My Bookish Ways

Giveaway: The Ultra Thin Man by Patrick Swenson

Wanna win a copy of THE ULTRA THIN MAN by Patrick Swenson? Of course you do, and luckily, the lovely folks at Tor have provided me with one to give to YOU (as long as you have a US or Canadian mailling address)! All you have to do is fill out the widget below, and I’ll pick a winner on August 16th. Good luck!

theultrathinmanAbout THE ULTRA THIN MAN:
In the twenty-second century, a future in which mortaline wire controls the weather on the settled planets and entire refugee camps drowse in drug-induced slumber, no one—alive or dead, human or alien—is quite what they seem. When terrorists manage to crash Coral, the moon, into its home planet of Ribon, forcing evacuation, it’s up to Dave Crowell and Alan Brindos, contract detectives for the Network Intelligence Organization, to solve a case of interplanetary consequences. Crowell’ and Brindos’s investigation plunges them neck-deep into a conspiracy much more dangerous than anything they could have imagined.

The two detectives soon find themselves separated, chasing opposite leads: Brindos has to hunt down the massive Helkunn alien Terl Plenko, shadow leader of the terrorist Movement of Worlds. Crowell, meanwhile, runs into something far more sinister—an elaborate frame job that puts our heroes on the hook for treason.

In this novel from Patrick Swenson, Crowell and Brindos are forced to fight through the intrigue to discover the depths of an interstellar conspiracy. And to answer the all-important question: Who, and what, is the Ultra Thin Man?

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Catching up with Stephen Blackmoore, author of Broken Souls

It’s been a while since I had a chance to catch up with one of my favorite authors, Stephen Blackmoore, and am so happy to have him back to talk about his brand new book, BROKEN SOULS. Please welcome him back to the blog!

sblackmooreCan you believe that the last time we chatted was 2012? We’ve got some catching up to do, especially now that BROKEN SOULS, the sequel to DEAD THINGS, just came out. What can we expect from Eric Carter this time around? He went through so much in DEAD THINGS…
When BROKEN SOULS opens Carter is a mess. Well, he’s always been a mess, but he’s even more so now.

On getting back to Los Angeles in DEAD THINGS he’s managed to screw things up worse than how he found them, getting his best friend murdered, alienating his ex-girlfriend, who already wasn’t crazy about him popping up again, and getting entangled with the Aztec death goddess Mictecacihuatl in her modern guise as the Mexican folk saint, Santa Muerte. He’s pissed away whatever minor goodwill he’s built up with pretty much everyone.

In BROKEN SOULS he’s trying to get out from under Santa Muerte’s thumb, fix some of the mess he’s created. But life isn’t exactly making that easy.

How do you think Eric has grown since DEAD THINGS?
I don’t know that he’s grown so much, but he’s definitely changed.

His certainty about how things worked has been shaken by what happened to him in DEAD THINGS, not to mention the physical marks his connection to Santa Muerte has left him. He thought he understood necromancy. After all that’s kind of his bag. But then he ran into things he didn’t understand and everything got tossed on its head.

He’s more desperate now, more paranoid. There are plans that have been set in motion that affect him and he doesn’t know what they are. Makes a guy a little touchy.

But he’s still the same acerbic, angry, jackass he was before.

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Interview (and Giveaway): Tessa Gratton, author of The Strange Maid (United States of Asgard)

Please welcome Tessa Gratton to the blog as part of her tour for THE STRANGE MAID, the 2nd book in her United States of Asgard series. Also, be sure to enter to win a copy of the book (details at the bottom of the post-US only!)

tessagrattonWill you tell us a bit about your new book, THE STRANGE MAID, and the United States of Asgard? What inspired you to write the series?
The US of Asgard is a USA like our own, but founded by Vikings and their very real gods. There are gods interfering in Congress and walking the Hollywood red carpets, Valkyrie taking over the media, trolls rampaging in the Rocky Mountains and a part of the military dedicated to eradicating them. THE STRANGE MAID is about a girl named Signy who wants more than anything to be a wild, dark, passionate Valkyrie like the warrior women in the oldest stories.

I chose to write this series because I wanted to write some books about American warrior culture, and religion and politics and how it affects the choices we make as teens.

Why do you think readers will root for Signy Valborn, and what did you enjoy most about writing her character?
Signy is passionate about everything she does, and while sometimes that can be off-putting, in the end, she is heroic and changing because of it. I loved writing her passion – she’s wild and deliberate about everything she does, whether arguing or fighting trolls or kissing or just getting dressed in the morning.

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A chat with Tim Lees, author of The God Hunter

Please welcome Tim Lees to the blog! His new book, the supernatural thriller THE GOD HUNTER just came out in ebook from Harper Voyager, and will be out in paperback in Sept.. He was kind enough to answer a few of my questions!

timlees1Tim, you’ve written quite a bit of short fiction (including a British Fantasy Award nominated collection) as well as Frankenstein’s Prescription, praised as a “literary tale of terror.” What inspired you to write your new book, THE GOD HUNTER? Will you tell us more about it?
This goes back a few years to the first time I visited Chicago, where I now live. I caught sight of a book in my (now) wife’s bookcase called Ghost Hunters. Hardly an unusual title, but for some reason a story immediately started forming in my head. I upped the ante to “God Hunter”, combined it with an idea from an early short story, and wrote much of the first episode sitting under a statue of Joe DiMaggio, the influence of whom I’m still not sure about.

THE GOD HUNTER is a thriller with a strong fantastic element. There’s a simple conceit at the heart of it: that you could mine the psychic energy from churches and other religious sites, converting it to usable electric power. Of course, it all turns out a lot more complicated than that, and lots of things go wrong. That’s where the fun begins.

On another level, though, the book is about the way the past comes back to haunt us, and unfinished business can sometimes rear its head again when least expected.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us more about yourself and your background?
I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I started to enjoy reading. I’d read a book and want to write my “own” version of it (see below). I had a period when I wanted to be a musician, but proved a little short on talent. I realize that’s not necessarily an impediment, but in my case it was. Writing’s what I do best, and, having discovered that, I intend to carry on with it.

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Interview and Giveaway: Eric Brown, author of Jani and the Greater Game

Please welcome Eric Brown to the blog! His new book, JANI AND THE GREATER GAME, just came out and he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about it. Courtesy of the lovely folks at Solaris, I’ve got 3 copies to give away to 3 lucky winners (international), so be sure to fill out the form at the bottom to enter the giveaway!

ericbrownJani and the Greater Game sounds amazing! Will you tell us a little more about it and what inspired you to write it?
Jani is set in 1925 – but a 1925 very different from the one in our own history. The reason for this is that the British in India discovered, some fifty years earlier, a fantastical power source in the foothills of the Himalayas (in Nepal, to be precise), which resulted in the British being the major power in the world. (The exact nature of this power source is kept under wraps for most of the book, to be revealed at the denouement: it’s known throughout the story as Annapurnite.) The book is set in India and Nepal, and is an action-adventure-chase novel with characterisation.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Always. That is, ever since reading Agatha Christie’s Cards on the Table when I was fifteen. I’d managed never to read a book until then, and the novel was a revelation. I went out and bought all her titles and devoured them one by one. A few months later I discovered SF – Robert Silverberg and H.G. Wells. Not long after that, I decided that I wanted to write science fiction, and began churning out short stories (hundreds before my first acceptance) and short novels (some twenty-odd before I sold my first one, Meridian Days, in 1992). So yes, since the age of fifteen I’ve wanted only one thing: to be a fulltime professional writer.

What made you decide to write a book with a steampunk flavor?
I’ve wanted to do a steampunk novel for a long time, since reading Powers, Blaylock, etc, back in the 80s. I’d sent a couple of steampunky outlines to my editor at Solaris, none of which he jumped at. Then he suggested I think up an idea for a steampunk novel set in India, and a few weeks later Jani was born.

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Broken Souls by Stephen Blackmoore

broken soulsBroken Souls by Stephen Blackmoore (DAW, Aug. 5th, 2014)-Oh, man, have I missed Eric Carter. Shame on Stephen Blackmoore for not writing faster for my enjoyment! Just kidding, I’m willing to wait, because I know it’ll be worth it, and Broken Souls proves that. To catch you up a bit, Eric isn’t exactly the luckiest guy. His sister was murdered not too long ago. His best friend, Alex, is dead, and his ex-girlfriend Vivian (who was hooked up with Alex), blames him and won’t speak to him (he doesn’t blame her), and he’s married to Santa Muerte (he made a deal, long story), whose grinning skull does nothing to put a man in the mood. No, seriously, she’s claimed Eric as her own, which comes with a few magical perks, but Eric will gladly trade those perks for his freedom. Anyway, his priority, at the beginning of Broken Souls, is finding a way out of the deal he made with Santa Muerte, and calls on a mage he knows to help him out. Except, someone is squatting in the mage’s skin and wielding an obsidian blade, and he (it?) is out to skin Eric. Nothing our hero can’t handle, right?

Luckily, Eric does have a little help in the form of the Bruja, who runs a half-way house for vamps and other “others”, and he’s getting advice from something that looks and sounds like Alex, but he’s not sure it actually is Alex. He does know it’s not a ghost, but other than that, he’s at a loss. But, Eric will take what he can get. What exactly is driving this killer, and why is he after Eric? The answer may be more than Eric and his new friends bargain for, but they have no choice but to try to stop it. And what exactly does Santa Muerte want from Eric? She’s being coy, but right now, it’s really the least of his problems.

This is a fantastic series. Eric talks tough and acts like he doesn’t need anyone, but under all that bluster is a core of loneliness-keep an eye out for a scene where the Bruja calls him out on exactly this. Speaking of the Bruja…she’s awesome, and she’s my favorite new character (well, sorta new-see City of the Lost.) She’s funny too, so bonus points. She and Eric play off each other perfectly. So, yeah, there are some funny lines in this book, but things get really dark, as they usually do, and gawd…my jaw dropped in a few places. See, I’m kind of a pain in the ass reader. It’s hard to surprise me. Blackmoore surprised me. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s a great thing, but damn…

Anyway, Broken Souls is chock full of great and gory fight scenes, ghosts, gods, double crosses out the wazoo, and, like I said, plenty of surprises. I love Blackmoore’s noir-tinged supernatural L.A., and the city is almost a character unto itself. I love the little historical tidbits that Eric throws out-it really adds some atmosphere to an already very atmospheric story. I’ve become really, really picky when it comes to urban fantasy lately, and there’s a group of authors that are writing consistently excellent stuff: Chuck Wendig, Chris F. Holm, ML Brennan (and a few more)…and Stephen Blackmoore. I can’t wait for the next book in this series. This one will keep you up late. Promise. I would like one of those calaveras etched rings though…

A chat with Lou Anders, author of Frostborn (Thrones & Bones)

If you’ve been active in the SFF community for any significant length of time, you know who Lou Anders is. He’s a multi-award winning editor and author, and his first novel, FROSTBORN, a middle grade fantasy, is out today! Lou was kind enough to stop by and chat about the new book, and more!

LouBlueShirtYou’ve had a long and illustrious editing career and have published many short stories, so it’s very exciting that 2014 is ushering in the release of your first book, Frostborn! Will you tell us a little about it and what inspired you to write it?
Absolutely. Frostborn is the first book in the Thrones & Bones series, adventure tales for boys and girls ages 8-12. It’s a fantasy novel that tells the story of a human boy growing up in a Norse-inspired land called Norrøngard and a half-human, half-giant girl struggling to fit in with her frost giant village. They encounter each other while on the run from adversity and team up to survive the wilderness and their respective enemies. Along the way they encounter trolls, draug (undead warriors), some very dangerous foreign soldiers, and one very large dragon.

As to the tale’s inspiration, it evolved in my mind over a long period of time. As a child, I was struck by Robert E. Howard’s short story “The Frost Giant’s Daughter.” It was Howard’s attempt to write something with mythic resonance for Conan, inspired by the Greek tale of Leda and the swan. Conan is the sole survivor of a battlefield and spies a beautiful woman, who tempts him to follow her to where her brothers – both enormous frost giants – are waiting to kill him. The story does succeed in invoking a dream-like, mythological that reminds you of legends of Greek and Norse gods, though as a kid I found it unfair that the female frost giant is human-sized while her brothers are significantly larger. As an adult, I’m much more bothered by a one-dimensional character whose sole purpose in a narrative is to use her body to trap a man, and a protagonist who isn’t bothered by that. I wanted to explore the idea of a strong female character who was half-frost giant (my solution to problem one) but who was written to be a laudable, three dimensional character in her own right that women could respect and admire (my solution to problem two). I wrote a short story about an adult adventurer who was half-human, half frost giant. Well-intentioned but the story was terrible, truly. Really not good. And I got to wondering if maybe I needed to understand her backstory before I tried again. Around the same time, my son was starting to read middle grade fantasy novels that were of interest to me as well, and as my interest in the genre grew, I wanted to write something they both he – and eventually my daughter – could read and enjoy. Suddenly, I realized that the backstory of my half-giantess was the actual story, and that it was the book I was looking to write for my two children. I set everything aside, threw out what had come before, and spent three months just world-building before I returned to plot. By which time I realized I wanted to pair her with a human boy, and the second half of my duo was born.

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Here are a few SFF Kindle deals to kick off the week (all under $5)!

There’s a feast of deals this week in SFF! These are all under $5, but as usual, double check the Buy button before you click. Enjoy!

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The Kills: Sutler by Richard House

thekillsThe Kills (Sutler) by Richard House (Picador, August 5th, 2014)-The Kills is a novel in four parts (originally published as four stand-alone books in the UK), and that’s how I’m going to cover it, as much for my sanity as yours. I don’t mean that in a bad way, at all, but at more than 1,000 pages, The Kills could be called…intimidating. It’s certainly heavy. But don’t let that scare you away. Seriously, don’t, because after Sutler, I’m more than ready to dive into the next three books (The Massive, The Kill, and The Hit.) Sutler mainly covers the exploits of one man, John Ford (aka Sutler), who works for US contracting company HOSCO. He’s been ostensibly hired to help oversee the construction of a brand new city in Iraq, nicknamed The Massive (it’s also the title of the 2nd book). Saddam is dead, and it’s time to rebuild. Sounds all well and good on the surface, but when a lot of money goes missing, and Sutler is set adrift (and his departure isn’t without tragedy), with the promise of a hefty $250,000 payday, he sets his mind on distancing himself from the project, and holding onto the account numbers that he’ll need to transfer his money when he’s given the official go-ahead. Ford certainly isn’t out to make friends, but inevitably he does have some significant human contact, including a couple of rather bumbling (of the not so funny kind) journalists and a group of filmmakers , one of which is young Eric Powell, who has a few secrets of his own, and is drawn to Ford. Cat and mouse ensues when a man named Parson is hired to find Sutler. As Parson follows Ford’s rather dim trail, he starts to wonder just who it is that really hired him, and begins to suspect games are being played, so he begins a dangerous game of his own.

I like House’s style a lot, and while Sutler certainly has the meat of a crackling spy story, it also heads into existential territory and explores anonymity and boundaries of the literal and personal kind. Ford is persistently at war with himself. We’re never really sure what his real name is (all we really know is that it’s definitely not Sutler), and he finds that he’ll do things as Sutler that he’d never do as Ford, and he grapples with his sudden untethering, dreaming still of the regimented time he spent with HOSCO. House’s narrative is unsettling, and he seems to be able to extract the underlying menace in just about any situation, even the most ordinary-seeming gesture or conversation. There are a lot of very cool touches, and among the peril and chase, it’s the little things that stand out. This is good stuff here, and I can’t wait to see how all four books tie together. He’s certainly done some setting up of The Kill  in Sutler, with a book-within-a-book concept (murder and mayhem?), and before reading this, I really had no concept of what goes on behind the scenes with US contractors and the military projects they work on. It’s actually fascinating stuff, and although Sutler doesn’t leave off neatly, it left me melancholy, and intrigued, and more than ready for the next book. Next up: The Massive.

This week’s Kindle deals in mystery and suspense (all under $5)!

Looking to get your fill of mystery, especially of the hard-boiled kind? I’ve got you covered here, and in the process of today’s curating, I stumbled on the fact that Hard Case Crime seems to have a metric ton of their awesome titles on sale, and quite a lot are listed at $1.99 or less. Also, those covers-and you can’t argue with titles like “The Corpese Wore Pasties.” But I digress. If you haven’t discovered the awesome that is HCC, now’s the time, but once you grab one, I dare you to stop. Also, as you get closer to the bottom of the list, quite a few of Peter Robinson’s superb Inspector Banks novels are on sale, so be sure to snap those up, too.

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