Category Archives: Uncategorized

Not Dead, I Just Look That Way

Seriously, I’m not. Though it may appear that way considering the lack of posts these last few months. The lead-up to Christmas is one of my busiest times when it comes to work, so it’s been head down, bum up, and loooong hours in the editing chair.

But fear not, good readers! Things are about to change!

The tradition of Festivus Book Pimping is upon us! Can I get a book-a-lujah! (It’s a thing, work with me here.) For those unfamiliar with the tradition, every few days in the lead up to Christmas, I will be pimping a book I’ve read and/or worked on this year that I believe deserves to be wrapped in shiny paper and gifted to a loved one, friend, colleague… or even Secret Santa that baby. Hell, want to give an author friend a present? Gift their book to someone — two turtle doves and all that.

As you know, books are the best gifts (fight me), but it can sometimes be a little overwhelming knowing which books to choose for someone (or someones). Enter, Festivus Book Pimping! Each pimping will come with a mini-review and recommendation, plus a link to where you can purchase — be it print or ebook.

As Stephen King said, “Books are uniquely portable magic.” The man’s not wrong, and what better gift to give someone, than magic.

Stay tuned…
book magic

 

 

Author Interview: Devin Madson

Great interview with a writer you should be reading.

The Humble Fantasy Study

This week I had the fantastic opportunity to talk with the incredible author Devin Madson. Devin is the author of the Vengeance Trilogy, the award winning novella In Shadows We Fall, and her most recent, and SPFBO 2018 entered, novel We Ride The Storm. As you can see from my review, I am a huge fan of Devin’s most recent novel. Before we being, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Devin for being such an awesome person for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk with me.

So, here it goes!

Hi Devin. Tell me a little about yourself. What do you like to do when you are not writing?

There’s not a lot of that sort of time because I’m a workaholic, but I do love playing both video games and board games, and I read as much as I…

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Festivus Book Pimping: Red Queen’s War trilogy by Mark Lawrence

Hear ye! Hear ye! Second in the most Festivus of Book Pimping is Mark Lawrence’s Red Queen’s War trilogy. It was The Wheel of Osheim, the last in the trifecta, I read this year. This book also has the honour of being the first story I read on my kindle (I have the paperback also, because having only two books of a trilogy sitting in my bookcase makes me twitch – it ain’t pretty).

The Red Queen’s War trilogy is the second in Lawrence’s grimdark series – the first being The Broken Empire trilogy, but there’s no need to read that first as while there is a most excellent crossover in the second series, each trilogy stands alone.

Right then, trilogy equals three books: Prince of Fools, The Liar’s Key, and rounding it out is The Wheel of Osheim ­‒ a hell of a tome. Like, doorstop size. Makes sense, there’s a lot to tie up in the final book of a trilogy.

So, what’s this about? I mentioned grimdark earlier, and while there’s always some debate as to what that is, I think the most simple explanation is a story that doesn’t pull punches when it comes the darkest depths of human behaviour. Unapologetic characters who do what they must to survive, to thrive, and let the consequences fall where they may. Redemption? Pfft, spit that from thy mouth!

Don’t ever go into Lawrence’s books looking for a rainbows and unicorns and elves and shit – fantasy this may be, but these worlds are filled with darkness and the dead. It’s really kinda cool. The Red Queen’s War trilogy borrows heavily from the Norse mythos, especially with one of the two main characters: viking Snorri ver Snagason – warrior bard. Snorri holds his own (and then some) with Prince Jalan Kendeth – craven tart. They make quite the pairing. It’s magic that tethers the two together, and ultimately what may tear them, and the world, apart.

the-wheel-of-osheim

I could go on, but here are the back-cover blurbs for each, which are far more succinct than my ramblings above.

Prince of Fools

The Red Queen is old, but the kinds of the Broken Empire fear her as they fear no other. Her grandson, Jalan Kendeth is a coward, a cheat and a womaniser; and tenth in line to the throne. While his grandmother shapes the destiny of millions, Prince Jalan pursues his debauched pleasures. Until he gets entangled with Snorri ver Snagason, a huge Norse axe man, and dragged against his will to the icy north. In a journey across half the Broken Empire, Jalan flees minions of the Dead King, agrees to duel an upstart prince names Jorg Ancrath, and meets the ice witch, Skilfar, all the while seeking a way to part company with Snorri before the Norseman’s quest leads them to face his enemies in the black fort on the edge of the Bitter Ice.

The Liar’s Key

The eyes of the mighty are on the North. Loki’s key has been found and lies in the hands of a feckless prince and broken warrior. Winter has locked Prince Jalan Kendeth far from the luxury of his southern palace. The North may be home to the viking, but he is just as eager to leave. However, even men who hold a key that can open any door must wait for the thaw.

As the ice unlocks its jaws, the Dead King moves to claim what was so nearly his. But there are other players in this game, other hands reaching for Loki’s key. Jalan wants only to return to the wine and women of the south, but Snorri aims to find he very door into death and throw it wide. The warrior will challenge all of Hell, if that’s what it takes to bring his wife and children back to the living world. He has found the key – now all he needs is to find the door.

The Wheel of Osheim

All the horrors of Hell stand between Snorri and the rescue of his family, if indeed the dead can be rescued. For Jalan, getting back out alive and with Loki’s key is all that matters. Loki’s creation can open any lock, any door, and it may also be the key to Jalan’s fortune back in the living world.

Jalan plans t return to his debauched life of wine, women and wagering. Fate, however, has other plans. Larger plans. The Wheel of Osheim is turning ever faster, and it will crack the world unless it’s stopped. When the end of all things looms, and there’s nowhere to run, even the worst coward must find new answers. In the end, it’s win or die.

Look, I can’t recommend these books enough. I once described Mark Lawrence thusly: thief of slumber, time trafficker, broker of the dawn. Once you start with the man’s books, you’re so immersed in the story that your idea of half an hour reading before hitting the sack turns into hours that no amount of coffee can fix the next morning (adulting be hard).

If that isn’t a hell of a selling point, I don’t know what is.

Recommended for readers of fantasy, dark fantasy, horror, grimdark, stabby-stabby, and dead things – there’s a whole lot of dead things.

 

Festivus Book Pimping – Fathomless by Greig Beck

 

The countdown to Christmas is well and truly on, but pimp on I must! Today, it’s multi-award-winning author Greig Beck and his wickedly frightening Fathomless. Yeah, we’re all gonna need a bigger boat.

Duuun-dun… duuun-dun… dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun…

What?

fathomless

Okay, so from the cover alone (‘nother shout-out to Dean Samed of NeoStock), it’s clear we’re talking shark story here – think Megalodon. Yep, you know, that’s been instinct for millions of years… but have they?

That’s the premise of Fathomless (Cohesion Press), and Beck kicks it out of the park with his tale. Now before we go further, full disclosure. As I’ve mentioned, my reading for pleasure took a back seat to work this year, so a lot of what I’ve read has involved novels I’ve worked on, and Fathomless was one of them. But here’s the thing, it’s not often that I’ve had to get up from my desk and take a breather because the story was freaking me the hell out. With Fathomless, I did that three or four times. Nope, can’t handle the tension, time to take a break and calm the hell down. Three passes I made of this story, and each time, even when I knew what was coming, my pulse quickened and the voices in my head (yes, there are many) were yelling at the characters to swim faster, dammit! (Actually, there were a lot more swear words, but you get the picture.)

So despite me having edited Fathomless, it’s one of my picks of the year for horror books.

From the back cover:

Jim Granger is searching for a place of legend. Known as ‘Bad Water’ by the island’s elders, it’s reputed to be home to many dangerous creatures. Through a seam in a cliff face, Jim finds what he seeks. He also finds, too late, that the water demon he was warned about is horrifyingly real.

Today, Cate Granger is following in her grandfather’s footsteps. Along with a team of scientists and crew, she accidentally releases a creature from Earth’s primordial past into today’s oceans. Nothing is safe on or below the water.
The story essentially has two parts. The first being Cate and her crews trek deep beneath the Earth’s crust to an immense underwater ocean that’s been suspended in time. Traversing the sea in a damn small sub, they discover marine life once thought extinct. They also discover the Megaladon.

Beck uses that instinctual fear that’s been loaded into our DNA from the beginning of time – fear of Alpha predators (and boy, is the Meg one hell of an Alpha), and added a touch of claustrophobia into this first section, because… why not? And there’s no natural light down there, so much of what’s happening does so in complete darkness.

There are at least three scenes in this section that had me freaking out. Yeah, sharks are one of my biggest fears. Living in Australia can do that to a person. The second part takes place once the Megalodon has been released into today’s oceans, with Cate and part of her crew (plus some newbies), going out to hunt the shark. Not all goes according to plan.

This is a killer book, and if you’re looking for a tale that will amp up your tension, and have you questioning whether you really should go back into the water, then Fathomless is the book you need to be reading. Or gift it to someone who loves that spinchter-clenching form of thriller and terror.

You can read a review of Fathomless here.

Recommended for lovers of horror, suspense, thrillers, and plain ol’ ‘holy crap, swim faster, swim faster!’

 

 

 

Guest Post: Hollow House by Greg Chapman

Today, good friend and fellow scribe, Greg Chapman, is here to talk about his debut novel Hollow House, and the characters that call Willow Street home. I was lucky enough to get an advance read of the story, and Greg’s nailed the use of grey characters (my favourite kind). Add an abandoned house with a checkered history, nosy neighbours, and an up-and-coming serial killer… well, you’ve got quite the cauldron of chaos.

*hands over mic* You’re up, Greg!

There’s a saying that goes something like, “For evil to thrive, good men need do nothing.”

Which begs the question: if evil were to appear in the form of a creepy old house, in a normal everyday street in today’s era, how many of the people living there do you think would care? And how many would have the courage to take on that evil?

This, is in essence, the crux of my debut novel ­– Hollow House.

Hollow House

Morally ambiguous characters fascinate me, especially in the horror genre. I mean, honestly, no one is perfect, right? We all have flaws, and some of us even choose to do bad things. These types of realistic characters are perfect for horror novels, and perfect for evil entities looking to return to the real world.

There are thirteen main characters in my novel: there’s a dysfunctional family of four (the Campbells), the old Markham couple (Mr Markham being a veteran of World War II), the Cowley family (divorcee Alice, her son Dale, and her suicidal daughter Amy) journalist Ben and his lonely wife Megan, and of course, Darryl Novak, a rookie serial killer who follows in the abusive footsteps of his dear-departed mother.

Any of these characters could live on your street, and any street could have a creepy house on the corner. What do you think their chances would be of combating the evil within – and without – if they aren’t willing to face their own demons?

When I started writing Hollow House, I knew it wasn’t going to be your typical good versus evil tale. It’s going to be hard for readers to find any heroes in my tale. Sure, there will be some you will sympathise with, or even relate to, but like? I’m not so sure.

horror novel greg chapman hollow house

If there’s a novel that you could compare Hollow House to, it’s probably Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, a modern retelling of the Dracula story, but set in a small town. The people who live in the town are the focus in King’s novel, as they are in mine. And I, too, choose to put my characters through hell – a relentless downward spiral they find more and more difficult to escape.

It was a lot of fun to write, but unless you love horror fiction, you might not find much light within its pages. My only hope is that you recognise these characters enough – and care about them enough – to see if they survive.

Check out the trailer for Hollow House here.

Hollow House is published by Omnium Gatherum Books, and made its debut July 25, 2016.

Get yourself a copy!

Guest Post: Subverting the Tropes by Alan Baxter

Too long I have been waiting for this! When the Alex Caine Series was released a couple of years back, it was only the first book – Bound – that was released in paperback (reviewed here). As a life-long lover and reader of print books… well, <insert sad face here>. But my happy face has been smacked on as Harper Voyager is re-releasing the series in print and with kick-arse new covers that far better represent the stories and themes of the books.

With this upcoming re-release at the end of June,  I asked the effervescently-barmy Alan Baxter to stop by and tell us a little about his creative process.

So without further ado… *hands over mic*

I’m very grateful to AJ for offering to host a spot on my blog tour for the re-release of The Alex Caine Series. AJ asked me to write a post about the tropes I explored in the series, and that’s quite exciting, because when she says explored, I think subvert.

Caine-Bound-book-page

With these books I set out from the beginning to turn some old ideas upside-down. The first book in the series, Bound, was originally going to be a standalone novel. The idea was to take two things that don’t normally go together and fuck around with them. In this case, I had an idea to write a novel about a career martial artist who maybe had a little bit of magic in him of which he wasn’t really aware. And I had this evil book idea, that I really wanted to find a story for. When those things came together I realised I had the opportunity to mess up a big old trope. I’ve always wanted to write what is essentially a big fat fantasy epic quest, but have it set in the modern day, in our world, paced like a thriller and full of dark and monstrous twists and turns. As you can imagine, with the martial artist and the evil book, I had a great scaffold for that exercise. And Bound was born.

By about halfway through the book I realised I had a much bigger story on my hands. The quest and all its associated elements meant I had to have a strong backstory. So, of course, the backstory had its own history, elements of the story I was telling were going to echo and reverberate, and I wanted to tell more of the story. So I had a much larger arc in mind and I started to think about how I was going to tell that.

Caine-Obsidian-book-page

The first book was very much the classic epic quest. I decided that the second book, Obsidian, would play with the old idea of the lost city. And the city in Obsidian is really lost. And then, by the third book, Abduction, I had characters and situations that had grown well beyond their humble beginnings, and I found myself with a real “Clash of the Titans” trope to play around with and subvert. I may have indulged my love of superheroes a little obliquely with book 3 too.

So while it’s all one story across three books, every individual book is a complete novel and a complete story as well. And, as I didn’t tie up every single loose end, I have all kinds of ideas for future Alex Caine books if the opportunity presents itself. With any luck the current trilogy will do well enough that I get to write more. There are so many tropes to subvert!

The Alex Caine Series – Bound, Obsidian and Abduction – is available in paperback and ebook now.

Caine-Abduction-book-page

Alan Baxter is a British-Australian author who writes dark fantasy, horror and sci-fi, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. He lives among dairy paddocks on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia, with his wife, son, dog and cat. He’s the award-winning author of several novels and over sixty short stories and novellas. So far. Read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website – www.warriorscribe.com – or find him on Twitter @AlanBaxter and Facebook, and feel free to tell him what you think. About anything.

So if you’re looking for a supernaturally good read, get on these!

 

Art of the Cover

Covers matter. They do. That old adage: Don’t judge a book by its cover, if taken in its absolute literal sense, is utter bullshit. Covers are your visual selling point; it’s the first thing a potential reader (and buyer) sees. And if it’s terrible and/or amateurish… Behold, I will judge with all my judgey judginess! I will slam down my imaginary gavel, and I won’t buy your book.

But wait, I hear you say, what if the story is brilliant? Then invest in good cover art, dammit. Invest in it like you invested in your story. All those hours you agonised over words and plot and characters, of the sleep you sacrificed, eating at your desk, of wondering whether you showered today… or was it yesterday… (No? Just me then…), invest that same excellence in your cover art. Don’t just slap any cover on your work (and for the love of all things holy and unholy, unless you’re an artist, don’t do it yourself!), ’cause I will judge your book by its cover, and so will a lot of others.

I read a lot, and as a buyer of print books, a beautiful and/or interesting cover will draw me in as much as a shitty one will repel. And with the amount of both print and electronic books on the market, a good cover is half the battle won. I’ll pick it up, and if your blurb is good (that’s fodder for another post), then that’s a sale. When it comes to my hard-earned cash, I’m particular on how I spend it, and I’m more likely to spend on a book with a beautiful cover, than I am on one with a shite one.

For someone with a mountain of ‘to read’ books who also can’t walk past a bookstore without venturing into its delicious depths, I’m always looking for new authors to read. A cover is where it all begins. It led me to Mark Lawrence and his Broken Empire and Red Queen series, and now I’ll read anything the man writes. Seriously, go to his website and buy the man’s books. Go. Now. I’ll wait.

prince-of-thorns

<insert Muzak here>

Back? Excellent.

Another thing I often hear is that bad covers are the domain of the author-publisher. Again, I call bullshit. The advent of author-publishing and the (now-diminishing) stigma attached to it, has shown authors know the value of a great cover. There are self-published authors whose books have gorgeous covers – this tells me they’ve thought long and hard about their finished product, about their reader. And covers should reflect the content, the world and atmosphere of a book. Take a look at Devin Madson’s The Blood of Whisperers – the story inside is as beautiful as the cover. Another author whose work I will now always read.

BoW

As an editor, I understand the importance of covers, how they work to sell the story/stories inside. If you can excite a potential reader by the cover art alone, then you’re looking at sales. Sales are good. Sales mean the author (or authors, when an anthology) will be read, and those authors may begin to get a fan-base – and there’s not a lot better than that. As an editor for Cohesion Press (an Australian small press), their mantra is to always source kick-ass cover art. Great cover art gets readers excited, it builds interest, it builds sales. But more than that, it’s the finished product. Readers will appreciate the effort you put in, and they’ll remember your name.

Into-the-Mist-194x300

I know there’ll be those out there who will bemoan the cost of cover art. That good cover art is unaffordable. Well before you do that, how would you feel if someone bitched about the price of your book? Good cover art costs, just as good editing and proofreading – all essential parts of the publishing process. You want to put your best work out into the world, right? Right?

The reason I decided to write this post was the cover artist for Cohesion’s books, Dean Samed (check out his work) just yesterday had his site go live, and his cover-work is just astounding. Each piece grabs you, it takes you places, and it defines what’s on the inside pages. The last thing any author wants is a horror book (for instance) with a decidedly romance cover. That’s a betrayal no reader will tolerate.

There are amazing artists out there who love creating cover art for the books you love creating. Check out Deviantart, get onto artists’ sites, and if you like the style of a book cover, the artist is usually mentioned in the front-matter. Social media is a great way to get recommendations for artists, for those who specialise in covers, who can put the best ‘coat’ on your baby.

Do a little research, chat to artists, find great art. Your book will thank you for it.

Tusk