Friday, May 30, 2008

An Interview with Lisa Shearin!

Lisa Shearin

I have mentioned Lisa Shearin often on this blog. Back in June of last year, when I first started this blog, I interviewed Lisa after I had featured her first novel, MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND. Here is a follow-up interview.

What is the best thing that has changed in your life since the release of MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND?

My fans. There is absolutely nothing better than getting fan emails when I’m having a tough day at the keyboard. I love hearing how much they love my characters, whether they’re “Team Mychael” or “Team Tam”, that they “devoured” the books, read the books multiple times, can’t wait for the next one, and urge me to write faster. One of the main reasons why I stuck it out for over 20 years and was so determined to get published was that I had these stories to share and I just knew if I could get them out there that readers would love them and my characters just as much as I do.

Please tell us—if you can—about any unexpected drawbacks you have encountered about being a published novelist?

Before being published, it’s all about the writing, the joy of creating, the dream of being published and sharing your work with the world. After being published, it’s still about those things, but now it’s also about the books (which are now products), increasing your sales, promotion, having your work out there to be embraced & adored, or kicked to the curb. I’ve found out that my skin isn’t as thick as I thought it was, but I’m working on growing a couple of armored layers. ; ) You have to. Otherwise all of these things can distract you from what’s really important—your writing and creating something that you and your fans will love.

Admit it—you like torturing readers, don't you? Please tell us how you craft your twisty plots.

Actually I like torturing my characters. ; ) Sometimes I forget that you all haven’t read a certain plotline yet—you’ve only read two books, I’ve written three and am starting on the fourth—and I’m thinking about Books Five and Six. Occasionally I’ll let something slip that I probably shouldn’t have. Ooops. ; ) I’d love for my readers to be able to know things as I write them, but of course books aren’t printed that quickly. Okay, okay, I like teasing you all by alluding to things that are going to happen because I know you’re gonna love it when you finally get to read it.

Please tell us about when you first realized that you are a storyteller, and about any authors who may have inspired you.

When I read Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy (The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment) I was blown away. I said to myself: “I have got to do this.” I haven’t read them since then, and I definitely should. I loved David Eddings’s The Belgariad and Malloreon series of books, and Raymond Feist’s Riftwar Saga (Magician, Silverthorn, A Darkness at Sethanon).

You hinted recently on your blog about other novels outside the Raine Benares world. Can you give us a teaser about them?
(grins) Okay, one tiny teaser. . . Have you ever tried running up a ladder in stilettos and a little black dress being chased by armed and highly annoyed museum guards? Me either. I don’t recommend it.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

A word of advice for all of you pre-published authors—When (not if, but when) you’re at a conference and fans want you to sign their t-shirts or tote bags, use a light touch with your Sharpie. If you press down like you’re signing a book, the Sharpie gets bogged down in the material and your signature can look like crap. A light touch gives you a more even ink distribution. It makes for a happy fan, and an author who doesn’t feel like a complete doofus. ; )

Thanks, Lisa!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bewitching Season - Final Review

I really loved BEWITCHING SEASON! If I had to vote for Most Charming Debut, this would be it. It was lovely, adorable, fun and drenched in history.

Persephone and Penelope are seventeen-year-old twins about to face their first London Season. Persy is shy and studious and Pen is outgoing and lighthearted. Both are equally lovely, but Percy thinks Pen is the prettier. Percy is also the point-of-view character. They have a younger brother named Charles, who is twelve years old, and a governess whom they call Ally. When Ally vanishes just before they are supposed to make their debut, it's up to the three of them to find her.

Lochinvar, their childhood friend, returns from a long absence very nicely grown-up. It turns out that Persephone has loved Lochinvar since she was thirteen. He pops up in the most unexpected places, and has the most unexpected talents. Their love is delightfully thwarted by their own actions, yet it is not too drawn out.

Another mysterious man, Michael Carrighar, makes a reluctant henchman for a conniving lord. Here's where I had a quibble--Michael appears to be under an onerous debt of some sort, forcing him to do evil deeds when he otherwise would not. However, when the debt was finally revealed, it didn't seem nearly onerous enough to compel such deeds. Michael was the only character whose motivations never quite rang true for me. He was otherwise likable--truly conflicted and a rather dark soul.

The final battle was nicely done. I expected both twins to have to face the nemesis, but one twin had to go it alone. This made it a nice challenge. Having to fight wizards while in a breath-constricting corset is not easy, you know. All plot threads get sewn up satisfactorily, leaving Penelope free to gallivant off into the sequel, which will follow her adventures to Ireland.

It has been a long while since I was so charmed by a novel. In fact, I think you have to go all the way back to You Had Me at Halo by Amanda Ashby. My only complaint is that it was too short. I think Marissa Doyle will attract a legion of fans, both young and old, who will eagerly buy each new installment. I know I will. I loved it.

* * *

Marissa has agreed to an interview! I hope to be able to post it next week.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

An Interview With Jennifer Rardin!

Jennifer Rardin is the author of the Jaz Parks series, and she made this interview really fun. Jennifer burst onto the urban fantasy scene last October with the release of her debut, Once Bitten, Twice Shy. Since then, Orbit Books has released two other novels on a two-month schedule. The fourth novel in the Jaz Parks series, Bitten to Death, comes out in August.

Longtime readers of this blog knows that I don't read vampire novels, but I plan on making an exception for this one because it sounds like so much fun.

Tell us a little bit about the Jaz Parks series.

The books follow legendary CIA assassins, Vayl the vampire and his assistant Jaz, as they move through their missions. Which, of course, involve killing nasty, power-hungry creatures who’d just as soon bite your head off as look at you. Then they’d probably suck out your soul and pronounce it claw-lickin’ good because, you know, they’re usually raging maniacs with scary supah powers.

So, how does a novelist go about having her first three novels published every two months? Did you have all three books written when you sold the first one? Or are you undead, allowing you to write around the clock?

Har! I often think what a lousy vampire I’d make with my passion for open spaces (shut me in a casket for the day, are you nuts?) and my love of sunlight. If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I probably worshiped Ra at some point along my journey.

But with the deadlines imposed on me by the publishing schedule you mentioned, I spent plenty of days inside looking out, wishing I could go play when instead I had to work. Pretty much nonstop. Because I only had the first book, Once Bitten, Twice Shy, finished when my agent sold it and two more as yet untitled (and unplotted!) novels to my editor at Orbit. Yeah, so lots of evenings and weekends, a very intense workload I have only now, with the completion of book five of the series, been able to drop. My next books will be written on a much saner, nine-month timeline.

However, we didn’t tackle such a big project without good reason. New, unknown writers like me have a tough time selling books when they only come out on an annual basis. This way, readers could almost immediately grab the first three in the series and hopefully figure out, sooner rather than later, that this Rardin chick had a way with words.

Tell us about one of your favorite scenes in any Jaz Parks novel.

I love the camel-tipping scene in Biting the Bullet. Since I live in the Midwest, I’m always hearing the farm boys laughing about taking one of their buddies cow-tipping. So I thought, Hey, why not put a Middle Eastern spin on this puppy and see if it’s as funny on paper as it sounds in my head? I’m not sure how readers are reacting. They’ll tell me that the books make them laugh out loud, but will rarely say why. Anyway, I sure enjoyed it.

How about a scene that gave you some trouble?

I struggled with the dream sequences in Another One Bites the Dust. I wanted them to read so much like Jaz experienced them that the reader felt as if he or she was riding along inside Jaz’s head. Except the reader has to know the action isn’t quite real. Although the scene still has to feel immediate and intense. Do you see the line I kept trying to walk? Pretty tough. I haven’t had any complaints so far, so I hope that means I succeeded.

I understand you achieved Full Time Writer status. Please tell us a bit about your writing routine.

I get up around 6:30 a.m., start the dishes and see my family off before getting ready for work. I dress up most days, just as if I was going into an office setting. I find it helps get me focused on the job ahead. When it’s cold outside I spend the morning writing in my office, usually listening to my IPod as I work. When it’s warm I spend the day on the back porch. I break for lunch since my hubby comes home. After he leaves I do some laundry and get back to the biz. I usually stop at three p.m. and pick it up again after supper, especially if I have a deadline looming. This doesn’t leave huge gaps of time for cleaning house or reading or gardening, so occasionally I’ll take a couple of hours off to catch up on whatever I’ve had to let lapse (because it’s just gotten to the point where it’s driving me crazy!). I try not to write on the weekends when I can help it, because my poor, long-suffering family does like to see me now and then. But lately those hours have also filled with me at the laptop. I also write every night (including Christmas and birthdays!) before I go to bed.

How many Jaz Parks books do you envision? Or have you planned that far ahead?

Let’s put it this way—I don’t know how it ends. And their work is such that I can see it going on for quite a while longer. As long as an editor is interested and my characters have issues they need to work out, I’ll probably be willing to write about them. But I do have several other projects I’d like to pursue, so this definitely is not the only series I intend to write.

You live in a farmhouse! How fun is that! Did you do the whole fix-er-up routine?

We should probably use fix-er-up in the present tense, since at the ripe old age of seventy-eight, my home always needs tending. But she’s got a ton of character about her, which I adore. High ceilings. Wide arched doorways. Front and back porches. A sense that she’s survived a lot in her time and intends to continue on that path for the foreseeable future. Which is one of my favorite traits in anyone (or anything) I decide to spend quality time with.

How cool do your teenagers think you are because you write such cool novels? Or is the very word “cool” considered uncool these days?

Well, I’ve heard them say “cool,” so I think the word’s okay, but they’ve never used it in reference to me. They know me too well, I suppose, and if you asked them to describe me, would more likely choose a word like “geek.” (Though they would say it with a loving smile.) I think they’re proud of me, not because of what I write, but because I stuck with my dream until I finally got good enough at writing to make it a reality.

Was ONCE BITTEN, TWICE SHY the first novel you wrote? Or do you have any unpublished novels languishing in a closet, somewhere?

ONCE BITTEN was my fourth novel. The other three are sitting in the attic, and will probably remain there because they’re just not good enough to revisit. I do believe they needed to be written. You can’t perfect this craft if you don’t practice it.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I’m pretty juiced about the fourth book in the Jaz Parks series, Bitten to Death, which will release in the US on August 12. It takes place in Patras, Greece, in the Vampere Trust where Vayl lived for over a century before emigrating to America. The mission is exciting, because Jaz and Vayl finally have a real chance to take down their nemesis, Edward ‘The Raptor’ Samos.

Also, I always enjoy meeting new people, so feel free to look me up. You can find me at:, and

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bewitching Season - A Charming Read

I'm really enjoying BEWITCHING SEASON and I thought I'd better stop and write a post now that I'm at the midway point.

This novel is drenched in the history of the times. Doyle's worldbuilding is excellent. As you read, you learn all about how a young woman is introduced to society, about the feathers she wears in her hair, the train of her gown, how to approach the queen and even more important, how to back away from the queen while wearing a gown with a long train.

Percy is the darker twin and it makes her an interesting point-of-view character. Except for occasional jumps to Ally's point of view, we remain locked solidly behind Percy's eyeballs. And Persephone has done something very naughty, indeed. Appropriately enough, her naughty deed is making her miserable.

A couple of new characters have turned up, including the plain and plump Sarah ("Sally") Louder, who made her debut with the twins, and whom Percy befriends, and two more young men, Frederick ("Freddy") Gilly and the Viscount Carharrick, whose first name is not yet given. And we mustn't forget Ally's younger sister, Lorelei ("Lorrie"), who is their own age. Ally's entire family either uses magic, or is familiar with it.

Percy and Pen are hampered in their quest to find Ally by their own position in society. Thanks for a magical spell, they know where Ally is being held, but they cannot go anywhere without an escort. Doyle does a great job showing that such highborn young women enjoy almost no freedom.

And drat it all, but they just cannot seem to be able to find a dependable lady's maid!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Long Weekend Randomness Post

I usually plan my blog posts way in advance (ok, so a week or so), and I put up random chatter on the weekend. Since this is a long weekend in the United States, this post will probably be on top all weekend. I'm not going anywhere or doing anything interesting this weekend, so I'll probably be pathetically fast in answering comments.


It was an interesting week for web traffic. Not only did I feel it necessary to throw up a welcome post for my new visitors from SFFWorld, but this morning I find that Fantasy Debut has mentions in VampireWire and editor Andrew Wheeler. Apparently, Andrew found my debut showcases useful for his research purposes, for which I am glad.

There's also a new blog called, The Galaxy Express that focuses in like a telescope onto science fiction romance. I am partial to niche blogs because I . . . er . . . run a niche blog, myself. I need to turn this blogger onto Sandra McDonald.

A Technorati Rant

I wrote a Technorati rant, but once I got it off my chest, I found that I didn't want to post it. (Do you ever do that?) If you want to see what inspired my rant, check out John's rant from last week. It's along the same lines.

Readings and Writings

I didn't do a Wednesday Rumination this week due to a full blog schedule, but Raven helped inspire one in her last post on Clockwork Heart. I'll try to get that post up this Wednesday.

I sent off an interview to a hot new urban fantasy author, and I'm hoping to get that back next week. I don't usually do urban fantasy, but I do want to read this author's debut, hopefully after The Name of the Wind.

I didn't get to read much this weekend. I'm in the middle of two books, The Stars Down Under by Sandra McDonald and my current featured debut, Enchanted Season. I'll probably finish Enchanted Season over the weekend, but I'll put my posts up on it next week because web traffic always dips on holiday weekends. (But then again, with the price of gas being what it is, perhaps it won't dip so much this time. I hope not. People should be out having a good time! And I'm finding it rather odd that I'm hoping for low web traffic.)

And now, a movie moment.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

My husband and I went to see this yesterday. We saw the 9:30 AM matinée. I didn't know they opened theaters this early. This is the second movie we have seen in three weeks (Iron Man), and is probably the last movie we'll see all summer. We sneak off to see movies when my daughter is in school. We are big Indy fans. We had the boxed VHS set, and recently sold that to purchase a boxed DVD set.

The movie was thoroughly entertaining. It started with a group of teenagers attempting to drag-race an army convoy. They cannot get them to go along with the race at first until a commanding officer type nods his head at the driver. Which seems odd, doesn't it? Then they're off, but only for a short distance, because the convoy turns into a military installation. This short scene does a nice job in establishing the time and place due to the cars, clothing styles worn by the boys and girls and the haircuts.

At the entrance to the facility, the guards tell them that a nuclear test is imminent and no one is allowed inside, not even the guy in charge. Then, a machine-gunner wipes out the entire gate guard. The convoy rams the gate, drives up to a certain warehouse and unloads some cargo in the trunks, which consists of Indy and his partner for this expedition, Mac. Their captors--who turn out to be Russians--make their demands to Indy: they want to find a certain box in this huge warehouse. The interior of the warehouse may be familiar to longtime fans.

Indy was much more cooperative with the Russians than he ever was with the Nazis. Perhaps because a lovely Russian psychic named Irina is the one making the demands. He locates the package with the use of some Yankee ingenuity, and with the subtle use of CGI (computer generated imagery).

This movie had the franchise's usual over-the-top escapes, except it was cranked way up, so the escapes are WAY over-the-top. It strained credulity at times, until my sense of suspending disbelief went beyond its limit. (Can a 1950s-era refrigerator really survive a nuclear blast without opening, and end up only slightly battered?) My other gripe was the CGI. I find that today's movies relies far too heavily on CGI. It was wicked-cool in Stargate. It's a yawner here. It just doesn't look all that realistic. Yes, CGI is cheaper, but to be blunt, it looks cheaper, too. Compare the werewolf transformation scene in An American Werewolf in London to the transformations that seem to happen all the time in today's movies. Which looked more real? Time for another movie special effects breakthrough, I think.

However, Harrison Ford's crooked smile was as charming as ever. I tend to have crushes on aging movie stars. In the 90s, it was Clint Eastwood. These days, it's definitely Harrison Ford. He appears to lose years as the movie progresses. In the opening scene, the back of his neck is as lined as old leather, yet by the end of the movie, he hardly looks sixty. I think this was on purpose. It reminds me of a line in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen when the formerly-elderly Baron tells Sally, "I always feel rejuvenated by a touch of adventure." Karen Allen picked up her old role as Marion as if she had never left it. She had the same hairstyle that she had in the first movie, making her more recognizable, along with the same brilliant smile. Cate Blanchett was stunning--if a bit thin-- as Irina, and Shia LaBeouf was entertaining as her son, Mutt.

All in all, a fun movie.

Anyone else staying home this long weekend?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Review of Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti

A while back, Raven and I both wanted to read the same book. I was playfully mysterious about the book that we both wanted to read. Well, here it is. On my trip to the bookstore last weekend, I almost purchased it, even though I had sent my review copy to Raven, clear across the country. I may yet purchase it. It looks terrific. Here is Raven's review.

* * *

CLOCKWORK HEART by Dru Pagliassotti was a treat to read. In fact, since finishing it I've found myself flipping back to reread my favorite parts, always a sign of a good book. If I'm going to be honest I have to admit I was hooked by the characters and the setting more than by the plot.

The book is steampunk set in an alternate (non-earth) world, and the plot is somewhat convoluted and involves several unrelated villains. One villain I thought was exceptionally well-drawn. I couldn't support his methods, of course, but I understood his goals and felt sorry for him. The other villain (actually a set of villains) was more nebulous. Their motivations were stated but not exactly shown, and I never got a clear sense of impending danger from them. This made the final quarter or so of the book a little weaker than it might have been. A third set of villains was also eluded to but never came into play.

However, I'm willing to forgive these weaknesses because of the book's good points, namely its characters and setting. The setting was exceptionally well-imagined. Pagliassotti didn't skimp on world-building. The society in CLOCKWORK HEART is caste-based and centers around machines, including primitive computers known as analytical engines that can be programmed using punch-cards. I loved the way Pagliassotti seamlessly incorporated computers into this world. They're not just there as window-dressing. They play a critical part in the plot.

Winged messengers appropriately known as icarii are equally important in the society. These aren't actual winged beings. They're humans wearing an elaborate armature with wings to make flight possible. They get a boost (pun intended) from the invented element ondium, which is lighter than air and causes them to float if they wear enough of it. Ondium, too, is integrated into the plot. Cool as it is, it's not there just to be cool.

Then there are brilliant little linguistic touches. For instance, the characters curse and insult one another using terms a metal- and flight-centered society might use. One character gets called a "slagging pain in the tailset" (the tailset is part of an icarus's flight apparatus). The curses and insults really helped impart the flavor of the setting. So did the use of the clever term "outcaste" to mean someone who has been cast out of his or her caste. I was impressed with Pagliassotti's use of language to set the scene.

The characters themselves come to life on the page. The story centers around Taya, an icarus who runs into trouble with two brothers of a higher caste. Cristof Forlore has renounced his caste and lives in exile in a lower part of the city-state, while Alister Forlore is what corresponds to a senator. If any of these three characters were removed it would ruin the book. Pagliossotti fleshes them out through their interactions, and they seem very human and sympathetic. I loved the shades of gray in them. My one complaint is that Taya's motivations are a little weak. I overlooked it, though, because I was having so much fun watching her interact with Cristof and Alister.

Ultimately this book is a keeper. Its weak points are amply offset by the things Pagliassotti does well. The world of CLOCKWORK HEART drew me in, and I fell in love with the characters.

* * *

Here is my original debut showcase for Clockwork Heart, with all the usual links.

The Emergency Welcome Post

Every so often, an event happens that blows my blog schedule out of the water. Discovering that Rob has announced Fantasy Debut at both the SFFWorld Forms and his own blog qualifies as such an event.

So welcome, SFFWorld and Rob's Blog readers! You can find out who I am here, and what I do here. All my debut announcements are here.

And now, we return to our regular blog programming. (Oh, dear. That will probably go straight over the heads of any under 30 readers.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Debut Showcase: The Mirrored Heavens

The Mirrored Heavens (Amazon UK, Canada)
by David J. Williams (website, blog, blog)
Bantam Spectra
Trade Paperback


In the 22nd century, the first wonder of a brave new world is the Phoenix Space Elevator, designed to give mankind greater access to the frontier beyond Earth. Built by the U.S./Pan-Asian Coalition, the Elevator is also a grand symbol of superpower alliance following a second cold war. And it’s just been destroyed.

The South American insurgent group Autumn Rain claims responsibility for the attack, but with suspicions rampant, armies and espionage teams are mobilized across the globe and beyond. Enter Claire Haskell and Jason Marlowe, U.S. counterintelligence agents, and former lovers—though their memories may only be constructs implanted by their spymaster. Forced to set aside the enigma of their past, their agenda is to trust no one. For in a time of shifting loyalties, the enemy could be anyone—from a shadowy assassin working a questionable mission on the dark side of the moon, to a Euro data thief working under deep cover and wooed into a dangerous pact.

As the crisis mounts, and the search for Autumn Rain spans both Earth and Moon, the lives of all those involved will converge in one explosive finale—and a startling aftermath that will rewrite everything they’ve ever known—about their mission, their world, and themselves.

The website for this novel is absolutely fascinating, and even has a "Treaty of Zurich," complete with fourteen articles. It also has maps, timelines, "Earth-Moon System Lagrangian Points," and an illustration of the Phoenix Space Elevator. This appears to be hard science fiction at its best, along with spies, a love story and possibly-cloaked memories. Now I want a copy.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Debut Showcase: Touch of Fire

Touch of Fire
by Maria Zannni (website, blog)
Samhain Publishing
E-book (print release in December)


Between mage and man lies fire.

Leda has been ordered by the House of Ilia to use her fae gifts to find an alchemist’s bible, no matter what the cost. In a world where technology has been replaced by Elemental magic, this book is more dangerous than any spell or potion.

A ragged scrap of parchment is Leda’s only clue and it leads her to the last man known to have had the book—a savagely handsome ex-soldier turned scavenger. Greyhawke Tams. He’ll serve her needs nicely, in both her quest, and her bed.

The last thing Grey remembers is a bar brawl leaving him flat on his face. When he awakes, his situation hasn’t improved. He’s been bound in service to a contemptuous little fire mage with luscious curves and a deceptively innocent face. Grey’s not fooled—he’s hated the Elementals ever since he lost his younger brother to their brutal rites of passage.

But something about Leda tangles his brain faster than any woman he’s ever known. And soon it becomes clear she needs more than his “services”. A barbarous overlord wants that book and he’s willing to shatter Leda—body and spirit—to get it.

She needs his protection. Whether she wants it or not.

Maria is a longtime commenter here at Fantasy Debut, and I was delighted to showcase her novel. Despite the saucy cover, she assures me that this is not erotica, but it is quite sensual. (Yes! There is a difference!) I read the excerpt and it sounds quite good. I get to read the whole thing in December. Maybe I should break down and get an e-book reader.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Another Debut-Focused Blog!

Over at The First Book, soon-to-debut novelist Scott William Carter is interviewing first-time novelists of any genre. Some of his speculative fiction interviews include:

I know how much work such interviews are, so here's a hat tip to Scott William Carter!

Bewitching Season - Opening Chapters

The first three chapters of BEWITCHING SEASON do not disappoint. They introduce the two protagonists, Persephone* and Penelope, who are about to make their society debut in London. They are twins and are exactly the same age as Princess Victoria, since they were born on the same day as the future queen. Naturally, Victoria is their idol; they collect information about her and dream of meeting her.

Percy and Pen--as they are called--aren't the only ones with ponderous names. They were named in the same classical tradition as their mother, Lady Parthenope. Their governess is Melusine Allardyce, and their good-looking neighbor is Lochinvar Seton. If everyone didn't have playful nicknames, I'd be longing for a plain old William and Jane by now.

But all the names are in good fun and I have nothing whatsoever to complain about. Percy has had the main point-of-view so far, until chapter three, when Miss Allardyce--nicknamed "Ally"-- swings by to visit her father when she goes to London. The book's blurb reveals that Ally is kidnapped, and it happens in this chapter. The timing is excellent. The first chapter introduces the twins and their younger son, the plain-named Charles; the second chapter introduces Lochinvar and the possible chemistry between him and one of the twins. And the third chapter dives into the action.

As is traditional in YA novels, correspondence between characters is shown in a different font for each person doing the writing. The sign for Miss Allerdyce's father's shop is rendered in a flourished typeface with a decorative border. And each chapter heading has elaborate lacework. All of these touches gives the reader the impression that they are reading something special, and the story they illustrate holds up that impression so far.

* Emboldened text inspired by Robert.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Last Dragon at Fantasy Cafe

Kristen over at Fantasy Cafe has a review up of J. M. McDermott's debut, The Last Dragon. Here's an excerpt:

J.M. McDermott's debut Last Dragon is one of the books published under the new Wizards of the Coast Discoveries imprint. Discoveries includes novels by new authors in all types of speculative fiction instead of just epic fantasy with settings outside of the Forgotten Realms universe. The goal is to publish more mature fiction that appeals to adult readers instead of the simplistic but fun stories that often end up getting adolescents hooked on reading fantasy. Far more original and artistic than the typical Wizards of the Coast book, Last Dragon succeeds at meeting this standard, though it is not flawless.

Check out the rest of it here.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Debut Showcase: Bewitching Season

Bewitching Season (UK, Canada)
by Marissa Doyle (website, blog, ClassOf82K page)
Henry Holt Books for Young Readers
Reader's Guide

In 1837 England, young daughters of viscounts pined for handsome, titled husbands, not careers. And certainly not careers in magic.

Twins Persephone (Persy) and Penelope (Pen) Leland are anticipating their first London season with mixed feelings. Pen can't wait for the balls and parties and crowds of handsome young men to flirt with, but Persy would far rather stay home with their governess, Ally, and continue her magic studies. The only thing drawing her to London is the prospect of seeing Princess Victoria, her and Pen's idol.

But then Ally disappears from a busy London street and the twins are drawn into searching for her...and find that her disappearance is linked to a dastardly plot to enchant the soon-to-be Queen. Persy also discovers that a good lady's maid is hard to find, that one should never cast a love spell on anyone after drinking too much brandy punch at a party, that pesky little brothers can sometimes come in handy, and that even boys who were terrible teases when they were twelve can mysteriously turn into the most perfect young men.

Squeal! This looks fabulous! A mixture of fantasy, historical fiction and good old fashioned teen romance! See, I'm still a girl at heart. And her blog, Ninteen Teen, looks like the kind of blog that I want to devour in one setting. It's about "being a teen in the nineteenth century." I'm planning a trip to the bookstore this weekend, and this one is on my list.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Debut Showcase: The Last Wish

The Last Wish (UK, Canada)
by Andrzej Sapkowski (website for role playing game)
Mass Market Paperback
Orbit Books

Geralt de Rivia is a witcher. A cunning sorcerer. A merciless assassin. And a cold-blooded killer. His sole purpose: to destroy the monsters that plague the world.

But not everything monstrous-looking is evil and not everything fair is good…and in every fairy tale there is a grain of truth.

The international hit that inspired the video game: The Witcher is available for the first time in the US from Orbit.

This is the English Language debut of Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, who, according to this wiki, is quite a successful novelist, and whose novels has spawned a role playing game. This is actually a linked collection of seven short stories. The Wertzone has a review.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Some Blogrolling Thank Yous

The following websites and blogs have popped up in my Technorati authority listing lately:

  • The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum - This blog is by young adult writer Courtney Allison. She has been blogging since March, and writes about writing, her horses and other miscellaneous topics. Some of you YA authors might want to share war stories with her.
  • Dark Wolf's Fantasy Reviews - Dark Wolf has been blogging since March, and he reviews science fiction, fantasy and horror. He has already attracted review copies and has snagged an interview with the Slush God himself, John Joseph Adams.
  • Hermitwitch's Weblog - Hermitwitch's archives also go back as far as March. Hermitwitch writes short-n-sweet reviews of fantasy and paranormal romance.
  • Janie Harrison - This personal blog is by another writer. I recognize a lot of people in Janie's blogroll, which means I'll probably have a great time exploring those that I don't recognize.
  • Kelly Gay - Kelly is an urban fantasy writer who recently signed on with agent Colleen Lindsay, aka La Gringa of The Swivet. It's about "her adventures (and misadventures) along the path to publication."
  • Meddling Spinster - This is a collection of links of library blogs, book review blogs and other online resources, mostly geared toward librarians.
  • Observations from the Balcony - This is part of Mystery Bookspot, run by Brian Lindenmuth. It's fairly new but so far it has "Forgotten Books" every Friday, Mystery Bookspot updates, and miscellaneous posts.
  • Quilling Time - This blog has the neatest blogroll I've ever seen. Kate is a superfast typist (How on earth do you get to type that fast? I've been typing for over 20 years and I type 70 WPM, tops.) who loves to read and write. Her blog has been quiet for a while, but she always seems to come back.
  • Realms of Speculative Fiction - This is a team review blog. They have an extremely well-organized blog, where they allow you to browse by author or rating (5 point max), plus they have dozens of tags.
  • Take it to the Stars - This is a little writing community run by some of my good friends at The Toasted Scimitar. They've been blogging here for quite a while.
  • The Book Smugglers - Thea and Ana run this blog, where they, "give you straight up reviews, complete with bitchy or gushing opinions . . ." I so want their template! However, I shudder at the thought of recreating all my widgets.
Actually, "lately" is an exaggeration. I have been collecting these since February. If you run one of the above blogs, my apologies for being so long in acknowledging you and thank you!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Review of Elom by William H. Drinkard

I really loved this novel.

The blurb for ELOM got me. I've been mentioning The Clan of the Cave Bear a lot recently, and the author of Elom calls his novel "The Clan of the Cave Bear meets Close Encounters of the Third Kind." So I was prepared to plunk down money for the novel. However, my Book Fairy over at Tor granted my wish, and a nice hardcover appeared in the mail a week later. Thanks, Tor!

William Drinkard is not your typical debut novelist. He served in the Alabama State Legislature for twelve years, and even was the Senate Majority Leader. He's still involved with politics, but not as an elected official. When one hears such things, one wonders, "Yeah, but can he write?"

In my opinion, the answer is a resounding yes.

The novel starts when the young Geerna is preparing for the ceremony that will make her a woman. Her devotion to her goddess, Shetow, is unquestioned, so when light appears and when it takes her up to the heavens, she believes that she is going to Shetow.

Next, we are transported untold thousands of years to a gathering of female clan leaders known as Medoras. They share the world of Elom with an alien species known as drak, who are a sort feathered lizardmen. The drak have notified them that it is time for the Second Judging, a time long-foretold when Shetow would decide if the People are worthy enough to continue existing. They decide to use an unexplained Trait that the Medoras were given at the last Progression (which is about equivalent to an "eon," or an "Age" for Robert Jordan fans) to decide who would become a representative. The candidates must be selected by the conclusion of the upcoming mating ritual, where young people compete for the privilege of procreating.

Along the way, we learn that the People have lived according to a Covenant that Geerna made with Shetow in order to be given their second chance. Men are hunters and women are artists. There are other occupations of course--no society could function with only two jobs--but it is forbidden to cross these gender lines. Everyone's lives has one purpose--to improve the race for the Second Judging by selective breeding certain traits of intelligence, artistic ability and physical prowess.

The rest of the novels is about these eventual representatives, their competition and selection, and their enlightenment as to what is really behind the Second Judging. Seven are selected, three men and four women. They vary in age from sixteen to about twenty. A great deal of time is spent with their various rivalries and love lives, and how they eventually pair up. However, this is interspersed skillfully between revelations about the Second Judging, the nature of the drak, the truth behind a mark most of them have on their skin and the fate of the artwork that the women of the twenty-four tribes has labored for centuries to produce.

A surprisingly short amount of time was spent on the mating competition, but in retrospect I would not have enjoyed reading about contest after contest. I really enjoyed the way Drinkard revealed more and more of the secrets of Elom while the characters made their travels, and few of the secrets were anything I expected. I enjoyed a scene toward the end when the three human races of Elom--collected from Earth at various points in the past--see each other for the first time. I just wish that they all had a chance to actually interact with each other.

The writing is unaffected yet lyrical, and absolutely riveting. This novel is definitely a candidate for a reread. As I came closer to the end, I began to wonder if this novel is the start of a series, since it became clear that something I expected to happen would not happen. However, the ending--which I found reminiscent of a certain encounter in Carl Sagan's Contact--made the possibility of a sequel ambiguous. The story feels like it came to a conclusion, yet it definitely hints that the adventures of the seven are far from over.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

An Interview with Traci L. Slatton

Traci L. Slatton, author of IMMORTAL

I wanted to interview Traci because I adore historical fiction (even non-fantasy!) and I wanted to learn more about her book. When I first checked out her website, I saw that she had sold the film option rights to her novel. Since her novel has only been out a short while (since the end of January) I became even more curious, and I thought you might be too. Traci took some time to provide some very thoughtful answers, and here they are.

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Please tell us a little bit about IMMORTAL and about your inspiration for this novel.

In September 2004, I was pregnant with my 3rd daughter. Every pregnancy is different, and this one was waking me at 4:00 am. At the time, I was working on my non-fiction book PIERCING TIME & SPACE (published by the ARE Press in October, 2005), for which I was researching hard science. I loved that, but I also longed to write fiction. One pre-dawn morning I got up and sat down and give in to that longing.

Luca, the main character, sprang partly out of my love for Renaissance art, which was always present but which my husband sculptor Sabin Howard has carefully nurtured. Luca also arose out of my experiences as a hands-on healer, and my questions about the nature of the Divine, of loss and of suffering, and of love. How do we affirm hope, love, faith, and communion with the Divine in the face of the terrible things we all face every day?

So IMMORTAL is a journey of faith, an education of the heart, and a mystery of our deepest origins, both spiritual and physical.

Full cover image for IMMORTAL
IMMORTAL's film option rights have been purchased by TwinStar Entertainment. Can you explain what that means and how it came about? And how thrilled are you?

I can't begin to say how thrilled I am!
This came about in an interesting way. I used to put the kids on the school bus and then walk the dog with another dad from the bus stop. He's a good guy, smart and interesting, and we would chat. Naturally I told him about the novel I was working on. Turns out he's an entertainment lawyer named Steven Beer who handles matters relating to film, music, publishing, etc. After IMMORTAL was published, Steven read it, and he fell in love with the story. Steven took the book to Lane Bishop at TwinStar, who fell in love with it, also. The great thing about Steven is that he has a broad vision for projects and a keen sense for commercial possibilities. I am very lucky to work with him.

I met with Lane in Los Angeles and she was amazing. She knew my novel inside-out, upside-down, and backwards. It had spoken to her and she was passionate about it. She is another of these visionary people who can see possibilities, and I feel very, very lucky that she is handling the novel.

The film option means that TwinStar has the right to make a film from IMMORTAL. What they will do is set up a package for the film, which includes a partnership with other producers, a director, screenwriter, cast, etc. This is my understanding now, though it may change!

Hermes, by Sabin Howard
Your husband's sculpure adorns your site. ( Does it get chaotic to have two creative types in one household?

My husband Sabin Howard is a classical figurative sculptor (like Michelangelo). I think, as do a growing number of art critics, that he is the finest figurative sculptor working today. He recently finished an APHRODITE piece, a life-size nude female, and she's absolutely, breathtakingly gorgeous. You could put together a sculpture show with pieces from Michelangelo, Bernini, and Canova and include Sabin's Aphrodite, and she would hold her own!

You can tell I am very proud of my husband's artistic talent. I also admire his artistic integrity: Sabin has a ruthless dedication to the perfection of the piece, even if that means taking a power saw to the arm, cutting it off, rewelding the steel armature, and redoing 6 months of work because the gesture isn't right. He doesn't grumble, he doesn't complain--he's that committed to his vision.

There tends to be a lot of creative ferment around the home because he's an artist and I'm a writer. Art, the history of art and ideas, the importance and value of art and story, tend to be things that get discussed. It's the stew we all boil in. So my two older daughters write poems, stories, and songs; the little one is constantly at her easel, coloring; my step-daughter will be interning at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the summer.

Your bio states that you have a hands-on healing practice. How does that work? Do you have any other day job, besides raising three daughters (which would keep anyone busy)?

IMMORTAL'S Russian cover
My practice is mostly defunct right now. I had a small but active practice for ten years, working with people who were ill or who just wanted spiritual unfoldment. Then, at a certain point, the Universe said, "It's time to write now." And my clients vanished, almost all of them in the same month. A few months later I had my first book contract for my non-fiction book PIERCING TIME & SPACE.

Now I do healings for friends, family, and other healers.

At this point, writing and mothering are my day jobs!

You have two daughters and a stepdaughter who are teenagers at home. How thrilled are they to have an author mom? Do they brag about you at school?

My kids. I guess they're proud of me. The joke I tell is that I returned from meeting with TwinStar in LA and my family welcomed me back with their usual aplomb: "A movie of Immortal? Great! Can you raise my allowance? Can you iron my dress for the party this weekend? Are there any snacks in the house?"

Mothers are so often not people to their children, they're NGO's: Needs Gratifying Objects.
My oldest daughter and my step-daughter are going off to college, so that will be a transition around here. It will give me more time to write, but I will miss them, even if they have been evil teenagers!

Which are your favorite scenes in IMMORTAL

My favorite scenes in IMMORTAL are the ones with the young Leonardo and the final scene.

Which scenes gave you the most trouble?

The scenes that gave me the most trouble were the early ones at the brothel with Marco. I had a vision for those scenes but it wasn't working for my editor, who is brilliant. So we went back and forth many times over them. In the end, I went with what she wanted, because she has the experience.

Please tell us how you researched IMMORTAL. Did you have a lot of background knowledge beforehand, or did you research as necessary while you wrote?

I did have plenty of background knowledge before I started the novel, primarily because I live with a man for whom the Renaissance is alive and well. Sabin and I had made a number of trips to Italy, both with and without the kids, and we always spent a lot of time in museums and churches looking at the art. He has every book imaginable on Renaissance art, which helped immensely. I also used the internet. I bought books, borrowed books from neighbors and from the library, and examined books at bookstores. When I wrote, there would often be two books on my lap, two on my desk by my computer, and books open atop stacks on the floor.

IMMORTAL'S Polish cover
Please share with us the story of how IMMORTAL came to be published.

My editor bought IMMORTAL on two chapters and an outline. She just had to know what happened to Luca!

It was my oldest daughter who inspired me to send in the chapters. After I'd written the two chapters, I gave them to her to read. She gave them back to me raving about them. Then, a week later, she came home from school one day and grabbed me. "Mom, I've been thinking about your story all day. I can't get Luca out of my mind. Have you written any more? I have to know what happens to Luca!" She was so insistent that I knew there was something there.

Have you completed any other novels besides IMMORTAL? If so, can we expect to see any of them in print?

IMMORTAL was the 5th or 6th novel I wrote...though only the first one was really bad. I am hoping that some of those old ones can finally see the light of publication!

* * *

Thank you, Traci! Here is my original debut showcase from January, which has all the usual info.

Debut Showcase: Firefly Rain

Firefly Rain
(Amazon UK, Canada)
by Richard Dansky
Wizards of the Coast Discoveries
Excerpt (zipfile)

Fireflies hated my land, hated and feared it. If brought onto it, they’d flee. If they couldn’t flee, they’d die. But under no circumstances would my parents’ grave ever see their light.

Jacob Logan hasn’t been home in years. With his parents dead, his career a thousand miles away, there didn’t seem to be a reason ever to go back. But things change, and the time has come for him to return to a place, a life, he’d long ago turned his back on. It’s time to go back to a house that may not let him leave a second time.

Richard Dansky’s first original novel is a compelling story about one man’s struggle to honor the past without being destroyed by it, and finding the courage to face the future.

This one is a debatable "debut" since the author has written shared-world novels, but I thought I'd cover it anyway. It also came out way back when in January. It earned a starred review over at Publishers Weekly. The author is an RPG and video game writer, which seems like an apt career choice for an aspiring novelist.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Debut Showcase: Devil's Cape by Rob Rogers

Devil's Cape (Amazon UK, Canada)
Rob Rogers (blog)
Wizards of the Coast Discoveries
Trade Paperback
Excerpt (zipfile)

If New Orleans has earned its “Sin City” nickname for its debauchery, then its nearby sister Devil’s Cape has earned its “Pirate Town” moniker for the violence and blatant corruption that have marred the city since its founding. In Devil’s Cape, corruption and heroism walk hand in hand, and justice and mercy are paid for in blood. It is a city like no other.

I think this is one of the shortest blurbs I've ever seen. The setting is intriguing, but it's hard to tell what it's about. To make up for it, here is an interview done over at Wizards of the Coast, plus reviews at Horror Reader and The RPG Site.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Author Catch-Up

Traci L. Slatton has had an exciting development. She has sold the film rights to her novel, Immortal, to TwinStar Entertainment. Here's an amusing quote from her blog:

"It's also scary. They can do anything they want to the story, for film purposes. ANYTHING. Oh, yeah, turn my main character Luca Bastardo into a transvestite lounge singer, or an airline pilot, or a crack addict. I guess those things aren't as bad as what he actually is: a thief, a killer, a prostitute. But still, in MY novel, he's the thief, killer, and prostitute I delineated. "

* * *

I've been meaning to post this update from Leslie Ann Moore, author of Griffin's Daughter:

"Griffin's Daughter has just been named as a finalist for the Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Fiction by a New Publisher for 2008, given out by the Independent Book Publisher's Association. The public annoucement of all the finalists will be made next week and the awards will be handed out 5/29. Needless to say, I really want to win, but just to get into the top three is an honor. I hope you'll share my good news with your readers."

The official word is here, and you can visit Leslie's website here.

* * *

I started following Jo Graham's blog (author of Black Ships) this past week, and I like the way she puts up reader questions on her blog. She keeps then anonymous. Someone started a new fan community around her novel, but sadly it appears to have been short-lived. Maybe it needs some fresh blood.

* * *

Matthew Jarpe has an interesting contest going on. If you film a video clip about his novel (he has some possible suggestions), Radio Freefall, you could win an audiobook from Here are some details:

"I'll keep the contest open for a month, and give away two audio books to the makers of the two clips I like the best. When you send me the clip you will be giving me permission to edit it and plaster it all over the internet. In turn I promise never to make any of you look foolish. I do reserve the right to leave you looking foolish if that's the way you want to come across."

Read the rest of the specifics here.

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Laura Benedict, author of Isabella Moon, shared some exciting news three days ago:

"I've been invited to the 29th annual Kentucky Women's Writers Conference in Lexington. It happens in September and I'll be teaching a workshop, which I always enjoy. But the really exciting news is that I'll be doing a reading with Joyce Carol Oates!"

Wow. I knew of Joyce Carol Oates in high school. I went to her website and counted--54 novels and novellas! This must be a huge thrill for Laura.

* * *

And that's all for this week! Tips are always welcome at tia dot nevitt at gmail dot com.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

2008 Authors and Other Stuff

I spent some time tonight doing some much-needed organization. I went through all the debuts that I've showcased since the beginning of the year and added a bunch of authors to my Google Reader. I also went to Amazon and created a Listmania list, which I hope to fill with every author I showcase. Right now, I just have a couple dozen books in it from 2007.

I've been trying to read Seekers of the Chalice, but I'm afraid I have not gotten past the first chapter, which appears to be a history. Then, I was tempted away from that by Sandra McDonald's second novel, The Stars Down Under. I've finished Elom and will have that review up in a day or so.

I have two interviews lined up and hope to be able to start posting them next week. In the meantime, I'm going to showcase some of my fellow reviewer's reviews so you can see some other points of view. There were so many authors who debuted in the past few months that all the names sort of blurred together in my mind. Therefore, the next few weeks will focus on authors who have debuted since the beginning of the year.


Lisa Nevin added this comment a few posts down, and I thought it was worth sharing here. It's regarding Lisa Shearin's Armed and Magical:

"For those picking up a copy, Lisa asked on her website/blog for people to buy them from Barnes & Noble. Actually, you can order an autographed copy, NO shipping, from the B&N that hosted her kickoff party. See her blog/website for details."