Author Archive

BOOK REVIEW: Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In the country of Adro, overthrowing a corrupt King is only the beginning of the problems facing powder mage Field Marshal Tamas.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Interesting magic systems; good exploration of underused tech and social level; Muskets and Magic!
CONS: Significant problems with female characters.
BOTTOM LINE: An intriguing if imperfect debut novel.

The King is dead. A corrupt, incompetent and venal King, a tottering monarchy that bleeds its people dry. Field Marshal Tamas has, in a bold stroke, decapitated the monarchy, intending on setting up a more oligarchic form of government. However, there are plenty of royalists to worry about, including a significant fraction of the true mages, quite unlike the powder mage that Tamas is. A prophecy suggests that regicide may be a curse worse than the disease, and a neighboring country looks to take advantage of Adro’s weakness. And there are stranger things afoot. Field Marshal Tamas is going to learn that killing the King was the *easy* part.

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Leah Petersen lives in North Carolina. She does the day-job, wife, and mother thing, much like everyone else. She prides herself on being able to hold a book with her feet so she can knit while reading. She’s still working on knitting while writing. She kindly sat down to an interview with me. I have no idea if she was knitting while answering my questions.


Paul Weimer: Who is Leah Petersen?

Leah Petersen: Leah Petersen’s a bit of a rebel and likes to shock people. She hides this behind her secret identity of good wife and mother with an accounting job in the conservative Southeastern US. She’s less successful at hiding it than she thinks. She’s a bit likely to express her opinion…whether she’s asked for it or not.

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INTERVIEW: Brian McClellan Talks Epic Fantasy and “Promise of Blood”

Writer Brian McClellan began writing Wheel of Time roleplaying fiction in his teens, and has been writing every since. Living in Ohio with his wife, two dogs, a cat, and bees. Lots of bees. Promise of Blood, out from Orbit in April 2013, is his first novel and the first in The Powder Mage Trilogy.

Brian kindly sat down to answer some questions about his work.


Paul Weimer: Who is Brian McClellan?

Brian McClellan: Brian McClellan is a lot of things.

I’m a husband; I’ve been married a little over five years to the love of my life. I’m a geek; I read science fiction and fantasy, play far too many computer games like Civilization and Skyrim, and host a small tabletop gaming group every few weeks. I’m a beekeeper; I started my first honey bee hive last spring and harvested ninety pounds of honey last fall.

I’m also an author. My debut epic fantasy, Promise of Blood, is being released internationally by Orbit Books in April. I’ve been writing since high school (probably about ten years now) and have told myself since freshman year of college that I’d someday make my living writing fantasy novels.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin

REVIEW SUMMARY: Essential reading for any reader of secondary world fantasy.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In the city-state of Gujaareh, a dream-priest, his apprentice, and a spy from a rival city-state are all caught in the machinations of two kingdoms.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Powerful characters; vivid imagery; intensely interesting ideas; a totally immersive setting.
CONS: Lack of a map and some unclear geography.
BOTTOM LINE: A worthy Nebula Award nominee.
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INTERVIEW: Judith Tarr Talks About Her “Forgotten Suns” Kickstarter

Judith Tarr has written over three dozen novels and numerous short stories in everything from the Tolkien Centennial anthology to Jerry Pournelle’s War World. She has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award, and has won the Crawford Award for best new fantasy. She is a member of Book View Cafe, the online professional authors’ co-op. Her first Kickstarter project, Living in Threes, funded successfully last year, and has since been published by Book View Cafe. We had the opportunity to interview Judith about her career and her newest Kickstarter project, Forgotten Suns.


Paul Weimer: Who is Judith Tarr?

Judith Tarr: Native Mainer. Adopted Baja Arizonan. Refugee medievalist. Kamikaze cook. And of course, loyal henchperson to an invasion force of Space Aliens in fat white horse suits.
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VIDEO: Tim Maughan’s “Paintwork” Is Now a Short Film

Tim Maughan is a two-time BSFA award nominee. His short story “Paintwork” tells the tale of a near-future Bristol graffiti artist, 3Cube, who discovers his subversive graffiti is itself being messed with by persons unknown. His story has now been turned into a short film.

Details from the press release and the video itself, below.

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MIND MELD: Books You Eat Like Candy & Books You Savor

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

Many readers have different gears when reading books. Some books are ones in which you luxuriate and spend time with, others are such a ride that you turn the pages rapidly, carried along through them at warp speed.

We asked this week’s panelists about this phenomenon:

Q: What books do you savor? What books do you eat like candy? What makes for you a book that you savor, or speed through?

Here’s what they said…

Sandra Wickham
Sandra Wickham lives in Vancouver, Canada with her husband and two cats. Her friends call her a needle crafting aficionado, health guru and ninja-in-training. Sandra’s short stories have appeared in Evolve: Vampires of the New Undead, Evolve: Vampires of the Future Undead, Chronicles of the Order, Crossed Genres magazine and coming up in The Urban Green Man. She blogs about writing with the Inkpunks, is the Fitness Nerd columnist for the Functional Nerds and slush reads for Lightspeed Magazine.

As a fitness professional, I have a hard time comparing books to popcorn and candy. I’m sorry. It goes against my nature. Is it all right if I call them fruits versus vegetables? Fruit is yummy, quick to eat and always fun. Vegetables can be yummy, are a bit more work to eat but you know they’re extremely good for you.

I always read because I want to be entertained and I admit I don’t always read because I want to learn something, or broaden my mind. Sometimes, I really just want to have fun and read an entertaining book. That’s when I turn to the fruit.

The fruit books I grab for a quick, fun read are urban fantasy. Give me a Kim Harrison, Kelley Armstrong, Diana Rowland, Kat Richardson, Kevin Hearne (the list goes on and on) and I’ll disappear. I’m not saying that urban fantasy can’t be mind expanding or explore important issues, when they’re well done they certainly do that, but I don’t need to rethink my entire life to read them.

I’d also list horror books under this category, though it depends on the author. Some of those are a mix of fruits and vegetables with a side of bloody dip.

My vegetable books tend to be fantasy that take after the Tolkien mold. These are the stories I want to dive fully into, to be immersed in the world the author has created and linger there, enjoying every aspect of the characters, the setting and the story.

I’m interested to see other people’s responses on the books they savor, because I know I need more vegetables in my reading diet.

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BOOK REVIEW: The King’s Blood by Daniel Abraham

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Events move apace in this sequel to The Dragon’s Path, as tumultuous events continue to dramatically shape the fallen Dragon Empire.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Much appreciated deepening of the worldbuilding; fascinating development of characters.
CONS: A couple of plot turns and character meetings seem overly convenient; a less-than-crisp ending.
BOTTOM LINE: A strong sequel to The Dragon’s Path, deepening and building the world and characters in the Dagger and Coin universe

In the wake of rises to power, the schemes of a girl who would be a banker, and the machinations of the priests of a mysterious Goddess, war and conflict continue to escalate across the Western Lands. Cithrin, Marcus, Geder and the rest will not be unmarked, and unchanged, by the building conflicts. This is The King’s Path, the second in Daniel Abraham’s Dagger and Coin series after the Dragon’s Path.
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REVIEW SUMMARY: Another diverse, multi-sided anthology from Dagan Books with an unexpected and unusual subject.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: FISH is an anthology of fiction of various stripes, swimming around the titular subject in a variety of ways.
MY REVIEW:
PROS: A few strong, memorable stories that tent-pole the collection; beautiful cover and interior art; strong diversity in approaches to subject matter.
CONS: Category may be too broad; a number of the works were underwhelming.
BOTTOM LINE: An anthology that shows off the contributors’ and editor’s talents.

A young man with a fishbowl head and fish for eyes…a deep-sea’s fish to the unknown world of the surface….a god in fish form offers a Hawaiian fisherman a perilous bargain…a seamstress’ needlepoint fish threaten to change the fate of two kingdoms…the Just So story of why catfish have a flat head…

These and many other characters and situations are to be found within the stories in FISH, an anthology from Dagan Books.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Eye With Which the Universe Beholds Itself by Ian Sales

REVIEW SUMMARY: Ian Sales continues his strong Apollo Quartet with a deeply personal tale of the first astronaut on Mars going on a much longer trip.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Colonel Bradley Elliott, first man on Mars, is selected for an interstellar mission of secret importance.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Powerful and nuanced characterization; solid and flawless nuts-and-bolts Apollo program engineering.
CONS: The sting in the tail and the power of the story only hits in the coda; bleakness of Sales’ work may not suit all readers.
BOTTOM LINE: A solid second entry in Sales’ Apollo Quartet project.

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Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, a column about roleplaying games and their place in a genre reader’s and writer’s world. For what I have for you this time out, let me set the scene:

Three X-men and a former Avenger investigate a breakout on the Raft, the maximum security prison in the East River for supervillains. There, they find that numerous inmates have escaped, with the help of Electro. Cinematic battles are fought in and on the raft. In a key moment, the Hulk, at the Raft in self and solitary confinement, proves valuable in taking out Vapor, Ironclad, Vector and X-Ray, the evil Fantastic Four-like group known as the U-Foes. And discover that there are deeper and darker things afoot, that mandate a temporary alliance to uncover.

Was this the latest issue of a comic? A motion comic on DVD? A new animated Marvel series? No, none of the above. This was a recent session of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game that I participated in. Marvel is the latest roleplaying game from Margaret Weis Productions (yes, that Margaret Weis, fantasy fans).

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BOOK REVIEW: Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman

REVIEW SUMMARY: An enchanting novel from Emma Newman, an urban fantasy that has no sign of tattooed women in leather pants.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A headstrong scion and an investigator discover dark doings in the outwardly genteel world of Bath’s secret mirror city.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: A wide variety of interesting characters; intersecting stories: the wonderful feel of a larger world only partially glimpsed.
CONS: The ending of the book leaves perhaps too many dangling threads; ecology of the Split Worlds has some problems.
BOTTOM LINE: Accept the invitation to attend the season in Aquae Sulis.

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REVIEW SUMMARY: A novella set in an intriguing universe with memorable characters.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A former magistrate flees planetary civil war, and is taken in by distant relations who find that such a gesture is not without friction or cost.
MY REVIEW:
PROS: Interesting characters; unique setting; excellent prose; interesting take on artificial intelligence.
CONS: The social dynamics and ending may frustrate and confuse unprepared readers; the cover does the story no favors.
BOTTOM LINE: A sumptuous meal of a novella with excellent prose.
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An Interview with R.T. Kaelin, Editor of “Triumph Over Tragedy”

R.T Kaelin is the author of the The Children of the White Lions series as well as the editor of the anthology Triumph Over Tragedy: an anthology for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. He kindly sat down for an interview with Paul Weimer.

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MIND MELD: Food in Science Fiction versus Fantasy

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

This week we asked about Food and Drink in SF.

Food and Drink in science fiction sometimes seems limited to replicator requests for Earl Grey tea and Soylent green discs. Why doesn’t do as much food as Fantasy? Does Fantasy lend itself more to food than Science fiction? Why?
This is what they had to say…
Laura Anne Gilman
Author and Freelance Editor Laura Anne Gilman is the author of the popular Cosa Nostradamus novels, the award-nominated The Vineart War trilogy, as well as the story collection Dragon Virus. She also has written the mystery Collared under the pen name L.A. Kornetsky.

This will, I will admit, be a purely foodie view: I enjoy cooking, I enjoy eating, I enjoy reading about cooking and eating. And for a long time, it seemed as though we foodies were, if not the minority in genre, then certainly underserved.

There were the banquets in fantasy, of course, and the trail rations, and sometimes even a discussion of where the food came from, but – like bathroom breaks and sleeping – it often seemed tossed into the pile of “boring, don’t write about it.”

And science fiction? Mainly, science fiction mentioned food in context of technology: food-pills, space-age packets, vat-grown meat, etcetera. I suspect that many writers of the time had been heavily influenced by the early space program, and extrapolated their SF on the actual science. Surely, science fiction was saying, we had more important things to do than cook – or eat!

Even when they were dealing with an important, food-related issue (overcrowding, famine, etc), MAKE ROOM, MAKE ROOM made it a (very serious) punchline. So did “To Serve Man.” But scenes of characters preparing their food, or even enjoying it, were notably, if not entirely, absent.

(even CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY made the “too busy to eat” point with the 3-course-meal-gum…)
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REVIEW SUMMARY: Karen Lord avoids a sophomore slump with a stunning work of social science fiction

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: His home planet unexpectedly and suddenly destroyed, his culture and society nearly wiped out, a researcher teams up with a local biotechnician in helping the Sadiri rebuild their lives on a melting pot planet.

MY REVIEW:
PROS:Interesting characters both major and minor, enthralling background and worldbuilding, convincing use of old tropes, deep and evocative themes.
CONS: Marketing of the book leads to false expectations that may annoy readers as to style and subject matter. The cover is deceptive.
BOTTOM LINE: Book your trip to the peoples and places of Cygnus Beta.

Redemption in Indigo (my SF Signal review here) was a brilliant, unique debut from the author, and a strain of literature underrepresented and mostly unseen in American genre: Carribean literature (with a strong African mythic component). Justly award-winning, where does an author go from there?

As it so happens, the author goes into spaaace.

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BOOK REVIEW: Nexus by Ramez Naam

REVIEW SUMMARY: Ramez Naam presents an interesting world and characters 30 years hence strongly grounded in the real life research and speculation he was hitherto best known for.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In the mid 21st century, a powerful combination of nanotech, software and drugs threatens to catapult its creator into forbidden realms of transhumanism.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Interesting premise and extrapolation of technology and social developments of same.
CONS: Some of the thriller elements feel a bit over-the-top. Some first novel clunkiness in narrative.
BOTTOM LINE: An interesting and intriguing fiction debut from a non fiction pioneer in bio-technological issues.
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MIND MELD: Rebranding Fiction as Young Adult

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

This week we asked about rebranding adult novels as YA:

Q: What genre novels would benefit from a re-branding as Young Adult? Which YA novels should not be branded as such?
This is what they had to say…
Gail Carriger
Gail Carriger is a New York Times Bestselling author writes to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. She survived her early years by reading most of her local library and memorizing Greek battles. Her YA book Etiquette & Espionage, the first in the Finishing School series, releases Feb. 5, 2013.

I’d like to hope they already have been rebranded, but two of my favorites are part of larger series. Mercedes Lackey’s Arrows of the Queen trilogy is possibly the most YA of her early Valdemar books. And Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsong trilogy is a great introduction to the Pern universe. I’d like to see both reissued with updated cover art, in hardback, for a YA audience.

I’d also add two books that are the first in their respective series but stand well enough alone as YA. Mary H. Herbert’s Dark Horse, and Cherry Wilder’s A Princess of the Chameln both include one of my favorite plot points: a girl disguising herself as a boy.

Last, I think The Forgotten Beasts of Eld would make a great rebranded YA book. Although the protagonist isn’t technically young enough, she has an isolated innocence that makes her seem young. Also Patricia McKillip’s writing style is so atmospheric, like a fairy tale, I think younger readers would really appreciate her style.

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Lyda MorehouseLyda Morehouse is a science fiction and fantasy author living in the Twin Cities. Her debut novel, Archangel Protocol, was recently re-released as an e-book by Wizard’s Tower Press. In more recent years, most of her work has come out under her alter ego pen name, Tate Hallaway, including the Vampire Princess novels and the Garret Lacey series. As a fellow resident of the Twin Cities, Lyda was extremely kind to talk to me about her work.


PW: Who is Lyda Morehouse?

LM: Ugh. It seems very early in the morning to get this existential. Therefore, I’m tempted to be flip and make a reference to Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy and say, “Just this guy, you know.”

I suppose the real answer is that I’m a forty-five year old Minnesotan (although even that gets complicated, since I was born in California–it was the sixties, 1967, the Summer of Love, to be precise–and raised in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.) I guess another salient feature about me is that I’m a lesbian and a mom and, even though my sales don’t entirely warrant it, I stay home and ostensibly keep house and write. And, the writing part is complicated, too, since I’m published both as Lyda Morehouse and Tate Hallaway, as whom I write romances and urban fantasy.

But is that who I am? I’m also a ginormous fan who loves to get excited and yell about ALL THE THINGS. I’ve been known to dabble in fanfic and fan art. I have an exceedingly playful and silly spirit, and, like an otter, I’d rather play than eat. I dance when I’m alone and I sing off-key in public (much to the chagrin of my nine-year old, Mason). I’ve recently discovered a Korean mixed martial arts, which allows me not only to shout and hit things in a socially appropriate way, but also Mason and I get to do it together (though he’s higher-ranked than I am). I’m not very science-minded, but I adore hanging out with people who are a lot smarter than me and listening carefully…and then making stuff up.

I’m also clearly overly fond of the parenthetical.

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Paul S. Kemp is a fantasy and science fiction writer. Best known for his work in the Star Wars and Dungeons and Dragons universe, in 2011, Paul came out with a novel in his own word, The Hammer and the Blade, the first in a series of novels featuring two thieves, Egil and Nix. Paul Weimer sat down to talk to Paul about him and his work.


PW: Who is Paul S. Kemp?

PK: Paul S. Kemp is a wannabe superhero with delusions of grandeur. He also tells stories, drinks whiskey, loves his family, can spill any liquid from any container by mere mental command, and speaks of himself in the third person. ;-)

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