My Bookish Ways

The Distance by Helen Giltrow

thedistanceThe Distance by Helen Giltrow (Doubleday, Sept 9, 2014)-Karla is really Charlotte Alton, but Charlotte is really Karla. Confused? Don’t be. Charlotte Alton is a socialite, known for belonging to the most sparkling circles of London, confident and beautiful. Karla is a woman who gets things done using subterfuge and tradecraft, helping to cover the tracks of criminals and acting as a resource in bringing down those that would do others harm. Karla has been thinking about stepping away from her secretive life, but a man from her past, Simon Johanssen needs her for a new job: a hit on Catherine Gallagher, a doctor that supposedly did a very, very bad thing, and is now in a government sanctioned penal colony called the Program. Karla is very thorough and the fact that the target in question can’t be identified is a problem, but she’s assured that the client can be trusted. So now Karla’s job is to get Johanssen into the Program under a false name, so he can plan the hit, and it’s going to take everything, and everyone, at her disposal to guarantee his safety. The problem is, Johanssen is on the run from a hit that went very wrong years ago, and if anyone recognizes him, it could cost him his life. Meanwhile, a man that Karla worked with has committed suicide and she’s worried he may have left clues as to her identity. The clock is ticking, not only for Karla, but for Johanssen as he embeds himself in the rough, dangerous world of the Program and also gets to know his target, whose crime has yet to be clear. Did Catherine really commit a heinous crime or was she instead a victim, and can Karla keep her own secret identity secret?

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Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix: Blog Tour, Guest Post, and giveaway

HORRORSTÖR, the nifty and quite clever new book by Grady Hendrix, drops on the 23rd, and I’m thrilled to be part of the tour (or, Horrortor) of the book! Today, Grady writes about the lure and myth of ghosts, and I’ve also got a copy of the book to give away to one lucky winner (US only-winner will be chosen on 9/26 ). Be sure to visit Quirk for the entire Horrortor schedule and a ton of great posts and features about the book!

“What was that?” someone whispers. “Did you hear that?”

“Over there!”

And the camera (on nightvision mode, of course) whips around wildly as things thump against the microphone and then they’re running and out of breath.

“I felt that. Did you feel that?”

Horrorstor_final_300dpi“It’s really cold,” someone says.

Later, the audio from the camera is analyzed using Laptop Technology™ and played back while everyone looks at the floor. It sounds like static, but then they all look up at each other very, very seriously.

“Play that again.”

More static.

“I heard it,” the Laptop Technician™ says. “It said, ‘Bagels are meat’.”

“No,” someone says. “It sounded like ‘Nagel is great’.”

“Finagle my treat?”

“Either way,” the leader says. “There is no doubt that it is clearly the ghost of Elbowbreath Bowelcluster.”

This is a scene that’s been played out over and over again on shows like Ghost Adventures, Paranormal State, Most Haunted, Destination Truth, Ghost Lab, The Haunted Collector, Haunted Highway, The Dead Files, Ghost Hunters, Ghost Hunters Academy, and Ghost Hunters International. And it’s a scene that has been played out, with minor variations, for over 300 years, because horror is the one fictional genre that’s supposed to be true.

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A chat with Chloe Benjamin, author of The Anatomy of Dreams

THE ANATOMY OF DREAMS just came out this week, and I’m thrilled that I got a chance to ask Chloe Benjamin a few questions about the new book, and more! Please give her a warm welcome!

chloebenjaminWill you tell us more about The Anatomy of Dreams and what inspired you to write it?
Happily! I’ve always been fascinated by dreams—they’re such incredible evidence of human imagination, contradiction and absurdity—and I thought they presented a unique opportunity to explore issues of storytelling, trust, privacy and identity. That said, there was an inherent challenge in writing about dreams because, well, most people don’t find them very interesting unless they’re the dreamer! (In college, I had a friend who would join us at breakfast every morning and say, “Oh my god, I had to tell you about the dream I had last night!” Everyone’s faces always dropped.) So I thought a lot about how to delve into the dreaming mind in a way that would be interesting to an audience.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a little more about yourself and your background?
I have. At the risk of sounding annoying, I’ve known I wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember—probably age seven or eight. I grew up in San Francisco, CA and wrote independently through high school, then studied it more intensively in college at Vassar and much more intensively at grad school (I received my MFA from UW-Madison). Having lived on the west coast, the east coast, and the Midwest, I’m now settled in Madison, where I live with my fiancé. He’s in the midst of a PhD in English; he’s also an excellent editor, and very patient when I narrate my dreams each morning.

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All of these Kindle titles by Stephen Graham Jones are under $5!

Have you discovered Stephen Graham Jones? If not, and you’re a reader of the scaries, now is the time to remedy that, since all of these Kindle titles are under $5. Get ‘em while they’re hot!

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October 2014 Must Reads in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror

Here are the  books that I’m especially looking forward to in SFF for October! What are you looking forward to?


The Boy Who Killed Demons by Dave Zeltserman (Overlook-Oct. 16th)

Synopsis-“My name’s Henry Dudlow. I’m fifteen and a half. And I’m cursed. Or damned. Take your pick. The reason? I see demons.”

So begins the latest novel by horror master Dave Zeltserman. The setting is quiet Newton, Massachussetts, where nothing ever happens. Nothing, that is, until two months after Henry Dudlow’s 13th birthday, when his neighbor, Mr. Hanley, suddenly starts to look . . . different. While everyone else sees a balding man with a beer belly, Henry suddenly sees a nasty, bilious, rage-filled demon.

Once Henry catches onto the real Mr. Hanley, he starts to see demons all around him, and his boring, adolescent life is transformed. There’s no more time for friends or sports or the lovely Sally Freeman—instead Henry must work his way through ancient texts and hunt down the demons before they steal any more innocent children. And if hunting demons is hard at any age, it’s borderline impossible when your parents are on your case, and your grades are getting worse, and you can’t tell anyone about your chosen mission.

A very scary novel written with verve and flashes of great humor, The Boy Who Killed Demons is Dave Zeltserman’s most accomplished and entertaining horror novel yet.
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Cover Reveal: Seriously Wicked by Tina Connolly

I adore Tina Connolly’s Ironskin series, and it turns out, SERIOUSLY WICKED, her new YA novel, comes out in 2015 from Tor Teen! She kindly asked me to share the cover-enjoy!

Seriously-Wicked (2)
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October 2014 Must Reads in Mystery, Suspense, and Fiction

Here are the  books that I’m especially looking forward to in Mystery, Suspense, and Fiction for October! Enjoy!

maliceMalice by Keigo Higashino (Minotaur-Oct. 7th )

Synopsis -Acclaimed bestselling novelist Kunihiko Hidaka is found brutally murdered in his home on the night before he’s planning to leave Japan and relocate to Vancouver. His body is found in his office, a locked room, within his locked house, by his wife and his best friend, both of whom have rock solid alibis. Or so it seems.

At the crime scene, Police Detective Kyochiro Kaga recognizes Hidaka’s best friend, Osamu Nonoguchi. Years ago when they were both teachers, they were colleagues at the same public school. Kaga went on to join the police force while Nonoguchi eventually left to become a full-time writer, though with not nearly the success of his friend Hidaka.

As Kaga investigates, he eventually uncovers evidence that indicates that the two writers’ relationship was very different that they claimed, that they were anything but best friends. But the question before Kaga isn’t necessarily who, or how, but why. In a brilliantly realized tale of cat and mouse, the detective and the killer battle over the truth of the past and how events that led to the murder really unfolded. And if Kaga isn’t able to uncover and prove why the murder was committed, then the truth may never come out.
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A Walk Among the Tombstones by Lawrence Block, and more Matt Scudder books are under $5 on Kindle

Looking forward to A Walk Among the Tombstones starring Liam Neeson? I am, and you can get the book that it’s based on, and many more of the Matt Scudder novels (all except books 2, 9, and 17), for under $5 on Kindle-and I listed them in order because I love you. Enjoy!

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Double Feature: Those Across the River and The Necromancer’s House

thoseacrosstheriverThose Across the River by Christopher Buehlman (Ace, Sept. 2011)-When Frank Nichols and his wife Dora move into his aunt’s house in rural Whitbrow, Georgia, they’re eager for a fresh start. Frank plans to write a book about the nearby Savoyard Plantation, which belonged to his great-grandfather, and Dora will teach at the local school. They quickly settle into the rhythm of small town life and find the people to be friendly and welcoming, and in particular, Frank befriends the local eccentric (and taxidermist), a man named Martin Cranmer, who sees in Frank a fellow academic mind and spirit. Frank knows he must begin writing his novel, but first he needs to find a guide willing to take him across the river to comb the woods for the remains of his great-grandfather’s plantation. This isn’t going to be easy, because Whitbrow’s citizenry is wary of those woods, and Frank thinks he understands why. They’re overgrown, very thick, and quite intimidating, but really, it’s the history of the plantation that gives them their undeniable menace. His great-grandfather was a slave-owner of the cruelest sort and his depravity has not been forgotten. So, Frank must make the journey himself, and it’s on this first excursion that Frank discovers all may not be well in Whitbrow.

Those Across the River takes place in the 30s, about 17 years since the end of WWI, and Frank, in fact, is a veteran that is still haunted by the war and the death of his best friend, a haunting which manifests itself in vivid, terrible dreams. These dreams soon take a backseat, however, to the terror that Frank and Dora find themselves embroiled in after a very fateful decision is made to do away with a long held tradition in Whitbrow. I’m being vague because I really don’t want to spoil the hair raising fun of realizing exactly what it is that lurks in those dark woods, and the ties that bind it to Savoyard Plantation.

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Guest Post: Kameron Hurley on worldbuilding and The Mirror Empire

THE MIRROR EMPIRE came out last month, and since worldbuilding is such an important part of this kind of novel, Kameron Hurley was kind enough to break her process down for us and give us a glimpse of what went into creating something as rich and complete as Raisa. Please give her a warm welcome, and be sure to visit Kameron’s website for all of her blog tour stops!

Deconstructing Raisa: How I Built the World of The Mirror Empire
by Kameron Hurley

Those familiar with my fiction – from the blasted, post-apocalyptic, bug-infested cities of God’s War to the toxic, flesh-eating plant jungles of The Mirror Empire – know that I take a great delight in building new and different worlds. I get asked a lot how I do it. The reality is that you build a world once piece, one image, one creature, one mountain, at a time. In the case of the world of The Mirror Empire, called, Raisa, the process of building it actually happened over many years. It’s a geographic sandbox I’ve been playing in since I was twelve, growing and evolving in complexity as I got older.

Here are the major things I considered when putting Raisa together.


Mountains and rivers and tectonic magical events, oh my! Raisa started out with a small map of a very small country that I now call Tordin. Tordin gets only a passing reference in The Mirror Empire, but we get more face-time there later. I set a bunch of short fiction in Tordin in my teens, which began to become book length work as I got older. As the stories grew, so too did the map – Aaldia, Dorinah and Dhai joined Tordin on the little thumbprint of an island that I decided resided off the coast of a far larger, colder continent.

Once I had the island down where the main events took place, I sketched out the continent of Saiduan, all tundra and windswept ice fields and colorful port cities. Once I had one major continent I wanted to see what the rest looked like. Hrollief, the larger southern continent, gets a shout-out in the book, but it’s likely we won’t see the eastern half of the world and its islands and continents in this series. That’s fine. Always leave room for more.

Geography is important to have down rather quickly. In my God’s War books, the contaminated desert itself is as much a character as my protagonists. Geography can provide literal obstacles for protagonists, from cliffs and rivers to mountains and deserts. But most importantly, environments also have a big impact on cultures. How resource-rich they are will play a part in the types of societies that are built in those areas. While most fantasy writers start with geography, it’s fascinating to me how few spend as much time on creating the cultures that inhabit that geography. But we’ll get there.

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