Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year End's Post and Goals

I’m not really in the position to make a 2009 round-up on how well the year has passed due to the fact that I spend 2009 in a few places, where times doesn’t seem to exist. I’m just happy to be able to tell that time passes, so there is that one, plus I have been ranking my top five reads for 2009 too many times [read that as two times on other people’s blogs] as well as the most anticipated by me books for 2010. Anyway 2009 has been a semi-good year as far as reading goes. I got a few good interviews conducted and I had a nice feature running and I met a lot of interesting people, who have been overly generous and cool towards me.

Now that my brief paragraph on how 2009 is summarized let’s move down to the goals that I have set for 2010.

Goal 1: The Comic Book Appreciation Month marks the first themed month on TLR. I hope to make it a tradition on the site for as long as I am capable to run it and along it I hope to add a few more themed weeks and another themed month for the sake of clearing some lists in my book.

Goal 2: Organize my reading and by that I mean clearing my backlog, manage my time better, keep organized records of the novels I read and naturally read more. I’ve even made a public bet with Gavin from Nextread and the challenge is to manage at least six novels per month in order to at least manage the amount of books that we have pending in Our Pile O’shame.

Goal 3: This is a relative goal with success not dependent on me, but I want to contact houses and request a status as reviewer. It’s not that I do not have enough books I want to read, but I feel that I am one way or another losing a sense of what is being published. Which leads me to the next goal.

Goal 4: Keep track of what is published. It’s high time I get around following what will be out straight from the horse’s mouth. Because this seems like the easiest thing in the world it’s the trickiest one to miss out on, because it’s easy to forget and neglect as something to be ignored.

"Kafka on the Shore" by Haruki Murakami

Title: "Kafka on the Shore"
Author: Haruki Murakami
Pages: 489
Genre: Contemporary Literary, Surrealism
Standalone/Series: Standalone
Publisher: Vintage

Why Pick it Up: An entry for the Japanese Reading Challenge 3 and have seen it recommended at least 100 times, so there was no way I was going to miss reading this book.

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If “After Dark” was simply an appetizer of what Murakami has to offer, then “Kafka on the Shore” is a five course meal. If the first was a picture spied from a keyhole, then the second is a majestic view from a plane. If the first is the gentle lick of the shore waves, then the second is the full blown force of a tsunami. Analogies and comparisons aside you get the drift that “Kafka on the Shore” is one powerhouse of a novel and the best definition for it can be one of the books that you have to read several times in your life to understand better and even then you couldn’t possibly piece everything together to unravel its true meaning.

“Kafka on the Shore” starts innocently enough tracking the lives of Kafka Tamura, who has to be the toughest 15 year old kid in order to make it through life as a runaway from home, and Mister Nakata, an old man isolated from society because of his inability to learn and grasp concepts. Even at its beginning the novel kisses reality goodbye and submerged the reader into surrealism, when Mr. Nakata has his first conversation with a cat, a talent he had since he was a little child. From then everything and anything seems possible and logical as the paths both protagonists tread one entwine, morph and blossom into a scenic illusion that seems only possible in the dream world.

Murakami is a genius at passing the surrealistic as the general rule in the world and this has to do much with the craftsmanship he has over characterization, achieved both by superb author narration, introspective character POV and erudite dialogue. The end result is a cast, which is rich, unusual and captivating.

Mr. Nakata is the simple man with poor mental faculties, but chosen by fate to fulfill something that must be done. His soul is exposed as that of simplicity in life, not constricted by manmade civilization and yet it is enveloped in such mystery and it is even hinted that he is capable of miracles such as making fish and slugs rain from the skies. He is on a journey, but the he doesn’t search for the road for the road finds him. Kafka as the other prime character is equally exotic in his inner world. He’s a hermit of his own device and is running away from the family curse put on by his father, which in the end he fulfills as a way to be over with it and set himself free.

Of course there is Miss Saeki, the quiet librarian, who has already died inside, but could have been so much more as her past reveals. I also grew to love Oshima, the gay man trapped in the body of woman, who is erudite and almost a human equivalent of the kitsune in his cunning and sharp mind.

But it’s not just characters that stole my breath away, but the way Murakami has referenced to other famous works and incorporated and reincarnated ageless tropes. Impossible love? Yes and how more impossible can it be when the woman you love is the spirit of a memory that has passed decades ago. Soul searching and becoming one with nature? Yes this trope has never been so literal, beautiful and surrealistic before. There is so much more. Mr. Nakata’s journey reminds me so much of Don Quixote, although it’s not exactly the same and Kafka’s curse is the myth of Oedipus, represented in the most impossible way imaginable.

“Kafka on the Shore” is a novel that deserves many re-reads for another reason as well. It’s a culture bomb. Murakami is an erudite man with a broad personal culture, which seems to have the whole swallowed inside, because there have been so many musicians, artists, writers and other historical figures mentioned that even a high brow aristocrat would need some research to learn about and then understand how these names subtly influence the story and add hues that might only come in light of both research and rereading.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

December in Reading

Statistics:

Total Works Read: 4
Book Breakdown: Three Novels and one comic book series
Format Breakown: Two soft covers, 1 e-book, 127 issues

Total Pages Read: 4,110
Pages by Format Breakdown: Tradeback – 697, e-books – 238, Comics – 3,175
Average Pages by Day: 132-133

Works:

“24 Bones” by Michael F. Stewart


“After Dark” by Haruki Murakami

“Kafka on the Shore” by Haruki Murakami [to come]

“Birds of Prey” published by DC from 1999 to 2009 [to come]

Analysis and Goals:

Yes, well, December has been a strong reading month. Yes, it’s true that I finished only three from the designated six titles, but I had a heavy act to balance with this comic book series and when it all came down to statistics it turns out I have been on a reading frenzy. Comic books might seems easy picks for reading, but believe me, you have to scan the page once to get the dialogue, then a second time to get the narration/internal monologue and a third time to get as much as detail as possible from the art. So I am not disappointed.

January will be even busier. I have eleven other series [thankfully only three are longer and will give me a run for my money] and then there are definitely two novels for a guest review and one for a freelance gig that has to be read and analyzed. Apart from that I have exams and really just hope to finish Gaiman’s “American Gods”. January will ruin my eyes and melt my brain, but I will fight through it.

Me around the Web

December seems to have been a majorly busy month and I have been popping up on quite a few occasions on different blogs and such. Deduction: The Internet is starting to warm up to me and the people running that make the Internet an awesome place to be like me even more. So here is the recap:

Number 1: I have been talking about god knows what on the Book Smugglers’ page. My top 2009 books vs. 01 has been listed there as well as the upcoming and anticipated books that I hope to hold in my greedy book-reading claws and general nonsense I wish reality to bend itself and give me.

Number 2: Pete from Ubiquitous Absence has fit me in his busy program and even posted an interview with me on a Tuesday [extra special ’cause the guy keeps quite close to his Sundays for interview posting purposes] and I had a blast with him. Pete will one day certainly be a top pro at doing these interviews.

REVIEWS:

I have been diverging some reviews that I had planned here, because I completely neglected the part, where I am also a contributor over at “Fantasy & Sci-Fi Lovin’ News and Reviews”. Here is what you missed:


In contemporary Great Britain, Pamela is the owner of a mysterious Tarot Cafe. After midnight, she receives supernatural clients who come to her for advice through tarot readings. From cats to fairies to vampires, they tell her their stories even as she unravels their past, present and future through her cards. In exchange for her advice, they pay her with beads of Berial's Necklace, which Pamela gathers for her own secret ends.


Based on the best-selling manga!…Bryn McMillan’s boyfriend, Jack, has gone missing. She has the nagging suspicion that something terrible–and otherworldly–has happened to him, a feeling that only increases when she has vivid visions of Jack being chased by a vicious
hunter intent on owning Jack’s soul. Always one to consult psychics, Bryn finds herself at The Tarot Cafe seeking a way to aid Jack in his spiritual struggle. But when she discovers what has happened to him, Bryn finds herself with an impossible choice between a life without love or an eternity of pain by her soul mate’s side.


Seth, Horus, and Osiris are reborn, fated to re-fight their greatest battle.

Samiya, an Egyptian woman, and Taggart, a Canadian professor of Comparative Religion, have nothing in common, until they find themselves on opposite sides of a bloody war for causes neither is sure they believe in.

The Balance is in jeopardy, and either The Fullness: humanity, law, and reason; or The Void: animal instinct, chaos, and death; will soon rule the world.

But which is the right side? Reason has ruled for centuries. Is it time for Chaos to have a chance?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Interview: Laura Anne Gilman

Who: Laura Anne Gilman

Bio: Born in the late 1960’s in suburban New Jersey, Laura Anne endured only moderate trauma – and some good times – before escaping to Skidmore College. After graduation, given the choice between grad school and employment, the lure of a paycheck took her to NYC and a career in publishing, while working nights and weekends to get her writing career started. In 2004, she and corporate America decided they needed a break from each other. Her first original novel contract in-hand, Laura Anne became a full-time freelancer, and never looked back.

Laura Anne is also an amateur chef, oenophile, and cat-servant.

She lives in New York City, where she also runs d.y.m.k. productions.

Work: She is the author of the Cosa Nostradamus books for Luna (the “Retrievers” and “Paranormal Scene Investigations” series), a YA trilogy for HarperCollins, and the forthcoming Vineart War books from Pocket [REVIEW of “Flesh and Fire”], while continuing to write and sell short fiction.

She also writes paranormal romances for Nocturne as Anna Leonard.

Foreword: From all the 09 author interviews I have conducted, although they were not as many as I would have liked, Laura Anne Gilman has been a treasure to have on my blog. "Flesh and Fire" came as a most wondrous surprise and certainly remains one of the books that top my all time list, climbing to a spot right next to "The Picture of Dorian Grey". I wasn't even sure that Miss Gilman would accept my invitation, because I nearly lost my marbles, when I wrote to her. I was still on that good novel high and looking back at that e-mail I seemed like a lunatic. But as luck would have it, I have had the pleasure of conducting this short piece.

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Harry Markov: Hello Miss Gilman and thank you for accepting my invitation for this interview. I’m simply delighted to have you here on my blog. But let’s begin. “Flesh and Fire”, the first novel in The Vineart Wars series, was published and warmly received by traditional fantasy fans. However you are known for your Retriever series, which are urban fantasy. Were you nervous about the change in genres?

L.A Gilman: There’s always a risk in changing gears. What if your readers don’t follow you? What if the book is terrible? What if, what if…? Writers are neurotic and delicate creatures, even when we’re trying to be tough as nails. So yeah, I was nervous. At the same time, though, this was a story I really wanted to tell, in the style it needed to be told. So the nerves took back seat to the need.

Markov: Speaking of “Flesh and Fire”, exactly how did you decide to entwine a magic system with winemaking and wines in general? I can imagine the process sucking time in research and tedious world building, as the foreword hinted, but did this occur naturally on instinct or did it involve wandering, dead ends and radical brainstorming?

Gilman: I am a wine nerd of good standing (I even spent a year working in a wine store), and the idea of wine-makers as magicians seemed to make absolute and perfect sense to me – what is the transformation of grape juice into wine but the most basic alchemy, after all? I don’t know that I would call the process ‘tedious,’ – in fact, I know I wouldn’t. The act of discovering what this world was about, how it differed from ours, and why – that was a great deal of fun, and told me chapter and verse about the characters I was writing about; why they did and thought and felt the things they did. I also got to spend time in the vineyards of Burgundy, as well as Italy and California, to get a feel for the differences and similarities of vineyards in different regions.

Markov: So you actually traveled up and down the world to get a good sense for your novel. I find that fascinating, but isn’t it hard to afford such dedicated research? Can you sketch a bit how those trips went?

Gilman: Many of the trips had actually been taken before I started writing this book -- my family spent a total of four weeks in Italy, where I took note of the vineyards and the local wines, and the towns we visited – part of being a writer is that it never gets “turned off.” Likewise, the vineyards of California, and all over the United States.

The fact is, successful writers have magpie minds. In the middle of something totally unrelated, your brain says “oh, that’s interesting” and files it away. It might get used in your next story – or one you write ten years later.

When I knew that I was going to write The Vineart War – the publisher had countersigned the contract – I could have gone from the research I’d already done, and what I could learn from books and the internet. But the heart of the story is really Burgundy, both the history and the soil, and I had never been there. So I went.

Expensive? Yes, and no. The plane fare hurt, going as I did in September just before the harvest, but I rented an inexpensive apartment for a week, and cooked most of my own meals, and my days were spent, not shopping, but walking (and bicycling) around the countryside, talking to people and taking photos and notes and tasting the specific wines that are grown there, the “common” wines that aren’t always exported. Once you’ve drunk the wine and eaten the food of a place, you understand the people better, I feel.

And I met an amazing number of people – so for that alone, the trip was worth it.

Markov: What is the plan for “The Vineart Wars”? Is it destined to be a trilogy and is it early to tell whether you will inhabit your world with more stories?

Gilman: The Vineart War is a trilogy, in that each book is act I, II, and III of a complete story. I’ve already finished the draft of book 2, and will start book 3 in the New Year. As to there being other stories in this universe… I already know several stories I’d like to tell, but for now, it’s “we’ll see.”

Markov: While raiding the Internet for inspiration about what to ask, I found that before becoming a novelist you were an editor and are also rumored to kick urban fantasy into popularity. That is some interesting reputation. Judging by the amount of time you stuck as editor I gather you were as devoted to it as you are to writing. When one is equally passionate about two similar in nature activities, it’s hard to arrange priorities. What was it that prompted you to establish a name as an author and not an editor?

Gilman: I can’t claim to be responsible for restarting Urban Fantasy’s popularity – genre popularity cycles in and out, and all an editor can do is pick the best, most readable books available and hope that she hits it on the upswing. I spent fifteen years as a book editor, starting right out of college, and I loved the job – I still do some editorial work on a freelance basis, as my schedule allows. But I was always also a writer, and there came a time when I had to choose between the two as a full-time career – and writing won. In another fifteen years? Who knows…. Being an editor is similar to being a teacher; it’s as much a vocation as a profession.

Markov: As far as editors go there has been this image of an underpaid and overworked person with the iconic red pen and massive stacks of pages being carried around. From your personal experience to you find that image to be true and did you have a hellishly overstuffed schedule?

Gilman: That is, um, a really, really accurate depiction. I’m told that these days more editors are using e-readers, which means they will have fewer shoulder and back problems, carrying manuscripts home!

But you don’t get into publishing to have an overpaid and slothful life. You get into it because you love books, and you want to be part of the process, and you’re willing to do what it takes – or you get out, quick.

Markov: I am sure that you might get this question a lot, but you are a writer and editor. You have short stories published, a young adult series, a non-fiction book, an urban fantasy series going strong and a new traditional fantasy in the works. Do you do something special in order to make time and dabble into so as many fields as you have? I am a scatterbrain and although I try to make the time for my own projects I rarely succeed much, so it’s not only about zest, but about technique as well.

Gilman: The first thing is, not to think of it as “dabbling.” If you’re a writer, you write. The secret to success, which I share freely with anyone who asks, is simple: AIC. Put your Ass In the Chair, and get it done. How you do that is up to what works for you. I get up early in the morning and write as much as I can before lunch, because that works for me. Other people find they write best late at night, when the household’s gone to sleep. The trick is to find what works, and then do it. Every day.

As for the various genres, you should follow the story you need to tell; the telling will define the format, not the other way around.

Markov: So when you did change from editor to writer did you find it hard to switch roles and become the person on the receiving end of the critique?

Gilman: Not really. In fact, I would say it helped me become a better writer, and be more accepting of critique. I argue with my editors, but I also appreciate the work they do, and I know how much their input helps me grow as a writer, and craft a better book each time.

Markov: Apart from the AIC principle what else can you give out as advice from a well established person industry to a newbie writer such as me?

Gilman: That is the most important advice I give new writers. This is a job. It’s a wonderful, exciting, and occasionally heartbreaking job, but it’s still a job. It’s work. If you don’t treat it as such, and accept that you are an independent businessperson, you won’t make it, no matter how brilliant a writer you might be. Sit down, put your hands on the keyboard, and write a story. And when it’s done, send it out and start writing another one. Everything we do in service to those books is secondary to writing the next, better, more interesting book.

Markov: Let’s hop back to the YA series you have completed. I am extremely curious about this genre, since it can be any type of story in speculative fiction, but at the same time is a genre on its own. What are the unwritten rules that separate it from adult, because quite honestly from what I get there is as much sex and violence in YA as there is in adult and sometimes adult novels have teen protagonists, so the line for me is really thin. What makes YA young adult?

Gilman: Countless people have asked this, and almost as many people have tried to answer. For me, it’s not the content that’s different, but the context. YA readers have different worries, different stresses, different dreams than adult readers. They’re not more or less complicated or more or less important… just different

No matter what genre, the four questions you need to answer are:

What Happens?

Who does it Happens To?

What Changes/is Learned/Discovered?

What is the Cost/Reward?

Markov: Last question. If you could be a vineart in your own world, what kind of grape would best suit you? I know I would like to have a grape that would make me a certain kind of Poison Ivy character, but the author is more curious in this case.

Gilman: I think I would probably grow firevines. They’re not the most interesting, difficult, or useful of vines to grow, but they have a certain purity to them that I appreciate. Also, they are based on primitivo/zinfandel grapes, which I’ve always had a fondness for. They are bold, often rustic red wines that you either love or you really don’t enjoy; there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground. But I just asked a friend, and he said I would grow aethervines, the difficult, almost mystic wines, so….

Sunday, December 27, 2009

At the Movies: Spooks

I recently watched Dorian Gray; the movie adaptation of one of the few books I’ll ever say is an all time champion in my list. Since the story has a supernatural spooky element this week I will review two other movies that are all spooky in one way or another [or as in the case of one of the movies listed here tried to be]. I will start with the movie I enjoyed most and will work my down to the one I didn’t enjoy.

Tormented proved once again that British cinema can kick American cinema’s ass any time it wants and this teen slasher horror flic is a top contester in the kick-ass category. There’s a ghost and he wants revenge on those that made his life a living hell. Nothing surprising here and to be honest it isn’t even scary anymore, but the movie has its tense moments, especially when the mobile technology is used against the texting teens. However it wasn’t the horror that won me over completely. It was the dialogue and actors, who delivered each clever, witty and acidic line with conviction. When Brits get nasty and mix that with nasty humor, it’s a spectacle unlike any and then the way these teens died one after the other was most satisfying.

Humor + Sadistic Payback = Fun [sprinkle some peer pressure, love, sex and school life for measure]

Dorian Gray comes second, because it wasn’t what made The Picture of Dorian Gray special, but the very least it was a valiant attempt. The book is 250 pages, but these are 250 pages of utter brilliance and I knew that to capture the essence they would need to make a mini-series for television with a great budget. Nevertheless I felt satisfied that the very least it is a decent movie to watch. There are several large inconsistencies that I did not agree with, but I know what has to be done in order for a book to be made into a picture, so no surprises there. The very least I enjoyed the acting of Ben Barnes, who did a better job here than as Prince Caspian in the Narnia sequel and there is also Colin Firth, who made this production a wonderful experience and is Lord Henry to the very last detail.

Jennifer’s Body. Gee, what can be said here? I knew it would suck, but I wanted to make sure whether or not a Diablo Cody script could possibly create the illusion that Megan Fox can act. The answer is yes and no at the same time. I spotted too many clichés in this genre or if they weren’t, I guess tropes that don’t generally excite me and I had high hopes for Diablo Cody movie [’cause anybody named Diablo seems cool] and Megan Fox still can’t show an emotional range that can surpass a blow-up doll with a recorder in its mouth. However I didn’t feel the need to check how much time has passed, but I guess it all has to do Amanda Seyfried, an actress that still has a way to go, but which I generally like as a person.

Reviewer Time: The 2009 Summary


We’ve reached the end of the year [almost, but this is the last Sunday in 2009 and the last day to talk about my interview feature] and I am sharing the spirit to look back and evaluate what has been achieved in this year. My reviewer year has been interesting with its ups and downs, but nothing more memorable that bursts to be shared with anybody apart from the Reviewer Time feature.

To be quite honest before the Reviewer Time was born I had an even more massive idea about Blogger TV, which should have started January 2008 and run with interviews, announcements and videos on three blogs: mine and two other very distinctive ones. However life changes and I learned that this would not bear fruit and I discarded the idea, until it resurfaced small scale around April, when my official bloggerversary is. I would interview the reviewers and that would be my landmark upon the blogger-sphere and here we have the Reviewer Time.

Every once in awhile I get delusional that whatever I start will mutate into great success, but as an active daydreamer I often aim for the farthest stars. Did I succeed in leaving a mark in this ever growing and changing environment? Eh, let’s not get ahead of reality here. I can’t say that what I did from May till December elevated me to the quality material that some bloggers have been outputting, but this is a good start and there are always upcoming seasons.

Did I have fun? Yes, I did. I had the opportunity to interview twenty eight dedicated book reviewers and turn them from names on the side bar into individuals with things to say [even though all I did was let them speak, so nothing much on my part]. From these interviews I learned a lot about deadlines, dedication, persistency and the art of interviewing people. In the future I consider changing the format in order to better showcase reviewers, swap questions and improve the feature’s overall quality.

I also started this feature with the intent to connect with bloggers and establish relationships and with some I had an instant click, which has made these weekly Q&A sessions worth it.

Verdict: Overall I think that this is a solid beginning, if not the dashing success my original master plan envisioned. There is only one thing to do, thank you all for making this possible, because if it wasn’t for you guys there wouldn’t be interviews to post. May the upcoming 2010 bring you many books and personal success.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Interview: T.A. Moore

Who: T.A. Moore

Bio: Elegant, disturbing prose is Northern Irish author T.A. Moore's stock-in-trade. From the decadent, eternally decaying Even City to the worrying charm of Sol in 'A Different Breed' she weaves horror and beauty together to create worlds of dizzying variation and charm.

For more details -- [HERE]

Work: “The Even” – [REVIEW]

In the Even — a city built in the intersection between the real and the not —ruled by the iron whim of the demon Yekum where treachery brewed amidst the ever-changing streets. Ancients dwell in the city who have out-lived their purpose and grown jaded with their immortality. They want only to die and they will take the whole world with them if they have to: suicide by Apocalypse.

Only Faceless Lenith, goddess, cynic and gambler, stands in their way. The fate of the world rests on her shoulders and mankind did not conceive her to be wise.








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Harry Markov: Can you recall the earliest memory, when you picked up the pen and wrote fiction? How did this first brush with this art form feel?

T.A. Moore:
The first piece of fiction I remember writing was a children’s book about a foundling that the imposing Russian headmistress of a ballet school found abandoned on the steps of her academy and decided to raise as a prima ballerina! A plan somewhat complicated by the fact that she was very short-sighted and the foundling was a piglet.

I was about eight at the time.

The thing I remember most about how I felt back then was excitement at the idea – new to me – that I could make new stories! I had done it my head, of course. Any childhood games I came up with to play with my friends were complex, multi-layered things that turned tag into a disaster movie involving sharks and dismemberment and hide and seek into a fairy-tale mash-up with the generic princess fleeing from the evil witch and seeking out other characters to help her.

Stories in books were different though. I knew that someone wrote them, but I suppose that I thought it was like plumbing or something; you had to have a special qualification to be allowed to do it. Instead, here I was – writing a book and the only qualification to my name was ‘Best Reader’ in my class.

Daft thought it sounds, that excitement has stuck with me over the years. I love writing, I love other people venturing into the worlds I’ve created and enjoying them. Making stories – what better thing in the world is there?

Markov: I can’t imagine anything better than to be an explorer in a private world created via imagination and passion for the written word and your world in “The Even” is quite the mythological landscape. How did it come to developing a passion for mythology?

Moore: I should probably have a better story about this, but I’ve always just loved mythology.

Celtic Mythology was my first great love– and I draw more deeply on it in Shadows Bloom, my second book in The Even world – and anything to do with Arthurian myth and legend will still have me reaching for my wallet. I love the Norse myths too and a lot of the more obscure pantheons – such as the Etruscan gods from whose legends Lenith sprung.

Maybe because they were providing support for my desire to believe that there was more to the world than what we see on the surface? Mythology is were history and story meet – and I am passionate about both those things. History was always my favourite subject. English was good, I enjoyed analyzing Shakespeare and Dickens, but History was just a succession of really good, frequently violent stories and who wouldn’t love that? (Plus my English teacher called my writing ‘sordid and disgusting’ which took the bloom off her class for me a little.)

Markov: I have been pondering about this one for quite some time after I discovered that you are both active as an author employed by Morrigan books and behind the scenes. Doesn’t that count as self-publishing to a degree? I have heard of authors, who have founded their own houses so that they could publish their own works. I am also not speaking about quality here, since as far as Morrigan Books go you have set a high standard for small houses, but on the book selling angle. Publishing is experiencing some dynamic times. Rules are rewritten and traditions altered, etc. etc.

Moore: Ack! I’m always a bit shy about admitting the dual involvement for that very reason – the stain of self-publishing.

I actually didn’t know Mark Deniz – my publisher – at all when I submitted The Even to him. In fact, I actually submitted it to him as the editor of Eneit Press. Mark was actually in the process of establishing Morrigan Books at that time and was impressed enough with The Even to ask me to come with him as Morrigan’s first publication. I agreed – the Morrigan has always been one my favourite goddesses – and it was months later that Mark asked if I’d be interested in becoming more involved with Morrigan itself. He needed some help with the submissions at that time and I had been editing a local literary magazine so it seemed reasonable.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of self-publishing. I know a lot of people who are and they are armed with lots of research and success stories and I’ve never say they were WRONG. It’s just that...publishing a book is HARD! You have to edit and proof it, get it set right, get it printed and shipped and sold to bookshops (many of whom are suspicious of self-publishing) and without the help of a publisher all of that is down to the author.

It isn’t easy, it can be heart-breaking, and it means you can’t move on to the next book in your head.

I think it’s better to have a publisher – even though it is more and more important for the author to take an active role in the publishing process.

Markov: That stain seems to be a persistent occurrence right about now, when publishing is in a shifting process as far as the business models are concerned. I think it becomes complicated to avoid the pointing finger, since many creative types would like to dabble in a little bit of everything: writing fiction and articles, reviewing, edit and promote. Sometimes one project can have us overlap several activities as with your situation. I think that such an overlap might cause a misleading image to unfamiliar with one’s work people and in that regard do you think a person should restrain himself from sticking his finger in too many places at one time and is there an ethical, possibly unwritten, codex on the matter?

Moore: If there is, no one told me about it. I’m always looking elsewhere when the secret handshake is being demonstrated!

More seriously, I suppose it could be misleading. But Morrigan Book’s literary output stands for itself, I think. I’m a minor cog in the company and more major cogs than me - who are also writers – have not had their work published. (Mark Deniz also rejected some of my stories for anthologies because he didn’t like them or didn’t think they worked for the theme.)

I also think it’s actually...useful to dip your fingers in as many sections of the literary pie as possible. For me, at least. Reviewing books requires you to read analytically, to pinpoint the why of whether or not you enjoy a book. After a while you start to see what works and what doesn’t and how you can apply that to your own writing. The same goes for reading submissions – you identify what catches your interest as an editor and then you use that to polish your own cover letter and chapters.

Markov: I am extremely curious about the dynamics inside a publishing house and since you are an insider person and handle queries, can you reveal the basic model of how you handle the queries? Do you receive un-agented work and how has been the submission flow for a small publishing house so far?

Moore: Queries at Morrigan Books are closed at the moment. Mostly due to the fact that we have books and anthologies scheduled up until the end of 2010 and wanted to focus on them for the moment. While we were accepting submissions it was quite busy. We would get between ten to fifteen submissions a week. If the cover letter interested us we’d ask for three chapters and then, if we were still hooked, the full novel or collection. The things I looked for in a submission were an interesting idea, good writing and a good fit to the ‘house’ style.

Markov: You are also involved with the publisher’s online magazine “Three Cow Press”. Since both are professionally linked together, how does the magazine reflect the publisher? Or is it more of a side project?

Moore: The magazine is linked to the publisher but functions independently of it. It’s primarily the baby of editor Reece Notley, Morrigan’s graphic design guru, and although it does feature articles on the State of the Crow it isn’t ever going to give Morrigan’s authors preference or function solely as a publicity venue for Morrigan. Mark and Reece did work to put some clear blue water between the ventures to make sure of that. Otherwise the ezine would have no integrity as a literary endeavour and I think it does at this point. We’ve published some very good stories and featured interesting articles.

I’m quite proud of it.

Markov: As a short story writer to a magazine co-editor, do drop some inside information on the mind of an editor. I have had this age long question as to what a short story editor wants and I guess I need an editor to answer that. Do you guys subconsciously choose a loose theme to base an issue like after finding a brilliant story “X” you try to find other submissions that echo and compliment theme, voice and prose or do you go random gold sifting through the submitted work?

Moore: It’s actually quite random. If we have a theme in mind – such as our Feb 09 erotica edition – we’ll open a special submissions window for those stories. Otherwise we just look for good stories that catch our attention, keep us reading and are finished articles. When we are actually putting the issues together we might try and find a unifying threat to link the stories, but that would be after they are accepted.

The quality is the most important thing.

Markov: As a writer and involved with a publisher have you pondered about the shift from genre to story archetype. To me it would seem that there is no well segregated subgenre system, when it comes to speculative fiction and books are recognized by the story archetypes. My example would be “Twilight” spawning impossible love with different monster, the latest being a love story involving the undead and although the novel itself has zombies presented it can’t be called horror. In today’s context do you think that we might face a future that is post genre?

Moore: You do not ask easy questions. I think we’ll always have genre, if only because it makes it easier for the book-sellers to lay out their shops, and that the current tightly-linked sub-genres may or may not continue to proliferate. I think that they have always been about – what is it people say, there are only seven stories in the world and the rest is all in the details - but that we are noticing them more at the moment because publishers are feeling the credit crunch as much as the rest of us, so they tend to stick with a template they find that works.

Joseph Campbell, though, pointed out the existence of the monomyth years ago and Vladimir Propp studied the narrative building blocks of stories in Morphology of a Folk Tale. The ‘love with a monster against impossible odds’ story is just the one that’s caught up the public imagination the most at the moment.

Markov: And yet I can’t stop thinking that the line between genres is blurring as more and more authors couple different genres and produce hybrids, which become harder and harder to market as genre books, but instead publishers rely on clever covers to get across multiple readers and perhaps jump above the genre restriction. I am not sure whether I am correct in my assumption or not, but I would like to hear your take on my theory.

Moore: I think that the genre line will always be there. It isn’t in the publishers best interests to do away with them. A fantasy reader isn’t going to want to hunt through the general fiction shelves to try and find a new fantasy hidden amongst the romance, crime and misery memoirs. They want to go to the fantasy section and browse amongst familiar names.

Some books will get away with blurring the lines. Stuart Neville’s debut novel ‘The Twelve’ or ‘Ghosts of Belfast’ blends thriller with horror and gets away with it. The Charlie Parker novels by John Connolly started as pure crime but elements of the supernatural emerged as the series progressed. Fantasy novels frequently draw on elements of crime fiction, political thriller or historical novels (C.E Murphy’s quite brilliant The Inheritor’s Cycle is based in an alternate Europe that is supported by a careful blend of historical accuracy and fantasy detours.)

In the long run, I think the genres will remain. Authors will maybe feel more free to cross-over, to play with genre limitations, and more subgenres will be born – but there will always be the Fantasy section.

Markov: As a writer, which was the most challenging aspect to tackle in the craft to become at a publishable level in your opinion?

Moore: Once I would have said finishing something. I used to have stacks of half-finished stories and abandoned first chapters floated around. At the moment, though, I think the hardest part of the craft to master is editing. Perhaps it is because finishing something is so hard, but taking a sharpened pen to your baby is a painful process. ‘Kill your darlings’ is easier said than done but it’s an essential part of the writing process. The first draft is never as good, or as bad, as you think it is.

Markov: Editing is my bane as well, but on first draft basis the middle gives me trouble the most. I am curious towards what writing risks you are interesting to undertaking. Is there something genre wise or story wise that is outside your comfort zone, but you would like to experiment with?

Moore: I’m actually writing a detective novel at the moment. It’s been interesting. Most of the problems, actually, stemmed from my preconceptions that there WOULD be problems. I got so tangled up in trying to write like a ‘crime novelist’ that I lost sight of the fact that the writing wasn’t that different. I needed to set the world up – even if it was OUR world – and I didn’t need to hide everything from the reader in order to keep them in the dark. Once I got that out of my system and just focused on writing, it hasn’t been too bad. I miss magic sometimes and the more baroque elements of world-building that I’m able to indulge with The Even. It’s a good novel, though. I think.

Markov: I have been impatiently checking the Morrigan Books site for any updates on new releases, hoping to see the sequel to “The Even.” When exactly is your publishing date set and how many stories set in this particular world do you see yourself writing?

Moore: ‘Shadows Bloom’ is currently with the editor and I am anxiously awaiting his report back. The publication date isn’t set in stone at the moment but it will be out in 2010. I have no limit set on the stories I could tell in The Even world. The City has so much scope, with its population and streets always in flux, that I could write there for years and always find some new element to explore.

Markov: I am quite intrigued into hearing the origin behind “The Even”. Would mind sharing how the idea formed inside your head?

Moore: It started as a children’s fairy story. I know, I don’t think I’m made to write for children either. I knew that the ruling family were cursed to never set foot to the ground and I had the scene with Aphar being thrown off the palace in my mind. Everything was quite vague at that point, it wasn’t until I realised that Faceless Lenith was my main character that the rest of the world slotted into place around her. She was just there, this vivid image of a thin woman with salt-white dreads, black clothes and a smooth mask where her face would be. (When discussing illustrating the novel with Stephanie Law we did have a conversation debating whether or not she had ears. We decided she did.)

By this time, it was pretty clear it wasn’t going to be a children’s book.

Markov: You also worked with artists Stephanie Law to provide amazing illustrations for your novel. How did you decide that you would feature illustrations and how did the whole process undergo with Law? Was it easy to collaborate and agree on how the sketches would work or did you give her creative freedom?

Moore: At the time I was working at the Creative Writers Network and we’d done a lot of work with murals and digital story telling. I applied for a grant to the Arts Council and it was....turned down. I re-jigged the application and tried again, successfully this time.

I collaborated quite closely with Stephanie Law. I gave her a list of scenes that I thought would be beautiful images and she turned them into something quite exquisite. I mentioned above that we discussed whether Lenith had ears or not and we chatted about other details too, so that our ideas of what the world looked like meshed. Successfully, I think. She’s an amazing artist. Her work is simply stunning.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas


Merry Christmas guy. I know this is wrong, but I couldn't resist.

To be quite honest I know this is probably desecration, but this Santa is my kind of Santa and I am certainly curious what he does to naughty 20-year-olds.

Out of curiosity. I hope he uses his elves as well. Artist: Jenny Lundin

So Here is something sort-of indecent for the guys as well. Santa is one lucky fellow, if all the girls here are bagged for them as the title [Bagged for Santa] implies.

Photo: Jane Jayne

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Comic Book Appreciation Month

I am a spontaneous person and tend to make some decisions based on pure whims, so this shouldn’t come much as a surprise to anyone. There are several reasons why the idea for this themed month came to be.

For starters The Book Smugglers claimed December and as an unofficial disciple/stalker/brain washed follower I have decided to claim January for myself. Fear the Unholy Trinity as they set out to conquer the calendar.

Tiptoeing to reason two. I’ve gigabytes upon gigabytes of comic book scans on my computer, which is a shame as I want to have every single series in issues, stacked beautifully, but since there are only three series available in my country and funding is sparse I’ve resorted to some shady reading techniques. As my hard disk memory wanes I need the motivation to read all that has been stored.

Gradually the two ideas collided into epic brainstorming and the bastard child in this case is this event. I am starting small, testing the water and the outcome from January 1st-31st will say whether this will stick on the program. As a beginning venture this is small scale, but be sure that the program will be bloated and brimming.

I have decided to show my love and geekery for comic books in all shapes, sizes and lengths with a whole month filled with reviews, which will cover long ongoing series, medium sized completed series, one shots, limited series, beginning series and what not. I have invited a few awesome people from blogs that I follow to contribute with a guest post article and there will be interviews with authors and writers. The cherry on top will be the separate content that I will provide as well from rank lists to art and just plain comic book character geekery.

I know January is a strange month to pick, when the holidays are saying farewells and we are left feeling like a Santa Claus in the waist line and like we have been swimming in a brewery around New Year’s Eve. We have to get back to work and we are not happy about that, but what better way to kick off the new than with some Geek love and appreciation for a medium that has given us so much and is still regarded as something reserved only for children and socially impaired adults.

If you happen to be on the same bandwagon and want to honk the horn for comic books, then feel welcomed to visit as this event unfolds, e-mail me what you liked and you would have liked to see or what you think needs improvement. I’d love to do this again next year, so shoot suggestions with what series should I tackle, which artists to check out and which writers to be aware of.

I would feel honored, if you would help yourself with these images and help spread the word should it be by adding them to your blog’s side bars [my personal wet dream] or just dropping a line that this is taking place.

So this is my before Christmas announcement and hope to see you guys on January 1st.


Monday, December 21, 2009

100 Pages: "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman

Reading a book is an experience, which can't be captured in all the tid bits, emotions and small moments that make it worthwhile, when reviewed. There is usually much that doesn't go into the finished review. Because it has come, passed and registered into our subconscious or because there is simply too much to relate, which can't be fitted in the review as a format. Because after a certain point a review becomes too long for the reader.

That is why I am stealing a perfectly good idea that I saw being used over at Blood of the Muse and apply it here. It's the commentary after the 100 pages milestone has been hit. I am there so here it goes.

"American Gods" is brilliant. I now know why people are in the worship mode, when it comes to his work. His idea is stunning, his prose elegant and just the way he tells the story is like opium. It slinks inside your brain, takes over your senses and you set sails on a smoky lake in a hazy forest and a fantastical landscape. I also loved the choices Gaiman made for the mythological figures he included. I am a nut ball for mythologies and have the perfect opportunity to light that spark and make a jump into new cultures outside the beloved Greek one. It's one of those books, which make you forget that you are reading and I as a writer had to marvel at how Gaiman weaved magic with simple phrases and dialogue. It is one of the hardest skills to learn in the craft and so gives me a new reason to be impressed about this book.

At the Movies: Rewind

There is this dilemma in my mind about whether to review movies or not, because I watch a huge amount of movies. It is my main way to unwind, when my brain tires from both reading and writing, but because I watch so many I can’t review all in separate reviews. However I do seem to have something to say about each movie I watch, so this new feature with snippets about my movie habits lands me in the middle between whether to review or not. So Mondays I will be doing that.

1) Inglorious Basterds

Kill Bill relied on blood in industrial quantities to gush out and spray every inch, until the setting has no other color than red. Here we omit the blood and substitute it for murder plots and change-o presto we have “Inglorious Basterds”. There is much to love here: the sense that this is the bastard child of a bond movie and Austin Powers movie [personal conviction and to be frank Mike Meyers did have a small cameo]; the part where Hitler dies and the skilled acting. Brad Pitt sounds unrecognizable with that accent. Eli Roth was a delightful homicidal oaf and Christoph Waltz as the polyglot Nazi General Hans Landa stunned me as a villain. I was also taken by Melanie Laurent, who brought life to the character of a femme fatale with a knack for mass murdering schemes.

2) Public Enemies

As long as it has Depp in it I can’t do wrong. It’s a simple rule that has added me countless times in picking movies and so far hasn’t proved me wrong. “Public Enemies” is grave, heavy and also quite dynamic and turbulent. There is tension, there is great acting and some greatly shot machine gun scenes. There is something about the thirties I am fascinated with and Depp along with Marion Cotillard don’t disappoint me with their performances. The same can be said for the rest of the cast. It’s a good movie, but is it great, unforgettable and mind blowing in general? Not really. Give it a few days and it will vacate your memory. Sad as it is, to me it was a case of ‘all the boxes were checked, but somehow somewhere something has slipped’.

3) Coco before Chanel

Chanel is an iconic name. It is a synonym for style. It has made 5, the most fashionable digit in history. And behind that name stood one woman: Coco. Since I am European and studying French I didn’t mind watching this, but I am not entirely sure how much European movies make it to the US, so I am not sure whether it has caught on, but I certainly hope that you are in the mood for a French docudrama about Coco the woman before rising to fame. I would have enjoyed seeing her battling her way as she made her debut in the fashion world, but I was enchanted by Audrey Toutou’s marvelous portrayal of a Coco making her first steps, falling in love and being burned by life. It breezed through time and I couldn’t believe when it ended. This was accomplished with the help of the brilliant cast, staring Emmanuelle Devos and Benoît Poelvoorde.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Reviewer Time: Rob B. [Rob's Blog o' Stuff]


It’s Sunday, but not any plain old Sunday. It’s a special Sunday aka the last Sunday in the Reviewer Time feature for the year 2009. I’m as perplexed as you are as how I managed to here from May to December with such commitment and such a low percentage of mishaps along the way. There will be a more introspective piece next Sunday that summarizes my experience with the whole feature, so let’s move on to the last guest in the line-up.

He’s Rob Bedford, although we all know him as Rob B the man behind “Rob’s Blog o’ Stuff” and he seems to have been around since ever. Which is almost correct in blogging time, since his blog has been around since 2004. I can’t say that I have been that great a follower, because his frequent, steady and overwhelmingly large posts about what he gets in his mailbox have driven me greener than envy and I wouldn’t mind receiving those titles myself. [You hear that Rob? I want to help you. I am a Samaritan.] And there haven’t been that much reviews, but links to reviews at other places, which to my scanning eye appeared to be cover art plus a blurb.

Now that I have read his whole reviews over at SFF World I am whistling along with some whoa sounds for good measure. Rob certainly impressed me with his reviews and I don’t have an idea what in his reviews makes me want to read the book he reviews, but there’s something in his words that hooks. I admit I am an easy catch, when it comes to speculative fiction, but Rob has been an inside guy over at SFF World and fact has stated that the man will review for the Sacramento Book Review / San Francisco Book Review. [Congratulations and keep me in mind, if you need to recommend somebody.]

I call this positive evolution. Anyway I hope you are already blistering what this man has to say about himself and the shameless amounts of books he receives, the bastard.

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HM: Thank you Rob for the opportunity to interview you and let’s get started with some personal facts. What do you do, when you are not reading and reviewing? Yes, a tough one to answer, indeed, since bookaholics rarely think outside their habit, but what can you do.

RB: Thank you, I’ll be honest, it is a bit odd to be on this side of the interview. You mean there are other things to do? Seriously, though I hang out with my wife and watch TV, go to NJ Devils games, write (like most readers, I’m writing fiction, too), bowl (once a week in a league), and 5 days a week I work in an office in the publishing industry.

HM: You are a book addict. That much is obvious, but how did the book addiction creep into your life and where does SFF fit in all of this?

RB: The two sort of go hand in hand, I suppose. My parents, particularly my mother, were big readers. They were both “Constant Readers” of Stephen King as well as Robert Ludlum, Robert R. McCammon and Dean R. Koontz. After reading through many of the Three Investigator mysteries and Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books, I gravitated to King and through playing Dungeons and Dragons, I gravitated to DragonLance. Once I graduated college and could really spend free time reading, I picked up The Eye of the World, Snow Crash and a Heinlein (I want to say Stranger in a Strange Land). About a decade ago when I joined the SFFWorld forums (http://www.sffworld.com/forums) the site owner, Dag Rambruat, invited me to become a forum moderator. From there, the rest is history but I can’t say enough how much I thank Dag for inviting me to join the staff of SFFWorld.

HM: Judging by the quantity of books in the mailbox posts you output, I gather that you have quite the collection, yes indeed. So where the hell do you store all these books and do you like give them away, when you are done with them?

RB: Collection is a nice way of saying it, but my wife would probably prefer the term “drowning.” I can’t possibly read all the books that land on my doorstep/in the mailbox/in front of the garage. I donate the books, pass some along to family and friends, or pass some along to fellow reviewers at SFFWorld.

HM: This is more or less connected with the last question. How do you manage to read all these books? Do you? Can you? Ultimately, what’s your readings schedule?

RB: Like I said, it is impossible for me to read everything that arrives, nor would I want to read everything that arrives. Some of the stuff just doesn’t appeal to me. My reading “schedule” is about two per week or three books every two weeks. I’m usually reading two books at a time, one at home and one at work and/or while I’m on my cardio cool-down at the gym. I try not to read two books with similar flavors simultaneously. That is, one will be a Space Opera, the other might be a Sword and Sorcery tale. Also, often times one book will be for an “official SFFWorld review” while the other will be something I want to read without having to write a review, though I often find myself at least blogging about those books, too.

HM: You are a prominent figure over at SFFWorld, do not deny, and a sizable amount of the content you produce goes there. My question is, why start your review blog in the first place, when you already have such a role to maintain there?

RB: Short answer: Why not? Longer answer: in the early part of the decade I was following a lot of comics bloggers and some fantasy and science fiction bloggers and I wanted to become a part of the community. I had opinions and wanted to share them outside of an “official reviewer” capacity. The blog is also a good way for me to publicize SFFWorld.

HM: You have been juggling your blog and SFF World duties since 2004, which is quite the circus act [not to mention your LJ account]. Haven’t you had those moments, where you wondered whether or not to focus on one place and shut the other?

RB: You’ve done your research haven’t you? The LJ account is just so I can troll through friends’ LiveJournal blogs so that doesn’t take up too much of my creative energies. I’ve been doing behind the scenes stuff at SFFWorld since 2000 and I have had those moments where I wasn’t sure about the level of effort at which I wanted to continue. In the end, I enjoy it. So at some level, I’ll always be reviewing for SFFWorld and blogging.

HM: What’s so cool about blogging and reviewing that got you here and made you stay? Describe the awesomeness.

RB: Awesomeness? More like geeky pedantic obsessiveness. I like being part of the genre community and pointing people in the direction of books I think are good.

HM: What is your approach to reviewing? Do you read the novel with thoughts for the review? Do you take notes or just let it all come back to you later?

RB: I’ve taken notes for only a couple of the books I’ve reviewed, so it’s mostly from memory. Certain plot movements, characters, and other story elements will stand out to me, obviously. In general, I try to give a little plot overview, a bit about the characters and move on to elements of the story/novel that did or didn’t work for me. In the end, I think it boils down to trying to give my honest reaction to the book.

HM: Which is the one book or genre you would never ever try, because it’s too far away from your comfort zone, if you have a comfort zone?

RB: Probably romance or erotica, I guess.

HM: Christmas is quite near and with it knocking on the door, people start thinking about gifts for their loved ones, while book-addicts look forward to a Christmas Wish List. Do you with the books you receive so often have the indecency to have a wish list already and how long is it?

RB: I often put a handful of books on my wish list, but as I’ve been receiving so many boos for review, that’s decreased over the past couple of years from when it was about 80% books. I’m also a big comic book fan, so a lot of the books I’ve had on my wish list as of late have been of the graphic novel variety.

HM: How was 2009 in reading and what do you expect from 2010 in terms of titles, events and in general?

RB: 2009 was a good year, I think. Let’s put it this way, any year that features a new R. Scott Baker, a new Dan Simmons, a new Peter F. Hamilton, a new Alastair Reynolds, 2 new Brandon Sandersons, not to mention newcomers like Lev Grossman, Peter F. Brett, Daryl Gregory, Kate Griffin, plus James Barclay and Mark Chadbourn finally coming to US bookshelves then I think it is a pretty good year by my standards.

Considering some of those names will have books in 2010, plus new books by Joe Hill, Robin Hobb, Tad Williams, Jim Butcher, Richard K. Morgan and hopefully a new Song of Ice and Fire novel, I should say 2010 looks pretty good to..

HM: After stumbling through your LJ I discovered the horrifying truth that you want to be an author as well. Not so horrifying actually, but we need dramatic tension. What is your current project, how long have you been doing this, etc. etc? Tell us.

RB: The current project on which I’ve been focusing began about a year / year-and-a-half ago and I’m having fun with it. I’ve been writing fiction on and off for about a decade and a half, though I’ve always had aspirations of doing so. I finished one novel about three years ago and began playing with it again about a year and a half ago, but put it aside for the current project. Not to mention a bunch of stories and worlds in some stage of incompletion/development.

HM: Not a while ago Mark Charan Newton posed the question that perhaps Sci-Fi is dying, while Fantasy is expanding and flourishing. What do you think about this one?

RB: Oh you mean this little beasty of a discussion - http://www.sffworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=25017? I see it as another wave in the great SFF debate, the evolution of the genre. Mark came at the recurring question from a pretty interesting position – author, bookseller, and publisher. Good healthy discourse will only help the genre grow. At least in the United States, SF is becoming mainstream in many ways, from the most popular movies, to SF books being published not by genre imprints but to the main fiction lines of major publishing houses, to commercials for innocuous things like razor blades looking science fictional, it is part of the mass culture. On the other hand, to Mark’s point, the percentage of SF books in the genre section is comparatively smaller than epic fantasy, vampire fantasy, and the like. Clearly, the answer to the question of “Is SF Dying?” can’t be answered here or by one or two blog posts. But I’ll try to answer it with one word: No.

HM: Also I have been drowning in genres that keeping sprouting everywhere and all the names and criteria just hurt my brain. I think that these specific secondary and tertiary subgenres are just blending together. Could this mean a possible post-genre future, where we just refer to major categories such as fantasy, science fiction and such and not urban fantasy, dark fantasy and the like?

RB: In terms of the people reading the books, I think people like us and forum members at communities like SFFWorld and Westeros get more granular in these genre discussions than readers who don’t get involved in such communities. On the other hand, the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) which is the trade association for booksellers, has set guidelines and codes publishers use when they tag their titles before sending them to bookstores and libraries. Now, these codes can be very broad like fiction, or very specific like Fiction/Fantasy/Epic. In other words, all these sub-categories are just shortand for folks like us to throw recommendations around and for publishers to market books. Where will these genres be in the future? Who knows, but it seems like vampires are here to stay, but that was part of the thinking when Epic Fantasy was huge about a decade ago not that it isn’t huge now, just that the tramp-stamp vampires have become as big or bigger, at least based on the books I’ve been receiving for review. For example, of 8 books that arrived from one publisher on one day this past week, 6 featured vampires and five of those vampires in an urban setting).

HM: As social networks grow, countless new sites that measure ranks pop up and more of us show at the blogging party have you officially entered the web hits war? I know there is one, even if it is silent, since we all want to be taken seriously and counted as reliable sources for information and critique and numbers prove that. Where do you stand on this subject matter?

RB: I don’t really try to get the technorati rankings or the like. At most, I find it interesting which are the more popular posts on my blog, but I don’t try to outrank anybody.

HM: What are your future plans regarding “Rob’s Blog o’ Stuff”?

RB: To keep on blogging, I guess. Each year, in my head, I have some idea of what I want to do on the blog for the next year and it doesn’t always come to fruition. With that said, I plan on re-reading The Wheel of Time in 2010 – the last of which I read was Winter’s Heart back in 2000 and I may chart my progress and experience doing that.

HM: Please finish with your own words.

RB: One man’s nuthin’ is another man’s somethin’

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Mailbox speaketh...



Yeah, can you feel Christmas?

The mailbox has not forgotten me. Two packages arrived today. One is from Vampire Ana, who has sent me these beautifies:

1) "Circle of Fire" by Keri Arthur: Sixteen teenagers taken from their homes. Eleven bodies recovered, each completely drained of blood. Some believe vampires are responsible, but Jon Barnett knows it's something far worse. To stop the killers in Taurin Bay, he becomes enmeshed in a web of black magic and realizes he needs help. But fate gives him only one choice in the form of recluse Madeline Smith.

Madeline Smith has retreated to an isolated farmhouse, afraid of the psychic abilities she can't control-abilities that have killed. But when "ghost" Jon Barnett brings a warning of danger and her nephew disappears, Maddie has to leave her haven. She also has to learn to control the abilities she fears and place her trust in Jon Barnett, a man who is neither human nor ghost.

But as the search for the teenagers becomes a race against time, and the noose of sorcery threatens to kill Maddie and Jon, the greatest danger to them both could be the feelings they have for each other-feelings that they refuse to acknowledge.

2) "Deep Kiss of Winter" by Kresley Cole & Gena Walter: Murdoch Wroth will stop at nothing to claim Daniela the Ice Maiden -- the delicate Valkyrie who makes his heart beat for the first time in three hundred years. Yet the exquisite Danii is part ice fey, and her freezing skin can't be touched by anyone but her own kind without inflicting pain beyond measure. Soon desperate for closeness, in an agony of frustration, Murdoch and Danii will do anything to have each other. Together, can they find the key that will finally allow them to slake the overwhelming desire burning between them?

Aleaha Love can be anyone -- literally. With only skin-to-skin contact, she can change her appearance, assume any identity. Her newest identity switch has made her an AIR (alien investigation and removal) agent and sends her on a mission to capture a group of otherworldly warriors. Only she becomes the captured. Breean, a golden-skinned commander known for his iron will who is at once dangerous and soul-shatteringly seductive, threatens her new life. Because for the first time, Aleaha only wants to be herself....

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The next package is from Mercury Retrograde Pres, with whom things haven't out for the better last time, but let's try with a different title and see what happens this time.

1) "Secrest of the Sands" by Leona Wisoker: When Cafad Scratha was a child, someone murdered his entire family. People have questioned his sanity ever since.

As the last Scratha, he's dedicated his life to catching the murderers. Now a desert lord, one of the mysterious elite of the southlands, he stands above every mundane political imperative and rule of courtesy--or so it seems until the king of the northlands tries to bring Scratha to heel. Scratha's bizarre reaction throws the independent southlands into chaos: he hands temporary control of his family lands over to the king, takes on an assumed name, and sneaks out of the city.

The king sends Alyea, a young noblewoman, to hold the ceded prize: but while she understands kingdom politics, she's quickly out of her depth in the byzantine world of the southlands. What she thought was a quick ticket to power turns out to be a dangerous assignment that may well lead her to a literal dead end.

Just as trapped is Idisio, the orphaned street-thief sent by a chance encounter into Scratha's service. As his new and throughly unstable master goes undercover, Idisio finds himself drawn into the mysterious world of the desert lords and their secrets. Idisio's growing comprehension of the world he's stepped into doesn't just change his beliefs; it leads him to an unsuspected truth about himself that will change his life forever.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"After Dark" by Haruki Murakami

This is an entry for the Japanese Reading Challenge. Haruki Murakami’s taken over the world or so it seems, because whenever I turn my head away from speculative fiction I hear only the best possible things about his works from both fellow book addicts and critical venues. He’s been highly recommended and his work’s been translated in god knows how many languages, I decided to test the waters and the first dip with the tip of my fingers was “After Dark”.

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To be quite honest I found it hard to switch gears and read something so tranquil, muted in voice and in prose, after being submerged in speculative fiction for so long, where adventures spread with dangers, caped in great analogies, metaphors and comparisons. To read paragraph after paragraph about what sort of objects a room is fashioned with in a matter-of-fact manner was something that slowed my reading speed.

I’m a Coelho reader and I’ve gotten used to sparse prose that instead is rich in meaning, so it took little to adjust. If I dare say I think that Murakami is the Japanese answer to Coelho, the same way manga is the Japanese answer to comic books. Both authors have Spartan writing styles, but with every story told your soul gains a new nuance, which is very rare indeed.

“After Dark” follows several protagonists: how they spend their nights, why they’re awake, which illuminates their inner worlds and projects them to the readers without anything to hinder this. Mari Asai is a quiet girl, who wanders from establishment to establishment and reads her heavy book, not wanting to return home. Takahashi is a law student and trombone player, who is spending his last night playing in order to ground himself to reality. Kaoru is a former female pro-wrestler now a love hotel owner with kind heart and a strong sense for justice. Eri Asai, Mari’s sister, is sleeping, but is being watched by someone not quite from this world.

Ordinary, but diverse stories spin, complicate and reveal what can only the night hold as a stage for life’s machinations.

“After Dark” is quite the short novel, but that doesn’t stop it from being quite meaningful. It’s a novel about isolation, about people that are alone in one way or another and through their interaction I saw how the world is in fact such a small place, where everyone is connected to everybody else through different people. Complete strangers cross paths, but as readers we’re well informed that these people share cause-effect relations that shape their night. In this sense society is a breathing organism shaped by the interactions of people and the ripple the individual actions cause. You are alone, abandoned or a runaway from contact, from your life, and yet one decision made by you shifts the whole night for quite a few people.

What made this even more a pleasurable read was the flirtation with surrealism, the liquid transition from one narrative character to another, including the introduction of new narrators and the obvious voyeuristic touches. I have never been ordered by the author to become a presence and spy from above and different angles what happens in a novel. It was new and so pleasurable to be included directly into the story as a silent protagonist, who is nothing more than a voyeur. At first glance there is nothing that interesting happening. You’re just watching people live their lives, but just as eavesdropping swallows us in, being a silent shadow amidst someone else’s life and observing the intimacy that the darkest night can inspire is addicting.

“After Dark” certainly has made me become a Murakami reader and I mean what is there not to love. There are likeable characters, which peak your curiosity, meaningful prose and such a wonderful use for popular culture and music as a certain font, setting a mental soundtrack to further heighten the experience and also proving how erudite and how rich Murakami’s inner culture is.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

UNREVIEW: "There was a Crooked Man" by Edward Morris



Sadly I have another unreview post from up my sleeve. “There was a Crooked Man” by Edward Morris is perhaps the work with most fail starts that I have attempted in order to get into it, because after all 100 pages can be managed in a day and it would be quite the shame to lift my hands from an interesting concept like that. I mean time traveling warrior to wreak havoc upon history after the Armageddon. What’s not to like.

However with 6 attempts to try and get into the fabric, the narrative and the flow, proved unfruitful. To me it seemed that the author here expected me to have pre-knowledge about his story and vision and didn’t take the time to slow down and make proper explanations, but hopped around instead developing his concept.

Where am I?

I hope that you are wondering why I haven’t been updating reviews [tell me you are for the sake of my undernourished ego] and I’ll tell you so without any more attention whore gags.

First I have been in a review non-writing funk. The writer in me as in the fiction writer has demanded some spotlight time and my review writing persona has announced that it shall only read for the time being, but I am whipping him into submitting to my will and new reviews ought to pop up soon.

In the mean time enjoy me at these places:

1. I’ve been given a free book by Ana in exchange for a review. I accepted the deal and ended up with the most emotional conflict-inducing novel of all time. I’m speaking of Kenyon’s “Born of Night”. It drove me insane in the good and the bad way and I think the review is quite funny from what I usually write.

2. I was also invited by esteemed colleague John Ottinger to guest post, while he’s away with his family on a trip. I was intrigued by the topic of genres, so I posed the question: “Are We Post-Genre?”. In the end I hope it is an engaging read, if not much a cause for wide discussion among people.

PS: While I am at it, I will be making a re-appearance over at the Smugglers in the last week of their celebration month called "Smugglivius". After that I plan on usurping a spot on their site as well, because I am an attention whore. But first I shall dazzle and charm them with my Eastern European good-natured-ness.
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