Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Blog | Most Popular Posts

...Which you can now see on my sidebar. I have to say - I'm surprised by the results, especially by the prominence of my review of Naomi Novik's Tongues of Serpents. Anyway, coming up next are my reviews of City of Ruin and Among Thieves - both novels I very much enjoyed.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

New | Free Story from Juliet E. McKenna

Readers of this (hallowed) blog may remember Juliet E. McKenna, who I reviewed and interviewed here. You can find my reviews - there's a few - and interview by clicking the Juliet Mckenna tag at the bottom of this post! The Einarinn books, with her other works, have one of the best systems of elemental magic I've seen - rarely done well. We've also got an earth mage in a significant role... Which is practically unique!


Well, to introduce her new series, The Hadrumal Crisis, she's released a free ebook as a sort of prelude - it also links in to the Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution, we're told, which should definitely compel me to check it out. I'm very much looking forward to the new series, which should feature magic in another primary role (named after the island on which elemental magic is taught, Hadrumal, as it is), and this only makes it better.

You can find the Solaris post about the ebook, along with the files HERE.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Interview | Matthew Hughes

Matthew Hughes, author of The Damned Busters, has kindly agreed to an interview for the blog - you can read my review of his book here:  http://drying-ink.blogspot.com/2011/05/review-damned-busters-matthew-hughes.html)
Welcome to the blog! 
Readers (myself included) very much enjoyed your literary take on theology in The Damned Busters. Can we expect to see more of this in future installments?
Oh, yes.  I'll be working through the point Hardacre raised in the first volume.  Reduced to its simplest form, which is about all you can do in a light entertainment, it's asking:  why doesn't the Bible make sense?  Well, I'm saying it's because God keeps rewriting reality, draft after draft, trying to get to the heart of a story that's about what's good and what's evil.  And what happens to those discarded drafts?  Does he throw them away, or does he, like most writers, keep them on the hard drive because there might be things in there he can still us?  I'm going for the keeper scenario, which means that the Garden of Eden is "there" somewhere.  So is the world in which the hero was the historical Jesus, a wandering Galilean faith-healer, before he was transmuted into a persona of the Allmighty.  All of which comes up in Costume Not Included.

The other thing the overall story is about, as with most of what I've written over the past twenty years, is this question:  how do people like Chesney, who is one of the far outliers on the spectrum of human variability, find a way to be happy in a world that's mostly made for people who fit comfortably within the middle of the bell curve?




I'm looking forward to seeing it! I notice that you moved into the language of statistics in describing Chesney's character for your last sentence there: did you have a particular purpose in mind for picking Chesney's profession as an actuary (or was the Actionary pun just too irresistible)?



Yes, I did.  I wanted Chesney to be a mix of absolute certainty and pure confusion.  Numbers are his secure place.  He is a high-functioning autistic, with a genius for math.  About human relations, he knows next to nothing.  He has had to be taught how to differentiate between human facial expressions, the kind of ability the normal brain is wired from birth to do.  So an actuary was a logical profession for him to enter.

The pun came later.  Originally, he was going to be called the Regulator.



It's definitely refreshing to see inclusion of protagonists outside the normal fantasy archetypes. How do you feel about this in mainstream fantasy? Do you think we should be seeing more of these types of characters, like authors such as yourself and Mark Charan Newton are doing?
I can't comment, as I don't read fantasy anymore, and haven't for decades.  But, in general, I think authors should write about the kinds of characters and situations that are meaningful to them, rather than try to "meet a market" by grinding out formulaic retreads.  In saying that, however, I have to admit that when I was raising a family, with children who liked to eat every day, I wrote lots and lots of speeches that advanced worldviews with which I did not agree.  You gotta do what you gotta do.



So is there a character in The Damned Busters which most expresses your own worldview?

In the sense that one of them's a facsimile of me?  No.  The one who comes closest is probably Melda McCann, in that she takes a pragmatic approach to life and just wants to get along and hopes others will do the same.

The story as a whole expresses key elements of my worldview:  that human situations are usually more complex than they appear on first appraisal, and that the determined pursuit of a narrow agenda is probably going to do at least as much harm as good.





The Damned Busters plays on several well-known tropes associated with the superhero: do you see Chesney's comic role as a deconstruction of the genre, or something else?
I don't know how to do deconstruction.  I'm an intuitive writer.  I start with a character and a situation and see what develops from them.  Right now I'm a couple of months from starting on the third book, and I have only the vaguest idea what's going to happen in it.

It's a humorous book, but I don't see Chesney as a comic character  He is a guy who's struggling to make sense of his life, given that he's been dealt a peculiar hand.  Being a high-functioning autistic, he has a view of the world that's slightly off the vertical, but he's trying to make it work, and he's deadly serious about it.  The world of The Driver is one that makes sense to him.  He's trying to do it in what, to him, is the real world.

Of course, it's not the real world because he's a character in a book, and in the context of this particular book, we're all just characters in a book.  And that's about as far as I want to take the concept, because the farther out you go the thinner the ice.



Writers frequently talk about being able to work only in specific places or times: is there anywhere you prefer to write, or are chair and pen sufficient?
I started out seriously writing for money at a big-city daily newspaper, in a huge room filled with desks.  On top of each desk was a manual typewriter, and when it got close to deadline, the combined clatter of all those keys was like continuous rifle fire in a battle.  But if you didn't get your copy written and in to the desk men (they were all men in those days) God help you.  So I learned to ignore the environment and concentrate on the work.

When I started out freelancing speeches, and working on IBM Selectric typewriters, I wrote on a beat-up old stenographer's desk that I bought in 1972 for $15, but eventually I had to get a computer-friendly desk to accommodate a monitor and keyboard.  Because I was run into almost forty years ago by a drunk driver who left me with a back strung together with scar tissue, I prefer to write in a recliner with a detachable keyboard on my lap.  Otherwise, I knot up.

But, for almost the past four years, I've been an itinerant housesitter, and in that time I've written six novels, two novellas, and maybe ten short stories, while sitting on couches, folding chairs, beds, and only occasionally, a comfortable recliner.  The villa where I'm housesitting in Italy these days has nothing suitable, and I'm going to be here for another nine months, so I'll probably drive down to the Ikea store in Bari and get something that approximates a recliner before I start the next Chesney novel.




Well, thank you very much for letting me interview you! I've certainly enjoyed it - and I look forward to reading the sequel when it comes out.


You can find The Damned Busters on Amazon here: 
UK: Damned Busters (Angry Robot)
US: Damned Busters: To Hell and Back, Book 1 (Hell to Pay)

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Surpassing Conventions | Part Two

So, last time, I covered a few of fantasy's long-lasting conventions: and how they can and could still be done well - we included troubled pasts, possession, and pretty glowy magic. This time, I've got a few more to talk about: and as always, if you've any suggestions, just comment below!

The Resurrection:
Ascension in The Malazan Book of the Fallen
  (Yes, Anomander Rake really is that awesome)

We've all read the books in which death is cheap, or protragonists perish only to reappear - with the reader never expecting otherwise. Guess what? It cheapens the drama, but it can certainly be done well. I'm not going to argue that all of the resurrections in the Malazan series were necessary, but the system of Ascension - in which a mortal ascends to become a sort of proto-God, and can then rise further depending on worship - definitely deserves acknowledgment here. Ascension is a mysterious process, but it can be triggered by a number of things: including, it seems, death (if the character would ascend anyway - for example, several characters complete monumental sacrifices and achievements, such as Itkovian). Although this might seem a cheap 'get out of death free' card for our favourite characters, the nature of Erikson's Ascendants is as restrictive and changing as it is awesome, and characters such as Shadowthrone and Cotillion are changed by it. In this way, the tragedy of many deaths in the Malazan series avoids being reduced by the resurrection of the character concerned: in, at least, a few cases... 

...Because there are definitely some where resurrection doesn't work.

(You can check out Gardens of the Moon on Amazon here: Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen)


The New Era
The Ice Age of Legends of the Red Sun
  Every second fantasy out there claims its events usher in a 'new era' for its world: and normally it's just a marketing spiel. Nothing really changes - except the protagonists are frequently in charge. Mark Charan Newton's Legends of the Red Sun buck the trend excellently: the Jamur Empire is in a period of more than political change. Newton's fantasy is transformative - the Empire is facing an encroaching ice age which brings refugees from the islands to the cities, forcing social charge amidst the threat of starvation. The politics become about more than leadership - the burden of the incoming peoples, as well as a recently-appeared gateway to another world, make the Empire's choices far harder: and much more interesting for it! Newton handles the situation adeptly, especially amongst the siege of City of Ruin: mingling Mieville-esque racial and social tensions and the struggle for survival in what could quite readily be called a masterpiece of a novel. My review of City of Ruin is upcoming (it lived up to the promises, though!) and you can find my review of Nights of Villjamur here.

Nights can be found on Amazon here: Nights of Villjamur (Legends of the Red Sun)


Protagonist from the Ashes:
Blaise de Garsenc in A Song for Arbonne
  As suggested by the comment of Lightning Tree Live (which you can find on my blogroll - check it out, there are some truly excellent reviews). Well, this is possibly the convention of an awful lot of fantasy: for some reason, the protagonist is estranged from his or her family. Maybe their village was destroyed by goons. (The titular ashes). You've heard this before from me, but here it comes again: it can be done well. And my choice for this is the protagonist of Guy Gavriel Kay's excellent A Song for Arbonne, Blaise de Garsenc. His isolation from his Gorhautian family (and the rest of the nation, in fact) is a political matter - his father negotiated the truce which sold Gorhaut's contested northlands. And this, rather than providing the often-done motive of vengeance, provides much of the book's drive, which mingles the political and personal: Gorhaut is preparing to invade Arbonne on a religious crusade, and Blaise de Garsenc is at the heart of it. This motivational mixture also ties into the novel's themes of necessity, desire, and restriction. In short, it actually works - rather than as an excuse for angst.

Any suggestions of your own? Comments or opinions?
Comment below and tell me!

Friday, 24 June 2011

I'm Back! And Review | Contra Alliance - Tom Kolega

I'm back from a short absence now, and there's quite a bit coming up on Drying Ink. I'll firstly be reviewing Contra Alliance - with reviews of Mark Charan Newton's rather excellent City of Ruin, as well as Iain M. Bank's Inversions coming up in the week. I've also got a few other features planned: I'll be reviewing Matt Hughes, author of the excellent The Damned Busters - which I've also reviewed on the blog. If you've got any suggestions for me, just email or comment below!


But first, review time:

I don't often read military SF, but I have to admit that it's a varied subgenre: and Contra Alliance falls firmly into the slightly smaller-scale, near-future end of it. It's set in 2035, with American dominance waning, and follows an elite - and secret - NATO organisation named CONTRA, focusing largely on a small group of soldiers, so the top-down perspective is rare here. The governments of Earth are facing the assault of a new terrorist group calling itself only 'The Revolution' (well, they've got the hang of fantasy capitalisation...) - an organisation with technology possibly more advanced than the rest of the planet...

Well, you've seen the obvious SF cue along with the rest of us: though the setting is relatively near-future, alien involvement - on both sides - is imminent. The narrative is focused around the Blues of the CONTRA group, but also around an ex-member, codenamed Battlestar, dismissed from the organization. Although the novel isn't primarily character-driven, I have to say that none of the central protagonists particularly stood out in the modern genre, filled with characters such as Miles Vorkosigan. Nevertheless, if you don't mind a few archetypes and relatively little time devoted to development, but prefer to focus on detailed military conflict, you may well enjoy Contra Alliance.

With regard to the writing itself, the novel is again solid! Although a frequent inclusion, there is a lot of overt exposition, which might have been integrated more fluidly - again though, it does help to give the book a very rapid start, so it's not all bad. I have to admit that I prefer more character-driven military SF, but that's very subjective - if you're up for an introduction to a version of our near-future universe, with a nicely-integrated endeavour (no more 'America saves the world alone'), then Contra Alliance may well be the book for you!

You can find Contra Alliance on Amazon: as an ebook (Contra Alliance: Shadows of the Past (The Contra Alliance Trilogy) or hardcover (Contra Alliance: Shadows of the Past (The Contra Alliance Trilogy, Book One)


Have you read this book, or just have something to say? Comment below with any ideas, suggestions, or general insults. :P

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Short Absence

Unfortunately, I won't be able to update the blog over the next two weeks, due to this being the busiest period of my redundantly busy period! Thank you for your patience - following this point, I'll be back to my normal posting schedule (although I should have one more review for you before my short absence: Contra Alliance from Tom Kolega). If you're interested in guest posting at Drying Ink during this period, firstly thank you, and secondly, feel free to email me at the address to the side:

jacobtm3[AT]googlemail.com

Thanks for your patience!

Friday, 3 June 2011

Press Release | Brotherhood of Dwarves

Here's the press release from Seventh Star Press:

Seventh Star Press is proud to announce the addition of fantasy author D.A. Adams to its family of writers, with the acquisition of The Brotherhood of Dwarves series.

The Brotherhood of Dwarves and Red Sky at Dawn, the first and second books of the series, were originally released by Third Axe Media.  The two installments received excellent reviews, and sold very strongly on the convention circuit.  Planned for five books total, the third title in the series, The Fall of Dorkuhn, will be released in its first edition by Seventh Star Press.  The series is known for its fresh approach to an iconic fantasy race, blending traditional lore with all-new twists.

“With their outstanding marketing and promotional campaigns, Seventh Star can provide *The Brotherhood of Dwarves* with the exposure it deserves. I'm excited and proud to be the newest addition to their stable of talented writers, ” commented D.A. Adams, regarding his relationship with the Lexington, Kentucky-based publisher.

The Fall of Dorkuhn continues the story of the dwarf Roskin.  In the newest adventure of the series, Roskin returns home to a kingdom divided by war with the ogres.  On one side, his father desires to restore peace, but on the other, Master Sondious, seeking revenge for having been crippled, seeks to escalate the offensive aggression.  Roskin and his friends make a desperate attempt to resolve the growing rift, but unknown to the dwarves, new and powerful menaces threaten to destroy the entire kingdom...

Living and working in East Tennessee, D. A. Adams is an established novelist, a farmer, a professor of English, and has contributed writing to literary as well as fine art publications.  He also maintains an active
blog, entitled "The Ramblings of D. A. Adams".

“D.A. Adams is an outstanding addition to our group of authors,” fellow Seventh Star Press author Stephen Zimmer commented.  “The Brotherhood of Dwarves series is well-crafted storytelling with compelling characters, set within a richly developed fantasy setting.  It has very strong appeal to those who like character-driven stories, as well as to fans of epic fantasy.  For those who love seeing dwarves in fantasy literature, it is immensely rewarding.”

The projected release date window for The Fall of Dorkuhn is late summer of 2011, in limited hardcover, trade paperback, and several eBook formats, covering owners of the Kindle, the iPad, the Nook, Sony eReaders, and other electronic reading devices.

The Seventh Star Press editions of The Brotherhood of Dwarves and Red Sky at Dawn will receive trade paperback and eBook releases in late summer of 2011, with a hardcover edition of each to follow shortly afterwards.

Books four and five in The Brotherhood of Dwarves series are slated for tentative releases in late 2012 and 2013.

Updates and additional information can be obtained at the official site for Seventh Star Press, at www.seventhstarpress.com , or at the author's site at www.brotherhoodofdwarves.com






I'm planning to cover some of Seventh Star's books soon, so look out for my reviews! On a side note, my irregular posting will continue for two more weeks before I can resume my normal schedule, so I'm looking for guest posters for this temporary absence. If you're interested, just email me!