While it’s true that I only cover SF/F/Horror and Suspense on the blog, I’m more than happy to spotlight something a little different every now and then. In this case, I happen to have 2 copies of The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley to give away (courtesy of William Morrow), which looks like it may be a win for some of you literary fiction fans out there (although from the looks of it you might want to keep a mountain of tissues handy.)
About The PROMISE OF STARDUST:
Matt Beaulieu was two years old the first time he held Elle McClure in his arms, seventeen when he first kissed her under a sky filled with shooting stars, and thirty-three when they wed. Now in their late thirties, the deeply devoted couple has everything—except the baby they’ve always wanted.
When a tragic accident leaves Elle brain-dead, Matt is devastated. Though he cannot bear losing her, he knows his wife, a thoughtful and adventurous scientist, feared only one thing—a slow death. Just before Matt agrees to remove Elle from life support, the doctors discover that she is pregnant. Now what was once a clear-cut decision becomes an impossible choice. Matt knows how much this child would have meant to Elle. While there is no certainty her body can sustain the pregnancy, he is sure Elle would want the baby to have a chance. Linney, Matt’s mother, believes her son is blind with denial. She loves Elle, too, and insists that Elle would never want to be kept alive by artificial means, no matter what the situation.
Gaie Sebold is the author of Babylon Steel and her newest novel, Dangerous Gifts,just came out in January! Gaie was kind enough to chat with me about her writing, and more!
Dangerous Gifts, the 2nd book in the Babylon Steel series, is out this month! Will you tell us a bit about it and the intriguing Babylon Steel?
Babylon Steel is a former mercenary and current courtesan who runs a brothel in Scalentine; a somewhat odd city stuck between a number of different planes and occupied by a wide mix of races. In the first book, local prostitutes are being attacked, and Babylon’s in trouble with the taxman. She’s offered a job finding a missing girl, just as things in the city are ramping up for twomoon, the time when both the city’s moons are full and everything goes a bit crazier than usual (partly because a number of the citizens are weres of one sort or another…). Then she discovers that her past is about to catch up with her, and since her past involves murder, torture, and insane beings with godlike powers, it all gets rather nasty.
In Dangerous Gifts she’s offered a job as bodyguard to Enthemmerlee, who’s about to become a member of the Council of Incandress if she survives long enough. Babylon doesn’t want the job, but ends up having to take it for financial reasons, despite the fact that Incandress is on the verge of civil war and Enthemmerlee is a prime target for assassination. Things only get more complicated from there!
When you started the series, did you already have an idea of how many books it would consist of, or did you just decide to let it see where it takes you?
When I started the first book I didn’t even know where that book was going to take me! Ideas for more in the series emerged as I was working on it, and still further with the second. I’m hoping there will be three more books, at this point.
Have you done any specific research for the series?
My main ‘research’ was learning medieval longsword, partly for fun, and partly to have some idea how a swordfight actually works when people are genuinely trying to kill each other. Not that anyone was actually trying to kill each other in my classes, I should point out, or I wouldn’t have lasted very long. I wasn’t terribly good, and my teachers were very good indeed.
It was a great class, if exhausting, and I learned quite a lot about the use of various weapons in their historical context as well, which was very useful.
Other than that I’ve delved into various bits about how to kill people…oh dear, that does seem to be rather a theme…how slings work, the chemical makeup of porphyry, and other oddities.
What are some of your biggest influences in your writing?
That’s a tricky one. In terms of writers, see the next question! In terms of other influences: I grew up in a houseful of books, which certainly helped. I had sympathetic English teachers. I was a slightly isolated child and adolescent; I spent a great deal of time alone and read whatever I could get hold of. I think part of me is always going to be influenced by that; the hope that somewhere out there, someone will have their life made more exciting and interesting, and perhaps less lonely, for a few hours. Which is a modest enough ambition, but personally I’m not sure I’d have survived my adolescence without books.
What are a few of your favorite novels?
There are so many. King/Straub’s Talisman. I love a lot of King’s work. I adored the first three books of The Dark Tower beyond reason. The Land of Green Ginger. Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus. Martin Amis’s Money. Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. Memoirs of a Geisha. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. I’d better stop or I’ll take up the rest of the interview with a list of books!
If you could experience one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
Oh, that’s tricky – maybe The Land of Green Ginger. I loved it so much as a child but it has dated on me a little.
What book are you reading now?
About three, actually – Tim Powers’ On Stranger Tides, Tom Holland’s Persian Fire, and a book on the folklore of London by Antony Clayton. And something else I’ve left in the other room and can’t remember.
Will you tell us a bit about Plot Medics?
This was something I set up with a friend, writer and crafter Sarah Ellender. The idea was to act as brainstormers and sounding boards for writers, but that didn’t really take off, and perhaps we hadn’t really clarified what we wanted to do, so we designed some writing workshops instead. We haven’t had a chance to do as many as we’d like yet, but they’ve been quite successful so far. And they’re a lot of fun to do. Seeing people come up with stuff they didn’t know they had in them is amazingly satisfying. We’re looking at doing more of these in the coming months, including at some conventions.
I read that you’re an avid gardener! How else do you like to spend your free time?
I read a lot; though, rather shockingly, less fiction since I started having some success with writing – I just don’t have as much time. I do occasional Live Action Role Play (running around hitting people with latex swords – an amazingly good way of relieving tension). I work with the T Party Writers critique group, go to a few conventions, and I’m making a moderately serious attempt to get fit, mainly by bouncing around to a fitness programme for the Kinect and swearing at that annoyingly perky voice that goes ‘lower squats!’ and ‘keep going!’ I watch films with my other half, writer David Gullen – we saw Hugo recently and both adored it. We brainstorm plot ideas together. And I spend too much time on the Internet on writing blogs and forums, and reading webcomics.
What’s next for you?
I’ve got a couple of short stories about to come out, one in a World War Cthulhu anthology which is due shortly, one in the next issue of On Spec, and I’ve been asked to contribute to a couple of other anthologies over the next few months. On the novel front, I’m currently working on a new Babylon book and another fantasy novel set in a different world, and there are a couple of online projects I’d really like to get on with – one Babylon-related, one not. There’s also a novel in collaboration with my partner we’ve been working on for a couple of years – but since he’s currently up to his neck in edits on his first novel, Shopocalypse, which is coming out soon from Clarion, it’s going to be a while before that one gets much attention!
About BABYLON STEEL:
Babylon Steel, ex-sword-for-hire, ex-other things, runs the best brothel in Scalentine; city of many portals, two moons, and a wide variety of races, were-creatures, and religions, not to mention the occasional insane warlock. She’s not having a good week. The Vessels of Purity are protesting against brothels, women in the trade are being attacked, it’s tax time, and there’s not enough money to pay the bill. So when the mysterious Darask Fain offers her a job finding a missing girl, Babylon decides to take it. But the missing girl is not what she seems, and neither is Darask Fain. In the meantime twomoon is approaching, and more than just a few night’s takings are at risk when Babylon’s hidden past reaches out to grab her by the throat.
About DANGEROUS GIFTS:
Babylon Steel, former avatar of the goddess of sex and war, currently owner of the Scarlet Lantern, has been offered a job as bodyguard to Enthemmerlee, the latest candidate for the Council of Incandress. But Incandress is on the verge of civil war and Enthemmerlee represents the hopes, and fears, of its population. She is also a prime target for assassination.
Before things get better, they are going get worse.
The stunning follow up to Babylon Steel.
Babylon Steel, former avatar of the goddess of sex and war, currently owner of the Scarlet Lantern, the best brothel on Scalentine, city of portals, has been offered a job; as bodyguard to Enthemmerlee, the latest candidate for the Council of Incandress; and as spy for the Diplomatic Section, the barely-acknowledged government of Scalentine.
She doesn’t want it. Incandress is on the verge of civil war. Enthemmerlee represents the hopes or fears of a large portion of its population and is a prime target for assassination. And on Scalentine racial tensions and economic stresses are boiling up, with Babylon’s lover, Chief Bitternut, trying to keep the lid on.
But circumstances conspire to send her to Incandress. There, what with attempting to turn Enthemmerlee’s useless household guard into a disciplined fighting force, dodging the Moral Statutes, the unwilling presence of a very annoyed member of the Diplomatic Section and the need to keep both herself and her client alive, things become rather too interesting. And that’s before Babylon realises that the situation is far worse than she thought, and is driven to a choice that will have far-reaching consequences…
Here’s my roundup of bookish news from around the web for the week! Sometimes I add stuff throughout the day on Friday, so be sure you check back over the weekend too!
Check out the new cover–> for Zenn Scarlett by Christian Schoon, out in May from Strange Chemistry!
About ZENN SCARLETT:
Zenn Scarlett is a bright and occasionally a-little-too-smart-for-her-own-good 17-year-old girl training hard to become an exoveterinarian. She specializes in the treatment of exotic alien life forms, mostly large and generally dangerous. Her novice year of training at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars was going well – until there are a series of inexplicable animal escapes from the school that Zenn finds herself blamed for. As if this isn’t enough to be dealing with, her father vanishes under strange circumstances, and Zenn is worried that she has started hearing the thoughts of the creatures around her…
With the help of Liam, a towner boy, and Hamish, an alien bug also training at the clinic, Zenn must try to find her father, rescue the animals and unravel the mystery of who is behind the attacks on the school. And all without failing her first year.
American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett (*Kind thanks to Orbit for providing a review copy*, Release date-Feb. 12th, 2013)-Welcome to the little town of Wink, New Mexico. The houses are perfect, and at first glance, so are the people. Oh, yes, Wink is quite a town, but you won’t find it on any map, and if you stay, you may start noticing odd things out of the corner of your eye and shadows where there should be none (and you really shouldn’t go out after dark). Happiness seems to come easy to the denizens of Wink, but that happiness is soon to be threatened, because there’s been a murder, something is awakening, and the other citizens of Wink are growing very restless.
Ex-cop Mona Bright’s father recently passed away. She’s not too upset, he was a bastard after all, but when she finds out she’s inherited a house in Wink, New Mexico, no one is more shocked than she is. She’s even more surprised to find out that the house belonged to her mother, who committed suicide when Mona was very young. Mona remembers a frail, wispy, shell of a woman, but now is finding out that there was much, much more to her mother, and she’s hoping to find some answers at the house, and possibly from the people in Wink. Turns out her mother was involved with the Coburn National Laboratory and Observatory in a professional capacity, and this now defunct lab overlooks the lovely town of Wink.
The idea of settling down is a bit of a strange one to Mona, after being on the run from a tragic past for so long, but as she settles in to Wink, she starts to think it may not be a bad place to stay, just for a while. After all, she’s got her dad’s beloved 1969 cherry-red Dodge Charger, and a house that used to belong to her mother, which is a great start, right? Well, not so fast. Soon Mona realizes that all is not what it seems in Wink. In fact, some pretty damn weird things are going on. After a particularly eye opening garden party, Mona begins to discover a hidden side of this funky little town. In fact, she discovers that the huge lightning storm that destroyed much of the town many years ago happened on the same day that her mother died. Coincidence? Maybe, but Mona’s cop senses (once a cop, always a cop) are tingling and when she asks for help, thinking she’s surely lost her mind, things get really weird. After all, in Wink, lightning means something completely different than an impending thunderstorm.
Mona soon makes the journey to Coburn, convinced that her mother was key to the strangeness that envelopes Wink and it’s too-perfect-to-be-true inhabitants. Turns out reality isn’t quite as concrete as one might think and Coburn was the site of some very interesting experiments. Mona finds allies in some pretty unlikely places, and discovering the truth about Wink, her mother, and even herself, will change everything.
The Troupe, Robert Jackson Bennett’s wonderful 2012 novel was one of my favorites of the year, so I had high expectations for American Elsewhere. Luckily it far exceeded those expectations. From the moment I was introduced to Mona Bright, I was hooked. Mona is a woman without a rudder, deeply scarred by personal tragedy, and touched with more than a little self-loathing. She also (to my utter delight) has a bit of a foul mouth (she drops f-bombs with the ease of a sailor), an itchy trigger finger, and razor sharp instincts, which serve her quite well as she gets deeper into the mysteries of her past and the truth about Wink.
There is indeed another presence in Wink, and the word “pandimensional” pretty much says it all. What starts off as an invasion story, and even a murder mystery, becomes something much deeper, even poignant, sometimes with a startling, darkly comic sensibility. There’s a particular part where the narrative puts you in the homes and hearts of a few select Wink residents, and the scene of a husband who loves nothing more than tinkering with his lime-green 1966 Cadillac Eldorado and the wife who lives for her husband’s happiness. It’s darkly funny and deeply tragic, and so very American. Robert Jackson Bennett has the gift of taking his characters, turning them inside out, and baring their souls, in tragedy and joy, and as other, and powerful, as these extraterrestrial beings are, they are nonetheless undeniably taken with us silly, weak humans and our endless pursuit of happiness. A sense of intense longing, for something better, something bigger, is woven through this novel about one woman’s self-discovery, belonging, the ties of family and community, the American Dream, and yes, alien invasion.
American Elsewhere is a big, bold novel, by turns gorgeous and grotesque, terrifying and tender, and it’s also a razor sharp sci-fi suspense story with literary sensibility and a healthy helping of horror. Settle in, fellow readers, ‘cause you’re in for a helluva ride.
James K. Decker’s sci-fi novel, The Burn Zone, just came out yesterday, and he’s also the author of the Revivors series under the name James Knapp. James was kind enough to answer my questions about the new book, and more!
As James Knapp, you already have the Revivers Trilogy under your belt (and a Philip K. Dick Award nominee for State of Decay, to boot!), and The Burn Zone is your first book under James K. Decker. Will you tell us a bit about it and what inspired you to start the new series?
It started with an imagining of Hangfei, the fictitious city where The Burn Zone takes place, and the idea of what happens when a highly advanced culture finds itself sharing space with a much less advanced one – in this case, survivors of an alien race called the haan are stranded on our planet. The plot of The Burn Zone is fast moving and full of action, but this idea underlies everything – the human race is technologically very advanced in the novel, more so than we are now, but is still far behind the haan. The haan are vastly outnumbered though, and how they make their way, and find their place in the world they find themselves marooned on is one of the keys to the overall story.
The Burn Zone takes place in a world devastated by overpopulation and disease. Why do you think books (and movies) about dystopian futures have become so popular recently?
A lot of science fiction examines current trends and kind of extrapolates from there. If you look at rising populations, and the increasing effect those populations have on the planet, I think a lot of readers (and writers) don’t find a future like that too hard to imagine. Rising temperatures get the most air-time but the more people there are, the more people will need food, water, and fuel. It’s not hard to envision a tipping point where there is no longer enough to go around, so I think a lot of these are sort of cautionary tales.
Do you already have a certain number of books planned for the new series, or will you just see where it takes you?
There are two contracted…if those do well, then there will likely be more. Unlike the Revivors trilogy where I only ever planned three, this one is more open ended. I’ve got a big, overarching plot in mind so if they get a good response there could easily be more. It’s a fun world to write in, so I certainly hope there are.
What (or who) are some of the biggest influences on your writing?
Music plays a big part in my writing. I come up with a lot of ideas when listening to music. It’s such a part of it that I actually have playlists attached to each project I work on, and they tend to be pretty eclectic. Some of my best ideas have come while listening to them.
The cover art for The Burn Zone is gorgeous! Do you think it captures the spirit of the book?
Isn’t it great? That’s Dave Seeley’s work – I really hit the jackpot there. I was asked to provide a few paragraphs describing the world the novel takes place in and the main character so he’d have something to work with, and just from that he totally nailed it. The city of Hangfei has an ugly side to it, and that side can be very ugly, but it isn’t an ugly place. It has so far, with the help of the haan, been able to isolate itself from the decline that surrounds it. To save her father, Sam has to delve into its underbelly but she doesn’t start there. Hangfei is a bright, vibrant urban jungle full of neon lights and flying cars. Sam Shao is a street-smart denizen who knows its many ins and outs, and is comfortable there. I think he captured it very well.
What would you like readers to take away from this book?
That not everything is always as it seems. Often, deeper currents run underneath what we see on the surface and sometimes people from humble beginnings can step up to do great things when they have to. Underneath the driving action there’s a subtler point which is that things are never black or white. We like to try and make them that way in real life, but they never are. Good people do bad things, and bad people do good things. That extends to aliens, in this story, as well. There are both humans and haan who do great things in this story, while other humans and other haan both do great evil.
If someone were dipping their toes into the sci-fi genre for the first time, where would you suggest they start (other than Burn Zone, of course)?
For someone just getting into science fiction, they could do a lot worse than Octavia Butler. Try the Xenogenesis series, or, a personal favorite, Mind of My Mind. Read stuff like Dune by Frank Herbert and Foundation by Isaac Asimov eventually, but for newcomers I’d say maybe start with something a little less epic – unless you want to dispense with the toe-dipping and just cannonball in. For what it’s worth, as a kid biking to my local library, the science fiction story that first made me love science fiction was The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov.
What are some of your favorite novels?
Mind of My Mind by Octavia Butler, Hellstrom’s Hive by Frank Herbert, Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, Neuromancer by William Gibson, The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, and Lamb by Christopher Moore. Actually pretty much anything by Christopher Moore.
When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
Reading, pen and ink artwork, writing side projects so strange I may have to be famous before anyone would publish them, and I must admit a weakness for killing bandits in Borderlands 2.
What’s next for you?
I’m developing a new series – it never hurts to have your eggs in a few different baskets, and I’m constantly coming up with new stuff I want to do. I’ve got a few side projects which are nearly complete as well, including a YA novel that’s on my agent’s desk.
Keep up with James: Website | Twitter
About THE BURN ZONE:
Plagued by overpopulation, disease, and starvation, humanity was headed for extinction—until an alien race called the haan arrived. And then the real trouble began.
It’s been a rough day for Sam Shao. As part of a program that requires humans to act as surrogates to haan infants, Sam has been genetically enhanced to bond with them. So when three soldiers invade her apartment and arrest her guardian for smuggling a dangerous weapon into the country, Sam can sense that something isn’t right. One of his abductors is a haan masquerading as a human, and the supposedly fragile haan seems to be anything but.
Racing through the city slums, trying to stay one step ahead of the mysterious haan soldier, Sam tries to find the man who, in her twenty years, has been the only father she’s ever known. Could he truly have done what he is accused of? Or did he witness something both human and haan would kill to keep hidden? The only thing certain is that the weapon is real—and lost now somewhere in a city of millions.
Fighting the clock, Sam finds an ally in Nix, a haan envoy devoted to coexisting with humans, or so it seems. But what she really needs are answers. Fast. Or else everything she knows—and everyone she loves—will burn.
The lovely Gail Carriger is the author of the wonderful Parasol Protectorate series, and her newest novel, Etiquette and Espionage (the first of a new YA series), just came out yesterday! Gail was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the new book,and more!
Gail, your newest book, Etiquette and Espionage is written for a YA audience, but takes place in the same world as your Parasol Protectorate series. What made you decide to write a young adult novel?
YA is my favorite genre to read – I find it a joy and so easy to gobble up. So, I’ve always wanted to write YA. When I got the opportunity, I jumped at it. I like the almost breezy sensation of writing this age bracket. I believe it suits my style, as I tend to comfortably finish a story at right about 75k ~ which is YA length.
Most people assume that an author’s favorite character to write is their main character? Was Sophronia your favorite in Etiquette and Espionage or did you have another that you particularly enjoyed bringing to life?
I like them all, and Sophronia is my favorite, but Bumbersnoot is a joy to write as is Dimity. Soap is a challenge as is Monique, for exactly the opposite reason, but also because of Sophronia’s ambiguous feelings toward both of them.
All of your books have a distinctly “steampunk” flavor. Why do you think the genre has become so popular recently?
Steampunk is a unique movement in that it isn’t entirely literary – it has ties to the green movement, the maker community, historical reenactment societies, and the fashion world. I believe it has immense escapist appeal. With the economy in chaos, steampunk offers up an alternative lifestyle of sedate civilized behavior where everyone (whether truthfully or not) knows where they belong.
What are some of your favorite “steampunk” inspired books?
I really love Steampunk graphic novels like the League of Extraordinary Gentleman and Girl Genius.
If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip
What are you reading now?
Richard Holmes’s Sahib: The British Soldier in India. I’m usually reading non-fiction, researching the next book.
You recently wrapped up your Parasol Protectorate series with Timeless. Was that tough for you?
I had this sense of listlessness when I ended the series. It was a little like breaking up with a partner I still loved, plus loosing friends through time and distance, plus ending a long vacation away. Which would make it, I suppose, somewhat like the end of college.
Victorian “rules” of etiquette play a large part in your writing. What’s one of your favorite etiquette tips?
I love the language of fans, parasols, and flowers. They never fail to amuse. I also adore the rules of dancing and introduction. Of course, there is also table manners. Really, there’s very few I don’t enjoy they are all so ridiculous.
What’s next for you this year?
First up, I have a book tour for Etiquette & Espionage http://gailcarriger.livejournal.com/225692.html . Then Curtsies & Conspiracies, the second Finishing School book, comes out at the end of this year! Right now, I’m revisingPrudence, the first book in a new adult series, the Parasol Protectorate Abroad. That comes out next year. After revisions, I’ll start writing Waistcoats & Weaponry which is the third in the Finishing School series.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
I’ll be at all sorts of conventions and events this year and I love meeting readers so please come if you possibly can. I’m even traveling to France in the spring, squee! I’ve never been.
Keep up with Gail: Website | Twitter
About Etiquette & Espionage:
It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.
Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners–and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.
But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but the also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage–in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.
Set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate, this YA series debut is filled with all the saucy adventure and droll humor Gail’s legions of fans have come to adore.
Please welcome RS Belcher to the blog as part of his tour for his debut novel, The Six-Gun Tarot! Rod was kind enough to talk about his book, his writing, why he loves The Princess Bride, and much more.
**The lovely folks at Tor also generously provided a copy of the book for giveaway to 1 lucky winner, so be sure to check out the details at the bottom of the post!
Your brand new book, The Six-Gun Tarot, debuted in January! Will you tell us a bit about it and what inspired you to write the book?
Well, The Six-Gun Tarot is set in Nevada in 1869. The book is mostly set in a small town at the edge of a real-life path for western migration, called the 40-Mile desert. The town is called Golgotha and is a very odd place. Weird things just happen all the time in Golgotha and the town folk are a pretty unique breed. There are lots of secrets hidden in Golgotha and the town tends to attract the best and the worst kinds of people to it.
Six-Gun is the story of some of the folks who call Golgotha home, how they deal with a very disastrous situation and why Golgotha is the way it is. It is also the story of how a young man, named Jim Negrey first comes to Golgotha. I tried very hard to not have a single main character, instead working for an ensemble cast, but Jim and his POV is the reader’s introduction and gateway to this very strange place.
I got the idea for Six-Gun Tarot over a long period of time and through a bunch of influences. The story idea I had back in 2000-2001 is very different than the novel I finally had the chance to write in 2008-2009. It was a long process. Figuring out the town was a big part of the whole process- since I wanted Golgotha, herself, to be a character of the novel.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a bit about your background?
I’ve always enjoyed telling stories. As a kid, I used to go to work with my mom and she would buy me a pack of paper- it was the best toy ever! I’d draw and write Star Wars and Star Trek and Batman and Justice League and Avengers comics (or whatever geek culture thing I was into that day) and then attach the pages with those little metal twist ties from a loaf of bread and sell them to my mom’s customers for 25 cents, so yeah, I’ve been wanting to write stores for a very long time!
My background led me to writing, kind of the way Jim ends up in Golgotha- it was the last thing in the world I expected to be doing. I’ve written non-fiction and journalism pieces for over 11 years now and been working at writing and selling fiction for the past 7 years. I was the grand prize winner of the Star Trek: Strange new world contest in 2006 and had a story published in that anthology series. I’ve worked as a PI, studied forensic science, owned and closed (ha ha ha) three comic book and game stores and been dad to three amazing children- being their dad is the greatest accomplishment I will ever have.
How did you celebrate when you found out The Six-Gun Tarot would be published?
It still feels like a dream. I read the email from my Editor, Greg Cox, that Tor wanted to buy Six-Gun and I just felt this wave of surreality fall over me. I was at the comic store and I walked outside and it was a Saturday morning and I watched the sky get bright and I listened to the birds and then I walked in and read it again to make sure it was saying what I thought it was saying. I went back outside. I called my girlfriend and told her. She screamed with joy for a good 5 minutes non-stop. I called my mom, and she cried. It was a life-changing moment for me. I still have trouble believing it now. I think my girl and I went out to dinner, the rest of that day is kind of blurry ( ha ha ha ha).
What kind of research did you do for the novel?
Lots of reading, lots of books and on-line resources and a lot of very cool western movies. I love researching books, I love finding out weird little pockets of history and odd people in time and then using them. For example, there is a real-life historical character in The Six-Gun Tarot that I don’t think anyone has uncovered yet.
From start to finish, how long did it take you to complete the novel?
About two and a half to three years. I did it in my spare time and was working multiple jobs and raising my kids while I did it.
What was your favorite character to write, and why?
That is a hard question to answer! I really enjoyed discovering all of them. Even when I write the back story for a character, I still discover they can surprise me, and take on a voice I didn’t expect them to have. In that regards, I’d say Clay was a a lot of fun to discover and so was Maude. I swear when I finished writing Maude’s backstory and those chapters of the book that involve her and her Grandmother and daughter, I felt like I could do a whole series of books just about Maude, her mentor and the society they are part of. I have heard that from some of the reviews as well; Maude seems to be popular.
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
In fantasy: Michael Moorcock and Roger Zelazny. Fritz Leiber, Robert Howard, Karl Edward Wagner, Ray Bradbury. In SF: Isaac Asimov, William Gibson, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Harlan Ellison. I general literature and classical: Chuck Palahniuk, William Goldman, Ernest Hemmingway, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, H.P. Lovecraft ,Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce, Henrik Ibsen. For other media- like comics and general weirdness: Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Stan Lee and Jack “The King” Kirby, Hunter S. Thompson. I could really do this all day. There is so much cool, weird, beautiful stuff out there. I also am very influenced by music in my writing.
If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
I LOVE William Goldman’s The Princess Bride. I was introduced to that at a very rough time in my life (well, rough by teenager standards) and it was like being given wings. I loved it. It was magical, the way a good book ought to be.
What book (or books) are you reading now?
Moore and Campbell’s “From Hell” graphic novel, “Flesh & Blood: A History of the Cannibal Complex”, by Reay Tannahill, “The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Volume One”, edited by Robert Silverberg, “Jack the Ripper: Light Hearted Friend” by Richard Wallace. “The Pathfinder Inner Sea World Guide” by Paizo Games.
When you find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
I like to read, I love book research. I play board and role playing games with my friends (nerd voice: “I’m casting magic missile!”) I read comics, I like to hike and target shoot; I love to spend time with my kids doing anything.
What’s next for you?
I am very fortunate to now be represented by the Knight Agency, and by super-cool agent, Lucienne Diver. She is amazing!
I’m hard at work on a urban fantasy with a working title of “The Greenway” and a sequel to The Six-Gun Tarot with a working title of “The 32 Killers of Golgotha.”
The Greenway is kind of a mash up of Raymond Chandler, Jim Butcher, The Story of O, and Pulp Fiction. Or, if you prefer, “Harry Potter: the Trainspotting years”.
I’m really excited to be working on both projects and I’m very honored and humbled by the response The Six-Gun Tarot has received. I’d like to say thank you to the good folks who have read the book said they want to revisit Golgotha. I’m very happy to oblige. Thank you for giving me the opportunity. And thank you for welcoming me to your blog and for your time. This was fun.
Keep up with RS Belcher: Facebook
If you’re wondering what Rachel and the gang are up to, I reviewed A Perfect Blood and Ever After over at SF Signal, so be sure to go check those out (click each title above to go right to the reviews)!
Pulled in by the FIB to help investigate, former witch-turned-day-walking demon Rachel Morgan soon realizes a horrifying truth: others want to create their own demons, and to do so they need her blood.
She’s faced vampires, witches, werewolves, demons, and more—but this time Rachel’s toughest challenge might be humanity itself.
About Ever After:
The ever-after, the demonic realm that parallels our own, is shrinking, and if it disappears, so does all magic. It’s up to witch-turned-daywalking-demon Rachel Morgan to fix the ever-after before the fragile balance between magic users and humans falls apart.
Of course, there’s also the small fact that Rachel is the one who caused the ley line to rip in the first place, and her life is forfeit unless she can fix it. Not to mention the most powerful demon in the ever-after—the soul-eater Ku’Sox Sha-Ku’ru—has vowed to destroy her, and has kidnapped her friend and her goddaughter as leverage. If Rachel doesn’t give herself up, they will die.
Forced by circumstance, Rachel teams up with elven tycoon Trent Kalamack—a partnership fraught with dangers of the heart as well as betrayal of the soul—to return to the ever-after and rescue those she loves. One world teeters on the brink of interspecies war, the other on the brink of its very demise—and it’s up to Rachel to keep them both from being destroyed.
Dead Things by Stephen Blackmoore (DAW, Feb. 5th, 2013)-Eric Carter sees dead things. Well, more accurately, he’s a necromancer, and wherever he goes, the dead unfailingly linger. After a particularly nasty takedown of one evil customer, Carter is tired and ready for a much needed break. He’s not going to get one. He gets a call from an old friend with the news that his sister is dead, and it was murder of the most brutal kind. He hasn’t seen his sister in 15 years, and he’s immediately overtaken by a feeling of failure. Failure that he couldn’t protect her. She’s never had the talent that he and the rest of his family had, a fact that they’ve desperately tried to keep hidden from the magic community.
Santa Muerte, the patron saint of violent death, wants Carter for herself. Evidently, she can’t communicate with any of her followers directly, or even appear to them, but that’s not the case with Carter. She needs someone to carry out her will, an enforcer of sorts. She claims that if he accepts her as his patron saint, she can increase his already strong power tenfold. He’s not too keen on being under her control, but then she claims to know his sister’s killer. Even that won’t make Carter say yes, but she might give him a clue for a favor. Too bad the favor happens to be going up against another powerful LA mage. As Carter digs deeper, eventually seeking help from his ex-girlfriend, Vivian, he realizes he may have to take Santa Muerte up on her offer after all, but at what cost? When the danger hits way too close to home, Carter will risk anything, even his soul.
It’s no secret that The City of the Lost, Stephen Blackmoore’s first novel, is one of my favorite debuts ever, so I had high hopes for Dead Things. I’m not surprised in the least that it not only met, but exceeded, my expectations. Eric Carter is a very powerful mage with a past that haunts him every minute. Seriously, the man carries enough guilt and regret to fill Dodger Stadium. However, this boatload of guilt and regret makes him a force to be reckoned with, because self-loathing tends to lead him into situations with all guns blazing, without much thought for his own safety. He’s a man not afraid to “get things done”, even if it includes some pretty gruesome stuff. Can you imagine a man like this coming after you if you killed his sister (who he already harbors plenty of guilt over), in a most heinous way? You might as well just sit down and will yourself to die, because the man does not stop.
Just as in City of the Lost, Blackmoore infuses Dead Things with a heavy shot of noir poured into a landscape so haunted and full of ghosts it gives new meaning to “I see dead people.” Eric Carter sees them constantly, and although they can be a great help to his work, they’re also always thisclose to devouring him whole, because they are hungry for the living, and want a taste of what it was once like to be alive. It’s scary and tragic, all at the same time, and it’s hard not to feel pity for these lost souls, even as they give you the willies. One of my favorite parts of this book is the introduction of Santa Muerte. If the fact that she’s the patron saint of violent death doesn’t give you the chills, add to that her penchant for appearing to Carter as a skeleton in a mourning veil. She has a wicked sense of humor (heavy on the wicked), and Carter’s trip to the other side to visit her in her Aztec (yep, she’s got quite the lineage) pyramid takes him across a blasted LA made of bone and sinew, rather than concrete and stucco. That scene was especially wonderful, and terrifying. Plenty of action and magic-slinging rounds out this excellent second novel from one of my favorite authors. Chuck Wendig mentions that it’s his favorite book this year, and I can certainly see why. Prepare to see this on a ton of Best of 2013 lists, including mine!
Wanna win a copy of DEAD THINGS (courtesy of DAW)? Check out the details below, and good luck!
The Panther by Nelson DeMille (Grand Central Publishing, Oct. 2012)-When John Corey, of the Anti-Terrorist Task Force and his wife, FBI agent Kate Mayfield, are told that the powers that be would like them to go to Yemen on a mission, Kate is enthusiastic, but John Corey is reticent, and more than a little suspicious as to why they were chosen for the mission specifically. Evidently, there’s a US citizen in league with Al Qaeda, nicknamed The Panther, who has been slaughtering innocents in Yemen, including a group of Belgian tourists, and instigating terrorist attacks. The mission is described as an arrest mission, but Corey knows better. He knows that the sole purpose of the trip is to find and eliminate The Panther. Tensions are very high, especially since he’s connected to the bombing of the USS Cole a few years earlier (this actually happened in 2000), and outrage that an American citizen could be behind this is understandable. However, they’re short on time and under pressure to complete the mission quickly, since The Panther’s parents have hired a lawyer and are trying to get his name removed from the CIA kill list. Yemen isn’t exactly a welcoming place for Americans and double dealing and double crossing are the name of the game. John and Kate, and their team, will have to have all of their wits about them to complete this mission unscathed.
I am a huge fan of the John Corey series, so when The Panther came out, it was on the top of my to-read list. The Panther is told primarily in John’s voice interspersed with what the Panther is up to at any given time. A word on John’s unique voice: he’s a near constant smartass and sometimes says sexist things. This said, he makes me laugh, and given that he’s a strong character with a huge heart (and the best of intentions), I let this stuff slide, much like his long suffering wife, Kate Mayfield. Hey, she’s no dummy, and she married the guy, plus she gives as good as she gets.
All kidding aside, John and Kate are on a very serious mission, and I was pleased when they revealed Paul Brenner as a member of the team assigned to find the Panther. You may remember Brenner from DeMille’s 1999 novel, The General’s Daughter (yes, there was a movie, but I try not to think about that). So, now you have two ex-cops on the case, which actually works out well, since someone needs to counteract the near constant secrecy and double crossing of the CIA and various other intelligence agencies. As a woman, I cringed at Kate’s experience in a place that’s, shall we say, not exactly trumpeting the joys of being a woman on a regular basis. She takes it in stride, though, and puts her trust in John, which is a good idea, since this is not his first mission to Yemen. However, the great Kate is more than capable of kicking some serious butt.
If espionage is your thing, you’re gonna love this, and for DeMille fans, it’s another title on his long list of awesome. In The Panther, John claims to be a person that doesn’t self-analyze all that much, but he actually does quite a lot of it in this one. I can’t imagine what it would be like to not entirely trust your teammates on a life and death mission such as this, yet John and Kate handle it with their usual aplomb, and of course, John’s particular brand of humor. Part of the joy of John is his interactions with others. It says a lot about a person if they can spar with him, and to my delight, Paul is is more than up to the challenge and becomes a valuable ally. This one’s a doozy, weighing in at over 600 pages and the action is few and far between, but that wasn’t a bad thing, because when the final showdown happens, it packs a huge punch. DeMille is a seasoned pro, and while you’ll want Corey to get the Panther, the journey is what makes this book great. It’s an excellent addition to a superb series, and I personally can’t wait for more of John and Kate.