Author Archive

CONVENTION ATTENTION: Context27 in Columbus, Ohio

Context27 logoLast month I attended Context27, a small and cozy speculative fiction convention in Columbus, OH. Context is a writers convention, and this year’s guests of honor where Jonathan Maberry and Betsy Mitchell. Other guests included Laura Resnick, Jennifer Brozek, Maurice Broaddus, Jerry Gordon, Jason Sizemore, Daniel and Trista Robichaud, Lucy Snyder, Ferrett Steinmetz, Michael West and more. Along with panels and workshops, the convention also had a flash fiction contest, well-appointed dealer room, a live recording of the Funky Werepig podcast, a consuite, and of course, parties! This was also my first time on panels, but more on that later.

For a small additional fee, attendees could sign up for one of the many workshops, which included Writing for Young Adults, Crafting a Compelling Plot, Characterization Through Dialog,Anthology Editing, and Point of View, among many others. The panels were also primarily writer and publishing focused, and included topics such as Busting Writer’s Block, Hot New Writers, Classics You May Have Missed, Getting a Day Job in Publishing, The Care and Feeding of Beta Readers, Skewering the Tropes, The Art of the Short Story, Social Media for Authors and Readers, Homebrewing Science, Podcasting, Publishing Disasters, Tales from the Slushpile, The Future of Magazines and Periodicals, What is an MFA and Do I Want One,and about a bazillion more. I really have no idea how all this incredible programming was jammed into 48 hours.
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Humans with funny foreheads are easy; truly alien aliens are hard. With that in mind, here’s what we asked our panel of experts:

Q: What successfully makes an alien character, well, really alien?

Here’s what they said!

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REVIEW SUMMARY: Lukewarm plot is window dressing for real life puzzles and games that have been created around this new series.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Hunger Games meets alien invasion story pits twelve teenagers against each other in a fight to the death that will save their own civilizations.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Globe spanning plot; easy to read; fun and very challenging puzzles are embedded into the text.
CONS: Will require more suspension of disbelief that many readers will be willing to give; I was turned off by the teen-against-teen ultraviolence; very light characterization.
BOTTOM LINE: Preteens and teens will probably find this to be an edgy action story, adults will enjoy decrypting the puzzles.

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Twelve bloodlines, twelve players, only one can win. Endgame: The Calling by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton is a young adult adventure with a twist. There will of course, be a character who prevails as the winner, but there will also be readers who prevail as winners. The novel is filled with codes and puzzles and keys and hints. Solve them and the prize is yours.

Nils Johnson-Shelton is the coauthor of the international bestseller No Angel: My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels. He is also the author of the Full Fathom Five series for tweens Otherworld Chronicles.

James Frey is originally from Cleveland. All four of his books, A Million Little Pieces, My Friend Leonard, Bright Shiny Morning, and The Final Testament of the Holy Bible, were international bestsellers.

James and Nils were kind enough to answer my questions about collaborative writing, the fun ideas behind Endgame, and what’s next for the series.


Andrea Johnson: Endgame has a lot of everything: lots of action, lots of end-of-the-world cataclysm, a massive mysterious puzzle, secrets that have been passed through generations, and a global group of young people fighting to stay alive. The whole thing is on a truly massive scale. What inspired this story, and how did that initial seed of an idea become Endgame?

James Frey: As far as the initial seed, it would have to be the ancient aliens theory of human evolution, which is pretty whacked out but at least plausible. Basically it says that at some point about 12,000 years a highly intelligent alien race visited earth and literally rejiggered our DNA, changing the way our brains work and completely changing the way our culture could evolve going forward. This is pretty easy to dismiss as a conspiracy theory, but I don’t really care. I love conspiracy theories. If nothing else, they make for great stories.
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Here’s a trio of upcoming books I’m really looking forward to! Read the rest of this entry

Joshua Palmatier is a fantasy writer with a PhD in mathematics. He currently works at SUNY Oneonta, while working on novels, short stories, and editing anthologies with Patricia Bray in his spare time. He has six novels on the shelf at the moment- – the Throne of Amenkor series (The Skewed Throne, The Cracked Throne, and The Vacant Throne), two novels written under the pseudonym Benjamin Tate (Well Of Sorrows and Leaves Of Flame), and the first book in a new series, Shattering The Ley. He is hard at work on the sequel. With co-editor and co-conspirator Patricia Bray, he also delved into the world of anthologies, editing two for DAW Books, and recently founded the small press Zombies Need Brains LLC so that he could continue editing anthology projects. He currently lives in upstate New York.

Joshua was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about his newest kickstarer project, Temporally Out of Order, and his new small press, Zombies Need Brains LLC. To visit the kickstarter page for Temporally Out of Order, click here. In the meantime, let’s get to the interview!


Andrea Johnson: Your new anthology is called Temporally Out of Order. What inspired this title, and what themes can readers expect out of the anthology?

Joshua Palmatier: Ah, Temporally Out of Order. Actually, the genesis of the theme for this anthology is kind of interesting… Read the rest of this entry

We have an additional entry on our Mind Meld on Disabilities in Speculative Fiction, from Nebula Award winning author Vylar Kaftan!

Q: What are some examples of speculative fiction titles where disabilities and disabled characters have been handled the right way? Are there specific disabilities that you’ve yet to see written into a speculative fiction story in a positive way?

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MIND MELD: Disabilities in Speculative Fiction

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Sarah Chorn’s highly successful Special Needs in Strange Worlds column…the recent Kaleidoscope anthology…the upcoming Accessing The Future anthology… Fiction focusing on discussions of disabilities, different abilities, special needs and different needs are increasingly important in the speculative fiction community.

With that in mind, here’s what I asked our panelists:

Q: What are some examples of speculative fiction titles where disabilities and disabled characters have been handled the right way? Are there specific disabilities that you’ve yet to see written into a speculative fiction story in a positive way?

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Amy Herrick is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Every morning, she and her dog take a long walk in Prospect Park looking for adventure. They’ve seen and heard many wondrous things there, some of which have served as inspiration for this story. The Time Fetch is her first book for young readers. Learn more at AmyHerrick.com.

Amy was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about how the The Time Fetch came into existence, her love of folklore, and what she’s working on next!

[Thanks to Algonquin Young Readers, we have three copies of The Time Fetch up for grabs -- check the bottom of this post for details about the give away!]


ANDREA JOHNSON: Your brand new book is The Time Fetch. Can you tell us what the story is about?

AMY HERRICK: The Time Fetch is a modern-day winter solstice fairy tale. It also has some elements of mythology and science fiction which crashed the party without an invitation.
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I know the big news lately is the Hugo Awards (congrats to all the winners by the way!), and we all know it’s called Worldcon because it moves around the World. But what if you live in the US, and international travel isn’t an option for you? Don’t worry, we got you covered. When Worldcon is outside the United States, a lucky US city gets to hold NASFiC, our National Convention. In July of this year, NASFiC was held in Detroit Michigan, and some of the organizers were kind enough to chat me about what NASFiC is all about, their commitment towards diversity, and how to get involved in NASFiC and other conventions.

(Don’t live in the US? no problem. More and more countries have National Science Fiction Conventions that move from city to city within that country. Australia has NatCon, the UK has EasterCon, Finland has FinnCon, Poland has PolCon, New Zealand has their NatCon, Sweden has SweCon, and even though I’m sure I missed plenty, I bet you get the idea.)

The recent NASFiC that was held in Detroit was called DetCon1, and it boasted over 1400 attendees, with Guests of Honor Steven Barnes, Nnedi Okorafor, John Picacio, Helen Greiner, and the musicians Bill and Brenda Sutton, among others. The Golden Duck award for excellence in children’s speculative fiction was also presented at DetCon1 for Middle Grade and YA fiction. Wow, that’s a lot going on, isn’t it? Shall we get to the roundtable with Anne K. Gray (Diversity Facilitator), Tammy Coxen (Con Chair), Christine Humphrey (Volunteer Coordinator) and Anna O’Connell (Volunteer Co-Coordinator)? Yes, lets!

Andrea Johnson: DetCon1 was a NASFiC. What’s NASFiC, when does it occur, and how is the location decided?

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Australian author Yolanda Sfetsos can be described as a wife, mother, writer, bibliophile, dreamer, animal lover, and lover of supernatural and all thing horror related. She was kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to talk with me about her current science fiction romance series Recast, NaNoWriMo, how far e-publishing has come, and her other series. You can learn more about Yolanda by visiting her website, or following her on twitter as @YolandaSfetsos or Goodreads.

Let’s get to the interview!


AJ: You’re currently working on your Recast series, the first two of which (Wither and Clash) are being reprinted from Samhain publishing. Tell us a little about this series, and what types of plot lines readers can expect. From reading the synopses of the novels, I know my first question is “What’s a ‘recast'”?

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REVIEW SUMMARY: A highly satisfying read, this third (out of four) book in Philip’s Rebel Angels series gets us one step closer to the dissolution of the veil that separates our world from the Sithe world. Meanwhile, Seth is trying to keep his clan safe and his son Rory out of trouble, and not succeeding with either.

MY RATING:

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Excellent characterization; well paced plot; Philip’s writing is sure to get an emotional reaction out of the reader as she builds on the previous installments in the series.
CONS: Change in character POVs and jumps between 1st person and 3rd person POV can be jarring; readers new to the series are not advised to leap right in at this volume.
BOTTOM LINE: While much Urban Fantasy hasn’t thrilled me, Philip’s Rebel Angels series easily defines everything I want out of an Urban Fantasy novel. If you’re in need of an UF palate cleanser and enjoy adventures into the Fae realm, this might be just the thing.

For those of you new to this multi-generational urban fantasy series, here’s a very quick and simplified recap of the story so far:

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These summer days have me feeling nostalgic for the summers of my youth, when I’d ride my bike to the local library for another stack of paperbacks. It was experiences like that that helped make me a reader for life.

With that in mind, I asked our panelists this question:

Q: What is your favorite childhood memory of a library or bookstore?

Here is how they responded…
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Convention Attention: Anime Midwest

Earlier this month, my husband and I attended Anime Midwest, in Chicago. As the name implies, the majority of guests, panels, and activities had a connection to Japanese anime shows and movies, Japanese culture, and Japanese fashion. Special guests included voice actors Caitlin Glass, Sonny Strait, Greg Ayres, Alexis Tipton, and Johnny Yong Bosch, the famous Japanese fashion brand Baby the Stars Shine Bright, and a number of independent fashion designers. There were also steampunk and comedy based musical guests, gaming experts on hand, webcomic artists and authors, and Japanese weaponry experts. If I listed all the panelists and other guests, you’d still be reading this column three hours from now
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REVIEW: Clarkesworld Year Six, Edited by Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace

REVIEW SUMMARY: Clarkesworld Year Six includes all 34 original pieces published in Clarkesworld Magazine during their sixth year. If you’re looking to get caught up on Clarkesworld, you can’t beat their yearly volumes.

MY RATING:

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Large variety of voice and style; good mix of famous writers and newer voices; includes many excellent examples of speculative fiction that pushes the boundaries; stories can be read in any order.
CONS: None. One of the strongest collections I’ve read in a long time.
BOTTOM LINE: This collection is jam-packed with Nebula and Locus award winners and Hugo nominated works. Well worth the money for that alone.

Skimming the table of contents of Clarkesworld Year Six, you’re going to recognize a lot of titles. The fiction that Clarkesworld published in their sixth year includes Nebula and Locus winners and nominees, Hugo nominees, and stories included in Gardner Dozois’ Years Best Science Fiction, Jonathan Strahan’s The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, and Rich Horton’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy. So it easily goes without saying that the 34 stories included in Clarkesworld Year Six are some of the best of the best.

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INTERVIEW: Behind The Scenes of Movie Tie-Ins with Greg Cox

You already know who New York Times bestselling author Greg Cox is, but you might not know it. If you’ve read the novelization of the recent Daredevil, Man of Steel, Godzilla, Ghostrider or Underworld films, you’ve read a Greg Cox novel. Beyond those, he’s written in the Batman, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Iron Man,  Xena, Terminator, X-Men, among other universes, and over 14 Star Trek novels.  Greg is an expert, he’s been doing this for over twenty years!  And he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions  about his newest novelization of the recent Godzilla movie, the movie tie-in industry, and more!

Let’s get to the interview!


Andrea Johnson: About a week after reading your novelization of Godzilla, I went and saw the movie. Your novelization expanded many  portions of the film, including extra introductory material, and further development of side characters. When writing a novelization, how do you know what areas you can expand on, and when to “stick to the script”?

Greg Cox: In general, the studios prefer that you stick to the script in terms of the overall plot and dialogue, but there’s often room to flesh out the characters and fill in more of their backgrounds, especially with the supporting characters who might not get as much screen time and development as the leads. On Godzilla, I also had the advantage of seeing early drafts of the scripts, including scenes that were cut or shortened in the final movie.

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Samit Basu is a writer of books, films and comics. His first novel, The Simoqin Prophecies, published by Penguin India in 2003, when Samit was 23, was the first book in the bestselling Gameworld Trilogy and marked the beginning of Indian English fantasy writing.

Samit’s other novels include Turbulence, Resistance, Stoob, and Terror on the Titanic. Turbulence was published in the UK in 2012 and in the US in 2013 to rave reviews. It won Wired‘s Goldenbot Award as one of the books of 2012 and was superheronovels.com’s Book of the Year for 2013. All five of Basu’s novels have been Indian bestsellers.

Samit was born in Calcutta, educated in Calcutta and London, and currently divides his time between Delhi and Mumbai. He can be found on Twitter, @samitbasu, and at samitbasu.com.

Samit was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about his new novels, being a trendsetter within Indian publishing, and more!

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Where did the time go? It’s hard to believe that 2014 is half over. With that in mind, I asked our panelists this question:

Q: What were your favorite science fiction and fantasy titles that were published during the first half of this year?

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Remember last month when this column hosted a roundtable of people who had recently attended their first convention? Well, I got so many responses that I had to split the roundtable into two parts. And what a variety of responses I got! A Blogger who had a blast at Eastercon, Stargate and Star Trek fans meeting actors and writers, a first adventure at BEA and more! Here’s what I asked everyone:

Q: Tell us a little about the first convention you attended. Why did you choose this one to be your very first con? Did it meet your expectations, and if not, what changes would you like to see at future events? is this a convention you’d attend again?

and here’s what they said:

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Writer Dave Elliott is a constant innovator in the world of comics, with a long career as a writer, artist, editor, publisher and IP developer.  He was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the development of his newest creation The Weirding Willows, the DeviantArt community, changes he has seen in the comics industry over the years, and more!

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