Tuesday, December 30, 2008


(By happenstance, this is our 500th post at Fantasy Debut. Yay!)

CALLING MR. LONELY HEARTS by Laura Benedict is a supernatural suspense, a genre that I only touch lightly here at Fantasy Debut. Usually, I like heroic tales of high adventure, which this book is decidedly not. But I loved it anyway. I couldn't put it down.

CALLING is a complex tale about three women, Alice, Roxanne and Del. Alice is the ultimate follower--she would do anything that her hero, Roxanne, says. Roxanne relishes this power, and like all power, it corrupts her. Del is Roxanne's supportive best friend. And Roxanne is the only thing that keeps the three of them together. The story starts when they are thirteen-year-old girls. Roxanne cooks up a ritual--a spell--that will bring them a boyfriend. Del thinks they're just playing. Alice knows they're not.

Jump ahead about twenty years to a very unpleasant character, a young man named Dillon. Dillon has just had a car accident with a well-dressed man with an unusual name--Verick. It turns out that Dillon's sister is Thad's lover. Who is Thad? Thad is Alice's husband. And Verick has targeted Dillon for a reason. The whole book is like this. All these little connections that don't become obvious until many pages later. It was like trying to trace a spider's web. Not just any spider--a black widow. Which spins a web that looks like nothing more than a tangle of silk.

And then we have Romero, who turns out to be a former priest. Who turns out to have been a teacher where young Alice, Roxanne and Del went to school. And we have the sin that drew them all together years ago. And another sin that brings them together once again, years later.

One thing interesting about the horror genre is that it is not afraid to work with Christian elements. This novel has many Christian elements, unapologetically presented. It also has elements of Santeria, which is a blend of Christian saint worship and West African religious traditions. Satan is a character in this novel, and he is absolutely chilling. CALLING is about a deal with the devil--and not the sort of deal you might suspect. And it doesn't have the sort of punishments you might expect. Not all of the sinners die--and not all of the good characters live.

CALLING is not for the faint of heart. It is not a happy book. I would have preferred that there not be so many deaths at the end, but the author knew when to stop. I expected another death, but he lived. The author may take some heat for underage sex here--underage sex with an adult man--but I think she handled it well. But there is a hero by the end after all-someone I never expected. Bravo for him. It was great.

This is the sort of novel that I like to read again in order to find answers that eluded me the first time. It's one for the keeper shelf.


Laura Benedict's Website, Blog, FaceBook, MySpace and GoodReads
Excerpt (pdf)

Debut Showcase: The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark

The Book of Unholy Mischief (US - Canada - UK)
By Elle Newmark (Website - Blog - Twitter)
Publisher: Atria (December 30, 2008)
Hardcover: 384 pages
Audio Sample (Not a direct link)

Publisher's Blurb:
It is 1498, the dawn of the Renaissance, and Venice teems with rumors of an ancient book that holds the secret to unimaginable power. It is an alchemist's dream, with recipes for gold, immortality, and undying love. Everyone, rich and poor alike, speculates about the long-buried secrets scrawled in its pages and where it could possibly be hidden within the labyrinthine city. But while those who seek the book will stop at nothing to get it, those who know will die to protect it.

As a storm of intrigue and desire circles the republic that grew from the sea, Luciano, a penniless orphan with a quick wit and an even faster hand, is plucked up by an illustrious chef and hired, for reasons he cannot yet begin to understand, as an apprentice in the palace kitchen. There, in the lavish home of the most powerful man in Venice, he is initiated into the chef's rich and aromatic world, with all its seductive ingredients and secrets.

Luciano's loyalty to his street friends and the passion he holds for a convent girl named Francesca remain, but it is not long before he, too, is caught up in the madness. After he witnesses a shocking murder in the Palace dining room, he realizes that nothing is as it seems and that no one, not even those he's come to rely on most, can be trusted. Armed with a precocious mind and an insatiable curiosity, Luciano embarks on a perilous journey to uncover the truth. What he discovers will swing open the shutters of his mind, inflame his deepest desires, and leave an indelible mark on his soul.

Mulluane's Take:
Elle Newmark brings two areas of expertise to this novel, her extensive travels and her life as the daughter of a master chef. I found a bunch of reviews here: Book Browse and one thing I noticed was a total absence of any mention of fantasy elements. It is described as an historical fiction, a mystery/adventure and a coming of age story. Within those parameters, it was generally well liked. Not sure if I would like this one or not, I am not into food but I love history. However, I am not sure if it would satisfy my fantasy addiction. Likely this book will cater more to the historical fiction lovers.

Tia's Take:
The blurb seems to be fantasy, but Simon and Schuster classifies it as historical fiction. To be safe, and since Mulluane has already done the research, we'll just go ahead and cover it. Fantasy elements are creeping into lots of other genres, after all. The author has a wonderful blog post up right now about being over 60 when she published her first novel:

Still, embracing my age was an uncomfortable novelty. It’s shocking, unbelievable really, that I’m over sixty. I don’t think about my age, and I feel like I’m thirty-five, only smarter. Because, you see, I didn’t spend forty years sitting on my ass, writing in a void and collecting rejection letters. Oh, I was writing and amassing my share of rejections all right, and I have the emotional hide of an armadillo to prove it, but I was also living.
Correction: she self-published it, then proceeded to get it noticed by publishers and agents. Read the blog for how she did it. Very inventive.

Monday, December 29, 2008

I Joined the Twits

Oops, did I just insult everyone? I now have a Twitter account:


I'll probably mostly use it to blog on the books I'm reading. And I'll only be able to get to it when I'm not working, which is at night. I'm already following a bunch of you that Twitter harvested from my gmail account.

Laura Benedict's Guest Post

It's well over a month since Laura Benedict posted here, and her post is still drawing all kinds of traffic. Someone weighed in over the weekend with a question about hiring a publicist, and Laura has replied at length. The conversation may continue, so be sure to follow it here.

Laura Benedict One Year Later

Next week, Laura's second book, Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts, comes out and I will be posting an enthusiastic review. It's supernatural horror--quite a departure from what I usually cover here--but oh it was . . . but I'll wait for the review to write all that. A friend of mine is reading her Isabella Moon and she has good things to say so far. I'm hoping to get the final scoop on what she thought of it over lunch today.

Laura has a fabulous new website out as well. She really pulled out all the stops on it. It's dark and eerie, just like her books. While you're at it, you may as well visit her blog, where she has lots of interesting guests.

Friday, December 26, 2008

One more thing . . .

While going through a little-used email account, I noticed a recent friend request through my Facebook account, which I had forgotten that I owned. I clicked through and noticed a LOT of friend requests. A lot of authors who I have featured here were in the list, plus a lot of authors I have not heard of. Some of them were rather exciting. I had no idea that Jim Hines knew who I was. It made me suspect that there was some sort of friend-of-friending thing going on here.

Anyway, I'm slowly going through friend requests, but I won't be finished until I get back on Sunday. Here's my profile link:


At least I hope that's the right link. My profile is rather bare at the moment. If you make a friend request and you don't think I know who you are, please include a little note that you know me through Fantasy Debut.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Our Christmas Tree, and My Little Shadow
Fabulous photo taken by my husband, the mysterious Mr. Nevitt,
who is never seen around here, yet who is here all the same.

We're off to Family Fun this weekend, so I won't be seen much around these parts. However, I am participating in Ana and Thea's Smugglevus celebration, so swing by The Book Smugglers on Saturday the 27th to get a preview of my Year in Review post. I even promised to sneak away and answer comments.
I'll be back on Sunday. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Debut Showcase: Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston

Wondrous Strange ( US - Canada - UK)
By Lesley Livingston (Website - Blog - My Space)
Publisher: HarperTeen (December 23, 2008)
Hardcover: 336 pages

Publisher's Blurb:

For seventeen-year-old actress Kelley Winslow, faeries are just something from childhood stories. Then she meets Sonny Flannery, whose steel-gray eyes mask an equally steely determination to protect her.

Sonny guards the Samhain Gate, which connects the mortal realm with the Faerie's enchanted, dangerous Otherworld. Usually kept shut by order of icy King Auberon, the Gate stands open but once a year.

This year, as the time approaches when the Samhain Gate will swing wide and nightmarish Fae will fight their way into an unsuspecting human world, something different is happening . . . something wondrous and strange. And Kelley's eyes are opening not just to the Faerie that surround her but to the heritage that awaits her.

Mulluane's Take:
This debut novel is a YA tale of budding romance and self discovery. Set in New York, this is an Urban Fantasy with faeries! Not your cuddly sugar plum faeries either but some very nasty, very angry faeries. The Compulsive Reader has some nice things to say about the book here. They suggest that this one belongs at the very top of your wishlist!

Tia's Take:
I'm curious as to why Kelley needs protection. Sonny's name is delightfully Irish--as is Kelley's. I agree with Mulluane--this is an urban fantasy that would interest me. The cover is delightfully creepy. The author, like Kelley, is a stage actress with some TV experience. Her role as Waitron-9000 sounds hilarious. For more info, read her bio.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Random Chatter, and Some Questions

I have temporarily taken down my "Other Debut Coverage" box because I have not been populating it. I have decided to give myself a break from combing blogs for debut coverage until the new year, or maybe just until after Christmas. Depends on how the mood strikes me.

I have been busy reading some of my unfinished novels of the year. I could not finish five, but at least two of them I am determined to finish before my end-of-year post. So in the next two weeks, expect those reviews along with the usual Debut Showcases.

I have also been busy buying gifts. This weekend was much busier than I usually prefer. Actually, so were the last three weekends.

Some questions for you, if you feel like answering:

Do you ever read the "Other Debut Coverage" box on my sidebar? It doesn't take much effort to populate it, but sometimes it gets a bit dated when I get behind on my blog reading.

If you are a blogger, do you ever see it pop up in your list of referrers?

And because I am curious, I am also interested in knowing which other blogs you read besides this one. Please leave a comment with three to five (or more!) of your favorites.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Kreativ Blogger Award

Darque Reviews and Dark Wolf both nominated this blog for the Kreativ Blogger Award. Thank you very much! Now, it's my turn.

Will anyone be upset if I didn't follow the rules? Rather than posting about my values and things I don't support--which you can pick up if you follow this blog--I'd rather post about blogs I find truly creative.

SciFiSongs - How creative can you get? This guy composes music about science fiction.
Dark Wolf - I'm sending the award back at you, Wolf. Dark Wolf covers lots of fantasy art.
The Galaxy Express - You never know what to expect here. Go to this post to see what I mean.
Fantasy Cafe - Kristen's blog is a visual treat with some slick web programming
Dragons, Heroes and Wizards - Blog about book series? What a great idea! Plus, I gotta nominate my blogging partner!
The Book Smugglers - Ana and Thea have come up with so many cool ideas that it boggles the mind.

(If you've already been nominated, please don't feel it necessary to blog about it again.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Debut Showcase: The Suicide Collectors by David Oppegaard

The Suicide Collectors (US - Canada - UK)
By David Oppegaard (Website - Blog - My Space)
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (December 9, 2008)
Hardcover: 304 pages

Blurb from Publisher's Website:

The Despair has plagued the earth for five years. Most of the world’s population has inexplicably died by its own hand, and the few survivors struggle to remain alive. A mysterious, shadowy group called the Collectors has emerged, inevitably appearing to remove the bodies of the dead. But in the crumbling state of Florida, a man named Norman takes an unprecedented stand against the Collectors, propelling him on a journey across North America. It’s rumored a scientist in Seattle is working on a cure for the Despair, but in a world ruled by death, it won’t be easy to get there.

Mulluane's Take:
This is a post-apocalyptic thriller. Can not really give much of a take on this one. I tend to avoid this type of tale because they all contain elements that could conceivably come to pass. Now, I enjoy a dark story where good triumphs evil within a fantasy setting, but post-apocalyptic stories of this nature just scare me. Instead I am going to point you to this review for more information.

Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Suicide Collectors

Tia's Take:
Since I'm almost finished with David William's Mirrored Heavens, I'm probably going to take a break from gritty for a while. However, I do enjoy post-apocalyptic novels, so I'll keep this one in mind. Part of it takes place in Florida, which always piques my interest. And could he have made it any more difficult for his hero, to make him travel from Florida to Seattle in a post-apocalyptic world? Well, I suppose he could have made him to go Alaska, but you get my meaning. Looks good!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Before and After, plus some other stuff



Much better!

The Sword-Edged Blonde by Alex Bledsoe is out in paperback via Tor in June and this is the new cover. I like it much better. I especially like the ichor dripping off the bad guy's blade. Nice touch. It's icky, but it makes me almost positive that I know which scene this is. And yes, Eddie had better turn around and deal with that guy, and pronto!

Welcome, Verla Kay Readers!

Yesterday, I got an influx of readers from the Verla Kay's Website for Children's Writers and Illustrators, all following a link to Laura Benedict's post from a couple of months back. If you find your way to this post, thanks for visiting and welcome! Take a look around and pay us another visit, sometime!

The Case of the Missing Post
I was going to do a post on literary agents and authors, but the muse seems to have abandoned me. All I want to do is hang out and read. Which, since I run a review blog, is probably a good thing. Now if only I can read another Eddie LaCrosse novel. Sigh! Must wait until next summer. I'll have to content myself with the contents of my bookshelf in the meantime, which is not lacking in unread books, not at all.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Debut Showcase: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling (Amazon: USA, Canada, UK)
By Kristin Cashore (Blog)
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books; 1st edition (October 1, 2008)
Hardcover: 480 pages

Cashore's Blurb:

Graceling, is the story of Katsa, who has been able to kill people with her bare hands since she was eight. Katsa lives in the seven kingdoms, where very occasionally, a person is born with an extreme skill called a Grace. Gracelings are feared and exploited in the seven kingdoms, and none more so than Katsa, who's expected to do the dirty work of torture and punishment for her uncle, King Randa. But then she meets a mysterious stranger named Po, who is also a Graced fighter and the first person ever to challenge her in a fight. The two form a bond, and each discovers truths they never imagined about themselves, each other, and a terrible danger that is spreading slowly through the seven kingdoms.

Mulluane's Take:
This is a coming-of-age story with a bit of romance. The type of fantasy that is right up my alley! This is Kristin Cashore's first fiction novel, and the recipient of several accolades including Publishers Weekly's Best Books of the Year (Children's Fiction) and Booklist's 2008 Top Ten First Novels for Youth. It is a standalone (no cliffhanger, another plus) but there are two more books in the works that will be set in the same world, one a prequel and the other a sequel. For more information I suggest reading the reviews by Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, Graeme's Fantasy Book Review and The Book Swede. Looks like a book I would definitely enjoy.

Tia's Take:
I like the sound of this one as well. The cover is awesome. It seems a bit dark for YA, but it seems that YA is getting darker these days. Plus the author lives in my hometown! How cool is that? To get to the excerpt, click the above link and then look for the "Excerpt" link on the left side of the page,  just under the image. It doesn't appear to be possible to link to it directly.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Debut Showcase: Peacekeeper by Laura E. Reeve

Peacekeeper (US, Canada, UK)
By Laura E. Reeve (Website)
Publisher: Roc (December 2, 2008) Publisher Interview
Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages

From the author's website:

To her partners at Aether Exploration, Ariane Kedros is the daring pilot of their prospecting ship. She is also a reserve major in the Consortium of Autonomous Worlds--accepting mysterious assignments to fulfill her duty.

To the Terran Expansion League, she is a war criminal. Fifteen years ago, she piloted a ship on a mission that obliterated an entire solar system. Those involved in the incident were given new identities and new lives in order to protect them from retribution. No new face or name can wash away the guilt Ariane feels, or chase her demons away.

But now, her government wants something in return. Twelve of Ariane's wartime colleagues are dead--assassinated by someone who has uncovered their true identities. And her superiors in the Autonomist army have placed her directly in the assassin's line of fire on a peacekeeping mission that will decide the fate of all humanity…

Mulluane's Take:

This is the first book in a new military science fiction series. Laura E. Reeve is a former USAF officer and brings both her flight and military knowledge into this debut. Sounds like something action loving Sci-fi fans will definitely enjoy! Darque Reviews has reviewed the book here and had some good things to say about it. The next book, Vigilante, is due out in October of 2009.

Tia's Take:

The author was in the Air Force! I was in the Air Force! However, she was an officer. I was just a jet mechanic. And it sounds like she had some really cool missions. I checked out her website and hey! It has a media kit! She's doing everything right . . . I only have one suggestion, just in case she stumbles upon this post. (It happens!) Include a high-resolution cover image. I eventually found one at Fantastic Fiction, a UK site where I find many of the images I use here.

I suppose I'll have to read this one!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Going Viral

John has started what we like to call a phenomenon. He has started a post which has gone viral. This meme was picked up by SF Signal and GalleyCat, among dozens of others.

Here is the latest list from John's post, along with his instructions:

"My list of fantasy and sf book reviewers is woefully out of date. I need your help to fix that. But rather than go through the hassle of having you send me recommendations or sticking them in comments, what you can do is take the following list and stick it on your website, then add yourself to the list, preferably in alphabetical order. That way, I will be able to track it across the web from back links, and can add each new blog to my roll as it comes along. So take this list, add it to your blog, and add a link to your blog on it. If you are already on the list, repost this meme at your blog so others can see it, and find new blogs from the links others put up on their blogs. Everybody wins! Be sure to send the list around to others as well. There is an easy to copy window of all the links and text at the bottom of this post to make it even simpler to do."

Go back to his original post to get the links out of his text box. It will be more up-to-date than this list.

The Accidental Bard
A Dribble Of Ink
Adventures in Reading
The Agony Column
The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
Barbara Martin
Bibliophile Stalker
Blood of the Muse
The Book Swede
Breeni Books
Cheaper Ironies [pro columnist]
Cheryl's Musings
Critical Mass
Dark Wolf Fantasy Reviews
Darque Reviews
Dave Brendon's Fantasy and Sci-Fi Weblog
The Deckled Edge
Dragons, Heroes and Wizards
Dusk Before the Dawn
Enter the Octopus
Eve's Alexandria
Fantasy Book Critic
Fantasy Cafe
Fantasy Debut
Fantasy Book Reviews and News
Fantasy and Sci-fi Lovin' Blog
The Fix
The Foghorn Review
From a Sci-Fi Standpoint
The Galaxy Express
Graeme's Fantasy Book Review
Grasping for the Wind
The Green Man Review
Highlander's Book Reviews
Jumpdrives and Cantrips
Literary Escapism
Michele Lee's Book Love
Monster Librarian
Mostly Harmless Books
My Favourite Books
Neth Space
OF Blog of the Fallen
The Old Bat's Belfry
Outside of a Dog
Pat's Fantasy Hotlist
Piaw's Blog
Post-Weird Thoughts
Publisher's Weekly
Reading the Leaves
Realms of Speculative Fiction
Rob's Blog o' Stuff
SF Diplomat
Sci-Fi Songs [Musical Reviews]
Severian's Fantastic Worlds
SF Gospel
SF Reviews.net
SF Revu
SF Signal
SF Site
SFF World's Book Reviews
Silver Reviews
Speculative Fiction Junkie
Speculative Horizons
Sporadic Book Reviews
Stella Matutina
The Sword Review
Tangent Online
Temple Library Reviews
Tor.com [also a publisher]
The Road Not Taken
Urban Fantasy Land
Vast and Cool and Unsympathetic
Variety SF
Walker of Worlds
Wands and Worlds
The Wertzone
WJ Fantasy Reviews
The World in a Satin Bag

Foreign Language (other than English)

Cititor SF [Romanian, but with English Translation]
Elbakin.net [French]

Lots of surfing to do now!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Blogger Icked Up My Post!

For those of you who get this via a feed, the below post is now significantly cleaned up. Click through for more readable copy.

Kelly and Colleen Blow Away My Blog Stats!

Normally, I don't expect much of a boost when I have author guests here. Maybe five or ten visits. Big-name authors don't know about this place, and they therefore don't send me their big-time blog traffic. The occasional editorial blog will cause a spike. But mostly, I have to scrabble for every bit of web traffic I get, using the methods I outlined here.

But looky here at what I saw when I opened my Google Analytics this morning.

Sweet! I went ahead and clicked the link, and behold!

A spike! Awesome! Who did I have to thank for this?

Kelly Gay and her agent, Colleen Lindsay! And they're not done sending clicks this way. Thanks, guys!

For you newcomers, welcome! I usually do an "upcoming" type link over the weekend, but I'll go ahead and do it now in an attempt to lure you back.

I have a few Debut Showcases to catch up on because my blogging schedule has been a bit unusual this week. Mulluane has been very busy gathering links. I also have in my greedy possession an advance copy of BETRAYING SEASON, the second book by soon-to-be Debut Graduate Marissa Doyle. I loved her first novel, Bewitching Season, and I'm already on chapter 4 of Betraying. I'll have to squelch my review for a while, however, because the book doesn't come out for a few months. Not much point in reviewing something that you can't rush out and buy for months. So I really just wrote this to taunt you, because it will not be upcoming in the next week.

What will be upcoming? Well, Colleen and Kelly's web traffic has inspired a Wednesday Commentary post, and I'll try to get that done and up by Wednesday. No guest posts this week--we're all to busy preparing for the holidays, I think. I also am planning on a fun post with book p*rn--something I don't usually do because honestly, I don't get much. (Book p*rn, to those who are gasping in shock, is nothing more than free books sent by various authors and publishers.) My book p*rn of course, will be different, because of the mere fact that I like to be different.

(I'll be curious about the surge in web traffic tomorrow because this blog now, for the first time ever, includes the word "p*rn." In fact, I think I'll obscure the word, because I'd rather not have that traffic after all.)

And you never know when I'll throw up something random, so check back often!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Upcoming Debut Author - Kelly Gay

Kelly Gay is back to give us an update on her adventures as an upcoming debut author!


Hello, Fantasy Debut readers! Your intrepid contracted author here, back to report on another milestone. I know, it’s been a while, right? One thing that might be evident at this point: things move slowly in the publishing business. But I’m very happy to report my contract arrived, twenty pages of publishing jargon all directed at “The Work” i.e., The Better Part of Darkness and its sequel. The contracts have been signed and returned. Now, I’m awaiting my very own copy to treasure forever and/or manically bite my nails over. (We’ll get to the maniacal part in a sec). And, yes, I admit it, I have pictures of me holding my contract and grinning over the top like a tickled fool. Those you will not be seeing today. :) It’s better this way. Trust me.

So why did it take so long you might wonder? The time frame from offer to contract was 5 months. According to some that’s a tad long, but not unheard of. I’ve heard of longer. For a first-time author, or any author signing on with a new publishing house, the contract starts out as that house’s standard publishing contract or boilerplate. The next step for us was to tweak and fine tune some of the clauses to fit me and my needs. Getting to that point required some back and forth between publisher and agent, thus the time length. Pretty standard stuff though.

I felt really good about signing my name because I wasn’t signing something I didn’t understand. This is where lots of research, friends in the biz, and a good agent/agency came in handy. Any questions or concerns were addressed beforehand, and my contract was exactly what I hoped it would be.

So, how does it feel signing? Duuuude. That one word says it all, but I’ll say more. It was awesome. A moment I’ll never forget. There was a calmness about the whole thing that surprised me, but once I finally stopped reading and re-reading the dang thing and signed it, my heart was pounding just like it did the next day when I handed over the envelope to be mailed off to NYC. But, it was/is also scary. The reality is now firmly solidified. I have deadlines, expectations for Book 2. And nothing is left to chance. If I don’t turn in an acceptable revision on Book 1, or if Book 2 is unacceptable, it’s all there in the contract -- the scary stuff. Remember when I said “maniacal finger-biting”? We have arrived. No pressure. Really. :)

All kidding (er, sort of) aside, I’m excited about where my heroine, Charlie, and Underground Atlanta are headed, and Book 2 is turning out to be a wild, unexpected ride. So far so good . . . A big milestone has passed, leaving me one step closer to seeing my book in print!

Next up (I’m hoping) revisions and cover art. Stay tuned . . .



Kelly agreed to stop by and answer any comments, so please make her feel welcome!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tomorrow . . .

. . . Kelly Gay returns to give us an update on her adventures as an upcoming debut author! Be sure to stop by!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Debut Showcase: Magic to the Bone by Devon Monk

Magic to the Bone (Amazon: US, Canada, UK)
By Devon Monk (Website, Blog)
Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Roc (Penguin)
Publisher's Feature

From the Author's Website:

Everything has a cost. And every act of magic exacts a price from its user--maybe a two-day migraine, or losing the memory of your first kiss. But some people want to use magic without paying, and they offload the cost onto an innocent. When that happens, it falls to a Hound to identify the spell's caster--and Allison Beckstrom's the best there is.

Daughter of a prominent Portland businessman, Allie would rather moonlight as a Hound than accept the family fortune--and the many strings that come with it. But when she discovers a little boy dying from a magical offload that has her father's signature all over it, Allie is thrown back into the high-stakes world of corporate espionage and black magic.

Now, Allie's out for the truth--and the forces she finds herself calling on will overturn everything she knows, change her in ways she could never imagine...and make her capable of things that powerful people will do anything to control.

Mulluane's Take:
I searched everywhere for an excerpt for this one to no avail. Blurb sounds interesting but does not give much info. I do know that this is an Urban Fantasy set in Portland, Oregon and while modern settings are not my "thing" the premise sounds solid. I do like magic that is balanced with costs and consequences. There are several reviews on this book you might like to check out for a more informative opinion. The Book Smugglers has one, Darque Reviews has another.

Tia's Take:
I really like the premise for this one. Protecting an innocent child is a strong hook for me. It might even be interesting enough for me to ignore the cover, which I'm not wild about. An incongruity that made me smile: the author's website has a section on knitting! One has a hard time juxtapositioning a tattoo cover with an author who make cute knitted creatures, caps and gloves. I know, I know. Don't assume things. Still, such an incongruity makes me more likely to remember the book . . . and perhaps, to pick it up.

It has a starred Publishers Weekly review! I don't see many of those for debut novels.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Three Bits of News

Just a quick post with some timely bits of news. The first news is that Laura Benedict, author of Isabella Moon, is re-launching her website. She really has revamped it for her new book--which is awesome--Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts. Stop by her blog for all the details before 11:00 PM tomorrow and leave a comment for a chance to win prizes! Here is her blog and website.

Second, Night Shade Books, publisher of The Princes of the Golden Cage and The Sword-Edged Blonde, is joining forces with the Electric Velocipede magazine. Their subscription drive is awesome--you get two free books if you subscribe. This is one offer I'm going to take advantage of. Here are the details.

And lastly, upcoming author Kelly Gay is coming back to give us an update on her pre-publishing adventures. Kelly has written a funny and charming post, as always, and she says she will swing by to answer comments. So come back on Thursday for her post.

And that's it!

Debut Break: HAWKSPAR by Holly Lisle

Every once in a while, I need to take a break from debuts and read something by a seasoned writer. I have not read a Holly Lisle book since the 90s, when I read The Secret Texts trilogy. After finishing Grimspace, I looked for something different. And since Tor has been filling up my to-read pile with lots of nice hardcovers, I thought I'd choose something from that stack. Lisle was the most familiar to me.

Holly Lisle has published thirty or so novels. She is famous for being very supportive of aspiring writers, and her website is a treasure trove of information. You can tell just by looking at her site that wow, she's been writing for quite a while.

Here is Tor's blurb:

Stolen away from their families, they are slaves, women with no names and no futures. Every moment of their days controlled by the avatars of the stone Eyes--Obsidian, Emerald, Raxinan, Ruby, Windcrystal, Sapphire, Sunspar, Tigereye...

And the most powerful of them all, Hawkspar, the eyes of time. Kings and despots come to her to know their futures, and she wades in the river of time, pulls apart its sticky threads, to arrange the world to her satisfaction.

But she too was once a slave, plucked from her home, chosen by the Eyes to live in service to them, as much a slave now as she ever was. And with her sight into past and future, she can see the secrets of the Eyes--and the evil of the Eyes.

Before the death of Hawkspar, another must be chosen by the Eyes--but the avatar has her own plans, and chooses a slave for her courage and rebelliousness, rather than her dedication to the goals of the Eyes.

This slave is put to trial, but time after time, she is protected by forces unseen. Once she has swallowed the bitter liquid and has her eyes pulled from her head and replaced with the Eyes of Hawkspar stone, she can slip into the streams of time... and use time to her own ends -- to free the slaves once and for all, and destroy the Eyes, even if it means destroying herself in the process.

This story is about a slave, and her fight for freedom. She is a member of the Tonk race. Rather than a nation, the Tonk are spread throughout the world. It turns out that there are quite a few Tonk among not only Hawkspar's fellow slaves, but among the Oracles themselves. And one of them has cooked up a plot. Once the slave--who, through most of the story, doesn't remember her name--takes on the Eyes, she becomes Hawkspar, and she immediately sets her predecessor's plans into motion. Then, she cooks up a few plans of her own.

I love novels about oppressed people fighting for their freedom. And this one was as good as any I've ever read.

There's a few things you can count on in a Holly Lisle novel. One is the great maps. There are two in Hawkspar, one a world map, and the other a zoom in on the mini-continent of Hyre. My main complaint here is that these maps appear to be for the first book in the series, Talyn. These novels stand alone--I didn't at all feel like I had to read Talyn to understand Hawkspar, but the maps seriously needed to be updated. No cities mentioned in Hawkspar appeared in the map at all.

Another Holly Lisle trademark is the visual magic. In Hawkspar, there are two forms of magic. One form, used exclusively by Hawkspar, is a river of time, sketched so well that I could envision it. The second, used by the Tonk, manifests itself as brightly colored polygons and circles.

And finally a good sign of a Holly Lisle novel is the religion. And here I can see Lisle's growth as an author since the last time I read her work. In The Secret Texts, I had a very difficult time accepting the religion, and especially the religious conversions. Most especially when the main characters converted. Here, Lisle was MUCH more subtle. It reminded me of how they handed the Elysian Fields in the movie Gladiator.

I would definitely classify Hawkspar as an epic fantasy. I enjoyed Hawkspar a great deal--it is one of my favorite reads of 2008. I understand from the author's blog that the future of the third book, Redbird, is still undecided. And that's a shame because there were some unfinished questions in Hawkspar for which I wanted answers.

I want to read Talyn now. Maybe I'll read that for my next debut break.

Hawkspar - Amazon USA, UK, Canada
Holly Lisle's Website and Blog
These novels come out in paperback in the summer of 2009

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Lurker Roll Call

I'm going to be a copycat and ask for a lurker roll call. A lurker is someone who reads blogs or forums without taking part. John over at Grasping for the Wind did this as well. He got the idea from Paul, who got it from Bryan, who got it from . . . well, just follow the links to find out.

Anyway, the point is, that I usually only hear from the same people. Last week, a lot of you spoke out on my Blogging Advice post, but I don't know if you were lurkers who simply spoke up for the first time, or if you came over here from elsewhere. Blogging can be a lonely existence. I know you're out there--I can see it in my stats--but I don't hear from most of you. I've heard it said that only about 10 percent of blog readers ever comment.

Well, for my early Christmas present, I'm asking that you leave a comment. I'll even give you a subject. Just say hello and to tell me how you read this blog. Through a reader? An email subscription? Or do you actually have this blog bookmarked? My comment form is very friendly, and is wide open to anonymous posts.

And of course, regular commentators are always welcome.

Debut Showcase: Ghost Radio by Leopoldo Gout

Ghost Radio (Amazon: US Canada UK)
Author: Leopoldo Gout (Website, Facebook, Blog)
Hardcover: 368 Pages
Publisher: William Morrow (October 14, 2008)
Browse Inside Book

Publisher's Blurb:

Ghost Radio is a terrifying novel about a ghost-story call-in radio show that inadvertently opens a doorway into the paranormal, giving voice to the dead and instigating an epic battle for the souls of the living.

From the cramped bowels of a dimly lit radio station, Ghost Radio is beamed onto the airwaves. More than a call-in show to tell scary stories about vampires and poltergeists, Ghost Radio is a sanctuary for those sleepless denizens of the night, lost halfway between this world and the next.

Joaquin, the hip, melancholy host, sits deep in a fog of cigarette smoke, fielding calls from believers and detractors alike. He is joined in the booth by his darkly beautiful girlfriend, Alondra, and his engineer, Watts. Soon what began as an underground cult sensation is primed to break out to mainstream audiences. When a huge radio conglomerate offers to syndicate the show and Ghost Radio becomes a national hit with an expanding legion of hardcore fans, neither Joaquin, Alondra, nor Watts is remotely prepared for what is about to happen.

Though a charismatic host, Joaquin remains a skeptic even as he begins to notice a curious and troubling phenomenon—he feels himself drawn further and further into the terrifying stories he solicits on the radio. Slowly he loses control over his reality and finds himself unable to distinguish between the real world and the world populated by the nightmares on Ghost Radio. He is forced to confront his past and his own mortality in order to save that which is most precious to him and repair the crumbling wall between the living and the dead.

Mulluane's Take:
Leopoldo Gout is a producer, graphic novelist, writer, composer, and director. He is currently producing an animated film with NBC and Curious Pictures but this is his first novel. Premise sounds very Stephan King-ish to me and since Horror is not really up my alley, I'll point you to this review instead: Bookgasm.

Tia's Take:
I do dabble a bit into horror, so this is more appealing to me. The premise reminds me of an actual late-night call-in radio show, Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell. I used to hear the last half-hour on the way to work, back when I worked on a military base and had to get in ridiculously early. It was all about UFOs and the paranormal. As in this novel, I always suspected that Art Bell was a skeptic.

And guess what? There really is a Ghost Radio. Check it out.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Upcoming Stuff

Instead of a One Year Later post, I'm planning something a little bit different this Thursday. And then, I believe that will be the last guest post until the new year. I expect web traffic to take a dip during Christmas week, and judging from last year's traffic, it will probably stay dipped until the new year.

In the meantime, I need to get busy with my year end post! Last year's post was great fun to put together, but I'll have some new categories this year, like "Best Nonhuman Character". I occasionally review non-debuts and non-fantasies, but I'll confine my favorites list to SF/F debuts.

I've been reading a lot lately. Last week, I finished a Debut Graduate novel, but I'll schedule that for after the holidays because the book isn't available until then. I also read a non-debut fantasy, and I'll write about that in the next week.

Thank you to everyone who linked to my Blogger Advice for New Authors post. I don't think I've ever had a post linked quite so widely. I thought of a few more tips, plus the comments thread had some great suggestions, so I'll update that post, put it on my sidebar and throw up another post when it is ready.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

One Year Later - Nathalie Mallet

Yes, Nathalie Mallet was my not-so-mysterious mystery author. Her first novel, The Princes of the Golden Cage, was great fun. It was the first in a series of standalone fantasy mystery novels--the perfect blend of my favorite genres. The second book is called The King's Daughters, where Prince Amir moves from the cage to the outside world. She has a third book in the series as well, which she'll tell you about below.


First, I must say thank you to Tia for inviting me to post on her blog again. So Thanks, Tia!

Alright, Tia asked me to talk about several subjects, and I chose three: how my life has changed since becoming a published author, my biggest surprise, and what am I up to now. 

How my life has changed since becoming a published author? Well, I must confess that my life hasn’t changed that much. The only real change since becoming published is that I am much busier than before—mainly with the promotion side of things.  It proved far more demanding that I expected it to be. (Promoting your book is extremely important, and that’s particularly true for debut authors.) I think this quote from William Randolph Hearst hits the nail on the head for me. “Putting out a newspaper without promotion is like winking at a girl in the dark—well-intentioned, but ineffective.” Okay, he’s talking about a newspaper, but the same can be said about books. But this said, every once in a while I feel the need to unplug in order to fully concentrate on writing.  

Tia wanted to know what my biggest surprise was.  Believe it or not, it is that a number of people liked the book enough to want to talk about it. So I was shocked, and rather thrilled, to receive emails from readers almost immediately after the book’s release. And when later I read that the charming and immensely talented L.E. Modesitt jr. mentioned having enjoyed my book in an interview, well, I was so surprised I nearly fell off my chair. Although the initial shock has now passed, I’m still thrilled to get emails from readers and answer each one diligently. I also had the chance to thank Mr. Modesitt in person at the WFC in Calgary. Yeah, I gushed like some blabbing groupie, but I’m sure that he didn’t hold it against me.

Tia asked me to talk a little bit about what I am doing now, which is very exciting for me because I am presently working on a new project. With The King’s Daughters, the second book in the Prince Amir series, scheduled for release soon, the third—titled Death in the Traveling City—fully completed and the fourth well on its way, I thought it was time for me to start something new.  It’s still fantasy, but not historically inspired like the books in the Prince Amir Series. A thriller rather than a mystery, this one is an urban fantasy set in modern-day LA where magic does exist, but is only wielded by very few and kept secret from everybody else. (Apparently a great number of wizards work in the movie industry.) Also, it’s written in the third person, with multiple points of view—which is new to me. Wish me luck! 

By the way, the electronic version of The Princes of the Golden Cage is now available through Baen Books’ e-publishing site, webscription.net.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Blogging Advice for New Authors

I was going through old debut showcases, looking for books to read, when I came across an author's blog that had almost no comments. The author was posting regularly, but her last reader comment was back in September. Now it's possible that her web traffic is just fine, but when you have no comments for week after week after week, to the random browser--me in this case--it looks like you have no web traffic.

So I took a closer look. I noticed a few things. One was that there was no blogroll. Authors like John Scalzi can get away with not maintaining a blogroll. The rest of us need one. That's because when you drive traffic away from your blog, you are actually driving traffic to it. Counterintuitive? Sure. But most of us reciprocate when we discover ourselves blogrolled on your blog. It's called spreading the link love. Shout-outing. Showcasing.

Then it occurred to me that some newcomers probably don't know how to discover such things. So while I'm aiming this post at new authors, most of it will be useful for everyone who blogs.

Setting Up the Blog
Include the following in your blog:

  • A blogroll, populated with the blogs of your favorite authors and reviewers. Odds are, they'll notice you and check you out. Use Google to search for your favorite authors, then sift through the results for their blogs and websites. They'll be close to the top.
  • Comments enabled and left unfettered. Wait until spam and trolls becomes a problem before you set up verification and log-in requirements. (It has yet to become a problem for me.) Make it as easy as possible to comment on your blog.
  • The archive. This is populated by default.
  • A link to your author website. Better yet, embed your blog in your website. Use Lisa Shearin or David Anthony Durham as your guide. These are both Blogger blogs, but they live on the authors' websites rather than on Blogspot. But if you don't know how to do that, a link is a second-best option. You'll have to monitor the traffic separately (see below).
  • A link to your profile. I think this is on by default as well. Leave your profile available for public viewing. Your profile is the best way for others to trace your comments back to your blog.
Publicizing Your Blog
You can set all that up and still get no traffic. Here's how to help drive traffic to your site for free. Well, there is a cost, but that cost is time, rather than money. The closer you get to 40, the more you realize how very valuable time is.
  • Comment on other blogs. People know you exist this way. I still check out every new commenter.
  • Answer your comments. You want to appear accessible. Plus, when you answer comments, you encourage conversation.
  • Thank reviewers. Even thank reviewers for bad reviews. We feel all special when authors thank us. We may not be special at all, but it is in your best interest to encourage such feelings anyway. Don't kiss our ass; we can see right through that. Just thank us. We're more likely to remember you and to blog about you when we have warm and fuzzy feelings about you.
  • Consider blogging about bad reviews as well as good ones. This makes you look uber-cool, like nothing can touch you. You may be crying your eyes red, but we don't know that. We're just marveling at how awesome you are. Of course, if you're only getting bad reviews, this will simply make you look pathetic, so use some balance here.
  • Shout-out other blogs that you admire, and include a link to that blog, or the particular post that caught your eye. We'll most likely notice (see below for how) and we'll appreciate it.
  • Consider using Twitter. I have not taken the plunge yet. Try it and see if it's for you. If you like it, include your Twitter feed on your sidebar. Twitter should have instructions on how to do this.
  • Join science fiction and fantasy forums and participate. Yeah, I know. I need to take this advice, myself.
  • Ask! Email the blogger/site owner and make a request. Offer to trade links, or to do an article or guest post, or to send a review copy. The worst they can do is say no, but most of the time, bloggers are happy (read: giddy) to help authors out.
  • Did I miss something? Leave a comment and share the knowledge, please!
Monitor Your Traffic
You'll want to keep an eye on your web traffic. This helps you know who is talking about you and what they're saying. The blogosphere is a very civil place mostly because we know when someone is talking about us, therefore everyone watches their tongues. Some people like being controversial, but I haven't seen it happen much in my blog circles. Here's how you monitor your traffic:
  • Establish a Technorati account and monitor the Authority. The actual number becomes meaningless over time, but when you click on Authority, you can see who linked to you from Blogger and a few other platforms. (However, it seems to be mostly blind to LiveJournal and WordPress.)
  • Establish a Google Alert with the name of your blog as the search text. If the name happens to be the same as a name on your book (whether the title or your actual name), so much the better. You'll get alerts whenever Google finds the search text. Also establish alerts on your name and your book title. Set the frequency to at least one email a day.
  • Establish a Google Analytics (or SiteMeter) account, and monitor the Referrals. These happen when someone clicks a link to your site. You get to see where that link came from. Sometimes the links are hard to chase down on LiveJournal due to the Friending system, but mostly it's very useful. You'll catch WordPress accounts this way, plus other blog platforms that Technorati seems to miss. You'll also know when someone emailed your site to someone else, because the referral will look something like this: "mail.bellsouth.net".
That's the bare minimum. You might also want to establish Google Reader, Feedburner and Bloglines accounts (and other feed readers, if you have other favorites) to get a good idea of how many people are reading your blog feeds. Feedburner has the added benefit of allowing people to subscribe to your blog by email. Anything else?

Website Suggestions
I only really have one of these, but it's a good one.

  • Establish a "media" section within your site with high-resolution images of you and your unaltered covers. This page should also have your bio, including any pen names (unless you're keeping such information secret). Michelle Moran has such a page with everything I need to do a debut showcase. Even links! Make it easy on us bloggers to publicize your work. Use Michelle's site as a guide.
Does anyone else have any suggestions? If I can get a good collection of suggestions, I'll make this a permapage on the sidebar.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

One Year Later Post This Thursday!

I have an author all set up for a One Year Later post this Thursday. Since I like being mysterious, here's her bio from her website, sans her name:

Passionate about literature—especially science fiction, fantasy, and horror—MYSTERY AUTHOR had dreamed of being a writer since her youth. When to take the plunge into this new career was just a question of timing. So when she left her New Brunswick home near the ocean for the scenic town of Kitimat, British Columbia, where the mountains touch the Pacific (and bears sometime sleep under your patio), MYSTERY AUTHOR knew the time was right. She began writing.

MYSTERY AUTHOR now lives in Prince George, B.C. with her husband, Andre, and an elderly ball of fluff named Honey.
Guesses are welcome, but I'll confirm nothing. Check back on Thursday for her post.

Debut Showcase: Perfect Circle by Carlos J. Cortes

Perfect Circle (Amazon: USA, Canada, UK)
By Carlos J. Cortes (Website, Blog)
Publisher: Spectra (November 25, 2008)
Mass Market Paperback: 496 pages

Publisher's Blurb:

Set in the impenetrable jungles of the African Congo, this fast-paced debut tells the tale of a world poised for ecological crisis–and the secret that could save it. From corporate profiteers to the natives who’ve been expecting them, here is a story that asks if man and nature are fated to clash–or if the right man can break the cycle.

Heir to a mining dynasty, geologist Paul Reece has chosen a simple life over the scheming opportunism of the International Mining Company. But when IMC approaches him about their mysterious discovery miles beneath the rain forest, Paul is compelled to set aside the sordid event that drove him from his legacy. For the project requires not only a brilliant engineer but one gutsy enough to descend 20,000 feet of solid rock–into the heart of a miracle. With Paul’s expertise, IMC can unearth a windfall–unless Paul decides to bury them first.

But Paul isn’t alone in his quest. Congo’s mystics have prepared for this day. Paul doesn’t realize it yet, but he’s been chosen to pilot a mission that will decide the fate of humanity.

Mulluane's Take:
The first thing that popped into my head upon reading the blurb was "Oh! a modern Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the Earth" with Congo mystics! Sounds like fun!" Then I read how the author describes himself "Carlos J Cortes is the author of numerous unpublished novels and one of the World’s least influential people." And I was in love. Well, not really, but the chuckle made my day. I'd say definitely worth a look see for Sci-fi fans.

Tia's Take:
While I see some appeal, I'm not quite as likely to jump on this one. I do find the idea of descent into the earth is interesting, and the logline on the front cover is fantastic, but it sounds like an ecological thriller, which is not a genre I read much of. The author's website does reflect a charming, self-effacing personality, so maybe we'll arm-twist Mulluane into reading this one.  

Monday, December 1, 2008

Wow! And I mean, WOW!

Check out what Pat's up to at the Fantasy Hotlist. He's compiling an anthology! And not just any anthology, a Subterranean Press anthology! With big-name authors! Plus, he's giving a way a sizable chunk of his advance to breast cancer research, which he has long supported.

Mega-Congratulations to Pat!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Debut Showcase: Night Falls Darkly by Kim Lenox

Night Falls Darkly (Amazon: US Canada UK)
by Kim Lenox (Website, Blog, MySpace)
Paperback: 336 Pages
Publisher: Signet Eclipse an imprint of Penguin Group
Prologue and First Chapter

Publisher's Blurb:

A cunning immortal who’s been called upon to reclaim a marked soul...

Ever since an accident took away her memory, Miss Elena Whitney can’t recall the secrets of her own past. All she knows is that with her mysterious benefactor Archer, Lord Black, returning to London at the behest of Queen Victoria, she should seize the chance to get some answers.

A member of the immortal Shadow Guard, Archer has been summoned to London to eliminate the soul of an evil demon—Jack the Ripper. Archer feels not only bound to protect the women of the night, but also his beautiful young ward, Elena, whom he spared from death two years before. But with a wave of panic spreading across London, Archer fears that Elena is his weakness—a distraction he can’t afford, especially since she’s likely to become the Ripper’s next target...

Mulluane's Take:
This is an historical paranormal romance set in White Chapel, England in 1888. No vampires, or werewolves and set in Victorian times? Oh yeah, I could get into this one easily enough. I can not think of a better period in history to set a dark, paranormal story. This book is the first installment of the Shadow Guard series with the sequel, "So Still the Night", due out in May, 2009. For more information Ana over at The Book Smugglers gives it a great review.

Tia's Take:
I don't think I've had a six-pack ab cover on this blog in quite some time--if ever. I'm seeing a lot of amnesia in my reviews and showcases lately. It's a plot device that never goes out of style. I'm always happy to see a novel with a protagonist who is squarely against the demons--although I might be tempted to argue about whether demons have souls or not. I'm also intrigued about how the Shadow Guard became immortal. It looks like an entertaining, deliciously creepy read.