Thursday, April 30, 2009

Interview With Lisa Shearin!


Lisa Shearin is the very first author I featured here at Fantasy Debut, with the incredibly fun Magic Lost, Trouble Found. The Trouble with Demons is her third novel, so she's technically not a debut novelist anymore but it was always my intention to follow the careers of authors whose books I particularly enjoyed.

Lisa has taken time out of her furious writing and release schedule to answer a handful of questions.

~*~

Tell us a bit about the direction of the Raine Beneres series. Personally, I think it has high potential to morph into an open-ended series, like an urban fantasy. Do you know how many books we can expect in the Saghred storyline? Do you see it extending beyond the Saghred storyline? 


Since I’ll be pitching some of those books to my publisher in the next few months, I can’t say how many books there will be to wrap up the Saghred storyline. And yes, I do see it extending beyond the Saghred storyline. Again, since I haven’t pitched the idea yet, I can’t go into any details, except to say it will produce a huge and collective “SQUEEE!” from my fans. Other than that, my lips have to be sealed.

Which would you rather be, an elf or a goblin? (Your goblins, of course.) 

I can see myself being both—I just love my goblins. But my husband says that I am Raine. Only personality wise, of course. I’ve never taken on evil mages, psychotic goblins, and the Queen of Demons. And Raine’s snark comes quicker than mine. I’m one of those who thinks of the perfect snappy comeback after the chance to deliver it is gone.

As a reader, which fantasy world has most engaged you (such as Tolkein's Middle Earth)? By that I mean, whose world will you always return to, no matter how many books the author produces in the series? 

I adore David Eddings’s Belgarian, Malloreon, and Elenium series. And I adore Raymond Feist’s Riftwar Saga. I absolutely devoured those books.

I think it's safe to say that you've established yourself as an author. Where would you like to see yourself five years from now? 

I’d like to be able to look back and see that I’ve continually raised the bar for my writing, and that I’ve continued to grow and learn as a writer. I want each book to be better than the previous one. I want to be able to feel that I’ve taken chances and gone beyond what I felt comfortable writing. If a project excites me, scares the crap out of me, and I’m not sure if I’m good enough to write it—that’s an idea worth writing.

And wow! You have yourself a new writing gig as a columnist for The Writer! Please share all the juicy details. 

I’d written about The Writer being my favorite writing magazine because it had articles that a writer could use at any point in their career—pre-published, newly published, and established author. And I felt the articles did more than scratch the surface; they dug down into a topic and gave me information that I could actually use. Well, apparently Sarah Lange, the associate editor, had Google Alerts set up for mentions of her magazine online. She commented on my blog that day, which was a huge thrill. And she apparently became a regular reader of my blog. About a month ago, she emailed me and said that she liked my blog and wanted to offer me my own column. And yes, when I read that email there was some serious squeeing involved. I’d always dreamed of having my own column in The Writer magazine. We haven’t come up with a name for my column yet, but it’ll be toward the front of the magazine in the “Take Note” section. My first article will appear in the August 2009 issue, which will be out in July. I can’t wait to see it!

~*~
For more information about Lisa Shearin and for information on how to purchase her books, visit her website.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Come by Tomorrow for . . .

. . . an interview with Lisa Shearin, author of The Trouble with Demons!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Review: The Red Wolf Conspiracy

The Red Wolf Conspiracy (Amazon USA - UK - Canada)
by Robert V. S. Redick
Hardcover, $26.00
Release Date: April 28th
Del Rey

As I said in my review of the opening chapters, The Red Wolf Conspiracy starts out with a lot of wonder packed into just a few chapters. I was hooked from the start, and read the entire novel over a very short timeframe. Although I found most of it terrific, the ending seemed to suffer from a lack of focus and mishandled tension.

The story starts with a tarboy named Pazel Pathkendle getting lured off his ship--where his captain saw potential in him and took care of him--and drafted into serviced aboard the IMS Chathrand, where things aren't quite so rosy. Making things worse is the fact that Pazel has a strange ability to comprehend any language he hears--but must pay for this gift with periodic fits. This novel is also about a tribe of wee folk called the ixchel, who stow away the Chathrand in order to make a perilous journey across the sea. Their de facto leader is a woman named Diadrelu. And finally, this novel is about a young girl named Thasha Isiq, who is to marry a distant enemy prince.

Mr. Redick does a great job establishing these characters as likable and determined. However, he spends a surprising amount of time in backstory. I'm not one to dislike backstory, but I know for some readers, it's a turnoff.

There are lots of characters who work against and with these three protagonists. Two of them are Dr. Ingus Chadfallow and Admiral Eberzam Isiq, Thasha's father. These characters are both inscrutable, with inconsistent actions and unknowable motivations. For example, Dr. Chadfallow goes to a great deal of trouble to see to it that Pazel is drafted aboard the Chathrand, but he takes one look at the ship's captain and refuses to board, abandoning Pazel. And Admiral Isiq seems rather kind and jovial, but he uses his daughter mercilessly as a pawn and has no qualms about subjecting Pazel to a punishment that far outweighs the crime.

Captain Nilus Rotheby Rose has a sinister reputation, but since he is the only captain to have successfully sailed a ship across a certain expanse of ocean, he is chosen as the Chathrand's captain. However, even he acts a bit inconsistently. He orders Pazel to act as Isiq's food taster, but the plot thread apparently was dropped completely. Circumstances prevent Pazel from taking up this task, but Rose never does the slightest thing to reprimand him for it.

There are far too many twists and turns to get into in the space of this review. For the first three quarters of the book, the suspense and tension build until Thasha and Pazel start to get wind of a grand conspiracy. At that point, Pazel gets the punishment referred to above and is thrown off the ship at a port. Thasha decides to turn the conspiracy against the conspirators, but she turns out to be wholly unequal to the task. In the end, she runs away.

This leads to the biggest plot contortion of the novel. Pazel is taking hostage by the intriguing Flikkermen and sold to slavers. Later on down the road, he is reunited with his shipboard friend, a fellow tarboy nicknamed Neeps. And even further down the road, they encounter Thasha and Diadrelu. Why they had to be scattered in different directions only to be brought together here is beyond me.

However, it all leads to another wonder-filled section of the book, which takes place entirely underwater. Pazel encounters a sort of mer-folk and through them, finds the target of the Red Wolf conspiracy. There was a convenient character here who was able to teach them--in a significant hurry--what they needed to do to survive underwater. I think this could have been handled with much greater subtlety.

The tension in the ending felt a bit too played out. For me, tension in a novel is like either a rubber band or silly putty. When you stretch a rubber band, it will reach a point where it stops stretching and simply snaps. When you stretch a band of silly putty, it reaches a point where it loses all elasticity and cannot hold itself together. The ideal novel should be like a rubber band--should lead up to a bang. However, this novel was rather like silly putty. The tension went on a bit too long, then dropped, then unexpectedly spiked up again, only to again hang on a bit too long.

But the book is filled with wonder, from woken, intelligent animals, portals to other worlds, mer-folk, wee folk, strange magic and of course, the red wolf, itself. The ending did a nice job of resolving the current conflect, but immediately establishing another one--one with no clear resolution. Captain Rose does something unexpectedly valiant, and Dr. Chadfallow does something unexpectedly craven, making you wonder if you really know any of the characters at all. And Pazel has a new secret, one that would annoy Thasha mightily if she ever found out about it. For these reasons, I recommend The Red Wolf Conspiracy, and I look forward to reading the next volume.

Mega-Release Day!

Happy Release Day to the following debut authors:

  • Spell Hunter by R. J. Anderson
  • Sins and Shadows by Lyn Benedict
  • The Red Wolf Conspiracy by Robert V. S. Redick
And to the follow debut graduate authors!
  • Blood Groove by Alex Bledsoe
  • Blue Diablo by Ann Aguirre
  • The Trouble with Demons by Lisa Shearin

Monday, April 27, 2009

Debut Calendar Widget

I have added a debut calendar widget to the upper-right corner of my blog in the hopes that it will be interesting to you. Right now, the calendar is probably full of a bunch of incomprehensible scrawlings, but it will clean itself up over time now that I have made it available to the public. There is also a handy link just below it that tells you how you can get your novel on the calendar, assuming it meets our rather stringent criteria.

This is, of course, in preparation for something new, because this blog is always a work in progress.

I'm hoping it displays properly on all browsers. But that's probably too much to ask for.

Curious About My Review Process?

You probably aren't, but in case you are, you can check out John Ottinger's Latest "Inside the Blogosphere" post, where a roundtable of bloggers--myself included--reveal our review process secrets. It's a tell-all (well, almost), so don't miss it!

If you have comments on my process or have suggestions about how I can be more productive (I'm always looking for those), then please swing back here and leave a comment.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Discovery Showcase - The Ninth Avatar

The Ninth Avatar Audio Book
by Todd Newton (website - blog)
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Trade Paperback - $13.95
Self-Published

Blurb:

Nine Pillars, Eight Avatars

For Starka, an outcast accused of incest, life is about as simple as one could hope. A prophecy of the ascension of the Avatar of Darkness changed that. Starka, protected by the mysterious warrior DaVille, tries desperately to prevent the disturbing prophecy from becoming a reality.

The world is thrown into chaos as the Carrion Army comes to power, destroying the rival nations of Brong and Rochelle. Wan Du and Mayrah are drawn into the conflict when their homes are destroyed and Cairos, a wizard from the betrayed city of Illiadora, likewise seeks revenge for his fallen comrades.

As the leader of the Carrion army seeks to cover the world in death and darkness to become a living embodiment of magic, these uncertain allies battle against an inevitable conclusion.

The Ninth Avatar is coming.

Chapter 1 - Starka

The fit came suddenly upon Starka as she knelt for morning devotions. At first it manifested as an uncontrollable shaking of her hands. When the pain began, the girl’s eyes shot open. Her throat constricted, all air choked out in gasps. Every muscle tensed as she fought for breath and clawed at the bedcovers in a desperate effort to contain it. Concentration eluded her, and the vision pressed its way into Starka’s mind.

Waves of pain and spasms racked her body like no prophecy before. An Eight Horned Beast, a massive bulk of flesh and bone knotted together, rose above the land. With its presence came darkness enough to blanket the world.

Naked on a barren field, Starka could only watch as the Beast approached. Its many eyes eyed her hungrily. Frozen in place, unable to flee or scream, the girl felt each chomp of its jaws like sword thrusts through the gut. Starka’s skin burned where the Beast licked her then went ice cold as it drew away. It left her half-consumed but Starka did not bleed from her wounds.

Images came quickly as she passed through the Beast’s clouded wake. Soldiers fought on a red battlefield. Many died, some surrendered. A man brandished glowing weapons in defiance. Cities burned at the hands of smaller beasts with similar horns. She saw the Beast’s rise to power begin and end in the span of a moment, but survived. Then all went black.

With the trance ended, Starka’s body dropped to the floor. The fall jarred her bones and forced the last of her breath out. She panted, unable to muster the will to move for a time.

Starka blinked to clear the images from her vision but they persisted as if she had stared into the sun. Feeling returned to her limbs and the girl rolled over and pushed herself up. With her muscles—so alive mere moments before—now heavy as lead, she had to lean against the bed frame to stand. A breeze drifted through the window and chilled her cold sweat even further. She forced her arms up to close the shutters but continued to shiver.

She stumbled across the room and collapsed in front of her shelf as the desperate search began. The sum of her possessions were tossed aside to find what she needed: a pen, an ink bottle and a parchment. She swept the remnants of breakfast from the table and scrawled the details of her revelation while the images remained fresh.

With trembling hands, Starka fought for enough control to write about the Beast. After she tore and discarded the first two attempts as illegible, Starka took a deep breath to settle her nerves. The words came easily, but the pen shook again every time she tried to phrase the Beast’s touch. To distract herself, Starka tried to create a mental list of items she would need before she left to present the prophecy. She wondered if they would even let her in the Great Cathedral.

She paused in mid-sentence at the thought that they may not even take her, the former prodigy to Seeress Elestia, seriously. Ostracized by the Order after the disappearance of her twin brother, Fandur, Starka remembered their curses well. She mourned his loss even deeper in spite of their accusations. Entire days still passed when she did nothing but cry behind the safety of her door, lost without her only great love in the world.

Incest remained akin to murder in the eyes of the Divine, and even the suspicion could damage to a person’s standing in the Order. Starka would have rather given up her vows, her faith, even her life before her brother. She told them so in her grief and the priests added blasphemy to the charges.

They couldn’t fathom her attachment and assumed the worst. Destroyed inside, Starka still struggled with studies and her routine chores.

She revealed the secrets of their relationship soon after Fandur vanished, though she couldn’t bring herself to tell them everything. Honesty might have been valued in cases of innocence, but the priests had cursed her very name after the confession of a single kiss.

Her attention on her hands continued to wane as Starka’s gaze returned to the shelf. Keepsakes sat overturned or upset by her frantic hunt for pen and parchment. The few pieces of jewelry her brother left behind caught her eye. Starka choked back a sob of guilt and one hand came up instinctively to feel for the matching necklace.

The only trace of her brother found was his faith symbol, a square cross made of steel that acolytes carried at all times. Its weight shall remind you of your burden, the Order decreed. Nothing more had been found after an entire year.

Oh Alsher, has it been a year already?

Starka gritted her teeth and tried to turn her attention back to the parchment. To pass the gate guards, she would need a veil. At one time they would have fallen on their faces across puddles for her, regardless of any detriment to their person or armor. Starka’s name formerly topped the list of 100 priestesses with enough potential to succeed Elestia. Only one or two would achieve the status of Seeress in their lifetime.

Since Fandur’s disappearance she cared little for the rhetoric of Myst-Garvon’s Priesthood. Orphaned while still in the crib, the Order had wrapped its great arms around Starka and Fandur. They trained in the separate arts of divination and worship from the time each could speak. With the ousting, the Cathedrals took away her only reason to live. Her keepsakes, untouched on the shelf, and a meager inheritance to cover her food and the one-room hovel were all she had left.

Starka survived the days through prayer for the mercy of the Divine Female, Alsher. She refused to give up on her beliefs; faith would see her through anything. Perhaps this explained the prophecy, she thought, as her visions had been empty for months. Her devotions also went to Garvon, the Divine Male, for the safety of her brother. Lately, however, she prayed more for the strength to survive without him.

Breathing and eating remained the only easy parts.

She wiped a tear away with her free hand and, again, forced back the admission of his death. Fandur might still be found, stranded somewhere in the world—anything was possible in the places she had never seen. The small allowance she lived on could not provide enough means to search for him. Not to mention, she lamented, I have nowhere to start.

Months before, she made one earnest attempt. Praypor, the vagrant city only twenty miles away, awakened her to what the real world looked like. She gave up without even leaving the Mystian continent.

After Starka finished writing, she fanned the parchment back and forth to dry the ink. Satisfied, she rolled it up and placed the page inside an protective wooden tube. It would look like an innocuous message to any curious eyes.

The young girl peeled off her moist sleeping gown and stepped out of the garment. She left it on the floor and drew a towel across her skin, then donned clean underclothes. A rough brown robe hung from the bedpost, the last of her clean laundry, and Starka hoped the it would be enough to protect against the chill morning.

She ruled out her priestess robe, an article which the Cathedral never thought to reclaim, as it would bring too much attention. The pristine garment still hung idle beside the mirror and Starka struggled to remember why. Regardless of her outfit, the priests were just as likely to dismiss her prophecy as useless.

With the veil fastened across her nose and mouth, she lifted the hood of the robe to hide her hair. Starka turned to give her home a last glance and took a few deep breath to steel her resolve.

“Why does it feel like this is the last time I will see this place?” she whispered. Starka checked her disguise one last time in the mirror before she opened the door and stepped outside.

~*~
You may purchase The Ninth Avatar trade paperback. Also, here is the first episode of the audiobook, which is available for free.


Discovery Showcase Information

There are currently six excerpts in the queue. Here are the upcoming works, in the order in which they may appear:

  • Jaunt
  • The Zambinos of Blue Hill: The Proving
  • Tamar Black - Djinnx'd

If you want to have the first chapter of your unpublished or self-published novel featured at Fantasy Debut as a Discovery Showcase, please read how to do so here.

Comments are welcome!

Friday, April 24, 2009

On Authors Commenting on their Reviews

Peter V. Brett had an interesting post the other day which is reverberating around the blogosphere, so I thought I'd chime in. A few weeks ago, he jumped into a discussion about his book, The Warded Man, over at The Book Smugglers. He also blogged about it at about the same time. Just the other day, he blogged again on the topic in response to a topic over at Racy Book Reviews about authors having a "chilling effect" on blog discussions. Racy Book Reviews gets into a lot of interesting scenarios, such as negative and positive book reviews and what may happen if an author chimes in. It's worth reading.

My own experience with authors chiming in has been very positive. Most often, the author will not respond on the actual post, but will respond on their own blog, with a link back. The link back is usually how I find the response. However, sometimes, the author will pop in here. And other times, the author will write me an email of thanks. I received wonderful emails from Alex Bledsoe, David Anthony Durham and James Dashner.


No matter how they respond, I love it, and as far as I'm concerned, they can respond all they want, both here and elsewhere. Of course so far, no one has had anything nasty to say . . .

On the post before this one, Lisa Shearin popped in, and it seemed to have no impact on the number of comments. Of course, that review was fairly positive. My otherwise-positive review of The Warded Man was a bit blunt in places, and Peter Brett popped in to offer a very mild response. One other person posted  after he did.

But my question to you is, what do you think? Are you reluctant to jump into a review discussion if the author has popped in?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Debut Graduate: The Trouble with Demons

The Trouble with Demons (Amazon USA, UK, Canada)
by Lisa Shearin
Ace Books - MM Paperback
Excerpt

I can't imagine anyone who enjoyed Magic Lost, Trouble Found and Armed and Magical being disappointed by The Trouble with Demons. For this novel, Ms. Shearin turned up the darkness, turned up the romantic tension, and turned down the snark. All without sacrificing action or fun. Plus, it's thicker!

Raine's chaotic world gets even more so in The Trouble With Demons when someone opens a Hellgate, releasing a legion of demons on the Isle of Mid. They want something, and naturally, Raine is at the thick of it. The sentient rock known as the Saghred is also up to some unexpected tricks, and is snaring all of Raine's friends in its clutches. Talk about piling on the problems!

I was glad to see the reduction in snarkiness. Armed and Magical bordered on being a bit too snarky for my taste, but in The Trouble with Demons, Raine doles out the sweetness as well as the snark. I was afraid that my Raine was going to turn out to be a bit too sharp-edged, but happily, it is not so.

Ms. Shearin has been teasing her blog readers (myself included) all year with hints about the triangle between Raine, Tam and Mychael, which she brings to a new level in this novel. It wasn't what I expected, and I was pleasantly surprised. I was also glad that there aren't too many sexual things going on, or too much rivalry. After all, only two weeks have passed since the events in Magic Lost, Trouble Found. And I think I can see Raine developing a preference between the two men.

I'll get my nit-picks over with. When there isn't mind-reading going on, a surprising number of characters are able to not only guess Raine's thoughts, but respond to them as if she said them aloud. I think this sort of thing should be done only occasionally, otherwise Raine will start to seem too transparent. Also, the timing in the ending seemed a bit off. The tension seemed drawn out over too many pages. If you imagine the novel's tension as a hill, it rose up to a plateau and then stayed there for quite a while before the final resolution. At one point, it seemed like a certain female demon waited around until Raine was finished with what she was doing before continuing with her evil schemes.

Enough with the critiques. The action is nonstop. When you have a demon infestation, it does tend to keep you hopping. Especially when they start popping out of the toilet. The actual ending was great, including some very welcome developments with Sarad Nukpana, Rudra Muralin and Raine's father, Eamaliel Anguis. Raine also has a new determination to focus her efforts on parting herself from the Saghred. The novel is very racy, but not at all sexy. Does that make sense? Map lovers will be thrilled with the new map at the front of the book. Now all it needs is a appendix full of names, concepts, and foreign words and phrases. Hint, hint!

Some fun speculations: I think--THINK--I know how the Saghred storyline will resolve. In this novel, two new concepts are introduced, which I won't give away here. I can imagine how Raine can bring these two things together to destroy the Saghred. I love being able to guess at these things, but I also like it when I'm completely wrong. One thing I hope to see in the next volume--a return to Mermeia, the canal-city locale of the first book. I just loved that setting, with all its districts, each having its own mood and character. Especially the Ruins.

The Trouble With Demons delivers shovelfuls of fun, which is exactly what we have come to expect from this series. This series is great for urban fantasy lovers who might need a vampire break. It's Jennifer Rardin meets Terry Brooks, but substitute sexy goblins for vampires. The action is nonstop, the relationships are deepening, the ending was satisfying (for now) and there are lots of twists and surprises. The final two chapters serve as a sort of epilogue, which only whets the reader's appetite for the next book in the series.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tune in Tomorrow . . .

. . . for my review of Lisa Shearin's The Trouble with Demons.

Saturday: The Ninth Avatar Discovery Showcase by prolific commenter T. D. Newton.

Sunday: Review of The Red Wolf Conspiracy

Next week: Lisa Shearin interview, a Genre Break review, an article on Boys vs. Men, an updated blogroll and more!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Calling New Bloggers!

Since the blogging community is such a revolving door, I thought I'd put a call out for new bloggers. Why? Well, a long time ago, Pat gave me a shout-out from the Fantasy Hotlist, and it was a great boost for me. I haven't been paying as much attention to incoming linkage as I once did due to some inescapable busyness, and I thought this might make up for lost time.

So if you've been running your science fiction or fantasy related blog for at least a week or so, but for less than six months, please leave a comment with the following info:

Blog Name
Blog Web Address (clickable or otherwise)
The focus of your blog

I'll use the info to update my blogroll and to create a list that I will post at some point in the near future, when the comments here die down.

Also, we could use some fresh blood at our blogging community, Dragon Federation, which was created by Mulluane. When you're done leaving your comment, go join!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Book Swag!

I have received a LOT of books lately, both requested and as surprises in the mail. These are all debuts unless otherwise indicated. Thank you so much to all the publishers who took the time to send me such well-targeted books.

Debuts

The Red Wolf Conspiracy
by Robert V. S. Redick
Release Date: April 28th

This arrived in my mail this week, much to my surprise since I announced it last year. Sure enough, my announcement was for a GP release through Gollancz. The book is absolutely stunning, with all kinds of touches with the typeface usually reserved for Middle Grade Reader novels. This book is a true treat, all the more so since it was unexpected, and I can't wait to read it have already started reading it.


Sins & Shadows
by Lyn Benedict
Release date: April 28th

This is an urban fantasy involving a P.I. that specializes in the "unusual", the "dark forces of the Magicus Mundi" and the God of Justice. Raven has agreed to review this one.





The Hourglass Door
By Lisa Mangum
Release date: May 13th

This looks like an interesting YA paranormal romance involving a mysterious European guy and a typical American girl. It's part mystery, part fantasy, and almost certainly involves time travel. I read the prelude and it's a very strong opening.




Doc Wilde and the Frogs of Doom
by Tim Byrd
Release date: May 14th

This book is very unusually packaged--and appears perfect for the average ten-year-old boy. It's got all kinds of crazy fonts, a comic-book cover, and a giant frog that looks like it's going to attack them all. I'm not a ten-year-old boy (obviously), but it still looks like fun. Since it has a large typeface and is very slender, I imagine it will be a quick read.



Zadayi Red
by Caleb Fox
Release date: July 7th

I have a lot of time to read this one, but I may not be able to wait. It's a Native-American inspired fantasy, a retelling of a Cherokee legend. I love novels that delve into worlds that are completely unfamiliar to me. I took a look at the cover on Amazon; it looks gorgeous.




What Happened to the Indians
by Terence Shannon
Currently available

This is a Discovery Showcase self-published novel that I decided to review for Self-Publishing Review. I'll put up a post pointing to my review when I have it written.





Semi-Debuts

What is a semi-debut? In my own private lexicon, it is a debut where the author has had a lot of success either overseas or in another genre.

(At this point, I got burned out on including Amazon links. I'll be doing all that again for my end-of-the-month round-up, so why duplicate my efforts?)

The Stranger
by Max Frei
Currently available

I've started this book a few times, and it's just going to be one of those that will take me a while to read. Robert over at Fantasy Book Critic said it was worth the effort, so I'm still plugging away at it.

This series is very popular in Russia, where it originated. The "author" is actually the narrator of the novel.


A Madness of Angels
by Kate Griffin
Currently available

Raven is going to review this one as well. The author is very young, and is also known as Catherine Webb, an award-winning author of children's novels. She was first published when she was fourteen.





The Lace Reader
by Brunonia Barry
Currently Available

This novel, of course, was a New York Times bestselling debut in 2006, but it's only now being released in Great Britain. And an anonymous employee of HarperCollins London wrote out an address label -- by hand!--and sent it all the way from England.

It looks like a very good read.


Debut Graduates


The Valley of Shadows
by Brian Cullen
Currently Available

This rather gorgeous book is the second in a series after Seekers of the Chalice. I tried and failed to get into it last year, and I intend to give it another chance this year.

The author still doesn't appear to have a website. Grr.



The Trouble with Demons
by Lisa Shearin
Release date: April 28th

This is the third in the Raine Beneres series, requested of the publisher by yours truly. I've already finished reading it, and I intend to post my review Thursday, followed by a short interview with Lisa Shearin the Thursday afterward.




Blue Diablo
by Ann Aguirre
Release date: April 28th

I've been mentioning this a lot lately--can you tell I'm looking forward to reading it? A lot of books are releasing on the 28th, and I want to read all of them! So I'll have to do a bit of jugging--expect a lot of reviews that week, or close to it. And expect this to be one of them.



Used Bookstore Treasures

Even though I get books in the mail, I still pine for certain books. And when I see them on the shelves, I grab them. Here's my latest finds.

Winterbirth
by Brian Ruckley

This is one of those debuts that I missed out on last year, so when I saw it in the used bookstore, I lunged for it. I'll probably read it in between other books until it sucks me in to the exclusion of all else. Judging by all the great reviews it received, I fully expect this to happen.





Clockwork Heart
by Dru Pagiassotti

Raven reviewed this for me last year, but I only sent it to her under duress. I was like the little old lady who lived in a shoe; I had so many books I didn't know what to do. Kind of like now. I can't promise a review soon, but it will be one day.





Non-Fantasy
These are YA literary novels, which are a bit outside my genre. I can only assume the publisher sent them to me by mistake. Still, I thought I'd give them a bit of publicity; maybe some of you will like them.

The Miles Between
by Mary E. Pearson
Release date: September, 2009

Boy, this one came really far in advance of the release date. It's not a debut; the author has four award-winning novels under her belt. It's a road trip novel, which shouldn't come as a surprise, considering the cover.





Also Known as Harper
by Haywood Leal
Release date: May, 2009

This is a gritty-sounding novel about a broken family that is on the verge of homelessness. The young protagonist dreams of winning a poetry contest at school. But of course, she's got all these problems at home to contend with as well.



Do any of these look interesting to you?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Discovery Showcase - Gathering of Rain

Gathering of RainTales of the Valla (Volume I)
by Elaina J Davidson


Author's Blurb:

When your world has already been on the brink of ruin and the same witch is threatening to do so again, what do you do? You have the power to act, you are a First Rank necromancer and you are able to wield the Maghdim Medaillon, an ancient and magical device that can save your world. Unfortunately the act of stepping forth heralds a hangman’s noose, for sorcery is forbidden. This is Rain’s dilemma.

The witch is clever. She makes a deal with the legendary and terrifying Arcana, a chaos myth from another dimension. She seeks revenge for the death of her son and has devised a ‘game’ of diabolical intricacy.

The witch is not so clever. She has overlooked the Maghdim Medaillon...and has no idea a Dark Lord is waiting beyond the chaos myth for the opportunity to possess it. And the Medaillon’s creator has waited millennia to hold it once more. He will do anything to possess it first.

Rain is directly in the path of titans.

Gathering of Rain
Prologue
    He whispered over the golden disc- a flattened sphere the size of his palm- as he set it into the vice and took the engraving tool in hand to lightly mark the first glyph. He murmured the words of the ancient enchantment over and over without impatience until it was finally complete, and then whispered some more as he polished. It took a long time, many months, and he rushed nothing. Spoke of it to no one. This was a personal labour of love. Only when the time was right would he reveal his handiwork.
    He possessed the tools and skills to achieve his goal- jewellery tools, and the voice that was impetus and creation. To infuse inanimate gold, to gift atoms sensitivity, to compel unassailable eternity, required tone, repetition and emotion. Imperative, however, was emotion, for it determined the ultimate nature of the infused device. If fashioned in anger, the consequence was a tool of magic capable of confusion; indifference led to instability, hate to darkness, mockery to deception, egotism to arrogance, and love to illumination and enlightenment. He intended only love.
    The Supreme Wisdom- the Maghdim Medaillon- of the Valleur was made tangible and it was beautiful. On the day he laid it in a protective casket, he thought: I am done now. The future is secure.
    He was wrong.
 Chapter One
Summer on Valaris 
Year 9313 a.s.
Galilan – Capital city
  
    Rain snapped his fingers and a tiny flame danced upon his palm. A sorcerer’s trick. And a noose slung over a branch.
    He ignored the danger of discovery.
    Fingers closed over the flame.
    There was no pain. Enclosing magic, even this tiny nuance, gifted him the ability to witness events beyond his immediate surroundings. It was a tiny signature; the witch Infinity would not feel him looking. And if she did, it did not matter; he needed a way forward.
    He found her swiftly.
    Murky vapour crept in deliberate and weaving tendrils over the silent ripples of a lake.
    He fished those shores as a lad. Infinity was in the lake district south of Chiss, the town nearest the barrier of the Great Dividing Forest.
    The orchestra of tiny birds lapsed into silence.
    He could not determine sound well over distance, but sensed the sudden and brooding quiet.
    The witch emerged from cover and lifted her arms high. She whispered and the shadow mist lifted and swelled and then bled away. Blue hair shifted in the slight breeze. She moved to the lake’s edge and gazed north. Her enchantment was in motion. Unless another spoke words of magic, it could not now be undone.
    Rain’s fingers tightened as he shifted focus to follow the mist. He sensed it carried evil and intent. Whether or not Infinity drowned in the lake right now was of less importance. Grimly, as he tracked the enchantment, he hoped she would drown.
    Chiss nestled in bright sunshine. Chiss would feel Infinity’s revenge first. Mist was already obliterating the light...and it would also obliterate hope.
    Rain’s fingers relaxed as he relinquished the thread in shock. The witch was no longer confining herself to isolated incidents of malevolence.
    Chiss was in terrible danger.
    This day, Valaris, is the first of final reckoning. The malicious echo of her thought enveloped him and Rain hurtled up, clattered down the stairs and was on his way to the front door when Rees called out:
    ‘Brother! Where are you going in such a hurry?’
    He halted. He stayed at his mother’s house when he was in Galilan and it suited him, just as it made her happy to have him visit, but it meant he sometimes had to deal with his sister. ‘Rees, not now.’
    She approached, dark eyes narrowing. ‘You’re far too secretive these days. Is it a woman?’
    It was a bloody woman all right, but not of this world. ‘I have to go. Tell Mother it will be a few days.’
    Rees frowned. ‘Tell her yourself. This isn’t the local inn.’
    His mother entered the foyer. ‘Let him go, Rees.’ She moved past her daughter and took Rain’s arm and steered him to the door. ‘Rain needs to speak to someone and it can no longer wait.’
    ‘Mother?’ Rain whispered.
    ‘I am not a fool, son. You have to see that old reprobate Avendeath, don’t you?’
    He simply stared at her. His mother lived in a strange world of the mind, but right now he would call anyone a liar who accused her of it.
    ‘The day comes when we shall be honest, Rain, but not yet. Is Avendeath in trouble?’
    ‘Yes.’
    ‘And it is many days to Chiss.’
    That surprised him as much. She knew where Avendeath was.
    She prodded him through the door. ‘Your horse is strong, but best get started.’ She smiled sadly and turned away, and was lost to reality again.
    He wondered then how much she knew of his real profession. He didn’t restore old manuscripts, although he could uphold the subterfuge. He was the leader of an order that trained sorcerers and until this minute he had believed family separate from the danger of discovery.
    Rees sent him a sharp glance, but he ignored her. He was already calculating how quickly he could call a meeting to inform the Mantle of his intention to head north, and why.
    Infinity was on the move; he needed to be as well.
 Mantle Printing
    Rain inserted his key into the old-fashioned lock. It needed a firm turn and an irritated curse before disengaging. He passed through, grimacing over the smell of rancid ink.
    Beyond the ancient press another door required an unlocking enchantment. He murmured the words and the door swung inward. The light was on- the others had arrived. A moment later part of the opposite wall trundled outward to reveal a steep flight of rough stone stairs vanishing into darkness below.  
    In the anteroom at the foot of those stairs Jalle Senna and Mete Lin of the Mantle waited at a table, a candle flickering light.
    There was nothing remotely modern beyond the hidden door. Sorcery functioned best without the distractions of technology, even basic as it was on Valaris. Shelves in the shadows bore the burdens of decaying manuscripts and beyond, chamber after chamber, were the Mantle’s secret archives. Many secrets were kept in the dark below. Another exit led to a jetty on Galilan River to allow files, books and scrolls to come and go unmarked. That doorway was heavily guarded, and didn’t allow for secrecy in meeting.
    Rain nodded a cursory greeting and sat, carefully noting the sound and activity in the region. All quiet.
    Jalle Senna was the oldest member of the Mantle. Approaching now his seventy-fifth year, he no longer concerned himself with tact and pretty words.   
    ‘Why have you called this hasty meeting?’ he asked immediately.
    Rain leaned forward. ‘Infinity has been sighted near the Great Dividing Forest. This is independently confirmed.’ He tapped the table to punctuate his remarks. ‘A farmer walking on Hogshill, a blacksmith in Glear Valley, a young lad below the Eastern Range...and four reports from Mantle members. Every sighting is validated. A blue-skinned woman, and immediately after something in the region is manipulated. And the abnormal deaths? She is the source.’
    Senna gaped. ‘We have heard of the strange murders, but...’
    ‘That is not the worst of it,’ Rain added grimly. ‘Two hours ago she enchanted mist to enter Chiss. It isn’t benign.’
    ‘How do you know?’ Mete Lin whispered. He was only slightly younger than Senna.
    Rain snapped his fingers for the flame and closed his hand. ‘I see her.’
    Infinity was an ancient enemy, one who had Valaris on the brink of annihilation three thousand years ago. The Mantle always believed she would herald a new war of attrition. Valaris had murdered her son.
    Lin’s tone was sombre when he said: ‘If Infinity is the source, it could be war Valarians confront again.’ He stared in horror at Rain’s hand. ‘Where did you learn that?’
    ‘It doesn’t matter. Focus on the situation. Avendeath is in Chiss.’
    A thoughtful frown creased Senna’s forehead. ‘Rain, this could be a renewal of hostilities between Infinity and the Deities.’
   ‘Clearly,’ Rain said dryly. ‘Where Infinity is, the Deities follow.’
    The Deities stepped in to stop Infinity and her son Drasso. The legend of the Deities was now also myth millennia later, but that they were immortal and possessed greater powers of sorcery was not in dispute. Without their aid Valaris would have succumbed. With their aid Valaris was nonetheless torn apart, and many Valarians regarded them as equally dangerous.
    Senna said roughly: ‘We must make decisions!’
    ‘They will be made,’ Rain said curtly.
    Mete Lin interspersed before Senna could erupt: ‘What will the mist do to Chiss?’
    ‘I have no idea. I hope Avendeath can tell us. I hope he knows how to counteract it.’
    Senna frowned. ‘You’re going to Chiss?’
    ‘Do we abandon Avendeath?’ Rain hissed.  
    ‘Of course not, but send another...’
    ‘Someone expendable? No. Besides the danger to Chiss, Valarians are demanding answers for the murders and many whisper of sorcery. There’s a rise in anti-magic vigilantism. That alone could lead to confrontation and then Infinity has what she needs- we’ll kill each other and she’ll laugh from the sidelines. I need to feel the evil in Chiss.’
    ‘Feel?’ Lin whispered.
    What was the matter with them? They knew he could feel the intent and depth of sorcery. Time was of the essence, however; there was little to be gained by further discussion. He rose. ‘I head north.’
    ‘Rain, Lin and I need more information...’
    ‘We are out of time. Check the reports. Is this not why the Mantle exists- to spring into action when there is threat? Do we or do we not use our talents? Are we going to crawl into holes to hide from vigilantism? Did you not force me into leadership because I am able to see all angles? The burden of deployment is mine...but we need Avendeath safe first.’
    ‘Take the Maghdim Medaillon with you, Rain,’ Mete Lin suggested hoarsely. He stood up as well, pointing a finger. ‘You may have need of it.’
    If he advocated that, Lin was worried. He had on numerous occasions insisted it remain in its protective casket. The Mantle, after all, was the protector of that dangerous magical device. The Mantle was born because the Medaillon existed. It was their prime directive.
    Senna snapped:  ‘We leave that bloody disc in place until we know exactly what it’s needed for.’
    Rain stared at him. ‘And we shall only know that when I use it. How long do we wait to find out if it can help?’
    ‘Do you want to find out now?’ Senna snapped back. ‘It may help the witch for all we know.’
    ‘I say again, how long do we wait? The Mantle, potentially, is all that stands between Infinity and annihilation, and that damned Medaillon could save...’
    ‘It could also destroy us. We can deal with the Medaillon after Chiss.’
    Rain gave him an expressionless stare. ‘I do not want the Medaillon. I hope we never use it, to be honest.’ He pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. ‘I suggest you call outlying members in and we meet in the chapel next time. Mantle Printing is too exposed if the authorities start asking questions.’ He paused there, frowned, and then added: ‘We cannot allow time to pass inactive. Put the reports of Infinity together and deliver them anonymously to the Electan. It may buy us grace when we act.’
    Senna grimaced. ‘The man hates sorcery.’
    ‘He is also Valaris’ secular leader. He needs to know.’
    ‘It will be as you say,’ Senna sighed. ‘God, that will escalate tension.’
    ‘It cannot be avoided. Senna, look to the Medaillon; ensure it remains safe.’
    ‘We’ll be wary, Rain,’ Mete said quickly.
    Senna sighed. ‘Good hunting.’

Gathering of Rain is currently unpublished. For more information, please leave a comment for the author.

Discovery Showcase Information

There are currently seven excerpts in the queue. Here are the upcoming works, in the order in which they may appear:
  • The Ninth Avatar
  • Jaunt
  • The Zambinos of Blue Hill: The Proving
If you want to have the first chapter of your unpublished or self-published novel featured at Fantasy Debut as a Discovery Showcase, please read how to do so here.

Comments are welcome!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Blogger Formatting Advice Wanted!

Anyone know a good way to paste from another program without also pasting a bunch of crappy formatting? I am having a devil of a time with my Discovery Showcases because I want to preserve formatting, but Blogger HATES the way Microsoft Word formats. And don't forget, I'm a CERTIFIED EXPERT IN WORD and I'm STILL having trouble with the formatting. I'm tempted to re-download OpenOffice, just so I have an alternative word processor. (And I probably lost the right to display my Office Specialist graphic just for writing such a heretical statement.)

Okay. Deep sigh. Here's my problem:

In pasting from Word, Blogger in Draft--which is the mode I was forced to turn back on in order to do tomorrow's Discovery Showcase--complains about Word's formatting. (Classic Blogger just happily mangles whatever I paste). I then pasted it from my Gmail program and although it accepts the formatting, it still don't look look good enough to make me happy. I'm living with that for now.

In the past, I have also tried saving as filtered HTML, but then I lost first paragraph indents. Grr! So I did my search-and-replace magic on paragraph marks, so I have a space between paragraphs. The result is  acceptable, but WHAT A PAIN!

Does anyone have any suggestions? Other than moving to WordPress?

Discovery Showcases Resume Tomorrow

After a three week hiatus, I am resuming the Discovery Showcase program, starting tomorrow. Here are all the showcases I've done so far, and here is where you can find out how to participate.

The past three weekends have been very busy for me, which is why I have not hosted a showcase. I like to be available when I put up a showcase, just in case. In case of what? Of things that will probably never happen, because this is such a nice crowd.

Please stop by sometime tomorrow and help me encourage another brave author!

Blue Diablo Winner

Ann Aguirre has announced the winner of a copy of Blue Diablo, and it is DonnaS! DonnaS, please send an email to azteclady1 at gmail.com to get your book.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ann Aguirre - Blue Diablo Blog Book Tour

Ann Aguirre is the author of the fabulous Grimspace, plus its sequels Wanderlust and Doubleblind. Now she ventures into Urban Fantasy with Blue Diablo. She is a very amiable author. Her publicist approached me about her Blue Diablo Blog Book Tour way back in January. When I received her post, I very unreasonably asked her to add a paragraph or two to go along with my One Year Later theme. And she very graciously wrote three.

~*~

Last year, I fulfilled the dream of being published in science fiction. This year, I conquer fantasy and romance. (The romance title is coming in December.) But I´m here to talk about the former. The publication of BLUE DIABLO is truly a dream come true for me. Ever since I can remember, I´ve read and admired fantasy authors for their creativity, action-packed plots, worldbuilding and fabulous originality.

Some of my favorite fantasy authors include: Patricia Briggs, Robin McKinley, Sharon Shinn, Patricia McKillip, George RR Martin, Neil Gaiman, CS Friedman, Jeri Smith-Ready, Jim Butcher, Pauline J. Alama, Patricia Wrede, and Terri Windling.

They all share the ability to tell a riveting story, sometimes in astonishingly lyrical language. Now, I can call myself a fantasy author, too. Urban fantasy is often more accessible to non-readers of epic fantasy because it doesn´t offer the same disconnect from our reality. There is generally no need of maps or a special lexicon. Urban fantasy is our world, plus: what the plus entails is up to the author.

In my case, it´s our world, plus magic. Rachel Caine, an author who lives in Texas, called Blue Diablo, “An authentic Southwestern-flavored feast, filled with magic, revenge and romance, spiced with memorable characters and page-turning action. ¡Muy caliente!”

Over the past year, I have had some amazing experiences, some of which still leave me pinching myself. For starters, Grimspace landed on a number of bestseller lists, which surprised the heck out of me. Then, last March, I attended my first SF&F convention, where I signed books next to Sherrilyn Kenyon. That was amazing, and I actually sold out of Grimspace at the con. The booksellers at BAMM were so kind, and they actually told me that Grimspace was the most requested book. By the time I had my official signing, there were only three books left on the shelves.

My next big thrill came in April 2008 when I attended my first RT. Signing at at the big book fair on Saturday was such an amazing experience, and I sold out of Grimspace there as well. I had been worried about the reception I would receive at a romance convention, but it was just lovely.

Spring turned into summer, and then I had a whirlwind of appearances. On my own, I put together a tour that lasted something like three weeks. I had never done anything remotely like that, but I went first to Comic-Con in July, where I sat on a panel with a bunch of SF giants (all men), and then I felt like a rockstar when I had dinner with my two editors and my agent. Talk about a rush. From there, I went on a driving tour up the California coast with the wonderful Chris Marie Green. We signed in Santa Barbara, stayed the night in Solvang, and then went on to RWA in San Francisco. RWA was all-new and wonderful for me too. For the first time, I gave a workshop on writing and selling crossover fiction, along with Robin D. Owens, Catherine Asaro, and Cindy Hwang, my amazing editor. I also had lunch with the executive editor at Penguin, which was utterly exciting. It was overwhelming too, so I was very relieved to get home and get back to business.

At heart, I am much the same as I ever was. I love to write. I love to read. I take my work ethic from Nora Roberts, and I do my best to write the best book each time, regardless of what else is going on. I make my deadlines, and I work hard. But there are diamonds strewn along this path, and I savor every one.

Please feel free to ask any questions you may have about my writing, and I´ll stop by to answer them. It doesn´t have to be related to the Corine series. You can ask about the Jax series or my forthcoming romances as well. I´m also happy to discuss your thoughts on my favorite authors, as I´m all about the books! A random commenter will win a copy of Blue Diablo.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Red Wolf Conspiracy - Packed Full of Wonder


Aaah. Just when I was beginning to feel a serious wonder craving, my Magic Book Fairy at Del Rey sent me a book that in its opening chapters, is as packed full of wonder as any book I've ever read. That book is The Red Wolf Conspiracy by Robert V. S. Redick.

Let's start with the cover. It's just sheer eye candy. A huge sailing ship cast against a sunset, sparkling with scintillating lights. And this is the Advance Reader's Edition, which generally doesn't look as nice as the finished version. Within is an old-time map, complete with compass roses and a god of the sea with two leashed lions, floating on a cloud. Turn the page, and we have a Special Notice from The Etherhorde Mariner, presumably a newspaper.

Yes, from the opening pages, this book announces itself to be something special. But what I've noticed about Del Rey, is all their books seem to be something special. Their treatment of The Warded Man wasn't quite this luscious, but it came close.

Anyway, on with the story.

The newspaper article gets the reader all curious about the sinking of the IMS Chathrand. Or rather, the loss of the Chathrand at sea; no one actually knows if it sank or not. The introductory point-of-view character is a boy named Pazel Pathkendel, and Mr. Redick wastes no time in engaging the reader's sympathy. It quickly becomes evident that Pazel is something more than a typical tarboy, and Mr. Redick reveals information with the touch of a master, each little snippet making me curious to learn more.

Along the way, Pazel gets to see the IMS Chathrand, but only at a super-macro point of view, like right up against its hull at night. It is a ship of wonder, and can house 800 souls. It is six hundred years old, a treasure from a lost age. When Pazel finally gets to see it, the reader is as eager as he is.

The plot continues to twist in ways I never expected, leaving me at one heck of a cliffhanger when we abruptly depart Pazel's point-of-view. Mr. Redick handles point-of-view changes in a way I have not seen before. Instead of the departing point of view leading into the subsequent point of view, the second point-of-view sort of spins off the preceding one. For example, we leave Pazel at the end of a dock. The next character is introduced by her impressions of seeing Pazel standing there at the end of the dock.

And then, we are introduced to a creature hinted at in the back cover blurb as "a stowaway tribe of foot-high warriors," the ixchel. These creatures have me all kinds of curious, as do some other critters mentioned in the blurb, such as "a rat with a magical secret" and "treacherous mermaids."

I'm hooked!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cool Author News, Plus a Contest

A couple of authors have had some cool news, which I thought I'd share.

David Anthony Durham has received a certain very exciting item in the mail. Suffice it to say, such an item is probably big on the list of the dreams of novelists everywhere, both published and not. What on earth is it? Read on and find out!

Lisa Shearin has gotten an offer--but it's not for a book. But it's still a cool writing gig. Read about it here.

Patrick Rothfuss has met a rather unusual requirement for manhood. By his definition, most of the grown up males of our species are not, in fact, men. Here's his rather strict criteria.

Name That Droid!

Want to name a robot? Angry Robot has a mascot that looks . . . well, like a robot. When you look at this robot, does a name just jump right out at you?

If it does, you can win us both some free stuff. The namer of the robot--personally, I think it looks like a possessed helm--gets the first seven (7) books put out by Angry Robot. And I will get . . . well, I don't know. But it's supposed to be cool.

Here is the contest form with all the details. Don't forget to put this site (http://fantasydebut.blogspot.com) in the appropriate spot on the form! You wouldn't want me to miss out on a prize, would you?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Internet Speculative Fiction Database

While researching an author for an incredibly long book swag post that I hope to finish up by tomorrow evening, I ran across the The Internet Speculative Fiction Database. I checked out their statistics, and they have 54775 authors listed and 26829"verified" publications. Searches for recent and upcoming titles were fairly impressive, but the information listed is pretty basic. Looks like they could use some volunteer editors.

Did you know about this? Do I need to surf the web more?

Up this week . . .

. . . Ann Aguirre! She'll be here on Thursday as part of her Blue Diablo blog book tour. She wrote a great and touching post, plus she has a surprise for you. I received a copy of her book from her publicist (Thanks, Roc!) and I'm having a hard time keeping my mitts off it so I can read an actual debut. Because, you know, the name of this blog IS Fantasy Debut.

However, A LOT of new authors debuted this time last year, and A LOT of them are putting out some really excellent-sounding subsequent novels. They are very tempting!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Comment Word Verification Off

I turned off word verification for comments because since I had it on, I noticed a sharp decrease in comments. I like comments more than I hate comment spam, so I made the switch.

In order to combat comment spam, I am now moderating comments on posts more than 7 days old. I read somewhere that the spammers are just looking to boost their pageranks, so they target older posts, since the blog owner often can't be bothered to delete them.

I'll let any legit comment through, no matter how old it is.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Fangirl Moment

We interrupt this blog for a fangirl moment:

Ann Aguirre is following my Twitter feed! SQUEEEEEE!

Here's her feed.

Several other recently-debuted (is that a word?) authors are following my feed, including

Mark Henry
Jaye Wells
Cam Banks
S. J. Day
Amanda Ashby
Carole McDonnell

Plus uber-cool comic-strip artist Paul Abbamondi and lots of other cool people. My apologizes if I didn't recognize anyone's screen name.

(Is this bragging? Sorry if it is. But it's also giving some debut authors some extra exposure, so I refuse to feel bad about it.)

I really need to get better about putting up an occasional tweet. I meant to use it as a way to post book progress reports, but it always slips my mind. I have rectified the situation as I wrote this. Maybe I'll put that feed thingy back on my sidebar but the last time I tried that, it slowed my blog load time way down. I hate that.

Speaking of Ann Aguirre, she's stopping by here on the Blue Diablo Book Blog Tour. She'll be here on the 16th, and she's giving away a book. And ooh! She has a newsletter! Here's the April issue.

Up tomorrow (or so): Book Swag!!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Wonder vs. Grittiness

I've read a lot of gritty novels lately, and I'm beginning to crave that sense of wonder again. I've blogged on this before, just over a year ago. My point then--and now--is one of the reasons I read fantasy is for that sense of wonder.

I like gritty stories as well, but the pendulum seems to be swinging too far over on the gritty side of late. Rare is the author who can combine the two. Alex Bledsoe managed it in The Sword-Edged Blonde, which is one of the reasons I liked that book so much.

Of the recent debuts I've read, The Warded Man was the grittiest. It was also one of my favorites. The last book I read with a true sense of wonder was The Name of the Wind. It wasn't really gritty at all.

I'm thinking that wonder must be very difficult to pull off. Interestingly, Arthur C. Clarke stands out in my mind as a writer who could really do a sense of wonder well. And he, of course, wrote science fiction based on hard science.

What do I look for in wonder? Anything that can give me a moment where I just think, "Aaah." It's kind of like a bit of dessert nestled among the pages. Book candy. It could be anything from how overwhelmingly huge Jupiter is up close (2001: A Space Oddessy) to the first glimpse of an ancient abandoned mountain city (Rhapsody: Child of Blood by Elizabeth Haydon). It can even be leaves stirring in a courtyard (The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss).

I went to my shelf and pulled out the books that I thought were most likely to contain a sense of wonder. One was Slathbog's Gold, which I blogged about a few weeks ago, where I was having a hard time getting into it because of a lack of conflict. The other is Seekers of the Chalice by Brian Cullen. Tor sent it to me last year, and the cover is so beautiful that I think a attempt at wonder must be hiding within. I had a hard time getting into it last year, but since Tor sent me the sequel, The Valley of Shadows, I'm going to give it another shot, in between the other books I'm reading. Fortunately, neither book is very long.

Has anyone read Seekers of the Chalice? It seems to be under-reviewed in the Blogosphere.

What are some books you've read lately with a sense of wonder?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Random Chatter

Whew! Springs sports season is over, and I'm heaving a big sigh of relief. This is our first year doing this, and we spent most of the last eight weekends at either competitions or exhibitions. My daughter loved it, so it was worth it. We'll do it again next year, plus hopefully some more stuff.

I've been reading The Stranger and Lisa Shearin's The Trouble With Demons, which comes out at the end of the month. I'm going to do an advance review on that one. It's the author's third novel, but since she was my first author here at FD, I imagine I'll cover all her books.

Last week, I did some beta reading for a very promising young author, and I hope she doesn't mind my linking her here. I don't do a lot of beta reading, but she has read both of my novels, and now I have read both of hers. Her latest is a Young Adult Fantasy called Grim Light, and it's nothing like all the vampire stuff you see these days. She's come up with a fascinating mythology around Death, and her novel was very un-put-downable. I would be very surprised if she weren't published in the next five years. Maybe I'll be able to announce her here, if I keep this blog going that long.

Thanks to everyone who responded to my calls for opinions on Epic Fantasy Week. All the authors generated some interest, but the ones who generated the most interest were Tad Williams and Peter V. Brett. The most popular subjects were Gods and Religions, and Magic Systems, with the other subjects getting either one or two votes.

So now I need to get busy--especially now that I have a bit more time on the weekends!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

I Must Have It! Today!!

Check it out! Yes, it is what you think it is! A comic adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice! It is part of Marvel Illustrated, where Marvel brings you classics such as The Man in the Iron Mask, The Wizard of Oz and The Portrait of Dorian Grey. The artist is the Rita award-winning Romance novelist Nancy Butler. She discusses it in this article.

This link has the first eight pages of the comic book, which take you all the way up to Darcy's Snubbing. It is true to the story, if a bit rushed. I like what I see of the art so far. The women aren't too sexy, which I was afraid of. In the cover art above, Lizzy is a dead ringer for Jennifer Ehle, the actress who played Lizzy in the 1995 A&E adaptation with Colin Firth. However, inside the comic book, Lizzy has her own look. Jane is especially elegant, and even Mary is pretty. I'm not terribly fond of Darcy's look here--he's a bit too modern.

I will go today in search of one. I will brave murky comic book shops if I must, but if Marvel did its distribution smart, it will be available in the comic/graphic novel section of bookstores. (BTW, best comic book shop ever? Atomic Comics is Mesa, Arizona.) If I can't find one, I will buy it here.