The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland will be published on August 14, 2014 by Headline.
The reign of Richard II is troubled, the poor are about to become poorer still and landowners are lining their pockets. It's a case of every man for himself, whatever his status or wealth. But in a world where nothing can be taken at face value, who can you trust?
The dour wool merchant?
His impulsive son?
The stepdaughter with the hypnotic eyes?
Or the raven-haired widow clutching her necklace of bloodstones?
And when people start dying unnatural deaths and the peasants decide it's time to fight back, it's all too easy to spy witchcraft at every turn.
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Siem Sigerius is a man of countless talents. Over the course of this book we see him as nothing less than an extraordinary mathematician, a judo champion, a university professor, director of the University of Enschede and to top it all, the minister of education. He is also enjoying a beautiful family life with his wife and two stepdaughters. He even likes his stepdaughter Joni's boyfriend Aaron and despite him being a truly intimidating presence the two strike an unlikely friendship, even starting to practice Judo together. However, behind the illusion of charmed life, Siem has a dark secret. His son from previous marriage is in prison serving time for murder and few people know about it. Now his son is about to be released and on the eve of this event his life unstoppable starts to unravel. This final collapse also coincides with the massive explosion at a fireworks factory and similarly to its disintegration, Siem's whole existence is unraveling in fragments. First he recognizes Joni's picture on one of the pornographic websites he frequents and as his son appears he's quick to blackmail him.
In "Bonita Avenue" Peter Buwalda has created a sprawling family drama which despite its relatively long length (it is over 500 pages long) flows like a thriller. It is wonderfully written and while I'm not sure whether this is due to an excellent translation or the beauty of the original text, i found the use of metaphors and descriptions so brilliant that I started marking some of them down. In Netherlands the book received an unprecedented critical acclaim and sold over 300.000 copies. It subsequently went on to win two literary prizes while being nominated for two more and I can definitely see why it impressed both the critics and readers so much. It is true that at certain points Buwalda does lose himself a bit in the sheer amount of details and elements but quickly enough he steadies his hand and as the family finally completed its descend into madness, I was profoundly shocked by the dark finale. An impressive chronicle of one family's downfall.
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Review copy provided by Pushkin Press.
When people ask me how I came up with the idea for my novel, my answer is “very, very nervously.”
Let's face it: science fiction is a tough-ass genre. When you write sci-fi, you're expected to bend the rules of reality in a way that's plausible (no magic wands), using concepts that haven't been seen before (good luck), with an audience so jaded, they make Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons look genial. And they have every reason to be cynical. The sci-fi field is littered with literary cow flops. The last thing I wanted to do was leave a new pile.
That fear kept The Flight of the Silvers locked in my head for twelve long years. While my outer self dabbled with historical screenplays and slice-of-life novels, the inner me constructed a parallel Earth, a place where an unprecedented cataclysm in 1912 changed the path of history and introduced a whole new form of energy. Now restaurants sail through the air in huge metal saucers while common household appliances manipulate the flow of time. I populated my story with interesting protagonists—two sisters and four strangers who survive the end of our world only to find themselves embroiled in a life-or-death struggle in this alien America. They also get timebending superpowers.
By the time I turned thirty, I became hopelessly lost in my unwritten epic. I zoned out of meetings, missed exits on the freeway, brushed my teeth with Cort-Aid. I was obsessed with the story, and yet I still couldn’t find the nerve to write it. “Is this really how you want to spend your literary energy?” my anxieties asked me. “Writing about superpowered people on an alternate Earth?”
Sometime during my dilemma, I felt a strange pain in my midsection. One doctor appointment led to another, until I was suddenly hearing terms like “malignant,” “stage 2” and “aggressive chemotherapy.” Though I was lucky enough to get one of the more conquerable forms of cancer, I’d never suffered an illness with survival odds before. It was an eye-opening experience, one that realigned all my views and hang-ups. In the new light of day, I couldn’t think of a single reason why I was keeping The Flight of the Silvers on my mental back burner. This was the story I wanted to tell. So goddamn it, just tell it already.
Fortunately, I had a full and complete recovery. Even more surprising, my cancer struggle connected me to my characters in a way I’d never been before. I spent four years bringing the Silvers out of my head and onto a laptop. The novel on screen proved superior in every way to the one I’d envisioned. This is more than a tale about superpowered people on an alternate Earth. It’s a story of six human beings and their complicated relationship with mortality. It’s a story about time.
My agent soldthe manuscript in the first round of submissions. With the help of my excellent editor at Penguin, I improved the book even more. Now I’m slavishly chipping away at the sequel, trudging ever closer to the series finale I’d dreamt up fifteen years ago.
I can’t tell you if my story will be counted among the classics or cow flops of science fiction. I just know that writing it has been—and continues to be—one of the greatest experiences of my life. I’m just glad the universe gave me a second chance to get over my fears and follow my dream. Somewhere out there, on a parallel Earth, there’s another me who wasn’t so lucky.
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Thanks for taking part of in this short Q&A session. I have been reading your new novel Son of the Morning for the last couple of days and I find it very enjoyable. It is an impressive piece of work!
Q: So what can you tell us about it? How it came to be?It came from a ‘wouldn’t that be cool’ discussion I had with my editor. It was a bit Bill and Ted, really. ‘The Hundred Years War with angels and demons. Whoah! Guy! Awesome’. Then I went away, thought about it and saw how I could make it something really interesting. In short, the angels aren’t guaranteed to be the good guys, the demons are far from evil. Or so one point of view within the book would have you believe.
Q: The novel is set during the tumultuous period of The Hundred Years War. What made you choose this particular historical period?It’s hugely fascinating, with some larger than life characters. Queen Isabella ‘She Wolf of France’, for instance could quite easily provide a novel’s worth of material on her own. Edward III is amazing - age 12 he was used by Roger Mortimer as a puppet to overthrow his father. Age 16, he snuck into the heavily guarded Nottingham Castle, abducted Mortimer and had him executed bound and gagged at Tyburn - the first execution there. At 16! I couldn’t be trusted to get on the right bus on my own at 16!
Q: Did you do a lot of research during the writing of the novel and if yes, how did you go about it? As someone who's a historical buff I found the amount of details staggering.I’m a history buff myself so I start from a good position but I did an awful lot of research. First a read a general book on the period - Jonathan Sumption’s excellent Trial By Battle. Then I read every Osprey book on the period and several biographies of the main players. I also read a lot on medieval life, clothing, attitude to relics etc and researched things as I needed to know them. The Internet is a great resource. Also, you can track the Hundred Years War day by day almost. It’s great, for instance, to note that the king’s lodgings in Antwerp burned down on such a day and to speculate what might have caused that.
Q: The unique twist to "Son of the Morning" includes the ability of nobles to summon Angels or even to open the gates of Hell. What inspired this transition from fact to fiction ? Was it originally intended to be a historical novel or a fantasy?It was conceived as a fantasy novel from the start. Fantasy’s in my blood and I love writing it. I also dreamed up the book’s rather warped cosmology almost immediately - the idea that Lucifer made the world and God usurped him and imposed hierarchy on humanity. I liked the idea because it immediately suggested some characters - in particular Dowzabel, who is a champion of the poor and worshipper of Lucifer.
Q: Apart from great characters, there's an epic feel to "Son of the Morning". Who were the authors who originally inspired you to write fantasy and what recent fantasy titles would you recommend to our readers?Too many to list! Tolkien, Ursula K Le Guin, Michael Moorcock, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Philip Pullman, Robert Holdstock, GRR Martin off the top of my head, along with some non fantasy writers such as Boris Pasternak (Dr Zhivago) and, er, I’m not going to say in case I sound pretentious!
Q: You are also writing novels as M.D. Lachlan. Three novels published so far tackle Norse legends and myths in fantasy setting. Why two names and is there a difference to your approach to writing under each of them?
My MD Lachlan books take their inspiration from the darker side of Norse Myth. Son of the Morning has an entirely different feel. I read a lot of Chaucer for research and I wanted to get that mix of adventure, fun and colour into it. Wolfsangel took a lot of inspiration from Beowulf and I wanted that mud, blood and grey skies feel. Son of the Morning’s characters are more educated, more sophisticated and the story, language and plot reflect that. They’re totally different and we didn’t want people reading the books and thinking ‘hmmm, page 425 and still no werewolf’.
Q: So what follows next? Is there a sequel? I haven't finished "Son of the Morning" yet but I already know that I would love to read more.
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There is something pleasing about reading "Midnight Crossroad" by Charlaine Harris. Here's an author who proved her point and managed to finish her big series (with all the unnecessary controversy surrounding the release) and now, at the beginning of the post-Sookie era, she's gained a care-free quality to her writing. It's like the weight of stress is finally gone and first novel in the Midnight, Texas series feels much gentler. And true to form, in the afterword Charlaine writes about pleasures of starting up a new series, of creating a whole new world from scratch. However, "Midnight Crossroad" is not completely new and similarly to the way Stephen King tried to tie all his books into one huge piece of work with the final few installments of Dark Tower series, here Charlaine introduces lots and lots of cameo appearances from all her other series - some of which will be noticed only by her most attentive readers.
Tiny town of Midnight, Texas has a new resident. Manfred Bernardo, a working psychic who in this, quiet, peaceful town finds a perfect environment to do his business. He quickly strikes a note with couple of locals down at the diner run by Madonna. His illustrious company includes such characters as Bobo Winthrop, witch Fiji and Joe and Chuy. However, good things are not to last as on their first picnic together they discover a dead body - Bobo's girlfriend Aubrey. All the evidence is pointing towards Bobo who resolutely claims his innocence. As the mystery unfolds, it turns out that no-one in this small community is without its secrets and I've really enjoy the story eventually slots together. It is wonderful seeing how well this disparate ensemble works together. It's a tight night knit community but one every everyone is united together by the things left unsaid. What's also notable is that this is, as far as I can remember, first time Charlaine has written a story told from multiple points of view and she has done well.
"Midnight Crossroad" is a strong opener of the new series and often feels like a love letter from Charlaine to her faithful readers. This gentle mystery shows an author confident in her writing and perhaps heralds the arrival of the best stage of her work - one where she writes primarily because of the sheer love for writing. An excellent read.
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Review copy provided by Gollancz.
Dream Stalkers by Tim Waggoner will be published on October 28, 2014 by Angry Robot Books.
Meanwhile, a wave of ancient, bodiless Incubi are entering the dreams of humans in an attempt to possess them and live new lives. Only the criminally insane would ever risk a confrontation with them.
Thank goodness, then, for Mr Jinx: clown, Shadow Watch agent, psychopath.
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Hollow World is a book I never intended to write. At any given moment, I have six or eight story ideas in a queue just waiting their time, and Hollow World wasn’t any of them. It started because of an anthology I was asked to contribute to. N.E. White was doing a contest over at sffworld to showcase some new writers, and she wanted a few “anchor authors” to donate stories. The short story I initially wrote didn’t quite fit the premise of the anthology, The End - Visions of Apocalypse, so I produced another short story for that. But when I showed the original short to my wife, and a few author friends, they were all impressed with the ideas packed into such a short piece and wanted a full-length novel. I must say I felt the same way, as more and more ideas were coming to me that played in nicely with the themes I had already started. The more time that went on, the more consumed I became by ideas that eventually made it into Hollow World, so as soon as I finished my then current work in progress, I moved HW to the top of the list. The truth was, I just knew I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on anything else until I purged Hollow World from my head.
Writing the book probably didn’t make a lot of sense. First I’m generally known for fantasy and my Riyria books have been best sellers. Publishers don’t like authors jumping genres (even when they are closely related), and my agent counseled that if wanted to write science fiction I should concentrate on military sci-fi or space operas, as that what the publishers were buying. But I didn’t want to write “science fiction” I wanted to write this story.The fact that it happened to be science fiction wasn’t the real point.
As expected, my publisher turned down Hollow World. My editor loved it, but the marketing department didn’t think they could sell enough copies. Because I had previously self-published, this wasn’t a problem for me. I could just do what I’ve done before. As an experiment I decided to give Kickstarter a try. I had already seen some authors do modestly well with that, and it looked like a great way to raise some of the money for producing the book. I’m a firm believer that a self-published book should be indistinguishable from one released through a traditional publisher (if not, why do it). Having been traditional, I already knew a lot of people in the business. For the cover, I selected Marc Simonetti, who has done such wonderful work for my French editions of The Riyria Revelations as well as amazing artwork for Patrick Rothfuss’s French edition of his King Killer Chronicles, and George R.R. Martin’s Mexican edition of Game of Thrones. I chose Betsy Mitchell, to do the structural editing. She was editor-in-chief at Del Rey for over a decade and has edited hundreds of books over the years, including New York Times best sellers and multiple award winners. For copy editors I picked two people. The first has two master’s degrees in writing, and has been nominated for multiple awards. The second worked on several New York Times bestsellers, and both came highly recommended. These people are exceptional, but not cheap. And I figured it would cost me about $6,000 to employ them. With that in mind I set my Kickstarter at $3,000 figuring I would contribute half and hope that my backers would kick in the other half. I was wrong. By the time all was said and done (a number of people funded after the Kickstarter ended) I raised $32,000.
Somewhere along the way, there was some confusion between me and my agent, and Hollow World was submitted to another large publisher. They made an offer including a nice five-figure advance, but as with most publishers they required signing over all rights (print, ebook and audio). I really wanted to keep my ebook rights so I could do things that publishers either can’t or won’t. What kind of things? Well first off I wanted my books DRM free, as I don’t think it deters piracy (who strip it off without problem), and only inconveniences legitimate buyers who can’t read on multiple devices. I also feel that if you buy a print or audio book, you should receive the ebook for free. I’d rather have a reader buy another book (by me or someone else) then have to pay for my book twice. Plus there are new services like “Netflix for books” that publishers aren’t embracing and I wanted to try out. There are many more reasons, but the bottom line is that there are all kinds of opportunities for ebooks these days, and the publishers aren’t being proactive about signing up.
What I really wanted was a publisher for the print book, because they have the distribution channels to get them into libraries and bookstores. So I turned down that attractive offer and went in search instead for a print-only deal. First stop was Tachyon Publications, because they had produced a print-only novella for Brandon Sanderson’s Emperor’s Soul and they have a good track record for picking high quality projects that have won multiple awards such as the Nebula and the Hugo. I was thrilled when they jumped at the chance to take on the project.
Since then, I’ve sold the audio rights to Recorded Books (who has also produced my Riryia stories), and I’ve sold translation rights for Portuguese and German so those should be coming out in the not too distant future. The official date for Hollow World was supposed to be April 15th but the bookstores started shipping as soon as they had product so the books are already widely available. In fact, as of the writing of this piece the book has had 56 Amazon reviews and a nice 4.5 rating. From everything I’ve heard, the book is having an amazing reception form the readers, which pleases me to no end.
The reality is, that even if Hollow World never sold a single copy, I would have been 100% satisfied having written the book. It’s a departure for me, unconventional and controversial, but oh so much fun to write. I’m incredibly proud of how it came out. Making up worlds and people is the best job on earth, but story telling is best when shared with others. I’m so glad that Hollow World wouldn’t let me go and forced me to write it. I hope others will feel the same.
Michael J. Sullivan
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I came up with the concept for EXODUS 2022 while backpacking with my son Eli in Olympic National Park in Washington State. I love being in the wilderness and have always found it an inspiring place to dream and brainstorm.
Just before this particular trip I read an article (in National Geographic, I think) about animal intelligence. According to the article, animals have far greater cognitive ability than ever before realized. New research, it seems, is shattering old beliefs, demonstrating that a variety of animals and birds have the wherewithal to think, plan and communicate at a high level. Eli (age 12 at the time) and I talked about the article as we hiked and carried the topic farther, asking: Is there genius in animals? What would a genius of another species be like? And what if such a creature had an urgent, overwhelming need to communicate with humans? What would that communication look like? How would it be received?
The questions swirled in my mind and gradually an idea for a story started to emerge. The story centered around a man who begins suddenly, violently hallucinating while on vacation in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. Authorities called to the scene blame the outburst on drugs, unaware that others up and down the coast—from the Bering Sea to the Puget Sound—are suffering identical, always-fatal mental breakdowns. As we eventually learn, the “hallucinations” are really messages—mangled attempts at urgent communication by a member of another species.
EXODUS 2022 is a story about people and animals, about loss and wilderness and human arrogance, about the ways in which we attempt to separate ourselves from the wild heart of Planet Earth. It’s about what might happen to our species if we continue to ignore the other inhabitants of the planet.
But while the underlying themes are intense, EXODUS 2022 is definitely not a “message” book. My intent from the start was to write a fun, fast, hard-hitting thriller, though “thriller” doesn’t quite cover it. Working with my publisher, Booktrope, we’ve settled on the descriptor: “Eco Sci-Fi Thriller.” Whatever you want to call it, I hope you’ll read the book and then let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you!
Kenneth G. Bennett
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