, well...okay then. You might very well be my grandfather.

My grandfather is ninety-nine years old and insists that I should cut the swearing out of my books as none of the popular writers (meaning female popular writers) have that level of cursing in their work. So I might always wallow in obscurity because of my cunty fucking language.

We’ll see, Grandpa. We’ll see.




Thanks for sharing that with us Skyla, it was fucking awesome. Skyla Dawn Cameron is the author of the Demons of Oblivion urban fantasy series which includes:

Bloodlines
Hunter
Lineage
Exhumed
Oblivion

As I understand it, she recently got the rights back to her books and she's re-releasing them. For the next few days you can buy Bloodlines for free, so take advantage of it while it lasts. The last one mentioned, Oblivion, seems to be scheduled for a 2014 release.

Demons of Oblivion series is a favorite of our friend Melissa from her My World...in books and pages and she's been pestering me to read it since forever, even came to the blog to share a few thoughts on it. Well fine, I'll give it a read Melissa... just grabbed Bloodlines.

In any case, this was an awesome guest post from Skyla, certainly one of my favorites... she had me at George Carlin, and with that I'll leave you with a video I've shared around here before, a 10 minute Fuck Bomb Reel from George.

Please visit Skyla Dawn Cameron's website for more information and you can follow her on Twitter @SkylaDawn.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Guest Post & Giveaway: Discovering the Inclusive Badass in Urban Fantasy by Teresa Frohock author of Miserere

When I first saw Tim Marquitz's call for stories for Manifesto: UF, I read it and thought I couldn't possibly write an urban fantasy short story. I mean, what did I know about the genre? I was totally intimidated by the blurb: "The time has come to make a statement, to define a genre. This is our manifesto ..."

"... to define a genre."

How could I help define a genre I didn't understand at all? Were they looking for something like Ilona Andrews's Kate Daniels series? Alex Bledsoe's Tufa series? Clive Barker's Cabal stories? Romance, angels, demons, fairies, and cities? What ... what ... what were they looking for in terms of stories?

I got out of there before my brain exploded. Sometimes I overthink things and that is precisely what I did with the Manifesto anthology. Other projects took my attention and I more or less forgot about the anthology until my little message bar popped up on Facebook one evening and it was Tim. He had seen an earlier status update about a short story that I had written, and he invited me to submit a story to Manifesto. I told him I didn't know anything about urban fantasy, but he wasn’t put off. He offered me several very broad suggestions, and I realized that I might be able to write something for him.

I looked at the guidelines again. The word "badass" kept jumping out at me. I realigned my thinking and put urban fantasy in the context of badass. It was then that I realized that the Kate Daniels series has snappy dialogue along with a badass protagonist who is wicked-sharp; Alex's Tufa are badass in a low-slung southern kind of way; and Clive Barker's Cabal stories were so badass they straddled the line between urban fantasy and horror.

I had an idea for a traditional fantasy story, but I thought that the story could work just as well in the present day. I reshaped the background and the characters to write "Naked the Night Sings." I didn't try to ram the story into any guidelines and I just had fun with the concept. I allowed convention to fall by the wayside and let the story run free.

When I was done, I saw that my story slid closer to Barker's style of badass--urban fantasy mixed with horror. As a matter of fact, I thought the story edged a little too close to horror to fit in the Manifesto anthology, but I offered it up to Tim nevertheless.

That was how "Naked the Night Sings" found its way into the anthology, and how I rethought my misconceptions about urban fantasy.

Definitions and categories are utilized by marketing and bookstores to show people where to look for the stories that they like. However, definitions usually present a narrow view, a statement of exact meaning or context. The short stories in Manifesto: UF defies the confines of a definition by showing the reader the absolute beauty and breadth of the urban fantasy genre. 

The very inclusiveness of urban fantasy is what makes it so much fun. This inhibition turns each story, each novel into a brand new adventure. Urban fantasy opens the door to the fantastic and the reader is never quite certain where the path will lead. The emphasis, however, is on fun and I like that, because enjoyment and wonder are what stories are about.

I know we take our genres and ourselves quite seriously at times. We passionately defend our viewpoints and why this story or that story may or may not be within the guidelines of urban fantasy or paranormal romance or traditional fantasy or dark fantasy or whatever new and amazing thing we discover next.

Yet there really are no rules, no definitions, and the only manifesto is the manifesto of fun.

Urban fantasy may contain aspects of horror; angels and demons and fae and all sorts of creatures wondrous and new; romance and pleasure and songs; stories may take place in cities or in small towns ...

Urban fantasy holds all of these things, some of these things, none of these things, you never know what you will find. That is the beauty of discovery.

So I've decided to make a manifesto of my own: to read for the joy of reading and to explore new genres without prejudice. I'll find some stories that I don't care for, but I'll also find a gem or two. All that is required of me is to remain open to the possibilities.

********

Teresa Frohock has turned her love of dark fantasy and horror into tales of deliciously creepy fiction. She is the author of Miserere: An Autumn Tale and has a short story, “Naked the Night Sings,” in the urban fantasy anthology Manifesto: UF. Teresa has long been accused of telling stories, which is a southern colloquialism for lying. Visit her at her website: www.teresafrohock.com




Thanks for visiting Teresa and welcome to the Urban Fantasy family. For those that don't know, I'm a big fan of Teresa Frohock since I loved her debut Miserere: An Autumn Tale which I reviewed here. In it, I made mention of how Miserere made me feel as if I was reading a story that's not urban fantasy, but what occurs behind the curtains of such a story. Highly recommended.

Make sure to follow Teresa on her website or on Twitter @TeresaFrohock.

And now for the giveaway, it'll be for 5 ecopies of the Manifesto: UF anthology edited by Tim Marquitz and Tyson Mauermann which includes Teresa Frohock's short story Naked the Night Sings.
From angels to vampires, dragons to wizards, Manifesto brings together twenty-three stories full of action, snark, and unadulterated badassery.
Featuring stories from Lucy A. Snyder, Jeff Salyards, William Meikle, Teresa Frohock, Zachary Jernigan, Betsy Dornbusch, Kirk Dougal, Karina Fabian, Adam Millard, Timothy Baker, Ryan Lawler, Andrew Moczulski, R.L. Treadway, Abhinav Jain, TSP Sweeney, Nickolas Sharps, Jonathan Pine, Kenny Soward, Joshua S. Hill, Jake Elliot, Lincoln Crisler, J.M. Martin, & Wilson Geiger.
The time has come to make a statement, to define a genre. This is our manifesto.

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 October 7, 2013 until 11:59 pm ET on October 14, 2013.

The giveaway is for a chance to win an ecopy of 5 of the Manifesto: UF anthology.

How to participate:
  • To participate simply log-in into to the Rafflecopter and "Enter" through the easy entry.
  • One entry per person, or face disqualification.
  • Entries accepted until 11:59pm ET on October 14, 2013.
  • There'll be 5 winners for 1 ecopy each of Manifesto: UF.
  • Will have to confirm email to be considered a winner within 48 hours.
  • 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.
Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 30, 2013

Guest Post: Life as a Serial Murderer by Anton Strout author of The Spellmason Chronicles

I confess.  I’m a serial murderer.  I can’t help it.  People have to die, and it’s my hands that do the dark deed.  And you know what?  I’m unapologetic about that.  Frankly, it’s one of the greatest joys I have in life.  It’s true—I love being an urban fantasy writer.

I sold my first book, DEAD TO ME, back in 2007 and at the time it was a standalone urban fantasy written basically because I missed Buffy too much.  What I hadn’t really considered—fledgling author, I—was that the publishers were going to want more Simon Canderous paranormal detective novels from me.  Yet somehow I managed to mentally process that request and somehow produced three more in that series before starting on a second one for them, the Spellmason Chronicles.  As we speak ALCHEMYSTIC and the just released STONECAST are already in the can for that series, and I’m currently fast at work on the third. How the hell did I get two series going?

Looking back, I have to marvel at the fact that I’ve produced seven books and five tie-in stories that spread over two different worlds. None of it came easy, believe me. I mean, I had spent a lot of time learning how to write, how to develop everything that goes into a single book, but the one area none of the classes or workshops I went to ever taught was how does one write an ongoing series?  When Ace asked for more Simon books, I was stumped.

Learning how to write a continuing series was something I was absolutely unfamiliar with, and since there was no class I could enroll myself in, my education came in trial by fire and learning through my mistakes as I went.

The first step was in adjusting how I thought about my next book, which at the time was DEADER STILL.  My thinking went from figuring out not just the short term goals for my characters but what the long term ones were for the book beyond DEADER STILL.

Luckily, I tend to write cinematically thanks to years of rampant geekery and viewing, so I began to think of each book in a series as episodes of a season.  They had their individual episodic goals as well as the longer term ones a television season usually has.  For instance, there are a lot of individual adventures that make up season three of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, but the goal of the whole season was to graduate and take down the Big Bad, Mayor Wilkins (whose Ascension into snake form does not go quite as he planned). 

In order to get that depth into my own work as a newfound book series writer, I came up with what I like to call The LOST Approach.

Love it or hate it, the LOST television series did things that really were unprecedented, and fan loyalty ran high.  What I specifically loved—and stole—from the series, however, was the short and long term goals of the show.  Along the way the writers of LOST planted a lot of what I call story seeds.  These gave the show room to grow in a variety of directions.

And like all gardens, not all things grew.  Some of them died on the vine, as they will when you plant a lot of seeds.  They can’t all survive, especially for the sake of the story.  You have to let them die.  Otherwise readers will think every last thing means something in your book, and well… where’s the fun in figuring out all the mysteries ahead of time? You don’t want your series to become predictable, after all.

By both giving your characters a variety of traits and setting up a detailed world, yes, you add a richness to your word, but it also gives you a vast pool of sneaky opportunities to mine for connective tissue when you’re scrambling to put together the larger arc of your story.

With the Simon Canderous series I had dropped some unsolved mysteries into DEAD TO ME that I could use to tie in to later books, and because your job as a writer is to hide all the seams where you’ve stitched your monster together, the reader ends up none the wiser.  In the end, you want it to seem like you cleverly planned it all along when the truth is sometimes you’re working like hell to shove square pegs into round holes. It’s a tricky business disguising all that, but with practice, book by book, you get more seasoned at it.

By the time I began writing the Spellmason Chronicles I was well primed to get a head start working on my long term goals for that new series.  In turn, knowing some of these secrets has made it easier to steer the overall course of each book.  I think I’ve become a better gardener after seven books, one who is better at planting good seeds and seeing what lives and what dies.

But still, even now?  There ought to be a crash course offered on creating an ongoing series.  I have a feeling that classroom would fill up fast.



I swear this was completely unplanned, as it now appears I am having a series of guest posts on the topic of "writing sequels and series". Not that I'm complaining, I find it quite interesting.

Thanks Anton for coming over and giving us your perspective on how you approach writing a series, and good luck with your new release.

Stonecast is the second novel in The Spellmason Chronicles which is available now.

For more information you can visit Anton Strout's website or follow him on Twitter @AntonStrout.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Guest Post: Going from Debut to Series by Michael J. Martinez author of The Daedalus Incident

When I wrote The Daedalus Incident, my debut novel, I had no idea whether a space opera/historical fantasy mashup would work, or whether folks would be as jazzed as I was about sailing ships in space. Heck, I had no idea if I was even capable of writing a good novel. 

Well, apparently I am. It worked, folks were jazzed. I am a for-real author now. And I’m now contracted to write two more novels in the Daedalus series.

I interviewed Peter V. Brett last spring, and at the time I was surprised at the tack his attitude toward writing had taken since his success. He approached writing his books as a job, and a difficult one at that, whereas I was still of the dude-I’m-getting-a-novel-published-squee-awesome-yay mindset. 

I totally get it now, Peat. 

The next novel in the series, The Enceladus Crisis, is coming out next spring, with the third book (yet-to-be named, let alone written) due toward the end of 2014. While writing The Daedalus Incident was something of a lark, and a lot of fun to write, this is a business now. I have contracts. Deadlines. Obligations. These books have to be written.

And I also have fans. Like, at least two, possibly more. But seriously, people have read and generally enjoyed The Daedalus Incident, and they’ll have expectations for the next two. They’ll want to see more of the stuff that the loved about the first book, and they’ll all have opinions on where the story should go and what they want to see. 

No pressure.

Finally, as utterly pretentious as it sounds, I want to grow as a writer. I know, I know…I hesitate typing it. But I do indeed want to challenge myself. Writing Daedalus in the first place was a personal challenge, so why stop? I think most writers want to see just how much they have in the tank. So do I. That means The Enceladus Crisis will be more complex. It’ll have more characters, more POVs, more subplots. And not just more of the big stuff, but more nuance as well. More interesting bits. Better writing, even. 

I also want to play off any expectations set up in The Daedalus Incident. Yes, there will be sailing ships in space, because, you know, that’s still cool. And I’m playing with how those ships maneuver and fight in space, which means some pretty cool battles. There will also be different settings. A fair chunk of the story will happen on Earth. There will be intrigue. More setting exploration. More backstory. More of the stuff that folks commented on and liked.

And then, there’s also subverting expectations. I mean, I don’t want to treat Daedalus like a paint-by-numbers kit. Think about how The Empire Strikes Back was so much better than Star Wars, even though it was a very different movie. Same thing here. I want The Enceladus Crisis to have the same relationship to Daedalus. Difference within continuity is probably the best way to describe it.

There are definitely days where I look at what I’m writing and ponder exactly what I got myself into. But it’s totally worth it. It’s still fun, too. Turns out I created a pretty nifty sandbox, and I’m enjoying the new castles. 

Plus, unlike Peat, I still have my day job, and will for the foreseeable future. I can afford to fail miserably, even though I’d quite prefer not to. That’s freeing. My kid’s going to college whether or not these are awesome successes. So I feel like I can take some risks and see how it goes. 

In the end, though, there’s an edge to writing these new novels. I’m writing from a different place than I was. It’s not a bad thing, but it’ll be interesting to see what comes of it. I hope you enjoy the ride with me.



Let me be the first to point out that I have two Mikes in a row for guest posts on the blog. Don't know yet if that's a good thing, or a sign of the Apocalypse. Time will tell I guess. In any case, thanks Mike (Martinez) for stopping by. Good luck with your debut and with your series.

You can buy The Daedalus Incident on The Book Depository, Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound.

For more information please follow Michael J. Martinez on his website or on Twitter @mikemartinez72.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Guest Post: Standing at the Crossroads from Mike Shevdon, author of The Courts of the Feyre series

With the completion of the fourth and final book in The Courts of the Feyre I find myself at a cross-roads. Up until now I’ve styled myself as an Urban Fantasy Author, because that’s what I’ve written and it makes it easier for readers who are likely to enjoy my work to find me. For most people, though, urban fantasy isn’t a genre, and the words urban and fantasy simply don’t mean anything together. I might as well say goldfish collider for all the sense it makes to them. (Now I have an image of two goldfish swimming around a giant toroidal tank in opposite directions until they collide and scales and fins fly off in spiral patterns. That’s what an imagination will do to you. Be warned.)

So, while fans of the sub-genre rejoice in the subtle nuances between paranormal romance and urban fantasy, the rest of the world looks on in bemusement. At best they’ve seen True Blood or Being Human and assume that I write about vampires and werewolves, which isn’t far enough from the truth to be useful for plausible deniability. The last ten years have been spent writing about faeries - not the little darlings with the flower petal hats invented by the Victorians but the sort of faeries that suck the marrow from your bones and leave your head on a hazel spike as a warning to others. There are shape shifters in the Courts of the Feyre, and the Wraithkin might be considered predatory. They’re not vampires, but they do prey on others.

In the courts series I set out to weave together history and folklore and a sense of magic and mystery in the real world, and hopefully I succeeded. I could carry on writing about faeries. There are plenty of stories left to tell, and a willing audience to read them, and though the courts are finished there are some survivors. I’m not ready to do that, though. Not yet. I’m not saying there will never be another story set in that world, or with those characters that still remain, but not now. This is the cross-roads that I’ve reached.

The problem with urban fantasy, or any sub-genre of a similar nature, is that it’s circular. Urban fantasy inspires urban fantasy, which in turn begets urban fantasy. In defining itself it is chained to a rock, and the rock won’t move. That doesn’t mean that there’s no room for innovation or originality - there are authors pushing at the boundaries and rattling the chains, but if they go too far they are no longer part of the genre and they risk ostracising themselves from their fans.

When I set out to write I made a choice. I wanted the sense of wonder that follows you wherever you go, but based in reality. That meant avoiding the love triangles and “will-she, won’t she” dilemmas of paranormal romance and the obligation-free rootless heroes and heroines the populate much of urban fantasy. There’s nothing wrong with any of that - it can make a good story - but I wanted something else.

That meant that just because people had sex it didn’t mean they were in love. It meant characters with complicated messy lives filled with failed relationships, divorces, and responsibilities they would find it hard to walk away from. It meant people who made the same mistakes again and again - because that’s what people do. Redemption is the chance to break the cycle and start again, but while we may change our lives, we may forget to change ourselves, and it’s that struggle that I find interesting.

Ten years ago I was inventing characters - people that grew with me over four books and showed themselves for who they really were. I learned to walk in those people’s shoes and see what was in their hearts. Now I need to do that again, but with new people, taking everything I’ve learned and pouring it into a new mould. It’s hard to start again. It’s hard to walk away from ten years of foundation and structure, rules and constraints that are engraved on the inside of my head. But then it was hard to write about the funeral of a child, or to step into the head of a teenage girl, or to kill characters I’ve come to know and love. Writing’s hard, and when it’s hard it gets better.

As I stand at the crossroads and look back at ten years of work, I think I can be proud of what I’ve achieved. I didn’t revolutionise the genre, but that’s not what I set out to do. I did write four separate and distinct stories, each different from the last, each a development of what came before while standing on its own merits. I know this because I’ve read the reviews of people who started at book three and then went back to books one and two to find out how it came to be. I’ve stretched myself with each successive work, and grown as a writer each time. I’ve learned so much, and yet I can see I have much to learn. It’s a beginning.

I’m still working on what comes next - I’m not short of ideas.  There are some interesting avenues to explore and I want to give myself the time and the freedom to build something new. When I started down this road I wanted to write about magic in the real world. Now I want to do something else, and I haven’t decided yet what that will be. You may think I’m being coy, but I’m not the writer with a drawer full of old manuscripts. Everything is new - it’s all developed from scratch. That’s daunting because I know how much work it is, but at the same time it’s exciting because it’s new and raw.

One thing I can say is that writing has changed me. When I started writing I had no idea how difficult it would be. Becoming a writer has changed the way I see the world - it’s shifted my perspective. 

I can’t undo that - and I wouldn’t want to even if I could.



Thanks Mike for stopping by, and good luck with whatever project you decide to go with next.

You can buy the books from The Courts of the Feyre here:

Sixty-One Nails
The Road to Bedlam
Strangeness and Charm
The Eighth Court

For more information you can visit Mike Shevdon's website or follow him on Twitter @Shevdon.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Giveaway: Kitty in the Underworld by Carrie Vaughn



Kitty Norville is a fun urban fantasy series that follows a werewolf DJ from author Carrie Vaughn. It's one of the first ones I began reading in the genre, which is now in its twelfth installment. This latest one is Kitty in the Underworld which was released at the end of Summer, and naturally I have a giveaway for you guys (3 copies) sponsored by Tor.
As Denver adjusts to a new master vampire, Kitty gets word of an intruder in the Denver werewolf pack’s territory, and she investigates the challenge to her authority. She follows the scent of the lycanthrope through the mountains where she is lured into a trap, tranquilized, and captured. When she wakes up, she finds herself in a defunct silver mine: the perfect cage for a werewolf. Her captors are a mysterious cult seeking to induct Kitty into their ranks in a ritual they hope will put an end to Dux Bellorum. Though skeptical of their power, even Kitty finds herself struggling to resist joining their cause. Whatever she decides, they expect Kitty to join them in their plot . . . willingly or otherwise.
http://us.macmillan.com/kittyintheunderworld/CarrieVaughn

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 to US and Canada shipping addresses only, and it will run from September 16, 2013 until 11:59 pm ET on September 27, 2013.

The giveaway is for a chance to win a copy of 3 of the twelfth installment in the Kitty Norville urban fantasy series by Carrie Vaughn, Kitty in the Underworld from Tor.

How to participate:
  • To participate simply log-in into to the Rafflecopter and "Enter" through the easy entry.
  • One entry per person, or face disqualification.
  • Entries accepted until 11:59pm ET on September 27, 2013.
  • There'll be 3 winners for only 1 copy each of Kitty in the Underworld.
  • Will have to confirm email to be considered a winner within 48 hours.
  • 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.
Good luck!

For more information please visit Carrie Vaughn's website.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Bastard Reaction: Generation V by M. L. Brennan


This would've been an easy title to overlook; a seemingly by the numbers vampire story from a debut author with a cute guy (or so I've been told) on the cover and not much else. It screamed "Pass!" to me, a book intended for someone else. Thankfully I didn't after seeing a couple of positive reactions to it from like-minded readers, and the level of excitement editor Anne Sowards showed for the release of this novel. I can honestly say Generation V by M. L. Brennan is the most fun I've had reading an urban fantasy novel in the past year or more. Don't make the same mistake and judge the book by its cover, you'll thank me later. It's the first of the American Vampire urban fantasy series.

Fortitude is living an unfulfilling life, and even though he surely is aware of his circumstances, he doesn't seem to care much about improving his situation; content in living a life without confrontations and conflicts while remaining as willfully ignorant as possible. He has a "girlfriend" who's sleeping around, yet has him convinced that it's normal, he has dead-end job with ungrateful co-workers, and a roommate who refuses to pay the rent. If that wasn't enough he's a vampire, in the making, but hasn't manifested yet, something he's praying doesn't happen ever. His plan is to avoid becoming a full vampire like the rest of his family, cruel murderous vampires in his view responsible for a childhood tragedy that has left him traumatized for the rest of his life. This explains why he's now living the life as he is now, being as good and ethical as he possibly can, but with little ambition. What's a goody-two-shoe to do though when a maniac vampire comes to town, and no one is willing to stand against him? With the help of the kitsune Suzume, Fortitude looks to change the fortune of his life or die trying doing what's right.

Generation V is a multifaceted novel which took care to depict precisely what Fort's life is all about. It's fun and funny, as it's dark and tragic. We spend a few days with Fort in a story that is character focused, and are invited to experience all as he does from the dullest to the most exciting of moments. What follows is a well balanced novel which contains a mixture of slice-of-life, family drama, comedy, mystery, suspense, action, and horror. A combination that works and provides perfect contrast between the lighthearted moments and those that are surprisingly dark and horror filled.

The characters were a big plus, probably Brennan's biggest storytelling strength in my opinion. Not only did she create memorable characters, she also provided some terrific character interaction which is one of the elements I'm most interest in. That's not to say everything was smooth sailing. I mean, I spent the whole book wishing I could punch Fortitude in the balls to see if he finally grew a pair. He was living in denial and extremely naïve, to the point that is was unbelievable and frustrating. By the same token, in the end it becomes part of his charm, but still...fist meet Fort's testicles.

Besides him, we have an assortment of incredibly good secondary characters starting with Fort's siblings with similarly eccentric names: his brother Chivalry and sister Prudence. Both who are aptly named, which I'll leave at that. We also have Madeline, his mother and head vampire of the region and a character who's clearly playing the long game. Lastly we have the kitsune Suzume who easily stole the show in this book. Generation V was a pretty good read, but when Suzume was introduced the novel just went to a whole different level. She was awesome. Before I began reading, anime was my passion, so when anything concerning Japanese culture gets introduced I get quite excited. Bias aside, Suzume was simply amazing. She was fun and funny, as well as incredibly mischievous and quite badass. To that point, I say screw Generation V, when are we going to get Generation K? I kid I kid, but hey that's an idea... She really complemented Fort, and they made an incredible duo as the story progressed to say nothing of the fascinating banter between them. When Suzume was around, life didn't suck all that much, "even if you're a vampire".

World-building is still a work in progress, it's clear that the world being created here is quite expansive, but not much of an opportunity to get into just yet. There was a point where Brennan tried to expand by introducing a couple of minor characters as an attempt to show different supernatural beings that exist in this world, but the attempt felt a bit off to me. Like it didn't quite fit either the world that's being created, or the story that was being told in this particular book. But at the same time we met the full kitsune contingent, and that worked perfectly, so I hope that as Brennan expands on the world, things will get more interesting.

That aside, the vampire mythology was incredible and quite unique. I can honestly say I haven't seen something quite like this, so kudos to Brennan's creativeness. From the way vampires are created, to the way the have relationships, to the effects bloodsucking has, everything was well thought-out. And we can't forget how she reinvents the meaning of what it is to be a Renfield which was very intriguing.

The novel is not action packed, but there's plenty of energy and movement. And yes, it has action and it's well executed when there is. The story was quite funny at times, I think it actually made me laugh a couple of times, which the written word finds hard to do with me. It has an abundance of great confrontations though, usually in the form of Fort with his family members. Just the same, the story goes quite dark at times, disturbingly so on occasions and fascinatingly violent. This to say, that there's a little bit of everything here for all kinds of readers.

Generation V is a refreshingly unique novel that all urban fantasy enthusiast should read, and a book capable of encouraging even the most ardent critics of the genre. Very much a page turner, a story that has a lot of heart and much to offer. With an extremely fun novel full of charm, Brennan has written a winner. Very much looking forward to future adventures featuring Fort and Suzume. They can't come soon enough, Iron Night comes out next January.

Buy Generation V from The Book Depository.

For more information please visit M. L. Brennan's website or follow on Twitter @BrennanML.

Oh, and the cover for Iron Night, much better I say. Do you agree?


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Guest Post & Giveaway: Forsaken by the Others Blog Tour by Jess Haines

Retaining Humanity In A Supernatural World



Hello there!  Jess Haines here.  I’m the author of the H&W Investigations series—urban fantasy novels about Shiarra Waynest, a human private investigator in an alternate, present-day New York. Somehow she keeps getting pulled into supernatural troubles way above her pay grade…

One of the most fascinating aspects of fantasy is, of course, the magic. Magical items, magical creatures, magical spells and locations—they all have their place, but I think sometimes the human side is forgotten or taken a little too much for granted.

Take some of the big players in urban fantasy—Harry Dresden, Anita Blake, Sookie Stackhouse, Mercy Thompson, Rachel Morgan, Atticus O’Sullivan, October Daye, just to name a few well known characters—and you’ll notice not a one of them is human. Most of those characters’ closest friends are also not human. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it was one of the factors that drove me to write a main character who was both human and had something of a phobia of supernaturals.

It’s easy to admire a character who has incredible powers at their fingertips. Whether it’s magic spells, shapeshifting, to command the dead, to control animals, or to be able to tease and trick the senses, those abilities are often larger than life and more fascinating than the humdrum existence of the mundane. It also makes it easier to save the day when you have such a leg up on the rest of humanity. Not to mention face a bad guy whose powers might be comparable, even if they are greater.

In urban fantasy, humans (usually) make up the bulk of the population and shouldn’t be underestimated. Even when a minor character’s purpose is solely to be a victim, they shouldn’t just be fodder or collateral damage. Being food or an unintended casualty doesn’t excuse a writer from making their humans into more than just a parody or stereotype.  After all, we readers and writers are—I hope—Homo sapiens. We work and interact with other humans every day. Even when the mythology of a particular series states that the monsters are in the majority, it doesn’t mean the people in the background shouldn’t act as… well… people.

In urban fantasy, when a supernatural is faced with the general public, the humans tend to react badly once they realize that what they’re dealing with isn’t like them. After all, we generally fear the things we don’t understand. Most urban fantasy takes the opportunity to present anything different or “Other” as prompt enough for blatantly xenophobic behavior out of the general populace. Once in a while there might be a few in the minority who exhibit intense fascination instead. In general it seems they lean more towards a barely contained fear displayed as covert or sometimes overt hostility.

Just because something—someone—is different doesn’t mean they’re not worth getting to know. Just as someone who isn’t magical in nature isn’t necessarily boring and not worth getting to know. True, it all depends on their role in the tale, but their untold story could be every bit as gripping and complex as that of the magical beings who feature if only they’re given an opportunity to shine.

It’s a challenge to write a main character who is vulnerable to a werewolf’s claws, could fall under a vampire’s hypnotic gaze, or might end up enchanted by a mage’s spell. It’s all too easy to make a normal person look foolish or their circumstances overwhelmingly depressing when the character is easily outshone by their supernatural counterparts.  Even if you’re shooting for humor, making every person who isn’t magical in nature into a caricature of the worst humanity has to offer is not the way to go.

Though, on a related note, one doesn’t have to be a monster to do monstrous things. When faced with the extraordinary, sometimes it’s easy to forget amidst all that exoticism just how dangerous and clever we can be. Having fur, fangs, claws or magic are not prerequisites to being tough, skilled, or capable of dark deeds.

A person also doesn’t have to be capable of superhuman feats to show great compassion. Humanity falls all over the spectrum and while we all might occasionally hold someone up or tear someone down, everyone has the capacity for great good and great evil. Even when it’s not readily apparent, character, intelligence and competence has nothing to do with superpowers or unnatural hungers—and the supernaturals of the world best never forget that.

For the next stop on the blog tour, be sure to visit the official FORSAKENBY THE OTHERS blog tour calendar!

You can also visit me on the web:


Thanks again for having me!


_____

BLOG TOUR DETAILS:



Blog Tour Calendar Link: http://jesshaines.com/blog/?p=2210


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Author Bio: Jess Haines writes about furred and fanged things that go bump in the night. Best known for the H&W Investigations urban fantasy series, she's been writing since she was a teenager and was first published in 2010. Her latest release is Forsaken by the Others (Kensington/Zebra; July 2, 2013). Visit her at www.JessHaines.com for the latest news and updates.



Forsaken by the Others Book Description:

The Others–vampires, werewolves, things that go chomp in the night–don’t just live in nightmares anymore. They’ve joined with the mortal world. And for private investigator Shiarra Waynest, that means mayhem…
Have a one night stand with a vampire, and you can end up paying for it for eternity. P.I. Shiarra Waynest, an expert on the Others, knows that better than most. Yet here she is, waking up beside charismatic vamp Alec Royce with an aching head…and neck. Luckily, Shia has the perfect excuse for getting out of town–namely, a couple of irate East Coast werewolf packs who’d like to turn her into a chew toy.
On Royce’s suggestion, Shia temporarily relocates to Los Angeles. But something is rotten–literally–in the state of California, where local vampires are being attacked by zombies. Who could be powerful enough to control them–and reckless enough to target the immortal? Following the trail will lead Shia to a terrifying truth, and to an ancient enemy with a personal grudge…

Buy Links:



Thanks Jess for stopping by, much appreciated. This is where I usually plug some links, but they've already been taken care of above.

In any case, hope you guys enjoy her novels. Jess is a great person to talk to, so don't hesitate to say "hi" to her once in a while.