Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald

THE OUTBACK STARS (Amazon USA, UK, Canada - links to paperback edition)
by Sandra McDonald
Website, Blog, Comic Strips (not kidding!)
Hardcover and Paperback (Paperback release Feb. 5, 2008)

love. duty. really big spaceships (I love this!)

Lieutenant Jodenny Scott is a hero. She has the medals and the scars to prove it.

She's cooling her heels on Kookaburra, recovering from injuries sustained during the fiery loss of her last ship, the Yangtze, and she's bored -- so bored, in fact, that she takes a berth on the next ship out. That's a mistake. The Aral Sea isn't anyone's idea of a get-well tour.

Jodenny 's handed a division full of misfits, incompetents, and criminals. She's a squared-away officer. She thinks she can handle it all. She's wrong. Aral Sea isn't a happy ship. And it's about to get a lot unhappier.

As Aral Sea enters the Alcheringa -- the alien-constructed space warp that allows giant settler-ships to travel between worlds, away from all help or hope -- Jodenny comes face to face with something powerful enough to dwarf even the unknown force that destroyed her last ship and left her with missing memories and bloody nightmares. Lieutenant Jodenny Scott is about to be introduced to love.

Author Sandra McDonald brings her personal knowledge of the military, and of the subtle interplay between men and women on deployment, to a stirring tale that mixes ancient Australian folklore with the colonization of the stars.

Ok, so this debuted last year. Sue me. The paperback release comes out in a week, so there's my excuse. Oh, and it's on the Nebula Preliminary Ballet, so there's another excuse. I met Sandra for coffee (actually tea and hot cocoa) a few weeks ago and she handed me a copy of her novel, so there's a third. (By the way, she's delightful.) I'm currently reading it and will be featuring it next.

You have GOT to get over to Sandra's blog and read her wonderfully audacious open letters to SFWA voters. They are hilarious. She's done four so far.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Across the Face of the World - Final Post

I admit that I started the super-thick ACROSS THE FACE OF THE WORLD with a bit of trepidation. I knew it would take me weeks to read. I don't normally mind thick books, but for some reason, since I started Fantasy Debut I now notice how long it takes me to read them, when before I didn't care at all.

But I digress. All my fears were unfounded. I enjoyed ACROSS THE FACE OF THE WORLD very much.

This book is basically about a series of chases across . . . well, the face of the world. Or about half of it. I found it unique in my reading experience mostly for its sense of family. It's about a family, complete with mother, father and two brothers. And they all go on the adventure. The father has a mysterious past as a Trader, a sort of spying merchant who travels the lands and reports back to the king. For reasons unknown, Mahnum, the Trader, gave up his occupation to become a farmer in a remote northern village name Loulea.

After many years, the king has need of him again and sends him on another trading/spying mission. He returns home, chased by four Bhrudwan warriors. The Bhrudwans are a race who lives under the thumb of the Destroyer, or the Undying Man. He's not exactly a Satan figure, because he was once a man. Immortality is both his punishment and curse, and his "reward" for doing something he wasn't supposed to do.

Mahnum manages to lose the Brudhwan warriors on the way home . . . or so he thinks. After experience treachery in various foreign courts on the way home, Mahnum returns home, intending to spirit away his family to safety. However, the Brudhwans were behind him after all, and they abduct both Mahnum and his wife, Indrett.

From that point on, the book is a series of chases, captures and escapes from one end of the continent to the other. They are warned early on that they will experience both "friends and foes unlooked for" and this is true. Just when you think the characters have achieved a major objective, another enemy pops up. Just when you think they are in such deep trouble that you see no way out, some friends happen along to help out. At first, their challenges are rather easily overcome -- almost too easy -- but the author makes up for this toward the end.

This novel was not written for an American audience, and it shows. (It was originally published in Australia.) The point-of-view jumps from character to character, and for many people I know this is a no-no. I actually enjoyed it. An omnipresent point-of-view does have its advantages, and the big one here is that we were able to peek into everyone's heads without a major scene shift. Another thing that might try the patience of some readers is the excessive descriptions of scenery. People are hardly described at all -- in fact, the differences between the races is hardly evident -- but each bend of the road is rendered in loving care, and sometimes, there are even descriptions of things that none of the characters ever see.

However, the novel managed to keep my attention throughout. Toward the end, I detected some problems with pacing. The party had divided into four parts and they all had the same destination. Some were chased and others were not. This resulted in the plot either racing with the thrill of the chase, or sauntering through the countryside. I felt that the novel could have ended a good deal earlier than it did, but I understood that the author wanted to reunite all the characters before closing. The point-of-view shifts got to be a problem at one point when one character suddenly reunited with a group of others, and I was left wondering what he was doing in this scene until I understood what was going on.

The ending pages are breathless with excitement and the book really ends with a bang. In fact, it's almost too much of a bang, because the instant the final conflict is over, the novel is over. Thank goodness Orbit included the first chapter of the next book, In the Earth Abides a Flame, so I could see what happened next. I have an ARC edition, so I'm not sure if the sample chapter ended up in the final edition.

The thing I loved most about this book was the dynamics between all the characters. The parents, Mahnum and Indrett, do not have a perfect marriage. Leadership of the "Company" shifts between the village Haufuth, or headman, and Kurr, an old farmer who is a secret Watcher. (Secret occupations abound!) The brothers, Hal and Leith, have a tangled web of jealousy between. There is a fascinating secret yet to be discovered about Hal, something that I suspect he isn't fully aware of, himself. There is a love triangle that was unexpectedly sundered with the death of one character. The religion in this novel is heavily influenced by Christianity, with a mythology that is derivative of the Garden of Eden.

If you don't mind an occasionally challenging read about a fantasy that is truly epic in scope, then you might enjoy this novel. I'm especially interested in seeing how this author grows from novel to novel. I'm dying to see how things work out between Hal and Leith, so I can't imagine missing the next book in the series.

Russell Kirkpatrick's website and blog
Amazon Links: USA, Canada, UK

Monday, January 28, 2008

THE LIAR'S DIARY by Patry Francis

THE LIAR'S DIARY (Amazon USA, UK, Canada)
Patry Francis (website, blog)
Book Trailer
Dutton Adult (Penguin Group)

Answering the question of what is more powerful—family or friendship? this debut novel unforgettably shows how far one woman would go to protect either.

They couldn’t be more different, but they form a friendship that will alter both their fates. When Ali Mather blows into town, breaking all the rules and breaking hearts (despite the fact that she is pushing forty), she also makes a mark on an unlikely family. Almost against her will, Jeanne Cross feels drawn to this strangely vibrant woman, a fascination that begins to infect Jeanne’s “perfect” husband as well as their teenaged son.

At the heart of the friendship between Ali and Jeanne are deep-seated emotional needs, vulnerabilities they have each been recording in their diaries. Ali also senses another kind of vulnerability; she believes someone has been entering her house when she is not at home—and not with the usual intentions. What this burglar wants is nothing less than a piece of Ali’s soul.

When a murderer strikes and Jeanne’s son is arrested, we learn that the key to the crime lies in the diaries of two very different women . . . but only one of them is telling the truth. A chilling tour of troubled minds, The Liar’s Diary signals the launch of an immensely talented new novelist who knows just how to keep her readers guessing.

This is a thriller. Normally, I don't cover thrillers unless they have a supernatural aspect, but I learned about Patry Francis Day through this site, and I thought I'd participate by doing my usual sort of debut announcement for the author. I think the book looks great and I hope the author makes a full recovery.

IMMORTAL by Traci L. Slatton

IMMORTAL (Amazon USA, Canada, UK)
by Traci L. Slatton (Website, Blog)
Random House
Trade Paperback

In an age of wonderous beauty and terrible secrets,
one man searches for his destiny...

In the majestic heart of Florence, a beautiful golden-haired boy is abandoned and subjected to cruelty beyond words. But Luca Bastardo is anything but an ordinary boy. Across two centuries of passion and intrigue, Luca will discover an astonishing gift—one that will lead him to embrace the ancient mysteries of alchemy and healing and to become a trusted confidant to the powerful Medicis…even as he faces persecution from a sadistic cabal determined to wrest his secrets for themselves.

But as the Black Death and the Inquisition wreak havoc on his beloved city, Luca’s survival lies in the quest to solve two riddles. One is the enigma of his parents and his ageless beauty. The other is a choice between immortality and the only chance to find his one true love. As Luca journeys through the heights of the Renaissance, befriends Giotto and Leonardo Da Vinci—140 years apart—and pursues the most closely guarded secrets of religious faith and science for the answers to his own burning questions, his remarkable search will not only change him…but will change the course of history.

This novel sounds fascinating to me. I love the cover. I'm a sucker for historical fiction and when an author blends history with fantasy, I just about cannot resist. I can see myself reading this novel in the near future. It is releasing on January 29th.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A RUSH OF WINGS: Final Review

Here is Raven's last installment of her as-she-reads-it review of A RUSH OF WINGS.

When I first started reading A RUSH OF WINGS, I was prepared to go either way. I was intrigued by the premise, but given who the main characters were (a wounded male rocker and a female FBI agent), I figured a romance was going to be central, and many stories that center around romances don't work for me. Well, the romance wasn't really central, and it was handled very naturally. The book as a whole was more than just a good read. It blew me away.

I did have a few small quibbles, so let me get those out of the way now. One or two things were set up but never referred to again. For instance, near the beginning Dante is summoned to appear before another New Orleans vampire, but that vampire never resurfaces. And on the level of story and believability, at two different points two different characters (both important to the story) escape death when I was fairly sure they wouldn't have been left alive. In one case the character who survives wonders why she wasn't killed, but she never gets an answer. In the other case, a justification is provided for letting the character live, but I didn't completely buy it. Also, one of the villains has murky motives which are never entirely clarified.

But an amazing book can be forgiven a flaw or two. I rarely gush about books because I rarely find one I absolutely love and can't put down, but with this book I found one.

Not all the story threads tie up at the end, which isn't surprising considering this is the first in a planned four-book series. But the main storyline does get resolved, resulting in a satisfying conclusion while still leaving enough open ends to lead into the next book. I think the main - and most interesting - questions involve Dante's past (and what his future will be). Dante is really the star of the book, with the strong, no-nonsense Heather as a terrific supporting character. Dante is full of contradictions, he's capable of being a creator and a destroyer, and Adrian Phoenix delves into his mind unflinchingly. As I mentioned previously, Phoenix doesn't pull her punches. Bad stuff happens to her characters. Lots of it. Dante takes it the worst, which gives Phoenix a chance to really show the reader who this character is. He's extremely compelling.

I loved the voices Phoenix created for her characters. Nearly everyone's speech has a distinctive flavor, which helped me keep the multiple viewpoints straight. Dante's voice is down-to-earth, slangy, a little foul-mouthed, and sprinkled with Cajun words and phrases. Heather, the put-together FBI agent, is slightly more formal and sounds very authoritative and professional when she's in agent mode. The incredibly creepy villain known as E has the habit of assigning nicknames to the people he's dealing with. His voice was part of what made him so creepy. He sounds friendly, almost loving, and yet his idea of love is to carve up living people while reading them poetry. He's so realistic that I'm not sure I'm ever going to be able to read his scenes again. Most of them are pretty tough emotionally.

In general I found the good guys more compelling than the bad guys, probably because there were so many shades of gray in the good guys, particularly Dante. The main villains tended to be, well, villains, and they stayed that way.

Although I've never been to New Orleans, the New Orleans setting felt very real to me. I loved how Phoenix managed to infuse the book with a sense of place without hitting the reader over the head with it. She referred to street names, mentioned the muggy air, gave many of the characters French-derived names and sprinkled Cajun through their dialogue. It resulted in a sense that this particular story and these particular characters belonged in this setting.

The vampire lore is intriguing, and Phoenix has woven in religion and mythology. Any good vampire story has to include its own twist on the traditional lore, and I liked the direction Phoenix took this. I'm curious to know more, and I'm sure I'll get more details in the next three books.

The story itself is a fairly standard mystery, but Phoenix doles out suspense expertly, so the reader is always kept guessing. That and the superb characterization make this book what it is. In short, A RUSH OF WINGS is a keeper. I'll be finding a home for it on my bookshelf (books I don't like get carted off to the library), but I'm sure I'll be taking it down often to reread my favorite parts. I can't wait for the sequels.

All Adrian Phoenix posts
Original Debut Announcement (with even more links)
Adrian Phoenix website
A RUSH OF WINGS at Amazon USA, UK and Canada

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Matthew Jarpe, Part Two

Matthew Jarpe continues his discussion on "what worked, what sucked" for his author promotional activities for Radio Freefall. Again, it's hilarious. You've GOT to check out that stop-motion animation book trailer on YouTube.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Upcoming Stuff

Raven has finished A Rush of Wings, and is writing the review. I should have it in time to post on Sunday afternoon. (I don't post anything important on Saturdays, because everyone is off having fun.)

I've read a huge chunk of Across the Face of the World, and I'm still really enjoying it. Life Intruded, which is why it has taken me three weeks to read it. Which is also why I asked Raven to help me out by guest reviewing. I should be done this weekend, but in order to avoid confusion, I'll post my final thoughts on it it after Raven's final Rush post.

I heard from Lisa Shearin today. She told me that I can expect an ARC of Armed and Magical in the mail in the next week or so! I'm really looking forward to reading this novel. To get in on the excitement, head over to Lisa's website and check out her sample chapters. They are linked together, so start with Chapter One. Or, if you have not read Magic Lost, Trouble Found yet, you can read those chapters starting here. Lisa's blog is always fun and informative, especially if you write. Tomorrow she plans to put up a post showing her unpublished manuscript stack!

I have a copy of The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald, which she gave to me personally. We were able to meet for coffee a couple of Sundays ago, because we happen to live in the same town. I had a great time with her. The meeting was also great interview fodder, but I was having much too much fun to take notes. I started reading her novel today in anticipation of covering it next. The paperback version releases on Febuary 5th (according to Amazon), and the next book in the series, The Stars Down Under, releases in March. The Outback Stars also made it on the preliminary ballet for the Nebula Award!

I hate to plan too far ahead of time, but I also want to cover The Crypt of the Moaning Diamond by Rosemary Jones. I admit that I got curious about the little white dog! And in somewhere in the murky future, Raven will be covering Debatable Space by Philip Palmer.

I just put a lot of stuff in my Other Debut Coverage sidebar, including lots of reviews of Debatable Space and Black Magic Woman, among others.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

An Interview With Adrian Phoenix!

Raven helped compile the questions for this interview with Adrian Phoenix. Enjoy!

* * *

Please tell us something about your inspiration for A RUSH OF WINGS. Raven is very impressed with Heather, your protagonist. How did you come up with her? What about Dante? You seem to know the Goth scene quite well--were you part of it, or do you do great research?

First off, thanks so much for allowing me the opportunity to connect with your readers. I appreciate it.

As for my inspiration for A RUSH OF WINGS, gaming and music had a large hand as did my fascination with myth and religious history. Both Dante and Heather were initially created as RPG characters and I developed an adventure for the other players which took them into Club Hell and a deep, dark mystery – one that was completely different from the story in RUSH.

Music, NIN in particular, evokes intense emotions within me, and images – haunting images. That’s how Dante was born. From song lyrics brimming with rage and ragged with unvoiced pain; from the picture in my mind. Same with Heather. But I had to do FBI research (very interesting) for her. I wanted her to be strong, of course, and driven, but compassionate despite the soul-draining work of hunting killers and knowing there’ll always be more killers and more victims, their voices forever silenced. She has her own secrets – her mother’s murder, her sister’s illness, her FBI father. She and Dante are kindred souls, despite their differences.

With Lucien, I was able to explore my thoughts on Gnostic teachings (the God of the Old Testament was a fallen angel), and develop my own mythology.

I’ve been a part of the Goth scene (too busy, alas, lately to go out) and my closet is jam-packed with Goth outfits. I’ve always been Goth at heart – even before it was termed Goth. I still do my research though, just to keep up with everything. Fashion, hair, music, ideology, sexuality.

Your bio states that New Orleans is the "city of your heart". Can you tell us more about your connection to New Orleans?

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with New Orleans. I read books, studied its history, watched TV specials and movies, and wrote short stories that took place in New Orleans, and ran gaming adventures that also occurred in N’awlins. When I finally went to New Orleans, I dumped my luggage at the hotel (which was only blocks from the French Quarter), grabbed my friend and beelined for the Quarter. And I felt like I’d finally come home. I felt like I belonged, that I knew this place and it knew me – and I’d never felt that anywhere before. Or since. I hope to live in New Orleans someday. Since that moment, I’ve come to believe that if a person can have a soul-mate, then why not a soul-place? New Orleans is mine.

Did you write RUSH before or after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city? Did Hurricane Katrina impact your decision to set RUSH in New Orleans?

I finished it just before Katrina. In fact, I was supposed to return to New Orleans that October and spend Halloween there, attend Voodoo Fest. If anything, Katrina convinced me to keep the stories in New Orleans. Ironically, the sequel to RUSH takes place in Seattle. A few scenes are in New Orleans, but the majority of the story takes place in Portland and Seattle. In book three, I return to New Orleans. YAY!

Please tell is of the origins of your particular brand of vampire lore.

I’ve always been fascinated by vampires. Given that most cultures have vampire lore of some kind or another, I decided there must be an element of truth, one both romantic and savage. A living species. (As for the undead aspect, I’ll reveal my take on that in book 3) Vampires are predators, yes, but they also need mortals. Vampires – or nightkind, as Dante refers to them (think of the child who was trying to figure out why he was so different from the other kids) – can give death or immortality. Pain or sexual release. A symbiotic dance. And then there’s the Fallen...

Do you have a favorite scene or character in A RUSH OF WINGS?

It’s a small scene, but I love the scene where Heather serves her search warrant at dawn, dragging Dante from Sleep. Especially when he says, “Lucien doesn’t think much of you.” And Heather replies, “Good morning, by the way. Got that search warrant.” Take that, Mr.-I-gotta-do-it-the-hard-way. He lifts a hand and circles whoop-de-doo. LOL.

I like all the characters, but Dante’s my favorite. I also love Heather, Lucien and Von.

Which scene gave you the most trouble?

I didn’t have trouble, per se, with any of the scenes, but some were very hard to write, emotionally painful. I don’t want to say too much in case people seeing this haven’t yet read RUSH. I’ll put it this way – the scene in the slaughterhouse, the scene in the cathedral, the scenes in the van. Emotionally tough.

I understand that you have a four-book series planned. Can you give us a teaser about your sequel, IN THE BLOOD?

Four books for this story arc, anyway. Hopefully, there’ll be more later on. Deadly ripples from the “fall” of Bad Seed spread throughout the Bureau and the mysterious Shadow Branch. Dante falls into the hands of the man who helped design Bad Seed along with Johanna Moore, tumbling into a hell beyond imagination as his programming is triggered. Heather fighting forces from within the Bureau and her own family, falls into equally evil hands. She has to become a beacon for Dante, to guide him back from inner darkness while confronting her own. And Lucien fails in his desperate attempt to hide Dante from the Fallen...

Have you finished any other novels previous to A RUSH OF WINGS? If so, can we expect to see them in print, or are they permanently trunked?

This was my first novel, so I don’t have any trunked. I do have published short stories, some of which I’ll probably post on my website – especially “Sacrament” since it is a vampire story featuring Silver’s origins. I also plan to post short stories about Dante, Heather, Lucien and other characters from RUSH on my website revolving around events that happened just prior to RUSH. Hopefully, the stories will tide folks over until IN THE BLOOD is released next January. I’m also planning a Yahoo group called Dante’s Club Hell where people can discuss the book and my other stories and have scheduled chats with the characters – ask those burning questions!

Do you have a day job, or do you write full-time? If you work, how do you blend your writing life and your work life?

I have a day job, yes. I hope eventually to write fulltime, my head is so full of stories and characters, I worry about having enough time to write them all. I work at my day job Mon-Fri 8-5. I write every evening and on the weekends. I write every day, no matter if I’m tired, sick, or want to watch “Supernatural.” (That’s what the DVR is for. LOL.) My friends feel neglected from time to time (and so do my cats), so I make sure to thank them for their understanding and make time to go out to dinner and/or a movie. I definitely schedule playtime for my cats. So, right now, it’s like working two jobs.

Please share your publishing story and any writing advice you may have.

I was very lucky. I landed a great agent in New York and he sold RUSH a couple of months later. It’s all been like a dream – but do NOT pinch me! The important thing is to believe in yourself. Always follow your dreams. Never let anyone – not even yourself – talk you out of going for the thing you love. Always follow your heart. And, then, work. Write every day. Read – study the work of authors you like. See what works and learn from what doesn’t. Network with other writers, everyone can use some support and a cheering squad. But I can’t stress enough the two main things: Believe in yourself and write every single day. Work for your dream – you’ll get it. I firmly believe that.

Thank you!!

Merci beaucoup!

* * *

Kimberly Swan has another interview with Adrian over at Darque Reviews.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A RUSH OF WINGS: Rushing Toward Conclusion

Here is Raven's latest installment of her as-she-reads it review of A RUSH OF WINGS.

I'm now more than three-quarters of the way through A RUSH OF WINGS. Tension is high, Dante's in more trouble than ever, and everything is converging toward the ultimate showdown.

One of the things I'm really enjoying about this book is that Adrian Phoenix doesn't pull her punches. If her characters walk into a bad situation, nobody bails them out. They have to rise to the occasion. And nobody gets spared anything. Basically, whatever the characters are desperately trying to avoid will happen to them. This is great for tension and creating emotional connection to the characters.

I still have absolutely no idea how the book is going to end. I know who the final confrontation will be with (unless the story takes an unexpected turn), but I still don't know the bad guy's complete motivation or the whole truth about Dante. Phoenix is good at doling out information bit by bit. At first when she jumped into the bad guys' viewpoints I was afraid she might give away too much too soon, but she's avoided that trap. She's keeping me guessing, and I can't wait for the conclusion.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Matthew Jarpe on Author Promotional Activities

The author of RADIO FREEFALL has a post on "what worked, what sucked", which had me giggling like an idiot here in my cube at work (and inspired me to sneak in a blog post).

Monday, January 21, 2008

A RUSH OF WINGS: Thoughts at Mid-Read

Raven has sent me two updates on her progress through A RUSH OF WINGS. Here is her first installment.

At 256 pages into A RUSH OF WINGS, I find the story has grown deeper and more complex, but the solution to the mystery remains just as far off.

I literally cannot put this book down. Heather is trying to find out exactly what all the bad guys want from Dante, but meanwhile Dante himself is struggling with the dark secrets of his past, and Adrian Phoenix does a great job of making the reader feel how wounded he is and how much he's hurting.

To make matters worse, Heather and Dante have each developed doubts about certain people they used to trust, so right now they're both operating without much backup. Of course, this puts them in even more danger as they try to stay alive and solve the mystery. Incidentally, the reader finds out some of what's going on before Heather and Dante do, because we're privy to what the other viewpoint characters are thinking and doing.

But the central mystery of who Dante really is and what his true identity means for him and for everyone remains, well, a mystery. I can't wait to see how Adrian Phoenix resolves it.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

New Debut - I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME by Lisa Schroeder

Lisa Schroeder (website, blog, MySpace, ClassOf2K8 page)
Book Trailer!
Simon and Schuster
Trade Paperback


Girl meets boy.
Girl loses boy.
Girl gets boy back...
...sort of.

Ava can't see or touch him,
unless she's dreaming.
She can't hear his voice,
except for the faint whispers in her mind.
Most would think she's crazy, but she knows he's here.

The boy Ava thought she'd spend the rest of her life with.
He's back from the dead,
as proof that love truly knows no bounds.
I wish the blurb were more detailed, but maybe it doesn't have to be. Right away, I'm wondering why Jackson is dead, and why he does not rest in peace. I do love the cover. Also, I cannot find an excerpt except a very short one, which you can find on the author's Class of 2K8 page. The entire novel is apparently written in verse! Here is a review.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A RUSH OF WINGS: Initial Impressions

Raven is providing her as-she-reads-it impressions of A RUSH OF WINGS.

I'm really enjoying A RUSH OF WINGS so far. I'm about 70 pages in (the book is approximately 400 pages long), and I'm hooked.

I'm loving Heather Wallace. She's not one of those heroines who suddenly starts acting like a wimpy twelve-year-old anytime the hero shows up or is mentioned. I can't stand heroines like that. Supposedly they're sharp, mature professionals, but you'd never know it once Mr. Right comes on the scene. But not Heather. She really is sharp, mature, and professional, at least so far. In one amazing scene where she gives the hero, Dante, his comeuppance, I was grinning in delight and cheering her on.

Although the back cover gives the impression that this is going to be a mystery, the mystery is really more about why than who. That's okay. I have a feeling those whys are going to be pretty riveting.

So far I have only two minor quibbles. The first is that there are so many viewpoint characters. In just 70 pages Adrian Phoenix has already plunged us into the minds of at least seven different people. It's a few too many for me, especially since I don't find the villains as compelling as I find Heather and Dante and their associates. Phoenix does it well, though, and I haven't had any problems keeping everyone straight.

The other quibble (presumably not Phoenix's fault) is that the glossary is located at the back of the book. Phoenix has adapted or invented non-English terminology to use for some of the non-human types of characters in her story, and I have no problem with that, but the terms are presented in the text without definitions, and with the glossary being at the back of the book, readers might not find it until they're done reading. I only discovered it by accident.

But I'm impressed so far, and I can't wait to read more.

New Featured Debut - A RUSH OF WINGS

Although I'm still reading and enjoying Across the Face of the World (see the post below), I may not finish it before Wednesday or so. In the meantime, since Raven is enjoying A Rush of Wings by Adrian Phoenix so much, I am making that novel the Featured Debut, and I'll post her initial impressions later today. Over the next week or so, I'll intrude from time to time with a few debut shout-outs (I still have two from ClassOf2K8 to post) and miscellaneous announcements. Next weekend, I'll post my final impressions of Across the Face of the World, plus hopefully an interview with the author, Russell Kirkpatrick.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Across the Face of the World - Midway Point

Well, I'm almost halfway through ACROSS THE FACE OF THE WORLD, and so far, I'm liking it very much. It is very different from a novel by an American writer. The plot is leisurely, with lots of description. Yet, the plot does not stop moving; if it had, I would not have kept reading. As it is, I keep staying up later than I intended, trying to get through just another long chapter.

The little Company -- as the author calls them -- has grown from five to eight. I have not gone over all the characters, so I will now.

Leith and Hal. Brothers whose parents were taken by the Bhrudwan warriors. Hal is the older, and is crippled by what is thought to be a birth defect. Since his parents took him in as a toddler, no one really knows. Leith is is normal younger brother, about sixteen or seventeen years old.

The Haufuth. The leader of the village of Loulea, the home of most of the characters and the locale where the story begins. He is smart and cool-headed, and it is his idea to try to rescue Hal and Leith's parents. He starts out fat, but I cannot imagine that he will remain that way, due to all the hardships they are going through. He leaves his wife at home in order to lead this quest.

Kurr. A hot-tempered older man, who is incredibly tough. He has a mysterious past and belongs to an ancient sect called the Watchers. He is a source of lore and knows much of the land they pass through. He is a likable old cranky bastard.

Stella. A fifteen or sixteen year old girl, who they bring along because she happened upon their plans and they could not afford to leave her behind. She does not mind going because she is trying to avoid getting engaged against her will. She seems like a hindrance at first, but soon proves her worth.

Further on, they pick up two more men Farr and Wira. They are older than Hal and Leith, perhaps in their early 20s. Farr is hot tempered and Wira steady. One of them has a drinking problem, and the reader cannot be sure who it is. I have my suspicions; the author did not make it difficult to guess. There is a little love triangle developing involving Wira, Stella and Leith

And finally, they pick up an eighth character, who I will not reveal much about at this time.

And of course, I must mention Hal and Leith's parents, Mahnum and Indrett. I have to give the author credit for a twist on a familiar plot structure. No, the farm boy's parents do not conveniently die, thus motivating the main character for revenge. At least, not yet. Their captivity is what is driving the plot, right now. Every once in a while, we get a cliffhanger of a scene letting us know that they are still alive. And they both have backgrounds that are tantalizing enough for us to want to learn more.

The only real complaint I have so far is that the challenges they have faced seemed to have been rather easily overcome. They were attacked at a certain point, but all of them were able to fight off their attackers, even those who had never held a sword before. At another point, I was certain that they had a major challenge -- almost insurmountable -- but then, it was solved for them. It fit in the story and I would not call it a deux ex machina, but the author could have let the reader sweat about it for a few pages.

Speaking of pages, if you read this, expect pages and pages to go by, filled with description. It did not bother me, because as I said, the story kept moving. Besides, I got through the description of the city of Paris in The Hunchback of Notre Dame -- about 35 pages worth (and worth it in the end) -- so I can get through this, I think.

I'm finding the maps rather difficult to read. They look computer-generated. I have to peer at them up close in order to be able to read them. I'm hoping they got an artist to do some more attractive maps for the actual printed copy (I have an ARC -- thanks, Orbit!). In fact, I'm thinking about meandering to a bookstore to see if there is much difference between my copy and the one on the shelves.

If I do, I'll bring my camera.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Author Catch-Up

Here are some author activities that I have taken note of recently.

Melissa Marr reports that Wicked, Lovely is in it's ninth printing!

Nathalie Mallet reports that the sequel to The Princes of the Golden Cage, The King's Daughters, is now available for pre-order.

According to Locus, Christopher Barzak's One For Sorrow has won the Crawford Fantasy Award. This award is for "the best first book by a new fantasy author."

Laura Benedict announces that Isabella Moon's cover is a finalist for the Left Coast Crime's ARTY Award. Also, a hardcover version of her novel comes out on February 7th to numerous countries overseas.

Several authors who I have announced (Lisa Shearin, Jennifer Estep, Janet Lorimer and Lisa Nevin) have given away premiums, such as bookmarks or postcards. I recently placed all of mine on my bulletin board. Now I can add Rosemary Jones to my collection. She is giving away signed bookplates. Here's the scoop straight from her:

Tia and other readers: if you are worried about the little white dog in the Crypt of the Moaning Diamond, I now have a specially designed bookplate for this novel. Just e-mail me at and I'll send it out. This sticker fastens nicely to inside front cover and has an original illustration done by an artist friend that is very appropriate to the book. Each bookplate is signed.

I decided on a bookplate, rather than a postcard or bookmark, because my favorite author collectible is my Dinotopia bookplate. Designed and signed by James Gurney, this bookplate announces to the world that I have a "visitor permit" to roam Dinotopia, although return passage is not guaranteed. It always makes me smile when I open this book. Although my bookplate is not quite as fancy, I hope it gives my readers the same type of smile.
I know I have some other author stuff to catch up on, but I thought I'd go ahead and put up this post, and catch up with the rest in another post this weekend.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

New Debut - A RUSH OF WINGS by Adrian Phoenix

A RUSH OF WINGS (Amazon USA, UK, Canada)
Adrian Phoenix (website, MySpace)
Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Trade Paperback
Excerpt (begins with a bang!)



Dark. Talented. Beautiful. Star of the rock band Inferno. Rumored owner of the hot New Orleans nightspot Club Hell. Born of the Blood, then broken by an evil beyond imagination.


F.B.I. Special Agent Heather Wallace has been tracking a sadistic serial murderer known as the Cross Country Killer, and the trail has led her to New Orleans, Club Hell, and Dante. But the dangerously attractive musician not only resists her investigation, he claims to be "nightkind": in other words, a vampire. Digging into his past for answers reveals little. A juvenile record a mile long. No social security number. No known birth date. In and out of foster homes for most of his life before being taken in by a man named Lucien DeNoir, who appears to guard mysteries of his own.


What Heather does know about Dante is that something links him to the killer -- and she's pretty sure that link makes him the CCK's next target. Heather must unravel the truth about this sensual, complicated, vulnerable young man -- who, she begins to believe, may indeed be a vampire -- in order to finally bring a killer to justice. But Dante's past holds a shocking, dangerous secret, and once it is revealed not even Heather will be able to protect him from his destiny....

I'm not sure, but I think the movie and novel Interview With the Vampire gave me a permanent aversion to vampire stories. I realize that I'm in the minority here, so it's a good thing that I now have Raven to review novels like this one. We've made arrangements for her to get a copy, so expect her to cover it in the upcoming weeks as well. Raven is going to be busy!

In the meantime, here's a review. (Yeah, I said I wouldn't link to reviews anymore, but this is DarqueReviews and I'm free to break my own rules. :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

New Debut - DEBATABLE SPACE by Philip Palmer

Philip Palmer (Website -- doubles as a blog)
Trade Paperback
Excerpt, Later Excerpt (scroll down)

Flanagan (who, for want of a better word, is a pirate) has a plan. The plan, at first, seems simple. Kidnap the Cheo's daughter, demand a vast ransom for her safe return, sit back and wait.

"The Cheo is ruler of the universe known to mankind.Only, Lena isn't the Cheo's daughter and the plan is far from simple. Fortunately, Flanagan has had a lifetime to work it out. Unfortunately, he has far less time to execute it.

Debatable Space is a space opera of extraordinary imagination, and a brilliantly plotted novel of revenge.

Raven has agreed to review this novel, and Orbit has agreed to send it, so expect to see it in the upcoming weeks.

New Announcement Format

In order to be able to continue doing the debut announcements, I had to make some changes. They were taking about an hour to put together, and I kept getting further and further behind. This new format will also permit me to announce debuts on the day of their release, because I no longer will be searching for and vetting possible links. I've discovered many good blogs while trolling for reviews to link to, but I will hopefully will continue to do so through other methods. Plus, I'm constantly putting links in the Other Debut Coverage box. It changes every day.

What I will continue doing

  • Link to various Amazon releases (this may change to B&N -- they seem to have a better shipping policy)
  • Link to author websites and blogs
  • Include official blurb
  • Comment with my initial reaction
  • Provide ongoing links in Other Debut Coverage box
What I stopped doing
  • Search for and link to reviews/interviews/articles
What I started doing:
  • Include image of book
  • Include publisher info and links
  • Include book format
  • Include excerpt link
  • Announce on day of release (or close to it, in the case of multiple releases on the same day)
What do you think?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

GOD'S DEMON by Wayne Barlowe

Today's post is by Raven, a prolific commenter here at Fantasy Debut. When I read on her blog that she was reading this novel, I asked her to write a review when she finished, and she graciously agreed. Here it is.

* * *
I love the premise of God's Demon, by Wayne Barlowe. I'm not someone who usually cares for books about angels and demons and wars in heaven and hell, but give me an intriguing premise and I'm yours. The premise is that a demon decides to repent and try to go back to heaven. I heard it and was hooked.

I wish I could say I loved the book. It was competently written, although I did come across a few passages I found difficult to visualize (odd considering the writer is a professional illustrator and did his own cover art; check out his websites at and for some amazingly dark and haunting illustrations). The book included some memorable images, my favorite being the description of souls being transformed into bricks. Since I've never read Paradise Lost or Dante's Inferno, I have no idea whether Barlowe borrowed this or came up with it on his own, but in either case I really liked it. It gave a sense of the dehumanization the souls had undergone, and it was a concrete symbol of the enmity the souls felt for the demons (and why they felt it).

The characterization was good, although many of the more impressive characters weren't viewpoint characters. Beelzebub, the Lord of the Flies, grossed me out completely, and so did the depiction of his throne room ankle-deep in blood and floating meat. Barlowe did a great job with that. I felt Lilith didn't come to life as well as she could have, but I really liked Hani (I won't say the long form of his name because it could be a spoiler), and I liked the fact that in hell he got the chance to confront one of his old "gods" from his human life.

Now we get to the quibbles I had with the book. The biggest was that although it's all about one demon's struggle to go back to heaven, we never get to see the action through his eyes. The point of view hops around among various characters, but the repentant Demon Major, Sargatanas, is never a viewpoint character. I felt this cut down on the book's emotional power. After all, if we're not in his head, we can't feel his struggle as directly. We're always going to be slightly removed, and that's how it feels.

I also would have liked to see Sargatanas be more of an evil character when the book opened. The bigger the redemption, the more powerful it is. I felt he was a fascinating character anyway, but he could have been even more so. Finally, the struggle to return to heaven seemed too external. I had expected more exploration of the internal aspect, the reasons why Sargatanas joined Lucifer's rebellion against God to begin with and why he changed his mind, and I think the book would have been the better for it. Battles are all very well and good, but the real story is the emotional story.

Overall, it's not a bad book, but I felt it missed its chance to be a great book.

* * *

Raven has a personal blog at a blog on Korean culture in LA blog at Look for more of her reviews here at Fantasy Debut in the near future!

For another viewpoint, see Robert's review at Fantasy Book Critic.

The Week Ahead

Today was CRAZY! (However, one of the funnest aspects of the day was a meeting with Sandra McDonald -- more on that in another post.) I'm going to force myself to slow down next week for a week or so; I think I've been taking too much on.

Also, I'm SERIOUSLY OVERDUE for a walk in the woods. I drive my husband crazy, because every few months I need a walk in the woods. Even when we lived in Arizona we'd take occasional drives up from Phoenix to either the saddle on Four Peaks, Bushnell Tanks or the top of the Mogollon Rim. My favorite place in the world was Tonto Natural Bridge. Around North Florida, I can go just about anywhere, but I'm hankering to go back to the Devil's Milhopper in Gainesville. Sounds cool, huh? It is. North Florida has lots of hidden treasures.

Over the next week I'll have a few shout-outs to do, a progress report on Across the Face of the World and a few miscellaneous posts. Since it's going to take a while to finish Across the Face of the World (even though I'm still enjoying it), I'll probably start featuring another book in the meantime.

Friday, January 11, 2008

An Interview With Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet had a respite in his writing schedule and agreed to answer a few questions. While preparing this post, I made the shocking discovery that I never did a proper announcement on AURALIA'S COLORS! Therefore, I'll include a few links at the end of this post. First, the interview!

* * *

FD: Please tell us about your inspiration for AURALIA'S COLORS.

JO: Beauty can be dangerous. I was on a hike at Flathead Lake in Montana, exploring that glorious scenery with a woman named Anne. We were talking about fairy tales and imagination, and she said, "Isn't it strange how most people reach a certain age where they fold up their imaginations and put them in a closet?"

That question landed like a fish hook in my head. A story took hold and started reeling me in. I began to imagine a society in which people were burying all of their creative expression, all of the mysteries that inspired them to imagine, all of the colorful parts of their experience. Naturally, they became a culture starved for beauty. And while I imagined this, walking through that beautiful Montana landscape, I realized that I was looking over the shoulder of a character who was an artist. This character's heart was broken because of what she saw happening in that society (which is called House Abascar). So she gathered up all of the colors in the world, and even more than that, and carried them into that society to remind the people of all they were losing.

That was the beginning of ten years of work. I blame Anne, who I eventually married. I blame Montana. And I blame God, who created both Anne and Montana.

FD: Can you give us a teaser about the next novel in The Auralia Thread, Cyndere's Midnight?

JO: Well, the series is called The Auralia Thread, and in the second, third, and fourth book we will get glimpses of life within the other cultures of the Expanse. And we'll see how Auralia's imaginative art continues to influence those who discover it.

The second book, Cyndere's Midnight, is about a creature called a "beastman" who discovers Auralia's colors. When he finds himself "stuck," so to speak, in the company of a grieving widow named Cyndere, a very unstable friendship develops. Meanwhile, the people of House Abascar are in trouble once again, and their survival depends on what happens between Cyndere and the beastman.

Oh, and in case anybody asks, "Cyndere" is pronounced like the word "cinder." And "Auralia" is pronounced "o-RAY-lee-uh."

FD: As I read AURALIA'S COLORS, I could not help but notice that all color is vividly described and emphasized. Are you an artist as well as a writer?

JO:I wish! No, alas, I am not a visual artist. But there are few things I enjoy more than great visual art. I'm a huge fan of Georgia O'Keeffe, and my wife and I spend a lot of each year visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico, and soaking up the natural beauty of the places where O'Keeffe worked. I love filmmakers who create poetic imagery, like Terrence Malick and Krzysztof Kieslowski. I try to paint "word pictures" that are vivid, and that put readers' imaginations to work. But God is the greatest visual artist. All artists are trying to capture some measure of the beauty and design he's made, whether they know it or not.

FD: Did you have any historical sources for AURALIA'S COLORS, or did you invent it all?

JO: Oh, I'm sure there are chapters of history that influenced me. But I didn't do any historical research to give detail to House Abascar.

But the questions explored in Auralia's Colors come from my own personal history. They come from my own struggles in various cultural conflicts. In all kinds of contexts, imagination and beauty are fractured by fear, oppression, ignorance, and greed. I see it happening in the context of world events, in relationships between governments and their people, the relationship between artists and their audiences, in the way schools and churches and families respond to beauty and truth.

Those are the conflicts that gave me a passion to explore them through storytelling.

FD: What is your favorite scene in AURALIA'S COLORS?

JO: That's almost impossible to answer. If I didn't love a scene, it didn't make it into the final draft of Auralia's Colors. There is a scene in the chapter called "Promontory" in which Auralia has to make a crucial decision. She climbs out onto a rocky outcropping and looks out at House Abascar. It's the moment that I first imagined, and it's the moment that the artist, Kristopher Orr, chose for the cover of the book (much to my surprise and delight). I'm rather fond of that moment.

But I loved sharing the experience of the two old thieves who found Auralia lying in a monster's footprint. I loved the experience of floating across Deep Lake on a raft with the ale boy, knowing something mysterious was swimming beneath the surface of the water. And I especially love what Auralia does when she is imprisoned, while that grotesque jailer called Maugam is punishing another prisoner. I become passionate about a scene when I see a glimmer of light in the darkness.

FD: What scene gave you the most trouble?

JO: Finding the right place to end the book -- that was a challenge. After the climactic moments, there's much more to tell people about Prince Cal-raven and the people of Abascar, and about Auralia's unfinished work. What was a very long epilogue was trimmed down quite a bit, and some of that material will appear in the sequel, Cyndere's Midnight.
It's always hard to lose a character too... even the villains. And people die in this story. Maybe not who you'd expect.

FD: Please share the story of how AURALIA'S COLORS came to be published.

JO: Well that's a long story, and it's more bizarre than any story I could invent.
Here's the short version: I'd written Auralia's Colors, and I was discouraged by everything I'd read about the process of finding an agent and getting published. Anne and I prayed together one day, and I remember saying, "Lord, if you want this story to be published, you may have to drop somebody out of the sky with a golden ticket."

A few days later, I received an email from a flight attendant in Atlanta. She had liked one of my movie reviews, and noticed that my bio mentioned some novels-in-progress. She was coming to Seattle for, of all things, a dentist's appointment, and wondered if we could meet for lunch, because she was curious about my novels. I thought this was highly unusual, but I was curious. We met for lunch, and she read a few pages of Auralia's Colors and another novel, one I've written for younger readers. She made a couple of phone calls to people she knew, and then told me that I would receive an important phone call the next day. I wasn't sure what to believe.
The next morning, I got a phone call from the head of Random House's WaterBrook Press. We had a great conversation. One thing led --or rather, leapt -- to another, and Auralia's Colors was published by WaterBrook.

In short: Somebody dropped out of the sky and gave me a golden ticket. And I live in a state of gratitude and near-disbelief. Now, ask me... do I believe in prayer?

FD: Have you finished any other novels previous to AURALIA'S COLORS? If so, can we expect to see them in print?

JO: I have a complete novel for young readers, a story I can't wait to share. I suppose if I were pitching it, I'd say, "It's Finding Nemo meets The Rescuers meets Raiders of the Lost Ark ." But it's also something new, I think. I wrote it because I hadn't read a story quite like it. I wrote it with a wild hope that it might someday become a Pixar animated film. Friends in my writers' group thought it was more likely to be published than Auralia's Colors, so we've been surprised by what's happened. Now I'm so busy with The Auralia Thread that I haven't had any time to pass it around. The main character, Max, is my favorite of all of my characters, so I'll find him a home someday. Or a nest. He's a bird, you see.

FD: It's rather daunting to be interviewing a movie reviewer who has interviewed movie producers, directors and stars such as Liv Tyler and Orlando Bloom. Do you have any interviewing tips for my fellow bloggers out there (and me)?

JO: I'm still learning about how to host a good interview. But I've learned a few things. I've learned to figure out what your subject wants to talk about, rather than what I want to talk about. Get them talking about something they're passionate about. I loved interviewing actor Michael Caine and director Danny Boyle because they're so passionate. I always have great conversations with the singers and songwriters from Over the Rhine -- Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist -- because they're such passionate and thoughtful artists. Also, be informed. Study up on the person before you ask questions. Read other interviews and learn what questions they've already answered a hundred times, and find the thing that will make your interview something that nobody can find anyplace else.

FD: I was surprised to find that you have a day job as an editor. After all, you write novels and movie reviews, and you keep several very active blogs. Have you mastered the secrets of time travel? Please tell us about your typical working day.

JO: For years, I wrote on the bus ride to work, and then again on the bus ride home. Now, I have to drive because the bus routes are too long. So I write on my lunch break. I write on 15-minute coffee breaks. When I get home from work at 7pm, I eat dinner, and then my wife and I go to a coffee shop that's open late. And we write. On the weekends, we write. I get some of my best ideas while I'm listening to my pastor, Michael Kelly at Seattle's Crosspoint Presbyterian Church, preach. He's very inspiring. And then, when I go on vacation... I write some more! When Anne and I were dating, our typical outing was a trip on one of Seattle's ferry boats, and we would write, read each other's work, and offer critiques. Not your typical love story, really. But we're grateful. Most of the stories I share about my life begin with, "You're not going to believe this, but...."

* * *

Thank you so much, Jeff! Jeff is all over the place online. He has a blog plus his movie review site, He also does movie reviews for Christianity Today. My posts on Auralia's colors are here, plus you can check out reviews by Fantasy Book Critic and Front Street Reviews. The Amazon links are USA, UK, Canada.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

BLACK MAGIC WOMAN by Justin Gustainis

BLACK MAGIC WOMAN (Amazon USA, UK, Canada) by Justin Gustainis released just a couple of days ago through Solaris, but my "darker" review colleagues have been all over it like blood on a vampire's teeth. Here's the blurb:

Occult investigator Quincey Morris and his “consultant”, white witch Libby Chastain, are hired to free a family from a deadly curse that appears to date back to the Salem witch trials. Fraught with danger, the trail finds them stalking the mysterious occult underworlds of Boston, San Francisco, New Orleans and New York, searching out the root of the curse. After surviving a series of terrifying attempts on their lives, the two find themselves drawn inexorably towards Salem itself – and the very heart of darkness.

Black Magic Woman marks the start of an electrifying news series of supernatural thrillers following the exploits of occult investigators Quincey Morris and Libby Chastain, as they search out evil in the darkest corners of America.
Actually, according to the author, there aren't many vampires in it; just in the first chapter. Love Vampires confirms this in their review, where they gave it five stars, regardless. Kimberly over at Darque Reviews, who is fast becoming one of my favorite reviewers, also enjoyed it. Angela the SciFiChick, who was already one of my favorite reviewers, enjoyed it with some very slight reservations.

I also found an article about it in UK SF Book News. Gustainis has managed to garner some rather fabulous blurbs:
“…better than any of the manuscripts I’ve been asked to read and blurb on by various publishers.”
- Jim Butcher, author of the Dresden Files

“Justin is a first class writer; he's smart and he's fun, he moves quickly and he takes corners at speed. Every time you think you know where he's going, he makes a point of going somewhere else. His characters are sharp and vivid, his dialogue crackles with wit and tension, and when it comes to the scarier corners of the magical underworld, he knows his stuff.”
- Simon R. Green, New York Times best-selling author of the Nightside series
Pretty exciting stuff for a debut author! The author has a website, which has a teaser about the next Quincey Morris Supernatural Investigation. He also has a MySpace site, complete with eerie music.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Across the Face of the World - Opening Chapters

I've got to admit that I'm loving ACROSS THE FACE OF THE WORLD by Russell Kirkpatrick so far. The publisher, Orbit, was kind enough to provide me with an ARC copy, for which I thank them.

This novel was originally published in by Voyager in New Zealand (I have a disproportionate number of New Zealander debut novelists who have appeared on this blog -- there must be something in the water over there) and I just LOVE the Voyager cover! I do like the Orbit cover as well, but I was really wowed when I saw the Voyager cover.

I suppose I ought to say something about the novel itself. After a "Buah-hah-hah! I shall defeat the world!" prelude (not really, but almost), it goes on to tell the story of Leith and Hal, two brothers who have waited almost two years for their father to return from a mysterious mission, ordered by the king itself. This in itself raises all sorts of questions. Who is their father that the king even knows about him? And why was he the one chosen to journey across the face of the world to carry out this mission? And will he ever return?

He does return and brings all sorts of other questions back with him.

So far, the plot has been rather predictable, that doesn't bother me. The author tends to jump around in point-of-view, but that doesn't bother me, either. The plot even features a farmboy (or two), and that doesn't bother me either. Why?

Because I think I'm in love with Hal. If I were reading this last year, he would have had the potential to supplant Joby as my favorite male character. I just got to a part where he basically said, "Choose between two equally impossible tasks? We're doing both by God, and you're going to help!" All that fire and he's a cripple, too. I hope Kirkpatrick has a romance in mind for him. He deserves one.

The chapters are r e a l l y l o n g. If you try to read until the end of the chapter, you may be reading a while. The chapter breaks tend to appear at jumps in the narrative. This doesn't mean that they aren't cliffhangers -- they are, for the most part, and they're good ones. There's lots of description and the plot proceeds at an unhurried pace.

I'm finding nothing to complain about so far, and lots to admire. More to come!

Tor's Ten Recent Debuts

In Tor's most recent newsletter, they had a list of ten recent debuts. Here they are, arranged in release date order and hyperlinked:

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi, January 2007 (original release in 2004)
The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald, April, 2007
Crystal Rain by Tobias S. Buckell, May 2007
KOP by Warren Hammond, June 2007
The Wanderer’s Tale by David Bilsborough, July 2007
The Book of Joby by Mark J. Ferrari, August 2007
The Genesis Code by Christopher Forrest, August 2007
Radio Freefall by Matthew Jarpe, August 2007
Spaceman Blues by Brian Francis Slattery, August 2007
God’s Demon by Wayne Barlowe, October 2007

Now, because I'm an analyst by occupation and by nature, I thought I'd apply a bit of analysis to this list. We have ten debuts over the course of a year. This rate of debut publication seems highly typical for major publishing houses.

We have nine men and one woman in the list. Now, I'm no feminist, but this appeared to be a large disparity to me. They probably have perfectly good reasons for such a disparity. Maybe they simply didn't have many good submissions by female authors last year. I could analyze this in-depth, but Tor published over 200 books last year, and I have too many unknown variables, so I'll just note it and move on.

My next question to myself was, were any of these authors already established in the SF field before their debut? To answer that question, I had to look at each author in turn.

John Scalzi
Anyone who keeps a speculative fiction blog knows about John Scalzi. According to his bio, he's not a debut author anymore; Old Man's War was first published in 2004. Reading his bio is fascinating anyway, because he serialized several of his novels online before Tor picked them up. So he became published in a rather unorthodox way. Who knows? It may be the way of the future.

Sandra McDonald
I had not yet heard of Sandra McDonald. Her paperback comes out in February, and I'll be getting myself a copy. It looks to be a hoot. Anyway, she seems to have established a name for herself writing short stories before her publication of The Outback Stars.

Tobias Buckell
Prior to his publication, Tobias Buckell was no unknown. He had won the Writers of the Future contest in the fourth quarter of 2000, and he had published short stories as well.

Warren Hammond
Hammond appears to be a complete newcomer to the scene, thus proving that it is still possible.

David Bilsborough
Bilsborough appears to be another complete newcomer. Unlike Hammond however, he appears to maintain absolutely no web presence whatsoever. This is not the first time I've attempted to find him online without success. I just don't understand why any author would shun such an easy and inexpensive way to promote books. Perhaps he is a recluse.

Mark J. Ferrari
I'm pretty familiar with Mark J. Ferrari because I featured The Book of Joby a few months ago. He illustrated covers for major publishers for years. However, I don't think his connections helped him get published, at least not initially. According to his own guest post here at Fantasy Debut, a midsized publisher first picked it up to be published in 2004, but then that publisher canceled his book. However, he used that almost-publication credit to secure an agent, who secured his book deal with Tor. He also advises that you use the "back door" approach whenever possible.

Christopher Forrest
Unforgivably, I completely missed Christopher Forrest's debut in August. It seemed to have gotten buried in all the other Tor debuts of August. Maybe because it is billed as a thriller, I mis-categorized it as non-speculative. However, upon reading the book blurb, it is undoubtedly science fiction, so I'll have to do a regular announcement for it in the next few days. Anyway, Forrest also appears to be a complete newcomer.

Matthew Jarpe
Matthew Jarpe calls his writer's bio a "pathetic display of single mindedless." He has a trunked novel and a trunked movie script, but nothing else. So, he's another newcomer.

Brian Francis Slattery
Brian Francis Slatterly is an almost-newcomer. His bio includes a prestigious win of the Glimmer Train Very Short Fiction Award and one other short piece in addition to his novel, Spaceman Blues. In addition, he is an editor and an author of nonfiction.

Wayne Barlowe
Wayne Barlowe is another illustrator-turned-writer. However, he's been writing since the 70s, when his book Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials, won the Hugo in 1979. He's done covers and illustrations for every major publisher, plus scads of other stuff. Really, you must read his bio for yourself. He cannot be considered an unknown to the field. I've probably seen his paintings at the Orlando Science Center with my own eyes. (Incidently, I have a guest reviewer lined up to review his novel, God's Demon, in the next week or so.)

Of the ten -- going strictly by their own bios -- I count four who had a clean bio upon their debut publication, and six who had bios ranging from a few sales to being a well-known name in the field for reasons other than fiction. If we strike Scalzi off the list because of his Established Author status, then we have 9 debuts this year. (This is making a rather broad assumption that the list includes all Tor's debuts of 2007.)

Tor had a total of 209 books published last year. I obtained this figure by using their search tool, narrowing the search to fantasy (111 books) and then science fiction (98 books). This is a 4.3 percent debut rate.

Over at SFWA, there are 29 "qualifying venues"; i.e. major publishers. Assuming Tor is average, and assuming this was an average year for major publishers, (more broad assumptions to make, I know) then there is an average of 261 debuts per year out of around 6061 novels.

(These figures does not count excellent small press markets like Juno Books, who gets books on shelves from coast to coast but does not qualify for SFWA's "professional" standards.)

And this concludes my analysis of Tor's debut list, for what it's worth.

12:53 - edited for clarity - TN

Sunday, January 6, 2008


Billy Goat, one of the bloggers at Books Under the Bridge, offered to review THE LEGEND OF THE FIREFISH (USA, UK, Canada) by George Bryan Polivka, a debut fantasy that released on March 1, 2007. I must admit--he has me wanting to read it! He offered to let me repost it here in its entirety; therefore, I have done so. He has also posted it on his own website, so you might want to check out any comments that might show up at his original post.

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I first heard about this book by browsing around the Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour. It's George Bryan Polivka's first fantasy publication, published in March of 2007. I have read very little of what I consider to be Christian Fantasy, and I'm always looking for new authors, so I was eager to read it. When Mister Troll told me about the Fantasy Debut blog, I decided that guest posting there would be fun if the owner would have me. It turns out that Tia is very gracious, and she told me she'd be happy to have a guest post from Books Under the Bridge, so here we are! Thank you, Tia and Fantasy Debut!

(Thanks, Billy!)

Reading more about the book on Polivka's website, as well as the introduction to his world, named Nearing Vast, I was intrigued to find out that the story has overt Christian themes. This is pretty unique in my experience, and when an author explores a religious, a-religious, or otherwise philosophical perspective in his work, he runs the risk of preaching or otherwise beating the reader over the head with his viewpoint, and thus making the story less likable to readers not already subscribing to his view. I wondered whether Polivka could pull it off, especially since he is new to the genre, and how he would manage it.

The story is about a fisherman's son, Packer Throme, who believes he knows the location of the breeding grounds of the legendary Firefish. The Firefish is a rare species of monstrous fish whose meat grants strength and healing to those who eat it, and its meat is thus very valuable.

Scatter Wilkins, pirate-turned-entrepreneur, is captain of the Trophy Chase. His new business is Firefish hunting, a very lucrative, but complex and dangerous business. The only thing keeping him from retiring rich is the rarity of the fish. If he just knew a reliable way to find them....

Packer has a plan to stow away on the Trophy Chase, and help Scat Wilkins find the breeding grounds. If he can convince the veteran pirate to believe his claims (and not kill him), he hopes that he can bring prosperity back to his little fishing village and redeem his father's reputation. From here, The Legend of the Firefish follows Packer through his gambit, and then the crew of the Trophy Chase as they track down a bounty that may be more danger than they can handle, or survive.

The summary above does not sound so religiously-themed. Where's the philosophy, the Christianity? The answer: it's in Packer's actions and motivations. And did Polivka come off preachy? To that, I'd answer a solid, "No." Instead, he wrote a ripping yarn, full of grace in style and content. The core of the story is inventive and packed with action. The religious themes are integral to the plot, and not just tacked-on window dressing or disguised sermons. To top it off, the story contains a certain purity that I have missed in many books I read nowadays. It often feels like a classic, because the writing is concise, pointed, and not frilled with excess description, dialog, or philosophizing.

The main characters are memorable and fresh. Packer is clever, likable, and complex. However, he occasionally thrashes over his beliefs, and comes across a little whiny/fatalistic when he does so. Thankfully, this is believable for his character, as he is a young man who has suffered some serious setbacks in his life, including expulsion from seminary school and a missing father largely considered crazy for rambling on about the Firefish breeding grounds.

The second main character is Panna Seline, Packer's sweetheart and daughter of the local priest. When Packer leaves town, she chases after him, as fantasy sweethearts are wont to do. I've read that Polivka intended for her to be a strong female character, and I believe he succeeded. However, she's not your typical Ass-Kicking Annie. Instead, when she sneaks out of town and encounters harsh reality, she realizes just how sheltered she has been, and rises to meet her unique challenges. And she's believable, sometimes excruciatingly so, such as when her naiveté leads her deeper into trouble.

Despite the strength of the main characters, it's the secondary characters that really make The Legend of the Firefish shine. The pirates and engineers of the Trophy Chase have been lovingly crafted, and they stand out in the fantasy genre. Characters such as the faithful Delaney, the academic John Hand, and the stoic, dynamite-wielding engineer, Stedman Due, all add a fantastic color to the story. Furthermore, the Firefish are powerfully-delivered antagonists, and they steal many of the scenes in which they appear. In some of these scenes, we get to see through the mind of the fish, and this adds a little Jaws-like atmosphere into the mix of the story. All of these great characters work to fill out Firefish and make it both engaging and memorable.

Lastly, the descriptions of the ships and the seamanship really captured me. The various stunts and maneuvers read authentically, and as a sailing enthusiast, I often found myself wishing I had a chance to ride in the rigging of the sleekly grand Trophy Chase.

I look forward to continuing Polivka's series with The Hand that Bears the Sword and The Battle for Vast Dominion, both of which have been recently published.