Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Rogue" By Rachel Vincent

Author: Rachel Vincent
Title: "Rogue"
Pages: 400
Publisher: Mira Books

Rachel Vincent is one of the more recognized names in the urban fantasy community, although so far she had only one book in print, two right now but that is beside the point. The reason I give for her somewhat immediate plunge to stardom and bestseller lists lie on her idea to use big black cats instead of wolves as shapeshifters in her world. With one of the few strong heroines, who actually have coverage for their badass behavior, it was no wonder that Rachel Vincent has come and plans to stay.

"Rogue" follows the life of Faythe Sanders after she has returned to her Pride in Texas. Her stay is involuntary, being forced by her father to serve her Pride for three years before she could earn her freedom. However she does feel the perks of it working as the only female enforcer ever, monitoring the borders and getting rid off stray cats, who have no business in her Pride's territory. Everything starts off blissfully enough. Faythe is content with her life and relationship with Marc, her long time lover, but when a series of murdered tom cats start appearing out of nowhere every second matters and peace is a very abstract and far away concept. Parallel to this unnerving commotion in the werecat community, humanity takes notice of a strand of missing stripers. The disappearances overlap with the locations the dead toms were found and a frightening pattern is established. There are two criminals on the loose and one is after the other.

[Due to some spoiler alert, I would try to convey as less as possible from the plot, but whatever is revealed I urge for people, who would like to enjoy these discoveries of their own to skip as much as possible.]

Responsible for the death of the werecats appears to be a mysterious tabby, which elevates the situation at hand to a new level of complicated. Tabbies aka female werecats are a rarity among werecats and thus are handled as if made of glass. Having a tabby committing several capital crimes sets a dilemma, which only heightens the excitement of reading the novel. As far as the stripper kidnapper goes there are some unsettling revelations, which date pack to the first novel from the series “Stray”. Old villains resurface with a brand new weapon in the face of Andrew, Faythe’s human boyfriend.

This novel is a success in pretty much every way imaginable. I was curious to know what will Faythe get herself into, because after “Stray” there wasn’t much plot to hold on to. Most paranormal series have characters with a job, which can act as a plot finder. Faythe has still to finish college. Others use an arch villain in a grand good vs. evil battle; “Stray” ended quite definite although that was not entirely the case. In using the thinned tolerance towards about territory, the controversial regarding of female werecats and judicial system of the Pride Council Rachel Vincent draws the plot. Solely using world building as to move characters and tell new stories has yet to occur often.

Small details barely mentioned in “Stray” and “Rogue” sew together both books tightly. Both stories melt together in one rounded experience for Faythe. The wholeness and interconnection of what was and what is happening in both titles contribute to the pleasurable experience of reading Rachel Vincent. The three month silence period from Luiz, villain one from book one, happens to be the period to nurture Andrew through scratch-fever. This same Andrew we left with a cold in the first book. I rediscovered how such buried bits and pieces spring back to life to kick my head. This I call the Why-the-heck-didn’t-I-think-of-that effect, where the answers lay in front of you and yet you stomp through. In this regard Miss Vincent has utilized techniques, which would fit perfectly in a mystery novel ala Agatha Christie.

The prose involved is certainly another aspect I enjoy greatly as Rachel knows how to write a fighting scene and is the mistress to explain how pain can feel, spread and disable the body of its functions. Hand to hand combat hasn’t been depicted as clearly as in the Rachel Vincent novels and it’s diverse and entertaining at the same time. This I think is hard to pull off, since I have had my share of writing some fighting scenes and you have to admire the perfectionism in getting everything right to the very last comma. Plus I think the balance between what goes inside the character’s head and what he is doing or enduring is equally hard to pull, but effortlessly demonstrated.

However I could have been more satisfied, if Faythe hadn’t been a tad too stubborn in her relationship with Marc. I like Faythe’s hard character usually, because it’s totally explained. Living with almost only men, tends to give you a testosterone rush, which explains Faythe being a tomboy. She is rough around the edges and it feels natural, a quality most authors can’t quite deliver to their heroines and urban fantasy can’t suffer more. But, there is that word, when it came to make and making a commitment, her love and feelings would have prompted her to take the risk, which would make her character fuller instead of going in a rut about no strings attached. I perfectly understand that Rachel needs some base for further material on their relationship for the next installments, so the newly created rift is like a gold mine. My opinion on the matter would be to take the step further and see how she deals with the attached strings. Later when disaster strikes and a new rift opens, I would like to see the new problems, which in my opinion would be an even bigger gold mine. Of course this is just a minor glitch, which shouldn’t spoil “Rogue” too much.

And I want to synchronize this post with the official giveaway of “Rogue” by Rachel Vincent. I know I won this off in a giveaway and it doesn’t seem as the most moral thing ever, but I have almost to none space at home to herd all my books. Besides the copy is almost new, spend in my hands only three days, so I hope you won’t lynch and crucify me. I bet all you have read used books *points at the library*.

So let’s start the party with some party rules and they do not involve not eating snacks on the good couch.

1) You can either comment here on this post or write me a nice e-mail at likenion(at)gmail(dot)com with subject title “Giveaway – Rogue”.

2) You have only one entry per person and people schizophrenia is no excuse to enter more time. My head is crowded too most of the time, but I resist the temptation.

3) This time I am expanding the period for entering till August the 31th. Yes, a whole month to enter. I am doing this mainly because I want to see how many different people will read this and because I love to make numbered lists.

4) Mark the end date on your calendar and then dash to send me your mailing address, if you win, because if you snooze you loose and Faythe will kick ass in somebody else’s hands.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

"Witchember" by John Lawson

Author: John Lawson
Title: "Witchember"
Pages: 489
Publisher: Publish America

“Witchember” started an interesting dilemma inside me right from the request for a review, when John Lawson asked me for a review. Checking him out I discovered that he is an independent author, who used Publish America to go out on the market and this was when the reader met the consumer. As a reviewer I aimed for big publishing houses, which had the best titles, the shiniest covers and so on. When I consulted the reader in me, I knew he demanded good literature and it came in different shapes and sizes. Contrary to most beliefs that self published works are rubbish, I was pleasantly surprised by what John Lawson has written.

To try and classify what genre this is, I would suggest you take the typical Tolkienesque world and strip it from the beauty, nobility and valiance. The timeline is set somewhere at the end and after the Middle Ages, since the world has gunpowder and riffles, but blades still rule. You take the diversity of Greek Mythology and its wonders and mix it with all the “Saw” movies. To finish off enter any anime’s massive proportions of combat and you have “Witchember”.

Quite frankly I have never read a novel, which is so incredibly cruel to its characters and this I find refreshing. You have a world in war with monsters and amongst themselves. The cultures are harsh and if you want to live, then you must play by the rules. Kill or get killed. Esmeree is our guide in this world and we follow her path from early childhood, when she is a fry and has to earn enough money to secure her stay at the mill. This includes stealing, begging and I think it has been hinted enough that sex with children wasn’t a taboo on the streets of Cliffs Reach. Unlike most children with the same fate as hers, she manages to survive, mainly because she is a stone summoner, possessing an ember, which gives her magic. Becoming the new Mill’s leader apprentice, another witch, lady Andelizza, she excels in magic and gain stature and respect in the guild. Her studying with the beggar Myrdd grants her immense knowledge of the world around her, which comes quite handy later on.

This is all for starters. All before her eighteenth year she becomes a powerful witch, an elite prostitute, a skilled swordswoman, a head hunter for other mages, a miracle worker and a cofounder of an independent guild, haven for outcasts. Nothing comes easy though. Every small victory comes at the expense of the lives of her friends and her inability to save them in time. Death follows her likes a shadow, for all around her and herself as well. Every twenty pages or so, Esmeree has to dodge yet another blade or the claws of another beast.

This seemed surreal for me. For more reasons than one. Teens never acted like grownups in these books. They never seemed so mature. They always had to come of age. The main theme of most of the medieval fantasy books. They were never ruthless or could fight. Then came the reminder. In history children were being married at 13 or less. Spartans taught their children how to fight from the cradle and the harshness of all preindustrial ages forced children to be adults. Our own history background made everything all the more believable. And I even explained why the narrative constantly switched from erudite to harsh and primal. Considering Esmeree is a child of the street explains the crude sailor vocabulary and world view. Then comes the education provided by Myrdd and we have perfectly sound duality. Even if at times it’s annoying, the story provides an explanation as to why.

“Witchember” grabs from the start and never lets go. Apart from the action that never seems to stop, the novel occupies our minds with the masterfully created world with its countless religions, theories about gods and magic, types of warriors, lore, military strategies, politics and rich history. In my short experience with literature I have yet to encounter world building, which could rival Tolkien in originality and tone. The world of the Seven Kingdoms might sound a bit cliché, but it has more flare and wonder than most worlds ever created. The occult is never really full without the magical beasts and we have skin stealing nightwalkers; kobolds; griffins; half human half bird raaks, who use children mutilated children as their speaker and live in a dimension made of intestines; forest realms filled with sentient humanoid plant elves called alfs and so on.

This novel is one of the grandest projects I have ever seen, but it has its down sides as well. For starters this is a first novel for the author and we all know how debuts novels seem to not flow so well. There were times, where the author was indecisive in his scenes and then some of the scenarios felt rushed and not totally explored. Mainly around Esmeree’s interaction with the minor characters. We see way less of her relationships with them as to later feel her anguish, when she loses them. Another two hundred pages or so would have contributed to the greater effect of the novel. The use of thought up words also strained my nerves as I had the e-book version and scrolling up and down from the page I was to the glossary was more than irritating.

But apart from these issues, which most of the time fall in the background, “Witchember” has something, which sets it apart from all the rest, although I can’t pinpoint it. It’s violence, sex and gritty. The life of those, who are left without choices, is showed without the slightest idea to reveal the spark of goodness and moral in human beings. It aims to show how people can live with selling themselves to anyone in more ways than one and be contempt to live with their choices… well most of the time.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cover Art, Reviews and all that Jazz

I looked through my mail yesterday evening and I received the first ever Rachel Vincent newsletter and with it I saw the cover art for her third werecat novel Pride. Drool with me and read the adrenaline pumping back cover blurb. Damn it I don’t want to wait till 2009.

Here’s hoping cats do have nine lives

I’m on trial for my life. Accused of infecting my human ex-boyfriend–and killing him to cover up the crime. I’m not guilty. But tell that to the panel of Alphas sitting in judgment. Infecting a human is one of three capital offenses recognized by the Pride–along with murder and disclosure of our existence to a human.

I’m two for three. A goner

On top of that, Marc is in danger of being tossed from the Pride, and we’ve discovered a rogue stray terrorizing the mountainside, hunting a wild teenage tabbycat. I think I can protect her from both the ambitious rogue and the scheming of the territorial countil.

If I survive my own trial…

Of course here are the dreaded release dates in the far future:

Pride - February 1st, 2009

Prey - July 1, 2009

More from Rachel Vincent is to be expected as our full time writing UF kickass princess has prepared a new exciting YA series abouta a teenage age banshee. The series itself remains nameless, but the first books “My Soul to Take” and “My Soul to Save” are written and are waiting for the Fall of 2009, when they will run alongside with the werecat series.

Now to move to the next topic. How looney are you about shifters? When was the last time you encountered a good shape shifting article. Well I am giving you a treat with a great blog post from Teresa D’Amario about Shifters and Demons: The New Black?, while Michele Hauf raises the question about Non-Animal Shifters.

Kimberley shoots out fantastic review like a machine gun and I can’t keep up at all with her. I wonder how she manages to read that much. I bet she is a vampire and simply reads 100% straight through the 24 hours. Here is just a sample of the titles commented.

1) “Seaborn” by Chris Howard

2) “Death’s Half Acre” by Margaret Maron

3) “First Blood” - Anthology

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"Down to a Sunless Sea" by Mathias B. Freese

Author: Mathias B. Freese
Title: "Down to a Sunless Sea"
Pages: 134
Publisher: Wheatmark

This this post will a little bit different from what you would usually expect as the novel featured is a short story anthology, which has nothing to do with fantasy or sci-fi as it literary fiction. I usually rarely happen to grab anything in the genre, due to my still forming view of life and still developing tastes. However when asked I can't refuse, it's one good book more.

“Down to a Sunless Sea” by Mathias B. Freese is one of those short novels that you would normally think are simply another short bunch of pages, which once you have read can boast about reading literary fiction. However experience has taught me that the shortest novels are usually the hardest to finish; the ones that leave the deepest impressions; the ones shrouded in enough mystery to leave you thinking. “Down to a Sunless Sea” is an anthology of this caliber.

With 15 short stories this book barely gathers any weight with its 134 pages and yet I had the hardest time finishing. The complex of intertwining motives going deep down in the human psyche, further than I can say I have knowledge of. By being requested to review this book I think I have been given a far greater responsibility than I could have imagined as I myself couldn’t really grasp the full scope of Freese’s stories. In its essence each story digs down in the corpse of the human mind, the rotting part of unhappiness, isolation and wickedness we burry deep down inside and hope that nobody notices the foul stench, which emanates from within. Because each and one of us no matter how much we smile, laugh and joke are hollow, cold and damaged one way or another; shut out from human affection; broken by social reality or twisted and dehumanized by another human.

Mathias B. Freese illuminates these aspects, which nobody wants to see, through a wide spectrum of characters of different ages and social status. Although not gender diverse with a stronger presence of the male psyche, the reader is offered the insight about the world through the eyes of children, youths and grown men.

As the age varies, the style frequently changes from the elegant and eloquent narrative such as in “Down to a Sunless Sea”, the titling short story about growing up in a dysfunctional American family and the effects it had on the story teller’s mind. Then we have the linguistic primitivism devout of grammar and spelling in “Nicholas”, where the narrator argues about the value of achieving academic heights, when the world is made for those, who can live by the labor they do with their hands.

Drama is the core of each tale; the atmosphere soaked with melancholy and desperation; the scent of decay and slow death emanate from each spirit. From the tragic life of a crippled and disfigured young man, who has named his disfigured leg Lon, his arm Ralph, his penis David and his stuttering self Shmuck, in “I’ll make it, I think”; to the mental deformity of the narrator in “Juan Peron’s Hands”, who cut off the hands of a buried mobster, we meet outcasts.

If I am to fully explain the gravity laid in the core in each and every story, O would most certainly have to write a book perhaps even longer than the anthology actually. It is an experience a reader should experience alone and intimately; hidden and yet undressed from all pretence; soul to pages.

However I want to provide some quotes from the stories that really left an impact on me.

“How can you ever frighten anyone, Mama?”
“Sometimes, child, I feel that I am living someone else’s life.”

(From “Alabaster”, the musings of an old woman survived the second war as a survivor from a concentration camp.)

“Why did you call me shit?”
“You ruined my pants.”
If he could only bite him again, draw blood, he mused, looking at his father’s other leg…

(From “Herbie”, the meltdown of a young boy, mistreated by his father, whose life is devout of kindness and is compared to shit.)

He had promised to teach me. He reneged cruelly on that. Sink or swim.
Or die as we will see.
What was even more devastating was that he did not come after me.
One would imagine a father would retrieve his child. He did not.

(From “Unanswerable” a somewhat philosophical narrative about the human nature and habits of dehumanizing each other, developed on the base of a child hood memory.)

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Linked News Broadcast

It's high time I get cracking on the other side of the whole publishing industry aka the wonderful linked news of whatever you like. So let's see what's cooking these days in the urban fantasy land, my primary passion right now.

1) MentatJack is hasting a giveaway and his prize is the two Marla Mason books by T.A Pratt. Hurry up and sign, because you have until July 25th to enter. I know I entered and hope to get my greedy hands on them. So fire up and drown that blog with entries.

2) [This little bit I learned from my friend's blog Fantasy Book Critic] Debute novelist Suzanne McLeod, whose book "The Sweet Taste of Blood" will be released at September 25th 2008, sure is lucky, since her debut will be translated in German. Germany has to thank Krystyna Kujawinska, Foreign Rights Director at Orion. Click here to learn more from Robert about the deal and the "The Sweet Taste of Blood".

3) Kimberley at Darque Reviews is on a review frenzy with titles reviewed like "Nightwalker" by Jocelyn Drake, "Cry Wolf" by Patricia Briggs, "Gale Force" by Rachel Caine and the comic book version of "First Death" by Laurell K. Hamilton.

4) Gena Showalter speaks about her first publishing experiences at Dear Author, which involved a lot of shouting in various ways and for various occassions. Just check what this modern dive of the writing world has to say for her path HERE.

5) Rachel Vincent hosts her own interview right down at her blog with the newest Urban Fantasy writer aka Jocelynn Drake. Come right down and check it out!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Interrogate the Author: Starring Rachel Vincent as the Interviewee

After much torture and moaning and psychological damage I inflicted on poor Rachel Vincent, unintentionally of course, I got the dream interview with my urban fantasy icon. Here is what she dropped in. I promise that next time I will squeeze her out even more, just wait until her newest project arrives. *Evil Grin*

1. Hello Rachel and thank you so much for fitting this interview in your schedule. I’m really thrilled about this interview as you have been the reason to start blogging in the first place and getting to love UF and somewhat get a glimpse in the writer community. I did some background check up and it seems that you have had a very dynamic childhood. How did you find living in so many different parts of the US and why did your family move so much?

Um, I liked most of our moves. They were each a chance to try something new. A new house or apartment, a new school, new potential friends. But of course, I missed the old one. As for why we moved, I’m not sure. We settled in one town the year I was ten, so most of the moves were before that. My parents got divorced, remarried, found new jobs, needed a change. Lots of reasons, I guess. ;-)

2. So as we all know, writers usually get this bang on the head by an invisible epiphany and suddenly from ordinary human beings we all get the strange notion to start creative writing. When did your epiphany bang you and how did that happen? I mean it could have been either a novel or an actual hit in the heat. Details are usually wanted here.

I didn’t really have that epiphany. I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first short story when I was five, and wrote all the way through school. I took about a five-year hiatus from writing after college, while I tried out the “real” world, but after that, I dug into it with renewed enthusiasm, and haven’t looked back since.

3. Reading your short bio I came across a sentence, which mentions your college years and I had to wonder. What did you study?

I have a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a concentration on literature. Even most of my electives were extra lit classes. Though I also took an interest in Philosophy, Women’s Studies, and French.

4. That same paragraph mentions you dabbled with short fiction at that time as well and since I do dabble with that one as well I am curious to know what you exactly wrote about. Did Urban Fantasy always ruled your artistic heart from the first story you have ever written or have you been influenced by a popular at the time genre? Stephen King is in question here, since you seem to be his fan.

Um, actually, none of my pre-published writing is in urban fantasy. They were contemporary short fiction pieces, mostly about people who were whatever age I was at the time. One that sticks out from high school was a story I wrote about a bunch of strangers on a bus. The bus had an accident and rolled down an embankment, leaving the survivors to get to know each other—including the requisite Deep Dark Secrets—while they wait to be discovered. Of course, since I can’t seem to write anything without blood and death, only one passenger survived in the end, after seeing all her new friends die off one at a time, waiting in vain for rescue. ;-)

5. You also mention that “Stray” started out as a short story and then became a novel. Was the transition hard and why did Faythe made such an impression that you decided to tell her story more fully?

No, the transition wasn’t really hard. It just sort of happened. Faythe’s tale began as a short-story tie-in to the two previous (unpublished) novels I’d written. I was hoping to break into publishing in the short-story market. But her tale didn’t end after a few thousand words, and eventually I realized I had the beginnings of another novel. So I kept writing. I ended up making a clean break between her world and that of the original two novels, and I knew I had something good. Or at least something with real potential… ;-)

6. Speaking of Faythe (I seriously can’t stop snickering, cause I love her) isn’t she too powerful and assure of herself for her own good? I mean her stubbornness left quite an imprint in my mind and even though I knew she was acting immature her motives were steel solid. Good job about that one. So will we see a Faythe that is a bit more wise and patient?

Do I think she’s too powerful and sure of herself? No, not really. Physically, she’s not as strong as her fellow enforcers, and there’s nothing she can do about that. And she’s less and less sure of herself with each mistake she makes. But because of that, she’s growing and maturing with each novel, and I’m having fun watching her transition. I hope everyone else enjoys it too. ;-)

7. Now let’s go on to the world at hand. I personally am not a great fan of that kind of shapeshifters, since werewolves over flooded the media. Count me as a massive scale guy like woman growing to be a dragon or so, but I fell in love with yours. Why did you choose feline shape shifters and why did you made them solely black panthers? I would have liked to see lions and tigers, but the author knows best and I wanna know the logic.

I chose cats because I’m a cat person. I like puppies as much as the next person, but I tend to lose interest in dogs when they grow up. But I love cats. They’re graceful, and strong, and stubborn, and they definitely know their own minds. Just like Faythe.

As for why they’re all black, I don’t know. They just kind of came out like that, and I ended up tying their physical description into lots of actual sightings of black cats, everywhere from the southern US to Europe. This gave me a chance to try and explain those sightings, by making up my own species. Whereas I would have had a hard time explaining lion and tiger sightings in Texas. They’re not even native to this continent.

But if you’re looking for other cat species, like tigers and lions, I think there are several other writers out there who write those kinds of books… ;-)

8. Another reason to ask that question why big feline shapeshifters is because I know for a fact from your blog that you are scared to death from big cats. Normally I would be scared too, if the distance between one and myself were less than a meter and I had no chainsaw. Isn’t this a bit of an oxymoron?

Oh, maybe. ;-) It’s also a way to face my fears. I’m also terrified by tornadoes, but I live in Oklahoma, which sees more tornadoes every year than any other state in the US. What can I say? I’m a woman of many contrasts. ;-)

9. Now to continue with the big cats I would like to ask how the hell researched them so well that you would know how your characters move, how they react in their cat forms and well have such a well developed society. You must have watched days’ worth of Discovery Channel movies.

I did! I watched Animal Planet, and the National Geographic channel. I read articles on feline anatomy, behavior, and instinct. I studied the cats at my local zoo, and scoured the internet for clips of the various sounds they make. I also studied the cats in person, at an animal rescue organization in Tulsa.

And, of course, I watch my own house cats. Some of my Shifters’ features and abilities come from house cats, rather than big cats. Like their vertical pupils, and ability to purr. ;-)

10. So far in your world we only see these shapeshifters and many UF novels I read feature some sort of other beings. Jeaniene Frost adds some ghouls to spice things up, Karen Chance does the same with ghosts, while Vicki Pettersson adds the mysterious Tulpa. Do you plan to introduce something paranormal-y into the good mix?

Not in this series, no. In my Shifters series we’ll see only humans, werecats, bruins, and thunderbirds. There were werewolves once, but they went extinct.

However, I have a new (young adult) series coming out next fall, and in that, we’ll see a whole host of beings, most of which I made up from a combination of “creature” characteristics I wanted to use. The main character of that series is a banshee, and I can’t wait to introduce the world to my take on her species… ;-)

11. Okay, it’s a new round in our interview called “Play Psychic” and it will discuss your future. Now let’s start with something you do know about. ”Rogue” hits the bookstores in just about a week and what can the readers that love Faythe expect?

Well, since I’m answering these questions late, some people will already have read Rogue. But in case they haven’t, readers can expect to see a more mature Faythe dealing with the consequences of past mistakes, while hunting for a rogue in their territory.

As for Pride, the third installment in my Shifters series, we’ll be seeing the outcome and fallout from her trial, and we’ll also be introduced to a couple of new characters, at least one of whom will have a permanent effect on her life and her outlook.

12. I somehow missed the exact details about the length of your series. If I had to rely on my rusty memory it’s around five or six, but you can say with total accuracy. For how many books will we enjoy Faythe kicking ass?

Faythe will have six books, all of which are already under contract with Mira books. The first two (Stray and Rogue) are available now. Pride will be out February 1st, 2009, to be followed by Prey on July 1st, 2009. I’ll be writing book five early next year.

13. When her story eventually ends as with all good things happen, have you prepared something that will blow our minds? So any future plans?

Well, I have my young adult series coming out next fall, and it will run concurrently with my Shifter books. And I have the first book in a third urban fantasy series ready to go. Whenever I find the time… ;-)

14. I know by reading your blog that you have a side project that is titled as “Side Project”. How much aside does it stand from your world and what does it explore?

“Side Project” sold this past spring, so it now has a title! It is a young adult novel called MY SOUL TO TAKE. It does not overlap with my Shifters’ world, and contains no animal shapeshifters. It has lighter violence and sexual content, and is appropriate for readers fourteen and up. Though I think it will also hold appeal for adults. The second in the series is half-written, and is called MY SOUL TO SAVE. I’ll be writing the third one this fall.

15. I’m sure that success lies, where your work appears and in this one it counts in which country Faythe will be saying her punch lines. Has your agent scored you some foreign rights and if you could wink and get a contract for any country what would you choose? Also as an extension of the question would you like to see Faythe on the big screen doing what she does best, surviving barely?

Um, I sold foreign rights to my US publisher, which means that Mira Books will shop those rights for me. I believe that the werecat books will be out in Australia next year, but I don’t have any information beyond that. As for where I’d like to see the books? Europe, definitely. I get a lot of mail from people in Western Europe, asking how they can get a hold of my books, and other than ordering from Amazon, I don’t know what to tell them.

Would I like to see Faythe on the big screen? Of course! But mostly because that would widen the potential audience for the books. ;-)

16. Do you outline or write straight from the heart and see what happens later on?

I outline straight from the heart. ;-) Every book I’ve written since Stray I’ve outlined in advance, because my publisher requires me to hand in a synopsis. At first, that was pretty hard, but now I’m really happy to do it. Having the plot outlined in advance allows me to write the rough draft very quickly.

17. Does writing pay the bills or do you have to drag yourself somewhere at 8pm and do what other mortals do aka waste brain cells at a hell hole for green paper?

I feel very fortunate in that writing pays my bills. It is my full time job, and I love it. I hope to still be doing this twenty years from now. ;-)

18. Now for a grand finale. How do you feel being interrogated by a foreigner, not yet fully stepped into legal adulthood, who speaks English as a second language?

Actually, I’m really impressed! I didn’t realize you were so young, and I only wish I had such a wonderful command of a foreign language. So, congratulations, and keep working! I have no doubt you’ll get wherever you want to go with that kind of hard work. ;-)

And this was Rachel Vincent, cool as always! If you would like to become a fan start with:
1) Rachel Vincent's Website

2) Rachel Vincent's Blog

3) "Stray" by Rachel Vincent

4) "Rogue" by Rachel Vincent

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Interrogate the Author: Starring Author Justin Gustaninis as the Interviewee

1. Hello, Mr. Gustainis and welcome to yet another marvelous edition of “Interrogate the Author” with me, the charming host, Harry Markov. I wish to thank you yet again for your consent to sit on my fabled virtual chair. Now to warm up for the main event, how has “Black Magic Woman” been faring on the urban fantasy scene?

The book seems to have gained a lot of fans among urban fantasy readers – and reviewers, too, I’m happy to say. Although a few people have taken me to task for “violating” the contemporary urban fantasy conventions of a female protagonist and first-person narration, most have found the change refreshing.

2. It’s a tradition of mine to ask authors, when they felt the first aspirations to grab their feathers, pens or keyboards and start that novel. When did the writer’s muse hit you up on the head with the epiphany that you could be writing for a living?

I’m happy to talk about the start of my writing, but I don’t write for a living. My understanding is that most people who write (and publish) novels don’t make enough from them to support a family. A few get rich, a slightly larger number make a decent living. Most (like me) have day jobs (I’m a college professor), and others have a spouse with a day job. The cost of health insurance along probably necessitates such an arrangement.

I started writing in the mid-1990s. At first, my main goal was to take my mind off some serious personal problems I was going through. I found that, once I “got into” my writing, hours would pass when I wouldn’t think about anybody’s troubles but my characters.’

But, the writing-as-therapy grew into a novel, and five years later, it was a published novel. Four years after that, I had a second one published. But it looks like the pace is going to pick up, since I now have a contract with Solaris Books for a series of “Quincey Morris” novels.

3. You’d better. I can’t wait for the next one. As I read your biography I have to wonder about that interesting period, when you served in the army as lieutenant. Did you enjoy those years and during that time have you ever thought of a career in the US army? And a third question by nosy me, have you ever thought of writing a military themed novel with all the quirks?

The answer to the first two questions is “no,” or rather “Hell, no.” The reason for both is the same: the military sent me to a place where little people in black pajamas kept trying to kill me. They almost succeeded.

And I don’t think the military, now that I’m out of it, interests me enough to write a novel about it. In fact, those days are something I try to forget, with varying degrees of success.

4. Of course I also wonder how jobs like speechwriter and bodyguard can influence your view of the world and thus influence your writer. Have any of your experiences of those two jobs started a story that wishes to be told or maybe show a different angle of the world available only through those eyes? And as the cherry, who did you get to guard? Perhaps the president?

We are all products of our experience, and those of us who write cannot help but have our writing influenced by what has occurred in the past. But as for specific story ideas: no. I can’t say that either of those jobs has directly given me an idea for a story, but some of the things I learned (and did) have found their way into my writing.

And I’m glad to say that the President, at any given time, has people guarding him who are far braver and more capable then I: the U.S. Secret Service.

5. Now let’s move on the writing questions. How exactly did you come up with the idea of “Black Magic Woman” and the Quincy Morris Supernatural Investigation series?

It’s hard to say. I think the idea for the plot (a vendetta between witches, “white” and “black” that goes back to the Salem trials) came to me first. Later, I thought of Quincey as a character. I’ve always thought that Quincey Morris was a slighted character in the original novel “Dracula”. But Stoker killed him off, so there wasn’t a lot I could do. But I could give him descendants – and I did.

6. So why not vampires? I love your concept and the novel, but it seems the urban fantasy genre is rules by either vampires or shape-shifters. What made you stray from the trend?

There are a number of vampires who meet their fate in chapter one, you will recall. And, since BLACK MAGIC WOMAN has witches, demons, zombies and a werewolf, I don’t think most readers feel slighted.

Anyway, I think we’ll see vampires again before Quincey and Libby are done.

7. Of course, you can never ever stake enough vampires. Quincy and Libby are peculiar characters with great depth and interesting enough personalities, also deferring from what we generally see in the genre. Was it hard to invent them as they are in the book and did you use actual people you know to model them?

Quincey Morris is an amalgam of three men I know, one of whom is a Texan. Or to put it another way, Quincey is the man I would like to be – give or take the vampires and werewolves.

Libby Chastain is based, loosely, on a remarkable woman I know. She saved my life, once. More than that, I cannot say.

8. No more asked about that one. In the novel the readers can see what an interesting concept of the demons you have. If I recall one was a mutant Teletubby. My question is how the heck that happened and will this quite innovative idea be developed in the following books?

The Teletubbys are evil, Harry. Surely, you already knew that?

9. Yup, I know that. Never go near them without a chainsaw. Did you find it hard to devise the magical system, which is Libby’s tool? It’s not exactly Wicca, but it has its own origins in culture for all I gather. Who helped you or did you rely on google?

Oh, I consulted a couple of witches of my acquaintance. They explained the origin of their magic, and demonstrated to me its power. I’m just glad they’re on our side, if you know what I mean.

10. True. A friend of mine is a witch as well and does she know her stuff. Speaking of witches, I thoroughly enjoyed Christine Abernathy and her witch for hire Cecilia, but I am curious what it took to set them apart as individuals through their spells?

Cecelia’s power is grounded in African “muti” magic, which I did research on the internet. Nasty stuff, that. Christine is more in the European sell-your-soul-to-Satan-in-return-for-magical-powers school.

11. Christine is kicking it old school. Another aspect of why I find your book so great is how you write two parallel stories only to spin around each other until they meld into one. Did you need the special white board with the sticky notes to pull that one off? And if not what is your secret?

I confess, after a while I had to make diagrams of who was where and doing what at any given point, and where they had to go and what they had to do in order to make the story work out the way I wanted. I also used poster board and thumb-tacked index cards. Sticky notes are SO last week. J

12. Innovative now, aren’t we? Now what can we expect in the new Quincy Morris book “Evil Ways”? The cover and titles seem promising enough for a major adrenaline rush.

Actually, Libby and Quincey don’t have a lot to do in this one. Just save the world. No pressure, or anything.

I also introduce a new character: Hannah Widmark, known in some circles as “Widowmaker.” She’s an occult bounty hunter. For a fee, she’ll track down and destroy any supernatural creature you designate – although she’d probably do it for free. Hannah’s got issues.

13. Oh, now I am giddy!! That release date can’t be further away. Another tidbit I find interesting enough to ask is: How do you write? With outlines or do you prefer the spontaneous sessions?

The first two books, THE HADES PROJECT and BLACK MAGIC WOMAN, started with an idea and a character. However, my publisher wanted to see an outline for EVIL WAYS before issuing a contract, so I gave them one. When it came time to write the book, I found it rather confining – so in places, I just ignored it. J

14. Hah, I feel the same way, when it comes to plotting and outlining. I use a hybrid between outlines and spur of the moment. How do you manage to balance writing with your day job as a professor of Communications at Plattsburgh State University and how people perceive you knowing you write urban fantasy?

Oh, it’s not hard at all – as long as I don’t mind not having a life. I go to campus, I teach (and brilliantly, if I may say so myself…), then I go home and I write. From time to time, I eat and sleep. Neither of those last two occasions is as frequent as I would like. Oh, and I think I had sex, once. Or was that something I wrote…?

15. Social life is overrated anyways, duh. Do you ever dream of seeing your novel on the big or silver screen and if you would choose a land and language, you would like to see your work shown, which would it be?

Of course I do – who wouldn’t? I’d even settle for cable TV, and I may even get the chance. There have been some nibbles from the pay-cable network SHOWTIME, but only nibbles so far. If they bite, I’ll be sure and let you know.

16. Now for a grand finale. How did you feel, knowing that you were interviewed by a teen, who speaks English as a second language?

What!? Go, on, you’re kidding me, right?

And that was Justin Gustainis, another victim on my virtual chair for your entertainment. Hope you enjoyed it and if you did there are some things you could do:

A) Go buy “Black Magic Woman” – now, I know you want to.
B) Go visit Justin Gustainis website – for additional info

C) Go read my review of “Black Magic Woman” – I need more visitors, hah!

Monday, July 7, 2008

"The Summoner" by Gail Z. Martin

Author: Gail Z. Martin
Title: "The Summoner"
Pages: 640
Publisher: Solaris Books
Misc: Gail's Blog

We have another first book in a series and a debut as well in a whole different genre than the previous post. I am talking about the ever high fantasy with all its quirks utilized once again. At first I was very ecstatic about this novel, mainly because of the title. Magic got me in this field and magic will it be always. However starting the novel my enthusiasm diminished as I have read the same storyline somewhere else and have seen a great deal about the characters before. Throughout the whole I was left with mixed feelings, because "The Summoner" didn't really bring anything new to the table, but in the end you are left with the satisfaction that you have read a very solid story.

The setting is the land of Winter Kingdoms with an accent on Margolan, where through bloodshed and sorcery the favored king Brycen is killed and his throne is taken by his eldest son Jared, who is one violent and ambitious little prince. Due to witnessing the murder prince Martris Drake, the younger prince and also a latent mage, has to save the kigndom and naturally fled the country with a handful of trustworthy servants. The journey is a harsh drag, especially, when you are being chased by the army of Margolan and the spells of Foor Arontala, a very ambitious blood mage and a vayash moru (aka vampire). Of course along the way the party teams up with the noble youth of Isencroft searching for solutions for the crisis in their lands. These include princess Kiara, the healer Carina and her twin brother Cam. The conclusion of the book leaves them at Principality, one of the twelve kingdoms, to gain strength and an army to fight back Jared.

I didn't really go in detail about the plot as the book is 600 pages and besides spoilers could be mentioned. What I liked about the novel was the worldbuilding and the use of magic, which in fantasy is a very important element at least for me. We have a polytheistic slash monotheistic religion with one entity: The Goddess and her eight aspects, four light and four dark. It's quite the interesting idea, which has roots in some other cultures and mythologies, specifically the Chinese and Japanese, where each god has four aspects: the angry, the generous, the kind and the caring, although the latter three are not exactly different. Magic I found was in good use, although I wished to see a better, more detailed and shaped system of use for magic as in the book we see several disciplines without much background or difference of power, but that is beside the point. Whatever is shown, has been explained well enough for it to work and the role of a necromancer aka the spirit mage aka the summoner in a novel so far I haven't seen. Having a character, who is like a medium times 20 with binding or freeing spells. Alongside this we have artifacts and a secret library with keepers, who know every book in it. Overall this aspect of the novel is especially cool.

What I didn't enjoy that much came in terms of plot and characters. The plot although well developed bore no surprises and that bugged me. We have the noble prince, the pure princess and well we know how that ends and it does. We know that the evil king will do anything to stop them and he does. The party has the typical characters: the distrustful mercenary, noble prince, mentoring sorceress in spirit form, loyal comrades, mistrustful of magic soldiers and a pacifist healer. You wouldn't be surprised by any of their actions and at a certain point in those 600 pages it will bug you.

Overall, I have to say that this is a traditional novel of the genre. It isn't supposed to be innovative, but it's still entertaining. The prose is tight and well executed and at times you feel like magically going from pages 214 to 355. If you truly like high fantasy with all its glory of the golden days, when it ruled the publishing business, then by all means this book will transport you back there. It's a promising debut. Gail Z. Martin is here to stay.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

"Awaken Me Darkly" by Gena Showalter

Author: Gena Showlater
Title: "Awaken Me Darkly"
Pages: 384
Publisher: Downtown Press
Misc: Gena's Blog

So, in order to acknowledge my quirk for chronology I decided to start the whole Alien Huntress series from the start, since I had the first two books anyways and even though that I am supposed to review all the top new titles, I will be indulging myself in everything that can make you go squee, especially if the reader is new on the scene. Before "Savor me Slowly" Gena Showlater didn't ring a bell at all.

Mia Snow is a special agent in the New Chicago Police Department, working in the A.I.R unit (Alien Investigation and Removal). The setting is in the near enough future to have your typical American mentality and yet far enough to see that water has been excluded from showring and that cars don't need steering and that aliens of all kinds have nestled on Earth, but without all the hysteria about it. Given the new circumstances justice, legal justace had to adapt and AIR is what the humans came up with. But enough with the pre-word, let's move on to the plot.

While investigating a new strand of serial murders Mia Snow stumbles into big trouble as what seems like an usual psycho alien on the loose, turns out to be a large scale illegal operation that has a lot more to do with Mia than she actually realizes. In the mix we throw a sexy alien, who is a primal murder suspect, Kyrin en Arr, to whom Mia is very sexually drawn; a hidden scheme; mystical abilities that manifest themselves and leave Mia asking questions. When Dallas, her partner and the only man, who can stand her, lies down with a lethal wound that has him dying slowly, Mia is forced to work with Kyrin behind the back of her boss in order to help Dallas and hep clear Kyrin's name, although she doesn't believe him.

In order to avoid spoilers I will not mention the ending, but be sure that Mia confronts a part of her past, which she hadn't known, but she could have gone without. When it all comes down to her, can she handle the strain and could she remain herself with what she knows? Quite the tease, aren't I? In order to find out, you would have to go read the book and that is what I urge you to do.

I have to admit that being a starter novel, this book definitely had to set the stage, so it wasn't was interested as I had anticipated after reading "Savor Me Slowly". The plot is at first glance not that special, since we have a female cop getting herself into trouble, which the TV is full of. However it's the amazing skill of Gena Showalter to strap a well known plot on the surgery table and give it a new look. What starts simple enough spins out of control like a mutating puzzle with every block sealing Mia's choice to act any other way than she did. Of course we have Mia of course, who I think is tough without being haughty or overestimatuing herself like some heroines in the same genre are. Thus we believe her. When she tells she can make someone's life a living hell we don't snort and wave her off as another emancipated daddy's little girl, although she does have her issues with her father.

As a conclusion I just have to say that this novel is a very promising first novel of a series, which has sky rocketed so far with five titles situated in the same world. You couldn't possibly go wrong with this novel, look at the title.

Friday, July 4, 2008


So the time has come to announce who is lucky enough to get that book aka “Black Magic Woman”. I have been pleasantly surprised by how many people showed the enthusiasm to sign up and just in the borders of a week. Next time I will most certainly make these giveaways run for a bit longer like a month or so like many other people do.

Without further ado I present to you… [drum roll please] DAELITH!

Thank you for participating and please contact me on my e-mail address to give me your coordinates so that I may send you this book. It may take a while, until I get the hang of the post office and considering the fact that I live in Eastern Europe, you would most probably reach retirement age before the package arrives, but still. Oh, and hurry as fast as possible. You have 48 hours until I decide a new winner.

Of course I would like to use this short post to say that I am leaving this world… for two days to my summer villa, where there is no internet. I need to work on my novel project a bit and gain strength to battle the strange case of extreme laziness in writing reviews as I have some to write.

Expect from Monday:
1. Review of “Awaken me Darkly” by Gena Showalter
2. Review of “The Summoner” by Gail Z. Martin
3. Review of “Down to a Sunless Sea” by Mathias B. Freese (which is actually a very short anthology, I plan to read in one day)

And I have in the making several interviews, which hopefully will be aired soon.

Over and Out.

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