Friday, August 31, 2012

Bastard Reaction: Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson

I've always been fascinated with the idea of fantasy stories including natural disasters as part of the narrative. Not the usual "storm is coming, I feel something terrible is about to happen" kind of event, but just a random tornado suddenly touching down in the middle of a scene, or maybe a hurricane comes to destroy a town and be just that, a natural storm without all the added plot-device baggage. It was with that in mind that I got interested in Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson with a story that takes place during the time of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. It's the first of the Sentinels of New Orleans series, and laid the foundation of what could become a very entertaining series.

DJ, a deputy sentinel, is a wizard apprentice under the guidance of Gerry the acting New Orleans sentinel. They protect the city from preternatural beings that have crossed over to our world. As Hurricane Katrina hits, Gerry goes missing. DJ, who had evacuated the city, is tasked to return to the city to find her missing teacher while partnering up with an FBI agent, who may have his own agenda and may have been sent to spy on her by organization that governs them. Once arrived in New Orleans they have to deal with the disastrous aftermath of the hurricane and a serial killer who's on the loose. If that wasn't enough, Katrina has weakened the boundaries between the planes that keep the preternatural beings at bay.

Tackling an event like Hurricane Katrina is tricky. There's no easy way to approach it. Some consideration has to be given to those that have suffered, and at the same time try to not let it distract from the focus of the story you want to tell. With that in mind, it was evident that Johnson struggled to balance the inclusion of the happenings of what it was like during the time of Katrina with developing the mystery/thriller portions of the plot. I personally found it interesting to relive some of what went on during the hurricane through DJ's eyes. I also thought it was handled with tact and was informative, but not overwhelmingly so. Suzanne Johnson had apparently lived in New Orleans for many years, so there's a personal touch to be found here to put everything into proper context.

The pacing was slow though, but I didn't find it dull by any measure. I can see were many would have problem with it, but I didn't think it a major problem; but it was a problem. Kinda of a double edged sword because you want the Katrina exposure, but at times it impeded the momentum of the story. By the same token, I enjoyed the tangents through much of it. I found DJ to be a fun and quite even-keeled narrator, which is interesting considering she's an empath. She never gets too high or too low through the narration and it served the balance between the events of Katrina and the rest of the story well; and when she goes to emotional extremes, they don't last long, which I loved. There's plenty of funny scenes throughout the novel to contrast the somber moments.

I found the biggest problem with the novel was the mystery plot aspects. Though it kept us guessing about certain things throughout it, I thought everything became transparent earlier than I would've liked. Not that big of an issue at the moment, but I thought there was a detachment from the case through the novel that made me not care about many of the events surrounding the story. Particularly evident with the serial killer victims, didn't care for them. We weren't really immersed in the investigation, we weren't made to care for the victims, as such the investigation wasn't of much interest. What held the story together was the wondering of what happened to Gerry and DJ's personal issues she's to overcome.

The story had some good action though. I would've liked to see just a bit more of it and maybe a few more scenes that would've made the novel a bit more suspenseful with a heightened sense of danger, but other than that quite pleased with what Johnson provided. I really think DJ will become one kickass character as the series continues, but we'll see how she keeps developing her powers.

The world-building was excellent, and it's mainly what has me thinking this is a very promising series. She has also injected into the story a preternatural being called "historical undead" which have been quite lively so far, and insures that we'll be exposed to plenty of flavorful characters as the series continues. There's mention of all the usual supernatural beings too, but they haven't made an appearance yet for the most part. In many regards it reminds me of The Dresden Files world now that I think of it, differentiated with the unique touches Johnson has given it; combining all these with the rich history of New Orleans and how well it's been incorporated to the aftermath of Katrina is a great start.

Royal Street introduced us to some good characters that will be entertaining and pleasant to follow. Character interaction was good and fun through much of it. As mentioned previously, never gets too high or low emotionally for an extensive span of time. Was worried about this in particular with DJ being an empath, since it had the potential to become a bit too touchy-feely for me, but Suzanne Johnson handled much of it to my liking. There's some romantic interests here, more than one actually, but it's been kept light so far and it hasn't bother me. We'll see how much of the focus it'll have going forward, but not too worried at the moment with the current precedent.

I really enjoyed DJ as the narrator and as a character. At times a bit too impulsive, which is all right. She recognizes it as a flaw herself, so it's all good. Makes her a bit unpredictable. Even though at times she tries to rationalize some of her actions as prudent. Going forward I think she needs to be cleaned up a bit because she's clearly not an idiot, but has plenty of dumbass moments. One in particularly grated on me. DJ warded her house and as means to disable it used a word that would be the equivalent of using "password" as the password for your email account. Sorry if I indirectly called some of you a dumbass, but probably well deserved. In all, despite this I think she'll be a good character to follow.

All this to say that yes, Royal Street is very much a flawed novel, but I think it's one that's very much worth the read. I enjoyed it thoroughly flaws an all. I'll recommend it with little hesitation to all urban fantasy fans, and this being Suzanne's debut, I'd imagine we can expect things to get better from here. The foundation for the series is now in place, and it's a strong one. Early reactions to the sequel River Road have been positive and seem to agree that it's better than the precursory novel. Suzanne Johnson may just have winner in her hands with the Sentinels of New Orleans series.

Thoughts and prayers for those currently affected by Hurricane Isaac. Donations can be made to the Red Cross.

Also a percentage of her River Road royalties has been pledged by the author to help on the relief from this hurricane and an oil spill. Have just learned that the setting in the sequel has been destroyed by Hurricane Isaac, Plaquemines Parish. Details can be found here.

Buy a copy of Royal Street from The Book Depository.

Please visit Suzanne Johnson's website and blog for more information.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bastard Reaction: Widow's Web by Jennifer Estep

What's next for Gin Bianco? I asked this before, and one book after we still remain with the same question, wondering where Jennifer Estep is taking this series next. It seems like for the time being the author is content with using the stage built in that initial arc and writing some standalone thrillers with a bigger focus on relationship developments. Widow's Web doesn't necessarily answer the question above, but by the end of the novel I can assure you there'll be a more pressing question looming as for the future of our favorite assassin.

Gin Bianco is still adjusting to life as a retired assassin, while people are still trying to make a name for themselves by taking her out, the Spider. Despite all that, she seems happy for once. She's surrounded herself with family and friends, and someone who loves her for who she is. Things quickly take a turn for the worst when an old acquaintance of the Graysons, and also of a crime boss who hires Gin with a hidden agenda to cater at one of his parties, comes to town with aspirations of taking back what is owed to her, including that with Gin holds dear.

Widow's Web was a bit different than all the previous novels in the Elemental Assassin series. It was more drama oriented than the novel's predecessors, and the action was more limited. It was surprising to find that this novel was one of my favorites in the series despite this. More surprising when you consider that most of the drama centered on relationship problems between Gin and Owen, and as some of you may know, it's not what I'm looking for when reading a novel. Yet, I found it to my liking. Estep created some great tension that lasted the length of the novel, which kept the pages turning.

The action was more of the manipulative sort. It's a new type of fight for Gin, who's used to cutting throats to solve her problems. With all that said, when there's action it's great as always. There's one particular scene that was quite awesome, quite eye-popping. Let's just say that The Legend of Korra would be wise to steal some of Estep's ideas for waterbenders. Worth mentioning that in the last few novels I've been noticing Gin relying on some powerful weapons to help her get an advantage over her more powerful enemies, or rather just noticing a tendency towards using them. I not sure I'm liking this development since part of what has made Gin great is her cunning use of her simple weapons combined with her fighting expertise, and later supported with her growing elemental powers. So I don't think we need to rely on the crutch of powerful weapons to get her out of jams. That said, it was interestingly used in this one, and maybe it's a one shot deal.

The book itself focused more on the Graysons' past, their untold history, their struggles of how they came to be as they are now. Some reveals are made about past friendships and enemies, and how they affect the present and the possible future. More importantly, the context of what all these revelations mean for Gin who's placed right in the thick of things and walking on eggshells as to be as supportive as possible with all those concerned. In typical Spider fashion, it'll be up to her to take it upon herself to make the difficult choices, and face the consequences with her head-up, whichever they may be.

I feel Estep is improving as a writer as I've stated previously. A well marked growth since Spider's Revenge. I still think that references to previous events in prior novels can be minimized even more. We're getting frequent releases, so events are still quite fresh and the story are easy to follow and characters easy to remember. Events are easily inferred otherwise. Nothing that I found bothersome though. The flashback sequences were much better balanced this time around, so I'm glad for that at least. But all around, I feel the best written of the bunch.

Plot-wise, nothing really surprised me as far a mystery and revelations went. Many of the things were well implied through the narrative before they came to pass. But I need to keep reminding myself, this story is not about the mystery, it's about the thrill and I'm glad that Gin is a smart character, so even when you recognize something, Gin's quick to point it out soon after. I think the most surprising things came with the decisions Estep took to shake things a bit on pretty much all aspects of Gin's relationships. She was getting a bit too comfy, so it was time to rock the boat a bit. There'll be some frustration for some readers regarding some characters, but I thought it was handled quite well.

Some new characters were introduced, or better some were re-introduced. They were great, fitting right in seamlessly with what has been established, and added new entertaining dynamics. Will be curious on their role going forward, particularly on how they'll influence Gin.

I think I'll leave it at that as talking about the book further will telegraph too much of what went on through the novel. I'd like to point out though that I'd like to see this series take next logical step in developing a storyline that goes beyond the relationship drama and the self-contained stories. This is a rich world, full of possibilities, and there's room for something fresh to really take this series to a new level. The villain this time around was a good one, quite the psycho which served the purpose as both a powerful enemy and someone who managed to change the status quo in Gin's personal life. Even so, I would like to get the impression that something bigger is at foot, but we'll see.

Once again Jennifer Estep has delivered an entertaining installment in the Elemental Assassin series. Widow's Web, while still having the good action sequences, delivered on the strongest interpersonal plot so far in the series. I'm sure that fans of the series will be pleased with this installment and will anticipate the next one eagerly; Deadly Sting is up next.

Buy Widow's Web from The Book Depository.

For a chance to win a signed copy of Widow's Web, please enter this giveaway. It also has an excerpt from Chapter 3.

Please visit Jennifer Estep's website for more information and short stories set in the Elemental Assassin universe.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Excerpt & Giveaway: Widow's Web by Jennifer Estep

Followers of the blog know I'm a big fan of Jennifer Estep's Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series. I've shared my thoughts multiple times, including reviewed Spider's Revenge and recently By a Thread. Today we have the author on the blog sharing with us an excerpt from the recently released Widow's Web and also a giveaway for a signed copy of the same.

The excerpt is from chapter 3. And I must admit at first I thought it was odd that this excerpt was being shared on this blog considering where my reading tastes lie, but after reading the novel, I'm glad to be sharing this portion since this is the precursor to where the setup of the novel starts to picks up. For the record, really enjoyed Widow's Web, here's my review, and for the time being, hope you enjoy the excerpt below:

Excerpt from Chapter 3 of Jennifer Estep's Widow's Web:

So we focused on our menus and ordered dessert—a classic New York cheesecake with strawberry topping for Owen and a decadent black cherry and chocolate parfait for me. I ate my parfait slowly, letting the light, airy layers of cherries and chocolate melt on my tongue and savoring every sweet bite. All the while, though, I wondered if I could possibly lure McAllister into one of the restaurant bathrooms and cut his throat with the knife in my evening bag. A pleasant daydream on my part, since McAllister would never go anywhere willingly with me, but the lawyer’s days were numbered—even if he didn’t realize it yet.
All through dessert, I kept one eye on McAllister, but he seemed determined to ignore me. Judging by the way he kept checking his expensive watch, the slick lawyer was waiting for someone—and whoever it was looked like he or she was late. Aw, I just hated that for him.
I’d just put my spoon down and pushed away my empty dessert dish when a series of hushed whispers rippled through the restaurant, as though everyone was trying very hard not to talk about someone and failing miserably. I looked out across the room, wondering who or what the fuss was about.
And that’s when I saw her.
There were plenty of beautiful women in the restaurant, the belles of the underworld, the society pages, and all the social circles in between, all of them decked out in the finest evening gowns and jewels they or their husbands’ money could buy. But this woman was in a class by herself. She was simply that stunning—the kind of woman who looks almost too beautiful to be real.
She was tall and willowy with sun-kissed skin and golden hair that rippled halfway down in her back in soft, silky waves. A slinky, sequined, sky-blue gown clung to her curves in all the right places, the slits in the top and the bottom showing off the generous swell of her breasts and the long, lean lines of her legs. A silverstone cuff bracelet flashed on her right wrist. Some sort of design was etched into the metal, but I couldn’t tell what it was from here.  
Every head in the room turned to watch her, and a small, satisfied smile played across her rosy lips. Whoever she was, she knew exactly how stunning she was and enjoyed the attention.
The woman stopped at McAllister’s table, which surprised me, since she definitely looked out of his league. The lawyer jumped to his feet, and the woman coolly offered him her hand, which he shook with all the enthusiasm of a shyster sidling up to his next victim. The two of them exchanged what seemed to be a polite greeting, although I couldn’t hear the exact words over the clatter of the dishes and the continued whispers of the other diners.
Even though she was talking to McAllister, the woman was well aware of the stir she’d created. In fact, she encouraged it, slyly glancing at one diner, then the next to judge how eagerly they were ogling her. She even went so far as to subtly pose this way and turn that way to show off all her ample assets. A hip curve here, a subtle show of leg there, a faint pout of her lips. It was quite a show, better than a movie star preening for the cameras.
Finally, her eyes met mine. When she saw that I was merely curious and not completely enraptured by her, the woman’s gaze went past me. But that same small, satisfied smile curved her lips again. Instead of taking the chair McAllister had pulled out for her, she headed in my direction.

Jennifer Estep is a New York Times bestselling author. Jennifer writes the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series for Pocket Books. Widow’s Web, the seventh book, was released on Aug. 21. Visit for excerpts and more information about her books.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Bastard Reaction: One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire

The October Daye series and I have had a love and hate relationship since early on. More love than hate, but it's been an up-and-down roller-coaster for me reading this series. The real constant has been how good of a writer Seanan McGuire is, which is why I've kept recommending this series to anyone who would listen. It wasn't until the 4th installment Late Eclipses that the series really broke-through for me though. It's followed by One Salt Sea and more than any other novel in the series, it had a lot to live up to and it didn't disappoint.

October Daye's life has undergone drastic changes recently, both physically and socially. She's now a countess, which gives her privilege and status she's never been afforded, along with additional responsibilities, yet she still remains a thorn on the side for certain nobility circles. She's been dating a certain selkie with one very unstable baggage. Further complicating things, children from an undersea duchy have been kidnapped, and as the Queen of the Mists is being accused of the kidnapping, those from the undersea and land are on the verge of war. Toby needs to figure out the truth before all hell breaks loose in a war that could be more disastrous and costly than anyone anticipates.

Whenever I start reading an October Daye novel, I can't help being reminded of Sophie's Choice. The easy parallel is to the Changeling Choice event by which certain adolescents need to choose between fae and the human world, and the consequences of that choice. But more than that, Toby is constantly faced with impossible situations that no matter what she chooses, someone is going to end up paying dearly for it; usually herself. One Salt Sea was no different, and this time around the stakes have never been higher.

One thing I'd like to point out is how much I've hated the character of Connor. From the very first book, I've felt he kept ruining the novels for me. The more he was around, the least I liked them. I wanted him gone from the series. Interestingly enough, One Salt Sea was the first novel that his presence didn't bother me. I think this was more of a reflection about how Toby was developing as a character and how recent changes have reformed her outlook on life than anything to do with Connor himself. Toby seems more confident and comfortable with herself and with those around her, and it shows when she's interacting with him, so that was a big plus for me going forward. And I thought that was important for me as a reader, since I think Tybalt is a much better and interesting character, but who knows what role he'll play with the recent developments.

I thought this novel took a lot of time to get things in motion, particularly since it seemed like the first half of the novel was a bit slow and seemed to consist majorly on mere preparations from Toby and her team just to begin the investigation. That said, I barely noticed this since I thought that the character interaction was at its best. Could be that it's further reflection on October as a character, but I think part of it is that I think Seanan McGuire has found a good groove and comfort with the characters and this world which is making each scene more entertaining than previously.

We get introduced to new characters and a whole new world underseas, and I thought that was a blast to experience. Particularly loved how much exposure the Luidaeg has in this novel, and how much we learned from her past and her connection to the undersea knowes.

One thing I didn't like about this one is that at some point it became quite predictable, particularly as far as the perpetrators were concerned, and some aspects during the deliberation of the novel felt a bit anti-climatic. By the same token, this novel was incredibly emotionally charged in the second half which culminated with some very awesome turn of events during the climax. Turn of events that will change the course of the series in a substantive manner I feel, and will leave readers stunned in some regards. One Salt Sea feels like the culmination of a subplot arc which began early in the series, which explains why some aspects became a bit transparent, but it also fueled some of the most pivotal and incredible scenes in the series so far. Certainly the next novel can't come soon enough.

It's no coincidence that Seanan McGuire has won the John W. Campbell Award and has been a Hugo nominated author twice now. She's really that good of an author and writer. I don't think this flavor of urban fantasy allows her to distinguish herself as such, but I'm glad she's writing in this genre. She does standout as a writer among her peers, and I think any who read her prose can appreciate the skill of her craft.

Seanan has found a good balance between action and drama and has really surrounded this world with a multitude of memorable characters. She's not afraid to get her hands dirty though, so be prepared for a series that will take you on a journey through the complete length of the emotional spectrum. There be joyous moments as well as heart breaking ones, and when the story demands it, someone will go on a permanent date with the reaper.

One Salt Sea is another strong novel in what's becoming one of the best urban fantasy series around. An urban fantasy series that I recommend to every fan of the genre with no real hesitation. Ashes of Honor is set to be released soon, so it's the perfect time to catch up.

Buy a copy of One Salt Sea from The Book Depository.

Please visit Seanan McGuire's website for more information on this series and her other projects.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Interview with authors of Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous edited by Tim Marquitz (and a Giveaway)

When I set out to create Fading Light, I had a specific vision in mind…That was until I was assailed by the slew of great submissions. There were so many amazing stories, so different than what I had expected, they threw a wrench into all my machinations and forced an evolution on Fading Light I hadn’t foreseen. In the end, it was the authors who defined the direction as much as the anthology prompt. As such, I feel it is they who should introduce themselves and the beast that is Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous.

Take a moment to get to know them in part three of the multi-blog interview…

Tim Marquitz
El Paso, TX
August 20, 2012

Fading Light collects 30 monstrous stories by authors new and experienced, in the genres of horror, science fiction, and fantasy, each bringing their own interpretation of what lurks in the dark.

Contributors: Mark Lawrence, Gene O’Neill, William Meikle, David Dalglish, Gord Rollo, Nick Cato, Adam Millard, Stephen McQuiggan, Gary W Olson, Tom Olbert, Malon Edwards, Carl Barker, Jake Elliot, Lee Mather, Georgina Kamsika, Dorian Dawes, Timothy Baker, DL Seymour, Wayne Ligon, TSP Sweeney, Stacey Turner, Gef Fox, Edward M Erdelac, Henry P Gravelle, & Ryan Lawler, with bonus stories from CM Saunders, Regan Campbell, Jonathan Pine, Peter Welmerink, & Alex Marshall.

  1. Thanks for taking part in the multi-blog, Fading Light interview. Tell us a little about yourself.
Dorian Dawes: Here is where one might stumble a bit with put-on humility, or go into endless paragraphs of self-aggrandizing rhetoric in all their spooky horribleness, but I don't think I'll do either. I think I'll just borrow a bit here from Fight Club, in that I am nothing special. I am the same decaying organic matter as everyone else. I am, as all of us are, nothing. I'm a young gay man living in the backwoods of Florida with a predilection for horror and the macabre, particularly through literature. I like scary movies and books, comic books and graphic novels, and video games. Once upon a time, I thought I could change the world, but I don't believe in that anymore.

Ryan Lawler: I suppose I should start with my day job right? I’m an aviation software engineer, working with the Australian military to provide safety assurance for different aircraft. It’s an enjoyable job that has taken me around the country and I hope it continues to do so.

My wife and I are currently living in the capital, Canberra, where we both spent our childhood growing up. It’s a great city and I see myself settling down there, but not before I live in a bunch of other cities and countries.

Tim Baker: Happy to be here. I’m just an old ex-firefighter trying to start a new career in writing. Not too easy, it turns out. May be harder than firefighting, though much less dangerous.

Carl Barker: Well I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.

Peter Welmerink: My name is Peter Welmerink. I have been crafting tales since grade school, but didn’t find the pursuit or pleasure of publication until the 1990’s. I have penned action-adventure tales from superhero to star-venturing space hero, though have mainly written in the Sword & Sorcery Heroic/Epic Fantasy genre. I have a day job, a wife and kids. My first novel was co-written with the very talented Steven Shrewsbury. BEDLAM UNLEASHED: a nice cheery non-violent story about a massive Viking berserker in 1014AD. I lie about that first part. I am a robot. Bzzt. Bzzt.

  1. Besides the anthology prompt, what led you to write your Fading Light contribution?
Ed Erdelac: Tim sold me on the concept. He was urging me to come up with something for it and after a lot of ruminating I watched a documentary on the origin of the moon with my wife, specifically, that it might’ve been caused when another celestial body.

I found that I had a knack for darker stories, and I was working on a very dark story about a post apocalypse engineer when the Fading Light story prompt came through. With a few tweaks of my setting and the addition of some monstrous enemies, I had my submission.

Gef Fox: Peer pressure. Last winter, Tim told me he was editing this anthology and I should consider writing up something to submit. Who was I to argue? I love monsters anyway, so coming up with something wasn't going to be too difficult.

CM Saunders: I remember seeing a documentary a while back about freelance ambulance crews in South America. Being a naturally twisted individual, I began to wonder what would happen if they picked up an accident victim who also happened to be a zombie? 

  1. Does music play a part of your writing? Television, movies?
Ed Erdelac: I’m sure I’m influenced by all of these things, but I need total silence when I write. I never listen to music or have anything on in the background. I’m pretty monastic when I write. But these things wend their way into my work, sure. For Gully Gods, a novella I did for the Four In the Morning collection, that was a supernatural story set in inner city Chicago, with gangbangers. I listened to a lot of Scarface, because the main character was from South Houston. For The Crawlin’ Chaos Blues, a story I did about a blues player making a deal with Nyarlathotep for fame, I listened to a lot of Delta and Chicago Blues. Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins. I did this to prepare myself for these stories, to get inspired, but again, I don’t listen to anything while I’m writing.

Adam Millard: I listen to a lot of music when I write.  I'm a bit of a metalhead, so I tend to listen to noisy stuff through these behemoth earphones.  Sometimes, if a scene I'm working on requires a certain mood, I'll find music to match it.  I think it helps a lot.

Ryan Lawler: I find things like music, television, movies, books, video games, internet meme’s, and news stories to be a great source of ideas for my writing. My initial spark for Light Save Us came from watching an episode of The Colony, a reality TV show about a group of people trying to survive in a simulated post apocalyptic world.

But when it comes to actually writing, I need a semi sterile environment otherwise I get too distracted. Oh, look, another internet meme, just five more minutes and I will get back to writing… after I check my email and Twitter feed… and see what my friends are doing on Facebook… oh man I’m really digging the lyrics to this new song I’ll just quickly look them up before I get back to writing…

  1. Tell us about your story in Fading Light.
William Meikle: I wondered what it might be like to live in an underground society where the lights were always on, then become exposed to the totality of the vast darkness of space on a planet where the sun had gone dim. I believe a new bogey man might just emerge in that situation, something born from a psyche that had spent too long in isolation. The darkness might take many forms. His is a story of one of them.

Adam Millard: My story, Parasitic Embrace, was a little homage to the science-fiction films of the 50s.  These were movies, ultimately, about paranoia, about whether the person you love is still the same person.  These micro-parasites travel across the ocean in a volcanic ash-cloud and locate hosts, changing them into . . . just read it!

Ed Erdelac: In The Theophany Of Nyx, it’s about ten or twenty years down the road and the earth establishes its first bona fide lunar colony, which falls prey to an unexplained seismic disaster when a crack in the moon opens up and the colony slides inside, spewing a thick cloud of dust which descends into earth’s atmosphere and blankets the planet. The sun is blotted out, vegetation begins to die. My story centers specifically on a plumber who gets stuck on a military base when the disaster happens. A week or so later it rains and people begin rejoicing, thinking it means the end of the dust cloud. It doesn’t.

TSP Sweeney: Der Tuefel Sie Wissen (“The Devil You Know”) follows a group of Hitler Youth members as they stalk a Russian officer through fire-ravaged ruins during the fall of Berlin in World War II.  Naturally, all is not as it seems.

  1. Writers are a different breed of human. What led you to down the path to making up worlds and telling stories?
Gene O’Neill: Irish genes.

Tom Olbert: It came very naturally at a very young age.  I was always a day-dreamer by nature.  I loved monster movies and sci-fi and UFO stories.  I’d always dreamed of being a published writer.

Adam Millard: I love being a writer.  We are, as a species, odd and often in need of psychological evaluation, but I know a lot of writers that would rather die than quit.  I think it's  in a persons' blood; it's certainly in mine, and I just love the idea that one day, when I'm planted in some cemetery, someone will still be reading something I wrote.  Or, at least, I hope they will.

CM Saunders: I guess there were many factors. English was about the only thing I was good at in school, so I spent most of my time hiding at the back of the class writing stories. Also, in your stories you call all the shots. It’s like playing God!

Peter Welmerink: I had/have all these ideas crowded within my skull. I saw and see sheets of blank line paper, or, now, a big white screen when I open MSWord. Those blank spaces need to run heavy with adventure.

  1. What led you to submit to Fading Light?
William Meikle: I was invited J but the theme is one that immediately spoke to me.

TSP Sweeney: After coming across the description of Fading Light online, I looked into it a bit more and found that I really loved the concept of the anthology and admiring what Tim Marquitz was doing with it.  Combine that with the opportunity to finally write about an idea that had been bouncing around in my head for a long time, and it seemed like a match made in heaven (or hell, considering the nature of the anthology).

  1. Who are your greatest influences in your life, both literary and otherwise?
Gef Fox: I'm a bit low on the totem pole to start citing my influences. I will say I've long gravitated to stories by Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Joss Whedon, and Elmore Leonard. I wouldn't say I'm trying to emulate any of these writers, but I will say I greatly admire their work.

The Boss
CM Saunders: Number one has to be my dad, but I know that's a boring answer so instead I will say Stephen King and Bruce Springsteen – two people from humble beginnings who worked hard to make an impression, and gradually became masters of their art. Examples to follow!

Ryan Lawler: My parents and grandparents have been the greatest influence throughout my life. They taught me not only how to seek out opportunities but how to grab onto them with both hands. My wife has been the biggest influence in the last six years, tempering my massive ego while nurturing the empathetic and caring side of my personality I never knew was there. I also have to give credit to someone from my first job building box trailers. I can’t remember his name but I will always remember what he told me after I cut an entire batch of mud guards almost 10 millimetres too short. “If you aren’t pissed off about your failure to follow instructions and to cut pieces of metal to the right size, technicians will never trust your calculations and you will never make it as an engineer.” Doing things right is something you should care about.

From a literary perspective, the writings of Ayn Rand and Terry Goodkind really influenced my personality as a teenager. Objectivism seemed to resonate with the way I saw the world, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Then I grew up and I now find my greatest literary influence to be Sir Terry Pratchett for his wonderfully optimistic view of the world.

Jake Elliot: Hunter S. Thompson is my greatest literary hero. He was also a troublemaker, but by a much deeper category of troubled. Like me, he never finished his degree, yet was very successful as a writer. My successes pale greatly to his, but then I’ve shied away from eating handfuls of mescaline and huffing ether.

I’m also fascinated by a 1st century prophet––another famous troublemaker––better known throughout the English and Hispanic parts of the world as Jesus. I’m not interested in the mythological Zeus-like savior of all mankind, but the historical and philosophical entity. The man changed the entire world with his message of a loving God and his words played a huge role in destroying the Roman Empire, and he did it all though non-violent means. It makes sense to me why the world painted him as God on Earth, but I don’t believe in that dogmatic religious view. Since I don’t accept the prescribed version, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what about the man was real, and what was fictionalized. I’m not as lost as the day I started looking, but I certainly better understand the philosophy of, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

  1. The zombie apocalypse arrives: who do you want on your response team?
William Meikle: Superman. Then I could sit back and let him do all the work.

Gef Fox: Someone slower and tastier than me.

            Carl Barker: Chuck Norris. Obviously.

  1. How do your daily experiences impact your writing?
Tim Baker: Well, my life experiences certainly have. There’s usually something in my writing that reflects my world view or event I’ve been through, though it’s very vague and covered up by a lot of nastiness.

TSP Sweeney: Names and places will often find a way of cropping up in my work, although usually in a substantially altered format.  So too amusing conversations or interesting pieces of trivia.

Otherwise, the main impact my daily experiences have is making me so exhausted that the idea of sitting on the computer writing can occasionally be terrifying! I’ve managed to compensate for this via use of an iPad, which has proven itself to be more effective at increasing my useful writing time far more than my old laptop ever did.

  1. All authors have goals they set for themselves, be it getting published, getting a bigger deal, or selling millions of copies. Can you share some of yours?
Mark Lawrence: The only writing goal I ever had was to get a short story published in a print magazine.

Carl Barker: I think that most authors would list some or all of the above as goals. We do what we do because we enjoy it, so if we could do this for a living, then we’d be as happy as a man called Larry.

  1. What projects are you working on now? Anything cool you can share with us?
Adam Millard: Just finishing up on the first draft of the concluding book in my Dead series, which will be released in March 2013, and then I have a few anthologies to write for before Christmas.

CM Saunders: I have written the first volume of a YA time travel adventure series and am about to start the second volume. Next year I plan to self-publish a collection of short stories, and later this year will see the release of Rainbow's End, my first tentative foray into literary fiction.

Ryan Lawler: I’ve been invited to submit a short story to an anthology about women creating their perfect companions (as opposed to all those stories about men creating the perfect women). There are a couple of big names attached to this whose contribution will likely be announced in the next month or two.

Tom Olbert: I’m working on two short science fiction stories.  One’s a space opera about science vs. religion in a futuristic interstellar dark age.  The other’s a contemporary spy drama about a government agent struggling with his own identity and finding himself at a temporal crossroads.

TSP Sweeney: I am working on a short horror piece for an anthology called The Black Wind’s Whispers, which is being written and put together by several members of the Black Library Bolthole forums.

Beyond that, I have a few things I am waiting to hear back on from a few different publishers, and I have the ever-present couple of novels I have been working on for far too long hanging over me, attempting to draw me back in.

  1. A troll, a rabid skunk, and Justin Bieber walk into a bar: how does the story end?
Word to yo motha
William Meikle: With a dead skunk inside a dead Justin Bieber, and a drunk troll.

Dorian Dawes: With John Waters arriving late to the scene with a film camera, and several months following, the unveiling of his latest trash masterpiece, "CRYBABY 2: Never Say Never."

Carl Barker: If I ever put Justin Bieber into one of my stories, I’ll have to kill myself.

  1. Given the opportunity, is there any one author you’d like to write a story with? What would you write about?
Ed Erdelac: You know, I don’t think I’m really the collaborative type. There are people I’d like to contribute to books with, sure. Joe Lansdale, for instance. If I could get into writing one of those neat-o Star Wars reference guides, guys like Dan Wallace and Jason Fry, Abel Pena. I have author friends I’d like to work with in some capacity, like Greg Mitchell. But I couldn’t really see myself writing a novel or something like that with somebody else, like how King and Straub did. Only child syndrome I guess.

  1. Tell us a little about your writing process: do you outline, pants it, write twenty drafts or just one, practice voodoo?
Ed Erdelac: I write the whole thing out in paragraph form if I can, like ‘John goes to the store. He doesn’t have enough change for the bus, etc.’ Then I start writing the thing properly in the same document and delete the summary as I go, so I know how much I have left to do. Usually the first thing I do before I write is go over everything I wrote the previous day. That’s it, in terms of drafts. I wouldn’t say I write one draft, because I’m revising the whole time. With three kids I don’t really have time for rituals, neurotic or occult.

Ryan Lawler: I use a bunch of seven point outlines to create my arcs. I try to come up with a really cool resolution, a beginning that is far away from that resolution, and then five steps in the middle that shape the progress of the arc from beginning to resolution. For short stories I do just the one outline, but for larger stories I create multiple outlines for things like the main plot, subplots, and character arcs.

I weave these outlines together to come up with a series of scenes and events that cover off each point in my outline. Once I have these scenes in mind, I just write, allowing all of the finer detail to evolve as I go through. Having the seven dot points makes sure I know where to start and where to finish, but it allows me the freedom to take almost any path along that journey.

Tim Baker: Whew, let me tell ya, I only started writing seriously a couple of years ago, so I’m on a fast learning curve. I took a creative writing class before that, writing three short stories, and I simply didn’t learn much there. I made straight A’s but I don’t think the teacher was interested enough to point out the mistakes, I now know, I was making. I wrote a novel after that for the NaNoWriMo thing and I pants it all the way. Cool idea, but after an editor looked at it, I realized how clueless I was. Short stories I write off the cuff with little prep; the idea is in my head and I have an ending in mind and I shoot for that. The novella I’m working on is getting outlined. And the voodoo thing just didn’t work out.

TSP Sweeney: I am still sort of trying to find the one method that really suits me, but my general method (at least with shorts) is to write at least a barebones core of a story down and then go back and redraft a thousand times.  In saying that, however, I have also had some success with outlining and then writing a good, solid draft straight away.  I think it really depends on how fleshed out the piece is in your mind; is it just a concept, or do you have actual plot and characters and setting and dialogue bouncing around in there as well?

Peter Welmerink: I typically do some reference work first if required, then dive in. In the past, no outlines or really any notes. Now, just because I think it helps me stay focused and on track, a write little snippets of where things are going. It usually changes as I get sucked into the story and characters and events take me away.

  1. What do you do to get better as a writer?
Dorian Dawes: An endless cycle of reading and writing. I have a trusted few who look at my work for me, who's eyes and tastes I trust. They're usually dead-on with their advice and have  provided invaluable assistance to my progress in improving as a writer. Too many young and budding writers, and many artists these days actually, are too terrified of negative criticism, or at least, anything that resembles anything but infinite praise for their precious babies. I try not to get too attached to my work. Yes, I spent a lot of time and effort on it, but I'm going to write more things in the future, better things too. I just don't have that much time and effort to spend defending mediocre work when I could be taking that criticism and using it as a springboard to create better work in the future.

Jake Elliot: Read, read, and read­­––then add on an occasional creative writing class at the local university or college. I might try a writers’ group in Oregon.

Adam Millard: Read, read, read.  When I'm not writing, I'm reading.  The two things go hand-in-hand, and reading is essential.  If you don't read, you can't be a writer.

CM Saunders: Write. And read. I have learned that you learn just as much (if not more) from bad writing as you do from good writing!

Peter Welmerink: Listen to advice from editors. Look at how they edited my work after I thought I had polished it rather nicely but obviously needed fresh eyes to really shake the bugs out.

Always time for some reading

  1. When you first imagine a story, do the characters come first or the plot? Is it always the same?
William Meikle: For me, they come visually, like photographs of a particular scene. I look closely at the scene, and the participants start to move and talk. The story forms from there.

I carry a notebook at all times in which I jot these kinds of thing down. It tends to be full of fragmentary pieces of information such as "Remember the fat man with the umbrella", but it is enough to jog my memory later on.

TSP Sweeney: I usually have a germ of an idea of a plot (or even a particular scenario), which will percolate around in my mind for a while.  After that, I start to come up with the characters and the greater narrative, with both sort of informing each other until everything fits together just right, and then I get on with writing and rewriting (and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting some more).

  1. Do you work in any other creative mediums besides writing? What are they?
Tim Baker: I’m a guitarist/songwriter and had a great band long ago named LickHouse (you can find them on YouTube), but rock ‘n roll is a little too much for a fella my age.

Peter Welmerink: Sidewalk chalk. Though I have yet to perfect anything beyond giant stick people.

  1. How much of a role do reader/publisher expectations play in your writing?
CM Saunders: I try to write for myself, rather than write for a particular audience. Otherwise, you are compromising your art.

TSP Sweeney: At this stage of my (burgeoning) career, I have tended to write solely to what I find interesting as a reader, and that plan seems to be working out ok for me so far. I’ve always figured that any story I am not one hundred percent behind is one that readers and publishers aren’t going to be interested in anyway, as I feel that would show in the quality of my writing.  

Whether I am just being na├»ve in that regard, I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

  1. Any tidbits of advice you can give aspiring authors?
CM Saunders: Write every day, read as widely as you can, and grow a thick skin!

Tim Baker: Read ALOT, and not just in your chosen genre. Write more. The only books on writing I have found valuable and keep close at hand are, The Elements of Style, Stephen King’s On Writing, and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.

William Meikle: As a writer it is all too easy to concentrate on the mechanics of submitting work to editors and to forget that the writing itself is of primary importance. We should all be constantly seeking to improve. If we do that, editorial approval will become that much easier.

To that end, here are five things you can start doing today that will immediately improve your writing, and with it your chances of getting published.

- Improve your vocabulary

Buy a good dictionary, and learn a word every day. Play around with it, using it in sentences, in dialogue and description. As you go along, make a list of the words you've learned. At the end of the month, try to write down a definition beside each word. If you can't remember what the word means, look it up again, play with it again, and leave it on the list for another month. I guarantee your vocabulary will grow in leaps and bounds.

- Read more

You can't come up with an original idea unless you know what isn't original. So read as widely as you can, both within your chosen area and beyond.

I write, and read, horror fiction, but I also read the classics, crime fiction, science-fiction, fantasy and the occasional airport blockbuster. I also read non-fiction, in the fields of astronomy, biology, parapsychology, archaeology, religious history and mythology.

Everything is grist to the mill, and little is ever wasted. If nothing else, it allows you to feel superior while watching "The Weakest Link".

- Deconstruct Writing that Works

When you read something that strikes you as a fine piece of writing, or something that has had success in your chosen area, go back and read it again. This time take notes:

What caught your attention about the writing?

What does the writer do that you don't?

Would you have done it differently? If so, what makes what you've just read better?

You can also do this when you see bad writing. After a while, you'll find yourself doing it automatically with almost everything you read. From the notes you can make up a list of writing tips for yourself. Add to it as you go along, read it often, and follow your own guidance. Improvements will follow.

- Edit yourself

You have to develop a thick skin, and an ability to look at your work dispassionately. After you've written something, put it away for a few days, then come back and look at it critically.
Hone your work until it is as good as you can make it. If you don't respect your writing, how can you expect anyone else to do so?

- Read your work out loud.

Reading aloud enables you to check the rhythm of your work. Check that your writing flows. If it feels uncomfortable to say it, it's time to rewrite.

At the same time check your sentence lengths. If you need to take a breath in mid-sentence, then it probably needs editing. You might feel self-conscious at first, but stick with it. I've found this to be one of the best ways to find your writer's voice.

Go on. Start now. You'll feel the benefits immediately, and you'll be a better writer for it. And that's what we all want, isn't it?

  1. How has the current publishing atmosphere affected you and how you approach your work?
Ryan Lawler: Not at all. The only thing that has changed is the opportunity to put your book on an online shelf and get someone to buy it. Fundamentally, things have not changed – if you can’t write, you will not be able to communicate your story effectively, people will not be entertained, and you will not sell any copies.

Carl Barker: It hasn’t. Where to send a story and how to get it published is something I don’t consider until it’s finished.

  1. Did you a) write for the anthology or b) have a suitable piece ready - & if a) how'd you resist quoting Dylan Thomas? (per Mark Lawrence)
CM Saunders: Luckily I had just finished a piece that was vaguely suitable. I cannot resist quoting Dylan Thomas. Rage! Rage against the dying of the light.

Carl Barker: The piece was already finished. I rarely write with a specific anthology in mind, unless I happen to have the bones of an idea kicking around at the time. I don’t always know where a story and its characters are going to go when I start a piece, so I prefer not to place restrictions on my narrative.

  1. To steal a question from my friend, Bastard, what’s your favorite alcoholic beverage? Do you imbibe when you write?
William Meikle: Being a Scotsman, there’s only one answer. Single malt, and Talisker, from the Isle of Skye if possible. Not to be mixed with anything, whether it be lemonade, ice or writing.

TSP Sweeney: I love an ice cold pale beer.  I don’t really care about who makes it or where they are located, so long as it tastes good.  I will have a drink or two when I write sometimes, especially if I am struggling to loosen up and get words on the page.

Peter Welmerink: Bourbon whiskey and cola, or, at least this summer, Leine’s Summer Shandy. I imbibe when I write though not to the point of writing wasted. I did that years and years ago. The end result was some pretty funny stuff, but it would never see the light of day without ending me up in the loony bin.

  1. What books have you read recently? Any new authors you’re impressed by?
The Child Thief by Brom
Dorian Dawes: Currently reading Peter Straub's Ghost Story, and I must say I'm incredibly behind on my reading. I don't think I've read a book that's come out in the last five years, because I'm still making my way through the 70's, 80's, and the 90's. There's so much literature for me to catch up on. My bookshelves are lined with old horror and sci-fi books I bought at a Library Booksale that I am slowly making my way through. I think the most recent book I read was a horror/fantasy take on the Peter Pan story called the Child Thief, by Author/Illustrator Brom. The book itself was extremely compelling and one of the best fantasy works I've ever read.

Ed Erdelac: I’m reading Imaro by Charles Saunders. It’s an African sword and sorcery book, what Milton Davis calls Sword and Soul. I’m really enjoying it so far. Before that I got into George MacDonald Frasier’s Flashman series pretty heavy. It’s about this purportedly renowned Victorian British war hero, a veteran of practically every major military engagement of the period, including the American Civil War (he served on both sides!), Little Big Horn, Roarke’s Drift, etc, who’s actually a complete coward and villain. Love those. Hilarious.

Carl Barker: Too many to mention.  I try to read as widely and regularly as possible. King once said that ‘if you can’t find the time to read, then you have neither the time, nor the tools, to write.’

CM Saunders: Robert Brumm Jr is an American indie writer just starting out. He is a real talent. I recently read Horns by Joe Hill. He writes just like his old man, but with a slightly more contemporary vibe. Let’s see... I am a big fan of Chuck Palahniuk, and read Rant recently. I try not to miss a Peter Hessler book, as he writes the truth about modern China. 

  1. Stylistically, what genre is most satisfying to write? Are you married to a genre or do you write across different ones? Is there a specific genre you want to write in but
Dorian Dawes: Without a doubt it's horror, but specifically the perfect blend of horror and fantasy that lets you get weird and creative but without spoiling the creepy atmosphere or delving into the incredibly overdone Tolkienism that is proving to be a cancer to the fantasy genre today. I don't think there's a genre of fiction I'm interested in writing that I haven't already, save for maybe certain subgenres of science-fiction like a Space Opera that would be a lot of fun to do. Most of my work is going to be a blend of "other genre" and "horror." It's just the way it happens to work out most of the time as I can't resist that gothic edge. One thing I'd really like to try one day is to tell a children's story with talking animals and a cute fantasy environment, and have it end with wailing and shrieking and gnashing of teeth as their world comes to a bitter and bloody end, hell on earth for the cartoon characters, a river of blood for the talking rabbits.

Gef Fox: I try to write in various genres, with a clear affinity for dark fantasy and horror. The stories that garner the most positive responses tend to have a pinch of humor mixed in with the horror.

TSP Sweeney: I’m definitely not married to a specific genre, so much as I have particular ideas for stories and tailor them in certain directions, all of which are equally satisfying in my mind.  My dream is to write an epic dark fantasy series that is masquerading as Tolkien-esque high fantasy, but I feel as though I am not quite ready as an author to write that to the right standard just yet.  In the meantime, I‘d love to write a cyberpunk story, a steampunk story, and a modern-day spy thriller with a twist, but I haven’t gotten around to putting fingers to keyboard on any of those ideas just yet.

  1. You’re drunk at a karaoke bar: what one song will get you up and wailing?
William Meikle: Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones.

Tim Baker: Born to Be Wild.

TSP Sweeney: Chop Suey by System of a Down – I don’t know what it is about that song, but I can’t resist belting it out.

  1. Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
William Meikle: Full details and more waffle on my website at

Tom Olbert: Try my blog:

Dorian Dawes: I have a website with links to my currently published work and a series of rants that are the result of my existence on this terrifying thing called the internet, check out for all the latest updates.

Jake Elliot: I’d recommend to start. I’m on Facebook and I’ll friend everybody until I’m offered naked pictures. Remember, my wife can kick my ass and she might get upset if I’m looking at your naked pics. I’m on Goodreads too, and there, you can read the fist 15% of ‘The Wrong Way Down’ for free.

Gene O’Neill: Just Google my name.

Ed Erdelac: Otherwise look me up on Facebook.

Adam Millard: Readers can check out my website for upcoming events and news, which is and you can find me on Facebook and also on Twitter @adammillard.

Gef Fox: They can check out my blog (, or find me on Twitter (@wagthefox) or Facebook ( I'm elsewhere online, but those are the big three.

CM Saunders: I have a new blog:

All the usual haunts like Amazon Author Central, Author's Den, and Goodreads.

And, of course, Facebook and Myspace. I think I am the only person in the civilized world with a deep suspicion of Twitter!

Ryan Lawler: You can follow me on Twitter – @RyanL1986 – or you can check out my blog at

Tim Baker: They can check me out at: Will soon have a blog up and running, too.

TSP Sweeney: My personal, all-too-infrequently updated blog is at, and contains links to the various stories I have thrown up around the web, as well as details about my upcoming published works. I can also be tracked down on Twitter @TSPSweeney

Carl Barker: I maintain a web presence at


Thanks everyone for stopping by. Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous will be released on September 1, 2012 by Angelic Knight Press. Been seeing some great early reactions to this anthology.

For those interested, here are all the previous stops:

1. Fading Light Multi-Author Interview @
2. Fading Light Multi-Author Interview @ The Nocturnal Library
Keep an eye out over at Wag the Fox, Fantasy Book Critic, and The Dark Fantastic as the tour continues.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Update on COLD DAYS and Butcher's Next Series (Mihir)

Jim Butcher is a pretty busy man these days after completing COLD DAYS a few days ago; yesterday the publication date was announced to be 27th November 2012 as well as the cover revealed.  So while currently he’s mired in the revisions for COLD DAYS, he also announced his next project whilst continuing the Dresden Files.

Its going to be a Steampunk series called The Cinder Spires tentatively.  The first book has the working title of "The Aeronaut's Windlass" and will be of a similar length to The Furies of Calderon (first book in the Codex Alera Series). He plans to have it written by the end of this year after which he will start work on the next Dresden Files book, which will be the fifteen title in this wonderful series.

NOTE: Jim Butcher picture courtesy of Paul of "Blood of the Muse and Larry Berger Steampunk Aeronaut picture courtesy of Claire Stokoe and Noupe.

For the time being, let's have a look at the revealed COLD DAYS cover, while we wait for its release:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bastard Reaction: Blooded by Amanda Carlson

As a precursor to Amanda Carlson's debut novel, Full Blooded, we were treated to the Blooded novella back in April.

I'm not a fan of reading short stories and novellas, they rarely do anything for me. Decided to make an exception here as I was very curious about the upcoming Full Blooded novel, and in some regards this was true here, but that's quite all right. If the novella's purpose was to get me interested in this world, to get me to read Carlson's debut novel, then mission accomplished.

The Blooded novella is quite simplistic, just a combination of a few scenes to showcase a few of the characters we'll be following in the Jessica McClain series. But more importantly, at least as it concerns myself, it promised there'll be some kickass violence to be had. Other than a couple of short scenes, that's pretty much all this was, lots of action.

Won't get into much details of Blooded, but it mainly featured our main character Jessica McClain, a non-were, living among werewolves, and a girl at that, and how she has to fend for herself. Not to be a victim, but to go on the offensive even when the odds are stacked against her. There's some bullying (or simply attempts at) going on, some prophesies of how she'll be the ruin of them, and this is just giving us glimpse of what's to come set a handful of years or so before the start of the novel.

My only real observation, and I guess complaint, is that there was too much chatter for my taste in the action scenes. It was rationalized in the novella as a tactic to distract the werewolf opponents, so it became more palatable. That said, it's something I'll have to see how it's handled in Full Blooded. At least the character interaction outside of the action scenes seemed like fun.

Whether or not you are interested in reading the Blooded novella, take my word for it that Full Blooded should be a novel that gets well received by the urban fantasy community, and I'd be very surprised if it doesn't instantly get a big fan following, to go along with the character of Jessica McClain. At least this guy will be following. But for the price of $0.99, there's really nothing to lose here.

Buy Blooded from Amazon.

Full Blooded is set to be released on September 11, 2012. Buy a copy from The Book Depository.

Interview with Amanda Carlson on Bastard Books
Cover revealed for Hot Blooded, sequel to Full Blooded

Please visit Amanda Carlson's website for more info.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bastard Reaction: Shadows Before the Sun by Kelly Gay

When you go to Hell and back, the very least you want as a reward is a piece of Heaven. Charlie just got her wish, and she's quickly finding out it's not all it's cracked up to be. Shadows Before the Sun is the fourth novel in the Charlie Madigan series by Kelly Gay, which has been one of my favorite urban fantasy series in the past few years. Previously we joined Charlie in the world of Charybdon, this time we're taking a trip to Elysia whether she's welcomed or not.

Leaving behind a fresh murder scene in the Druid King's territory, Charlie is all set to go in a diplomatic visit to bring Hank back from his home world of Elysia. That's when she gets a shocking report concerning Hank, making her visit inconsequential. Charlie not being one to play by the rules, and being someone of the skeptic persuasion, puts a plan in motion to find the truth of the situation.  She's now undertaking an undercover mission, accompanied by an unlikely ally, into the heavenly Elysia, just to be met with horrors beyond her imagination. While she dodges an ancient superpower set on killing her, she's purposed to find the truth of what has happened to Hank, and intends to put the appropriate parties in a world of hurting.

Shadows Before for the Sun is quite a dark book. I also found it to be the most pleasingly violent so far, particularly in the graphic department. Nothing gratuitous about it, but just genuine detailed brutality. This was most prevalent in a new narrative feature from Hank's point-of-view; the subject of excruciating torture.

This series is narrated from Charlie's first person view, but for the first time Kelly Gay decided to throw Hank into the mix, but his in third person. I thought it worked wonderful. I'd be wary of overusing this tactic in future installments, but for the time being it worked quite well particularly with the story that was being told.

It was quite a straightforward book. Not many twists we've come to expect. It also took quite a bit to develop. But it wasn't much of an issue, with time well spent with the awesome Rex bantering, and the surprise character of the Oracle who was featured through most of the book tagging along with Charlie. I don't know why I kept imagining both of them growing old together and starring in a Grumpy Old Men adaptation, grandma style.

Something I found interesting with this novel was its structure. It was perfectly framed with its first and last chapter, and the middle content was dominated with two main threads, and a third one which was left over for the next installment. A third one which I thought would share more significant time in this novel, so that surprised me. As it was, even though it's not a long book, it felt like you read two novels packed in one. It contained two climaxes, the second one coming by means of an extended aftermath portion in the novel. I don't know how this development will be received, as it was a bit tricky as far as pace and rhythm was concerned, but for all my cares it just meant that I was privy to some more exciting sequences.

One thing I'm a bit leery about is how the future interaction between Charlie and Hank will develop. Though at first I was hard set against it, I have to admit that I'm enjoying some of their time together. Hank really won me over in the second half of the previous book, and this one cemented my opinion of him and his role. That said, I think it can become a bit dull and somewhat tedious if all their interactions from now on will be laced with sexual banter and erotic lustful scenes. I really hope they find other topics to talk about going forward than how majestic Hank's joystick happens to be to go along with his orgasm inducing soundtrack in bed. I may just have to deal with it as I've done so far as there's plenty more here to hold my interest.

I also wonder how Charlie's progressing power will be handled. I tell you this much, I'm not a big fan of having powerful characters being constantly restrained from exerting that power other than through the use of their own judgement. I'm of a mind to think that we may be seeing a bit more of Charlie flexing her muscles in the future, and I'm curious of what antagonists will be placed in her way to balance things out.

Probably being in the minority here, actually I'm sure of it, but I still think that the first book was the best in the series. I guess I'm just a sucker for the political intrigue it featured, with all the behind the scenes maneuvering with us having a front seat to the action. The past few novels have felt like some sort of stage is being set, without putting all the parties together and us not being privy to anyone's hand. We get hints of possible motives here and there, and how war is imminent if certain things come to pass, but still haven't seen the ambitious grab for power that we were present for in that first book. But I'm being patient with it.

Keeping that in mind, despite the emotional roller-coaster that was this book, the ending felt like it had a promise of peace, of hope that things can just get better. The previous books all seem to have ended in some tense cliffhanger moments, while this time all was tranquil. My opinion? The stage has been finally set, and this is the peace before the storm, if we aren't simply in the eye of it already. The promise of more exciting things to come holding my interest.

Character interaction was at its best though through the novel, Rex stealing scenes whenever he's present. The Oracle made a great character to have sharing a good portion of the novel, so that was very much welcomed, and a new character has been introduced who is a wild card. He will keep things quite interesting. Nothing to say of how awesome Pen the Druid King is, so also looking forward to more of him.

Kelly Gay has written another solid installment in this Charlie Madigan saga. Shadows Before the Sun will surely be well received by fans of the series, and I think it'll be the favorite of the great majority reading it. Don't know what Gay has planned next for the series, hearing rumors of a book featuring the Druid King's story, but whichever way she takes us, I'll be quite eager to follow.

Buy Shadows Before the Sun from The Book Depository.

Please visit Kelly Gay's website for more information on this series and other projects.

Other reviews in the series: