Thursday, April 9, 2015

2016, Looking Forward with my Magic 8Ball

This morning I went to update the fall release list I keep on a running document, and I added the fifth Tiffany Aching book 'The Sheperd's Crown' to the list, but more, it's the final Terry Pratchett book who's release I will ever add to my list. And once again I was struck by the hole Pratchett's death a month ago has left in my reading life.
To quote another author who's death left a hole in my life, 'and so it goes.'

I've also been looking forward, to 2016, which is starting to shape up into a banner year, with new books by several of my favorite writers already announced, and strong expectation of releases by several others. How crazy is it that I am already looking forward to books in 2016?
Please note, the books listed as speculative releases indicate that NO RELEASE INFORMATION HAS BEEN ANNOUNCED, and though I am confident to one degree or another that we will see these books in 2016. This included 'The Winds of Winter' which I expect may actually drop in late 2015, though early 2016 is more likely (my Magic 8Ball is unclear) as well as 'The Doors of Stone' which I am very confident of in 2016.
Most of these books don't have a firm release date, but where I have one, I've included it. Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!

Confirmed Releases:

Bosworth, Jennifer • The Killing Jar 01/12
Sanderson, Brandon • Calamity          01/21
Bennett, Robert Jackson • City of Blades 01/26
Sanderson, Brandon • Bands of Mourning 01/??

Abercrombie, Joe • Untitles First Law  Story Collection        2016
Bear, Elizabeth • Ancestral Night          2016
Brown, Pierce • Morning Star          2016
Butcher, Jim • Brief Cases          2016
Crowley, John • Ka                     2016
Durham, David Anthony • Untitled Spatacus Novel
Hearn, Kevin • Staked          2016
Hurley, Kameron • The Stars Are Legion  2016
Kay, Guy Gavriel • Children of Earth and Sky Spring
Kowal, Mary Robinette • Ghosttalkers          2016
McGuire, Seanan • Once Broken Faith          2016
Lawrence, Mark • The Red Queens War

Speculative Releases:

Scholes, Ken • Hymn
Hobb, Robin • Assassin's Fate
Smylie, Mark • Bright Sword
Walton, Jo • Necessity
Williams, Tad • The Witchwood Crown
Martin, George RR • The Winds of Winter
Rothfuss, Patrick •  The Doors of Stone

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Looking Forward: Spring Releases (April-June) 2015

The Spring 2015 releases have some great titles, including the ones I talked about yesterday. This is certainly not a complete list, so let me know what books I missed that you are looking forward to!

April 2015

Cherryh, C. J. • Tracker                 04/07
Feist, Raymond • King of Ashes 04/07
Grant, Mira • Rolling in the Deep                                  04/07
Hunter, Faith • Dark Heir         04/07
Liu, Ken • The Grace of Kings 04/07
Chu, Wesley • The Rebirths of Tao         04/07
Walton, David • Superposition 04/07
Turtledove, Harry • Joe Steele

Marshall, Alex • A Crown for Cold Silver         04/14
Rawn, Melanie • Window Wall 04/14

Martin, Gail Z • War of Shadows 04/21
Wilson, Robert Charles • The Affinities                        04/21
Wexler, Django • The Mad Apprentice 04/21
Wilson, Robert Charles • The Affinities         04/21
Wright, John C. • The Architect of Aeons         04/21

Kowal, Mary Robinette • Of Noble Family 04/28
Davis, Lauren B  • Againsta Darkening Sky 04/28
Tahir, Sabaa • An Ember in the Ashes 04/28

May 2015

Connolly, Tina • Seriously Wicked 05/05
Okorafor, Nnedi • The Book of Phoenix 05/05
West, Michelle  • Oracle                 05/05
Warrington, Freda • The Dark Arts of Blood 05/05

Danielewski, Mark Z • One Rainy Day in May 05/12
Downum, Amanda  • Dreams of Shreds and Tatters 05/12
Marmell, Ari • Hallow Point         05/12
Millar, Martin • The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies  05/12

Barker, Clive • Scarlet Gospels 05/19
Gaiman, Neil, & Michael Reaves & Mallory Reaves • Eternity's Wheel  05/19
Novik, Naomi • Uprooted         05/19
Stephenson, Neal • Seveneves 05/19
Fox, Andrew • Fat White Vampire Otaku                      05/21
Hunt, Stephen • Foul Tide's Turning 05/21

Orullian, Peter • Trial of Intentions 05/26
Bacigalupi, Paolo • The Water Knife 05/26
Bledsoe, Alex • Long Black Curl 05/26
Douglas, Ian • Deep Time         05/26
Priest, Cherie • I Am Princess X 05/26

June 2015

Anderson, Kevin J. • Blood of the Cosmos 06/02
Corey, James S. A. • Nemesis Games 06/02
de Castiel, Sebastien • Knight's Shadow 06/02
Lawrence, Mark • The Liars Key 06/02
Wells, Martha • Stories of the Raksura 2                       06/02
King, Stephen • Finders Keepers 06/02

Blaylock, James P. • Beneath London 06/09
Cohen, Joshua • The Book of Numbers 06/09
Brooks, Terry • The Darkling Child                 06/09
Reynolds, Alastair • Slow Bullets 06/09

Deas, Stephen • The Silver Kings 06/16
Wells, Dan • The Devils Only Friend 06/16
Fforde, Jasper • Early Riser           UK06/18

Saintcrow, Lilith • Trailer Park Fae 06/23
Pratchett, Terry, & Stephen Baxter • The Long Utopia 06/23

Nagata, Linda • The Red                 06/30
Older, Daniel Jose • Shadowshaper         06/30
Walton, Jo • The Philosopher Kings 06/30
Lindskold, Jane • Artemis Invaded 06/30

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

What's new in my reading stock for 04/07/2015

There's some great new books released today, including Ken Liu's 'The Grace of Kings' which I am currently reading (and loving). Here are the ones that have already been added to my to-read shelf! Plus the re-issue of a definitive edition of Peter Orullian's 'The Unremembered'.

Feist, Raymond • King of Ashes  (Book One of the War of Five Crowns)
 bitter war engulfs five Greater Realms after four brother kingdoms violate the ancient Covenant. Ithrace, the Kingdom of Flames, is destroyed by battle, ending an ancient balance of power.
As a Free Lord of Osean, Daylon Dumarch owes allegiance to no king, but knows it is unwise to betray any of them. So when an infant hidden in his pavilion is discovered, he knows instantly that the child is the missing heir of the slain king of Ithrace - and decides to use that knowledge to his advantage. A cunning and patient man, Daylon keeps the baby's existence secret, sending him to be raised on the Island Kingdom of Coaltachin, the Kingdom of Night, where the most powerful and lethal soldiers - the Nocusara, the Hidden Warriors - are trained.
Years later, a young man named Declan earns his Masters standing as a smith. Blessed with intelligence and skill, he unlocks the secret to forging King's Steel, the apex of a weapon maker's art shared by only a few. Yet this precious knowledge is also deadly, and Declan is forced to leave his home to safeguard his life. Landing in Lord Daylon's provinces, he hopes to start anew.
Soon, two young men - the rightful heir to a throne and an exiled smith - will discover their fates entwined... and that the War of Five Crowns has never truly ended.

Grant, Mira • Rolling in the Deep                      
When the Imagine Network commissioned a documentary on mermaids, to be filmed from the cruise ship Atargatis, they expected what they had always received before: an assortment of eyewitness reports that proved nothing, some footage that proved even less, and the kind of ratings that only came from peddling imaginary creatures to the masses.
They didn't expect actual mermaids. They certainly didn't expect those mermaids to have teeth.
This is the story of the Atargatis, lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy. Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found

Liu, Ken • The Grace of Kings  (Book One of the Dandelion Dynasty)
Two men rebel together against tyranny—and then become rivals—in this first sweeping book of an epic fantasy series from Ken Liu, recipient of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.
Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.
Fans of intrigue, intimate plots, and action will find a new series to embrace in the Dandelion Dynasty

Chu, Wesley • The Rebirths of Tao (Book Three of the Tao Series)
Many years have passed since the events in The Deaths of Tao. The world is split into pro-Prophus and pro-Genjix factions, and is poised on the edge of a devastating new World War. A Genjix scientist who defects to the other side holds the key to preventing bloodshed on an almost unimaginable scale.
With the might of the Genjix in active pursuit, Roen is the only person who can help him save the world, and the Quasing race, too. And you thought you were having a stressful day...

Orullian, Peter • The Unremembered  (Book One of the Vault of Heaven Series)
The gods who created this world have abandoned it. In their mercy however, they sealed the rogue god-and the monstrous creatures he created to plague mortal kind-in the vast and inhospitable wasteland of the Bourne. The magical Veil that protected humankind for millennia has become weak and creatures of nightmare have now come through. Those who stand against evil know that only drastic measures will prevent a devastating invasion.
Tahn Junell is a hunter who's unaware of the dark forces that imperil his world, in much the same way his youth is lost to memory. But an imperious man who wears the sigil of the feared Order of Sheason and a beautiful woman of the legendary Far have shared with Tahn the danger. They've asked him, his sister, and his friends to embark with them on a journey that will change their lives . . . and the world . . . forever. And in the process, he'll remember . . .

In addition to stunning updates to the original text, Tor is including an exclusive short story set in the world of Vault of Heaven as well as a sneak preview of the sequel, Trial of Intentions, plus a glossary to the universe.

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Few Thoughts on the 2015 Hugo Nominations

There's a lot being said about the 2015 Hugo nominations, some people are ebulliant, some are convinced the world is going to go down in flames because the Hugos are being held hostage by a small and increasingly irrelevant band of ideologues. Drama queens, all of them. The thing is, this really only matters in the distorted fishbowl politics of SFWA and fandom, though it is reflective of a greater social paradigm.
The very term liberal means (among other things) "favoring or permitting freedom of action, especially with respect to matters of personal belief or expression" and this is why, on the national level, liberals suck at being disciplined and sharing a cohesive message, because they are decentralized and individualized. Authoritarian conservatives (and reactionaries), are not. They can follow orders, and get shit done, because they agree that the message is more important than the individual.
This is why a group of between 250 and 275 people was able to steamroll the nominations process when there were over 2000 ballots cast. They were organized and focused, and to them, their message was more important than the representatives they chose.
I've heard of one of the Sad Puppy nominees complaining that no one is congratulating him for his nomination on his Twitter, and my response is 'congratulations for what?' You're not the nominee, you're a representative of the Sad Puppy slate. Brad Torgerson may deserve congratulations. You? You're just a tool he's used to push his agenda, expect to be rewarded as such.
I'm worried by the voices I hear calling out for a retooling of the nomination process. I really am. I'm worried because I am a liberal. I want to look at the list of nominations and see a list of what our disparate voices feel are the best our genre produced this year. Is that what I got this year? No. Absolutely not. Anyone who can look me in the eye and tell me Vox Day is a better editor than Gardner Dozois, George RR Martin, Ellen Datlow, or any of the other brilliant anthologists that are working in the genre today is an idiot.
But if we retool the nomination process to make the Hugos a true 'people's choice award' (which we already have, it's called the Locus Awards) to diminish the impact the radicals can have, I worry that we will diminish the awards themselves.
On a related note, I'm surprised that no one yet has taken the con committee from Sasquan to task for their blatent voter disenfranchisement. When my paper ballot arrived days after voting had closed, I just shrugged it off and assumed it was delayed in the mail somehow. But this year only three paper ballots were submitted, which is over a 90% decrease over last years voting, which leads me to believe that the failure to mail out ballots was widespread, and everyone I talked to at Norwescon this last weekend confirmed my suspicions that no one I checked with received a paper ballot before the nomination period closed.
While the paper ballots may not have affected the final nominations in all categories, there are several categories where just a few votes may have made a difference. While I have reached out to the con, I haven't yet heard back from them
I also hope this motivates the majority of Worldcon members who didn't vote in this nominating processs to participate in the future. Had there been another 2,000 votes, then it's likely that the ballot would look very different. So talk to your friends who are Worldcon attendees, and let them know that there voices are heard. Even if you only read 10 books and 2 short stories last year, were any of those worthy of being nominated? Then nominate it! If you care about the results, then take part in the process, even if it's just reminding the voters to vote. While I know there are a lot of people that can't afford a supporting Worldcon membership, there are a lot of people who can. If you can, and care, then take the time to participate. Nominate books that you feel are truly worthy, so ideologically driven votes aren't the only votes that count.

That's my 2 cents anyway.

***Update: I just heard back form the Sasquan 'Pre-Convention Information Desk' Tom Veal about the ballots not going out in time.
 "There were reasons for the tardy mailing of Sasquan's Progress Report No. 3, but unfortunately not good reasons. The convention committee is extremely sorry for the delay.  Even though voting was available on-line (and the number of nominating ballots cast was an all-time record for the Hugo Awards), we realize that a number of members expected to receive timely ballots in the mail and were unaware of, or were unable to use, the electronic alternative.
We have taken steps to ensure that Progress Report No. 4, which will include the final Hugo ballot, will be mailed well before the voting deadline."

 Make of that what you will.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

'The Very Best of Kate Elliott', or, A Perambulation Through My Spotty Past


        I'm pretty sure this title is a lie.
Mind you, I don't think Tachyon is trying to be deceptive, but, to me, the true 'very best of Kate Elliott' are the poignant and powerful moments of aching perfection that you've been waiting and agonizing over for 400 pages while characters try to bridge the lonely distances between each other or find redemption for the shortcomings of their own imperfect souls (and yes, that was all one sentence, thank you). It's not that Kate Elliott isn't an amazing short fiction writer, it's that her novels are just So. Damn. Good.
         This collection of her brilliant short works is out this week, so just go buy it, and thank me later. Because you will thank me. You'll thank me for every perfectly written sentence that breaks your heart, or fills the hole you didn't realize was there, and you'll thank me for every moment these perfect jewels of a story make you go 'no THAT one is my favorite' until you read the next one.

So now I'm going to circle back to my spotty past and how much I love Kate Elliott.
Many years ago, I picked up this book called 'The Labyrinth Gate' by Alis Rasmussen, which was this great portal fantasy (at a time when portal fantasy was all the rage). Alis went on and wrote a scifi trilogy with Bantam style covers that I didn't love) which had great characters, but I didn't finish the trilogy because I lost my copy of book two, and never found book three (this was back before Amazon).
And then she disappeared.
I hate when authors I like disappear (this was common in the bad old days pre-wifi).
A couple of years later, I read this book, 'Jaran' by Kate Elliott, which I really really liked. It's a first novel, and I am a total sucker for a great first novel. And this was a GREAT first novel. And then, as you did back in the 90s, I never saw any of the other books in the series come out (small town, no great bookstores. Life was barely worth living). After I moved to Phoenix, and got a job in a bookstore, we had a booksigning with Melanie Rawn for her 'Ruins of Ambrai', and she mentioned she had a book coming out with Jennifer Roberson, and Kate Elliott.  And I was all 'hey, I loved her Jaran book!' and Melanie was all 'she wrote 3 more of them.  Plus she wrote some books under Alis Rasmussen.'
So let me explain, that the only thing I love more than a great first novel, is discovering an author I thought had quit writing had, in fact, written more books.
So TL:DR, go read Kate Elliott, because I've fallen in love with her writing TWICE, and Tachyon says this is her Very Best.*

(*It's not their fault that they're wrong.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Finally! A Release Date for 'The Aeronaut’s Windlass' Announced!

It's finally coming!
The first book in Jim Butcher's new high fantasy steampunk series, The Cinder Spires is coming on September 29th of this year, and it's called 'The Aeronaut’s Windlass' from Roc Books, which also publishes his Dresden novels.
Anne Sowards of Roc describes it as follows:
 “Horatio Hornblower meets The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen—it’s a fantastic, creative new series of airships, privateers, warrior monks, and mad sorcerers. Honestly, it’s like Jim put all my favorite things in one book!”
Jim's website (which you can find here) includes the following description:
"The Cinder Spires is set in a fascinating new world, where an ancient evil has awoken, plunging the world into a shroud of mists filled with monstrous and fantastic creatures. The fate of humanity will rest on the loyalty and courage of a single airship’s crew. New York Times bestselling author David Weber said, “This is Jim Butcher at his best…It’s steampunk meets magic with a dose of sci-fi for seasoning.”'
This comes just days after Jim provided us with a sneak peak at the first line of 'Peace Talks' in a much buzzed about tweet:

It's a great week to be a Jim Butcher fan!
Now, does anyone know where this image came floating around the interwebs from? Fanart?

Edit: Through the excellent work of my friend Kim, it looks like Windjager is the German edition of 'The Aeronaut's Windlass' and the Google translate of the description is:

"Since the fog has covered the whole world, people live in fortress-like towns on the tops of mountains. Entering the mist can be fatal. Nevertheless, as the troops summit fortress Aurora in the area of Albion, and a war can not be averted. The summit Prince of Albion calls his allies and prepares his people for battle. The fleet is strong, the men and women are well educated. But his greatest hope is the summit prince on the secret mission of Captain Grimm and his airship hunters."

Sounds like fun! I kind of hope that they use the same cover for the US edition as well, though there's no guarantee.

What's New In My Reading Stack This Week 02/10/2015

Barnes, Jonathan • Cannonbridge                                            02/10
        Something has gone wrong with history in this gripping novel about a lie planted among the greatest works of English fiction.
        Flamboyant, charismatic Matthew Cannonbridge was touched by genius, the most influential creative mind of the 19th century, a prolific novelist, accomplished playwright, the poet of his generation. The only problem is, he should never have existed and beleaguered, provincial, recently-divorced 21st Century don Toby Judd is the only person to realise something has gone wrong with history.
       All the world was Cannonbridge’s and he possessed, seemingly, the ability to be everywhere at once. Cannonbridge was there that night by Lake Geneva when conversation between Byron, Shelley and Mary Godwin turned to stories of horror and the supernatural. He was sole ally, confidante and friend to the young Dickens as Charles laboured without respite in the blacking factory. He was the only man of standing and renown to regularly visit Oscar Wilde in prison. Tennyson's drinking companion, Kipling's best friend, Robert Louis Stevenson's counsellor and guide - Cannonbridge's extraordinary life and career spanned a century, earning him a richly-deserved place in the English canon.
       But as bibliophiles everywhere prepare to toast the bicentenary of the publication of Cannonbridge's most celebrated work, Judd's discovery will lead him on a breakneck chase across the English canon and countryside, to the realisation that the spectre of Matthew Cannonbridge, planted so seamlessly into the heart of the 19th Century, might not be so dead and buried after all...

Elliott, Kate • The Very Best of Kate Elliott 02/10
      Strong heroines and riveting storytelling are the hallmark of groundbreaking fantasy author Kate Elliott (Crown of Stars,Crossroads). Elliott is a highly-compelling voice in genre fiction, an innovative author of historically-based narratives set in imaginary worlds. This first, retrospective collection of her short fiction is the essential guide to Elliott’s shorter works. Here her bold adventuresses, complex quests, noble sacrifices, and hard-won victories shine in classic, compact legends.
      In “The Memory of Peace,” a girl’s powerful emotions rouse the magic of a city devastated by war. Meeting in “The Queen’s Garden,” two princesses unite to protect their kingdom from the blind ambition of their corrupted father. While “Riding the Shore of the River of Death” a chieftain’s daughter finds an unlikely ally on her path to self-determination.
       Elliott’s many readers, as well as fantasy fans in search of powerful stories featuring well-drawn female characters, will revel in this unique gathering of truly memorable tales.

McClellan, Brian • The Autumn Republic                             02/10
(Book three of the Powder Mage trilogy)
The capital has fallen...
       Field Marshal Tamas returns to his beloved country to find that for the first time in history, the capital city of Adro lies in the hands of a foreign invader. His son is missing, his allies are indistinguishable from his foes, and reinforcements are several weeks away.
An army divided...
       With the Kez still bearing down upon them and without clear leadership, the Adran army has turned against itself. Inspector Adamat is drawn into the very heart of this new mutiny with promises of finding his kidnapped son.
All hope rests with one...
       And Taniel Two-shot, hunted by men he once thought his friends, must safeguard the only chance Adro has of getting through this war without being destroyed...
The Autumn Republic is the epic conclusion that began with Promise of Blood and The Crimson Campaign.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Wheel Turns and 'Winter Dragon' sneaks into our lives

"Lewis Therin returns home to his family after a 10-year war against 
an army of  darkness; he is greeted by an unexpected guest."

Last night, the internets were abuzz with rumors of a stealth pilot for a Wheel of Time TV series that was due to play at 130am on FXX, a channel I wasn't even sure existed on Comcast (note: it does). While I recorded it, and haven't had a chance to watch it, 'unrelentingly bad' seems to be the most common opinion of it, though I've seen some reactions that didn't seem to hate it so much.
Universal Pictures has had a seven year long option to develop a tv show or film, which it has failed to do. And the common opinion is that this was a stealth pilot put out to preserve the option (The Hobbit had a similar history) which was due to expire.
This morning, Harriet issued a press release, which I've included below.
Did you watch the pilot, if so, what did you think?

Edited to include this link to the pilot of Youtube, thanks to Alicia Beckerman for pointing this out:

This morning brought startling news. A “pilot” for a Wheel of Time series, the "pilot" being called Winter Dragon, had appeared at 1:30 in the morning, East Coast time, on Fxx TV, a channel somewhere in the 700s (founded to concentrate on comedy, according to the Washington Post).

It was made without my knowledge or cooperation. I never saw the script. No one associated with Bandersnatch Group, the successor-in-interest to James O. Rigney, was aware of this.

Bandersnatch has an existing contract with Universal Pictures that grants television rights to them until this Wednesday, February 11 – at which point these rights revert to Bandersnatch.

I see no mention of Universal in the “pilot”. Nor, I repeat, was Bandersnatch, or Robert Jordan’s estate, informed of this in any way.

I am dumbfounded by this occurrence, and am taking steps to prevent its reoccurrence.

Harriet P McDougal
President and CEO
Bandersnatch Group, Inc.
February 9, 2015

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Review: 'Pacific Fire' by Greg Van Eekhout

You know those books where the first book was so much better than the second book? This isn't one of those. This is one of those books where an idea from the first book bears unexpected fruit in the second one. I really liked California Bones, but Pacific Fire may be the book that in the future I will say I became a fan of Van Eekhout.
This book stands just fine without having read the first book, the major plot points get hit on, without revealing too much that will spoil the joy of reading of it, and that's a tough road to hew to. This has been my favorite book I've read this year so far.

While Van Eekhout isn't writing for beautiful prose (there are no lush descriptions of the majestic Pacific) he does something I appreciate almost as much; he writes a lean fast-paced book that moves. He doesn't waste space writing glorious prose. And for the type of book this is, I really like that.

  I hate to say I miss Daniel a lot in this book. It's not a spoiler, it's in the cover blurb, but Daniel isn't our main character. While Sam's voice grows on you in the same way that Daniel did in the first book, I just missed Daniel. That likely says a lot about how well Greg can write a character you grow to care about, doesn't it?

  I like the world Van Eekhout has built, in a 'magic world I have no desire to live in' kind of way. This isn't Narnia, or even Hogwarts. The powerful in this world are food for the more powerful. And when you're at the top of the heap, you have to worry about everyone below you. It feels like the apocalypse is going to happen at any moment (seriously, you just know Northern California is just going to fuck up his alternate LA eventually).

Managed Expectations:
  I think Greg does a great job of managing expectations in this book, and I think the way he switches gears on you, so that you don't always know what you think you know, is consistently well done. When Daniel and Sam fuck things up, and things go wrong, it's at times and places where that's likely to happen.
My only way I can wrap this up is, oh god how long til the third book?!?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What's New In My Reading Stack This Week 02/03/2015

Bear, Elizabeth • Karen Memory        02/03
        “You ain’t gonna like what I have to tell you, but I'm gonna tell you anyway. See, my name is Karen Memery, like memory only spelt with an e, and I'm one of the girls what works in the Hôtel Mon Cherie on Amity Street. Hôtel has a little hat over the o like that. It’s French, so Beatrice tells me.”
         Hugo-Award winning author Elizabeth Bear offers something new inKaren Memory, an absolutely entrancing steampunk novel set in Seattle in the late 19th century—an era when the town was called Rapid City, when the parts we now call Seattle Underground were the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes bringing would-be miners heading up to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront. Karen is a “soiled dove,” a young woman on her own who is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts into her world one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, seeking sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.
          Bear brings alive this Jack-the-Ripper-type story of the old west with the light touch of Karen’s own memorable voice, and a mesmerizing evocation of classic steam-powered science.

Gaiman, Neil • Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Discoveries   02/03
       Multiple award winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman returns to dazzle, captivate, haunt, and entertain with this third collection of short fiction following Smoke and Mirrors andFragile Things—which includes a never-before published American Gods story, “Black Dog,” written exclusively for this volume.
       In this new anthology, Neil Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath. Trigger Warningincludes previously published pieces of short fiction—stories, verse, and a very special Doctor Who story that was written for the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved series in 2013—as well “Black Dog,” a new tale that revisits the world of American Gods, exclusive to this collection.
        Trigger Warning explores the masks we all wear and the people we are beneath them to reveal our vulnerabilities and our truest selves. Here is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explore the realm of experience and emotion. In Adventure Story—a thematic companion to The Ocean at the End of the Lane—Gaiman ponders death and the way people take their stories with them when they die. His social media experience A Calendar of Tales are short takes inspired by replies to fan tweets about the months of the year—stories of pirates and the March winds, an igloo made of books, and a Mother’s Day card that portends disturbances in the universe. Gaiman offers his own ingenious spin on Sherlock Holmes in his award-nominated mystery tale The Case of Death and Honey. And Click-Clack the Rattlebag explains the creaks and clatter we hear when we’re all alone in the darkness.
         A sophisticated writer whose creative genius is unparalleled, Gaiman entrances with his literary alchemy, transporting us deep into the realm of imagination, where the fantastical becomes real and the everyday incandescent. Full of wonder and terror, surprises and amusements, Trigger Warning is a treasury of delights that engage the mind, stir the heart, and shake the soul from one of the most unique and popular literary artists of our day

Monday, February 2, 2015

Borderlands in SF to close, or, Why I think there's more than meets the eye to this decision

      So yesterday Borderlands Books in SF announced they were closing in March. And while the closing of any bookstore is a tragedy, this is one of the most revered specialty bookstores our genre has.
      But there are some very suspicious things to me in this announcement. Actually, there are several things I'm suspicious about. The first thing that occurred to me is why the first response of the owners isn't to sell. We aren't talking about a random hole-in-the-wall bookstore, this is a destination bookstore. When I went to San Fransisco last year, this was on my list to-do. Just as when I finally make it to San Diego again, I'll go to Mysterious Galaxy. This type of national name recognition has value to a buyer.
        But the more I thought about the post, the more the facts as described didn't add up. I don't usually criticize the way other people choose to run their business, but the owners of Borderlands invited inspection by choosing to post details about their business that don't even stand up to a cursory examination. I'm not criticizing their decision to close, but the logic and numbers used to reason it.
       The principle excuse given was that the wage hike that starts phasing into effect this year and finalizes in 2018 (yes, that's 3 years away) will increase payroll costs by 18%. I don't know what Borderlands is paying their people, but this indicates that it's not currently much above minimum wage. The thing about wages is that they're tax deductible, so the argument that they will need to increase sales by 20% means that either they have no tax liability ever, even on years that they made a record profit like 2014, or that there is something else going on.
      Another thing that didn't add up for me was the way they address staffing. The owner posts about how they would have to drop half of their staff to offset a less than 20% increase in labor over the next three years. This logic doesn't add up at all. You don't reduce your staffing 50% to account for a 20% increase in labor costs, the majority of which isn't even in effect this year.
      The 18% increase stated for their labor costs under the new minimum wage comes out to about 6% a year. This is about flat for the usual sales increases that an established business would expect per year. After the great year they claim to have had in 2014, I'm surprised they're not expecting some type of increase in 2015.
Or 2016.
Or even in 2017.
       The odds that things will be flat for the next three years, in fact, is virtually non-existent. I've never worked for a business with flat sales for three consecutive years in an improving economy.
      Which brings me back around to my original statement: there is something else going on with this closing than what has been presented to us.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Forthcoming: February Releases I'm Looking Forward To

Oh my god February, you are a great gray beast indeed!
         Seven more books on my must-read list! I'm not even caught up on January's books yet!
         Seriously though, these are some great books, and I'm very excited about them. Veronica Schwab's debut novel 'Vicious', got great reviews, and the blurb for this one has me very excited! New short fiction collections from Gaiman and Elliott, the finale of Brian McClellan's flintlock trilogy, and a new novel from the author of the 'Somnambulist'.
          What are you looking forward to in February? Anything that I missed? Let me know in the comments!

Bear, Elizabeth • Karen Memory        02/03
Gaiman, Neil • Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Discoveries   02/03
Barnes, Jonathan • Cannonbridge                                            02/10
Elliott, Kate • The Very Best of Kate Elliott 02/10
McClellan, Brian • The Autumn Republic                             02/10
Abercrombie, Joe • Half the World 02/17
Schwab, VE • A Darker Shade of Magic                                02/24

Other Releases:
Adams, John Joseph, ed. • Wastelands II                                02/10
Asher, Neal • Dark Intelligence                                  02/03
Elliott, Will • Shadow                                                              02/24
Enge, James • The Wide World's End                                     02/17
Lethem, Jonathan • Lucky Alan and Other Stories                  02/24
Link, Kelly • Get in Trouble                                                    02/03
McAuley, Paul • Something Coming Through                        02/19
VanderMeer, Ann, & Jeff VanderMeer, eds. • Sisters of the Revolution    02/01

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What's New In My Reading Stack This Week 01/27/2015

It looks like it's going to be a quiet week, with just a couple of books out that I'm super excited about. Last year's 'California Bones' was a great read, and I'm really looking forward to the sequel. And I'm always excited for another book in Cherie Priest's Clockwork Century, the milieu of her hugely popular 'Boneshaker'.

Van Eekhout, Greg • Pacific Fire                                                         01/27
(Sequel to 'California Bones')
      Okay, yeah, I’m a golem created from the substance of his own magic by the late Hierarch of Southern California. With a lot of work, I might be able to wield magic myself. I kind of doubt it, though. Not like Daniel Blackland can.
       Daniel’s the reason the Hierarch’s gone and I’m still alive. He’s also the reason I’ve lived my entire life on the run. Ten years of never, ever going back to Los Angeles. Daniel’s determined to protect me. To teach me.
But it gets old. I’ve got nobody but Daniel. I’ll never do anything normal. Like attend school. Or date a girl.
      Now it’s worse. Because things are happening back in LA. Very bad people are building a Pacific firedrake, a kind of ultimate weapon of mass magical destruction.  Daniel seemed to think only he could stop them. Now Daniel’s been hurt. I managed to get us to the place run by the Emmas. (Many of them. All named Emma. It’s a long story.) They seem to be healing him, but he isn’t going anyplace soon.
       Do I even have a reason for existing, if it isn’t to prevent this firedrake from happening? I’m good at escaping from things. Now I’ve escaped from Daniel and the Emmas, and I’m on my way to LA.
       This may be the worst idea I ever had.

Priest, Cherie • Jacaranda                                                       01/27
(A novel of the Clockwork Century)
The Ranger
On the island of Galveston, off the coast of southeast Texas, lies a hotel called the Jacaranda. In its single year of operation, two dozen people have died there. The locals say it’s cursed. The Rangers say that’s nonsense, but they know a man who might be willing to investigate. Horatio Korman crosses the water from the mainland, and hopes for the best.
The Nun
But the bodies pile up, and a hurricane is brewing up fast. One of the Jacaranda’s guests sees time running out, so she seeks an authority of a different sort: a priest from El Huizache who is good at solving problems and keeping secrets. Eileen Callahan has a problem to solve, and a secret to keep. She crosses her fingers, and sends a message that could save them all.
The Padre
Juan Miguel Quintero Rios broke a promise to the Virgin, and so he was punished…but his intentions were pure, so he was also blessed. Now he walks the southwest with second sight and a tattoo across his back: Deo, non Fortuna—By God, not chance. The former gunslinger crosses himself, and makes for the Jacaranda Hotel.

Also out this week:
Cole, Myke • Gemini Cell                                                       01/27

Monday, January 26, 2015

Forgotten Gems: 'The White Tribunal' by Paula Volsky

I never know where to begin when it comes to recommending Paula Volsky, I usually select based on who I'm recommending to, which obviously doesn't work so well here. I first enountered Volsky in the ya section, and enjoyed but didn't love her Sorcerers Legacy trilogy, and went on to read and enjoy the rest of her juvenalia. But then it was like she had vanished. In 1992 she retuned, with a breathtaking and wonderful novel of revolution called 'Illusion'.
Illusion was fantastic! It was a gorgeously realized world, and fully drawn characters. The magic's stengths and weaknesses inform the shape of the story, and is used in the most limited of fashions. It's extroidinary.
The follow-up, 'The Wolf of Winter' set in the same world, but in a different country, with a very different traditional magic, is a glory as well. And has one of my favorite endings ever.
The third book, 'The Gates of Twilight' is actually my least favorite of her adult novels. There is something, I've never managed to put my finger on what, that just doesn't quite draw me in. It's not a bad book, and this isn't a universal opinion, but it's my opinion.
'The White Tribunal' is her fourth adult book, and the one I picked as the most universally appealing. It has a little of everything, deception, betrayal, and just a little bit of romance. But underneath, it deals with some very real issues of the costs of revenge, and its unltimate worth. I highly recommend you check it out!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Signing Recap: Brandon Sanderson in Beaverton and San Francisco

Today I FINALLY have my recap of the Brandon Sanderson event at Powells Cedar Hills for you, plus some notes from Tom Smith about the event in San Francisco, which is awesome (Everyone please say thank you Tom).
I'd apologize, but I'm sort of the emperor of this little page, and royalty does NOT apologize.

"I do what I do because it's awesome."
I should say before I start, that I enjoy listening to Brandon speak, and over the last almost ten years, I have seen him at, I think, every Portland event he has done, barring one, and each event he is more interesting. This time he gave a great short talk about how we view the arts. What stuck with me was an analogy he made about the arts, if someone goes out and plays a game of basketball on Saturday afternoon, we don't ask them when they're going to join the NBA, so why do we ask people when they say their writing a book when it's going to be published.
He then turned to add a new Sanderson's Law (if you haven't read 'Sanderson's Laws of Writing' you can find it here:  ) the Zeroth Law:
"Always err on the side that's awesome."
He then read a short selection of a currently unpublished novella about a most unusual King of the World, which was lightweight but fun, and was clearly another opportunity for Sanderson to play with voice and setting, which is one of the things I really enjoy about his novellas.
When it came to the Q and A section, he answered some great questions, including one about how much of the final Wheel of Time books were Robert Jordan and how much were Brandon. As it turns out, RJ had left about 100 pages of prose, which was mostly used for the prologues to the three books, and the epilogue. There was about another 100 pages of notes covering the story lines for certain characters, he revealed that while there was a great deal about Egwene, but only one sentence about Perrin.
When asked about which world he'd want to find himself in, he said that he really loves the Internet, so he'd likely pick Legion, though he'd love to have allomancy.
Moving onto the world of The Stormlight Archives, he says that yes, that is definitely Nightblood in a certain scene.During the signing, I asked him if the insanity of the Heralds was linked to their failure to uphold the Oathpact, or was connected to the Stormfather's gradual diminishing, but he RAFO'd me while implying that it was something else altogether, and that a careful reading of the book might give some hints as to what is causing their insanity.
  Another question I happened to overhear related to Rithmatist 2, which Brandon has said is delayed because book two will take place in that world's version of South America, and the research is taking him longer than he originally thought.
To wrap up, there was some news about film rights, which have sold recently for Steelheart, and he reiterated that both Mistborn and Emperors Soul have sold.
And that's the wrap-up for the Beaverton Event!

Tom sent me the following from the San Francisco event:

       I had an opportunity to go see Brandon Sanderson speak tonight.  As always, he was highly entertaining and engaging.  I say "as always" because I have seen him in the bay area here 3 times in the last 18 months.  That isn't boasting, it's astonishment at how much he tours.  I don't know how he gets any writing done honestly, he must have enough frequent flyer miles to go to Mars by now.
Sanderson's creative world-building, innovative magic systems and prolific book publishing have endeared him to many fans, but on top of all that, what keeps me going back to signings (without books in hand even) is how personable he is.  The man is genuine and knows how to speak to an audience.  In a world that is rapidly going to digital from brick and mortar, he still packs the house.
My only surprise from the bay area signing is that even though he was here about a year ago with over a hundred people, they crammed him into a tiny corner of the children's section and put out less than 20 chairs.  Huh?  I won't say where it was, but it sounds like Shmarnes and Schmoble....  ;)
He began with a 10 minute mini-speech on the art of creation and then rolled into Q and A.  Q and A is always entertaining with Sanderson because he usually has some sort of collector card which he gives to people who ask questions.  Usually whizzing it at them a la ninja shuriken style with hilarious, but less than ninja-like results.  It's ok, he's not paid for his ninja skills. He's paid to entertain - and he delivers.  My favorite question was concerning advice  for future writers.  His response was that you should approach writing just like anything else you want to do well - practice and practice some more.  He even compared his first few books where he was still drastically improving his craft to his more polished works now.
       A 15 minute reading follows the Q and A, usually from something new that he's working on.              Another perk for going to see him in person.  This time it was from an up and coming novella.  From there it's onto the signing.
       Brandon is a gracious host and will sign almost everything of his.  He will personalize up to 3 books and sign all the rest of his books (or anthologies in which he has a story) and even take pictures with you. He especially dotes on his cosplayers which he seems to have many of for someone who is primarily a novelist.
        My involvement with the writing community as both a beta and first reader is typically to objectively read and review, then criticize.  With that in mind, I would love to be able to find some fault with Sanderson or his work, but so far I have nothing - I love his work.  He's a way solid writer and I have yet to even find a grammatical error in his books and that's usually my forte.  I think of him as on par with Terry Brooks - but for this generation.  If you haven't read anything from the MIstborn, Stormlight Archive or Reckoners' series yet, you are seriously missing out.

Tom Smith
1st Reader
Grimdark Magazine

(Special thanks to my friend Kim for letting me steal her photo.)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cover Obsession: Bradley Beaulieu's 'Twelve Kings of Sharakhai'

Brad Beaulieu, in his short careeer, has had some amazing cover art.
Which is fitting, as he's written some great books. But Adam Paquette, who did the cover for Brad's debut novel, "The Winds of Khalakovo” has outdone himself with the cover for Brad's first novel with his new publisher "Twelve Kings in Sharakhai", forthcoming in September from DAW.
Aiden Moher at A Dribble of Ink revealed the cover yesterday, and I've been in love with it every since.
I've been deeply impatient to read this book, as the premise and the tidbit I've heard were amazing. This is high on my list of books I'm most looking forward to this year, and September cannot arrive fast enough!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What's New In My Reading Stack This Week 01/20/2015

Would you believe nothing? A chance to get caught up on some of the great books that came out earlier this month!  But I won't leave you with nothing to read, here are a couple of great books that you may have missed when they first came out.
I know I still haven't posted my wrap-up of the Brandon Sanderson signing, but there were some things that I am still trying to figure out how to address. So keep your eyes open, it's coming this week.

The Book of Knights by Yves Menard
(Stand alone)
Young Adelrune is a likable little boy oppressed by his strict stepparents, who are in turn under the thumb of a narrow and harsh religious rule. Finding privacy in his step parents' attic before he has even learned to read, Adelrune discovers a dusty copy of The Book of Knights. The pictures enchant him and obsess him to the point where he is motivated to learn to read, so that he can have access to the words of this secret treasure as well. The years of his young childhood are made bearable by the ideas and images of the book, and he resolves to run away and become a knight - a story that will enchant readers the way Adelrune himself was charmed and entertained.

The Ring of Alaire by Susan Dexter
(Book one of The Winter King's War)

Tristan is a teenaged wizard with dark hair and green eyes--but he’s no Harry Potter. No cozy boarding school for Tristan either--he’s been home-schooled by the old wizard who discovered him as an abandoned infant under an apple tree on Midwinter’s Night. There’s no one to tell Tristan who he is or what abilities may be his. If not for Thomas, his smart-ass cat familiar, he’d be utterly lost.
One ordinary afternoon, Tristan returns home to find that his master has vanished, leaving his unprepared apprentice to take up the entwined quests for the legendary warhorse Valadan and the lost princess Allaire of the Nine Rings. He’d be no one’s first choice, but Tristan’s the only one left to assemble the essentials of the quest--a wizard, the Warhorse, the heir to Calandra’s throne--infiltrate Nimir’s fortress of Darkenkeep, and steal Allaire from beneath the Winter King’s icicled nose. In their hundreds, the other wizards have tried--and died.
Tristan’s training is exemplary. His will is indomitable. His confidence, however, is nonexistent, and his magic is flawed and unreliable. The fate of his world depends on him--whether he thinks himself equal to the task or not.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Weekly Wrap-up: Gaiman, Game of Thrones, Welcome to Nightvale, and more!

Every week things happen that I don't have time to comment on, make fun of, or say 'fuck it all' to. I've decided this is what Saturday is for, this dustbin of crap that I didn't have time to share with you all week long.
Buzzfeed, one of the clickbaitiest of clickbate sites posed a link to Neil Gaiman's Tumblr(which is an amazing place to lose a few hours anyway), where Gaiman answers the eternal question of joseph-the-mop: 

"I have been trying to write for a while now. I have all these amazing ideas, but its really hard getting my thoughts onto paper. Thus, my ideas never really come to fruition. Do you have any advice?"
Gaiman nails his answer of course. Cause, Gaiman. And sarcasm.

Oh boy! Game of Thrones is coming to theatres!
Seriously, my little fanboy heart can barely wait to see Jon Snow in the pool with Ygritte... wait. It's just the final two episodes? Well, that's depressing. But still, Jon Snow, Wheee! It looks like it arrives in 200 IMAX theatres across America on January 29th for one week. I'm sure you know where to find me on each of those nights right? Ass in the chair of my local IMAX theatre. I guess I should let me boss know I'm busy that week. Do you think she'll mind? I can just show her a photo of Jon Snow, and I'm sure she'll understand.
Why has HBO missed the obvious cash stream of playing each episode at my local theatre, cause I'd be there every week. Make it so HBO, make it so!

If you listen to podcasts at all, you likely already listen to 'Welcome to Nightvale' which is the community radio of a desert town that's a mix of Innsmouth and the X-Files. If you don't listen to it, you should definitely give it a try, it's great fun (this is where I should thank my roommate Ben, who introduced me to it thanks Ben, now get back to reading 'The Hedge Knight'!).
Anyway, Night Vale will be going on tour this spring (including one hopes, Carlos and his perfect hair), from March 26th to May 20th, all across the US, including April 23rd in Portland, where I will be.

         This week, Amazon's series adaptation of Phillip K Dick's 'Man in the High Castle' went live on Amazon Prime, and early reviews are really positive. I haven't had a chance to watch it yet, but below is the synopsis if you've never read the book:
      'Based on Philip K. Dick's Hugo Award-winning 1962 alternative history novel, one-hour drama pilot THE MAN IN THE HIGHCASTLE explores what would have happened if the Allied Powers had lost World War II, debuting January 15, 2015 on Amazon Prime Instant Video in the U.S., U.K. and Germany. Some 17 years after that loss, the United States and much of the world has now been split between Japan and Germany, the dominating global powers. As tension mounts between the two hegemonic states, a resistance builds as the United States citizens rise against the oppressive regimes.

While Germany controls much of the East Coast and Japan controls the West Coast, the Rocky Mountains have become a "neutral zone" — and ground zero for a rebellion, led by a mysterious figure known only as "the Man in the High Castle." As people struggle with freedom, fear, equality, diversity and ideology, some accept their lives, but others question the authenticity of their history and the government's information. Among them are heroes, leaders, spies, pacifists, tyrants, rebels, enablers and sympathizers.'

         And finally, we have Harry Potter. The Boy Who Lived just keeps on going.
         Coming this October 6th, worldwide, will arrive a whole new format for the books. A full color illustrated edition, with a ribbon marker and illustrated endpapers. The first images were released this week from Scholastic, and they look awesome! Except poor Ron looks a little blank-faced, but well, Ron.
          The other books will also be lavishly illustrated and released on a one per year basis.

         I'll be back next week, with a whole new batch of new books and snark. Let me know what you're looking forward to!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Sequel to Christopher Moore's 'A Dirty Job' coming in 2015, or, This job will be the Death of me

       Everyone has a favorite Christopher Moore novel. For some, it's 'Lamb', for others it's 'Fool', personally, I'm in the vampire camp, and love 'Bloodsucking Fiends' the best. But no matter what their favorite book is, almost everyone says, the same thing as their follow-up, 'oh, but I also love 'A Dirty Job'. 
       There's something wonderful about Charlie, that everyone I know just loves. He's endearing, and slightly unhinged, and he's a delightful father to the world's most remarkable daughter. I hope she grows up to be like Susan Sto Helit for America (and really, in her off-time from playing Lady Mary on Downton Abbey, can Michelle Dockery please make live action versions of 'Soul Music' and 'Thief of Time' happen already? Cause she nails it as Susan in 'Hogfather'.)

        The last few years, when Christopher Moore has been touring he's talked a bit about how a sequel to 'A Dirty Job' was coming soon, and that time is here: Secondhand Souls will be released August 25, 2015. Though no cover blurb has been announced, fans of the first book should know what to expect. If you haven't read it yet, then now is a great time.Really, go buy it now. 
        There is (previously unrelated to Christopher Moore somehow) a tradition in England of ghost stories at Christmas. Connected no doubt to the Winter Solstice, and the traditional death of the old year. In this tradition, as a Christmas present to his fans, Moore posted a sample on his blog that introduces a character new to us, Mike Sullivan, and the ghosts who visit him to tell him there stories.        Below is a link to Moore's blog, and the story that one of these ghosts shares with Mike, enjoy!

Friends of Dorothy – An excerpt from Secondhand Souls

Mike Sullivan is a painter on the Golden Gate Bridge. From time to time, the ghosts of the bridge visit him. 

©2014 Christopher Moore

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Brandon Sanderson and 'The Book of Endless Pages', or my Throwback Thursday

Tomorrow, Brandon will be back in Portland (well, Beaverton actually, cause you know, suburbs) for his signing tour for 'Firefight'. Brandon is a great guy, and I appreciate his loyalty to the Powells at Cedar Hills, where he had one of his first signings. It was a pretty small group, compared to what he draws now, but he's always remembered that Powells gave the unknown guy a spot to meet his fans and maybe connect with new ones.
In March of last year, Brandon was in Portland at Powells for his tour for 'Words of Radiance', and I was there again. I'm pretty sure I've never missed a Brandon signing at Powells, cause I'm like a lazy stalker, and only show up when he's within a mile of my house and lets me know where he'll be.
A little background about 'Words of Radiance' that you may or may not know. When he was first writing it, it was called 'The Book of Endless Pages' a title that I particularly loved, as it showed a sly reference to the giant tome is was destined to be, plus it's relevance to the world. It was perfect.
Apparently Brandon's editor disagreed, and Brandon had never actually tracked the real-world implication of the name, and so 'The Book of Endless Pages' was discarded into the dustbin of rejected titles, and there it might have stayed forever, if I hadn't decided to do something fun, and not a little bit mad.
I decided to make a 'Book of Endless Pages'.
Not a full printed edition of the book of course, besides being amazingly expensive, there are some legal issues to printing a copy of a copywritten book, even for personal use. Inside it would be 'Words of Radiance', but outside it would be 'The Book of Endless Pages'.
This wasn't my first Sanderson uberfan moment. But it was the first intentional one. I also have a copy of 'The Way of Kings' signed by about 20 of the biggest names in the busines. Yes, the ones you're thinking of have signed it. Except George, he has not. Yet.I blame Brent Weeks, he started it. He usually does.
'The Book of Endless Pages' started, as many of my best ideas do, while mulling over fun things we could do next with my friend Kim. Next, I checked with a friend whos a comic book artist, to help out with a really kickass cover, unfortunately he was extremely busy with work projects at the time, and couldn't help out on the project, but we had a backup, which turned out to be for the good, as the final cover became amazing beyond my expectations.

The Next Step
I had a sort of rough idea of what I was thinking of, I just needed someone who's photoshop skills were superior to my nonexistent ones. So I talked about it with Venetia, assistant to my friend Lee Moyer, who is a brilliant cover artist, who's likely best known for his Charity Pinup Calendars for good causes like Worldbuilders, and Clarion Writer's Workshop (Check out his website here).

Lee was game (and shared his interview with Shawn Speakman about it on his blog here) , and so I went over and he asked me what I had in mind, and he immediately told me my idea wasn't going to sit on a shelf next to Michael Whelan's amazing cover of 'Way of Kings' very well, so we went in a different direction.
I won't tell you much about the process, because it's basically magic. Seriously, he took a handful of disparate things and brought it together, and emerged with Shallan in as alien a landscape as you can imagine, right out of the book. It was amazing.
It's an amazing cover, and with more time, I know Lee would have made it even more amazing. But it wasn't what I had originally had in mind, instead, it was a million times more amazing than anything I could have envisioned. All that remained was to print out the dustjackets, and to show it to Brandon.
The day of the signing, I had terrible anxiety, and I reached out to Shawn Speakman (from Suvudu, The Signed Page, and Terry Brook's webmaster, as well as an excellent author in his own right who has already written about my experience here.) and Peter Orullian (the author of 'The Unremembered') who reassured me that Brandon would love it. I printed off ten copies of the dustjacket, and gave them to my friends that went with me that night, plus ones for Lee, Peter, Shawn, and, of course, Brandon.
Below is the video of the unveiling to Brandon(thanks to the ever-awesome Joel for filming it):

Fast forward to this year:
I'm not going to have any fun things for Brandon this time, though I am mulling over some ideas for when book three of 'The Stormlight Archives' comes out. But it seemed like a good time to stop and look back on an awesome moment in my life, and to share it here with you guys.

I'll have a write-up about the event for you all on Sunday, and I hope you all have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Joel's Top Ten of 2014, or, How he got the year's best wrong, wrong, wrong, and occasionally right

My buddy Joel started a blog with his top ten list this month (check it out here if you want to see it in it's complete and natural state) and I asked him if I could re-post it, with added commentary, mockery, and snark; cause that's generally what I bring to our friendship.
Joel's opinions and mine aren't always in agreement, but they do overlap when he's right.
Without further ado, I present:

Joel’s 2014 Top Ten Books!
(Is it wrong that I counted them to make sure there were ten? I mean, what kind of friend does that?)

10) Breach Zone by Myke Cole
A wonderful ending to a wildly creative and engrossing series. Myke’s skill as a writer grew with every book, and Breach Zone showed that he’s ready to be a bigtime piece of the fantasy scene

9) The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan
Speaking of authors who got better with their next book – Brian exploded onto the scene last year with the amazing Promise of Blood, the first in his flintlock-fantasy Powder Mage  series. He proved he was definitely not a one-trick pony with this sequel, which expands greatly on the world he created, and shows a lot more writing craft. You can really tell at times that he is a student of Brandon Sanderson, but who can say that’s a bad thing? He brings a bit of edge and grit that Sanderson’s works lack, and it’s refreshing.
(Wait, if he's adding 'the edge and grit' that Sanderson lacks... oh forget it. I'll come back to it later.)

8) The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler
Last year, Django caught me completely by surprise with the brilliant The Thousand Names , the first of his military/flintlock fantasy series. The sophomore effort in this series was far from a letdown – I love Django’s matter-of-fact prose, his unique character voices, his addition of magic, and his continued brilliance in depicting military life.
(I think that Joel is using his thesaurus, because he's used 'engrossing', 'amazing', and 'brilliant' to describe these first three books. I'm not mocking, just noticing. Oh fuck it, you all are smart enough to see I'm mocking him.)

7) Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence
I just want to say that Mark Lawrence is arguably my favorite fantasy writer – at the very least in my elite 5. So to put his book at #7 on my list is more indicative of how good of a year it was in SFF than it is a comment on where this book stands. Prince of Fools was a drastic change of pace from his Broken Empire  trilogy. It felt as though Mark listened to all the criticisms he got, and set out to write a book that addressed those “problems”. What you got was a much more free-flowing novel, with a ton of humor, a more innocent and light-hearted protagonist, and a buddy relationship between the protagonist and a viking that was heart-warming, hilarious and an absolute blast to read. Mark is a truly amazing writer who can wear many hats, and he showed it with this novel.
(I can't say anything mocking here or Mark will send his ninjas after me, and I am powerless before Mark's ninjas. Unless they like cookies... do ninjas like cookies?)

6) The Martian by Andy Weir
It honestly took a lot to convince myself not to put this book higher on my list – that’s how much I loved it. I only found it because it was on the Goodreads Sci-fi list, and am I ever glad to have read it. It’s got a lot of hard science in it, but it’s mixed with witty characters and dialogue, butt-clenching dramatic elements, and some really fantastic writing. “MacGyver on Mars” is how I often see it described, and I think it’s an apt description. I simply loved it.
('MacGyver on Mars'? Did the team from SG1 go to Mars? Did I miss that episode? Did he make water and breathable air with a Sharpie, an X-Men figurine, and three matches?)

5) Half a King by Joe Abercrombie
Joe Abercrombie is a god amongst (Amongst? What, are you a Cambridge Lit professor?) men. I mean seriously, my mancrush towards him is indescribable. After this hug, I did not shower or change clothes for several weeks. That said, Joe writes what is referred to as grimdark, which means his books are…let’s just say “adult”. Half a King was marketed and written as a YA novel, which scared me initially – would it neuter Joe’s normal style? Would he have to tone back so much that it would be boring? Luckily, none of my concerns were true. Half A King read like a normal Abercrombie book, except with less cussing and sex. There was violence, very smart dialogue and amazing action. It was an absolute blast to read and became an instant favorite of mine.
(His mancrush on Abercrombie is both adorable and understandable, I mean, That accent! That stubble! Call me Joe!)

4) Veil of the Deserters by Jeff Salyards
One of the bigger surprises in my 2013 reading list was Jeff’s Scourge of the Betrayer, a tight and interesting first-person novel following a scribe who signed on with a group of soldiers to document their exploits. I left that book wishing for so much more –  more history, more characters, more of that brilliant dialogue. Luckily, Jeff came through (and how!) with Veil . I got a copy from him via a contest, and thought it took me a while to read it due to life responsibilities, the time I spent on it was some of the best I’ve spent this year. Veil expands on everything I wanted, and improved in every way over Scourge. I simply loved it.

3) Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Oh man, speaking of mancrushes. Pierce is the kind of guy I’d love to hang out with, but also wouldn’t want to be around for long, as he would make me look so hilariously ugly next to him. I mean, look at the guy. Red Rising grabbed me initially by it’s absolutely breathtaking cover – simplicity in it’s finest, but so eye-grabbing. The combination of aspects from many other successful books, combined with prose that I can only describe as spectacular – it reminded me of a slightly less edgy cadence to Mark Lawrence in his Broken Empire. Short sentences, not many commas, matter-of-fact, but relentless. As I said in my review – the book is a masterpiece to me.
(Don't read too much into Joel's man-crushes on like half of his favorite writers. Really, don't, but I've included a picture of Pierce below, purely so you understand what Joel's talking about, of course. The fact that he's shirtless, well, completely coincidence. And is it mancrushes, or man-crushes?)

2) The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks
There aren’t a lot of authors I can say I’m on a first name basis with, but luckily one of them is utterly brilliant and a NY Times Bestseller. Brent blew me away in 2012 with what was easily my favorite book of the year, the 2nd in the Lightbringer series The Blinding Knife. Brent is another author who gets more creative, more subtle, more artful with each book he writes. The Broken Eye was the pinnacle of this growth – not relying on action, magic, or antics, it holds it’s own with plot turns, dialogue, character conflict, and an incredibly deft hand with subtlety. I finished The Broken Eye and wanted to immediately re-read it, forget it and consume it all over again. Absolutely spectacular.
(Watching Joel meet Brent was simply adorable. I won't mock him for it, cause he's aware of which authors I get all shy and bashful around, and I don't want him to announce them publicly.)

1) Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
I was concerned, for a time, that Brandon had peaked as a writer. The works he had been putting out were lacking in growth, lacking in substantial writing and content. YA novels, short stories, etc. And they seemed to be stagnant. And then, Words of Radiance entered my hands, and all of that was thrown out the window. The growth as a writer he exhibited in this novel is staggering – his worldbuilding is on a herculean scale, the plot windings, the subterfuge and politics, the character growth. As good as he’s ever done with his characterization so far, an area always called out as a weakness. One of the most epic duels/battles I’ve EVER read. This book had it all. It could have been trimmed down a bit, but in the end, I can safely say that it is one of, if not the, best books I’ve ever read.
(Joel and I have been bickering about 'The Book of Endless- errr, 'Words of Radiance' for weeks. I really liked the book, I truly did, while it was his favorite book this year. He has confused my enthusiasm for the book with where it finally placed in my yearly wrap-up.
That said, if McClellan adds the edge and grit that Sanderson lacks, shouldn't he be ranked ABOVE Sanderson? Is consistency too much to ask for, is it?)

Best Of The Rest:

To say I only read ten amazing books this year would be unfair. I really deliberated over which books made it into my top 10, but here are more that I feel deserve mention.

- Sand by Hugh Howey

- City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

- The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley

- Lock In by John Scalzi

- The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

The first thing (I mean, besides his love of superlatives) that I noticed about Joel's top ten list is that there isn't a single female writer on it. Not one. This isn't a criticism of Joel's list, because the books on his list (or at least the ones I've read) deserve to be here. 
It's a result of Joel and I having different reading lists, and following different writers. My top ten ended up very mixed because I read a fairly equal number of women and men writers, and my top ten is a fairly even mix of writers. Joel's reading list is more dominated by men, and his top ten list is as well. I have other friends who's lists (if they'd let me post them, would be dominated by women. Your reading list will determine what you loved.
His complete failure to include 'City of Stairs' in his top ten, however, is a sign of his undependable taste. That book was brilliant! 
Starting the 31st of this month, I will be featuring head-to-head reviews with Joel at least once a month, because I enjoy discussing and disagreeing books with him. And sometimes he gets it right and agrees with me.

(Joel Adds: To clarify, I did read 11 books this year by female authors, however only one of them came out in 2014, so only one qualified for my list. As you can see above, it was in my 'honorable mention' - I enjoyed it immensely, but did not find it to be better than other books in the top 10. I do not avoid female authors or enjoy them any less, I just happened to not read many that came out this year)