Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
Publisher: Tor/June 2011
Kind thanks to Tor for providing a review copy
Shades of Milk and Honey is an intimate portrait of Jane Ellsworth, a woman ahead of her time in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. But despite the prevalence of magic in everyday life, other aspects of Dorchester’s society are not that different: Jane and her sister Melody’s lives still revolve around vying for the attentions of eligible men.
Jane resists this fate, and rightly so: while her skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face, and therefore wins the lion’s share of the attention. At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, Jane has resigned herself to being invisible forever. But when her family’s honor is threatened, she finds that she must push her skills to the limit in order to set things right—and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.
Until I opened Shades of Milk and Honey, I had no idea I was in the mood for this kind of novel, but evidently I was, because I could hardly put it down, and in fact, read it in an afternoon. I feel like I have to mention that Sense and Sensiblity is one of my favorite movies, and I’ve seen it, well, let’s just say I’ve seen it multiple times, and I couldn’t help but compare Jane and Melody to the two eldest Dashwood sisters. Jane is 28, and therefore, her marriage prospects are pretty much nonexistent. It doesn’t help that she’s seen as very plain¸whereas her younger sister Melody is everything a suitor looks for in a bride¸beautiful and full of life. However, Jane has a talent that her sister lacks. Jane is a very skilled glamourist, which is seen as a most desirable trait in a wife. In Shades of Milk and Honey, glamour, or magic, is woven into beautiful scenes, or glamurals, for entertainment of guests, but can also be used to disguise more undesirable physical features. It’s really up to the talent of the glamourist as to what can be created, and Jane has talent in spades. She also has her eye on a gentlemen that her sister seems to like, but as we get deeper into the story, we find out that Melody’s affections are not what they seem, and when the girls meet the mysterious and talented Mr. Vincent, they get more excitement than they bargained for.
Shades of Milk and Honey is a light, effervescent concoction that begs to be read on a gorgeous spring afternoon under the shade of a beautiful tree. Don’t worry, it still works if those things aren’t available as well. You’ll root for Jane and I always have a little fun with books written during this time period because I always just want the characters to say what they feel, but propriety really doesn’t allow for it, and it makes for lovely tension. This has gotten a lot of comparison to Jane Austen, of course, but I’ll be completely honest and admit that I haven’t read any Jane since college (it’s been awhile), so it was hard for me to make any direct comparisons (other than Sense and Sensibility), and I think that’s a good thing, since even though the girls reminded me of the Dashwoods, I was just able to enjoy a lovely story. And it is lovely. An unusual take on magic, delightful characterizations, and just plain good writing make this Nebula nominee worth a read, and them some. It was the perfect break between darker fantasy books, and made me smile like a goofball at the end. I’d recommend it for anyone that loves gentle fantasy and a happy ending, and I do love a happy ending every now and then.
Purchase Shades of Milk and Honey:Amazon | Barnes and Noble
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I’ve got a few giveaway winners to announce today! Thanks so much to everyone that entered and congrats!
Shaedes of Gray by Amanda Bonilla: Congrats to ML
Retribution by Sherrilyn Kenyon (2 copies): Congrats to Emily Tardy and Robin D.
The Cross by Sean McCabe (2 copies): Congrats to Just Peachy and Gena Robertson
Blogoversary Romance Package (6 titles): Congrats to Patti P.
*Winners were chosen by Rafflecopter, have been notified, and will have 48 hrs. to claim their prize. Again, thanks to everyone that entered
Hi gang! It’s with heaviness of heart and much crying (ok, not really) that I have to break the news that Google Friend Connect, as of March 2012, will be going away for us WordPress folk. All Blogger hosted blogs will still be able to use it, but for me, it will be no more. If you’re not familiar with Google Friend Connect, it’s that pretty little widget on my right sidebar that shows all of your gorjus faces (now that, I will miss!) and invites you to Join This Site. It also allows you to follow a blog with your Google Reader. So, since I switched my blog over to WordPress a few months ago, GFC will no longer be an option. With that in mind, after today, I plan to remove GFC from the site, but don’t fret! There are plenty of ways to subscribe to MBW posts, and I really hope you’ll stick with me through this transition!
Here’s what the death of Google Friend Connect (for all non-Blogger users) might mean for you:
*If you use GFC to follow blogs, you may or may not be able to see non-Blogger blog goodness in your Google Reader or Blogger Dashboard after March 1st, 2012, so please try to follow these wonderful folks in other ways. Obviously, if you have a non-Blogger blog and use GFC, you’ll want to begin offering different ways to follow and read your blog.
Here are some other ways to subscribe to My Bookish Ways:
RSS Feed: You may click here to subscribe to my RSS feed and read my posts in the reader of your choice. This is an excellent tool, and some readers that are available are Google, My Yahoo, Bloglines, Newsgator, and many more! The nifty little RSS icon is also up at the top of my page (it’s the first one on the right hand side, right next to the Twitter icon.)
Twitter: You may click here to follow me via Twitter. I tweet all of my posts and have been known to tweet other stuff as well. It’s a great tool, and I’m there far more than I should be.
Facebook: You may click here to go to my Facebook page. I post all of my blog posts on Facebook (and other fun stuff, like Facebook exclusive giveaways), so if you spend a lot of time there, it would be a great way to get your MBW updates!
Email Subscription: Enter your email address in the nifty little widget on the right sidebar, and you’ll get all of my posts in a daily email! You’ll be sure not to miss a post!
Google+: You may click here to go to my Google+ page. This is a new one for me, but seems like a fun way to make new connections and keep up with the one’s you already have, and I’ll be posting my posts there on a daily basis as well.
Tumblr: You may click here to go to my Tumblr page. This is a really, really, REALLY new one for me, so we’ll see how it goes. If anyone has any feedback as to whether they like it or not, feel free to comment!
Well, that’s about it, gang! If you have another resource that you use to keep up with your favorite blog, and would like to offer a suggestion, please, PLEASE feel free! This isn’t really a terrible thing at all, since, if you think about it, unless you are a Google Reader user, or you keep up with your bogs through your Blogger listings, it really serves no purpose other than that, and you can use RSS to show posts in your Google Reader (plus, that darn widget takes up quite a lot of space in the sidebar). For me, I think it’s much more fun to subscribe in a more active way, like Twitter, Facebook, etc, where readers can really interact with each other, don’t you?
So, there it is! Any comments or suggestions you may have, please feel free, since you know I love hearing from you. You guys have been wonderful, and now that I’m closing in on my first full year of My Bookish Ways, I hope you’ll stick with me just a little while longer:) You guys rock.
It’s Day 14 of the Night Shade Books Holiday Countdown, and I’m so thrilled to have an interview with Gemma Fae Cross, the tough, amateur boxer heroine (and tooth fairy!!) of Jennifer Safrey’s upcoming Tooth and Nail (Feb. 14th, 2012). Be sure to follow Night Shade Books on twitter for all of the Holiday Countdown features and goodies, and pre-order your copy of Tooth and Nail while yer at it!
Transcript: Gemma Fae Cross, Interview #1, Morning Fae Archives, 2012.
Reese: Gemma, I am sooo excited to be interviewing you.
Gemma: Reese, I know for a fact that there are not too many things on Earth you are not sooo excited about. It’s overwhelming. But in a good way. Like finding a party of pink unicorns on your front lawn. Uh, that’s not going to happen, is it?
R: What in the world makes you think that would happen?
G: Well, finding out I’m the legendary half-fae warrior kind of came out of freaking nowhere.
R: I understand. But don’t worry, I promise that won’t happen. (pause) Because it’s December. And unicorns don’t do that kind of stuff until around April.
G: (long pause) You are kidding me, right? You’re kidding.
R: Hee hee. Okay, moving on…
G: This isn’t over.
R: (checking notes) You’re a boxer. Tell me what goes through your mind when you are in the ring, facing an opponent.
G: Not much goes through my mind, really. It’s acting and reacting. Offense and defense.
R: So you don’t really go in with a plan?
G: I find that when I compete, the best-laid plans fall apart pretty quickly and I need to be able to act on instinct. My training and experience sharpen my instincts, make them effective. So it’s not as if I go in there just swinging in circles and hoping I connect. But I don’t want to make a plan beforehand because inevitably, he’ll throw a series of hooks and jabs at me that I didn’t expect and if I had a plan, my mind would be busy scrambling to recover and it would distract me from the moment. So I drill and spar until I absorb the instinct, and actions and reactions become something I don’t have to use my head for.
R: This must come in very handy for you as a warrior. I mean, thinking on your feet and everything.
G: (pause) Well, maybe not so much because when I need to fight, I have a lot more responsibility and emotional investment in protecting the fae and the fae collection than I do in merely protecting my own nose. And by the way, I’ve been meaning to ask someone: What would all of fae-dom have done if Frederica found me and I didn’t happen to be a boxer? What if I was a shepherdess or a flight attendant or a beauty pageant queen or something?
R: (starts giggling, and can’t stop)
G: What? What?
R: (still laughing) You…as Miss District of Columbia. What’s your talent, punching audience members in the nose?
G: (smirking) Shut up. And just so you know, I could totally rock a pageant bikini.
R: All right, all right. (deep breath) All right. I don’t actually know the answer. The other warriors…the fae knew who the warriors were as soon as they were born, and they were raised in the tradition of battle. They learned to fight from the cradle, essentially. We discovered you as an adult and you already had your life, but I wonder also how we would have trained and prepared you. Hey, why don’t you ask Svein? He could–
G: Svein’s a jerk.
R: Maybe. But he would know the answer.
G: (muttering unintelligibly)
R: And I know full well you don’t think Svein is a jerk, anyway.
G: I’m sure there are more interesting things we could be discussing, though, right?
R: (raising eyebrow) Okay. Avery McCormack. He’s running for Congress…?
G: Nice segueway, Reese. Not obvious at all.
R: Whatever do you mean? This is an interview about you. I would of course ask about him. Besides, he’s ahead in the polls! I’m sooo excited!
G: (smiling) Me too. (phone beeps) Hang on…oh, crap. I gotta go. I’m on assignment. I thought I’d have one damn night off.
R: No rest for the weary warrior. Where is it?
R: Don’t forget dropbox 482 is out of order. You have to walk three blocks west to 487.
G: I don’t know what I would do without you.
R: What would ALL of us do without you?
G: I’m not sure. I…I never expected this.
R: With the warrior, there’s a lot of “this”. Which “this” do you mean?
G: I never expected to be expected to be the fae’s guardian of innocence. Innocence is the most fragile, fleeting thing.
R: You can do this. This is what you were born to do.
G: I know, but that thought actually makes it scarier. I’m just going to do my best every day. I’ll get in the ring when I have to and trust that I know how to win. When we bring the Olde Way back, I will want to have earned the right to become a part of it.
R: Listen…I have to ask before you go. I’m obligated to ask. What happened that night? Will you tell me and put it on record? It’s safe to do it, I promise. You know Archives are locked down. Humans will never, ever see the truth.
G: (long pause) I was called to fight, and I owe the fae my story. I know it’s important to our heritage, and to my own legacy. But I just can’t now. Not yet.
R: I understand. When you are ready to tell it…
G: I will tell everything.
R: Watch out for unicorns. They seem to really like Georgetown.
Gemma tells her story in TOOTH AND NAIL by Jennifer Safrey, and it will be available in February 2012 from Night Shade Books.
Read an exclusive excerpt from Tooth and Nail!
Pre-Order Tooth and Nail: Amazon | Barnes and Noble
About Tooth and Nail:
Gemma Fae Cross, a tough-girl amateur boxer whose fiance is running for congress, has just made a startling discovery about herself. She is half faerie-and not just any faerie, but a tooth faerie.
A hybrid of fae and human, Gemma is destined to defend the Olde Way and protect the fae-who are incapable of committing violence-from threats to their peaceful and idyllic way of life, which must be maintained by distilling innocence collected from children”s baby teeth.
But when a threat to the fae mission emerges, Gemma is called upon to protect her heritage, and become a legendary fae warrior… even if it means sacrificing everything she knows about being human.
Necropolis by Michael Dempsey
Publisher: Night Shade Books/Oct. 2011
In a world where death is a thing of the past, how far would you go to solve your own murder? NYPD detective Paul Donner and his wife Elise were killed in a hold-up gone wrong. Fifty years later, Donner is back: revived courtesy of the Shift. Supposedly the unintended side-effect of a botched biological terrorist attack and carried by a ubiquitous retrovirus, the Shift jump-starts dead DNA and throws the life cycle into reverse, so reborns like Donner must cope with the fact that they are not only slowly youthing toward a new childhood, but have become New York”s most hated minority. With New York quarantined beneath a geodesic blister, government and basic services have been outsourced by a private security corporation named Surazal. Reborns and infected norms alike struggle in a counterclockwise world, where everybody gets younger, you can see Elvis every night at Radio City Music Hall, and nobody has any hope of ever seeing the outside world. Lost in a sea of nostalgia, NYC becomes an inwardly focused schizophrenic culture of alienation and loss. In this backwards-looking culture where only some of the dead have returned, Donner is haunted by revivers guilt, and becomes obsessed with finding out who killed him and his non-returning wife. Little does he know, strange forces have already begun tracking him. Donner isn”t the only one obsessed with the past.
Necropolis had a couple of things going for it right away for me. One, it’s a Night Shade Books title (I loves me some Night Shade), and secondly, what a great cover! Noir, sci-fi, suspense, and horror? Yes please! When NYC cop Paul Donner and his wife Elise are gunned down in a bodega holdup, it seems it’s lights out for our hero. Not so fast! Fast forward 40 years later, post Shift (bioweapon? something else?), and Donner takes his first breath since his death. It seems folks are coming back from the dead. Not as shambling zombies, but as reborns. Everything regenerates, with the only differences being shock white hair, black fingernails and a pesky tendency to “youth”. Think about that for a minute. It’s just as horrible as it sounds. You die. You come back. You begin to age…backwards. Add to that the general population treating you like a 3rd class citizen, and it’s no wonder reborns choose suicide more often than not. When Donner, depressed and drowning in alcohol, gets an offer from a beautiful woman to find out who’s killing her employees, he reluctantly takes the case. Little does he know what a roller coaster ride it will be. See, the lovely lady that hires Donner turns out to be a pretty mean motor scooter, but our hero is certainly no dummy, so she’s gonna have her work cut out for her. Oh yes, yes she will.
Michael Dempsey’s NYC of the future is a tech infused, nourish, retro-futuristic playground entirely enclosed by a geodesic dome, surrounded by wasteland. Sounds fun, huh? I dunno, some parts might be fun, like the individual enclaves that have adopted certain time periods, like the Roaring 20’s, or the groovy 60’s. Other parts…not so much, like the fact that a huge corporation runs the show, and they’re doing some not-so-nice things with human genetics. It’s precisely this conglomerate that is using Donner for reasons he never considered, and it will take everything in his arsenal and all of his considerable wits, to outrun and outsmart this diabolical entity. Necropolis is told from third person (with the exception of Donner) and does change point of view quite a bit. Once you get used to the pace (and you will), you’re golden, and you’ll definitely enjoy the ride. I really liked the different POVs, but I’ll admit, I found myself looking forward to getting back to Donner…but I digress. Necropolis is a wild, wild ride that takes its readers through the underground of NYC, the machinations of an evil woman bent on world domination, to the rich environs of an Arabian palace in the middle of the New Jersey desert. Add to that an unlikely (yet very sweet) romance with an AI moll named Maggie, and a hero who is as complex as the twists and turns in this story, and you get a recipe for a really, really good read. There’s so much awesomeness in Necropolis that I want to gush and share, but that would take away quite a bit of the fun, now wouldn’t it? If you’re a fan of sci-fi, urban fantasy, and noir, you don’t want to miss this rich, complex story that is Necropolis. I’ll be anxiously awaiting the next book from Michael Dempsey, and Necropolis is one of my favorite reads this year!
Purchase Necropolis:Amazon | Barnes and Noble
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It’s time for another Blogoversary Giveaway! I’ve got 4 (!) Night Shade Books titles up for grabs: Yarn by Jon Armstrong, Zendegi by Greg Egan, The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells, and The Winds of Khalakovo by Bradley P. Beaulieu. Check out the titles, and the giveaway deets, and good luck!
Yarn by Jon Armstrong:
From the neo-feudalistic slubs and cornfields of his youth to his apprenticeship among the saleswarriors of Seattlehama – the sex-and-shopping capital of the world – to the rarefied heights of power that Tain now treads, Yarn takes its readers on a roller coaster ride through his life. Vada, the stylish revolutionary and love of Tane’s life, draws him back into a world he had thought was long behind him. The swirling threads of violence and passion threaten to destroy him and the world he has made for himself.
Author Jon Armstrong returns to the high fashion dystopia first glimpsed in Grey, weaving a stylish and scintillating tale of a dark past colliding with Tane’s supposedly safe and secure present.
Zendegi by Greg Egan:
In the near future, journalist Martin Seymour travels to Iran to cover the parliamentary elections. Most would-be opposition candidates are disqualified and the election becomes the non-event the world expects. But shortly afterward a compromising image of a government official captured on a mobile phone triggers a revolutionary movement that overthrows the old theocracy. Nasim Golestani, a young Iranian scientist living in exile in the United States, is hoping to work on the Human Connectome Project – which aims to construct a detailed map of the wiring of the human brain – but when government funding for the project is canceled and a chance comes to return to her homeland, she chooses to head back to Iran.
Fifteen years after the revolution, Martin is living in Iran with his wife and young son, while Nasim is in charge of the virtual world known as Zendegi, used by millions of people for entertainment and business. When Zendegi comes under threat from powerful competitors, Nasim draws on her old skills, and data from the now-completed Human Connectome Project, to embark on a program to create more lifelike virtual characters and give the company an unbeatable edge. As controversy grows over the nature and rights of these software characters, tragedy strikes Martin’s family. Martin turns to Nasim, seeking a solution that no one else can offer… but Zendegi is about to become a battlefield.
The Winds of Khalakovo by Bradley P. Beaulieu:
Among inhospitable and unforgiving seas stands Khalakovo, a mountainous archipelago of seven islands, its prominent eyrie stretching a thousand feet into the sky. Serviced by windships bearing goods and dignitaries, Khalakovo’s eyrie stands at the crossroads of world trade. But all is not well in Khalakovo. Conflict has erupted between the ruling Landed, the indigenous Aramahn, and the fanatical Maharraht, and a wasting disease has grown rampant over the past decade. Now, Khalakovo is to play host to the Nine Dukes, a meeting which will weigh heavily upon Khalakovo’s future.
When an elemental spirit attacks an incoming windship, murdering the Grand Duke and his retinue, Prince Nikandr, heir to the scepter of Khalakovo, is tasked with finding the child prodigy believed to be behind the summoning. However, Nikandr discovers that the boy is an autistic savant who may hold the key to lifting the blight that has been sweeping the islands. Can the Dukes, thirsty for revenge, be held at bay? Can Khalakovo be saved? The elusive answer drifts upon the Winds of Khalakovo..
The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells:
Moon has spent his life hiding what he is – a shape-shifter able to transform himself into a winged creature of flight. An orphan with only vague memories of his own kind, Moon tries to fit in among the tribes of his river valley, with mixed success. Just as Moon is once again cast out by his adopted tribe, he discovers a shape-shifter like himself… someone who seems to know exactly what he is, who promises that Moon will be welcomed into his community. What this stranger doesn’t tell Moon is that his presence will tip the balance of power… that his extraordinary lineage is crucial to the colony’s survival… and that his people face extinction at the hands of the dreaded Fell! Now Moon must overcome a lifetime of conditioning in order to save and himself… and his newfound kin.
The weather is getting cooler (for some, just plain frigid), Santa is making the rounds at the local malls, and my kids are making long lists of goodies they want for Xmas. It’s also the time of year when I can buy frivolous things for my friends and family with no guilt, and eat lots of cookies, but I digress… No matter how you celebrate, here’s my list of cool (in my opinion) gifts that will appeal to any booklover (and as you can see, I’m a huge supporter of Etsy folk)! Happy shopping!
For the jewelry lover:
*Fairytale Book Locket ($31.20) by Hidden Eloise
*Turquoise Bird and Silver Book Locket Necklace ($28.50) by Iana
*Steampunk Book Locket Necklace ($32.00) by Timewatch
*Mini book Earrings ($15.50) by anticovalore
*Flight of the Dragonfly Silver Book Locket Necklace ($28.00) by TrashAndTrinkets
*Louisa May Alcott “She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain” Quote Necklace ($16.50) by BookishCharm
*Jane Austen Ring – “Mr. Darcy” Pride and Prejudice – Vintage Paperback Book ($14.00) by LolaSeesStars
*Gothic Steampunk Octopus Necklace ($27.00) by CosmicFirefly
For the kids:
*Bookworm Plush ($12.00) by FlakyFriends
*Vintage Children’s Books Wooden Blocks ($35.00) by StackBlocks
*The King’s 6th Finger Children’s Book ($9.99) by Jolby
*Elementary, My Dear Watson Children’s Book ($18.00) by UnicornEmpirePrints
*Personalized Fairy Tale Story Book at RedEnvelope.com ($39.95)
*Personalized Pirate Story Book by RedEnvelope.com ($39.95)
*Tree of Life Vintage Natural Handmade Leather Journal Cover ($79.00) by LeatherDruid
*Christmas elf in the book art bookmark ($25.00) by MyBookmark
*Book Ninja Bookmarks ($4.50) by HesedBooksAndGifts
*“I Love Books” Zipper Pouch ($12.00) by kukubee
*“fat books are so sexy” Button by ($1.50) by beanforest
Well, there it is, gang! Go forth and buy, and have a wonderful holiday!
Please welcome Michael Dempsey to the blog! Michael is the author of the brand new sci-fi noir, Necropolis (it’s the awesome, review to come) and is also a screenwriter and a playwright! Luckily, I managed to convince him to answer a few of my questions, and he graciously obliged. Also, be sure to check out the awesome Necropolis trailer at the end of the post!
Michael, you’re an old hand at writing, having penned screenplays for network television, most notably Cybill, and you’re an accomplished stage actor and director. What made you decide to take the plunge into writing a novel?
I moved back home to Ohio a few years ago to be closer to my parents, who were experiencing some health issues at the time. You really need to be in New York or Los Angeles, if you’re seriously about a television or film writing career. But it’s possible to be a novelist anywhere. So that was one reason to write a novel. The other reason was simply that I wanted to tackle the challenges of the form. I got involved in theatre in college, first in acting and directing and then writing plays. Which led me eventually to film and television writing. But my first stabs at writing when I was kid were short stories, so it was a bit like coming full circle. You could say I came home in several ways…
Can you tell us about your brand new novel, Necropolis?
NECROPOLIS is a sci fi noir crime novel set in a dystopian future. Our protagonist, Paul Donner, is a Brooklyn police detective with a drinking problem and a marriage on the rocks. In the opening pages, he and his wife are shot to death in a “random” hold-up. Fifty years later, Donner is back—revived courtesy of the Shift, a process whereby inanimate DNA is re-activated. This new “reborn” underclass is not only alive again, they’re growing younger, destined for a second childhood. The freakish side-effect of a retroviral attack on New York, The Shift has turned the world upside down. Beneath the protective geodesic Blister, clocks run backwards, technology is hidden behind a noir façade, and you can see Elvis at Radio City Music Hall every night. In this unfamiliar retro-futuristic world of maglev Studebakers and plasma Tommy guns, Donner must search for those responsible for the destruction of his life. His quest for retribution, aided by Maggie, his holographic Girl Friday, leads him to the heart of the mystery surrounding the Shift’s origins up against those who would use it to control a terrified nation
What made you decide on speculative fiction/tech noir as your genre for your first book?
As a child, I idolized Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, and the other sci fi gods of that generation. And I was a big fan of “pulp fiction,” like the Doc Savage and Tarzan novels. Finally, I was a huge lover of crime fiction—the grittier and nastier, the better. The noir films of the 1940s and 1950s had a kind of loneliness, darkness and desperation that was really evocative. It was a look at the underbelly of society—while these perfect happy smiling families were filling up at Sunoco and getting their daily milk deliveries and going to good jobs in brand-new skyscrapers, there were also con men and grifters and people on the fringes fighting for every table scrap. So I guess I just decided to see how I could blend all these elements together in an exciting and believable way.
If someone were just starting to read in the genre, what books would you recommend (in addition to yours, of course)?
Don’t laugh, but I really don’t know! I’m only half-serious. Although I’d seen and loved movies like Blade Runner and Dark City and Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow, I didn’t fully comprehend that there already was an evolved and well-explored subgenre that integrated both the noir and retro sensibility with science fiction—alternately called dieselpunk, tech noir, or sci fi noir. So when artist Erik Gist, who did the fabulous cover for my book, said he dug my novel and dieselpunk in general, I was like, “Dieselpunk? Huh?” And I blush in shame to admit that I promptly Googled it.
I guess I’d say read Gibson, read Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan, read Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man. Read the cyberpunk masters like Gibson, Rudy Rucker and John Shirley. As far as cinema, there are a lot of explicit homages to noir in films like The Thirteenth Floor and Godard’s Alphaville.
While it’s modus operandi is scientific and not supernatural, Necropolis has many similarities to the urban fantasy genre, so if you like Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series or Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, you’ll probably like Necropolis.
What’s one of your most unusual writing quirks?
My process is pretty standard and boring, I’m afraid. I write first thing in the morning almost every day, before life can intrude. I used to never be able to work on more than one project at a time, but in the past few years I’ve developed a cycle where I work on one piece, then put it in a drawer and work on another in an entirely different genre or form (play, screenplay, etc.) and cycle back to the previous one. It helps get my brain away from “inside” the story so I can come back to it fresher and with more perspective. It’s so easy to get lost inside, to get swept away by your own storytelling. Then in three months, you come back to it and say, “Holy god, that’s truly terrible!” Or sometimes, “Wow, that’s better than I thought!”
What are you reading right now?
I just finished True Detective by Max Collins, which was an awesome noir crime novel set among real events and people. I’m also re-reading Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man for the first time in twenty years. These short stories are astonishing—written in 1949 and 1950 for the most part, they prophesize “holodeck” type rooms and other technology, but also dig really deep into the philosophical, spiritual and ethical issues that may arise with future technology as we go to the stars. I’m also reading Connie Willis’s recent Hugo winner, Blackout.
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
Besides the ones previously mentioned: I was reading Philip K. Dick way before Hollywood got turned on to him (yes, I’m THAT old!)…I particularly love stories in which the rules of reality are suspect. Then writers like William Gibson and Neal Stephenson came along and showed us a whole new way science fiction could be. I still remember not being able to close my mouth through half of Snow Crash.
In terms of crime, I love the super hardcore crime novels of Richard Stark and Andrew Vachss. Raymond Chandler doesn’t get enough credit for his beautiful prose…if he hadn’t been writing mysteries he would’ve been hailed as one of the great writers of the 20th century, in my opinion. I’m also a big Don DeLillo, Tom Wolfe, Gabriel García Márquez, Michael Connolly and Stephen King fan. But I’d have to say Shakespeare is my primary influence…he did it all: tragedy, comedy, supernatural, romance…and better than anyone. And (despite the literary accolades we heap on him now) he did as a commercially successful writer who kept his audiences happy with plenty of sex and violence!
If someone were to write a book about your life, what would it be titled?
When you’re not busy writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
I’m still involved heavily in theatre, so I’m usually directing or acting in a play or musical in Northeast Ohio. Right now I’m performing in one and rehearsing another. As might be guessed, I also do a ton of reading and I play the violin.
Is there any advice your would give to struggling writers?
The most critical trait of a successful writer is perseverance. Many talented people fall by the wayside and give up. Also: writing is rewriting. Don’t be satisfied with your first draft. Get input. Never fall in love with your own writing to the extent that you can’t “kill your babies” when they don’t work. It can be painful but necessary. Stay open to constructive criticism. No one is so good that they can’t grow.
Write what you love, not what you think will sell. Writing is a long process, so you better be incredibly turned on by the tale if you’re gonna make it through. Write what you yourself would love to read.
Finally: get out there and LIVE! There is no replacement for life experience. If all you do is sit in a room and write, your writing will be two-dimensional and derivative.
Do you have any news of upcoming projects or events that you’d like to share with us?
As far as novels, I’m in the middle of a supernatural story about the end of the world and also outlining a techno-thriller. Finally, I’m doing a lot of daydreaming about what would happen next in the world of Necropolis, should this book provide popular enough to engender a sequel…
Keep up with Michael: Website | Blog | Twitter
Read my review of Necropolis!
Purchase Necropolis: Amazon | Barnes and Noble
Happy Sunday, gang! I’ve got one ecopy of Creative Spirit by Scott Nicholson up for grabs, so check out the book details and the giveaway rules and good luck!
About Creative Spirit
When artists gather at a remote Appalachian estate for a retreat, they are unaware that their energy is feeding something unwholesome. Sculptor Mason Jackson and dying parapsychologist Anna Galloway must uncover the dark secrets of Korban Manor before their spirits are trapped forever.
A modern Gothic thriller< After parapsychologist Anna Galloway is diagnosed with metastatic cancer, she has a recurring dream in which she sees her own ghost. The setting of her dream is the historic Korban Manor, which is now an artist’s retreat in the remote Appalachian Mountains. Drawn both by the ghost stories surrounding the manor and her own sense of destiny, Anna signs up for the retreat.
Sculptor Mason Jackson has come to Korban Manor to make a final, all-or-nothing attempt at success before giving up his dreams. When he becomes obsessed with carving Ephram Korban’s form out of wood, he questions his motivation but is swept up in a creative frenzy unlike any he has ever known.
The manor itself has secrets, with fires that blaze constantly in the hearths, portraits of Korban in every room, and deceptive mirrors on the walls. With an October blue moon looming, both the living and the dead learn the true power of their dreams.
I’ve got some giveaway winners to announce today! Congrats and thanks to everyone that entered!
Signed Blood Rights by Kristen Painter: Tonya Maxemow and Lora 1967
Green and Endurance by Jay Lake: Victoria Barton
All Men of Genius by Lev AC Rosen: Steve Zielinski
*All winners were chosen by Rafflecopter and have been notified. They will have 48 hours to claim their prizes. Thanks so much to everyone that entered!