Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Guest Post: Writing a New Series by Susan Jane Bigelow

I only ever thought I had one book in me. When I finally dragged it, kicking and screaming, out into the light I was absolutely certain that this would be it. BROKEN, which came out in 2011, would be my one and done. It wasn’t that wild a supposition, it took me six years of drafting, revisions and angst to get that book done. But then I wrote two more books in that series, so it turned out I could keep writing after all. That’s when I started to worry that I’d never really be able to write anything that wasn’t set in the world of that original series. 

And yet, here we are. THE DAUGHTER STAR, which comes out on 5/28, is the first of a planned trilogy about three sisters set in a completely new universe.

It was remarkably challenging. I’d been building bits and pieces of the EXTRAHUMANS universe since I was a kid (really, I’m one of those) so the challenge for this new series was to create something new from the ground up. I started to play around with a couple of ideas I had about a heavy-gravity planet and a ternary star system, and wedded them to a few other ideas I’d had about an alien species basically buying Earth for the resources and relocating humanity. When I created the character of Marta Grayline, she and her sisters, Violet and Beth, became the glue that really held everything together. 

This trilogy is about all kinds of things, from a mysterious alien species to interstellar war to faith and politics in Marta’s home country of Gideon, but at its heart it’s about the relationship between the three Grayline sisters. There’s Marta, the eldest, who is relentless, loyal to her friends, curious to a fault, impatient and only ever wants to be free to do her own thing. Then there’s middle sister Violet, who is prickly, sharp-tongued, ruthless, practical, aloof, but also capable of great sacrifice and love. Lastly, there’s youngest sister Beth, who is quiet, mysterious, sensitive, wickedly humorous and obsessed with finding the meaning in her own existence. Each sister will have her own book; Marta’s story happens in THE DAUGHTER STAR, Violet’s will be next and Beth’s story will close out the trilogy. Each sister’s story will be an integral piece of the whole arc, in which both they and their universe will be dramatically changed. I really like this style of storytelling, because I feel like I can complete a single character arc in one book and then move on to someone else, which makes each book feel very different from the last.

It’s been a real challenge to start over and create something new. It’s also been rewarding and exciting, because I’ve loved being able to do new things and stretch myself creatively. I’ve also gotten into the habit of it; I’m working on a few other projects set in other, entirely new worlds. It turns out that I have more books and more worlds in me than I thought.

Thanks so much to Bastard Books for having me here today!

Thanks Susan for stopping by. As mentioned in the post above, The Daughter Star was released yesterday so make sure to buy an eBook or paperback copy. I've yet to read any of her books yet, but I've recently taken the necessary steps to remedy the situation. I've particularly seen a lot of praise for her Extrahumans series, and hopefully some of you will give her novels a shot.

What a rotten way for everything to turn out. Marta Grayline’s stable, fulfilling life as a freighter pilot has been yanked out from under her, she’s stuck on her miserable home planet with her obnoxious family, her beautiful girlfriend’s now on the opposite side of an interstellar war, and she’s bored to tears. What else could go wrong?
Never ask that question.
Marta’s enigmatic sister Beth offers her a way out by enlisting in the Novan Emergency Fleet, and Marta jumps at it. But it only gets worse from there; her ship is attacked and destroyed, and she finds herself stranded on a mysterious space station with a crew that won’t answer her questions.
And, of course, then there’s the aliens – the planet-destroying Abrax that somehow seem to have a hold on Beth. They’re coming for Marta, too.
Marta’s quest for answers will take her to the frozen dark side of a faraway planet, into the tense politics of a rebel base, through vast subterranean caves and into the heart of the enemy’s defenses. She’ll have to face ancient forces, her own doubts, and the inside of an alien mind if she wants to get some answers, complete her mission and unlock her own latent potential. The Daughter Star, the red beacon in the night sky, may yet be the key to the freedom and understanding Marta so desperately wants.
Once again, thanks Susan for coming around.

My blog partner Mihir has a guest post from Susan Jane Bigelow today on Fantasy Book Critic too, hope you have a look.

For more information, please visit Susan Jane Bigelow's website and follow her on Twitter @whateversusan.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Bastard Giveaway: Generation V by M. L. Brennan

Recently read Generation V by M. L. Brennan and I can honestly say that it was very refreshing and the most fun I've had reading an urban fantasy novel recently. Now I bring you a giveaway sponsored by the author for one signed physical copy of this novel, and you don't want to miss out.
Reality Bites
Fortitude Scott’s life is a mess. A degree in film theory has left him with zero marketable skills, his job revolves around pouring coffee, his roommate hasn’t paid rent in four months, and he’s also a vampire. Well, sort of. He’s still mostly human.
But when a new vampire comes into his family’s territory and young girls start going missing, Fort can’t ignore his heritage anymore. His mother and his older, stronger siblings think he’s crazy for wanting to get involved. So it’s up to Fort to take action, with the assistance of Suzume Hollis, a dangerous and sexy shape-shifter. Fort is determined to find a way to outsmart the deadly vamp, even if he isn’t quite sure how.
But without having matured into full vampirehood and with Suzume ready to split if things get too risky, Fort’s rescue mission might just kill him...

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 shipping addresses only, and it will run from May 27, 2013 until 11:59 pm ET on June 7, 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 June 7, 2013.
  • There'll be one winner only, for a signed copy of Generation V
  • 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! And thanks to everyone who has served or is currently serving in the armed forces, everything you do is appreciated.

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Bastard Reaction: Hot Blooded by Amanda Carlson

"Well I'm hot blooded, check it and see. I got a fever of a hundred and three..." sorry, couldn't help myself with a little bit of Foreigner, and I'm sure I'm not first one to lose control like this. I don't sing or dance, but I have a weak spot for 80s music. Much like a werewolf, I transform myself and this overwhelming urge just takes over. Which brings us to this novel, Jessica McClain is back and kicking ass as usual. Hot Blooded is the second novel in Amanda Carlson's urban fantasy series, and it doesn't disappoint.

The novel picks up right were Full Blooded left off. While Jessica's dad and Alpha goes to investigate the nature of a werewolf rebellion, she and a small group of old allies, new acquaintances, and one stubborn jackass go on a journey to save someone dear to her from the grasps of a powerful witch; a goddess. A female Lycan foreseen to create havoc in the supernatural world, her werewolf twin brother and a loyal werewolf friend, two not-so-friendly vampires, and the aforementioned jackass human detective...what can go wrong?

Hot Blooded was not what I was expecting. It's quite different in plot and structure to the first novel Full Blooded, which is good. I mean good because it conveys that Amanda Carlson is not afraid to do her own thing, and it alludes that she'll be keeping us on our toes on what to expect in future novels while keeping each installment unique and refreshing within her universe.

With a genre littered with mystery and thrillers, Hot Blooded was an invigorating Action-Adventure Urban Fantasy. It's the type of tale which we might find frequently in secondary world fantasies, the quest to save someone from the clutches of evil who is sequestered in a lair and the journey to surpass all the obstacles thrown in their way as they make progress to the destination. It had plenty of action, and as I've suggested previously, I really believe that Carlson has a knack to write good physical action sequences. It helps having a character that kicks ass and is not shy of meting a good dosage of extreme violence. And it worked.

It had a really straight-forward plot, and in this particular regard I liked the first novel better. That said, I enjoyed Hot Blooded more as a whole. I felt the characters came off as more comfortable in this world, the flow felt improved, and in all I thought it was better written. Plus there was a bigger focus on action this time around, so right up my alley. It helped set a brisk pace, but at the same time interposed with what I find to be long scenes.

The scenes are characterized by having an abundance of dialogue, something I always champion. I'm not entirely sure if the "correct" balance is there, but so far it's working for me, so I hesitate to encourage a different approach. I just can't help shake the feeling that if Carlson shortens some of these scenes a bit, particularly cutting a bit on some dialogue that can become a bit circuitous, that it'll  provide other, and hopefully better, opportunities.

The pace doesn't seem to be affected much by it, so who knows. There was only one particular scene which I recall where the forward momentum of the novel had going for it just stopped as they reached a certain trap with some beings behaving like flying piranhas. At the same time, it was during this portion that most of the important plot elements that would increase the intrigue and tension of the story occurred. It's also during this portion that most of the character development flourished, so it doesn't feel like a wasted opportunity at all. So the only conclusion I can come up with is that I'm a bit of a walking hypocritical contradiction. Just hope that something in this babble makes a semblance of sense.

Going back to the action, this time around there was a bigger focus on magic clashes. Depicted more as a battle of wills rather than physical and explosive type of spells, not that it was absent of the latter. I wouldn't go as far as say that it became too magic focused, but it became quite apparent that it took the spotlight in this novel. Considering the plot, it fit. We're dealing with a powerful witch after all, it is my hope though that it doesn't become as common place in the future as I think it takes away some of what makes the Jessica werewolf an awesome character to read about. I mean, there's just some quite awesome of seeing Jessica take care of some of her opponents with quiet violent efficiency; a broken neck here, an armed ripped-off there. There are some hints about Jessica's potential though that sounds promising, so will be looking forward to how the character adapts to each new circumstance.

The journey to the evil lair was defined by a few traps with "random monsters". Personally, I'm not a big fan of them, as they usually seem a bit impersonal to me, but I know plenty of people love them. But once again, for this novel it worked, in particular because it enhanced the world-building immensely, and the action was good too. I particularly like some creatures that were water based, and I hope we can see them in some fashion in future novels.

There really wasn't any romance in this one at all, to the delight of some (me) and the chagrin of others. Well, can't please everyone, but I'm not complaining. I was more excited about the fact that the author appeased some of my concerns about how Jessica would react to certain developments. It had the potential to become a very angsty story, which I thought would have really ruined Jessica as a character for me, but this wasn't the case at all. I don't know what the future will hold on this regard, but I think Amanda Carlson is doing a very good job so far on balancing all the different potential elements this series has. I know some are fond of the love interest in this one, but I'm not convinced I like the guy all that much yet, so we'll see.

The novel ends with another cliffhanger, in many ways quite similar to the one which ended Full Blooded. I'm a fan of cliffhangers in a series though I'm quite aware that some have a strong dislike for them. The good thing is that the next novel is coming out within a few months, so the wait won't be long.

Considering the cliffhanger, Amanda Carlson is keeping Jessica quite busy with no time to breathe; jumping from one thing to another, solving one crisis just to jump into the next one. I don't see that changing any time soon considering how the novel ended and other set-ups that have been made. At some point I hope we can slow down for a bit because there's a lot of Jessica's life that I'm eager to find out about, and I think that can only be accomplished if we slow the action down for a bit, which goes against all my instincts of what I enjoy reading. But I'm very interested in seeing Jessica, even if it's for a short while, in a normal daily routine, and seeing her surrounded by her dad's pack, and see the different interactions and interplays that could go on in that environment.

Hot Blooded was a great follow-up to Carlson's debut. It showed us a different side to the series, and together with the highly energetic narrating style from Jessica McClain to go with the reliable violent action, it just provides a winning combination that should be sustained for the rest of the series. Keep an eye out for Cold Blooded coming out soon, I know I'll be reading it as soon as I can get my hands on it.

Buy Hot Blooded from The Book Depository.

For more information visit Amanda Carlson's website, blog, or follow her on Twitter @AmandaCCarlson.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bastard Giveaway: Blood and Bone by Ian C. Esslemont

It's with great reluctance that I admit to be Malazan ignorant. My brother's best friend has been on my case for years trying to get me to read it, with obvious failure. Today we celebrate the release of Blood and Bone of the Malazan Empire by Ian C. Esslemont published by Tor, with a giveaway of course. Just so I didn't make a total fool out myself, I got my hands on Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson, which is the first novel as I understand it in the world of Malaz. Read the prologue, read the first chapter, and it looks like it'll be an awesome series to get into, which I will definitely be doing as soon as I can.

Blood and Bone is the fifth novel in the Malazan Empire series written by Ian C. Esslemont, but also the fifteenth in the Malazan universe, though I personally don't know how integrated the two series are with one another; something to look into elsewhere. In any case, Blood and Bone is released today in the US, and we'll be having a giveaway here for one copy of any of the Malazan Empire books by Esslemont published by Tor for two winners.
In the western sky the bright emerald banner of the Visitor descends like a portent of annihilation. On the continent of Jacuruku, the Thaumaturgs have mounted yet another expedition to tame the neighboring wild jungle. Yet this is no normal wilderness. It is called Himatan, and it is said to be half of the spirit realm and half of the earth. And it is said to be ruled by a powerful entity whom some name the Queen of Witches, and some a goddess: the ancient Ardata.
Saeng grew up knowing only the rule of the magus Thaumaturgs—but it was the voices out of that land's forgotten past that she listened to. And when her rulers mount an invasion of the neighboring jungle, those voices send her and her brother on a desperate mission.
To the south, the desert tribes are united by the arrival of a foreign warleader, a veteran commander in battered ashen mail whom his men call the Grey Ghost. This warleader takes the tribes on a raid like none other, deep into the heart of Thaumaturg lands. Meanwhile word comes to K'azz, and mercenary company the Crimson Guard, of a contract in Jacuruku. And their employer...none other than Ardata herself.
Ian Esslemont thrills again with another gripping entry into the New York Times bestselling Malazan World in Blood and Bone. 

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

Giveaway will be for 1 physical copy for two winners of any of Ian C. Esslemont's Malazan Empire novels which include Night of Knives, Return of the Crimson Guard, Stonewielder, Orb Sceptre Throne, and Blood and Bone provided by Tor.

The giveaway is open to US, CANADA, and the UK shipping addresses only, and it will run from May 21, 2013 until 11:59 pm ET on May 30, 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 May 30, 2013.
  • There'll be two winners only for one physical copy any of Esslemont's Malazan Empire novels
  • 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 everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Interview & Giveaway with Wesley Chu author of The Lives of Tao

It's been a while since I've had an interview on the blog, and a good opportunity presented itself so that we could get acquainted with charming debut author Wesley Chu. It's always my goal to have an awesome and worthwhile interview, and I think we accomplished that.

That said, I want to take this moment in time to state my intent to wage war against this Chu character. I forgive him for making a fool out of me with some of his answers, even sidestepping a few of my most insightful questions, but he took it too far when he dared to blaspheme against the almighty god Jack Bauer, my daddy. Here I was rejoicing the future return of this great hero, when Mr. Chu with his clever words alluded to Bauer's human mortality, and diminished badassery. Unacceptable. And he didn't stop there. While last night, much as it pains me and to my repulsiveness, the world conspired to mettle a small token of revenge for this slight, I'm not ready to forgive and forget just yet.

In any case, have a look for yourselves... oh, and don't forget to enter the giveaway at the end of the post; The Lives of Tao was awesome.


Bastard:  Hey Wes, welcome to our house at Bastard Books. Looks like all the begging you did to get invited finally paid off. I hope you don’t come to regret it as you’ve just given me permission to invade your privacy, never a good idea. How are you doing today?

Wesley Chu: I’m good. Fantastic even.

Uh, I was fantastic at the beginning of the interview. By the end, I was far from fugging fantastic. Bastard’s a right bastard when it comes to interviewing!

Bastard:  For the record, can you tell us a bit about yourself? Make sure to state your full name and inform us of the when and where you first got your diapers changed, as well as your favorite color and your favorite song to dance to when you don’t think anyone is watching.

Wesley Chu: Hello all, my name is Wesley Chu, and I’ve never had my diapers changed. You see, when you grow up in the jungles like I did, you don’t wear diapers. After all, predators can follow your scent. Therefore, it’s extraordinarily important to bury the feces right away. Remember kids, one in five children don’t make it to three years old because they don’t bury their poop.

My favorite color is blue. No, yellow! (One geek point if you get the reference)

Bastard:  Budweiser has been my beer of choice for as long as I can remember, but lately I’ve been partial to some Blue Moon with the orange slices. Which is your preferred beer, and don’t you dare tell me you don’t drink, else we can’t be friends any longer. Lie if you have to, some things are just too important to ruin with unwelcomed truths.

Wesley Chu: I think you’re the first human being that actually admits to drinking Budweiser. It tastes like a mixture of armpit sweat and carbonated Robitussin. I used to like beer, being partial to Magic Hat #9, but drinking too much of it ill fits my small bladder lifestyle.

Now, I just drink Scotch neat. My current favorite scotch (changes weekly) is Ardbeg Uigeadail, but I like basically anything peaty that punches you in the face. If someone forces me to drink something else, I’ll drink stuff from Speyside, but I refuse to drink any of the Glens.

Bastard:  You mention on your website that you got into Information Technology for your professional career, what do you actually do within it? Programming, networking, Excel Master, Google Search specialist?  Or is this an elaborate way of calling yourself a gamer? Yes indeed, I’m well aware of all the boasting you’ve been doing around about your elite WoW skillz.

Wesley Chu: I do Middleware design and build for large financial institutions, but let’s talk about the important stuff. World of Warcraft raiding is the best thing one can enroll in for leadership training.

As the former recruiting officer for the #1 end game raiding guild on my server, I had so much power in the palm of my delicate blood elf hands that it was intoxicating, not to mention I was one of the richest guys on the server. I was like the Jared of my server, and no, not the Subway guy, the jewelers. I’ve managed people in real life before, but they’re nowhere as difficult to herd a group of 150 pubescent and not so pubescent guys (and a few girls) hot for epic loots!

Bastard:  As any self-respecting person would do, as soon as I learned you were an actor I IMDB’ed you.  To my surprise you had a role in Fred Claus as the “Banzai Chef”. I’m a very skeptical person, as I’m sure the readers in my blog are too, so I went and gathered proof.  Behold!

I take it you’re the one shouting “Banzai!” Tell us a bit about your experience as an actor, is it a career you’re still pursuing?

Wesley Chu: I am impressed you found this thing. It was a dangerous job. I bled my own blood shooting that cinematic scene. No honestly, I did. I nearly cut Rachel Weisz too. They actually had the hot plate turned on. And no, I didn’t have any teppanyaki training.

Acting is still there on the side, but I’m starting to fill the second class older roles. Meh, it goes with the territory. When I was young, tuned, and limber, I used to chase work. Now, it’s all about the writing. That and I’ve come to the realization that there’s just not that many roles for Asian guys.

We’re pretty much near the bottom of the acting totem pole, relegated to token Asian guy roles. That’s the problem with Asian male roles. Asian women are highly sought after and can play many more roles than us dudes. Hell, even Lucy Liu even got to play Watson sidekick in Elementary. Asian guys, we get to be Sulu, and your doctor telling you that you have cancer, or the guy at Best Buy selling you a phone.

Bastard:  Don’t know how far you went with your gymnastics, but it seems like your dreams of becoming a professional athlete didn’t materialize, at least not yet. I assume you’re still a sports fan though, what are your preferred sports? And what about those Chicago Bulls and how far they’ve gone without Derrick Rose? I sympathize with my Boston Celtics missing Rajon Rondo, but I still won’t forgive Chicago for stealing Tom Thibodeau and Brian Scalabrine from us.

Wesley Chu: Hey, don’t you mention that Derrick !@$@ #%% !%#% piece of !#%!@& @$!%%@ #$^&$%$ that damn !@!%^ *$@! Rose guy. I mean, he’s been !@$#% cleared ^&** since {honk} January to play! Yo DRose, man up and go help your team in the playoffs. Otherwise, the Bulls are aight.

I’m really a Bears fan though, which makes my life even more tragic. I mean !@%% dang draft !#$^@ !(&(^&%^ Long, a 2nd round !@%!$^ (&(^$ in the first? But hey, we’re gonna win it all this year!

Bastard:  I’ve also seen that you call yourself a Kung-Fu Master, so I just know everyone is wondering if you and Jack Bauer got into a slapfight, who do you think would win? Obviously Jack Bauer would win, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Give us a blow by blow account if necessary.

War has been declared!
Wesley Chu: First of all, that’s a load of BULL! Jack Bauer can’t kick my ass! He’s 47 years old and he’s been in hiding! So that means he’s probably not eating well. Not to mention since he’s keeping a low profile, he’s probably not working out anymore. And if we’re going to size people’s weaknesses, heroin addicts have a higher sensitivity to pain. I would crush him in a fight.

Oh wait, I see what you did there. Very tricky, Bastard. Very tricky. Slap fight eh? We both know Jack Bauer’s hands can only make fists. He is physically unable to touch another human being with an open hand. Jack Bauer does not slap.

Bastard:  Before I became engrossed with my SF&F reading, I was mainly a manga reader and anime watcher. I’ve seen your picture around with the Superman t-shirt, all the talk about WoW gaming, so on that respect as you were growing up, and even now, what has held your interests?

Wesley Chu: I used to play a lot of first person shooters, and then as time went on, I realized that I sucked at them. Sure there were a few I got pretty mediocre at, but my FPS experience usually involves me spawning at the safe zone and getting crushed like a worm 15 seconds later.

So now, I’m all about the Civilizations, the Total Wars, and if I feel the need to be competitive, I play Heroes of Newerth. And before any of you DOTA masters challenge me, I will admit that I pretty much suck at that too. 

However, I will challenge ANYONE to a game of Axis & Allies as long as I get to be Japan.

Bastard:  What’s your tale about your trials and tribulations to get your book published, every author seems to have one? The uncensored version please.

Wesley Chu: I’m gonna cheat a little on this one:

It all started with an expensive email. Wait, let me back track. I’m sure the Great Angry Robots Open submission of 2011 is old news now, but in case you don’t follow their every spoken word (like I do), here’s a quick recap. In March 2011, AR had their first open submission ever. Nearly 1000 people submitted works, 65 were asked for full manuscripts and 24 made it to the editors’ desk. Out of those 24, 5 received offers. The End.

Back to the expensive email. In December of 2011, my wife and I were vacationing in Bora Bora, which while a fantastically beautiful place, had perfected the fine art of legalized racketeering. Yes it’s a very small island in the middle of the ocean. We get it. But $24 for a 6oz bottle of bug spray? Yeah, you suck, Mr. Convenience Store Owner. Don’t even ask what sunblock was going for. I could have bought 6oz of plutonium for less. So after a week being disconnected from the internet, we finally caved and bought access for a whopping $40 a day.

My wife and I were watching “The Bounty” starring Mel Gibson (ironically, the movie was filmed on the island – no wonder it came so highly recommended) when an email popped in from a certain Mr. Lee Harris expressing interest in publishing The Lives of Tao. I did what anyone wearing a bathrobe in an over-water bungalow would do in that situation. I ran around the room in circles about nine times whooping and making a fool of myself, and then I jumped into the ocean.

Then when I got home, I bought a bottle of scotch which I was supposed to save for the actual signing. My friends got into most of it during my New Year’s Party (/shakes fist at said friends). The rest I shared with my bestie literary friend Laura Lam (of Pantomime fame) over Skype when the contract appeared in my inbox. It was 6AM in the morning. Friendly tip folks; scotch and toothpaste make a foul combination.

(Co-opted from my original signing post)

Bastard:  The Lives of Tao is your extremely fun debut novel, one that I would describe as the bastard child of NBC’s Chuck and, as you mentioned in the novel, the Invasion of the Body Snatchers film. Share with those who haven’t read it yet a bit about the novel and advise them on why The Lives of Tao should be in their next shopping basket.

Chuck being badass
Wesley Chu: The Lives of Tao is a modern day science fiction about an alien that inhabits an overweight loser and convinces him to fight in a civil war over humanity’s evolution. The alien, Tao, with his millions of years of wisdom and experience, has a slight problem. He can only talk to Roen, the overweight and highly unmotivated loser, but can’t control him. So now, the two must learn to work together as Roen loses weight, learns how to throw a stiff jab, find love, and stay alive as Tao’s powerful enemies hunt them down.

Oh, and some guy on the internet said that it’s an extremely fun debut, and a bastard child of Chuck and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Bastard:  What is a Quasing and what is the name of yours? What do you make of the voices inside my head? Maybe I’m destined for greatness.

Wesley Chu: My Quasing’s name is Eva, which incidentally is the name of my dog. See, that’s how my Quasing got me. Eva spiked my brain and convinced me to get a dog and call her Eva. It’s really confusing.

And since I’m always with my dog, and think my dog’s talking to me, my brain has no issues dealing with this alien in my head. Got it? Of course, for some reason, Eva the dog and the Quasing both sound like Marge Simpson.

Bastard:  Considering that you were born in Taiwan, and without getting into its tricky relationship with mainland China, The Lives of Tao integrated plenty of Chinese history, mythology, and folklore into its narrative. How much did your country of origin and your family’s culture influence how you went about writing your novel? In other words, how the heck did a typical fat loser white American end up being named Roen Tan? Maybe because of his English or German heritage?

Wesley Chu: Ahh…but is he white? Let me put it this way. I purposely named him Roen Tan and did not describe his ethnicity or physical features too closely for two reasons. I wanted him to be the common man blank enough so that any reader can think to themselves “man, I could be this Roen guy.”

Also, in my opinion, far too often minority roles are written with stereotypes in mind. That’s why people assume leads are white. Sure there have been lead roles that utilize Latinos, African Americans, and other minorities, but how many books and movies have written lead Asian males without minority stereotypes in mind? I wanted to address that.
So, what you're saying is that Seth Rogen still has a chance...

Bastard:  The Lives of Tao was recently released, as a rookie author you’re in the unique position to divulge some trade secrets. What kind of hazing have you had to endure from fellow veteran authors? It’s quite all right, you’re in a safe environment. And so far, how has your early publishing life been treating you, as expected?

Not Jack Bauer
Wesley Chu: Well, there was this one night at Immortal Confusion when Myke Cole started handing out tequila shots like candy. Now, I would tell you what happened next if I remembered, but I believe Diana Rowland, who is an ex-cop, had to save my life at one point.

But honestly, I love the writing community. When my non-writing friends ask me what it’s like going to all these SFF conventions, I tell them I feel like the hobbit coming back to the shire. It’s the strangest and most unique feeling when a guy finally finds a place he belongs.

Psst…Myke Cole is Jack Bauer.

Bastard:  While we’re at it, does this series have a name? What can you share with us about the future of this series and the sequel you’re currently working on? Any other projects or is writing this series holding your full focus at the moment?

Wesley Chu: Due to the great early reception for The Lives of Tao, the Angry Robot overlords have green lit The Deaths of Tao and moved it up to Oct 29, 2013. Fans of the first book can expect something a little different in Deaths. After all, it is five years later and the Quasing civil war has put Roen through the ringer. He’s a little older and a lot more pissed off. Oh yeah, and things aren’t looking too rosy.

As for a series name…um… let me get back to you on that.

Bastard:  At the risk of a copy/paste answer, what novels and authors have had the biggest influence in your writing and life? Any recent novels you've read you’d like to recommend?

Wesley Chu: I’m gonna cheat again and just talk about an upcoming novel dropping in August. I have the arc for Jay Posey’s Three at the moment. It’s a gritty dystopian about a guy trying to help a woman and her son from a slew of baddies, both human, kinda human, and some straight up weird bad shit.

Now, Jay works for Red Storm Entertainment, and he’s one of the guys who brought us Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon. The first thing I felt about reading Three was how visceral the book is. I felt like I was right there in his clusterphobic world, and I’ll be honest, it’s not a nice place to be for someone of my low pain threshold.

Keep an eye on for Three; it’s going to make a good splash.

Bastard:  Well off you go, I’m sure you have other places to invade. I’d like to say it was a pleasure… well, it actually was. Thanks for stopping by, hope to see you around. Good luck with The Lives of Tao, and any future projects you get involved in. Any parting shots?

Wesley Chu: Thanks much. You’re not as bad as they all said you were, even if you are a Boston fan. By the way, how did your guys doing in the playoffs? Oh, oops. =) It’s okay. I’m sure my Bulls will be joining you soon.

They sure did, Nostradamus. In the interest of not being an ungrateful host, I'll call for a temporary truce for the rest of the day.

All kidding aside, thanks to Wesley Chu for stopping by, much appreciated. The Lives of Tao was a really good read, so go buy yourself a copy as soon as you can. It's extremely fun. Or, you can try your luck and see if you can win a copy in the following giveaway (if you're honest, this is probably why you came here in the first place).

For more information on Wesley Chu you can visit his website and follow him on Twitter @wes_chu.

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

Giveaway will be for 1 physical copy of The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu provided by Angry Robot.

The giveaway is open to US and CANADA shipping addresses only, and it will run from May 16, 2013 until 11:59 pm ET on May 31, 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 May 31, 2013.
  • There'll be 1 winner only for one physical copy of The Lives of Tao.
  • 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 everyone! You can follow...

Monday, May 13, 2013

Update on 24: Live Another Day

He's baaaaaaaaaaaaack... well not yet, but soon... in 2014, DAMN IT. Jack Bauer is set to return to the network that idiotically cancelled his show a couple of years ago. It's not the movie we were expecting, a movie that looked like it was never going to see the light of day, but an event mini-series beginning May 2014. It's not a full season either, much to my chagrin, but I'll take it. Better than a movie as far as I'm concerned, though seeing Jack with unrestrained violence has a certain appeal.

24: Live Another Day will be 12 episodes long. Curious how they'll manage it, but I just know that as soon as I hear Jack Bauer's "Who are you working for!?" I'll be shedding tears of joy.
Jack Bauer is coming back.
Fox executives said Monday that its drama "24" is returning next May for a limited run that will stretch into the summer. The adventure series with Kiefer Sutherland starring as Jack Bauer ended its original run in 2010.
Fox programming chief Kevin Reilly said creators had been thinking about doing a movie with the original cast. But when Fox announced it was interested in doing a big event miniseries, they realized it was the perfect format.
“They always had this idea of maybe someday doing a feature film,” he said. “I think they all agreed 24 being compressed into two hours is not 24.” Sutherland said he was excited to see his character return to TV.
“The response to ‘24’ is unlike anything I have ever experienced as an actor before,”
Sutherland said in a statement. “To have the chance to reunite with the character, Jack Bauer, is like finding a lost friend. The story ideas from [producer] Howard Gordon are exciting and fresh, and will not disappoint...Make no mistake, my goal is to knock your socks off.”

Monday, May 6, 2013

D.E.M. Emrys Reviews: The Grim Company by Luke Scull

The Good: A promising debut set in a truly epic world, with gritty, relatable characters, and a page burner of a plot (yes, that's right, a page burner).

The Bad: In my opinion I don’t think there is a lot that is BAD about ‘The Grim Company’ – I’ve seen the pointed finger on a lot of reviews, but I’ll try and clarify my thoughts on the ‘grimdark’ and ‘Abercrombie part-II’ here.

The Ugly Truth: The Grim Company is a hugely impressive debut. Yes, it’s Grimdark. Yes, it’s comparable to Joe Abercrombie. But if you’re going to write a grimdark novel OF COURSE you’re going to be compared to JA. It’s like writing a novel about elves and dwarves but hoping not to be compared to Tolkien. What The Grim Company does do, and does very well, is entertain. It’s unashamed of its roots, which to me is all that counts. Don’t shout and scream that it’s ‘just a copy’ – it’s not. It’s a tilt of the hat, a nod in the direction of, but in my opinion it’s a very strong contender in today’s fantasy market able to stand on its own two legs (unless you’re an unfortunate mage like Eremul, of course!).

For Those That Like: David Gemmell, Brian McClellan, magic based stories, grimdark, gritty characters, tyrant-overthrowing-plots, and oh alright then I’ll say it, JOE ABERCROMBIE.
The gods are dead.

Magic is dying.

Freedom isn’t far off being terminal, either.

Dorminia is a city under siege from within. The Tyrant of Dorminia rules with the approach of: hear no evil, see no evil, do no evil. ‘Evil’ being anyone with motive to oppose him. His mindhawks can hear the thoughts of the people, the city watch see everything, and if anyone steps out of place then Salazar’s magically powered Augmentors sort it out. Swiftly.

But ‘evil’ is in the eye of the beholder. One man’s hero is another man’s villain. Salazar himself is a hero for overthrowing the gods hundreds of years ago, but what about the men who seek to overthrow Salazar?

Two ageing barbarians, one with bad knees and the other with a bad temper, aren’t your typical everyday heroic pair. Nor is a cocky hot-headed youth who claims to be a hero at every opportunity. And a ‘half mage’ with no legs barely scratches at being 'half man', and there’s no such thing as a ‘half hero’. But together with a band of rebels, they seek to bring down Salazar and liberate Dorminia.
Luke Scull’s ‘The Grim Company’ is his debut novel, and the opening to a brand new epic fantasy series. ‘The Grim Company’ is a story of the unlikeliest companions thrown together to bring down an enemy that even the gods couldn’t defeat. The odds of their success are grim (see what I did there? Ok, I’ll stop!).

You need a fitting start to a tale in which the gods are dead. It needs to be a cataclysmic intro, something world-shattering to live up to the epic setting. What to choose, what to choose…oh, I know! A tidal wave. Eureka. Wait… …

A TIDAL WAVE?!? In the first five pages?

Certainly sets the tone, doesn’t it?

The Grim Company’ comes out swinging, and throughout it doesn’t pull its punches. Look, I’m not going to go into the similarities that other reviewers have pointed out just yet, because I think that ‘The Grim Company’ can stand on its own two feet and fend for itself in terms of originality. Sure it’s grimdark fantasy, which is all the trend at the minute, but it has its own unique spice. I won’t bore you to death with examples but here’s a tidbit for you. Without spoiling anything, Scull introduces the concept of deep-sea mining at one point in the story. DEEP SEA MINING IN A FANTASY?!? Stick that in your originality pipe and smoke it. Then you have the concept of the Augmentors, warriors with a specific talent or trait magically magnified. Yes, this concept (or at least the base idea of it) has been used numerous times in fantasy, but it’s execution in the story is fantastic and makes for some fantastic character development and twists.

Scull shamelessly man’s his ‘Grim Company’ with the unlikeliest of heroes, even though each stereotype is likely to appear in every other grimdark fantasy novel out there. BUT, and I must emphasise this point, BUT Scull does it SHAMELESSLY. Ageing barbarian with aches and pains, getting too old for the life of a warrior; a crippled and bitter intellect, seated at the heart of a conspiracy yet he can’t sit down or stand up without risking sh**ting himself; and a hopeful young hero, talented, brave, destined for greatness, that is if he can stop his ego from running away from him. They’re all familiar to a fantasy fan, but don’t be put off by thinking this is a copy-paste cast. It’s a testament to Scull’s writing that he can take such familiar characters and breathe new life into them. I myself fell in love with the characters. Yes I can see the similarities. Do I care? No. They’re individual to me.

The plot and the setting are fantastic. Who doesn’t like an epic backdrop to a fantasy? And it doesn’t get much better than dead gods whose corpses leak magic. Seriously, top this, go on, I dare ya.

Scull’s style is refreshing. I mean when you weigh it all up he has PACKED ‘The Grim Company’ with ideas and characters. When you try and list them all down, it seems like it won’t work on paper. There's just so much going on. But it does. It really, really does. The pacing is fantastic, never relenting. It’s not so much a page turner as a page burner.

But the heart of the matter, I guess, the thing that everyone wants to know:

 …is ‘The Grim Company’ just another grimdark, or is it (as a minority of reviews/readers suggest) a blatant copy of other things out there (He-who-shall-not-be-named!).

In my opinion? NO!

The Grim Company’ is its own story. I used this word earlier, SHAMELESS. It is shameless in its use of characters, tone, and even word choice. But what does it have to be ashamed of? Nothing if you ask me. It’s a damn good read from a damned good author. I’m not going to point out the similarities for you, because in my opinion that’s not me doing justice to Luke Scull or ‘The Grim Company’.

If every reader in the known world wants to know the TRUTH about this similarity binge, I’ll give you a truth. You might not be able to handle it, but here it is.

Is ‘The Grim Company’ a mirror of Joe Abercrombie’s ‘First Law’ series?


As a debut novel, ‘The Grim Company’ is better.

Guest Reviewer Info: D. E. M. Emrys. Author. Soldier by day, Soldier by night - Writer in between. Knows war to write war. David Emrys, known as D to his friends, is a serving soldier and author.

Growing up with the heroic tales written by authors such as David Gemmell and James Barclay, D was inspired to write stories of his own. After joining the army D used his free time to focus on his dream of sharing shelf-space with his idols.

D lives where the army send him, but home is in Chelmsford with his fiancé. They say that behind every great man there is a woman pulling the strings, but she lets him dance to his own song whilst being the perfect partner in step. D claims that his books would not have been written without her.

David Emrys is not his real name. Nor is D.

You can read more about the author and his other book reviews on his website.  Also read Mihir's review of From Man To Man by D.E.M. Emrys. You can order The Grim Company over here.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Obscene Language Not Included, Vanilla Ice Cream for Some, Others Chocolate Pudding

The other day I was ruminating on how I might want to scale down on how many times I use "fuck" in my reviews. Not that I think I use it that often mind you, in fact, I think I've been quite tame for what comes natural to me. But the fact remains that I have interest in re-posting my reviews on Amazon, so it means that I have to do double the work to edit some sentences so that they're vanilla enough for public consumption. But what the fuck, the trouble is worth it. So all the "shits" and "fucks" will remain as I move forward with my reviews on the blog.

Accordingly, George Carlin came to mind and how long it has been since I've shared with the world just a little piece of his awesomeness. He's by far my favorite comic of all time. A person who I consider to be of high intellect, and to my pedestrian vocabulary limit, a true wordsmith.

It's only fitting that I found this gem for a video that compiles George Carlin imparting fuck bombs from left to right. How awesome is that? A 10-minute video purely showcasing the different ways he's delivered the word "fuck", and it's fucking great. No one can deliver the word "fuck" as Carlin does, including such stellar favorites like "fuck Lance Armstrong" and "fuck Tiger Woods". Considering how things developed after his death in 2008, I think he was onto something.

Needless to say, NSFW, but very well worth the watch. Hope you enjoy. As they say, practice makes perfect.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Update on ARCANE WEST, a New Series by K.A. Stewart (Mihir)

Last year I found out that one of my favorite series was dropped by its publisher because they adjudged that the series wasn’t selling enough books. The Jesse James Dawson series was truly a good one and I’m looking forward to the author's next book in the series whenever she releases it independently.

Yesterday the author revealed a new book, which is set to be released via Intermix, Penguin’s new e-book imprint in January 2014. The book is currently titled Peacemaker first in the Arcane West series and here’s the blurb:
Caleb Marcus is a Peacemaker, a roving lawman tasked with maintaining the peace and bringing control to magic users on the frontier. A Peacemaker isn’t supposed to take a life—but sometimes, it’s kill or be killed… 
After a war injury left him half-scoured of his power, Caleb and his jackalope familiar have been shipped out West, keeping them out of sight and out of the way of more useful agents. And while life in the wild isn’t exactly Caleb’s cup of tea, he can’t deny that being amongst folk who aren’t as powerful as he is, even in his poor shape, is a bit of a relief. 
But Hope isn’t like the other small towns he’s visited. The children are being mysteriously robbed of their magical capabilities. There’s something strange and dark about the local land baron who runs the school. Cheyenne tribes are raiding the outlying homesteads with increasing frequency and strange earthquakes keep shaking the very ground Hope stands on. 
Something’s gone very wrong in the Wild West, and it’s up to Caleb to figure out what’s awry before he ends up at the end of the noose—or something far worse…
I have to say this alternate historical story sounds very exciting and combined with K.A. Stewart’s writing style, both Bastard and I can’t wait to get our hands on this new title from one of our favorite authors.

For those interested in knowing more about the Jesse James Dawson books can read the following reviews:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Patremagne Reviews: Dauntless by Jack Campbell

I'm relatively unexplored, so to speak, in the SciFi genre. I wanted a book that would be a quick, entertaining read, and Dauntless looked like it would fit the bill. If you're looking for a book with a deep story with a cast of three-dimensional characters, Dauntless is not what you seek.

Dauntless is the first in Campbell's The Lost Fleet series and it begins with John "Black Jack" Geary having been frozen in hibernation for a century. Before his hibernation began, the Alliance had been fighting a war against the Syndicate, or Syndics as Campbell often calls them, and Geary went down in a blaze of glory in holding off the Syndics in order for the rest of the fleet to escape. Only he didn't go down, he managed to jump into an escape pod and begin hibernation when no immediate rescue could be seen. Upon being rescued, he is thrust right back into the same war he had been fighting a century ago. Now obviously a century will cause some changes to everything, but Geary returns to see himself worshiped as a hero; as a model that all new recruits aspire to be. Sailors swear by his name, i.e. "Black Jack himself couldn't get us out of this mess". Needless to say, Geary is quite disturbed about how he is portrayed and continually attempts to dissuade his sailors that he is not some sort of legend.

His return is also marred by the fact that a century of war has drastically changed the way the Alliance Navy works. Sailors no longer salute, which leaves Geary baffled many times in the outset of the book. The Navy now no longer uses tactics to win battles, and instead urges captains to charge head-on as if they were Black Jack himself, claiming that the only important things were to achieve glory and honor. Throughout the book we see Geary appalled time and time again at the deteriorated state that he sees the once glorious Alliance Navy in. Not only have the traditions such as saluting vanished, Geary has to deal with insubordination as well. A few of the captains under him determine, based on the legend, that they do not like him, as if he created the legend himself. Though the story is told in third person, Campbell thrusts us into the mind of Captain Geary throughout, and we see his train of thought on certain situations as well as the possible outcomes. The third-person limited thought process allows us to feel for Geary as he tries to adjust to the change in technology.

Since there is no world to come alive before us due to the fact that the entire book is based on a single ship, the Dauntless, Campbell did a pretty good job trying to make us feel like we're inside the ship as he describes it. In the conference room, he describes the technology well enough that I can paint a solid picture in my mind on how the likenesses of other captains essentially floated in the air as if in a normal conference in person. With what he had to work with (though he gave it to himself), Campbell did a fine job putting us in the ship.

While reading reviews for SciFi books I have noticed that some are so wordy that, to use a phrase I vaguely remember from another review, you'd need to be a physicist to understand what's going on. There are some cool concepts in Dauntless, such as the utilization of the speed of light, especially in combat. There is no immediate scanner to pick up the exact movements of enemies and allies. There's a delay based on how far away the other ship is. This adds tension in knowing the enemy has been in the same system as you for hours now and you didn't find out until just now. Along the speed of light idea, a ship, when travelling around .2 light-speed, begins to distort the area around it in that another ship would need to predict its movements because it cannot be seen clearly on the scanner. The constant use of phrases like "Fox Five, turn three degrees and accelerate to .1 light-speed" was a little tiring during some combat scenes, but not all that overbearing, especially if you enjoy military SciFi.

The real downside to Dauntless that I was aware of going in was that there is no character depth. There are perhaps two real secondary characters and we somewhat learn more about them throughout, but not as well as most other books I have read. This may be a consequence of the third-person limited narrative style, but I think it has more to do with the fact that Dauntless is the first in a series. Though it isn't Campbell's debut, I find that many authors need to work out the kinks when beginning a series. The real focus is on Geary, and we struggle with him in trying to suppress this legend that he has become in his hibernation. It is a true "I didn't ask for this" story. His character develops a bit in this 293 page book, but not all that much. The combat is well done and the book sets a fast pace, but nothing really appeared to be done. The fleet traversed a few systems and participated in a few skirmishes. Though I haven't read the second book, I think that it would have been better if the first and second books were combined and perhaps slightly trimmed of some fat in order to make us feel like something significant happened. Another issue I had was the inconsistent use of vulgarity. In some situations "hell" and "damn" are used often, and then there are others i.e. "knocked us on our butt" where "knocked us on our ass" would fit the bill much better. In this inconsistency, Dauntless loses some of its seriousness.

The enjoyment you get from this book is based on the mindset you have when you go in. Like I said at the beginning, if you want a really deep story with really deep characters, this is not it. If you're a military SciFi fan and want a fast-paced action book that's a short, quick read, this might be for you. I went in with the latter mindset, so Dauntless was enjoyable for me outside of the points that I outlined because I went in expecting just these faults.

You can get Dauntless at The Book Depository and you can head on over to Campbell (John G. Hemry)'s website here.

I want to take this opportunity to introduce Patrick "Patremagne" Doherty. He's interested in starting his own review blog, and while he sets it up I've invited him to provide a review, or more if he's up to it, so that he could get some experience.

For the time being he'd appreciate some feedback, and his future website will be A Bitter Draft: Fantasy and Science Fiction Reviews. You can also find him on Twitter @Patremagne and over at Goodreads.