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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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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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.
From the beginning The Echoes of Empire series had been planned as a trilogy of trilogies. At the time I signed the three book deal with 47North I knew only that I’d be telling the stories central to The Garden of Stones, The Obsidian Heart, and The Pillars of Sand. With The Obsidian Heart as the middle book of the trilogy it was always intended to be the dark part of the journey, though most noticeably for Indris, Mari, and their comrades. I’d also made the choice to tell the stories of classic heroes, rather than what was more customary in fantasy with relatively young and inexperienced characters at the beginning of their journey.
We had some tight deadlines in order to produce three books in less than twelve months. With The Garden of Stones submitted and having undergone the various rounds of editing, The Obsidian Heart needed to be written and delivered by the end of December 2012, for publication in October 2013. There were the cycles of developmental editing, copy editing, and proof editing. There was also the time necessary to discuss cover art, receive and discuss concept art, look at the various options for the covers, work on the audiobooks, promotion and marketing, etc. When all’s said and done it’s a large team of dedicated people that work towards getting a book ready for publication. I suspect that having written the books I had the most straightforward part.
Part of the problem with having written a series rapidly is that I wrote in something of a vacuum. To put things in context The Garden of Stones hadn’t been printed by the time The Obsidian Heart was delivered to the publisher. There were neither reviews, nor any talk about the book with regards to what worked and what didn’t. We were all flying blind, working on people’s belief in the strength of the project.
Or course there were the lessons learned in writing the first novel. As the writer you look back on your work and see where it could have been better. I lived, learned, moved on, and took what lessons I could from the paths I’d travelled. For a new author with a series this was invaluable, and when having written a series with a short delivery window from beginning to end there was an advantage in constantly producing. It’s like going to the gym: much harder getting fit, than staying fit. When you don’t take a break, the lessons you’ve learned from the mistakes you’ve made are fresh.
With most of the world building out of the way, and at once more comfortable with the voice of the world and the people in it, I felt better able to deal with the characters and story. The Obsidian Heart certainly expanded upon the world, but as an adjunct to the characters and what they undertook. Knowing the characters better and having shared their adventures in The Garden of Stones, I revealed more of the characters as people. The big driver was to have readers empathise more with the characters, to understand what choices they faced, and be with them when the decisions were made. It didn’t matter whether the reader agreed with the decisions, so long as they were part of that process. Each reader will have a different reaction, or may have reacted in a different way, and that’s entirely healthy. How dull would it be if we all agreed with everything characters did all the time?
No, The Obsidian Heart was intended to be a tale where good people and bad were faced with hard choices, and rarely did those choices provide the expected outcome. Between the political and personal machinations of both the past and the present, there were a lot of pressures on the characters. Most of those pressures were unwelcome, but not liking them didn’t make them go away. While writing the book I felt sorry for all of the characters, knowing how hard they had tried, but sometimes their journey ended up with as many steps backward, or sideways, as there were forward.
A significant difference between the first and the second book was the process. The Garden of Stones was heavily planned. As such there felt like less flexibility in the way I had written it. For The Obsidian Heart I relaxed the rigour of the planning and allowed for a more organic approach to storytelling and character development. I’ll be honest with you and say that I enjoyed the writing more, and I think that joy and relaxed approach came through in the book. I wrote The Pillars of Sand the same way, with less rigour around the upfront planning and more room to move with regards to the story . . . but the journey for The Pillars of Sand is another article. The last book of the trilogy has been written, the advanced reader copies (ARCs) sent (and hopefully the lovely folk at Upcoming4.me have their copy!), and we’re looking at a May 20, 2014 publication date.
Will more books in The Echoes of Empire come? I hope so. I’ve planned them but it’s still very early days and we need to see whether the public has an appetite for more. The only way we’ll know is for people to buy the books, and for people to review them and talk about them on the various social media channels in order to spread the word. At the moment I’m working on two new projects, another epic fantasy series in Īa, and a near future urban fantasy. We’ll see what the future holds.
Mark T. Barnes
Mark Barnes lives in Sydney, Australia. He is the author of the epic fantasy Echoes of Empire series, published by 47North. The series includes The Garden of Stones (released May 2013), and The Obsidian Heart (released October 2013). The Pillars of Sand is the third of the series, due for release in May 2014. You can find out more at www.marktbarnes.com, his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/marktbarnes.author, or follow Mark on Twitter @MarkTBarnes.
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I really like fanzines. I made my first one when I was nine or ten. I don’t even know how I got that idea in the first place, it’s not like the Greek small town I lived in had a zine scene. Probably a project some other, more well-funded school did. I got my buddy at the time to help out and we filled almost 30 pages with inane drivel. Knowing nothing about copyright and IP law, I used some Christmas cards as illustrations. I got my uncle to photocopy it for free at his job and after selling copies to all my relatives, we went door to door (or store to store) selling it. I guess I figured stores and doctors’ offices needed magazines and they’d love a copy of THE CHILDREN OF 2000. In retrospect, the title sounds like a bad 50s sci-fi movie, but at the time the year 2000 was far far away. My dreams of making thousands of dollars were crushed once I realized no one wanted to buy our crappy creation.
I was eighteen when I did my next one. This time it was a webzine called Carnival Macabre. A much better project, I wrote a bunch of reviews and did some interviews with artists of the horror persuasion. I did three “issues” before giving up the immense timesink that thing was. Doing everything by yourself is a bad way to run a magazine.
This brings us to a couple of years ago and a one-off magazine I did for a comics convention. There were actually few comics to be found in SKULL CANDY, but we did sell out all 120 copies of that weird amalgam of fiction, comics and art. It taught me a lot of useful lessons. I love magazines and more than anything, I love making them. It was time to go bigger.
That’s AGHAST – A Journal of the Darkly Fantastic. An illustrated journal of dark fantasy and horror. Each story will be accompanied by an illustration done by me. I believe in presenting fiction in the best way possible; good art, great layout. The first issue will contain short stories by Jonathan Maberry, Megan Arkenberg, Tim Waggoner, Jeff Strand and Gemma Files.
It’s my own work, but I think the art I made for it so far looks pretty good and will only get better. I really hope someone snags that “AGHAST!” Backer reward, where you get to be illustrated on the cover of issue #2. It would be fun to do.
And don’t forget, we’re still open to submissions! AGHAST is a paying market, at 1c/word.
I’d appreciate your support and help in getting the message out there.
Let’s make some zines!
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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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The world of publishing is a hard one to understand. Just read Charles Stross' excellent series of posts about it if you ever need a proof. To cut it short, books by a well-to-do but not blockbuster author are often expected to fit into clearly demarcated boxes as dictated by the current market trends and they are not encouraged to cross these lines. So whenever an authors wants to try something new, it often happens that she/he hits the wall and the book is simply rejected. It happens more often than you know. Not everyone is Stephen King and branching into new territory doesn't mean the sales with follow. It is simply too much of a risk. Luckily, the rejection of "Hollow World" by his usual publisher didn't stop Michael J. Sullivan in his efforts to get the book out there. Already a veteran of self-publishing, with his new book Michael went one step further and embraced Kickstater. It was a gamble and it payed off handsomely, netting somewhere in the region of $32000. It seems that even Micheal has underestimated how much his readers love his books.
As for the book itself – well, it is easy to understand why the publisher initially got cold feet. It is as far as it is possible to be from what would you expect from an Micheal J. Sullivan book. To start, "Hollow World" is a traditional science fiction novel in the finest sense of the world. It is clever, funny and every page is bursting with innovative and otherworldly bits that are pleasure to discover. Secondly, it is a character driven novel and successfully uses time travel as a medium to explore more about spirituality, love and human condition in general. This is, I suspect, despite the overarching story the main focus of the novel. The story revolves around Ellis Rogers, an ordinary man leading a boring and predictable life. His mundane existence is shattered once he discovers that he's suffering from a terminal illness and has about 6 months left to live. Faced with no future prospects he decides to do the unthinkable – finish building a time machine in his garage and, if it works, go some 200 years into the future in hope the cure is developed by then. The time machine eventually works but unfortunately Ellie ends up further up, on a planet that has severely changed by climate change and lack of viable new energy sources. The world he finds at the other end of the rainbow is truly intriguing. It is an environment that plays hard on Ellie preconceptions about the sexes, happiness and meaning of it all. Human races is different as well and is living in a disease and hunger free utopia. However, Ellie's arrival threatens this fragile equilibrium. There's been first murders for ages and Rogers is running against the clock to solve the mystery.
As you have gathered by now, in "Hollow World" Micheal J. Sullivan has offered much more than just a roller-coaster adventure story but luckily, at no point he succumbs to being preachy about it and while I expect that some of the readers will be put off by the more philosophical bits, I must admit that I enjoyed this thought-provoking aspect of the book tremendously. Ultimately, "Hollow World" turned out to be a very successful experiment and other authors can take a leaf out of his book. He dared to give it a go, produced one of the finest traditional science fiction novels of the year and the readers followed.
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Review copy provided by Michael J. Sullivan.